Early in his political career, Adolf Hitler declared the importance of what he called “an antisemitism of reason.” Determined not to rely solely on traditional, cruder forms of prejudice against Jews, he hoped that his exclusionary and violent policies would be legitimized by scientific scholarship. The result was a disturbing, and long-overlooked, aspect of National Socialism: Nazi Jewish Studies.
Studying the Jew investigates the careers of a few dozen German scholars who forged an interdisciplinary field, drawing upon studies in anthropology, biology, religion, history, and the social sciences to create a comprehensive portrait of the Jew—one with devastating consequences. Working within the universities and research institutions of the Third Reich, these men fabricated an elaborate empirical basis for Nazi antisemitic policies. They supported the Nazi campaign against Jews by defining them as racially alien, morally corrupt, and inherently criminal.
In a chilling story of academics who perverted their talents and distorted their research in support of persecution and genocide, Studying the Jew explores the intersection of ideology and scholarship, the state and the university, the intellectual and his motivations, to provide a new appreciation of the use and abuse of learning and the horrors perpetrated in the name of reason.
In his meticulously researched study, Alan Steinweis reconstructs the academic networks that provided an aura of respectability for antisemitic persecution. Studying the Jew exposes the culpability of scholars who collaborated with Nazi race policy and nevertheless continued their careers after 1945 with barely a hitch. If one wants to understand the mentality of "desk murderers," this is an excellent place to start.
By demonstrating how Nazi scholars and professors perverted their scholarship with a hatred of Jews, Alan Steinweis has written a work of great importance. "Jewish Studies" was an antisemitic movement within the universities that included theologians, historians, sociologists, biologists, and others across the academic disciplines. This brilliant new book reveals how the academy became nazified, shaping a new interdisciplinary enterprise: pathologizing the Jew.
Although the complicity of various professions with the Nazi regime has been well demonstrated, Alan Steinweis shifts the focus beyond the free professions, hard sciences, and technocrats to scholars in the humanities and "soft" social sciences. He is concerned with how scholars in these disciplines both legitimized the regime's insistence that there was a "Jewish problem" to be solved and lent their expertise on Jewish matters to help the regime shape its destructive policies. Steinweis makes clear that this "tainted" scholarship was not done by a tiny minority of "quacks" and infiltrating radicals but was produced by respectable and mainstream scholars.
In this excellent work of enduring importance, Steinweis offers new insight, astute judgment and fresh research concerning the antisemitic scholars in Nazi Germany who lent intellectual respectability to the policies of racial persecution. Studying the Jew is an essential sequel to Max Weinreich's classic of 1946, Hitler's Professors. It is a valuable contribution to the extensive history of politicization of scholarship in modern dictatorships.
Steinweis...uses a voice that reflects a dispassionate, academic tone, characterized by careful analysis of both the research and motivations of an array of scholars who studied and published on various aspects of 'The Jewish Question,' from the early 1930s through the very close of World War II...Despite the application of this 'research' that influenced to varying degrees a wide range of Nazi policies--up to and perhaps including The Final Solution--Steinweis's review of specific scholars and their work reflects precisely the integrity lacking in those he writes of...The measured manner in which he addresses this important area of Holocaust history, including describing some of the post-World War II successes some of these scholars enjoyed in their professional careers, may, for some, lack a sense of the emotion-laden moral outrage we Jews so often want to see expressed...Yet, Studying the Jew helps us in no small way understand an aspect of what can otherwise be an unbearably painful part of our collective Jewish experience and consciousness.
[Steinweis offers] a compact study of Nazi scholarship that raises challenging questions to those of us engaged in scholarly research.
Steinweis proceeds by analysing the published works of several scholars representative of the major disciplines to which Judenforschung (research on Jews) was key: race science, theology, history, and sociology. The result is a rich and fascinating little book that convincingly demonstrates the way in which the humanities and social sciences "coordinated" with the regime, much as the professions and industry did; and how these scholars made Nazi desiderata central to their own concerns, whether out of conviction or opportunism...For anglophone readers, the book is an excellent introduction to the subject of scholarly anti-Semitism.
This vastly intriguing volume is a paragon of scholarship.
- 214 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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