Those on the Left who seek to use “Nazi” or “Hitler” as a label in their bid to mischaracterize their political enemies rely upon one central assumption: that Hitler was the sole cause of anti-Semitism in Europe, and is solely responsible for the Holocaust.
In simple terms, without Hitler, such anti-Semitism would not exist.
By presenting this notion, the Left are able to wield a significant amount of rhetorical and metaphorical power. If the tipping point between peace and genocide can be represented by one villain, then their hyperbolic warnings are justified. Don’t vote for Trump, for Romney, for Bush! They are the difference between civilization and chaos!
Central to this claim, therefore, is the idea that Germany — and Europe more broadly — was nothing but a tolerant utopia prior to the rise of Nazism. Suddenly, with Hitler at the helm, the continent descended into madness, with citizens driven to a feverish level of racial and religious hatred. This culminated in the Holocaust, with six million Jews systematically murdered, including one million children. When World War II ended, around two thirds of Europe’s Jewish population had been wiped out. “All because they didn’t stop Hitler,” they say.
The “big lie” — to coin the Left’s sudden reprisal of this Hitler-esque term — beneath this “tipping point” assertion is that anti-Semitism was an idea introduced to Germany and Europe by Hitler and the Nazi party.
The brutal reality is that anti-Semitism has been embedded in European — and, arguably, global — culture for centuries. While anti-Semitic sentiment can be traced back to the 3rd century BCE, the Middle Ages in Europe saw widespread and consistent anti-Semitism, both from Christians and Muslims. In the form of “religious anti-Semitism,” such examples included expulsions, forced conversions, massacres, and blood libels — an anti-Semitic canard which falsely accuses Jews of murdering children, often to use their blood in some form of religious ritual. Jews were massacred during the Crusades, labeled as scapegoats for the Black Death, and continually driven from their homes.
In 1543, Martin Luther wrote a pamphlet titled “On the Jews and their Lies,” which included the line “…we are at fault in not slaying them…” Historian Paul Johnson, who wrote “The History of the Jews” in 1987, described this one line — written five hundred years prior to World War II — as perhaps “the first work of modern antisemitism, and a giant step forward on the road to the Holocaust.”
As the centuries passed, Jews were massacred across the Ottoman Empire, expelled from areas of Western Europe, and widely extorted. In Imperial Russia, Jews were persecuted for decades, with Konstantin Pobedonostsev — who later became Czar Nicholas II — declaring that “One third of the Jews must die, one third must emigrate, and one third be converted to Christianity.”
Such discrimination and intolerance was also driven by a collection of European philosophers.
Paul H. Meyer described the French enlightenment philosopher Voltaire as nursing “a violent hatred of the Jews,” and that “it is equally certain that his animosity…did have a considerable impact on public opinion in France.”
In 1850, German composer Richard Wagner — often called “the inventor of modern anti-Semitism” — published “Das Judenthum in der Musik,” which attacked German composers, accused Jews of harming German culture, and argued that Jews manipulated and controlled the economy: “According to the present constitution of this world, the Jew in truth is already more than emancipated: he rules, and will rule, so long as Money remains the power before which all our doings and our dealings lose their force.”
Karl Marx, who wrote “The Communist Manifesto” alongside fellow German philosopher Friedrich Engels, equated Judaism with capitalism in his essay, “On The Jewish Question.”
In the second half of the 19th century, the notion that Jews were obstructing progress was widely disseminated. One such example was provided by Heinrich von Treitschke, a Prussian nationalistic historian, who coined the phrase “the Jews are our misfortune.”
By the 20th century, millions of Jews had traveled to America, many fleeing Eastern Europe to escape persecution, such as the pogroms held during the Russian Civil War, fueled by further blood libels, which resulted in the murder of tens of thousands of Jews.
Even the word “anti-Semitism” preexisted the Nazis, with author Avner Falk writing in 2008 that “The German word antisemitisch was first used in 1860 by the Austrian Jewish scholar Moritz Steinschneider (1816–1907) in the phrase antisemitische Vorurteile (antisemitic prejudices). Steinschneider used this phrase to characterise the French philosopher Ernest Renan’s false ideas about how ‘Semitic races’ were inferior to ‘Aryan races.’”
Even this brief overview demonstrates that the anti-Semitism often uniquely associated with Hitler and Nazi Germany was present in Europe for centuries prior to the 1930s. Given that Hitler didn’t invent the European hatred of Jews, it is unsurprising that anti-Semitism has remained to this very day, despite the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
Driven by a rise in Muslim anti-Semitism and far-Right anti-Semitism, physical violence against Jews has continued in Western Europe, while attacks in Eastern Europe include stabbings and attempted bombings. Anti-Semitism also continues in the Middle East in the form of Arab anti-Semitism, with founder of Human Rights Watch, Robert Bernstein, saying that anti-Semitism is “deeply ingrained and institutionalized” in “Arab nations in modern times.” According to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, for example, only 2% of Egyptians, 3% of Lebanese Muslims, 2% of Jordanians, and 4% of Turks viewed Jews favorably.
The history of anti-Semitism, both in Europe and globally, is deeply complex, with countless historians dedicating years of study to its various forms, causes, and outcomes. However, even this short exploration of anti-Semitism in Europe and its neighboring regions shows that anti-Semitism — described by the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks as the “world’s oldest hatred” — is not a bug in our culture. In many ways, it’s a feature.
This is why Democrats focus entirely on those they associate with Hitler, rather than the deeper history and impact of anti-Semitism. If they can successfully present one single German leader as the sole cause of the worst result of anti-Semitism in human history, they achieve two objectives.
The first is to justify the scale of their rhetoric against mainstream modern conservatives. After all, if Trump is actually like Hitler, and Hitler was the cause of anti-Semitism, then of course we should rally to stop Trump at any cost!
The second is to allow them to ignore the reality that is the continuation of anti-Semitism today. If anti-Semitism is the result of one single figure, then they can ignore the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Ilhan Omar — who describes Jews as hypnotizing the world from their evil — or Rashida Tlaib — who spreads blood libels casting Jews as murderers of children — or Louis Farrakhan — who described Jews as termites.
They can also ignore the spread of anti-Semitism caused by unfettered immigration from Muslim countries, whose imported intolerance runs counter to the Left’s globalist vision of multiculturalism. Finally, they can ignore the anti-Semitic ideology which underpins the obsessive desire to destroy the world’s single Jewish nation by elevating countries who seek the same outcome as Adolf Hitler to platforms such as the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Anti-Semitism didn’t miraculously appear out of thin air after Hitler came to power, and the German people weren’t convinced to hate Jews. Similarly, anti-Semitism didn’t vanish into thin air the moment Adolf Hitler committed suicide as Soviet forces closed in on Berlin.
All Hitler did was pull the veil of civilization away from the faces of many Europeans, showing the horrific evil which lay beneath. Such evil requires far more than one host to survive.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.