What do non-Jews think of Jews

The Germans will never forgive the Jews of Auschwitz ...

Anti-Semitic Images and Their History

Anyone who believes that anti-Semitism has finally been discredited after the Nazi persecution and the murder of millions of European Jews is underestimating the historical power, current spread and dynamism of anti-Semitic constructions.

A study by the Allensbach opinion research institute and a study by the sociologists Bergmann and Erb in 1995 came to the conclusion that 15% to 20% of the total population are staunch anti-Semites. That's 12 million Germans. Mathematically, there are 300 anti-Semites for every Jew living in Germany. But what actually is anti-Semitism and where does the current global increase in anti-Semitic attitudes and attacks come from?

What is anti-Semitism anyway?

Anti-Semitism has a long history and has become part of many ideas that at first glance appear normal and everyday, even critical. At the same time, naming thought structures, behaviors, argumentation patterns or attacks against Jewish people and institutions as anti-Semitic in Germany still meets strong emotional defenses, which makes it very difficult to talk about what is anti-Semitic and what is not.

Why are anti-Jewish enemy images so persistent? Why do people express themselves anti-Semitically who have never met a Jew? If you look closely at anti-Semitic images and myths, it is noticeable that they are reflections of an anti-Semitic story: one and the same images keep reappearing. Modern anti-Semitic enemy images make use of old anti-Jewish images and stereotypes and give them new topicality. In order to understand today's anti-Semitism, one must therefore look more closely at the historical images that survive in the present, the history of hostility towards Jews and their traditions.

Christian anti-Judaism: Jews as a threat to Christians and their faith

There has been competition between Jews and Christians since the first century AD. Christianity as a split off Jewish sect justified its existence by a self-image that presented itself as a contrast to Judaism. The anti-Jewish images of the New Testament in the Christian Bible were ultimately linked to this anti-Jewish tradition of Christian thought. Among the best known are the accusation of murdering Christ and the claim that Jews are excluded from the covenant with God. Jews are seen in many places as hypocrites, false pious people and enemies of Christians. These negative images from the New Testament have not disappeared from today's linguistic usage. To this day everyone knows the hypocrite “Pharisee” and the traitor “Judas”. In such linguistic images, the idea of ​​the disloyalty of the Jews, which gained new relevance with the formation of the nation state, has persisted.

In the 13th century, the Christian rite of the Lord's Supper gave birth to the belief, which is still cultivated today, that bread and wine would become “the body and blood of Christ”. It was claimed that the Jews, as "enemies of Christ", wanted to pierce the host (sacrament wafer) in order to injure the body of Jesus. It was rumored that Jews would use Christian blood for ritual purposes, kidnapping or buying Christian children to murder them. They were accused of poisoning wells out of hatred of Christians. Time and again, Jews were blamed for general threats and disasters, such as the plague in the middle of the 14th century. Anti-Semitic agitation and pogroms shaped Jewish life in the cities and in the countryside. Many Jewish communities were already completely destroyed by this time. Jews were expelled from numerous cities and countries.

With the Spanish Inquisition - the persecution of non-Christians and Christian deviants carried out by church institutions and state authorities - the Christian hostility towards Jews reached its climax in 1492. Jews were forced to convert to Catholicism. If they refused, they were burned or expelled from Spain, where Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived together for hundreds of years. But even converting to Catholicism offered little security. The converted Jews were suspected of only pretending to convert. For the first time the racist argument arose that Jews had “different blood” from Christians. Proof of parentage for "pure (Christian) blood" was required. Certain professions were only allowed to be exercised by those whose ancestors were not Jews.

Even the end of the Middle Ages did not bring any improvements for European Jews. With the Counter-Reformation that began at this point in time, anti-Jewish laws were renewed. In Catholic areas, Jews were banished to ghettos. They fell victim to pogroms that far surpassed past massacres. Until the late 18th century, when the Enlightenment and the French Revolution finally brought new religious freedom with them, religiously motivated forms of persecution of Jews continued to occur. Only then did the Jews first receive civil rights in France, then in other Western European countries, and finally in Germany as well. The price for emancipation as a citizen was assimilation, that is, the abandonment of the Jewish outside the private four walls. Emancipation and assimilation made political and legal improvements, economic success and cultural prestige possible for a larger number of Jews than before. But these led to new envy and new hostilities on the part of the non-Jewish majority.

Economically justified hostility towards Jews: Jews as economic competition

A short leap back to the 13th century: Church decrees worsened the social and social status of the Jewish population. Jews were excluded from public office and forced to identify themselves by their clothing. They were denied admission to the guilds and thus to numerous opportunities to earn a living. This forced the Jews to specialize economically in trade and money lending, because Christians were forbidden to lend money for religious reasons. As financiers of feudal lords and cities, as well as merchants, some Jewish families became prosperous in the 16th to 19th centuries. The few well-to-do Jews were immediately declared "rich usurers" and targets of anti-Jewish mobilizations. This was motivated not only by political and religious but also often highly private material interests: With the Jews one could also get rid of one's own debts. The fact that only a few Jews were well-off merchants and financiers, while many others often had a very difficult livelihood as small craftsmen, traders or scholars, has never played a role in the anti-Jewish propaganda about powerful, rich Jews. Anti-Jewish allegations of this time, such as that the Jews were a "trading people", "hagglers" or "materially minded", that they shied away from physical work and "greedily" exploited non-Jews, are in the image of the rich, others exploiting capitalists / Jews to this day. To this day, Jewish merchants, bankers, or successful real estate agents are not simply viewed as people whose job is to sell for a profit. They are identified as Jews and criticized as "Jewish speculators".

Jews as responsible for the modern age, for political upheavals and liberalism as well as intellectuals

With the abolition of feudal privileges and the implementation of an economic structure in which social status could not be inherited but also acquired, Jews became political and social players outside of the Jewish communities and individual salons. Anti-Jewish propaganda concluded that Jews were responsible for the social upheavals because they benefited from them. You are the driving force behind modernization. In this way, the Jews could be made responsible for all developments associated with the implementation of the new bourgeois-capitalist order: for the change in traditional family, gender and authority relationships, for urbanization and isolation, the questioning of traditional morals and previous values, and Norms, for free press, new forms in art and culture, for liberalism, parliamentarism, pacifism and individualism, for the "ideas of 1789". But they also stood in the anti-Semitic argument for radical criticism of the new form of society as well: for socialism and bolshevism. Such contradictions and logical contradictions in anti-Semitic stereotypes and arguments are common, but they do not interfere with the functioning of these convictions, but are built into the anti-Semitic declaration of the world as "evidence" for the all-encompassing power and ability of the Jews to deceive. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the images of the intellectual Jew (e.g. the eloquent lawyer - the "corner lawyer") and the backward, religious, patriarchal, Yiddish-speaking Eastern Jew stood side by side. Even if the historical changes are the result of the development of productive forces and broad social reform efforts, the image of Jews as backers, “pullers”, profiteers and those responsible for social upheavals persists to this day.

National-ethnic anti-Semitism: Jews as a counter-image to the nation

The late formation of the German nation state in the 19th century was accompanied by a link between anti-Semitic and national discourses. The idea of ​​a “German people” goes back to the time of the anti-Napoleonic “Wars of Liberation” between 1792 and 1815, in which France defeated the small German states and they formed larger alliances against France. The German concept of the nation should on the one hand correspond to and at the same time contradict the idea of ​​the French nation. A founding act corresponding to the French Revolution, which shaped the idea of ​​the French “peuple” (people in the sense of: lower classes of the population) as a demarcation from the feudal rulers, was missing in Germany. Instead, the “German people” was understood as a natural unity without class or party differences, which was defined by its delimitation from “foreign”. While the French provided the external enemy for this demarcation, the Jews were seen as internal enemies. In the German states occupied by France, French law applied, according to which Jews were equated with non-Jews - this should definitely be reversed. This laid the foundation for the ethnic-racist component of the German term “Volk”. The nation was portrayed as a large common “people's body” and Jews were defamed as threatening “foreign bodies in the nation”. Four years after the wars against Napoleonic France, there was a wave of anti-Jewish violence in many German states. These aggressions referred to the "incompatibility of the German people with the Jews". “Those ideas culminated in National Socialism in the idea of ​​a 'world struggle' between the Germans as the chosen people of the 'Aryan race' with the 'counter-race' of 'world Jewry', in the idea of ​​a fateful struggle for the fulfillment of a divine mission, namely enforcement a racist world order under German rule ”, analyzes Hanno Loewy. "In this sense, it would actually be allowed to speak of anti-Semitism as a 'national project' (because it touches on all key questions of the national self-definition)."

Racist anti-Semitism: Jews as a different and inferior race

At the same time as the emergence of völkisch-nationalist organizations and imperial aspirations to great power on the threshold of the 20th century, racial biological theories are attracting increased interest. The ideas of the biologist Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882) about the "struggle for existence" between "higher" and "lower" races are taken up by many anthropologists. Ernst Haeckel finally transferred Darwin's theory of “survival of the fittest”, which only applied to the realm of the animal kingdom, which states that only the strongest and best adapted survive to humans. The French Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau (1816 - 1882) linked in his writings to the hierarchical race classifications of anthropology and explained the social inequality of people as the result of "racial differences". He conjured a “cultural decline”, which he described as the result of a “racial mixture” through which the “Aryan white race” in its pure blood was threatened. With recourse to this theory, Houston Stewart Chamberlain finally developed his Aryan myth. The “Aryan cultural bearers” would find themselves in the historical final battle with Judaism, in which there would only be victory or annihilation. Anti-Semitism, which had previously been based on religion or economy, was thus declared a “race question”. Conversion to Christianity or assimilation thus offered no way out; on the contrary: the racist anti-Semites viewed them as an “attempt at deception”.

National Socialist ideology and politics consistently developed these theories further. Sexual contact between "Aryans" and Jews was considered "incest," Jews were described as "corrosive elements" and as a "lower race". Racist notions of "Jewish" characteristics and bodies (such as the images of weak, unsold, slacking, ugly, hunched over, hook-nosed Jews) determined public opinion. Jewish women were described with the exotic image of the “beautiful Jewess”, Jewish men were seen as lustful and sexually threatening, but at the same time as impotent and sterile. National Socialism combined such racist threat images as that of the Jews as the “most dangerous opponent in world historical race struggle” with anti-modern impulses and made the image of the “Jewish world conspiracy” and “wire puller” behind modern world events popular. Countless variations of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", an anti-Semitic forgery attributed to the Russian secret service, found circulation. Jews were held responsible for capitalism denounced as “American” (“Wall Street”) and “un-German”, Soviet-Russian communism (“Jewish Bolshevism”). In völkisch anti-capitalism, the economically justified hostility towards Jews and racist and völkisch anti-Semitism are united.

The National Socialist mass murder of 6 million Jews was the consequence of this anti-Semitic racial thinking: the attempt to destroy them “as a race”.

Anti-semitism today

Ethnic anti-capitalism: Jews as responsible for capitalism and its social consequences

The völkisch agitation against capitalism divides into "raffling" capital, which means the sphere of circulation, stock exchanges, banks, free financial markets etc., and "creating" capital such as production, industry, handicrafts, "honest work" etc. Capital is ascribed to Jews, the “creative” capital to the “Aryans”. In more modern terms, this anti-capitalist conspiracy theory speaks of the special power of the Jews, who determined politics and the media worldwide with their money. Even today, anti-Semitic and anti-American motives are often combined: There is talk of “Wall Street” and “East Coast” - and the Jews are meant because the “American-Jewish lobby” is in charge there. The left-wing populist agitation against “multinationals”, “speculators” or “irresponsible entrepreneurs” who do not create jobs in the country but instead let uncontrolled capital flow out of selfish motives speaks a language that divides into “bad” and “good” capitalists and juxtaposes both of the thoroughly “good workers”. This rhetoric makes individuals responsible for systemic problems because of their character and can therefore quickly be short-circuited with anti-Semitic constructions that inform that workers are Germans and capitalists are Jews. Instead of understanding competition and egoism as capitalist system principles, the guilty party is sought and what is “one's own” - the nation, the German job-creating capitalist, productive work, the workers, the poor, etc. - is identified as positive without contradiction.

Typical of modern anti-Semitism is its conspiracy theoretic form. It enables the world to be separated into good and bad. The abolition of evil is the program. Such conspiracy theories are currently also widespread in Islamist movements. By denouncing a supposed Jewish-American striving for world domination, these currents hide their own claim to rule, which usually includes the execution or justification of terrorist attacks.

Secondary anti-Semitism: Jews as reminders of the past

After the Holocaust, the attempt to ward off feelings of guilt and responsibility became an independent motive for anti-Semitic constructions. A special form of anti-Semitism has developed that is expressed not in spite of Auschwitz, but precisely because of it. This form is known as secondary anti-Semitism and is an expression of memory defenses and the will to relieve oneself subjectively and collectively of shame and responsibility.

Auschwitz irretrievably stands in the way of identification with German national history and any form of naive relationship to the world. The fact that the Holocaust was a modern German act ultimately also raises the question of the extent to which the social framework conditions that made National Socialism possible persist to this day. However, this question and the resulting unease towards the German nation are fought off by many non-Jewish Germans with various debt relief schemes. “The Jews went to the slaughter like sheep.” Or “The Jews themselves certainly contributed to their being so unpopular,” it says. In addition to this line of argument, which makes the victims of anti-Semitism responsible for their own persecution, there are other strategies of perpetrator-victim reversal, e.g. B. the relativization of crimes. The in-depth reporting on the bombing of German cities and the displacement as well as the war sufferings of non-Jewish Germans, who usually dominate the family narratives, also serve to emphasize one's own victim status and portray others as criminals. The guilt for the mass murder itself, on the other hand, is projected onto a small minority around Adolf Hitler. And the comparison of other events with Auschwitz or other politicians with Hitler mostly serves to minimize one's own responsibility.

Those who recall the Holocaust as a German crime through their statements or through their mere existence stand in the way of the will to suppress and become troublemakers. Jews in particular are regarded by the Germans as “warning” and “avenger”. In 1998 the writer Martin Walser spoke of the "Moralkeule Auschwitz" at the award ceremony of the German book trade to the applause of well-known politicians. He accused the Jews of “instrumentalizing our shame for present purposes” and called for the Germans to return to “normality”. He accused the Jews of “permanently reminding them of a period of German history that many would like to forget” and called for “an end. Also in the context of the public debate about the compensation of the Nazi slave laborers - who were by no means all Jews - Holocaust survivors were portrayed as "sensitive, vengeful, resentful and unforgiving" and their legal representatives as "greedy legal twists", "crooked advocates" etc. designated. Many of these images go back to the notion of an “Old Testament addiction to retribution”, which comes from the repertoire of anti-Judaism and contrasts the image of a “vengeful” Jewish God with that of the Christian God of love and forgiveness. The argument that Jews used their suffering from persecution to collect the highest possible sums of money in compensation connects the motive of defense against guilt with the traditional image of the "greedy, deceitful and exploitative Jew" and the conspiracy-theoretical idea of ​​special power. This is more anti-Semitic The view that “Jewish influence in the world” is responsible for the failure to “draw a line under the past”.

Philosemitism: Jews as better people

Philosemitism is an attitude that declares Jews to be better people. For him, what also applies to “reverse” or “positive” racism: Exaggerating as particularly intelligent, beautiful, courageous or moral is also problematic. Like anti-Semitism, philosemitism ignores the concrete human being and constructs collective characteristics and behavioral patterns for the entirety of the Jews. Overloading with projections creates images that have to be disappointed in reality. This is expressed in statements such as: "You, as a Jew, should understand ..."

Anti-Semitic Anti-Israelism: Israel as a Jewish Collective Subject

As early as the 1980s, another form of anti-Semitism emerged that justified itself by being a conclusion from the Holocaust. She claims that she wants to warn Jews against racism or even prevent them from carrying out a “genocide of the Palestinians” because of a special German sensitivity and an intensive discussion of human rights. Particular attention is paid to the State of Israel. Its Jewish residents and all Jews living outside Israel are homogenized into a collective subject that is made responsible for Israel's politics. By equating Israel with Nazi Germany, the German historical responsibility for the persecution of the Jews is diminished. The Germans, “who have learned from their history”, value themselves as morally better people - they know about genocide. But other images based on Christian anti-Judaist or modern anti-Semitic traditions also shape Middle East reporting in Germany: anti-Semitic characterizations of Sharon or the Israelis, allusions to biblical history and the Old Testament to characterize events in Israel, extreme personalization , Israel as the capitalist-imperialist governor of the USA, the adoption of Palestinian-ethnic ideologies. It is often said that the behavior of "the Israelis" creates a new anti-Semitism. However, it is not what is happening in the Middle East that causes anti-Semitism, it is anti-Semitism that imposes a certain interpretation on the Middle East conflict.

Isn't anti-Semitism the same as racism?

Like racism, anti-Semitism enables the construction of external images which, as a contrast film, give the idea of ​​who one is oneself a contour. Nevertheless, modern anti-Semitic stereotypes differ significantly from racist stereotypes due to the history of their origins. Racist images of the enemy portray their counterparts as different, inferior and potentially threatening. Anti-Semitism, on the other hand, constructs images of the Jewish as something completely different and as superior and as an actual threat from a hostile superiority. While racism is attributed to the so-called other “race” or “culture” instinctiveness and natural growth and one's own “race” is said to have reached a higher degree of civilization and culture, the “Jew” symbolizes the other side of civilization / modernity. The counter-image is thus "absolute", i.e. H. it is not different, but an absolute contradiction. “The Jew” stands for capital, abstract rule and artificial civilization, for high and devious intelligence and great power. With this ascription, anti-Semitism represents a simple explanation of the capitalist present, which already contains indications of proposed solutions. If individuals can be held personally responsible for the problems of the world, the solution lies in combating them. In contrast to racist images of the enemy, anti-Semitic images enable a comprehensive explanation of the world and its problems. While racism is often about economic exploitation and material gain, anti-Semitism is less subject to economic purposeful thinking. Its advantages lie more in psychological and socio-psychological functions and the defense against guilt, memory and responsibility. Anti-Semitism is part of an authoritarian way of dealing with oppression: the possibility of a life without exploitative work and an identity that is not “national” is projected onto “the Jew” and persecuted.

So what explains current anti-Semitism?

Those who use it do not even need to know the centuries-old tradition of enemy images described here. But if you get to the bottom of the pictures, you will find the key to why anti-Semitism is expressed with so much passion and what those who think anti-Semitic try to explain. Anti-Semitism is a complex mixture of individual prejudices, populist instrumentalizations of anti-Semitic stereotypes and a large body of socially traditional enemy images. Anti-Semitic perspectives are learned as a normal form of world interpretation.

Anti-Semitic interpretations primarily fulfill social-psychological functions. It is in the nature of anti-Semitism that it is not necessarily logical and rational as it follows psychological needs. It enables you to feel like a defensive victim and to express “justified” aggressions from this position. Often even the passionate state in which anti-Semites put themselves is the real motive. The French writer Jean-Paul Sartre describes anti-Semitism as a “passion” that “can appear in the form of a theoretical statement” that does not need a rational argument or a given fact. ”Therefore, he cannot simply refer to something else "Real" interests, the lack of material benefit or the lack of logic in such behavior can be corrected. “If the Jew did not exist”, writes Jean-Paul Sartre in “Reflections on the Jewish Question”, “the anti-Semite would invent him”. Anti-Semitism precedes, according to Sartre, “a comprehensive attitude that one takes not only towards Jews but towards people in general, history and society, ... ahead of the facts that they would have to give rise to, that it seeks them around itself to feed on them, she even has to interpret them in her own way so that they really become offensive [to the anti-Semite]. "

Overpowering social conditions are recreated in everyday perception in a personalized way, submission is internalized and aggression is channeled in conformity with the rule: all of this is part of the “authoritarian character” examined by Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, which is usually associated with anti-Semitism. But complex societies function in such a way that those who see themselves as “victims” of the capital relationship and society also work to ensure that it is maintained. They are object and subject in one. Anti-Semitism also has the function of not being aware of one's own share in the situation and of not really having to change anything. Your own submission and the feeling of powerlessness become the source of pleasure when you turn them anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitism - A Brief Definition

The term anti-Semitism denotes hostility towards Jews. Anti-Semitism is a generalization mechanism to attribute negative characteristics to Jews collectively, often combined with constructed physical or moral evaluation criteria. Anti-Semitic hostility is not tied to the presence of Jewish people. It is a form of world explanation that assigns responsibility for economic and social processes to Jews. Modern anti-Semitism declares the Jews to be a threat to the nation or national self-confidence and draws on the centuries-old tradition of religious anti-Jewish enemy images (anti-Judaism). The term “anti-Semitism” was coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr, who in his inflammatory pamphlet “The victory of Judaism over Germanism” called for a break with Christian anti-Judaism and “scientifically” - through reference to a Jewish “race” was looking for a reason. Literally translated, the term means "hostility towards Semites". All inhabitants of the Middle East were included in the "race" of the Semites, in that the linguistic relationship between Arabic and Hebrew implied a biological-racial commonality. The anti-Semitic hostility was directed exclusively against Jewish people - regardless of whether they spoke Hebrew or where they lived. New linguistic confounders claim that there is no anti-Semitism, because Jews are not Semites at all, the Arabs are Semites, and you have nothing against them. Moreover, as Semites, Arabs could not be anti-Semitic either. This astonishing attempt to make real anti-Semitism seem to disappear by defining the way the name is used often leaves discussion partners speechless at first.