Holocaust Literature and Film
Day 2-4: The History of Anti-
Semitism and Hitler’s Rise to
Why the Jews?
The history of anti-Semitism explains why
Traditionally the scapegoats
Hitler conveniently blamed them for
Why did people believe him?
Tradition of blaming the Jews
Who are the Jews?
J.P. Sartre, French philosopher, said:
“Anyone is a Jew who thinks he is one, or
who is regarded by others as one.”
Important comment because it shows the
arbitrary criteria on which hatred can be
Jews, the Semitic tribe
Historically, they occupied the territory near the
Dead Sea and the river Jordan.
Area became a Roman protectorate shortly after
the time of Christ
70 AD rebellion against Rome
The temple of Jerusalem destroyed, the
The dispersal of the Jews throughout the
The Term Anti-Semitism
First used as a term in Germany in the
1870’s by Wilhelm Marr
Anti-Judaism would be more accurate
When does Anti-
Begins in Rome, during the Roman
Ca. A.D. 70
Romans disliked the Jews because they did
not swear allegiance to the Roman gods.
Christians and Jews
Anti-Judaism came from the Christian
Saw Judaism as a rival form of the same
Self-definition became a reason to
separate Jews and Christians.
First real massacre of Jews in Europe
Marks beginning of blind unreasoning
prejudice against the Jews.
First crusade, 1096
Stole Christian children
Caused the plague
Desecrated the communion wafer
Engaged in a world wide conspiracy to destroy
There is not one documented case that the Jews
did any of this. Confessions achieved through
Religious, not racial in nature.
Conversion assured acceptance in the
Same accusations resurfaced
Pogroms begin, especially in eastern
Europe and Russia
Restrictions on Jews in Middle
Not allowed to own land, they could not farm
Most professions off limits
Not allowed to join guilds, barred from
Not allowed to practice law or medicine
Could not hold office
Since Christians were prohibited from usury
(lending money) Jews took over banking
Jews prohibited from living in certain parts of
town; Ghettos in all major cities.
1297 first big massacre in Germany: 34 Jews
burned in Fulda
Religiously founded Anti-Judaism in Middle
Martin Luther (ca. 1550) issued many anti-
His writings later exploited by the Nazis
But his dislike for Jews is much different, based
on religion, not race.
Between 16th and 18th Centuries
Changes in attitudes
Economic expansion for all, including the
Jews gained full citizenship rights in
France, Austria and Prussia were among
the first to grant Jews civil freedoms and
rights of citizenship
Jews in Germany in the 1800’s
Very well assimilated into German society
1871 national laws made Jews equal
Jews emerged from Ghettos
Jews regarded Germany as a country
where merit counted above all
They converted, dropped Jewish names
Jews thought of themselves as Germans
of Jewish decent
Anti-Semitism still present
As Jews became successful, old anti-
Semitic hatreds resurfaced
They were associated with capitalism
With the massive changes in society from
the 18th century on, capitalism became
Anti-Semitism was everywhere
Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism
1882-1886 The beginning of racial anti-
Emerged out of an emphasis on
Germany unified under Bismark in 1871
An identity declared through exclusivity
and the creation of a common enemy
Germany still very prosperous
Things are not bad, but when things go bad, the
Jews are blamed
But society is changing, change is frightening
Industrialization, displacement, impoverishment
of workers, insecurity
People wanted an answer, a simple answer.
Racial anti-Semitism grew in these conditions.
Late 19th century, ancient prejudices are
recast in racial form
Use of modern science for racial theories
But really a pseudo-science, not legitimate
Helped to legitimize anti-Semitism
Proliferated throughout Germany and all of
Europe, even in the USA.
The notion came into its own before WWI
Part of public discourse, though a minority view.
Not taken seriously by most people
Calls for the genocide or for the removal of the
Jews to a distant land (Madagascar!)
Just about all that the Nazis thought about the
Jews was already a part of public discourse
before they came to power.
Where Hitler was from
Hotbed of anti-Semitism
Very large numbers of Jews lived in
Austria and Vienna
Jews assumed leading positions in cultural
In Austria especially strong
Anti-Semitism becomes part of political platform
of different parties
The mayor of Vienna, Lueger, used anti-
Semitism as part of his campaign
Helped to legitimize racial prejudice
Anti-Semitism as a political tool
Also in France, the Dreyfus Affair
In Germany, Anti-Semitism did not become part
of political programs of parties until the Nazis
How did Hitler Come to Power?
Looking at Nazi propaganda to see how
he did it.
Early propaganda and Nazi party
advertisements show how he appealed to
the German public.
Look for anti-Semitism as a political tool
WWI (1914-1918): Very crippling defeat
The Weimar Republic was established
after the monarchy came to an end after
What was the Weimar Republic?
What is propaganda?
--some sort of communication to large groups
of people for the purpose of manipulating their
--we are concentrating on visual propaganda
--propaganda posters and films
Joseph Goebbels giving a speech
Ensured a one-sided
exposure of the public
to Nazi ideology
What did Hitler want
art (movies, posters,
paintings, etc.) to do?
What colors do you
What kind of people?
Why are there
soldiers in this
What do you think the
The workers have awakened!
Note the colors used.
What kind of people
What do they
What kind of
symbolism is there?
What else do you
What do you think the
Work and Bread
What is this poster
Why does it say that
the Nazis will bring
work and bread?
What was the
situation in Germany
like at this time?
Bad Economic Times
Germans had to pay money (reparations)
to the winners of WWI
1929 the stock market crashed in the U.S.
The economy bad in Germany
With bad economic times came good
times for the Nazis. Why?
In 1930 the Nazis gain ground in elections
Our last hope: Hitler
What do you think of
Why would it claim
that Hitler is “our last
This is the kind of
message he used to
We have had enough! Elect Hitler
What do you think the
Why would the idea
of breaking free of
enslavement speak to
the German people at
signed in 1919
We have had enough of the
corruption. Elect the Nazis.
Closer to the truth
than the public knew.
The Nazis committed
violence against other
Very famous poster.
What is the message
of this poster?
What do you think the
effect was of just
showing his name as
Triumph of the Will
Director and Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl
Famous Nazi filmmaker
Do you see much about Jews in these
early posters and in the film clip?
Why do you think this is the case?
Anti-Semitism in “Der Stuermer”
The caption here
reads: “With the
The Stuermer was a
Newspaper. It was a
Nazi party publication
for party members
Anti-Semitic propaganda in “Der
The title of this is
What is the message
Retaliation for what?
What do the two
The year is over. The struggle
This has a similar
message as the last
What does this
“Where something is
rotten, the Jew is the
What do you think of this
The worm is named
The apple is named “the
Hitler came to power in 1933
He quickly consolidated power.
He had no powerful connections.
He never even graduated from high
People in powerful positions misjudged
Internationally he was also misjudged.
Nazi Propaganda Posters
after Hitler comes into Power
One people, one empire, one
This copies an old
poster for another
German politician of
the past—Otto von
The underlined “ein
“ein Gott” in the old
Germany is free!
The youth serves the Fuehrer
encourages all ten
year olds to join the
Why is that important
to the Nazis?
Art during the 3rd Reich
The Flagbearer by Hubert
Lanzinger, Nazi artist
What do you think the
message of this artwork
Hitler as Teutonic Knight
in full medieval armor to
Note association with
Germany on the Cross
Example of religious
used for Nazi
crucified like Christ
What kind of art did the Nazis
association of the Nazis
with the Romans
Lots of nudity: idea that
beauty was moral in its
Shows the “perfect”
Seems to have little
for the 20th century
How successful was this kind of
A fair degree of popularity achieved
Some cultural productions had powerful
Example: The staging of the Olympiad in
1936. The world was impressed.
Made into a film: “Olympia” by Leni
Also celebrates the human body
Aesthetic issues and health
issues become one
All this emphasis on the body
Inspired by a return to earlier Roman and Greek
But was mixed with racial pseudo-science
So that beauty was equated with racial purity
and with the health of the German “Volk”
This meant for the German people to be healthy
and beautiful, they had to be pure (i.e. no racial
What kind of art did the Nazis not
Art exhibit poster
The art of European
Dadaism and cubism
were associated with
Artists like Franz Marc,
George Grosz, Pablo
Picasso, Max Beckmann,
What does art have to do with the
As aesthetic issues and health issues
became one, it set the stage for murder
Not German, not pure, and hence “not
beautiful,” was associated with
degenerate, sick and evil
Murder became a form of therapy for the
body of the “Volk”
First kind of “therapy” was
In the 1930’s they began to murder the
mentally handicapped and the physically
T4 program of euthanasia, euphemism for
murder of social outcasts
Hidden from the public, deception made
easier by the confusion caused by the
WWII (begins 1939)
Another “therapy”: the Holocaust
When Germany invaded Poland in 1939 WWII
Now the Nazis had 3 million Jews in Poland to
They applied what they had learned from their
“euthanasia” program to the “problem” there
Einsatzgruppen were inefficient
Gassing experience applied on a grand scale
Making the “Volk” “healthy” and “beautiful”
translates into mass murder.
Nazi ideal of beauty
Very important because it prepared the
way for the Holocaust
The death camps became the instruments
to “beautify” the world
The trappings of state, moral, and medical
authority made things appear legitimate
The Cultural war
against the Jews
After the Nazis came to power
and during the Holocaust
Anti-Semitic propaganda goes
Begins to appear in all sorts of cultural
Its purpose was to project powerful
images of internal and external foes
This helped to maintain the illusion of
Helped to keep the people committed to
the war effort
What do you notice
about this poster?
What does it
The idea of the conspiracy of the
What symbols do you
The Jew: War instigator and war
Blames Jews for
Propaganda for Children
This is a children’s
Called the poison
What does this
What is this
Giftpilz illustration for children
What stereotype is
Giftpilz illustration for children
Shows a Jewish
couple coming out of
The eternal Jew
For the worst of the
A scene in the film
It equates Jews to
Too much for the
People left the theatre
But the less blatant
Why did the Germans accept the Nazis?
It was a time of crisis.
The party propaganda gave them easy answers
to the turmoil they saw around them
Eventually this propaganda made it easier for
the Nazis to implement the Holocaust
“We had the moral right to annihilate the people
who wanted to annihilate us.”
Lessons for us
Look at cultural output with a critical eye
We are influenced by what we see in the
Is the perspective given always fair?
It is easy to trust, but not always wise.
Major Historical Events
Leading up to the Holocaust
Hitler becomes Chancellor
January 30, 1933
The Nazis begin to assume total control of
the German state.
In the coming weeks the federalist
structure of the Weimar Republic and its
democratic government is abolished.
President Hindenburg dies in August
1934, Hitler declares himself “Führer.”
First Concentration Camp
Dachau concentration camp set up on 20th
of March 1933
First inmates include communists,
socialists, homosexuals and Jews.
March 23, 1933. The enabling act
Reichstag (parliament) had been burned down.
The Nazis claimed extreme measures were
needed. An excuse to seize power.
Most historians believe that the Reichstag fire
was orchestrated by Hitler. Hitler was given the
power to rule in an unlimited, unchecked fashion
for 4 years.
Hitler could rule by decree. His word was law/
his actions all legal.
The single most important piece of legislation in
the Nazi era.
The Civil Service Law
April 1933 Any government employee could be
dismissed for any reason at all. Hitler got rid of
people in the Government who objected.
Suddenly the bureaucracy was compliant
Until this point Nazi anti-Semitism was more
rhetoric than action.
Now Hitler could fire the Jews who worked for the
Other laws banning Jews from schools, other
professions and from owning land soon follow
“Night of the Long Knives”
The murder of Ernst Roehm and other SA
leaders on June 30, 1934.
SA stands for “Sturmabteilung” or storm
troopers, also known as “Brownshirts.”
Shock troops of the Nazi Party founded in
After “Night of long knives” SA replaced by
The SS or “Schutzstaffeln”
“Schutzstaffeln” means “protection squad”
Also known as “Black shirts.”
A paramilitary body created in 1925 to protect
the Nazi Party and Hitler.
After Nazis seized absolute power, became the
most powerful organization within the state.
Controlled the concentration and death camp
Nuremberg (Nuernberg) Laws of
Nuremberg is where the Nazis had their party
These laws withdrew citizenship from Jews.
Now they were only subjects.
Forbade marriage and sexual relations between
Jews and Germans.
Jews could not employ German women under
45 in their household.
Identified who was Jewish by % Jewish blood.
Organized persecution of Jews began in
November 9, 1938 Kristallnacht
“Night of shattered glass”
A Jew had killed a
German official in Paris in
response to the expulsion
of his parents.
Used as an excuse.
Goebbels orchestrated a
were burned etc...
25,000 Jews taken to
Broken windows on the
street looked like crystal
in the moonlight
Night-long campaign of
violence leaves 91 dead
Jews were blamed for
Kristallnacht and made to
pay a fine.
August 1939: “Lebensraum”
Literally “living space”
Idea that the German people needed more
room to colonize in the east
Hitler gives speech to generals and urges
liquidation of the Poles in forthcoming war
in order to gain “Lebensraum” for
Sept 1, 1939: Nazis invade
Soviet Union gives approval in August 1939 in a
non-aggression pact between Hitler and Stalin
which includes secret conditions for the division
of eastern Europe
Beginning of WWII
Einsatzgruppen (special mobile units to get rid
of Nazi enemies in territories occupied by Nazis)
begin execution of Poles and Jews in Poland
The Fate of more Jews in the
Hands of the Nazis
Poland had 3 million Jews
Germany only 500,000
Suddenly the Nazis had more Jews to deal with.
At one point they thought of a plan to send the
Jews to Madagascar
British sea power curtailed this plan
First Jews were “resettled” in ghettos
When the USSR attacked in 1941, the Jews
were seen as a particular problem
The Nazis began to think of a "solution”
The Unforeseen Danger for the
Especially the Jews outside of Germany did not
see the danger
They thought the Nazis were a passing phase to
deal with and to survive
They could not anticipate what was coming.
After the war began, it was difficult for anyone to
Jews ordered to wear the Star of David in
November 1939, now they were easily identified
The Holocaust spread all over
As the Nazis occupy different countries,
the persecution and deportation of Jews
and other “undesireable” groups spreads
Fall 1941-Winter 1942: Decision
for the “Final Solution”
There was no written order for this.
Hitler spoke out his orders.
Decision made to exterminate the Jews under
Nazi control in first in mobile vans then in death
December 11. Following bombing of Pearl
Harbor, Germany declares war on the U.S.
January 1942: The Wannsee Conference.
Coordination of the “Final Solution.”