Anti Semitism is one of the world’s longest existing prejudices. The oppression of Jewish persons has permeated the world since ancient times. History documents the group toiling of Jews as slaves in Egypt. In the modern era, there still exists a hatred towards Jews among some people. It is important for families, schools and others to sit down together to discuss and define anti Semitic behavior. Doing so is an important means to stopping hate in the world.
What does Anti Semitic Mean?
The United States Department of State accepts a definition of anti Semitic put forth by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia. This explanation of the anti Semitic meaning highlights both spoken and physical forms of hate directed at Jews.
People with an aversion to Jews and their culture may try to attack them through violence. They may also voice opinions about the collective power that Jews supposedly use and abuse, especially in the financial industry. Others attempt to downplay the historical suffering of the Jewish race, in some cases claiming the group lies about its past.
Pogroms in Europe
One of the earliest forms of modern anti-Semitism was the European discrimination. It became a hallmark of Jews in the United States who have helped form several groups to protect minorities rights, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a group dedicated to serving African American interests.
During the pogroms, whole towns would raise up against their Jewish inhabitants. Beatings and murders caused those who could to flee. Oftentimes, Jews lost their homes and businesses because out of fear they could not return to claim the property.
The general rationalization given for the pogroms came from supposed Biblical evidence. The Christian Bible mentions in its Gospels that the Romans who occupied Israel, the traditional home of the Jews, asked an assembled crowd whether to crucify, or give the death penalty, to Jesus. The Jews voted for crucifixion. Consequently, there developed a dislike for Jews in Europe among Christians because of this decision to kill Jesus. The harsh term “Christ killer” became a label reserved for Jews, despite the fact that the Romans actually carried out the execution.
Thus, as is common with many hate campaigns, the pogroms had some basis. The interpretation of those facts served the needs of those often possessing ulterior motives. For example, many Jewish business owners were the targets of these violent attacks. Competitors may have wanted to better their own odds of success.
Russia saw some of the most intense pogroms. After taking over territory in Eastern Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Russians began attacking Jews living in these areas. Two million Jewish refugees moved to the United States and Western Europe between 1880 and 1914, as a result.
Jews also began to form groups to fight back politically. This aggressiveness became another reason for outsiders to claim a dislike for the group. The Jewish tendency towards questioning the reigning government became something that would follow the group as it moved to the United States.
World War II and the Holocaust
Probably the most known pogrom against the Jews was the Holocaust that lasted from 1941 until 1945, encapsulating the Second World War years. Adolf Hitler, an infamous anti-Semitic, led Germany from 1931 to 1945 and created much of the fervor against Jewish people. The Holocaust was a genocide that sought to rid Germany of those who did not fit the white, Aryan image that Hitler sought to project as the national identity. Others prosecuted by Hitler’s Nazi regime included gays and gypsies.
The first serious anti-Jewish measures were the 1935 Nuremberg Laws. Using the prevailing science of the day, the Nazi’s classified people as Aryan or Jewish based on parentage. Those determined to be Jews lost their German citizenship and any claims to civil rights. Intermarriage between Jews and Aryans was illegal to keep the German people “pure,” according to Nazi racial ideology.
Segregation of Jews into concentration camps began around this time as well. The people had to perform manual labor in the camps or dwell in ghettos within the cities.
These policies spread across Europe as the Nazis waged war against the continent. Eastern Europe became the sight of the worst concentration camps. In 1942, the Nazi’s began attempting to rid Eastern Europe of its Jews with what some called the “Final Solution.” The plan was to relocate the Jewish population to concentration camps and systematically murder them in gas chambers. By the end of the war, records point to over 6 million Jews having died in the gas chambers or through other methods.
Understanding the Anti Semitic: Key Characters, Groups and Events
The Diary of Anne Frank remains a powerful tool in the fight against hate. Frank was a young girl of four when her family fled Germany in 1933, after the rise of Adolf Hitler to power.
Living in the Netherlands in fear, the family finally went into hiding when the Nazis conquered that country in 1942.
Anne Frank, by then thirteen, began keeping a diary of her life in an enclosed room within her father’s office building. The daily struggle to avoid capture, while retaining a sense of family, comes through the pages. Finally, in 1944, turned in by some still unknown person, the Nazis split up the Frank family, sending members to several concentration camps. Anne died in 1945 from a sickness caught in the camp.
School kids around the world still read this narrative that documents the human cost of hatred.
A Nazi in the halls of famous anti Semites is Josef Mengele. He conducted medical experiments on Jews at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Mengele would perform experiments on new inductees to deem whether they were capable of performing labor. If not physically fit, Mengele sent them to the gas chamber. Others died under his watch during pain inducing experiments that, in the absence of an anti-Semitic environment, would have been illegal on German citizens. Mengele did all of these things in the name of scientific advancement.
After the war, Mengele fled to South America, living in Argentina, Paraguay and finally Brazil. His drowning death only in 1985, while suffering a stroke as he swam, demonstrates the long-term spread and reach of Nazism.
Walt Disney and the Anti Semitic
In the United States, no pogroms existed; nevertheless, there is still anti-Semitism, even if somewhat veiled. Hollywood in particular had had a problem with “Jewishness”. Given its control of the media, a form of mass communication, the images placed on American screens hold importance.
Walt Disney, the great animator, has come under criticism for his characters. Fans still wonder, “Was Walt Disney anti Semitic?” Some cartoons feature negative Jewish stereotypes. Further, eyewitnesses claim to have seen Disney in attendance at pro-Nazi political meetings during his lifetime.
A period of anti-Semitism at work in Hollywood came during the Cold War era. Studio cracked down on suspected Communists. Jews, many hailing from work class backgrounds in Eastern Europe, then under the Russian control, became prime suspects.
Many Jewish actors and writers lost their jobs when placed on the “Hollywood Blacklist,” that listed them as undesirables. Others, such as Jewish screenwriter Walter Bernstein, used fake names to continue earning a living.
Anti Semitic Jokes and Everyday Speech
Telling jokes that denigrate Jews is one of the most common forms of anti-Semitic bigotry. In most cases, the Jewish characters in the storyline are corrupt, silly, crafty or stingy.
People may be unaware that the expressions they use have racist undertones. For example, it is common to hear people, when asked to pay a price they think unfit, respond with, “You are not going to Jew me down.” The implication is that Jews, who historically became involved in finance, because such avenues as politics were not available to them, are good at driving hard bargains.
These types of hate speech slip through the cracks because so many people use the words without considering the meaning. Everyday racist speech is an example of how anti-Semitism and other forms of hate still pervade societies.
The Nation of Islam (NOI)
Though Jews held prominent positions in the creation of the NAACP, the longest lasting African American civil rights group, some other black organizations have expressed distrust for the religion. The Nation of Islam, or Black Muslims, have for decades earned a reputation for disliking Jews. One rationale is that Jews were involved in the slave trade, especially as financiers and insurers.
Elijah Muhammad, who founded the NOI in 1930, spoke out against Jews vehemently. Later in the 20th century, leader Louis Farrakhan began using more polite speech but continued to denounce the nation of Israel that was founded in 1948 as a homeland for the Jews in the wake of the Holocaust.
Furthermore, there continues within the NOI an embrace of the argument that Jews control African American ghetto economies. This control allows the wealth generated in these areas to go to white communities rather than the African American inhabitants. Some NOI leaders have in turn referred to Jews as “bloodsuckers.”
Neo-Nazism pervades the world today. European nations report a rise of people supporting the hate ideology. Some countries, especially Russia and Germany, are hotspots of neo-Nazism. The United States has seen a growing number of these organizations as well.
Generally, Neo-Nazis want to recreate the sociopolitical order Adolf Hitler had in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. These organizations believe that Jewish people are a threat to the world because of a conspiracy among Semites to control banking, communications and governments.
Neo-Nazis are recognizable by their chosen apparel and hairstyles. Members sport the SS uniforms worn by Hitler’s special forces. They also usually have a close haircut, which has earned them the nickname “skinheads.”
Many skinheads are in prison, where they engage in violent behavior against African American and Hispanic inmates in particular.
The Anti-Defamation League
American Jews set up the Anti Defamation League (ADL) in 1913 to fight public anti semitic denunciation against their people wherever it crops up. Overall, the ADL embraces a universal approach to its work by also tackling civil rights issues that involve non-Jewish individuals. In general, the ADL views itself as an anti-hate group, dedicated to protecting the rights and liberties of all of the oppressed.
From the pogroms to Neo-Nazism, hatred of followers of the Jewish faith has been a recurring theme of modern society since the 19th century. Understanding the anti semitic def. is a first step in creating a peaceful world.