This historical survey of the development of Western anti-Semitism examines the transformation of Christian anti-Jewish...

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FROM PREJUDICE TO DESTRUCTION: Anti-Semitism, 1700-1933

This historical survey of the development of Western anti-Semitism examines the transformation of Christian anti-Jewish theology into secular anti-Semitism and its ultimate extension, the Holocaust. Following a patient step-by-step historical approach, Hebrew University professor Katz's scholarly delineation emphasizes the precursors of the anti-Semitic movement in Germany of the 1880s by evaluating the grist contributed to the anti-Semitic political mill by Enlightenment luminaries such as Voltaire, philosophers Kant, Hegel and Schopenhauer, socialists Fourier and Proudhon, the radical Marx, nationalist historians Michelet and Treitschke, and racial theoreticians de Gobineau and Chamberlain. Although most of the rationalists attacked Christianity as well as Judaism, Judaism nevertheless emerged inferior; and even completely secular writers drew upon Christian anti-Jewish polemics to bolster their views. Consequently, secular anti-Semitism never completely lost its Christian connotations and relevance for the Christian societies in which it flourished. Thus, to the concept of deicide (whose guilt could be exculpated only through conversion) were added descriptions of cultural and ethical inferiority, primitive religious practices, and degrading occupations (commerce and banking) which might disappear through conversions: assimilation into the majority. Once theoreticians developed hereditary racial characteristics, however, nothing could expunge these infirmities but the Nazi Final Solution. Katz's examination of French, German, Austrian, and Hungarian major and minor literary and political figures is a solid study, more extensive in scope and detail than Leon Poliakov's The History of Anti-Semitism: From Voltaire to Wagner (1975).

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1980