This is the second of three segments comprising my final chapter to this discussion of the impact of Christianity''s millennial Jewish Problem and its impact on Jewish survival. The Holocaust was the most recent manifestation of that "impact." Attributed to "secularism," or "Hitler the Madman" the name for the extermination of all Jews the Third Reich could lay hands on, and it could have fit that name had the "madman" not made some strategic blunders including declaring war on the US and invading the Soviet Union, then the name would, in deed, have described the intent: The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem.
IV. Antisemitism: conscious and unconscious
If antisemitic prejudice sometimes achieves respectability in everyday usage, there exists a deeper and more sinister level of antisemitism in age-old stereotypes. Generally considered “impolite” at best, dangerous at worst, such stereotypes tend to remain dormant and out of consciousness until stress, personal and/or social, demands an outlet, a scapegoat to blame. These “unconscious” stereotypes are of both religious and secular origin. But even “secular” stereotypes may also refer to scriptural origin. The first century “Christ-killer” myth, for example, also finds expression in the more secular “blood libel” canard in which Jews are imagined kidnapping and murdering Christian children. In 1913 Menahem Beilis, a Russian Jew, was charged in what was described a “ritual murder” of a Christian boy. He was acquitted after spending two years in jail awaiting trial. Released, he and his family emigrated to America.
At about the same time as the Beilis trial a young American Jew, Leo Frank, was charged in the rape and murder of a 13 year old Christian girl.
The trial over, the sentenced passed, the lawyer representing the prosecutions chief witness went to the press with his believe that it was his client, the janitor at the factory with a record of aggravated assaults and public drunkenness who actually committed the rape-murder. But in what was later described as antisemitic frenzy by the pastor of the girls family Frank was declared guilty and, impatient over the appeals process, a lynch mob consisting of Atlanta elite including a Georgia superior court judge, drove Frank 100 miles to the farm of the local sheriff and hanged him from a tree overlooking the girls home.
Another canard originating in the Middle Ages describes a conclave of rabbis plotting to subjugate Christendom. Nearly one thousand years later that canard inspired the publication of the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Even after exposed a forgery in the press the Protocols enjoyed widespread popularity. Following the Russian Revolution the West saw Jews as “directing” Russia in its ambition to overthrow western capitalism. Communists both east and west saw Jews as capitalists, enemy of the working class! In effect both saw “the Jews” according to the same canard intent on ruling the world. Today there are fundamentalist Christian sects in the United States, the Identity movement as example, who see “the Jews” already controlling the United States through its Zionist Occupation Government (ZOG). Other organizations not immediately identified as “Christian,” such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party also consider themselves Christian and use Christian symbols in their rituals.
A more bizarre stereotype to the modern mind describes Jews as having horns, hooves and tail all stealthily hidden. By this stereotype Jews are said also to emit a sulphuric odor consistent with “their father,” Satan as described in the “John” gospel. Although medieval in origin the Nazis made extensive use of this and other such stereotypes portraying Jews as grotesque beasts.
V. Antisemitism and Jewish Survival
The period of the Great Depression provides an excellent example of the seemingly spontaneous explosion of antisemitism in the United States and Germany. Both countries similarly experienced high levels of unemployment, and in both countries the upper class was threatened by “communist” incitement among the unemployed. Both countries elected “reformers” promising speedy economic recovery and Hitler, representing radical capitalism and enjoying American investment and industrial support, did soon achieve full employment. Germany’s upper class, secured by regimented, compliant and non-union workforce, was the envy of Corporate America. Roosevelt, representing liberal capitalism, chose a more gradual social reformist path to employment expansion, a path unacceptable to Corporate America who hatched a coup d’etat against the new president in 1933. America’s upper class preferred a fascist state modeled after Hitler’s Germany. Although the coup failed, American industry continued and expanded its close collaboration with Nazi Germany, even after Hitler declared war on the United States in 1941. As polls referred to in this book describe, levels of popular antisemitism between the United States and Germany compared closely before and during Germany’s attempted extermination of the Jews, the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem.
Put more directly, all conditions existed for a final solution whose success depended only on the outcome of a war which, into 1942, seemed to favor Germany! Which raises the question whether had Corporate America’s coup succeeded or; had Hitler, reportedly out of loyalty to its ally Japan, not followed Japan into declaring war on the United States after Pearl Harbor or; had America, instead of entering the war against Germany instead joined Hitler in what many influential and less-so Americans agreed a worthy Crusade against “Judeo-Bolshevism”: would the fate of American-Jews have been different from that of European Jewry?
Had not the United States also built concentration camps; had Roosevelt not ordered the imprisonment of another supposed “fifth column,” Japanese-Americans in those camps?
In 1933 German Jewry was aware of the danger represented by Nazi antisemitism but, with pogroms the only historical precedent how could that community have anticipated the full measure of that danger facing them. Even so influential a German-Jewish thinker as Martin Buber encouraged Jews to remain in place considering Hitler a passing infatuation. By 1941 Auschwitz was in operation and even those most disbelieving such as a program to exterminate all Jews a possibility could no longer deny newspaper descriptions and newsreel portrayals of the Final Solution unfolding day by day.
While both Jewish communities, in Germany and America, described their country “exceptional” would American-Jews have more likely overcome denial and have left in time to save themselves had the United States fulfilled Hitler’s expectations and joined the crusade?
VI. Antisemitism and Jewish Denial
If such as a final solution to the Jewish Problem was unprecedented in 1933, how is it possible that today, seventy years later, most Jews still insist the Holocaust “unique,” cling tenaciously to such consoling explanations as the Shoah as an aberration born of the sick mind of a single individual? If even Jewish historians maintain such explanations despite awareness of abundant evidence from 2000 years of anti-Jewish persecution precedent to the Holocaust: the name for intentional disregard of facts disagreeing with the desired outcome and pointing to an obvious future danger is: Denial.
Are American Jews in 2014, seventy-three years after Auschwitz became daily news, with the Holocaust as precedent; will American Jews facing a future resurgence of American antisemitism to levels of the decades leading up to the Holocaust overcome Denial and accept that even in America the horrible and persistent historical precedent applies?
The recent and uncompleted Final Solution was not an aberration “perpetrated by a mad man” but rather the most recent effort in a long and continuing historical process. The 20th century represents warning, describes our future: our alternative to not acting. Might the United States be that departure from European Diaspora experience American Jews insist on? With some exceptions, most notably during the Holocaust, antisemitism in America has been more muted than that in Europe. And this does encourage Jewish regard for America as “exceptional.” But a more nuanced reading of the history of Jews in America suggests other. Antisemitism in the United States rose dramatically as Jews fleeing Russian pogroms began arriving in larger numbers during the late 19th century. Opinion polls taken in the decades before, during and following the Holocaust describe antisemitism as about the same intensity and distribution in the United States as in Nazi Germany! But despite obvious antisemitism surrounding them, America’s Jews, then and now, still insist America “exceptional.”
VII. And then there was American eugenics
Without American assistance, financial and ideological, it is unlikely Germany emerging from the Great Depression and hyper-inflation would have elected Hitler, would have been in a position to threaten its neighbors let alone start a global war. Without American assistance and support it is unlikely that Hitler and his National Socialist Party would have come anywhere near winning that 1932 election. Leading and directing that support was American eugenics which, decades before Hitler and Auschwitz had been promoting and guiding the United States towards its own self-described Aryan Master Race. American academicians and scientists had trained their equals in Germany for more than a decade before Hitler appeared on the scene, promoted and funded Rassenhygiene, Nazi eugenics. German counterparts first described Jews as Unfit and finally as a non-human “pathogen” threatening the entire human race. The gas chambers adapted by Germany for the Final Solution was first introduced and promoted by Americans decades earlier to “humanely” eliminate America’s Unfit!
With the collapse of the Third Reich and the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945 the full impact of the implications of eugenics ended the project of “human betterment through selective breeding” both in Germany and the United States. But across Christendom the Jewish Problem remains and antisemitism, as repeatedly demonstrated by bi-annual Anti-Defamation League surveys, remains fairly constant. According to ADL’s most recent survey, in 2011 fully twelve percent of Christian Americans were reported “extremely antisemitic” while more than a third of Americans continue to believe that “the Jews killed Jesus.” In Europe antisemitism is again becoming more open, confident and widespread. Eighty years after National Socialism was democratically voted into power in Germany antisemitism is again represented in Europe’s parliaments.
VIII. Exceptionality and Jewish denial
Let’s imagine that all Jews in the United States, including those assimilated and those Christians defined by Germany’s 1935 Nuremberg Laws “Jewish” the result of “a single Jewish grandparent” spontaneously appreciated the threat, accepted that the United States may become the locus of the next Holocaust. Would American Jewry choose to leave? Our principle model is German-Jewry before the Holocaust. How and why did German-Jewry respond as they did?
Reasons for German-Jews remaining in place included “pride”: they considered themselves Germans, part of the German nation. But almost immediately following Hitler’s rise he described Jews aliens, as early as 1933 having the Reichstag pass laws depriving them of citizenship. Had German Jewry the precedent of a recently failed “final solution,” would they have responded differently to Hitler’s election; would they have still delayed leaving expecting the threat represented by the Fuehrer eventually pass? NYU Holocaust historian Professor Engels
suggests not. In addition to identification as German, Engels describes other barriers:
“Emigration meant financial loss, separation from family and friends, loss of social status, and the hardships of building a new life in unfamiliar surroundings.”
Clearly the decision to leave one’s home will always be difficult. But in the end those who left early survived.
American Jewry in 2014 has two advantages over German and European Jewry in 1933. The Holocaust, the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem, is recent history, an undeniable warning of future possibility, of future likelihood. Jews today have the advantage of knowing that that which was unimaginable just a few decades earlier is today’s reality. And today there exists not just that which was unavailable during the Holocaust, a refuge from Auschwitz; today there exists a refuge available, armed and determined, a state created by Zionism to serve that very purpose.
IX. Israel, the Diaspora and the Jewish Solution
This book, with its implications for the dire future of the Jewish People, was emotionally difficult to research, more difficult to write. Throughout I was forced to confront my own doubts, my own preconceptions regarding the appearance of normalcy that surrounds each of us in everyday America life. We do not go about questioning the possibility that our neighbor; that the non-Jewish parent of our spouse could, as in Germany, be a passive, even active participant in the next effort to end Jewish existence. But that which began as an uneasy feeling regarding our future as a People soon confronted the obvious and relentless fact of our history of persecution, of a hate two-thousand years long and counting. The Jewish Problem or, in Rosemary Ruether’s description, “the left hand of Christology,” is as old as Christianity itself. It represents, as she describes, an essential and integral part of her religion. All streams of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, share the same scripture, the same primary theology. And all share the same pre- and post-Reformation history of anti-Jewish persecution. And underlying and motivating two thousand years of persecution lays the yet unresolved Jewish Problem:
“The anti-Judaic tradition in Christianity grew as a negative and alienated expression of a need to legitimate its revelation in Jewish terms… it continues on… even up to this day.” (Faith and Fratricide, p. 94)
At every turn in my writing Rosemary Ruether seemed always “just around the corner.” Her insights not only into the “fratricide” of her book’s title; her “left hand of Christology” which she traces to the present and the future absorbed by Western secularism its parent in history and religion, Christianity:
“When Hitler came, armed with an antisemitism that translated the older antipathy to the Jews into racist form, he turned the negation of Jewish existence into brutal fact and executed—something the Christian Church had never done—the ancient death-wish against the Jews with the technology of genocide.“ (p. 13, emphasis added)
“In Hitler, the Fuehrer empowers himself with the ultimate work of Christ to execute the “Final Solution to the Jewish question.”(pps. 224-5).
If a renowned Catholic theologian is willing to honestly and directly confront Christianity’s Jewish Problem and its ultimate Final Solution, why then are we Jews, victim to that persecution and inevitable end, determined to deny those same facts upon which she arrives at her condemnation?
Most Jewish historians, writers and thinkers prefer to describe the Shoah as “a departure from history,” an aberration explicable by conditions specific to Germany between the wars. It has even been described by Jewish religious authorities and authors as mysterious, as if the God of Israel would provide six million Jews as burnt offering in an obscure and horrendous lesson to mankind!
One-and-a-half million Jewish children murdered, their mother’s compelled to witness a mystery provided by God?