The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW



In the political struggles of the concluding quarter of the 19th century an important part was playcd by a religious, political and social agitation against the Jews, known as "Anti-Semitism." The origins of this remarkable movement threatened to become obscured by legend. Some Jews contended that anti-Semitism was a mere atavistic revival of the Jew-hatred of the middle ages. The extreme section of the anti-Semites, who gave the movement its quasi-scientific name, declared that it is a racial struggle - an incident of the eternal conflict between Europe and Asia - and that the anti-Semites arc engaged in an effort to prevent what is called the Aryan race from being subjugated by a Semitic immigration, and to save Aryan ideals from being modified by an alien and demoralizing oriental Anschauung.

There was no essential foundation for either of these contentions. Religious prejudices reaching back to the dawn of history had been reawakened by the anti-Semitic agitation, but they did not originate it, and they have not entirely controlled it. The alleged racial divergence was only a linguistic hypothesis on the physical evidence of which anthropologists were not agreed, and, even if it were proved, it had existed n Europe for so many centurie, that it cannot be accepted as a practical issue.

Anti-Semitism is then exclusively a question of European politics, and its origin is to be found, not in the long struggle between Europe and Asia, or between the Church and the Synagogue, which filled so much of ancient and medieval history, but in the social conditions resulting from the emancipation of the Jews in the middle of the 19th century.

If the emancipated Jews were Europeans in virtue of the antiquity of their western settlements, and of the character impressed upon them by the circumstances of their European history, they none the less presented ihc appearance of a strange people to ssome of their Gentile fellow-countrymen. They had been secluded in their ghettos for centuries, and had consequently acquired a physical and moral physiognomy differentiating them in a measure from their former oppressors. This peculiar physiognomy was, on its moral side, not essentially Jewish or even Semitic. It was an advanced development of the main attributes of civilized life, to which Christendom in its transition from feudalism had as yet only imperfectly adapted itself.

The ghetto, which had been designed as a sort of quarantine to safeguard Christendom against the Jewish heresy, had in fact proved a storage chamber for a portion of the political and social forces which were destined to sweep away the last traces of feudalism from central Europe. In the ghetto, the pastoral Semite, who had been made a wanderer by the destruction of his nationality, was steadily trained, through centuries, to become an urban European, with all the activities of urban economics, and all the democratic tendencies of occidental industrialism. Excluded from the army, the land, the trade corporations and the artisan gilds, this quondam oriental peasant was gradually transformed into a commercial middleman and a practised dealer in money. Oppressed by the Church, and persecuted by the State, his theocratic and monarchical traditions lost their hold on his daily life, and he became saturated with a passionate devotion to the ideals of democratic politics. Thus, the Jew who emerged from the ghetto was no longer a Palestinian Semite, but an essentially modern European, who differed from his Christian fellow-countrymen only in the circumstances that his religion was of the older Semitic form than that practised by Protestants and Roman Catholics.

Unfortunately, these distinctive elements, though not very serious in themselves, became strongly accentuated by concentration. Had it been possible to distribute the emancipated Jews uniformly throughout Christian society, as was the case with other emancipated religious denominations, perhaps there would have been no revival of the "Jewish Question". The Jews, however, through no fault of their own, belonged to only one class in European society - the industrial bourgeoisie. Into that class their strength was thrown, and owing to their ghetto preparation, they rapidly took a leading place in it, politically and socially. When the mid-century revolutions made the bourgeoisie the ruling power in Europe, the semblance of a Hebrew domination presented itself. It was the exaggeration of this apparent domination, not by the bourgeoisie itself, but by its enemies among the vanquished reactionaries on the one hand, and by the extreme Radicals on the other, which created anti-Semitism as a political force.

The movement took its rise in Germany and Austria. Here the concentration of the Jews in one class of the population was aggravated by their numbers. While in France the proportion to the total population was, in the early 1870s, 0.14 %, and in Italy, 0.12%, it was 1.22% in Germany, and 3.55% in Austria-Hungary. Berlin had 4.36% of Jews, and Vienna 6.62% (Andre, Volkskunde, pp. 287, 291, 294, 295). The activity of the Jews consequently manifested itself in a far more intense form in these countries than elsewhere. This was apparent even before the emancipations of 1848.

France was the last State in which anti-Semitism obtained a foothold. To some extent, somewhat paradoxically, the ground was more favourable there than under a monarchical government. In a bourgeois republic the hostility of the anti-bourgeois elements is all the more intense, and in France, as elsewhere, the Jews are essentially a bourgeois class. Moreover, the anti-Semitic movement in Germany had driven many Jews-scholars and professional men, as well as men of commerce and finance-to take refuge in France. France had its strong reactionary and clerical elements, all by nature anti-Semitic, so that the materials for an anti-Jewish movement were all to hand. The first anti-Jewish movement in France dates only from 1882. In that year Paul Bontoux, a financier who had formerly been in the service of the Rothschilds, but had been compelled to leave it on account of his mania for speculation, and had joined the Orleanist party, established the Union Generate, a Roman Catholic and aristocratic financial organization intended to compete with and destroy the alleged monopoly of the Jewish and Protestant financial houses. Bontoux's passion for speculation led to the inevitable consequence-the Union Generate failed in January, 1882, involving thousands of all classes in its ruin. Very inconsequentially the Jews were accused by the victims of having engineered the failure. This suggestion was sufficient to make the Jews of France the scapegoat for the speculations of Bontoux. The anti-Semitic movement thus started remained in the realm of theory for a few years, and beyond a certain amount of annoyance the Jews of France cannot be said to have suffered definitely from it. At the elections of 1885, however, a large number of monarchists were returned, and the following year, either as a coincidence or a consequence, Edouard Drumont published his notorious " La France Juive," one of the bitterest attacks on the Jews ever penned. This work gave a great impetus to the movement, which was, however, still theoretical rather than practical. The Boulangist Movement gathered to itself the antiSemites in common with all the other disaffected elements in the State. The failure of the Boulangist movement was in part due to the efforts of a Jewish journalist and politician, M. Joseph Reinach. The Orleanists and Clericals and other Boulangists, in their rage and disappointment, attacked, in retaliation, not only Reinach, but the whole of the race to which he belonged. An anti-Semitic League, with branches in all parts of the country, was quickly formed, and the whole machinery of anti-Semitic charges and arguments was imported from Germany. The Franco-Russian Alliance, effected on the morrow of one of the periodic outbreaks of massacre with which Russo-Jewish history is studded, gave the movement a pseudo-patriotic tinge, which brought many recruits to the standard of Drumont and his friends. The collapse of the Panama Canal Company, in which a few prominent French Jews were involved, still further assisted the movement, for, in accordance with many precedents, the Jew was made the scapegoat. Something in the nature of an anti-Jewish reign of terror ensued, in the course of which the hundreds of Jewish officers in the army were made the objects of attack. Against one of them, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the charge of treason was brought. Immediately a frenzy of anti-Semitism took possession of the country. The question of the guilt or innocence of Dreyfus was lost in the far larger question of the guilt or innocence of the Jewish race. The agitation based on the charges of the existence of a Jewish conspiracy against the Christian world completely collapsed late in 1921. The credit for this is due to the London Times, which unearthed a copy of the original book upon the basis of which the so-called "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" was fabricated. In August, 1921, this paper incontrovertibly demonstrated that the "Protocols" consist in the main of "clumsy plagiarisms" from a French political pamphlet directed against Napoleon III, and published in Brussels in 1865 by a French lawyer named Maurice Joly, and entitled "Dialogues in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu." Shortly after this expose, the Dearborn Independent dropped the publication of further anti-Jewish articles, although it is still engaged in circulating pamphlets containing reprints of the articles which have appeared.


Anti-semitism - the prejudice against the Jewish race, a pseudo-scientific movement - as distinct from anti-Judaism - the prejudice against the Jewish religion, a movement rooted in religion or superstition - is essentially a modern phenomenon. Not that anti-Judaism was extinct in Europe by the 19th Century, or that previous to the 1870s of last century prejudice against the Jewish people was unknown; but until the French Revolution symptoms and manifestations of anti-Semitism were lost and submerged in the vastness of anti-Judaism, while in the nineteenth century prejudice against the Jewish race occupied the greater part of the field.

There had always existed a feeling of dislike toward the Jews among Aryan people of the Occident; but they have tolerated the homeless "strangers and sojourners," much out of pity, through the centuries. The earliest discoverable trace of definitely anti-Jewish racial sentiment is found in the Chronicles of Manetho. Egyptian historian of the second century before the Christian era. In this case the friction arose possibly between Hellenized Jews of the dispersion and subjugated Egyptians, and from each group's boasting of the relative greatness of its former national existence, and especially of the size and magnificence of their historic cities.

It is recorded in Roman civil history that there was merriment in the senate in 63 BC at mention of the "Jewish expectation." Cicero complained, in 59, "of Jewish influence on Roman assemblages;" and, in AD 19, acting on that earlier suggestion of Cicero the Romans expelled the Jews from the city, and severe penalties were put upon adherents of their teachings. After the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem in AD 70, to any Jew found within 100 miles of that city was meted the death penalty by the Romans. Under Tiberius, because of "the superstition," some 4,000 Jews were banished to Sardinia, where "if they perished by the severity of the conditions the loss would be a cheap one." (Tacitus, Ann. 2:85.)

Anti-Judaism - which had always included some of the elements of anti-Semitism - is as old as the Diaspora. By the uneducated mass of Christians their Jewish contemporaries have always been held directly responsible for the tragedy in which the life of Jesus culminates. The anti-Judaism of most of the early Church fathers had little, if any, hatred of the Jews in it - rather, there was, as in Tertullian's De Adversus Ju^ dceos, a desire to reason with them, to convince Jews of the greater truth of Christian doctrine. This was true of the writings of Minucius Felix, Cyprian, Commodiam and Lactantius. But Eusebius calls them "a perverse, dangerous and criminal sect."

In Christian times the hatred took a religious form, though not without political implications. The sharpest break between Jews and Christians in early times probably came from the Jews, through their bitter resentment against the early Christianizing Jews who refused to take part in the Jewish national struggle against Rome, and who even acted as informers to the Romans. Throughout the middle ages, and even to our own time, religious Jew-hatred was based on the assumption that the Jews had killed Christ, that they were originally the chosen people, but by their denial of the divinity of Christ had forfeited that heritage, whicn became the spiritual heritage of all Christians. The Jews are rejected of God; the Christians become his chosen people.

The Jew in Europe had always been the stranger, different from his environment. In Feudal Europe this difference was accentuated by the atomic medieval polity. In the medieval European State, founded on a Christian basis, the Jew was a class by himself, detached from the land, and not naturalized in the city. The only means of providing for him was to make him the private property of the King or of one of the nobles. This may be said generally to have been the status of the Jew in medieval Christian Europe. Under the Moslems in Spain, the Jews held a far more favourable situation, and even after the Christian conquest their status was not assimilated to that of their co-religionists in other parts of Europe, for the non-Christian element in the population was too large thus to be treated.

Religious aversion was often used merely as a cloak for economic antagonism. The Jew, looked upon as a foreigner, could not accumulate wealth without arousing envy. His peculiar situation as a countryless sojourner who could not own land, drove him naturally into commercial occupations; and gradually restrictions in most countries forced him exclusively into brokerage and into usury. He became practically the property of the nobility and kings, and so was used by them in many cases as an instrument to fleece the common people. Then the nobility, to protect themselves, often found it expedient to turn popular hatred against their vassal Jews. The forms of persecution practised were generally forced segregation in Ghettos, forced conversion at the point of the sword, expulsion from cities or whole countries, riot and murder-sometimes wholesale murder-and all of these offered opportunities for plunder.

The whole period of Medieval European history is one long account of their disabilities and their successive expulsions, from Spain, England, France, Holland and Germany. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries occurred massacres in' the Rhineland cities. Charges of "ritual murders," such as found in Chaucer's Nunprieste's Tale, caused much hatred and rioting; the "Black Death" of 1348-1349 brought widespread accusations of well-poisoning against them.

The people of all classes - under priestly inspiration-were at most times anxious to avenge the Crucifixion, and incidentally to enrich themselves with the property of the Jews. As a rule this ambition was kept under restraint. The most terrible occasion on which it gained the upper hand was that of the First Crusade, when the march of the soldiers of Christ across Europe was marked by a river of Jewish blood flowing through a series of burning Ghettoes.

By the edict of Pope Innocent III, Jews were required to wear a colored badgie; by the order of the municipalities this requirement was continued down until the first of the 19th Century; and they were made to keep within the pale of certain districts, and these usually not the most healthful, either. From England they were expelled in 1290; from France in 1306, and again in 1394. Massacres occurred in Germany (1336-37) and in Poland. From Spain they were driven in 1492; they were terribly harrassed in all the period of the Inquisition.

The bitterest degradation of the Jew came after the Reformation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the general hatred and oppression of the Jews was most systematic and constant. It may be called the darkest period in the history of the Jewish dispersion. Gleams of light there were, also, and the first dawning of a new day, especially in England and Holland. But altogether the effect on the Jews was terrible. An intensification and narrowing of national life took place that shut the Jew into Medievalism when all the world was striding forward. Jewish obscurantism in the Ghettos turned against all modern culture and fed the suffering: national spirit only on Talmudic lore and on the hard nuts of a legalism which could not function in life. Also, the long and bitter oppression, the social ostracism and the terrible economic suffering which forced upon them low standards of living, often gave the Jews those social habits, obsequiousness and lack of decorum, which became an excuse for social prejudice.

In the East, the Jews of Poland had by the final division passed under the rule of Russia and Austria. In the former of these Empires a system not far removed from that of the Ghetto of the Middle Ages was still in force. The history of the Jewish people in exile was the history of the growth and decay of these successive centres of Jewish national life. By far the most important of these centers in modern times was the one which arose in Poland after the great migrations of the Jews from Germany in the Middle Ages. In Poland there grew up a vast Jewish community, homogeneous in its character and type of life, and differing in fundamentals from the surrounding non-Jewish communities. It had its own language - Judaeo-German or Yiddish, a modification of the Middle High German which the first Jewish immigrants brought with them into Poland - its own system of education based on the Bible and the Talmud, its own communal organization, its own mentality and standard of values. In speaking of anti-Semitism at the dawn of the 20th Century, Russia and Rumania are left out of account, as there the conditions were still those of an earlier period, and Jew-hatred ran the old cruel course with certain quite modern aggravations.

A turn for betterment in the fate of modern European Jews was introduced by the maxim of Frederick the Great, that "to oppress the Jews never brought prosperity to any government". Innovations made by Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) in the teachings of Judaism, changed also the attitude of many Jews toward Christians, and vice versa; with the general result that by the time of the French Revolution, and through the friendly attitude and political needs of Napoleon, the Jews were finally "emancipated" - even in Austria, where, up until the toleranzpatent of Joseph II., they had been under most trying disabilities and taxes.

After the "emancipation" of the Jews, the age-old spirit of anti-Judaism was immediately transformed to anti-Semitism, the movement starting in France. By the 19th Century, wherever organized Nationalism existed, anti-Semitism formed an important element in its make-up. There was a long list of French and German writers who attacked the Jews in the period 1820-1870 on the general aspects of their alleged racial program, as being but middlemen, stock-jobbers and non-producers.

Everywhere national feeling was strengthened, and even in Poland and Hungary it was only partially subdued by the hand of tyrants. This feeling, however, gave rise to the more sordid sentiment of national exclusiveness, and the monster anti-Semitism was the result. The Jews might be tolerated if the distinction between them and the nations among whom they lived were only a religious one. But the Jews as Semites, racially different from the Aryans, could never amalgamate with them, and were, therefore, a menace to national solidarity. Pseudo-philosophic anti-Semitism, the new form assumed by the prejudice, took shape first in Germany. This is, however, in part due to the fact that Germany, including Austria-and in Jewish history in general all the German States must be considered together- was the one modernized State which contained an appreciable proportion of Jewish inhabitants. In the other European States of the West, England, France, Italy, Holland, and Belgium, the proportion of Jews was, and had always been, small. In the Scandinavian countries, in Finland, Spain, and Portugal, there were for practical purposes no Jews.

Modern political anti-Semitism was born in Germany after the Franco-Prussian War, that is, after 1870. It was a natural result of the new German national spirit. Its occasion was the breaking of the bubble of over-speculation that resulted from the huge French indemnity. In that burst bubble a number of Jews-as well as non-Jews - were implicated. However, the Jews were the scapegoats.

The first general attack was on a basis of race, Ernest Renan advancing the argument of inegality (inequality, of inferiority), which later was brought out in Germany as a part of Hegel's philosophical system, and the notions of nationalism and patriotism brought into the discussion. An ideal unity of race necessary to a successful state would require the elimination of the Jew, who, lacking the moral, social and intellectual ideals of the Aryan, cannot be "reduced" to the unit of such a state. Of the philosophical anti-Semites, von Treitschke, Adolph Wagner, and Schopenhauer, of Germany; Schoerner in Austria, and Pattai in Hungary, were the early representatives. The general burden of their argument was that while the Spirit of the world advanced, the Jews lagged behind at a lower stage, hindering achievement. Max Stirner in his historical treatment said the Jews represented a negro stage of development, which they never surpassed, while the Aryans went on. Bruno Baer and Nietzsche attacked the Semitic spirit as it was manifested in Christianity, which, through pity of the weak, kept these alive, and enslave the strong and progressive.

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 07-08-2012 19:00:22 ZULU