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Romantic nationalism and the origins of racial anti-Semitism in Germany

Romantic nationalism and the origins of racial anti-Semitism in Germany

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Lecturer Nomination) Competition by Janusz Flakus. It is nominated by Lecturer Rachel MagShamhráin of University College Cork in the category of Languages & Linguisitcs
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Lecturer Nomination) Competition by Janusz Flakus. It is nominated by Lecturer Rachel MagShamhráin of University College Cork in the category of Languages & Linguisitcs

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Romantic nationalism and the origins of racial anti-Semitism in GermanyLength: 3500
 On the 15
of September 1935 the Reichstag, which Hitler had summoned toNuremberg, passed two antisemitic laws, which subsequently came to be known asthe Nuremberg Laws. The first of the two measures was termed the
 Law for theProtection of German Blood and Honour 
and read:Entirely convinced that the purity of German blood is essential to the further existenceof the German people, and inspired by uncompromising determination to safeguardthe future of the German nation, the Reichstag has unanimously adopted the followinglaw:1.
Marriages between Jews and citizens of German blood are forbidden2.
Sexual relations outside marriage between Jews and nationals of Germanblood are forbidden.
 The Nuremberg Laws, which aside from forbidding sexual relations between Jewsand Germans also deprived them of their citizenship rights and defined in legal termswho was or who was not a Jew, can be regarded as a practical realization andinstitutionalisation of the postulates of Hitler racial and antisemitic ideology and as animportant stage on the pathway that eventually led to Holocaust. The laws, whichtargeted not only the Jews, that is the people who considered themselves as Jewish but
Robert Johnson,
 Hitler and Nazi Germany
, (Studymates Limited, Somerset, 2004), p. 141
2also Germans who were unfortunate to have three or four Jewish grandparents did notarouse any significant protest in the German society. The fact is that any anti-Semiticmeasure taken by the Nazi authorities since their seizure of power in 1933 did notencounter a strong feeling of resistance from the German citizens. It is true that themajority of German population did not show an enthusiastic support for the 1933boycott or the frequent acts of looting and violence against Jews committed by themembers of the SA. The Kristallnacht pogrom in November 1938 provokedindignation, which, however as Ian Kershaw writes in his book 
The Persecution of the Jews and German Popular Opinion in the Third Reich
receded within a few weeks
into the dim background of people’s consciousness’.
In the light of the historicalfindings it is clear that for the most part it was not the widespread sympathy for theJews that motivated this negative or mixed reception of the anti-Jewish actions in theGerman society but the popular disapproval of lawlessness and disorder.As Dieter D. Hartmann writes in his essay
 Anti-Semitism and the Appeal of Nazism
it may be held that most Germans did not want pogroms but proved ready to
dehumanize the Jews.’
Of course, the history of the Nazi persecution of the Jews,whose the last tragic stage were the gas chambers of death camps, emphatically
 proves that the policy aimed at ‘dehumanization the Jews’ is inevitably followed by‘pogroms’. Hartman adds that‘while Nazism failed to rouse fanatical hatred, it did succeed in winning widespread
compliance with anti-
Semitism (…) The endless chain of violence and humiliation in
years to come was meticulously planned and executed all over Germany. Millions of 
allegedly decent people took part in devising or executing legal vilifications’
Dieter D. Hartmann, ‘Anti
Semitism and the Appeal of Nazism’,
Political Psychology
, Vol. 5, No. 4(Dec., 1984), p. 638
Ibid., p. 637
3After the outbreak of the
war thousands of those ‘allegedly decent people’,
asChristopher R. Browning demonstrates in his book 
Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101
, took part in the various acts of systematic extermination of the Jews.The historians of the Holocaust differ in their assessment of the role that the anti-Semitic beliefs played in motivating the active participation in the killings of theJews. The majority of them, including Christopher R. Browning, regard anti-Semitismonly as one of the factors that influenced the perpetrators and by no means the mostimportant one while other scholars, like Daniel Jonah Goldhagen for example, seeGerman anti-Semitism as the prime source and the driving force behind the genocide.There is no doubt, however, that the socio-political and ideological system inGermany which was predominantly based on anti-Semitic ideology and which wasresponsible for the annihilation of approximately six millions of Jews enjoyed thesupport of the German population. There is no doubt that without this support andwithout the collaboration of hundreds of thousands of German the genocide wouldnever have taken place.
As Hartmann argues in his essay ‘people proved ready to
dehumanize the Jews. A great many Germans agreed that there really was a Jewishquestion. (This quite probably was true for a majority
of contemporary Germans).’
 It would be wrong to conclude however that it was the Nazi system and its
 propaganda that forcibly ‘implanted’ anti
-Semitism in the minds of the ordinaryGermans and that Hitler was simply a monomaniac psychopath who out of hisinexplicable hatred of Jews created
ex nihilo
a virulent racial ideology. Hitler was
rather a ‘demonically creative interpreter’ than the creator of the Ger 
man anti-Semitism. Anti-Jewish prejudices and stereotypes were present in the German culture
Ibid., p. 638

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