Monday, November 17, 2003


A reader has been looking at the history of Wilhelm Marr -- the man who proudly coined the term “antisemitism” (Antisemitismus in German) when in 1879 he published a very influential antisemitic booklet called "Der Sieg des Judenthums ueber das Germanenthum" (“The victory of Jewry over the Germanic realm”). He notes that Marr was an active socialist but this is rarely mentioned (for some reason!) in potted biographies of Marr. This German source does however give details of that. My reader writes:

“Even the term "antisemitism" was first coined in latter half of 19th Century Germany by a group of socialists who formed the first self-named "Anti-semitic League". These guys were consiously joining the older anti-Jewish prejudices with the newer more 'scientific' theories of 19th Century “racial science”. History has shown this to have been a particularly explosive and nasty combination. At its worst the older pre-'anti-semite' anti-Jewish prejudice "only" lead to discrimination and localised pogroms, like the various campaigns against witches, gypsies, heretics etc. These were usually manipulated by local opportunist political leaders, sometimes with support from national kings and bishops, Catholic and Protestant, sometimes without.

It took the combination of science, socialism and social Darwinism to escalate mass murder (mega-murder really) into an multi-national industry. It is significant that this socialist group was there at the critical juncture. Many modern liberals and socialists try to ascribe Hitlerism wholly to the longer older anti-Jewish thread in the West, so it becomes just another part of their 'progressive' campaign against western traditions. This old anti-Jewish tradition deserves condemnation, but it is a ingenuous to leave out the critical and significant role of socialism and "the scientific planners" in "upping the ante".”

Tyler Cowen has lots more on the connection between socialism and antisemitism in the 19th century.


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