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.
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
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.
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.