WILHELM MARR: The Patriarch of Anti-Semitism by Moshe Zimmermann

WILHELM MARR: The Patriarch of Anti-Semitism

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Marr was a minor character in the intellectual history of 19th-century Germany, best known for inventing the word ""anti-Semitism"" and championing its cause. This well-crafted scholarly biography does not claim undue influence for Marr, but instead takes his example, both intellectually and personally, as typical or at least symptomatic of the prejudice that became the Holocaust. Marr was a writer and journalist of intermittent success, His dogmatism and fanaticism often alienated friends and colleagues, and he often found himself on the outside of his own causes. He began political life as a revolutionary, viewing the turmoil of 1848 with great hope, then with great frustration. His basic view, formed early and maintained with some consistency, was that society must be freed of all chains, civil, economic, secular and religious. Unlike Christian Jew-haters, his was a racist spite. Though there was a hard logic to his thinking, many of Marr's ideas and acts were strange: he married three different Jewish or half. Jewish women and defended the Confederacy in the American Civil War on racist grounds. At the root of his prejudice were personal frustrations, rejections, disappointment; his insistent pessimism and paranoia were almost accidentally directed at the Jews. Samples of Mart's works are included in the appendix. The longest is an essay called ""The Testament of an Anti-Semite' in which the aging man recants his life's work, lifting blame for the social problems of his century from the Jews and putting it upon industrialization and modernization. It is a fascinating document, and provides a fitting end for Marr's life story. For even as he saw how misguided his ideas were, he would never have fathomed their monstrous potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
ISBN: 0195040058
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press