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PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 42 
Importantly, Hitler and his followers were not antisemites primarily because they were racists. The relation worked more the other way around: Hitler and his followers were racists because they were antisemites looking for an anti-Jewish stigma deeper than any religious, economic, or political prejudice alone could provide. For if Jews were found wanting religiously, it was possible for them to convert. If their business practices or political views were somehow inappropriate, changed behavior could, in principle, correct their shortcomings. But antisemites in the line that ran from Marr to Hitler believed that Jews were a menace no matter what they did. As Marr put the point, "the Jews are the 'best citizens' of this modern, Christian state," but they were that way, he added, because it was "in perfect harmony with their interests" to be so. Undoubtedly, Marr believed--and Hitler agreed even more so--that the interests of Jews were irreconcilably at odds with Germany's.

For antisemites of Marr's stripe, converted Jews were still untrustworthy Jews. Jewish behavior might change in any number of ways, but the "logic" of racist antisemitism did not consider such changes as reasons to give up antisemitism. To the contrary, this antisemitism interpreted Jewish assimilation as infiltration, Jewish conformity as duplicity, and Jewish integration into non-Jewish society as proof of Jewish cunning that intended world domination. On the other hand, if Jews insisted on retaining their distinctively Jewish ways, that insistence provided evidence of another kind to show that Jews were an alien people. Added to earlier forms of antisemitism, racial theory "explained" why the Jews, no matter what appearances might suggest to the contrary, were a threat that Germans could not afford to tolerate.

Christian Antisemitism

Nazi antisemitic propaganda drew inspiration from a 2000-year, anti-Jewish tradition that had been cultivated by Christian churches. The stereotyped and wholly false image of Jews as the "killers of Christ" persisted through the centuries. Desecration of the crucifix (pictured) has been another common theme.

At times, Jews were humiliated, expelled from countries, and even massacred. Forbidden from marrying Christians, Jews were forced to wear identifying clothing, restricted to certain occupations, and often segregated in certain sections of towns. Failure during the medieval period to convert Jews to Christianity resulted in greater fear, suspicion, and hatred. Caricatures depicted Jews in satanic imagery. Even more harmful was "blood libel," charging Jews with ritual murders of Christian children. The myth circulated even into the 20th century that Jews used the blood of Christian virgins in baking matzo for Passover.

Sixteenth-century Protestant reformer Martin Luther was a virulent antisemite in his later years. Angered by the Jews' refusal to convert, he unleashed the scathing tract On the Jews and Their Lies, depicting them as Christ killers and criminals bent on ruling the world. Luther advocated burning synagogues, schools, and homes, and driving Jews "like mad dogs out of the land." The Nazis prominently displayed this treatise at Party rallies.
Photo: Ullstein Bilderdienst

 1924: The United States Congress passes the Immigration Restriction Act, which effectively bans immigration to the U.S. from Asia and Eastern Europe. This and other American anti-immigrant activity is noted by Germany.
 May 4, 1924: The Nazis win 6.6 percent of the vote in the Reichstag (Parliament) election.
 July 1924: While in prison, Hitler begins work on a book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle). His loyal secretary, Rudolf Hess, transcribes Hitler's ramblings; See July 18, 1925.
 1925: The Tannenbergbund is founded in Germany by General Erich Ludendorff and his wife, Mathilde Ludendorff. The Bund attacks Jews, Communists, Catholics, and Freemasons.
 1925: Jeunesse Nationale,a youth-group offshoot of the antisemitic, Fascist Action Nationale, is founded in Belgium.
PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 42 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.