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Toward%20the%20Final%20Solution%203 - I I i 3 M ODERN...

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3 / I ' I ! i' MODERN RACIAL-POLITICAL ANTI-SEMITISM THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND THE RISE OF THE JEWS The issue of how deep the roots of Nazi anti-Semitism are has been endlessly debated. The efforts of scholars to find the roots of the Holocaust in the middle ages and even farther have been sometimes thought-provoking, often unpersuasive, but there is a wider consensus among scholars that in the late nineteenth century solid roots - more than traces or tendrils - are to be found. These were the years of Hitler's birth; the ideas in the air formed his worldview. Nazi terms such as Aryan, Superman (Ubermensch) or indeed anti-Semite, were either coined in this period or came to have a wider acceptance in it. Modern forms of extreme nationalism grew more powerful, especially by the turn of the century, mixing into more xenophobic, hate-filled forms of racism, also key traits of National Socialism. Still, the nature of the various forms of Jew-hatred that appeared in these years is by no means simple and is often misunderstood. The generalization found in many textbooks, that religious hatred was now replaced by racial hatred, has some truth in it but overlooks the important fact that hatred based in religious imagery was stilt very often expressed. Similarly, much of the hostility directed at Jews in this period was not racial but cultural (granting that the two terms are slippery and overlap). More central to the nature of this new kind of Jew-hatred was the way it embraced an activist program; political movements arose that stepped beyond the kind of intellectual or literary attacks described in the previous chapter and sought to mobilize large masses of people and find concrete political solutions to ,the Jewish question. These movements were all characterized to some degree by a use of the new vocabulary of race, but modern anti- Semitism remained from beginning to end confused and contra- dictory. Its proponents differed in fundamental ways, and an often
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52 Anti-Semitism before the Holocaust fierce internal factionalism contributed to the general ineffectiveness of the anti-Semitic movements that continually formed and reformed. Insofar as there was a unity of purpose among them it had to do with an alarm about the rise of the Jews, an older issue that took on new urgency in troubled times. A key point, then, is that the new anti-Semitism not only spoke in political terms but developed in a significantly different economic climate from the boom years of the 1850s and 1860s. What was termed at the time 'the Great Depression' started with stock market crashes in 1873, especially notable in Berlin and Vienna. In the following two decades industrial production in most of the advanced nations faltered, unemployment rose, and agriculture experienced a series of crises. The economic difficulties of these years were in truth mild compared to those of the Great Depression of the 1930s, but they were nonetheless a great shock to those who had expressed such confidence in the free market, economic growth, and continual progress. People who were
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Toward%20the%20Final%20Solution%203 - I I i 3 M ODERN...

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