Jacob Katz here presents a major reinterpretation of modern anti-Semitism, which blends history of ideas about the Jews gradually became transformed and then, around 1879, picked up so much social force as to result in the premeditated and systematic destruction of the Jewish people of Europe.
Mr. Katz revises the prevalent thesis that medieval and modern animosities against Jews were fundamentally different. He also rejects the scapegoat theory, according to which the Jews were merely a lightning rod for underlying economic and social tensions. On the contrary, he argues, there were very real tensions between Jews and non-Jews, because the Jews were a highly visible and cohesive group and so came into conflict with non-Jews in competing for social and economic rewards.
In the late 19th century, Mr. Katz argues, hatred of the Jews shifted from their religion to more essential aspects of their character and behavior. The term “anti-Semitism,” he explains, which first came into use around 1870, was meant to describe this change. Thus, ironically, just as Jews were being integrated into the political state, skillful propagandists such as Theodore Fritzche and Houston Stewart Chamberlain were extraordinarily successful in spreading notions of Jewish racial inferiority and its threat to the pure Aryan stock. And so when Hitler came on the scene, the seeds of Jewish race hatred were widely sown.
To this book Mr. Katz has brought scholarly rigor, objectivity, and, last but not least, a sense of the passage of time so frequently missing from discussions of anti-Semitism. For once, the modern Jewish experience is not read backward from catastrophe, but is allowed to find its own way through all the continuities and discontinuities which history has to offer… Enables us to discern the history of anti-Semitism with greater clarity than ever before.
Profoundly disturbing… In a world in which the disease of anti-Semitism appears to be rising, Katz’s work makes compelling reading.
From Prejudice to Destruction contains a wealth of specific information that will be of interest to scholars. The general reader will be drawn to its larger themes. Certainly the most important of these is Katz’s contention that modern anti-Semitism is a direct outgrowth of traditional, Christian anti-Semitism.
- 400 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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