Germany always praises itself for the way it has cleaned up anti-Semitism. But it’s a structural problem; crimes with an anti-Semitic background are still on the rise.
In 2019, there where an average of 5.5 hate crimes targeting Jewish people per day in Germany. With 2032 incidents, Germany reached a new high point in religiously motivated offenses towards Jewish people in 20 years.
Although we are extensively taught about the holocaust and its horrors, these numbers mentioned are still emerging in some way or another. Germany prides itself with putting its dark history behind, but antisemitism still seems to exist. This clearly proves that antisemitism is not a problem of the past, it is a crisis of the present.
Prejudice, conspiracies and hatred
To fully grasp the complexity of this topic, one first of all must understand antisemitism. The first distinction that must be made is between antisemitism and anti-judaism. While anti-judaism is the distain of the Jewish people, on the base of the hatred against the Jewish religion, antisemitism is the aversion of Jewish people because of their categorization as a racial group. This difference is particularly important to understand the nuances. The concept of anti-judaism dates back way longer than the idea of antisemitism, as one existed already in the ancient empires of Rome and Greece and the other only developed with the rise of Christianity.
Antisemitism is multi-facetted, but the basis is the dehumanization and redirection of all type of hardships on Jewish people. Additionally, there are many stereotypes and tropes surrounding Jewish people, such as greed, disloyalty, hatred of Christians, but also things like world control and actually being lizards (remember when I mentioned dehumanization?). Some of these tropes are rooted in the history of Jewish existence. One of the most prevalent tropes, greed, exists because of past discrimination against Jewish people. In the middle ages, Jewish people were limited by Christian laws to own land or be part of guilds, which forced them to be involved in the banking trade.
This also leads to various harmful conspiracy theories that Jewish people control the world and economy. Through this trope it is easy to blame all the very real problems of capitalism on Jewish people. In this hindsight, antisemitism frames the function of capitalism as a problem of inherit (Jewish) greed, rather than capitalism itself. But currently, Jews only hold 1.1% of the world wealth, while Christians hold 55%. While the trope of greedy capitalist Jews exist, Jewish people are also seen as corruptors of capitalism, who strive for communism.
Not only for the sake of anger
One can conclude that antisemitism in many ways seems irrational and contradictory. All theories have in common that there are no justifications nor evidence for these ideas. This leads to the question: What is the actual reasoning behind antisemitism?
In his essay “Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate”, Sartre famously wrote: “If the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him.” This quote helps us understand antisemitism is not as a belief but rather a tool of something. It can also help comprehend the inefficiency of debating bigots, as it is not simple hatred, but more of a complete understanding of the world.
Although the recognition of antisemitic individuals is important to understand it, one must also look at the bigger picture. By only looking at hardcore anti-semites, who admit their hatred, one still can not explain antisemitism as a whole. Because even though the right wing is open about their prejudice, antisemitism is also perpetuated by liberals and leftists. And one thing every person should have learned from 10th grade history is that not everyone was a convinced Nazi, but many were “just” complicit collaborators.
The bigger picture mentioned is not only present in the issue of antisemitism, but also misogyny. Whereas we all know that misogyny is the active enforcement of sexism, the grander scheme, the big system if you will, is the patriarchy. This describes the state of the world in which misogyny is just a tool. While antisemitism is a tool, the bigger system is, surprise surprise, white supremacy. In case you wonder, white supremacy is the system which contributes to white people having more liberty, privileges and power than “the rest” of humanity.
Now the question comes up what the actual link between these two are. The workings of white supremacy have to be handled with caution and nuance. As we have established, antisemitic tropes lead to the conclusion, that Jewish people control the world. This for one helps to serve the idea that they are to blame for all problems that are caused by capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, etc., which can furthermore divide marginalized communities. But on the other hand, white supremacists believe that Jewish people manipulate the unseen happenings with the objective to destroy “white” and “Christian” culture. According to these obsessive ideas, Jewish people are the true hinderance of the ultimate goal of a white ethno-state. So, in conclusion antisemitism is the tool for white supremacy to blame all problems on.
The complex world of the imaginary race theory
One now might wonder why white supremacists target Jewish people, because are they not white? This train of thought has three faults. One being that not all Jewish people are of European-Ashkenazi-descent, another that whiteness is contextual and the last that Jews were and are not categorized by Nazis and white supremacists as white, but rather as a completely different race.
In order for white supremacy to work, whiteness has to constantly be extended and that definition of whiteness is and has to be constantly changing. Meaning that certain groups were not considered white a while ago, but now get to enjoy the current privileges of whiteness. But one has to remember that privilege is not the same as power. Although this liberty of whiteness might be currently a part of Ashkenazi-Jewish identity, these advantages are very conditional by the actual people in power.
This giving and taking of white privilege is something very evident within Jewish history, leading for it to be describes as cyclical. One can observe this phenomenon multiple times in history, when Jewish people are giving some privileges, which leads to a certain extent of power, but as soon as any problems arise, they are blamed for them. So, while Jewish people have aspects of privilege and power this is provisional and also there is always a consideration of otherness.
In total, antisemitism acts as a justification and as a tool for what white supremacist already want to believe, which then helps to uphold a system in which white people and currently some Jewish people can benefit from.
One problem can not be solved without the other
We can now see that antisemitism is not an isolated issue, that started in 1933, and ended in 1945. It is not something that randomly came into the head of a failed Austrian art student. It is rooted in the depths of white supremacy. Which is why as long we live in a system grounded in white supremacy, we cannot even think of solving and ending antisemitism. This knowledge must be applied to almost all current issues of prejudice. Most of the problems in our world do not exist as single issues, but they are constantly overlapping, upholding each other and cannot exist without each other.
We have to acknowledge these intersections in order to ensure a better future. We cannot think of them to be solved by arresting a couple people. These are not wrongdoings of a handful of people. This is injustice by a whole system. One cannot fight these issues alone, but one must stand together!
Der BR und der SWR versuchen in einem Instagram-Projekt, die Geschichte Sophie Scholls näher zu bringen. Das Format erlaubt spannende Einblicke in das Gedankengut eingefleischter Nazis.