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PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 47 
Theodor Herzl, a Hungarian journalist and father of the Zionist movement, urged European Jews to immigrate to Palestine in the face of increasing antisemitism.
Photo: Ullstein Bilderdienst
In European Christendom, the Jew was the "other," the "outsider." Thus, contacts between Jews and Christians were carefully regulated. Intermarriage was prohibited. Jews were excluded from the army, most administrative posts, and the legal profession. They were barred from owning land. Commerce remained open, however, and many Jews earned their livings in such fields. For example, since the early Church did not permit usury by Christians (lending money at interest), Jews came to fill the vital but unpopular role of moneylenders for the Christian majority.

Jewish circumstances took a major turn for the worse in 1096 when crusading Christian fervor to recapture holy places from Islamic forces took its toll on Jews as well. Massacres followed as Christians used early forms of "ethnic cleansing" to "purify" their European territory. Following on the heels of those bloodbaths, Jews were obliged by the Lateran Council of 1215 to wear specially marked clothing. Different styles developed, but in France the insignia was a yellow patch, the precursor of the yellow star later decreed by the Nazis. Ghettos were established, and in the popular imagination Jews became increasingly identified with Satan. Falsely, the "blood libel" held that Jews murdered Christian children for religious purposes. Jews were held responsible for the plagues and famines that ravaged Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries. Violence exacted payment in blood for these "crimes." Outright expulsion occurred as well--from England in 1290, from France beginning in 1306, and from Spain in 1492.

Five centuries later Christian teaching about Jews has changed significantly. With relatively few exceptions, Christians have repudiated the "teaching of contempt," and they have revised their understanding of Jews and Judaism in positive ways. The price for those changes, however, has been immense. The Nazis and their collaborators used religious history, and specifically Christian teachings about Jews, to obtain precedents for many of the measures that they exacted against the Jews.

Christianity alone would not have been sufficient to cause the Holocaust. The reason is that validation of the Christian faith's claim to exclusive truth required that Jews continue to exist--as potential converts to Christianity or as living reminders of God's judgment. Nonetheless, typical Christian attitudes about Jews--which included a desire for Jews to simply disappear through conversion--were a necessary condition for the Holocaust. Without the anti-Jewish feeling that Christianity sustained for centuries, it is barely conceivable that the European Jews would have been eventually targeted for annihilation.

In the wake of the Dreyfus Affair at the close of the 19th century, French antisemitism rose to the boiling point. Anti-Jewish riots were commonplace.
Photo: Ullstein Bilderdienst
 August 3-4, 1929: The Nazi Party Day rally at Nuremberg, Germany, draws well over 100,000 people.
 1930: Hjalmar Schacht, financier and president of the Reichsbank, begins a long-lasting financial relationship with the National Socialists, providing them with considerable funding.
 1930: In Yugoslavia, Croatian nationalists establish Ustasa (Insurgent), an organization that will murder 500,000 Serbs and 20,000 Gypsies during World War II.
 September 2, 1930: Hitler becomes supreme leader of the SA (Storm Troopers). He will encourage and utilize their thuggery.
 September 14, 1930: The National Socialist Party wins 18 percent (6.4 million) of votes cast in the Reichstagelection, jumping from 12 seats to 107 and becoming the second largest political party in Germany.
 November 1930: In Denmark, Frits Clausen establishes a collaborationist organization, Danmarks National-Socialistiske Arbejder Parti (Danish National Socialist Workers Party).
PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 47 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.