The Satanizing of the Jews

Joel Carmichael

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

Publisher: Fromm
Paperback: 224 pages

On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life

Friedrich Nietzsche

“The surfeit of history of an age seems to me hostile and dangerous to life,” Nietzsche says midway through this, the second of his Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen (Untimely Meditations), written only a year after his first book, The Birth of Tragedy was published in 1872. In this early work, Nietzsche warns his fellow 19th-century Europeans—newly drunk on the study of history—of the dangers of too much historical knowledge gained second-hand. These dangers, Nietzsche says, include the tendency to believe that we are late-comers, that everything has already been done; conversely that, with our knowledge we are the wisest of all ages; and the tendency to look backward for models on which to base our present conduct—in other words, imitation of dead heroes. Against this “decadent” reliance on dusty books, Nietzsche posits a “healthy-minded” psychological balance between digested historical knowledge and a kind of “willed forgetfulness”—that is, originality—in present-day conduct.
Despite the emphasis on history, one gets a glimmer here of Nietzsche’s later, fully developed Lebensphilosophie (philosophy of life), in this case a sort of “history-for-life.” Also contained in this rich essay are other “seeds” of Nietzschean themes that would be explored in later works: eternal recurrence, the critique of Christianity and German chauvinism (and this was written only two years after the Prussian victory over France!). In his questioning of “objectivity” Nietzsche seems to be taking an historical/relativist position. His warning against the feeling of modern man that his is an inevitable “evening” time finds echoes (however differently asserted) in his alleged “disciple” Spengler. A sheer delight! TM

Publisher: Hackett
Paperback: 64 pages