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Why The Jews? The Patterns of Persecution

"Moreover, we do not know to this day which devil has brought them (Jews) a plague, pestilence, pure misfortune in our country." Martin Luther, About the Jews and Their Lies, 1543

Jewish communities existed continuously in Europe for over 2,000 years. Many of these communities were older than the countries in which they existed. Nevertheless, as the countries of Europe developed, Jews were rarely given complete citizenship status. At best they were tolerated as guests. Their social and religious distinctiveness made them persistent targets for persecution; and such persecution, in turn, intensified the cohesiveness of Jewish communities.

Family injured during pogrom in Minsk Mazowiecki, June 1936. CL:YIVO. NY
Conjuring the devil from blood secured through "ritual murder." (Paris, 1575) CL:Historien Om Et Image. (Copenhagen. 1978)

The emergence of Christianity as the ominant religion in Europe intensified the persecution of Jews. Since both the religious and political life of Europe became organized around the Christian faith, Jews were seen as outcasts, the deniers and "killers" of Christ. For millions of European Christians, for over 1600 years, the hatred and persecution of Jews was religiously sanctioned. antisemitism intensified during the l9th and 20th century industrialization of Europe as Jews participated more directly in European economic and social life.

By 1933, the patterns of economic, social, and personal persecution of uropean Jews were well established. Nazi racial antisemitism and propaganda amplified and manipulated these patterns, ultimately adding one deadly tenet--that all Jews must be eliminated.

The picture of the Jews encountered in Nazi propaganda was drawn, in part, from a long radition of antisemitism.
"Crucifixion." Modern Germany crucified by the Jew. CL:Der Stuermer. 1939, no.4
"The missionaries of Christianity had said in effect to the Jews: 'You may not live among us as Jews.' The secular rulers who followed them from the late Middle Ages then decided: 'You may not live among us,' and the Nazis finally decreed: "You may not live." Raul Hilberg, Historian Shoah

Passports of all Jews in Nazi Germany were stamped with the letter "J" for "Jude." German Jews were forced to take new middle names: Israel for men, Sarah for women. CL:Simon Wiesenthal Center. Los Angeles (SWC)


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