YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

September 17, 2009

Moderate Men and “Dirty” Jews: Part One

dirtyjew2[Edward Augustus Freeman, renowned Oxford historian, relays impressions of America (as quoted by his biographer):] ‘This great land of which I am speaking is essentially an English land, it is no small witness of the toughness of fibre in the English folk wherever it settles that it is so: a land must be reckoned as English where the English kernel is so strong as to draw to itself every foreign element, where the foreign settler is adopted into the English home of an English people, where he or his children exchange the speech of their elder dwellings for the English speech of the land.  Men of various nationalities are on American ground easily changed in to good Americans, and the good American must be, in every sense that is not strictly geographical, a good Englishman….Truly we may rejoice that with so much to draw them in other ways, this great people still remains in all essential points an English people, more English very often than they themselves know, more English it may be sometimes than the kinsfolk they left behind in their older home.’

[Rev. Stephens:] One special interest, in his opinion, of examining the old records and institutions of the several States was that each of the colonies had reproduced some features of English life, but different colonies reproduced different sides and, so to speak, different dates of English life.  All these points in the local history of the colonies needed to be put in their right relation to one another, and to other English, other Teutonic, other Aryan institutions.  This he thought was a study to which the scholars of the United States were especially called…[Freeman’s time in America, 1881-82] had been spent chiefly amongst professors, lawyers, statesmen and generally speaking, men of intellect and information of various kinds.’  Of the pushing, meddling, questioning American,’ he said, ‘described in so many stories and caricatures, I have seen nothing, or at least not on American soil.’ [1]

[Sir Michael Sadleir, director of the Constable publishing company, renowned bibliographer, book collector, and true Father of the 1920s Melville, Gothic, and Trollope Revivals, on filthy lucre:]  In later years, Trollope expressed regret for [The Way We Live Now], declaring it to be ill-natured and over satirical.  But one cannot wish it other than it is.  The author’s impulse to its composition was twofold.  In the first place, the England of 1873 was to Trollope, no less than to Henry Adams, an England in the grip of evil and transforming powers.  The international finance adventurer had settled in London in his swarms; embarrassed country gentlemen, touched with the fever of speculation, were selling their names to shady directorates; the wrong Jews came ever more blandly to the right houses; success was wealth and wealth was God.  To such as Trollope, this alien tarnishing of the bright shield of English manners, this betrayal of a self-contained suavity in the interests of a hustled luxury, were bitter indeed. [2]

Moderates confronting dirty Jews. On November 8, 1937, the Nazis opened a Fair in the German Museum at Munich to commemorate the fourteenth anniversary of The Beer-Hall Putsch.  The show was entitled Der ewige Jude (variously translated as “The Wandering Jew” or “The Eternal Jew” in British and American newspapers).  In his study of British press coverage of Nazism, Andrew Sharf complained that Der ewige Jude had been incorrectly regarded by journalists “as yet another nasty aberration,” not as a sign of mainstream Nazi malice.  Sharf further noted that the Manchester Guardian was one of the few British newspapers to transmit the organizers’ declared intention: “the exhibition is educational in purpose and will show particularly why it was necessary to introduce the Nuremburg laws.”  Sharf thought that the Times had erred in their translation of the title:

“It is surprising that [they used “The Wandering Jew” instead of “The Eternal Jew”].  Can it have been due to the subconscious belief that an adjective so expressive of antiquity as the latter could scarcely have borne a derogatory meaning–even for the Nazis? ”  [3]

Sharf is instructively wrong on this point.  There is no positive myth of “The Eternal Jew” contrasting with the negative image of “The Wandering Jew” as Sharf implies.  No European myth is benign or even neutral with regard to Jews or to the liberal values that Sharf wants to defend, nor can it be otherwise.  All Jews, including the “eternal” ones, are “bad”; the antithesis of Christian and Jew is one of the binary oppositions of Western culture and corresponds to the antipodes of Christian conservatism and Jewish liberalism: (heartfelt) mysticism and (heartless) science, trust and withering skepticism, loyalty and betrayal, community and mob, busy bee and parasite, garden and wasteland.  “Good Jews” like Lessing’s Nathan the Wise, Cumberland’s Sheva, Walker’s Schechem, and Dickens’ Riah who appeared in the humanitarian literature of the late eighteenth and early to mid-nineteenth century were good only because they were more Christian than the bourgeois Christians who were behaving like Shylock and Fagin; capitalism purged of its Judas red-beards would presumably lose its heartless and exploitative character.  Christian landlords would never evict a tenant, Christian bankers would never foreclose a mortgage: this demented idea is fundamental to the völkisch revolution of Nazism,[4] but was not their invention.  Nazi anti-Semitism, then, was only partly about the considerable material advantages in expropriating Jewish property and expelling Jewish rivals: Nazis, to maintain their credibility as redeemers and protectors, would have to plunge a stake in the heart of the “demon Thought” (to use Byron’s expression).  For the antifascist critical mind is not found in a guilt-ridden Adam shrinking from conflict with illegitimate authority or from the perception of other irreconcilable conflicts.  Instead, the antisemitic/ anti-intellectual mind anxiously mystifies such antagonisms by positing (an unattainable) harmony as “normal.”  Brandishing images of solidarity, the fascist bonds people only to “romance” in a false utopia necessarily maintained through deceit, terror and catharsis.

“Moderate conservatives” (including some Jews) have disabled themselves and their readers by discarding the tools of radical Enlightenment to embrace the myth of American classlessness: the “Holocaust” becomes strangely inexplicable: Germans are alien, irrational and muddled, to be sharply contrasted with the ever-tolerant, rational Western democracies.  Take the following critical remarks of a revered figure in American Jewish history, describing the peculiarities of German antisemitism:

“The Jew could be represented as the embodiment of everything to be resented, feared, and despised.  He was a carrier of bolshevism, but curiously enough, he simultaneously stood for the liberal spirit of rotten western democracy.  Economically, he was both capitalist and socialist.  He was blamed as the indolent pacifist, but, by strange coincidence, he was also the eternal instigator to wars.”

Writing in 1946, Max Weinreich, Research Director of the Yiddish Scientific Institute, was agonized but unable to account for the historical record [Weinreich, 28]: How odd it all seemed that Germans could conflate capitalists and socialists.  Yet any streetwise materialist could have told him that the eighteenth-century revolutionary bourgeoisie brought forth a new class, the industrial proletariat; like its parent, arguing for emancipation in a discourse of natural rights; that the endlessly reproduced forgery of “the Protocols of the Elders of Zion” had warned that Jewish agitators would dupe the suffering masses into throwing off their nationalist masters, only to deliver their victims to the newer and more deadly tyranny of finance capital or “the international Jew.”  In other words, liberal capitalism was a confidence-game: scabrous Jewish “socialists” concealed their loyalty to one great poison spider.  In the antimodern discourse of organic conservatives, the newly literate and potentially radical lower orders were bludgeoned with images of hypercritical Moral Mothers or greedy Rothschilds or Frankensteins or femmes fatales: they are versions of Eve big with Cain or Prometheus: versions of the revolutionary bourgeoisie tied to its monstrous birth, tugged and tugging around the globe.  It is hard work not to see this.

It was the first task of my study of culture in the interwar period to compare the discourses of the “moderate men” who revived “Melville” with the European and American “moderates” (in all political factions) who paved the way for the rise of Hitler, and who today cannot or will not explain fascism (or corporatist liberalism) as a rational response to democratic social movements and the Universal Reason which left-liberals (but not corporatist liberals[5]) defend.  Instead, the “moderates” have delivered a history of Nazism that, while exculpating high Western culture, blames the mobbish-sentimental culture of the lower-middle class (including authoritarian workers) for both fascism and “the Holocaust”: Hitler (like Ahab) is Poe’s “Man of the Crowd”; the feminized Byronic figure who bears the stigmata of “mass culture.”  In the struggle between Nazis and “the West,” however, romantic fascists and classicizing conservatives were not pitted against each other, as many “liberals” argue: rather, the battle, one that rages still, is between rival Apollonians, each faction claiming to be the sole legatee of science and Enlightenment.  Each side champions critical, independent thought; each side depicts its rival as “the shadow” bringing cancer (the lethal disease that initially masks its alien character to its fellow cells) to the body politic.[6]

The Christian legend of the Wandering Jew framed a Nazi multi-media event because Julius Streicher, chief organizer of Der ewige Jude, had correctly identified the time-tested bedtime story that puts the hypercritical “Jewish” mind to sleep: the preferred social theory for stress-managers seeking to distinguish their materialism and order from the chaos-producing delusions of “the Jews”: Jewish carnality, legalism, blindness and bigotry.  Like their Christian predecessors, (pagan) Nazis defined themselves against Jewish arch-refusers and murderers of the Good Father.[7]  Nazis would expose ruthless, rootless cosmopolitans and coin-clippers to protect gentle, rooted, and upright workers and peasants from the deceptions of the confidence-men.  Julius Streicher, the martyred, peace-loving good father invited German children to avenge and rescue him before the next onslaught of Jewish sadism and murder.  Raul Hilberg quotes from “a typical Streicher speech to the Hitler youth” of June 22, 1935:

“Boys and girls, look back to a little more than ten years ago.  A war–the World War–had whirled over the peoples of the earth and had left in the end a heap of ruins.  Only one people remained victorious in this dreadful war, a people of whom Christ said its father is the devil.  That people had ruined the German nation in body and soul…[The rise of Hitler meant] the human race might be free again from this people which has wandered about the world for centuries and millenia, marked with the sign of Cain.

“Boys and girls, even if the people say that the Jews were once the chosen people, do not believe it, but believe us when we say that the Jews are not a chosen people.  Because it cannot be that a chosen people should act among the peoples as the Jews do today.

“A chosen people does not go into the world to make others work for them, to suck blood.  It does not go among the peoples to chase the peasants from the land.  It does not go among the people to make your fathers poor and drive them to despair.  A chosen people does not slay and torture animals to death.  A chosen people does not live by the sweat of others.  A chosen people joins the ranks of those who live because they work.  Don’t you ever forget that.

“Boys and girls, for you we went to prison.  For you we have always suffered.  For you we had to accept mockery and insult, and became fighters against the Jewish people, against that organized body of world criminals, against whom already Christ had fought, the greatest anti-Semite of all times.” [8]

In the same issue of The New York Times that mocked “the exposition on the Eternal Jew” (11/9/37, 15), a front-page story datelined October 8, Berlin, reported that chaplains in the armed forces had warned the government that as a result of Nazi antichristian policies “the nation as a whole is now divided into two opposing camps.”  The people would fight for Germany, the chaplains predicted, but “with little confidence in their leaders.”  This apparent legitimacy crisis (surely part of an ongoing need to promote the Nazis as the true humanitarians against the rival claims of both Christians and Jews) is part of the context in which we might consider the (public)[9] unleashing of Julius Streicher.  In George Mosse’s opinion,  Streicher (who had been forced to withdraw his May 1934 Der Stürmer, a special issue on the blood libel or ritual murder) had initially been viewed as harmful to the “respectable” image of the Nazis.[10]  Writing in the same vein, Robert Wistrich believes that conservative nationalists made distinctions between good and bad Jews: After their accession to power in 1933, Nazis were somewhat checked by the coalition with Hugenberg, von Papen, von Neurath and Schact (who would be ousted in the late 1930s, and who believed that radical anti-Semites should be curbed by Hitler to protect “useful” Jews).[11]

Although the headline in The New York Times wryly noted that Streicher was “twitted” by Goebbels after his opening speech at the 1937 festivities,[12] Streicher was no common pornographer or cranky extremist; he had already joined the ranks of those American and European Social Darwinist cultural historians, anthropologists, moralists and purity reformers who designed expositions and museums to uplift the masses and promote progress through science and technology. [13]  And like his predecessors in the exposition and museum worlds, Streicher’s objective was avowedly eleemosynary: by annexing the well-worn and venerable Christian myth of the Wandering Jew, a story long accorded respectful treatment by European “greats,” perhaps Streicher thought he could demonstrate to nervous Christian conservatives that Jews were never “useful,” and that Jews, not Nazis, were the divisive forces, parasites and decadents hindering the blossoming of the “people’s community.”

Julius Streicher and other curators barraged audiences with “historical material”[14] while at the gala opening ceremonies, actors buttressed “the moral of the exposition” with the testimony of Luther, Bismarck, Goethe, Hitler, Alfred Rosenberg and an abridged Merchant of Venice to prove that Jewish dirt was fatal to blood everywhere, that a race of Shylocks would never be satisfied until it had extracted its pound of flesh.  The contemporary press reports of “Der ewige Jude” I have found in English give only tantalizing glimpses of Streicher’s X-rated method of adult education in physiognomy and prophecy:

“Twenty rooms of the exhibition show ‘Jewish’ noses, ears and lips a foot wide.  A wall is hung with immense photographs of Charlie Chaplin, Max Baer…Mr. Litvinoff, Stavisky, and others, with inscriptions like ‘Are these Englishmen, Americans, &c.?  No, Jews.’  In one room reserved for the foreign press is a huge poster reading, ‘How the English press is directed by Jews.’  Another room shows a replica of a Masonic lodge.  Only adults are admitted to the exhibition.” [Manchester Guardian, Nov. 9, 1937, 14].

“Jews who have contributed to Germany’s fame and prestige and to the service of humanity are pilloried, among them Heine, Mendelssohn, Borne, Einstein, Walter Rathenau, and Albert Ballin.” [The [London] Times, Nov. 9, 1937, 15].

“Julius Streicher, Nazi anti-Semitic leader, opened the exposition on ‘the Eternal Jew’ here today with the statement that Jews are ‘children of the Devil’ and with a threat ‘to bring to an end the reputation of eternal life possessed by this race of world criminals.’  The democratic form of government, which Herr Streicher also regards as criminal, he attributes to Jewish influence….The exposition contains historical material and citations from the Talmud and other works designed to prove that Jews are instructed to cheat and murder their non-Jewish neighbors.” [New York Times].

[Julius Streicher, “the notorious Jew-baiter”:]  “The Jew is a mongrel race mixed with the blood of Negroes, Mongols, and Nordic people.  They are the incorporation of the sin against the blood and destined never to work creatively.  The Jewish people at all times were the destroyers of good….Bolshevism is the most brutal revelation of this Jewish desire to rule the world.” [Manchester Guardian].

     The Times account (like the New York Times) played off the extremist Streicher against the moderate and gentlemanly Dr. Goebbels, whose blood curdled upon viewing a film “showing the Jewish method of ritual slaughter,” but who nevertheless reassured the 3,000 present (including leading Party men) that “the exhibition was not a ‘demagogic or propaganda one,’ but if they as Nazis, and consequently as anti-Semites were to bring together all the material they had against the Jews, this, he thought, would be rendering the world a service.”

The reporter did not measure the full extent of Nazi beneficence, particularly in Streicher’s inspired grasp of the demand for euthanasia latent in the myth of the Wandering Jew, the guilty victim who would prefer to be put out of his misery: Nazis would have preferred not to have done it, as one S.S. Officer testified at Nuremburg:

Q. Do you wish to say that they (i.e. Jewish victims) soon reconciled themselves to what awaited them?  A. That is how it was.  For them it was as if human life had no value.  Those people either had some experience of their own or did not recognize their own inner values.  Q. In other words, they went to their deaths joyfully?  A. I would not say “joyfully.”  They knew what awaited them.  They had been told.  They reconciled themselves to their fate.  That is the peculiar character of those people in the east.  I would say that the nerves of men who took part were torn to pieces.  They were more depressed than those who had been condemned to be shot.[15]

Ahasverus (or Cartaphilus), the Wandering Jew, the shoemaker who cruelly refused Christ, had been condemned by Him to wander the earth until the Second Coming, to “Tarry till I come.”  The story of Ahasverus (resonant with both the Christian myth of the repentant Adam [16] and with the ambivalent representation of Cain in early Jewish thought [17]), had been recruited to the side of order since the thirteenth century (and especially after the Reformation): the repentant Wandering Jew was the witness to the historical fact of the Incarnation and an implicit reproach to lower-class religious skepticism and obduracy.[18]  After the French Revolution, the French poor associated the Church with reaction and applauded both Napoleon and the Wandering Jew, now a defiant hammer-swinging little man (and once again the unregenerate Cain), the bearer of political liberty and its associated artisanal anti-clericalism and rationalism.[19]  Romantic poets (Byron, Shelley, later Yeats) identified ambivalently with the Wandering Jew, the fully feeling, fully thinking adolescent Self, an incorruptible revolutionary who would never yield to the duplicities of the Fathers, who would never sell out.[20]  Writing in the mid-1840s, and synthesizing the opposed variants of the myth, the popular novelist and conservative reformer Eugène Sue made the Wandering Jew and the Wandering Jewess symbols for the oppression of labor and of women, but the Wandering Jew brought cholera in his wake, moulded everything he touched and longed for death.  By the 1920s and 30s, the Wandering Jew symbolized not only the dispersal, endurance and passive (yet threatening) character of the Jewish people, but the alienation of the modern artist,[21] indeed of modern man; for James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, Bloom was the “victim predestined”: immolated, consenting, sad, still, silent.  It is fitting that on July 19, 1937, four months preceding the appearance of Der ewige Jude in Munich, the infamous exhibition of Degenerate Art (timed to coincide with the Great German Art Exhibition) signaled the death throes of modernism in the Third Reich.


[1] W.R.W. Stephens, The Life and Letters of Edward A. Freeman (London and New York: Macmillan, 1895): 181, 183-84.  Freeman (whose vulgarly expressed attitudes toward non-whites, the Irish, Jews and feminists pepper his letters), was an important influence on Frederick Jackson Turner.  His biographer, the Winchester cleric Stephens, was quoting from Freeman’s Impressions of America.

[2]Michael Sadleir, Trollope, a commentary (London: Constable, 1927): 396-97.

[3] The British Press and Jews Under Nazi Rule (London: Oxford U.P., 1964): 51.

[4] Purging the Jewish Marxist materialists would restore natural i.e., racial, unity, a theme Mosse saw in American conservatism and Gaullist France.  See George Mosse, Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural and Social Life in the Third Reich (New York: Schocken, 1981).

[5] In the blood-libel against the Jews, it is claimed that Jews murder Christian boys at Passover to mingle their blood with matzohs.  Speaking at UCLA April 6, 1990, the distinguished folklorist Alan Dundes (and author of an anthology on the Wandering Jew) took sharp exception with my alternative historical explanation for the persistence of the blood-libel against the Jews in European culture since the twelfth century, and which dramatically accelerated during the nineteenth century.  Dundes told his audience that he was disturbed by this “folklore of evil,” responsible for hundreds of deaths, and an embarrassing blot on the normally benign and charming body of culture he studies.  But Dundes could only explain it as a response to Christian guilt over the cannibalism of the Eucharist, psychodynamically as “projective inversion.”  For Dundes art and folklore alike float free from contaminating family and related social conflicts.  As he told us, one variant of the blood libel has a temptress wheedling a young boy to enter a garden, where he is murdered; its resemblance to the lesson of the Fall is clear enough, but Dundes was firm in not drawing comparisons to that all-purpose cautionary tale or to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which it also resembles.  Throughout I have placed such “evil” in the narratives of antidemocratic propaganda responding to rational threats from below, not supposed unconscious conflicts.

[6] Cf. Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1978).  Sontag rightly criticizes organicism as demagoguery, but she flogs consumerism, psychoanalysis, apocalyptic revolutionaries and the Romantics from the point of view of the higher (liberal) moderation, science, and rationalism.  By describing cancer as “Other” she misses the crucial point: its stealthiness and masquerade are connected to democracy and the People.

[7] My description of Nazi anti-Semitism (as indebted to traditional Christian anti-Semitism) is a composite of characteristics drawn by Rosemary Radford Ruether, Faith and Fratricide (New York: Seabury Press, 1973) and Robert Wistrich, Hitler’s Apocalypse (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986): 151.  But Wistrich, while emphasizing the claims Nazis made in the name of Enlightenment, still classifies Hitler as a “monomaniac” assisted by a bureaucratic society (121).  Ruether’s book is especially valuable for her identification of the Jewish stereotype with social criticism/ madness, and her argument that the patristic church fathers of early Christianity had already formulated the anti-Semitism we tend to associate solely with the scientific racism of the nineteenth century. But the analysis lacks a materialist dimension, perhaps because she does not want to implicate German Romanticism in the story of genocide.

[8] Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (New York: Harper Colophon paperback, 1979): 12.

[9] See Max Weinreich, Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in Germany’s Crimes Against the German People, 1946, op.cit. 50-53.  Weinreich reported that Streicher had been invited to several innovative scholarly meetings in Berlin and Munich (1936-38) engaged in a scientific, activist, interdisciplinary study of the Jewish question, and not as a reporter or witness but as a respected leader and valued participant: History, politics, and science, past and present, were to be spiritually and holistically fused (but until 1938, away from the public eye).  This of course puts Streicher and the Nazis in the mainstream of European organicism, not in the lunatic fringe.

[10] But see Ian Kershaw, Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983): 162. “…Streicher’s newspaper Der Stürmer associated the Christian Communion with Jewish ritual slaughter, an allegation which brought a storm of outrage from Evangelical (and Catholic) pulpits.”  Kershaw’s point was that Protestants who had supported Hitler were becoming disillusioned as they realized that the Nazis were attacking Christianity tout court; there could be no rival source of cultural identity to undermine German nationalism or single-issue politics.  The theme of disillusion, resistance, and disapproval among the working-class and petit-bourgeoisie is developed throughout Kershaw’s book, an attempted corrective to overly irrationalist interpretations advanced by conservative scholars stressing propaganda blitzes or national character to explain “the Holocaust.”

[11] Wistrich, 1986.  There seems to have been a change in 1937-1938; Kershaw’s and Mosse’s (or Wistrich’s) emphases might be seen as complementary.  Cf. Ernest K. Bramsted, Goebbels and National Socialist Propaganda 1925-45 (Michigan State U.P., 1965) noted a turning point in Goebbels’ propaganda themes between 1935 and 1938; newly apocalyptic imagery responded to the London Times complaint in 1935 that Nazis and Bolsheviks were similar: Goebbels retorted that parasitic Jewry, the “son of Chaos” was the source of the Bolshevist disease (379-383).  Or, Goebbels had broken the triangular view of the Spanish Civil War: two parties and the “neutrals”: “For the first time the image of a rejuvenated and German-sponsored Europe was projected, as the vision of a better world to come.  Goebbels contrasted the wicked deeds of the archfiend of the martyred in Spain with the fata morgana of a better Europe–a technique which he was to employ again and again in days of war to the very end of the Hitler regime” (164).  But Hitler came to power with just such claims: the Sun-God would bring a new dawn to Germany and leave the rubble of the Jewish-Marxist night behind; a view that élite theorists suppress in their attempt to render Hitler as a romantic.  There should be a detailed study of the origins and conception of Streicher’s Wandering Jew exhibition; I am taken with the striking coincidence between the intensified anti-Semitism and anti-modernism of the Nazis in 1937, C.I.O. labor movement militancy, and the mounting anti-Ahab/Melville offensive in the United States.

[12] The headline copy was “Streicher Opens Anti-Semitic Fair/ Democracy is Jewish Device, He Warns at Munich–He is Twitted by Dr. Goebbels”.

[13] Robert W. Rydell, All the World’s a Fair: visions of empire at American international expositions, 1876-1916 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984).

[14] Streicher and Goebbels both appealed to facts: Regarding Streicher’s speech and Goebbels’ response, the Times wrote “ ‘There are still nations believing in the Jews’s divine mission and proud of their democratic government.  For those who know, however, this much-famed democracy of Western states is a measure of the Jew’s power.  History will open these nations’ eyes.’  The exposition contains historical material and citations from the Talmud and other works designed to prove that Jews are instructed to cheat and murder their non-Jewish neighbors.  A photograph of Mayor La Guardia of New York has been placed in a hall devoted to “international Jews.”  Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels indicated in a speech delivered after Herr Streicher’s that the Nazi leaders are not wholly unaware of a certain humorous element in Herr Streicher’s fanaticism.  Smiling at the high priest of anti-Semitism, Dr. Goebbels said: “Our critics answer us with the assertion that the Jews also are human beings.  Now, as a matter of fact, even Party Comrade Streicher will grant that the Jews are human beings.”  The audience of 3,000 laughed, but the sally failed to amuse Herr Streicher, who continued to stare stolidly at the back of the hall.”

It is most peculiar that the Western press could have separated Goebbels from Streicher; in the spring of 1937, Goebbels propaganda department distributed a pamphlet to students and party leaders, calling for the recapture of “a lost identity” (to overcome the skepticism and despair of an industrialized world).  The late Israeli historian Uriel Tal wrote, “political faith needs an anti-hero,” a scapegoat, a devil.  Indeed it was the Jew who “having been a degraded sufferer for ages” was supposed to make the myth somewhat tangible and acceptable.  Through the “universal conspiracy of the Jew” as well as the “defilement of his blood” the Jew brings about “the systematic decomposition of the Aryan race and the Germanic Folk.”  In “Political Faith” of Nazism Prior to the Holocaust (Annual Lecture of the Schreiber Chair of Contemporary Jewish History, Tel Aviv University, 1978): 19.  But would such appeals have had any impact unless they benefited individuals and social classes in material ways?

[15] See Stanley Rosenman, “The American Nazi and the Wandering Jew,” The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol.39, No.4 (1979): 363-368, quoting from the Nuremburg Military Tribunal testimony of S.S. Colonel Paul Blobel, 363.

[16] Hyam Maccoby, “The Wandering Jew as Sacred Executioner,” The Wandering Jew: Essays in the Interpretation of a Christian Legend, ed. Galit Hasan-Rokem and Alan Dundes (Bloomington: Indiana U.P., 1986).

[17] Ruth Mellinkoff, The Mark of Cain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

[18] See Uriel Tal, Christians and Jews in Germany (Ithaca and London: Cornell U.P., 1975): 16 on post-Reformation class anxieties.  Tal describes two strategies to deal with the corroding skepticism fostered by persistence of the obdurate Jew: one should either convert them or humiliate them so that their “abject state” testified to “the triumphant religion of Christianity.”  My distinction between Good (Christianized) Jews and Wandering Jews fits Tal’s categories (but he does not name the Wandering Jew myth here).

[19] Champfleury, “French Images of the Wandering Jew,” The Wandering Jew, 1986.

[20] See Erik Erikson’s influential wartime theory: Hitler was not the good father but the big brother who would never yield to the duplicities of the fathers.  I suspect that Erikson has applied the romantic Wandering Jew myth to Hitler (a motif throughout this study).

[21] Edgar Rosenberg, From Shylock to Svengali: Jewish Stereotypes in English Fiction (Stanford: Stanford U.P., 1960): 302-303.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] But there is a more subtle association of “dirt” with “the Jews,” and it has to do with the most basic precepts of Judaism. The High Holy Days are upon us, and it is the occasion when the Jew is obliged to take an inventory of his conduct during the past year. The harm done to others must be acknowledged, repented, and reparations made to the injured party. But such introspection is not confined to ten days of the year. Rather, it is a cultural pattern of many Jews, secular or religious, that s/he asks herself continually, “what if I am wrong in my opinions?” or “how do I know when my apparently benevolent behavior may have ulterior motives that are self-interested, and not at all generous?” The answers to this ongoing self-questioning are rarely  unambiguous and clear, but rather impure, unclean, and messy. Here is one possible source of the “dirtiness” that many hostile non-Jews, confident in their own moderation, purity and righteousness, ascribe to “the Jews.” And readers of my blogs may recall that Hitler found such dirty ambiguity and uncertainty intolerable. What of the millions who continue to admire him today? How do they intend to clean us up? for Part One of this series, see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/17/moderate-men-and-dirty-jews-part-one/. […]

    Pingback by Moderate Men and “Dirty” Jews, Part Two | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — January 28, 2014 @ 5:14 pm | Reply


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