A look back at the history of the Jewish people reveals literally volumes of the history of what is today referred to as the holocaust, technically defined as the historical period in Germany from 1933 to 1945, when state-sponsored hatred of the Jews led to many tragic deprivations, ranging from the stripping of their assets and personal property to detention in segregated neighborhoods to beatings and ultimately, the murder of millions of innocent Jewish men, women and children in Nazi death camps-now referred to as the holocaust (Shermis, et al).
What is seen in this example is anti-Semitism of the worst possible kind, but neither the first nor the last instance of this mass injustice inflicted upon an entire race of people.
In this research, the topic of anti-Semitism will be discussed, with particular emphasis on the role that the holocaust played in the heightening of anti-Semitism beyond a horrible injustice to the level of state-sanctioned murder.
The Link between Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust
As the introduction to the research indicated, the holocaust was the deadly apex of an age old social ill, anti-Semitism.
An important point to be established is the link between anti-Semitism and the holocaust itself.
First, a look at the political climate of Germany in the early 1930s; seeking to redeem the political fortunes of Germany in the years following the massive defeat experienced in World War I, as well as an effort to advance his own agendas, Adolf Hitler launched a massive plan to overtake other nations as well as build his own power base within the nation of Germany itself. Both of these aims required total control over the common citizens as well as the governmental structures. Therefore, the launching of a national police force, assembling of massive armies and stockpiles of weapons, and open displays of power were the essential ingredients for Hitler’s power structure (Niewyk).
It can fairly be said that Hitler was the father of the brand of anti-Semitism which climaxed with the full-blown holocaust. To understand Hitler’s anti-Semitic mindset, one has to look back at the days in Hitler’s life before he was a powerful dictator bent on world domination. Long before that, Adolf Hitler was an aspiring artist, barely scraping by in his native Austria. In an effort to advance as an artist, he sought admission to a prestigious art academy twice, only to be denied admission, according to his recollections, by Jewish school officials, whom Hitler saw as the roadblock to his early success. This sentiment stayed in the back of Hitler’s mind, and as both his political power and social ideologies became more intense, he became a student of the theories of Social Darwinism, which holds that it is possible for pure races of people to be created through selective breeding of human beings as well as the expulsion of genetically undesirable people from the purified bloodline. It would seem that Hitler’s early disdain for Jews, combined with his interpretation of Darwin, led him to put the Jewish race under a stronger eye of scrutiny. Hitler’s twisted logic soon deduced that Jews were not only far from the blonde haired, blue eyed super race of superior human beings that Hitler saw as the future of his “new” Germany, but also that the unique customs and traditions of the Jewish people were somehow responsible not only for the impurity of the human race, but also for many of the social ills of society, including prostitution and white slavery (Tossavainen). For Hitler, the ability to use the Jews as a single scapegoat for his past failures and present travails was a convenient solution to many of his problems, at least in his own eyes.
At this critical point in Hitler’s political career, anti-Semitism was to be taken to a new level by his growing empire. Through organization and the gaining of the allegiance of hundreds of thousands of loyalists, Nazi Germany, from 1933 to 1945 was able to orchestrate not only a twisted public relations coup which turned many other groups against the Jews for essentially no reason, but was also able to unabatedly take from the Jews their money, homes, businesses, loved ones, dignity, and in many cases, their lives, for it was through the actual elimination of Jews that Hitler felt he would create a better, more pure human race (Browder).
While, fortunately, 21st century anti-Semitism has not reached the murderous level of the Nazi Germany version of it, anti-Semitism is still something which exists today in many parts of the world. This being understood, however, it is important to note in fairness to modern Germany that there is a high level of remorse for the hyperactive anti-Semitism which rocked the nation just a generation or two ago, but sadly, there is also a modern brand of anti-Semitism which exists as an ugly legacy from the days of Hitler and the Third Reich.
German Remorse for and Continuation of Anti-Semitism
In the years following the demise of Hitler, a reformed German government sought to repent for the sins of the past in many ways. Of course, the nations which suffered under the yoke of Nazi dictatorship were eventually restored to their earlier forms of government, and the Jews who were fortunate enough to survive the Nazi regime fled Germany in large numbers to seek a new start in life. Likewise, there were Jews who stayed in Germany, likely for a display of resilience and victory as much as anything else. The presence of Jews in post-Nazi Germany generated a dichotomy among the German people; while some felt remorse for the anti-Semitism of the past; many others became more aggressive in their hatred for the Jews (Legge). In the modern day, there are still active neo-Nazi groups in Germany whose main goal is to perpetuate the plans of Hitler and his subordinates, a chilling modern day version of something which many hoped would have disappeared with Hitler himself.
For modern Germany, and indeed the entire world, the issue of anti-Semitism is a social ill which is perplexing in that it is based in false generalizations, age old prejudices, and a misdirected sense that persecuting these individuals would somehow be permissible since it was so popular. In this way, it seems like anti-Semitism feeds upon itself, much like many other prejudices which exist in the modern world. With this in mind, it seems that the ancient roots of anti-Semitism still bear bitter fruit today and people still choose to pick that fruit, even though it has the potential to kill the person who chooses to eat it. Therefore, the people of the world must realize that like the old saying, those who fail to learn from their history are condemned to repeat it, and if anti-Semitism is allowed to continue on resurgence, the entire human race will be that much worse off for it.
Anti-Semitism beyond Germany
From the late 1940s to the present, the desire of the Jews to maintain their own nation in Israel has been seen by some as an act of aggression, which, either by jealousy or a desire for its own supremacy, many nations have brought about their own new brand of anti-Semitism, with the intention of keeping Jews in check as a means of political expediency. For decades, there has been an endless battle, literally, between Jews and Muslims, mostly due to religious differences (Shermis, et al).
In this research, we have been able to see that anti-Semitism has, over the years, been used as a justification for genocide, theft and every conceivable injustice against a race of people who have spent essentially their entire history falling from the clutches of one tormentor to another. As a tribute to the resilience of the Jewish people, however, it needs to be noted that Jews worldwide have stayed true to their traditions and fearlessly lived according to their faith and heritage. Therefore, in conclusion, what should be said about anti-Semitism is that it has not succeeded in destroying the Jewish race, but in an ironic way, has only made it stronger, much like fire making steel solid and unbreakable.
Browder, George C. Hitler’s Enforcers: The Gestapo and the SS Security Service in the Nazi Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Legge, Jerome S. “Exploring the Symbolic Racism Thesis: The German Sense of Responsibility for the Jews.” Polity 30.3 (1998): 531+.
Niewyk, Donald, and Francis Nicosia. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.
Shermis, Michael, and Arthur E. Zannoni, eds. Introduction to Jewish-Christian Relations /. New York: Paulist Press, 1991.
Tossavainen, Mikael. “Studying the Jew: Scholarly Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany.” Canadian Journal of History 41.3 (2006): 577+.
Cite this The Link between Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust
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