Europe has a very long history of anti-Semitism.
Whether through literature or state policy, the supposed ‘civilized world’ has been disfigured by this ancient bigotry.
In Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, the worst anti-Jewish stereotypes were deployed by the greatest ever writer in the English language, to make Shylock the least sympathetic protagonist.
By the time the Spanish inquisition took place in the 15th century, in which several thousands of Jews were forced to convert to Christianity or leave the country, England and France had expelled their Jewish populations.
The word ghetto has its origins in anti-Semitism too.
Italian Jews were forced to live in ghettos and could only engage in a handful of industries, of which money lending was one.
Across the continent, things weren’t any better.
The pogroms which took place in Eastern Europe, in the late 19th century reflect the extraordinary bigotry with which Jewish folk had to grapple.
Even when the United States of America came to being, state policy was actively opposed to Jewish migration from the old world.
As I alluded to in previous paragraphs, historical literature provides a rich treasure trove on the subject matter of anti-Semitism.
J’Accuse, which was an open letter, written by Emile Zola, was about the witch hunt of a Jewish soldier —Alfred Dreyfuss — in 1898.
Dreyfuss was accused of working with the enemy against his country, with very little by way of evidence. To those who imprisoned him, his background made him an easy target.
Texts on British, French and German imperialism were never complete without some anti-Semitic conspiracy; for those who think that I am being economical with the truth should read John Atkinson Hobson’s text on Imperialism.
And it is against the backdrop of centuries of European literature and history that we must analyze Adolf Hitler.
Germany was roundly defeated in the first world war and owed huge amounts to the victors. The Fuhrer’s rise to power was…