Anti-semitism

   anti-Jewish prejudice, founded on pseudoscientific spec-ulation, that devised a racially based hostility toward Jews.* Although European Jews had endured centuries of religious enmity, they had been free to counter the hostility of Gentile neighbors by converting to Christianity. But the nine-teenth century, which saw a steady erosion of religious belief, witnessed the evolution of "enlightened theories identifying Jews as racially distinct from other Europeans. While such theories had no scientific basis, the concept that national groups were organic entities capable of being undermined by an alien race had great appeal to those enamored of a twisted Darwinism and aroused by deep-seated anti-Jewish prejudice. The new theories were particularly sinister because they could be used to condemn all Jewish people, regardless of religious conviction.
   Although German anti-Semitism predated World War I (the term was coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr), it failed to prosper as a disconnected political move-ment. It was, however, embedded in the political programs of such groups as the Pan-German League and the Reichslandbund. * It took a lost war, a suspect statistical report reflecting poorly on Jewish participation in that war, and the lure of a new eugenics movement before fanatical anti-Semites could amass widespread endorsement of the charge that Jews controlled the economy, mas-terminded anti-German political movements, engaged in decadent and immoral cultural activities, and threatened Deutschtum with racial hybrids. In the Repub-lic s unstable early years (1919-1923) such slurs were linked with an array of tiny organizations (including the NSDAP) that struggled to gain notice. Once the initial period of turmoil was over, the radical anti-Semites watched their meager support dissolve; indeed, the DNVP, which numbered Jews in its mem-bership, silenced its vocal anti-Semites in the wake of Walther Rathenau s* assassination* (June 1922). Although anti-Jewish riots erupted late in 1923 in several German cities—the worst occurring in November in Berlin*—evidence from the next five years suggests that anti-Semitism had lost its raison d'être. But appearances were misleading; the attitude toward Jews was too often one of ambivalence rather than acceptance. When radical anti-Semitism resurfaced during the depression,* this time as a virtual NSDAP monopoly, the Republic s inability to control its destiny led many casual anti-Semites to the Nazis.
   There was nothing new in the NSDAP s concept of anti-Semitism. But the Party s demands for the systematic removal of Jews from political, economic, and cultural life found greater sympathy among other political parties after the NSDAP's stunning electoral success in September 1930. Violent Jew-haters never comprised a majority of Germans harboring anti-Jewish prejudice; instead, the success Hitler* achieved with anti-Semitism during the Republic's final years was owed to concern about "racial hygiene" and Bildungsantisemitismus, Tho-mas Mann's* cynical term for "cultured anti-Semitism."
   REFERENCES:Friedlander, Origins of Nazi Genocide; Jacob Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction; Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism; Niewyk, Jews in Weimar Germany; Parkes, Antisemitism; Pulzer, Rise ofPolitical Anti-Semitism.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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