Mariah Wilson

The Jewish Question

"For a people like the German people, it is particularly necessary to indicate one sole enemy, to march against one sole enemy."
- Adolf Hitler, 1924

The "Jewish Question" was the name given to the debate amongst National Socialists Germans - what is to be done to abolish the sacrilegious, parasitic Jewish race in order to preserve a more pure Christian Europe? For ages animosities had existed between those of Christian denomination and those who practiced Judaism - the Jews were accused of being the paganistic "nation which had murdered Christ." (Rose 3) It was not just the fact that the practicing Jew did not hold the same faiths as the practicing Christian; anti-semitic beliefs went so far as to actually hold the presence of Judaism in the world accountable for the inability of the Christian to reach salvation. And although it had always been thought that it was the responsibility of God to punish those who went against Christian faith, by the commencement of World War II in the late 1930's many people had taken it upon themselves to do the "work of the lord." (Weiss 9) Essentially, much of World War II was a religious war, just as the revolution of the National Socialists was a religious revolution. Without such widespread resentment for European Jews, the Nazis would have had a much harder time gaining the majority vote and such widespread popularity in Germany. (Weiss 270)

In addition to theological issues, there were issues of social and economic resentment as well. Ever since Jewish settlers came to Europe as international merchants, they have always been identified as a race which flocked towards dishonest, parasitic occupations such as moneylending, banking, second-hand trade and commerce. It was here, the Aryans attested, in which they could flourish in "non-productive commercial activities" (Weiss 9) in which they could take advantage of the hard-working, diligent Christians. German anti-semitism also rose from many of these sorts of stereotypes - the Jew as the greedy, stubborn, power hungry "frustrator of Christian redemption," (Rose 4) or the Jew as an "abstract symbol of capitalist society and the capitalist spirit." (Rose 34)
Even as far back as the sixteenth century, Martin Luther denounced Judaism as being a "special affliction for the German people." (Rose 5) Luther employed the concept of Ausrottung in his dealings with the Jewish Question: originally, Ausrottung was a Hebrew precept which condemned all uncircumcised Jews to be cast out of Israel. As applied to the situation in Europe in the early twentieth century, Ausrottung was symbolic of the casting out of any circumcised Jews from the "New Israel," or the Christianity. This is essentially the bulk of the Jewish Question: what is the Aryan race to do about this power-hungry, blasphemous race? The answer to this question, unfortunately, would be found in Hitler's Final Solution. Issued in 1942 after Hitler had commanded Reinhard Hedrich to head the Wannsee Conference, which the so-called 'answer' to the question at hand. (Weiss 339) This solution constituted nearly half a decade of bloodshed in the form of methodical mass executions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and other outcasts of the time. Those of Jewish descent, however, suffered the biggest blow, constituting well more than half of the casualties at the concentration camps scattered across Europe in the 1940's.

Works Cited

Rose, Paul Lawrence. German Question/Jewish Question: Revolutionary Antisemitism from Kant to Wagner. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Weiss, John. The Ideology of Death: Why The Holocaust
Happened In Germany
. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996.

Works Consulted

Gordon, Sarah. Hitler, Germans, and the "Jewish Question." Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Snell, John L. The Nazi Revolution: Germany's Guilt or Germany's Fate? Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company, 1959.