The author traces the “evolution” of anti-semitism from the earliest contacts of Jews and non-Jews in the Levant, up through the Roman-Jewish War, the Diaspora in Europe and finally, of course, Nazi Europe and the founding of the state of Israel. While acknowledging, however briefly, the rise of biological-racial theories in the 19th century as immediate precursors of Nazism (notably Gobineau’s On the Inequality of Races), the author’s central thesis, “mystical” anti-semitism, refers to the codified, theological condemnation of the Jews as contained in the founding tenets of Catholic Church doctrine. In a nutshell: “Christ-killer.” For this charge all other churchly condemnations flowed forth: that Jews constituted “a limb of Satan,” a people damned by God, etc., etc.
While the author devotes many pages to the intricate details of such “bulls” before, during and after the Middle Ages (beginning with the, ahem, rather harsh statements of church Father John Chrysostom: “breed of vipers… demons… haters of God” and ending with the maniacal spleen of Martin Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies), it becomes apparent that most of this flailing about, at least during the first millennium, was indulged in by the churchmen themselves, rather than their followers. The peasant on the street kept his dislike to himself up to the First Crusade, in 1096. Lots of ugliness followed over the next four centuries: mob violence and massacres that would find their echoes centuries later in the “spontaneous pogroms” directed against Jewish civilians all across Europe, at the very moment the Nazi government was killing them on a gigantic scale. After reading this book one can better understand the historical-cultural backdrop against which a 20th-century politician—Adolf Hitler—could make this jaw-dropping pronouncement (in Mein Kampf): “By fighting the Jews, I am doing the work of the Lord.” TM
Paperback: 224 pages