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PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 41 
Wilhelm Marr

Known as the father of modern antisemitism, Wilhelm Marr led the fight to overturn Jewish emancipation in Germany.

Born in 1819, Marr entered politics as a democratic revolutionary who favored the emancipation of all oppressed groups, including Jews. However, when he became embittered about the failure of the 1848-49 German Revolution to democratize Germany, and about his own rapidly declining political fortunes, he turned his venom against the Jews. His essay "Der Sieg des Judenthums über das Germanenthum von nicht confessionellen Standpunkt" ("The Victory of Judaism over Germandom: From a Non-Denominational Point of View") reached its 12th edition in 1879.

Marr's conception of antisemitism focused on the supposed racial, as opposed to religious, characteristics of the Jews. His organization, the League of Antisemites, introduced the word "antisemite" into the political lexicon and established the first popular political movement based entirely on anti-Jewish beliefs.

This poster from Poland seeks to link Jews with communism and big capital. The caption reads: "Plutocracy or bolshevism--both are invented by Jews."
Photo: Historical Museum of Rzeszow / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
The Justification for Hatred

Uses of the terms antisemite and antisemitism have become so common that one might suppose them to be of ancient origin. In fact, a German journalist named Wilhelm Marr is credited with inventing and popularizing them in the late 1870s. Marr's often-reprinted political tract, "The Victory of Judaism over Germandom," warned that "the Jewish spirit and Jewish consciousness have overpowered the world." He called for resistance against "this foreign power" before it was too late. Marr thought that before long "there will be absolutely no public office, even the highest one, which the Jews will not have usurped." For Marr, it was a badge of honor to be called an antisemite.

Marr and others employed the word antisemitism in the largely secular anti-Jewish political campaigns that became widespread in Europe around the turn of the century. The word derived from an 18th-century analysis of languages that differentiated between those with so-called "Aryan" roots and those with so-called "Semitic" ones. This distinction led, in turn, to the assumption--a false one--that there were corresponding racial groups. Within this framework, Jews became "Semites," and that designation paved the way for Marr's new vocabulary. He could have used the conventional German term Judenhass to refer to his hatred of Jews, but that way of speaking carried religious connotations that Marr wanted to de-emphasize in favor of racial ones. Apparently more "scientific," Marr's Antisemitismus caught on. Eventually, it became a way of speaking about all the forms of hostility toward Jews throughout history.

Over the centuries, antisemitism has taken on different but related forms: religious, political, economic, social, and racial. Jews have been discriminated against, hated, and killed because prejudiced non-Jews believed they belonged to the wrong religion, lacked citizenship qualifications, practiced business improperly, behaved inappropriately, or possessed inferior racial characteristics. These forms of antisemitism, but especially the racial one, all played key parts in the Holocaust.

 January 1923: France and Belgium occupy the Ruhr after an economically broken Germany is unable to meet the annual installment of its war-reparations payments designed to pay off Germany's $31 billion war debt. Many Germans, especially veterans of the Great War, are deeply angered by this humiliation.
 March 1923: The Schutzstaffel (SS; Protection Squad) is established. It is initially a bodyguard for Hitler but will later become an elite armed guard of the Third Reich. This Nazi terrorist organization, completely loyal to Hitler and headed by Heinrich Himmler, will be made responsible for carrying out the "Final Solution of the Jewish problem."
 November 1923: The German mark trades four billion to one U.S. dollar. Weimar inflation is halted by the introduction of a new hard currency based on land values.
 November 8-11, 1923: Hitler's so-called "Beer Hall Putsch" takeover attempt at Munich fails, temporarily rattling the National Socialist Party and leading to Hitler's arrest in Bavaria, Germany, on the 11th. Hitler will serve only nine months and receive several privileges from the judiciary.
PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 41 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.