|July 11, 2011||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
The riddle of Nazi anti-Semitism has occupied the minds of many, though others have assumed that there is simply no answer, that the extermination of 6 million harmless and innocent Jews by modern industrialized methods is so far removed from ordinary thought patterns as to be beyond reasonable analysis.
One curious comment about this problem has been made by noted historian Richard Evans. A widely recognized expert on the Third Reich and the author of major works on the subject, he more than many other people should be able to give us some insight into this problem – if, that is, the problem is amenable to the ordinary methods of scholarship he has so completely at his command.
Evan’s comment was this: “the history of modern anti-Semitism in Germany began with the court preacher Adolf Stöcker” (The Coming of the Third Reich, 2005). Who was this individual to whom we can attribute such incredible catastrophes? Adolf Stöcker was Kaiser Wilhelm’s court chaplain. He was concerned about excessive Jewish influence in Germany, and wanted to limit it. He founded the Christian Social Workers’ Party, but it was not successful and never had any great influence on the political scene.
To examine this more carefully, we need to be aware that there were by the 19th century two different anti-Semitisms in Germany. The first was traditional religious anti-Semitism of the sort that had existed for many centuries. This saw the Jews as the killers of Christ, under God’s wrath because they had rejected and killed Jesus Christ. The second was the secular anti-Semitism that emerged out of the so-called Enlightenment. As advocated by such major German thinkers as Kant, and Fichte, as well as many others, this second variety of anti-Semitism was not concerned with religious issues. Its adherents did not believe the Bible was the word of God, were not overly concerned with the crucifixion of Christ. They had an entirely different approach.
Secular “Enlightenment” anti-Semitism was hostile to Judaism for three reasons. First, the idea of God and the Jews as presented in the Old Testament itself was obnoxious to them. A God of one nation only who blessed those who obeyed him and sent destruction on his enemies and set up punishments for violations of divine laws was anathema to modern secular philosophers. Secondly, current Jewish practices were offensive to them. That the Jews would cling to centuries-old beliefs and be alienated from social and intellectual progress was proof of their being less than fully human. Thirdly, with the increasing emphasis on nationalism as the source of human identity, the Jews were seen increasingly as aliens, outsiders, who corrupted healthy German values.
Since Stöcker represented the religious version of anti-Semitism rather than the secular (of course these two versions mingled with each other in different ways), and since it was the secular version that we find in such anti-Semites as Wagner and H. S. Chamberlain, whose ideas about Jews were often identical to Hitler’s, blaming Stöcker for ideas that had emerged earlier in the century seems rather odd. Yet, in his A History of the Jews in the Modern World (New York 2006) Howard M. Sachar states it was Stöcker’s campaigning in the 1870s that managed “to transform social anti-Semitism into an increasingly formidable political issue inGermany . . . it was Stöcker who awakened right-wing politicians to the functional utility of anti-Semitism as a party issue” (245).
Was it really the case, then, that this individual was to blame for awakening the demon of anti-Semitism in Germany? Sachar agrees that Stöcker’s ideas “bore little relation to the wild nihilism of his successors” (p. 245). Sachar also makes some comments on Karl Lueger, the mayor ofVienna, who (in Sachar’s words) “institutionalized” previously social anti-Semitism in Austria and made it “politically functional” (229).
Sachar also mentions Georg von Schönerer, another Austrian anti-Semite “who pioneered many of the propaganda techniques later to be used by the Nazis” and was “the first demagogue who understood the potential of anti-Semitism,” arguing among other things that Jewishness was not a question of religion (as in traditional religious anti-Semitism) but of race (252-253).
H. S. Chamberlain, the racial and anti-Semitic ideologue who publicly endorsed Hitler, dismissed religious anti-Semitism as outmoded superstition. His anti-Semitism was “scientific” and “philosophical,” and centered not on God’s wrath on the Jews but on Jewish corruption of German racial purity and on the unhealthiness of Jewish ideas as expressed in Torah itself. Since it was this anti-Semitism, traceable (with many variations) back through Lagarde and Langbehn to Fichte, Kant, and the German “Enlightenment,” that emerges in Mein Kampf, pointing the finger at Stöcker seems inadequate.
If we really want to understand the mystery of anti-Semitism, this strange force of irrational hatred which persists unwavering through the centuries and across borders but assumes many different guises and expressions according to various situations, then it seems obvious to me that the first question we need to ask is “Who and what are the Jews?”
If God did not appear to Moses on Sinai, and the Torah is merely a book of myths and legends, then there is no rational explanation for the pointless existence and strange survival of the Jews, nor for the strange hatreds continually directed against them. If God did appear to Moses on Mount Sinai and gave the Jews divine laws, and if he did use them to reveal his truth to the world through the prophets, and through Jesus Christ and the apostles, then we can explain persistent but varying forms of Jew-hatred as the work of the devil, and of human sin.
This is at bottom a spiritual question, and I know how much most contemporary scholars want nothing to do with such things. This is to their detriment.