George Mosse on German anti-Semitism (1970)

George L. Mosse was a Berlin-born writer and historian who fled Germany when a teenager in 1933. Later, in 1970, he wrote on the nature of German anti-Semitism:

“German anti-Semitism is a part of German intellectual history. It does not stand outside it. Above all, it became involved with the peculiar turn which German thought took after the first decade of the 19th century. German thought became at once provincial, in its search for roots, and idealistic, in its rejection of mere outward progress, in its belief in the irrationality of culture. Here the Jew was the outsider, and if he could at times gate-crash by assimilation in the 19th century, that did not fundamentally alter the emerging image of the Jew. Culture was closed to him for he lacked the necessary foundations…

The stereotypical Jew that emerges from [German] popular culture provided one of the most important roots of German anti-Semitism. It was an ominous image, the more so as it was in all instances associated not only with contempt but with actual cruelty. It became a reality in the early days of National Socialism with the pictures of the captured Eastern Jews sweeping the streets or having their beards pulled amid the hilarity of the mob. The image of the Jew was outside the range of serious political and social analysis, and that was its strength. In this way, it provided the emotional basis for a totalitarian solution to these problems. There must have been many who, like Hitler, when faced with real problems, first awakened to the stereotype of the “Jew” and then built their ideology around it.”