In Every Generation
...in every century, the non-Jewish world looked with suspicion on this people set apart; men who needed scapegoats for their own failure turned readily against the Jew.
In the earliest days of Christianity, St. John Chrysostom, frustrated by the Jews' refusal to convert, called them the most miserable of men. The great theologian, Martin Luther, encountering the same steadfastness, declared: "Their synagogues should be set on fire ... their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed ... let us drive them out of the country for all time."
In every country the Jews were the convenient enemy. To the illiterate, they were knowledgeable; to the peasants, wealthy; to the rich, clever. The Romans saw them as political rivals; the Inquisitors saw them as Christ Killers; the Cossacks saw them as squeezing out the wealth of the land. To them they were different; different in their looks, in their mode of dress, in their beliefs, in the observance of their holy days....
The Theological Roots of Antisemitism: A Christian View
PAUL M. VAN BUREN
"Antisemitism" is a modern word, first coined in 1879 in connection with the contemporary pseudoscientific racial theory, but it also refers to a phenomenon with ancient roots. Stripped of modern racist overtones, Antisemitism is the heir of an anti-Judaism as old as Western Christianity. Behind the Antisemitism that played so large a role in Hitler's thinking and program lies a long and well documented history of Jew-hatred developed and nurtured by the Church.
There is solid historical evidence of anti-Jewish acts and attitudes before Christianity came into prominence in the ancient world. From a sociopsychological perspective, it would be likely that any people resisting total assimilation into the Hellenistic culture of the Roman Empire would arouse some degree of suspicion. But antiJewish acts in the Roman Empire were not programmatic and lacked any cohesive rationale. The Roman Empire was not systematically antisemitic. On the contrary, the Jewish people had legal standing and the right to live according to their own traditions.
The Christian church, as represented by the surviving writings of its leaders, began before it was a century old to produce a systematic anti- Jewish teaching tied directly to its own theological affirmations. By the second century of the Common Era, a consistent theological rationale for disdain of Jews and contempt for Judaism had been developed and was to mark the whole course of Western civilization. As the Church became ever more politically powerful, beginning in the fourth century, theory was increasingly put into practice. Jews lost their favored status under Roman law, and a pattern of discrimination and harassment was set in motion, leading to the ghetto, physical expulsions, and pogroms. Hitler's "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" marked a radical new step, but it was a step on a road prepared by the Christian church. The failure of the Church to mount any serious resistance to Hitler's program becomes more understandable, if not excusable, when the theological roots of Antisemitism are understood.
The beginnings of this tragic development lie in the first-century split between the Christian church and the Jewish people, an event documented by limited and indirect evidence. We can be certain that the initial Jesus movement was at first totally Jewish, and can be seen as a Jewish sect. We know little about that Jewish community, because there are no firsthand accounts. The apostle Paul is the only author of the writings comprising the Church's New Testament who was certainly a Jew, but he only wrote to Gentile Christians about Gentile problems, such as, how Gentiles can escape from the curse of Torah, a curse richly deserved for having rejected Torah (the Law) when it was offered at Sinai. If we can trust the Gentile author of the Acts of the Apostles, Paul was thought to have taught that the Jews of the Diaspora should abandon Torah. That would have shocked any Jew, including those of the Jesus movement. There is no evidence from Paul's authentic letters to support this charge, but such a misunderstanding may have been the seedbed of distrust that led to the later split.
The future of the Church was not in the Jerusalem community. As it is continued in loyal Jewish practice and worship, the Diaspora movement was going in a different direction. It was drawing its members from the Gentiles. We may assume from Paul's letters that they were Gentiles well- versed in the Greek translation of Israel's Scriptures, for Paul based most of his teachings and arguments on those writings. It seems reasonable to conclude that these Gentile converts to the young Church were largely drawn from the so-called "God-fearers" of whom the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote-people attracted to Judaism, familiar with its teaching and Scriptures, frequenters of Diaspora synagogues, but not yet full converts. The Gentile mission of Paul and others, therefore, would seem to have harvested in fields well-planted and watered by the Pharisees and other agents of Jewish proselytism. What is certain is that the Church, originally a purely Jewish movement, in membership was well on its way by the middle of the first century to becoming an almost totally Gentile enterprise.
There were evidently those among the new Gentile converts to Christianity who thought that one could only be a member of this movement by becoming a full Jewish convert, accepting circumcision, and keeping Torah. Paul argued vehemently against that view, maintaining that in Jesus the God of Israel had done a new thing, opening the light of his love to Gentiles as Gentiles, to receive the blessing of Abraham alongside Israel. Paul, therefore, argued that his Gentile converts not seek circumcision nor follow the details of Torah observance, since this would be to deny God's new opening to them. Nowhere did Paul argue that Jews should abandon Torah, but after his death, an increasingly Gentile church was to read him as if he had spoken without respect to whether his audience was Jew or Gentile. What Paul wrote against Gentile imitation of Jewish practice was read later as an attack on Jewish practice by Jews. The grounds for Christian anti-Judaism were thus unwittingly prepared by one who was proud of his Jewish identity and heritage, convinced that God's covenant with Israel was eternal. It was planted and watered by Gentiles who failed to understand the complex understanding of Torah of the Pharisee Paul.
It is certain that Paul argued that Gentiles did not need to become Jews in order to know the love of God. It is equally certain that he was interpreted to have meant that Jews need not (and therefore should not) remain Jews in order to know the love of God. The question unfolds whether the theological roots of Antisemitism lie within the New Testament itself, or whether they are to be found in a Gentile misreading of writings rooted in the Jewish character of the original Jesus movement. In the case of the authentic letters of Paul, a case can be made for the second answer. For the Gospels, it is not so clear.
The Gospel of Mark is generally considered the earliest; it was written about the time of the destruction of the Second Temple and the sack of Jerusalem (68 C.E.*). Most scholars believe that the other Gospels come from nearer the time of the split and reflect the growing animosity. It has been suggested that the Jerusalem church may have withheld support for the revolt against Rome, which would have contributed to hard feelings, but evidence on this is not reliable. The Gospels of Matthew and John portray especially hostile relations between Jesus and various groups. It could be that their authors assumed that their own conflicts with the Pharisees (by their day the dominant force in Jewish life) mirrored the conflict in which Jesus lost his life, but for whatever reason, or as Gentiles, they may simply have never shared the evident love and concern of Jesus for his people Whatever the cause, they presented Jesus in conflict with his own people (in the process presenting the cruel procurator Pilate, whom the Emperor Caligula recalled from Palestine for his tyrannical ways, as a weak and generally kindly soul) so as to encourage any simple reader to see Jews generally as responsible for his death. Matthew has the crowd cry out, "His blood be upon us and upon our children, " perhaps having in mind the destruction of Jerusalem in 68 C.E., but many Gentile readers for centuries afterward read this as a call to punish this self-condemned people in every way.
The Gospels are complex documents arising from a complicated tradition in a confusing time. There is more to them than the passages that have caused so much Jewish suffering. There can be no doubt that they contain words which have fed Antisemitism for two thousand years, yet those very words, read with an understanding of their context, can be read as polemics understandable in our less than-perfect world and so as no justification whatsoever for an antiJudaic conclusion. What can scarcely be denied is that an anti-Judaic conclusion was the consistent result of the way in which the Gospels, and also Paul, were read and interpreted by Christians from the second to the twentieth centuries. They are still read by many in this manner. This reading is the foundation for the distinctive theological anti-Judaism of the Christian tradition. It is the theological root of Antisemitism.
On this foundation, Christian leaders developed a theological polemic against the Jewish people that suggests that many of their flock may have gotten along quite well with their Jewish neighbors and found synagogue services worth attending. Reading between the lines of this polemic, one detects the signs of the continuing attraction of the intimacy and loftiness of the Jewish understanding of God, as well as of the moral worth of Jewish living, so different from the corruption of daily life in the empire. This polemic entered deeply into the theology of the Church and produced a vision of reality in which a negative view of Jews and Judaism was bound to the self-understanding of the Church.
The result of this development, already evident in the writings of the second century authors and elaborated over the following two centuries, was the theology of displacement: The Church was the true heir of the election of and promises to Israel. The Jews had turned their backs on their Messiah and killed him. Having rejected God's act for their salvation, God had rejected this people. They had now been displaced by the Church, which alone had God's favor. Israel's Scriptures had become the property of the Church, which alone understood them. Judaism, therefore, had no more reason to exist, and the Jews were maintained by God in their homeless, Templeless, wandering condition as an indirect witness to the truth of the Christian church. For the sake of this witness, they were not to be killed, but like Cain, they were destined to be "a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." This theology of displacement thus built contempt for Jews and Judaism into the very structure of the Church's self-understanding.
In the fourth century, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and the Church came increasingly to dominate the Western world. As it did so, it put theory into practice and Jews began to lose the civil rights that had been theirs under Roman law. They were not allowed to hold public office (Synod of Claremont, 535 C.E.); they were forbidden to have Christian servants or slaves (538), which effectively excluded them from agriculture; their books were burned (681); they were taxed to support the Church (1078); they were forced to wear a badge on their clothing (1215); they were forced into ghettos (1267); and they were denied university degrees (1434). In addition to these official decrees of Church synods and councils, there were unofficial persecutions, in which many Jews lost their lives; forced "conversions"; and mass expulsions from one country after another. Antisemitism became a common feature of all of Western culture and history, and it did so frequently using the continuing theological anti-Judaism of the Christian church. When Hitler said that he was only putting into effect what the Church had always taught, he was quite correct, until his decision to kill every Jew in Europe.
In the light of the Holocaust, the churches have begun to reverse their ancient tradition of anti-Judaism. Beginning with the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic church has repudiated its charge of deicide and acknowledged the continuing validity of God's covenant with the Jewish people. With increasing clarity, Church statements, both Protestant and Catholic, European and American, have denounced Antisemitism and repudiated the tradition of contempt for Jews and Judaism. Whether the Church at the grass roots level will succeed in making this about face remains to be seen. For six million Jews, the turn has come much too late, but for the future of the Jewish people, this reversal of "the teaching of contempt" may be of no small consequence, for it begins to get at the primary root of Antisemitism. That root, however, is deeply embedded in the theology of the Church and eliminating it will be no easy matter. It will require of the Church a new reading of its own sacred texts and a new understanding of its own identity. Until that happens at the level of the ordinary Christian, the theological roots of Antisemitism will not be dead.
For Further Reading
Eckardt, A. Roy. Elder and Younger Brothers. New York: Schocken Books, 1973.
Hay, Malcolm. Thy Brother's Blood. New York: Hart, 1975.
Parkes, James. The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue. New York: Atheneum, 1977.
Van Buren, Paul M. The Burden of Freedom. New York: Seabury Press, 1976.
Discerning the Way:A Theology of the Jewish-Christian Reality. New York: Seabury Press, 1980.
Luther and the Jews
Martin Luther did not really know what he was starting when he nailed his "Ninety-Five Theses" to the church door in Wittenberg that late October day in the year 1517. The effects of his action spread beyond his wildest imagining, and later ages would mark that event as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
Similarly, Luther could not know, as he published his writings on the Jews, that some four centuries later his words would be cited in support of the antisemitic measures of a violent neopaganism that had seized the heart of Europe. Yet, so sharp were his words, and so pervasive his influence, that he cannot be absolved of all responsibility for what happened, despite the vast historical gap between his time and ours.
It is ironic that Luther, in his later life, should have become known as a foe of the Jews (his major treatise on the subject was published in 1543, just three years before his death), for in his early years it was just the opposite. Jewish leaders hailed the work of Luther and the Reformation as the dawn of a new day, in which they might experience a greater freedom and justice than they had known in medieval Christendom. They noted the new interest in the study of Scripture in the original languages, and the establishment of professorships of Hebrew in the Protestant universities.
The young Luther, for his part, fully reciprocated this new sense of cordiality. This may be seen most clearly in his treatise of 1523, significantly entitled, "That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew," in which Luther stressed the Jewish origins of Christianity and, especially, the Jewishness of Jesus. An appreciation of this indebtedness, he indicated, would induce an attitude of affection and respect towards contemporary Jews. "We are aliens and in-laws," he reminded his fellow Gentiles; "they are blood relatives, cousins, and brothers of our Lord. "
A closer examination of the text of the treatise, however, reveals the deep ambiguity of Luther's attitude towards the Jews, even in this earlier period. On the one hand, he was sharply critical of traditional prejudices, and proposed, in effect, that Christendom make a fresh start, adopting policies based on an affirmation and appreciation, not a denigration and rejection, of the Jews and their faith. On the other hand, it is plain that his eventual hope was for their conversion. Note how these two motifs intertwine as Luther wrote, in his usual colorful style:
Our fools, the popes, bishops, sophists, and monks ... have hitherto so treated the Jews that anyone who wished to be a good Christian would almost have had to become a Jew. If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian.... I hope that if one deals in a kindly way with the Jews and instructs them carefully from Holy Scripture, many of them will become genuine Christians.... They will only be frightened further away from it if their Judaism is so utterly rejected that nothing is allowed to remain, and they are treated only with arrogance and scorn.
The same duality of motive-genuine human concern and the hope for conversion-is evident in Luther's concluding recommendations in the 1523 treatise:
Therefore, I would request and advise that one deal gently with them and instruct them from Scripture; then some of them may come along. Instead of this, we are trying only to drive them by force.... So long as we thus treat them like dogs, how can we expect to work any good among them? Again, when we forbid them to labor and do business and have any human fellowship with us, thereby forcing them into usury, how is that supposed to do them any good? If we really want to help them, we must be guided in our dealings with them not by papal law but by the law of Christian love . . . If some of them should prove stiff-necked, what of it? After all, we ourselves are not all good Christians, either.
Compared to the foregoing, Luther's treatise, written twenty years later, exhibited a very different attitude, from its title, "On the Jews and Their Lies." Here, we find Luther treating the Jews with the "arrogance and scorn" that he had earlier condemned. Rather than "dealing gently" with them, he advocated exceedingly harsh measures. As to the Jews' economic role, he overlooked the fact that the restrictions which a Christian society had placed on them may have forced them into usury; he now blamed solely their avarice and cunning. In short, his image of the Jews and his recommendations became almost entirely negative.
How is this transformation to be explained? A variety of theories have been propounded to account for it. Reference has been made to Luther's declining health in his later years; to his frustration over the obstacles being met by the Reformation and the splintering of the movement; to his fear of what he considered "Judaizing" tendencies within the Church itself. The most important factor, however, was clearly the disappointment of the hopes expressed in Luther's earlier treatise, that is, the Jews' failure to convert.
Thus, the Jews fell afoul of Luther's wrath for the same reason they had remained a "problem" ever since the emergence of Christianity -their steadfast maintenance of the integrity of their faith. Originally, of course, it had been the Christians who were the minority, a small sect that had burst forth from the womb of Judaism. But as the Christian mission advanced, transcending the ethnic base of Judaism and appealing to all peoples, the proportions were reversed, until in time Christianity was acknowledged as a separate religion in its own right, and eventually as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Now Christianity had at its disposal not only the sword of the spirit but also the sword-in the literal sense-of the secular power as well. This would remain true throughout the Middle Ages and down to the rise of modern democratic pluralism (far after Luther's time).
Within this framework, all the "dynamics of prejudice" were free to operate. Thus, the rivalry between Jews and Christians during this period can be viewed in several dimensions: (1) sociologically, it represented a classic case of in-group/out-group tension, one group in the possession of privilege and power and the other struggling to gain a share of it; (2) psychologically, it showed all the signs of scapegoating-the projection onto a hapless individual or group of the blame for untoward events for which there is no ready explanation, or for which others wish to escape responsibility. This was greatly intensified by the dark undercurrent of superstition in the late Middle Ages, which could attribute all sorts of demonic powers and practices to the Jews; (3) economically, there was the resentment of the Jewish role as moneylenders, and of the wealth that some Jews were able to achieve; (4) ideologically, the Jews suffered from being the one most glaring exception to an otherwise universally accepted set of symbols that served to give cohesion to the whole social order -in this situation, "heresy" was considered very close to "treason",and finally, (5) religiously, the two faiths may be viewed as locked in a sibling rivalry, each claiming to be the true heir of the prophets and patriarchs of ancient Israel. To the Jews, the Christians were a people who, although sprung from Jewish loins, had forsaken the law of Moses, the Torah, for the sake of a messianic faith that lacked confirmation in reality (did the world look redeemed?). To the Christians, the Jews were those who, out of willful blindness, rejected and crucified the true Messiah.
Luther's treatise reflected all these factors. The greater part of it was taken up with the interpretation of numerous passages from the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) that Luther claimed must be interpreted as prophecies of Christ, but which the Jews interpreted in a different sense (hence their "lies," in Luther's view). Here, Luther was continuing a debate that had gone on for centuries between Jewish and Christian scholars; but he lent it the special harshness of his own rhetoric. Elements of superstition and half-truths about Jewish practices and alleged anti- Christian rituals were passed in review with mounting ire on Luther's part, until finally he issued his infamous list of proposals-that their synagogues and houses be destroyed, their prayer books seized, and their rabbis forbidden to teach, etc. Although many of these proposals parallel, In a chilling manner, the antisemitic measures later undertaken by the Nazis (not to speak of the many intervening persecutions and pogroms), it should be made clear that Luther did not envision anything like genocide. Luther advised pastors to admonish their parishioners to be wary of the Jews, but he added, "They should not curse them or harm their persons." His ultimate penalty was to expel them from the country.
Luther's treatise of 1543 has caused embarrassment and dismay from the first day of its publication; it is known, for example, that his closest colleague, Phillip Melanchthon, was unhappy with its severity. Fortunately, his proposals met with very little response among the authorities. In two nearby provinces, the right of safe conduct of Jews was withdrawn, and in another, Jews were prohibited from money lending and were required to listen to Christian sermons. In no cases were his harsher suggestions followed. As to the treatise itself, it did not sell widely, in contrast to the more benign treatise of 1523. For the most part, it has remained buried in obscurity, although selected quotations from it-the worst parts, of course-have been circulated by antisemitic movements.
There is no way to undo what has been done or to unsay what has been said, but some comfort can be taken in the fact that this aspect of Luther's thought has been so vigorously repudiated by contemporary Christians, including official Lutheran church bodies. We live in a day of ever-deepening dialogue and the growth of mutual respect between Jews and Christians. Yet, we are living also just one generation after the Holocaust. Facing the stark facts of Jewish Christian conflict in the past, such as in Luther's time, can serve to remind us of the need for eternal vigilance against the forces of racial and religious hatred.
For Further Reading
Althouse, LaVonne. When Jew and Christian Meet. New York: Friendship Press, 1966.
Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. New York: New American Library, 1978.
Eckardt, A. Roy. Your People, My People: The Meeting of Christians and Jews. New York: Times Books, 1974.
Kirsch, Paul J. We Christians and Jews. Philadelphia: Fortess Press, 1975.
Pawlikowski, John T. Sinai and Calvary: A Meeting of Two Peoples. Encino, Ca: Glencoe Publishing, n.d.
Ruether, Rosemary. Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism. New York: Seabury Press, 1974.
Talmadge, Frank P. Disputation and Dialogue: Readings in the Jewish-Christian Encounter. New York: Ktav, 1975.
Wouk, Herman. This Is My God. New York: Doubleday, 1959.
Why the Jew?: Modern Antisemitism
Antisemitism as a manifestation of Jew-hatred and a motive for persecution and attack is a very ancient phenomenon. We find it for the first time in the Book of Esther in the following passage: "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from those of every people. They do not observe even the king's laws. . . ." (111:3) From that time until the present day, Antisemitism has been a striking characteristic of the Gentile attitude towards the Jews, and throughout the centuries Antisemitism has never been absent from Jewish existence in its dispersion among the nations.
It is natural that both Jews and non-Jews have attempted to investigate this phenomenon, to understand its origins and its tenacity, and to know why the Jewish people have become the target of never- ending hostility. Many have asked if there is not some element in the Jews themselves, their collective character, behavior, or actions, which has caused this hatred and repulsion. A dozen or so years ago, during one of the numerous discussions on this theme, Professor Benzion Dinur, an historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, remarked that the Jews are indeed guilty, owing to their very existence. By this ironic remark, Dinur intended to point out that the Jews themselves are in no way responsible for this age-old animosity towards them, and that their only sin is their existence as human beings, as a religious community, and as a nation among other nations. But is Antisemitism only visible in the presence of Jews; is it unknown; or, does it disappear in their absence?
It is interesting to note that a new appearance of Antisemitism engulfed Poland in 1982, with the crushing of the Polish workers' union, Solidarity, and the imposition of martial law. Polish Jews, and Jews in general, were blamed for the demands for freedom and the rejection of a Soviet puppet regime. Did Jews really play any role in this affair? In 1939, on the eve of World War II, there were some 3 1/2 million Jews in Poland. Ninety percent of them were murdered or perished in the Holocaust. The vast majority of the survivors emigrated to Israel or other countries, and during the last wave of Antisemitism in Poland, in 1967-1968, approximately 20,000 of the few remaining Polish Jews escaped or were expelled from the country. In 1982, the Jewish population of Poland-once a thriving center of Jewish life-is no more than a few thousand, almost all of them elderly or apostates who have long since abandoned their Jewish identity and are totally estranged from their culture. It is, therefore, apparent that Antisemitism can prevail even in a country without Jews, and that Antisemitism in such a country can also constitute a factor in political conflicts in which Jews are completely uninvolved.
The case of Poland is, however, not the only, or most widely known, example of Antisemitism without Jews. Shakespeare's play, The Merchant of Venice, which presented a fanatical and repulsive Jew by the name of Shylock as one of its main protagonists, was written at a time when there were no Jews living in Britain. Shakespeare was not actually acquainted with Jews, but created the character out of his imagination-a symbolic Jew conceived in his mind's eye.
The actual concept of Antisemitism, or, more correctly, the term "Antisemitism" is relatively new-in view, at least, of the extended period of time during which Antisemitism has existed. The expression "Antisemitism" for Jew-hatred was first used by a German during the 1870s. In what way does Antisemitism differ from the hatred of, or opposition to, Jews that occurred before the term had been coined? The answer is clear. Anti (against) semitism indicates opposition to Jews not on religious or national grounds, but because of race. Anthropologists who have classified human races deny the existence of a semitic race, and mostly state that there is only a family of semitic languages to which Hebrew and Arabic, among others, belong. Even those who claim that a semitic race exists include in it both Jews and Arabs. Nevertheless, we know that Antisemitism as a movement, or an ideological system, is not directed against Arabs but only against Jews.
The Nazis brought Antisemitism to a level of unbounded fanaticism, denying the Jews the right to live and condemning them to death purely on the grounds of being Jewish. On the other hand, the Nazis hosted the Arab leader, the mufti of Jerusalem, and declared their pro-Arab attitudes on more than one occasion. The mufti himself was a rabid antisemite and we know that even today, there are extreme antisemitic segments among the Arabs. Moreover, tests carried out at the beginning of the century on groups of schoolchildren in Germany demonstrated that many Jewish children possessed facial and cephalic features and hair-coloring generally attributed to the Aryan, non-Jewish race, while a high percentage of German children had characteristics which, according to antisemites, typify the semitic race. Many sabras born in Israel are light-skinned and blond, in contrast to the semitic type traditionally depicted by the antisemites. Who is in reality a semite and who is an Aryan? For the antisemites, the question is of no importance. As far as they are concerned, Antisemitism is anti-Judaism, and they decide who is a semite and who is a Jew.
We began this article with a short description of racism and Antisemitism, to which we shall return. This is only one of the chapters in the history of Antisemitism. It was preceded by other versions and forms of Antisemitism-during different periods of history, Antisemitism focused on various arguments and accusations. That Jews were castigated and segregated as followers of a different faith has been mentioned above. It is common knowledge that Christianity is, to a certain extent, an offshoot of Judaism, and the Bible is sacred to both Jews and Christians. However, Christianity did not forgive Judaism and the Jews for failing to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, and for rejecting the tidings he brought to his disciples. Christianity held the Jews responsible throughout the generations for the Crucifixion of Jesus, and claimed that Jews were a stiff-necked people who refused to recognize the true faith. Christians averred that Jews throughout the ages were guilty of strange misdeeds which could apparently be traced back to their distant ancestors. Moreover, Jews did not have equal rights with Christians, and Jews must be subordinate in order to ensure the sovereignty and preeminence of Christians over Jews; in turn, the inferior Jewish status would in itself prove that the Christian faith was the true faith.
This is not the forum to discuss the arguments and exegetics which form the principles and concepts of theology, but Christian anti-Jewish claims did not remain maxims of religious dogma, or subjects for sermons in Church. The negative and harmful impulses attributed to the Jews caught the imagination of the people, and during the Middle Ages, when frequent attempts were made to find a supernatural cause for events, superstitious and libelous horror stories concerning the Jews abounded. The most widespread were accusations that Jews murdered Christian children in order to use their blood to make matzot (unleavened bread) for Passover (the holiday commemorating the Exodus from Egypt). Jews, who were commanded to exercise the utmost care that their food not contain any blood, became the victims of this recurring libel that has not died out to this very day. Jews were accused of poisoning wells and spreading plagues. It may be asked how Jews poisoned wells from whose waters they, too, had to drink, and how they spread diseases which make no distinction between Jew and non-Jew. Another antiJewish charge was that Jews purposely trampled on the wine and communion wafers of the Christians, which were supposed to embody the blood and flesh of Jesus. Logic refutes this accusation. How should Jews, who did not believe in this mysterious union of the bread and wine, have attempted to conspire against it? The accusations against the Jews were not based on proven facts, nor made against guilty parties, but were directed indiscriminately against a social group. Such hatred is, to a great extent, an outlet for vicious inclinations, suffering, and despair in times of distress and disorientation. It must be stressed, however, that not all Christians were a party to this hatred or believed these libels. Alongside the persecutors and the Jew-haters were sincere and upright individuals who opposed the mudslinging and the indiscriminate and baseless accusations.
A later form of Antisemitism developed at a time when the power of religious faith and its influence on the lives of the European people was declining, while the trend towards Enlightenment was becoming more widespread, and scientific knowledge reached the masses. During the second half of the eighteenth century and throughout the nineteenth century, bourgeois society opened up new avenues for economic initiative and talents, without regard for religious beliefs or social position. In various European countries, individual Jews and Jewish families became prominent, some accumulating vast fortunes in the fields of banking and commerce (for example, the Rothschild family, whose sons became bankers in the main European capitals). In reality, these Jewish families were comparatively few in number, but this did not hinder the dissemination of the charge that Jews were in control of the economy, banking, and important spheres such as railroad building-and that this alleged domination presented an ever-increasing danger to Christian society. Large numbers of professions had been closed to Jews for many generations, and they had been forced to concentrate mainly on money lending and commerce. This was to their advantage when financial and commercial concerns began to play an increasingly important role. However, such opportunities were only open to some Jews in western Europe, while the multitude of Jews in eastern Europe (Russia, divided Poland, Rumania) were poor. In the East, the majority of Jews were impecunious and engaged in a constant struggle for their daily bread.
From the last third of the nineteenth century, a new trend became predominant-that of political Antisemitism. The nineteenth century also resulted in the emancipation of Jews, i.e., the recognition of Jews as citizens with the same rights and duties as others. This recognition, which was achieved by the Jews or granted to them by their compatriots, constituted a vast improvement and total change in their status. For generations, Jews had been the vassals of kings and overlords. Jews had been permitted to dwell in certain countries as a privilege, i.e., by special permission of the local ruler. The power which had granted the Jews right of residence could also retract it, and the sovereign was even entitled to confiscate their possessions. As long as it was worthwhile to keep the Jew, they were given asylum, but when circumstances altered or the rulers' attitudes changed, the Jews were expelled. Thus, the Jews were forced to leave England, France, Spain, Portugal, and many German principalities during the Middle Ages. During modern times, Jews were permitted to dwell in Europe as a favor, not a right. Jews were subjected to restrictions and special laws which closed many professions to them, including the army and trade, agriculture and real estate. The gradual granting of equal rights to the Jews after the French Revolution slowly broke down the barriers between them and their fellow countrymen. Of course, Jews, particularly in eastern Europe, were required to pay a price for their rights: They were obliged to forego their uniqueness, their institutions, and many of their customs, since the non-Jews demanded a high degree of assimilation as a precondition to equal status and naturalization. Many Jews welcomed the changes, and renounced many of their ancient customs that did not conform to those of their patrons.
Here, perhaps, we should pause to consider the Jewish part of the question. We have already asked if there is some quality in the Jews which might serve as a pretext for Antisemitism, or which stirs up hatred in their fellow men. The truth of the matter is that the Jews were and are different- not alien, but different. The two concepts require clarification. A Jew is different by virtue of the fact that he adheres to another religion, eats different foods, learns in his own way, and places his faith in the future when redemption will come to all mankind. The Jewish family and way of life, Jewish festivals and prayers are unique. But Jews are not alien, neither with regard to character nor to feelings, love, hate, or hope. In these respects, Jews are the same as others. Their differences increase their strangeness, which in turn engenders fear and suspicion.This, then, raises barriers between groups and individuals.
In the opinion of many Jews and non-Jews, Emancipation removed many barriers, and the Jews slowly became integrated in the everyday existence common to other Europeans. Many aver that a new era of progress and education began when people became more enlightened and tolerant of their fellow men. It was assumed that since all discrimination would be eliminated in this new age of equality, knowledge, and democracy, Antisemitism would also disappear. What actually took place, however, was the development of a new type of hatred, far stronger and more dangerous than that which had previously prevailed: political and racial Antisemitism.
How did it come about that, contrary to all expectations, a wave of unbridled, violent hatred developed which finally led to terror? There is no clear, unequivocal answer to this question. Perhaps it should be stressed that even this mounting tide of hatred did not occur in every country and among all individuals. When dealing with Antisemitism, there is always a danger that Jews, too, will become subject to making generalizations. just as antisemites regard one negative act by an individual Jew as the responsibility of the entire Jewish nation, so Jews also are sometimes apt to brand every non-Jew a potential antisemite, and hold him responsible for atrocities and murder. The truth is that countries such as Holland and Italy were to a wide extent not antisemitic, and were hardly contaminated to any degree by Jew-hatred during the decades preceding the two world wars. Moreover, there were long periods marked by an absence of violent Antisemitism and even of striking tranquility in relationships between Jews and non-Jews.
There is generally a difference in this respect between western and eastern Europe. In the West, the Jews were granted full rights, particularly in Germany, where the Jewish community achieved a genuine emotional and cultural identification with their compatriots, and sought to become an integral part of the German nation. In eastern Europe, the Jews were not granted equal rights, and manifestations of general and popular Antisemitism made it abundantly clear to the Jews that they were considered aliens in those countries. Harbingers of the Jewish national movement, and of Zionism in particular, insisted that there was a gap between Jewish expectations of acceptance by the European nations and the real attitude of the latter towards the Jews. Both in the West and, to a certain, if lesser, degree in the East, Jews did not perceive or correctly evaluate the significance of the gap between the equal rights granted them by law and public opinion. It is probable that the new legal status of the Jews did not root out Antisemitism or remove barriers of mistrust, but sometimes aggravated existing suspicion and hatred. In France, for example, there was a large-scale outburst of hostile public opinion during the Dreyfus Affair at the end of the 1890s, and in Russia, the trend was clearly discernible Ili the wave of pogroms nicknamed "Storms in the South" during the 1870s. Political Antisemitism tended to lay responsibillity upon the Jews for defeats and political and economic crises, while it sought to exploit opposition and resistance to Jewish influence as elements in political party platforms. Thus, Antisemitism became a factor in the political arena. Jews were also accused of disseminating revolutionary Socialist ideas and creating revolutionary unrest.
The most devastating influence, however, was the racial element in Antisemitism. Racism placed opposition to Jews on a new plane, far removed from any other version of Antisemitism. Antisemitism in all its previous manifestations had confronted the Jews with onerous demands and challenges, had denounced their religion, forced them to adopt different professions, and attempted to oust them from various spheres of public activity. Naturally, had the Jews sanctioned the claims of their persecutors-and in certain cases they actually did so-Antisemitism would still not have died out. It is now a proven fact that the Jews became a permanent, convenient target for psychological in unstable and embittered classes of modern society. This attitude was not based on facts, knowledge of, or acquaintance with the Jews, and the charges against the Jews bear no relationship to the truth. Thus, a stereotype of the Jews was created by the antisemite, entirely the product of his imagination.
Nevertheless, at least theoretically, the Jews were capable of reform, and the antisemites declared that if the Jews improved their ways, their own attitude would also change. Racism ascribed the Jews' defects and the danger which they constituted to the rest of society to their geneology and heredity. According to this view, the Jew was unable to change either through education or by accepting the judgment of those who condemned him. The fault lay in his very existence, in his physical presence. Racial Antisemitism was not even appeased by the most radical step which the Jew could take in order to escape from his identity and position - conversion -since, in its view, even a converted Jew, and his children and even his grandchildren, remained Jews. Racial Antisemitism, in conjunction with extreme political Antisemitism, ascribed to the Jews a secret plan to rule the world; this led to Nazi racialism and the Holocaust. However, Nazi racism and the Holocaust, designed to destroy the Jewish people, also constituted it potential danger to the whole world. Racism, ill addition, did not rest at categorizing Jews as an inferior and harmful breed that must be wiped out. It not only attacked the basic axioms of all religious faiths, and the concept of the unit, of mankind, but it also classified other nations according to this systern of superior Inferior nations and master servant relationships Thus, Antisemitism facilitated the absorption of racist ideas ill Europe and was the source and cornerstone of all ideology which threatened all mankind.
In summing up this survey, we are confronted by the disturbing question: Is there no escape from Antisemitism? Is Antisemitism a chronic social disease that does not, and never will, have any remedy? This is apparently the case from the historical point of view. But when one studies the importance of Antisemitism, its development and influence in different cultures and at different periods, one discovers that its strength can be diminished, and that in certain societies and under certain circumstances it ceases to play any considerable role. It resurfaces particularly during periods of unrest and crisis, and in societies torn by conflict. Nevertheless, the fact that Antisemitism is subject to change provides some hope for the successful struggle against Antisemitism.
Paradoxically, the State of Israel, the Jewish State, regarded by many throughout the ages as a solution to the dilemma and a means to abolish Antisemitism, has not led to the cessation of Antisemitism. In fact, current antisemitic lines of thought, influenced by Arab propaganda, have arisen directly from Zionism and the existence of the State of Israel. We know that the United Nations, on the initiative of Arab and Communist states and their satellites, have brazenly passed senseless resolutions equating Zionism with racism. However, if Israel has not succeeded in abolishing Antisemitism, it has nevertheless established a Jewish force which clearly demonstrates to its enemies that Jewish blood and lives are no longer to be trifled with. This important development, the consequences of which are perceived throughout the Diaspora, has placed the question of relations between Jews and antisemites in a totally different perspective, and has invested it with a new significance. What the State of Israel will mean for future manifestations of Antisemitism remains to be seen.
For Further Reading
Anti-Semitism. Jerusalem: Keter Books, 1974.
Ben-Sasson, Haim Hillel, and Ettinger, Shmuel, eds. Jewish Society through the Ages. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976.
Cohn, Norman. Warrant for Genoci 'de: The Myth of the Jewish
World Conspiracy and the Nuernberg Laws. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1967.
Flannery, Edward H. The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Anti-Semitism. New York: Macmillan Co., 1965.
Gutman, Yisrael, and Rothkirchen, Livia, eds. The Catastrophe of European Jewry: Antecedents, History, Reflections. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1976.
Katz, Jacob. From Prejudice to Destruction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980.
Littell, Franklin H. The Crucifixion of the Jews: The Failure of the Christians to Understand the Jewish Experience. New York: Harper & Row, 1975.
Mosse, George L. Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism. New York: Howard Fertig, 1978.
Parkes, James. The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue: A Study on the Origins of Anti-Semitism. New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1974.
Tal, Uriel. Christians and Jews in Germany: Religion, Politics and Ideology in the Second Reich, 1870-1914. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1975.
Trachtenberg, Joshua. The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jews and Its Relation to Modern Anti-Semitism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1943.