The Holocaust
The Holocaust

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The Holocaust

1.2 Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism was not an invention of the twentieth century, nor was it simply a German phenomenon. In the years before 1914 violent pogroms were directed against Jews, who were made scapegoats for the problems of the Russian Empire. The flight of Jews from the east, first to escape the violent prejudices unleashed periodically in Tsarist Russia and then to escape the upheavals in the aftermath of World War I, sharpened the anti-Semitism which was already to be found in the west of Europe. The Jewish population of Paris had risen from 24,000 in 1870 to 150,000 sixty years later. In 1882 a Catholic priest established a newspaper whose title, L'Anti-sémitisme, advertised its content; four years later a young journalist, Edouard Drumont, published a deeply unpleasant but very successful book with a similar message, La France juive. The fact that Captain Alfred Dreyfus was a Jew contributed significantly to the hostility directed towards him when he was accused of spying for Germany in 1894; according to La Croix, a newspaper which spoke on behalf of the zealous Catholic Assumptionist Order, his trial became ‘a duel between the army and the Jewish syndicate’. In France Jews were blamed for the economic recession of the 1930s. In Britain anti-Semitism and fear of alien Jews from the east who did not appear to seek assimilation fed into the Aliens Restriction Acts of 1905 and 1919. It was to be seen in British fascism, but it could be found also in non-political, everyday life. When, terrified by the Blitz, the proprietor and his wife of a coffee shop directly opposite a Metropolitan Police section-house sought refuge in the section-house shelter, the police officers, who frequented the coffee shop, objected that ‘We don't want Jews in here’ (H. Daley, This Small Cloud, 1986, p.174). But anti-Semitism, like any other form of racial or religious prejudice, does not automatically lead to mass murder.

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