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PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 48 
A Russian-Jewish soldier returns home on leave only to find his family massacred during the 1906 pogroms against the Jews incited by the czarist government.
Photo: Bilderdienst SYddeutscher Verlag
By the late 18th century, secular ideas about human equality, religious toleration, and basic civil rights were becoming more widespread in Western civilization. One result was Jewish emancipation. In many European countries--England, France, and Prussia, for example--economic and social restrictions were removed, Jews received civil rights, and they became almost equal citizens under the law. Yet by no means did antisemitic feelings and beliefs yield completely to these liberal trends that were part of the European Enlightenment. In France, for example, even Count Stanislas de Clermont-Tonnerre, a strong advocate for Jewish civil rights, contended in December 1789 that "the Jews should be denied everything as a nation, but granted everything as individuals," which meant that, unless Jews assimilated to the point of giving up their distinctiveness and separateness, they would still be suspect.

By the mid-19th century, the popular appeal of theories about racial differences among people was growing in Western society. These views stressed that some racial groups--white Europeans, for example--were "superior" to others who were less "civilized" or "weaker." In the hands of antisemitic thinkers such as Wilhelm Marr, racial theories legitimized the claim that Jews are a race that is both threatening and inferior.

Meanwhile, in imperial Russia during the late 1800s, the governments organized or at least did not prevent large-scale violence against Jewish communities. These attacks became known as "pogroms." The brutality of the pogroms forced Jews to flee these areas, which was an outcome both welcomed and intended by the perpetrators. In the late 1890s, antisemitism also raged in France during the "Dreyfus Affair." A Jewish captain in the French Army, Alfred Dreyfus had been falsely accused and convicted of spying for Germany. Covering the Dreyfus case for the Viennese newspaper Neue Freie Presse, a Jewish journalist named Theodor Herzl heard Parisian mobs shouting, "Death to the Jews." Reversing his earlier view that emancipation and assimilation could provide a viable future for Jews in Europe, Herzl became convinced that Jews must have a state of their own, a decision that led to his becoming a founder of modern political Zionism.

At about the same time, an antisemitic forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, began its notorious circulation. Originating in Russian circles, this fabricated document "revealed" a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Few writings have done more to fuel antisemitic fires. Especially between the two worlds wars, this antisemitic publication was translated into many languages and distributed worldwide. Much to Hitler's delight, American industrialist Henry Ford gave the Protocols extensive positive publicity in the 1920s. For Hitler, whose antisemitic logic led him to think that forgery claims were "proof" that the Protocols were true, this "document" became, as scholar Norman Cohn has called it, a "warrant for genocide."

 1931: Joseph Goebbels orders that Party members address Hitler as "Führer" (Leader).
 1931: The Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt (RuSHA; Race and Resettlement Main Office) is established by SS chief Heinrich Himmler and Richard Walther Darré.
 July 13, 1931: Germany's Danatbank collapses, leading to closure of all German banks until August 5.
 September 12, 1931: On the eve of the Jewish New Year, Nazis attack Jews on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin as they return home from synagogue.
 October 11, 1931: German industrialist Alfred Hugenberg forms the Harzburg Front, an alliance between the NSDAP, the German National People's Party, Steel Helmet, the All German Association, and the so-called Fatherland associations.
 October 30, 1931: Baldur von Schirach assumes leadership of Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth). Young and outwardly personable, he will mold the organization into an inescapable part of German life.
PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 48 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.