Goebbels on the Jews
Edited, translated, and introduced by Thomas Dalton, PhD
New for 2019, from Castle Hill
From the age of 26 until his death in 1945, Joseph Goebbels kept a near-daily diary. In it he recorded significant events of the day, along with his thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics, most notably the Jewish policy of the Third Reich. Here we get a detailed and unprecedented look at the attitudes of one of the highest-ranking men in Nazi Germany.
As such, these entries have a profound effect on our understanding of the Holocaust. Nowhere in the diary does Goebbels discuss any Hitler order to kill the Jews, nor is there any reference to extermination camps, gas chambers, or systematic mass-murder. Goebbels acknowledges that Jews did indeed die by the thousands; but the range and scope of killings evidently fall far short of the claimed figure of 6 million.
This book contains, for the first time, every significant diary entry relating to the Jews or Jewish policy. There are 178 such entries in all, in both English and German original. Entries are covered in chronological order, along with additional commentary and contextual remarks. Also included are partial or full citations of 10 major essays by Goebbels on the Jews, which bring important clarity to our understanding of his views.
What emerges is a picture of an intelligent and highly-educated man who wanted the best for his German people, and who therefore had to grapple with what he saw as the primary threat to their well-being—the Jews.
CHAPTER 1: A "CONTEMPTIBLE LITTLE RACE" 7
Context: Jews and Germans in History 17
CHAPTER 2: THE FIRST WORLD WAR 25
The Rise of Bolshevism 29
The Paris Peace Conference and Treaty of Versailles 35
The Jewish Weimar 37
Into the National Socialist Era 40
Chronological Overview 42
CHAPTER 3: THE ROARING TWENTIES 45
CHAPTER 4: DEPRESSION YEARS AND RISE TO POWER 63
CHAPTER 5: ONSET OF WAR 91
CHAPTER 6: VICTORY UPON VICTORY: 1941 103
CHAPTER 7: PEAK HOLOCAUST: 1942 139
CHAPTER 8: PEAK HOLOCAUST (Part Two) 165
CHAPTER 9: THE TIDE TURNS: 1943 181
CHAPTER 10: THE TIDE TURNS (Part Two) 207
CHAPTER 11: WITHDRAWAL, LOSS and the HUNGARIAN OPERATION: 1944 235
CHAPTER 12: THE CURTAIN FALLS: 1945 247
The story of the Jewish Holocaust makes for fascinating study, not the least because of its countless falsehoods, misrepresentations, lies of omission, and propaganda uses. The conventional story is filled with so many errors and obfuscations that future historians will surely be amazed that it could have survived and been accepted by so many people for so many years. Only an astonishingly effective power structure could do this, and this network of control is deserving of study in its own right. But my focus here is on the standard account of the Holocaust, and of what likely did, and did not, happen. In other words, it is my goal in this book to help set the story straight.
Let’s begin with a quick look at the political hierarchy of National Socialist Germany. Adolf Hitler’s government consisted of a large but efficient bureaucracy, one appropriate and necessary for the management of nearly 80 million people. It included a fairly conventional network of departments: five cabinet positions, eight Reich offices, and 15 Reich ministries, along with a variety of other lesser departments and offices.
Many individual men held positions of power, of course, but at the very top of the power hierarchy were Hitler and his innermost circle, which was comprised of four men, each holding multiple titles. First there was Hermann Göring: Reichstag president, Minister President of Prussia, and Supreme Commander of the Luftwaffe. Second was Martin Bormann, who served as Chief of the Party Chancellery and Reichsleiter, and who was also Hitler’s personal secretary. Third was Heinrich Himmler: Reichsführer of the SS, Chief of Police, and Minister of the Interior. And the fourth member of this innermost inner circle was a very bright and highly educated man by the name of Paul Joseph Goebbels.
This is not a biography of Goebbels’s life, but a few basic facts are in order. He was born into a devout Catholic family on 29 October 1897 in the town of Rheydt, near Düsseldorf. He went on to study at four universities, eventually settling at Heidelberg, where he earned a PhD in history and philology in 1921. He was a prolific scholar and writer, eventually producing over a dozen books. Goebbels apparently first took notice of Hitler and his National Socialist platform in late 1923, and was working for the Party by late 1924. Within a year he was editing Nazi periodicals while working with Gregor Strasser and others of the northern Party branch.
Goebbels soon earned the attention of Hitler, and was named gauleiter (district leader) of Berlin in October 1926. He founded a major Nazi periodical, Der Angriff, in 1927, and by 1930 was promoted to Leader of Reich Propaganda (Reichspropagandaleiter). He was thus well-placed by the time Hitler and the NSDAP acceded to power in 1933. As the most intelligent and well-educated of the National Socialist leaders, he quickly rose to the highest party levels. One observer with firsthand knowledge of the man was Hugh Wilson, US ambassador to Germany in 1938. Wilson called Goebbels “this man of high intelligence” and “an interesting and stimulating conversationalist,” adding that, “among the leading men of the Nazi Party, there is none who… is so well able to expound the Nazi doctrine, or so competent to meet the foreigner on his own ground” (1941: 291-292).
Goebbels would eventually become, along with Hitler and Göring, a member of the early leadership trinity of the Party; he would retain this power and influence through the war years and right to the very end of the Third Reich. In time he would eclipse both Göring and Himmler, the latter of whom served more as an enforcer than actual leader. Into the 1940s, Goebbels “was the most important and influential man after Hitler… [B]y 1943, he was virtually running the country while Hitler was running the war”. Thus Goebbels was uniquely situated to comment on, and help resolve, the Judenfrage—the Jewish Question.
Among his many virtues was a fierce sense of personal discipline. From the time of his 26th birthday in late 1923 until his death more than 21 years later, he maintained a near-daily diary. These entries are at once unique and invaluable in their ability to provide insight into the National Socialist hierarchy, ideology and operation. Nothing else like them exists. No other leading Nazi figure recorded such personal and intimate thoughts on an on-going basis. Hitler’s Mein Kampf was written in 1924 and 1925, but he published nothing later. The comments recorded in Hitler’s Table Talk (1953) are perhaps the closest to Goebbels’s writings, but these cover in detail only the period July 1941 to September 1942, and they furthermore have not much to add on the topic at hand. We of course have the many speeches by Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler and other leading figures, but such words were designed for a specific effect and did not necessarily give an honest and unvarnished representation of ideas or events.
Unlike most diaries, this one was intended to serve as a formal record, for posterity, of the various events and thoughts that one man experienced before and during World War Two. As Goebbels himself explains, in the entry dated 30 March 1941:
I placed my diaries, 20 thick volumes, into the underground safes of the Reichsbank. They are too valuable to fall victim to a possible bombing raid. They describe my whole life and our time. If fate allows me a few more years, then I want to revise it for later generations. It will probably find a lot of interest outside.
The war was going well for the Germans at that time, and Goebbels had every reason to expect to survive “a few more years” (he would in fact live for another four years and two months). He thus was documenting his private and personal observations with an eye to the future. He wanted a permanent record of his innermost thoughts; in this sense, he succeeded.
As such, the diaries offer us an irreplaceable look at National Socialist policy on the Jews. But are they reliable? Most assuredly, they are, as even hostile modern commentators admit. Toby Thacker (2009: 3), for example, writes that “Goebbels’s diary is remarkably trustworthy” and that, when compared to other contemporaneous accounts of things, “the accuracy of his diary as a factual record is invariably confirmed.” (This regarding a man whom Thacker calls “one of the great liars of history.”) In addition to recording basic facts, Goebbels is more than willing to criticize leading figures in the NSDAP, “up to and including Hitler.” This suggests a real commitment to honesty and truth.
Goebbels’s position as minister of propaganda does not mean that he cannot be trusted; in fact, precisely the opposite: propaganda cannot be effective unless it is, by and large, true. This was acknowledged decades ago by prominent French scholar Jacques Ellul in his monumental work Propaganda (1962), and specifically with respect to Goebbels. Early in his book, Ellul refers to “Goebbels’s insistence that facts to be disseminated must be accurate” (p. 53). In line with Thacker’s snide remark above, Ellul adds that Goebbels “wore the title of Big Liar… and yet he never stopped battling for propaganda to be as accurate as possible. He preferred being cynical and brutal to being caught in a lie.” Ellul continues:
He was always the first to announce disastrous events or difficult situations, without hiding anything. The result was a general belief, between 1939 and 1942, that German communiqués not only were more concise, clearer, and less cluttered, but were more truthful than Allied communiqués—and furthermore, that the Germans published all the news two or three days before the Allies. All this is so true that pinning the title of Big Liar on Goebbels must be considered quite a propaganda success.
A striking endorsement of Goebbels’s passion for the truth.
By all indications, then, the diaries are honest and sincere thoughts, uncolored by any diplomatic niceties. And of course, for nearly the entire period he had nothing to worry about; the party was constantly growing in power, and the early stages of the war were completely positive. He had every reason to expect a quick German victory, and then to spend his later years building a National Socialist state. Under such conditions, anyone willing to criticize Hitler in writing would certainly not hold back when it came to the Jews.
Thus, when it comes to Nazi Jewish policy, Goebbels’s writings are invaluable. Much to the chagrin of Thacker and his fellow orthodox historians, “it’s difficult to imagine any future histories of the Holocaust which will not rely heavily… on key passages from Goebbels’s diary.” Unfortunately for Thacker and others, these “future histories” will assuredly differ from present-day portrayals of events.
The diaries first surfaced a few years after the war. An unknown scavenger came upon the bundles of originals—some 7,000 pages in total—in the ruins of the official German archives. Pages were burned, soaked, and many were missing. They “passed through several hands,” eventually becoming acquired by an American diplomat. In 1948 a (very) partial English translation by Louis Lochner appeared, on selected entries from 1942 and 1943. Unknown at the time, the Soviets had independently acquired a full set of glass plate prints of the entire diary series, amounting to an astonishing 75,000 individual sheets. By various obscure means, portions leaked out over the years. Then in 1992, renegade historian David Irving (re)discovered the full set in the Soviet archives, and was able to fill in all the missing gaps. These were widely cited in his 1996 work Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich.
Today, there are four English translations of different portions of the diary:
1. the original 1948 Lochner translation;
2. Oliver Watson’s “early entries,” from the years 1925-1926;
3. Fred Taylor’s translation of the period 1939-1941; and
4. Richard Barry’s “final entries” of 1945.
These four books combined constitute not more than 10% of the total; a full 90% of the diaries have never appeared in English.
Fortunately, though, with Irving’s discovery in 1992, the German publisher Saur was able to produce a complete and authoritative set in the German original: Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels. The full set runs to 29 volumes of roughly 500 pages each, and is divided into 2 parts: Part 1 from 1923-1941, and Part 2 from 1941-1945. The final volume was released only in 2006, and so the complete set is still relatively new to researchers. To date, very few have made good use of it.
Of particular interest here are Goebbels’s disclosures about National Socialist policy toward a final solution (Endlösung) of the Jewish Question, which of course directly relate to our conception of the Holocaust. On the standard view, the entire Nazi leadership, Hitler above all, were rabid and irrational anti-Semites who would settle for nothing less than the mass murder of every Jew they could get their hands on. They allegedly pursued this objective even to the detriment of the war effort, as they rounded up and gassed Jews until the final few months. Their alleged 6 million victims were burned, buried or otherwise made to vanish, such that traces of just a mere fraction of these bodies have ever been found. There are, as we know, many problems with this account—far more than I can recount here. The interested reader should consult my own works The Holocaust: An Introduction (2016) or better, Debating the Holocaust (2015). Here it will have to suffice to mention a few concerns that relate specifically to Goebbels and his diary.
The first issue is a perennial sore point for orthodox historians. It is the fact that, despite Hitler serving as virtual dictator of the Third Reich, with sole power over all major decisions, he seems to never have directly ordered the mass murder of the Jews. No ‘extermination order’ from Hitler has ever been discovered—nor even any tangible reference to such. This fact, widely admitted by all parties today, is a never-ending source of embarrassment to those who insist that Hitler must have ordered the killing of the Jews. One finds various speculative responses in the standard literature: the orders were verbal; they were implicit; they were written but destroyed. Some theories border on the absurd. Prominent Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg, for example, was reduced to nonsense in his infamous “mind-reading” statement of 1983, and even as late as 2003 he felt compelled to write as follows:
The process of destruction… did not, however, proceed from a basic plan. … The destruction process was a step-by-step operation, and the administrator could seldom see more than one step ahead. … In the final analysis, the destruction of the Jews was not so much a product of laws and commands as it was a matter of spirit, of shared comprehension, of consonance and synchronization. (2003: 50-52)
Even preeminent British Hitler expert Ian Kershaw couldn’t do much better. The Soviet archives were opened up in the early 1990s; “predictably, a written order by Hitler for the ‘Final Solution’ was not found. The presumption that a single explicit written order had ever been given had long been dismissed by most historians” (2008: 96). Rather, this most momentous destruction of human life occurred via “improvised bureaucratic initiatives whose dynamic prompted a process of ‘cumulative radicalization’ in the fragmented structures of decision-making in the Third Reich” (94)—a statement hardly more coherent than Hilberg’s.
Nothing in Goebbels’s diaries changes this situation. As Irving (1996: 388) observes, “Nowhere do the diary’s 75,000 pages refer to an explicit order by Hitler for the murder of the Jews.” This lack of an order, of course, raises a huge issue. It suggests that the entire program of an alleged ‘high-speed assembly line of death’ never really existed, and hence that the killing process, and therefore the overall death toll, were much different—much less—than we have been told. And this fact has huge implications for the present day.
Second: Clearly, though, something happened to the Jews. What, then, do we see regarding the ‘final solution’ to the Jewish problem in Goebbels’s diaries? Notable are the many topics that are absent. Not only do we find no Hitler order, we see no talk of gas chambers, extermination camps, Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor, crematoria etc.—in other words, the usual suspects of the conventional Holocaust story. Nor do we read explicit and unambiguous words like ‘murder’ (morden, ermorden), ‘kill’ (töten, umbringen), ‘slay’ (erschlagen, totschlagen), ‘shoot dead’ (erschiessen, totschiessen), or ‘gas’ (vergasen). All these are missing.
So, what happened to the Jews? By all accounts, it was something bad. But it was not mass murder—or at least, nothing on the scale presumed by Holocaust historians. Rather, what we find in the diaries are remarks on the same basic idea that we hear repeatedly from Hitler, namely: a ruthless process of ethnic cleansing. All the leading Nazis were in agreement: the German Reich must be cleared of Jews. Slowly and gradually at first, later more urgently. Gently or forcefully. But they all had to go. This was the consistent and uniform message repeated by virtually every leading figure in the National-Socialist movement, from the very beginning. We see this in the words of Hitler, Göring, Himmler, and in the speeches, editorials, and diary entries of Joseph Goebbels. The words are harsh and uncompromising, and certainly offensive to modern ears. In the hands of hostile, often Jewish, translators, the German original is rendered in the most violent way possible: “exterminating the Jews,” “destroying the Jews,” “annihilating the Jews”—all clearly implying mass murder. But we should not be too surprised to learn that there is more to the truth than this, as I will explain. In short, virtually all such references by Goebbels and others refer to expulsion and deportation of the Jews, not to their mass murder. This fact alone has monumental significance for the Holocaust story.
Apart from the lack of a Hitler order and references to ethnic cleansing, there is a third issue at hand. Once the alleged extermination process was underway, we find no direct evidence that either Hitler or Goebbels knew anything about it—which is inconceivable, if it were actually happening. This, again, is highly problematic for our conventional historians. Take Kershaw (2000), for example. He undertakes an amazing series of gyrations to argue that Hitler both planned the Jewish genocide and knew about its progress, despite the lack of any evidence. His points overlap with the diary entries, which I will cover later on. Suffice to say here that, on Kershaw’s reading, Hitler was incredibly aloof on the Jewish Question. “Even in his inner circle, Hitler could never bring himself to speak with outright frankness about the killing of the Jews” (p. 487)—in other words, he never, ever spoke openly about this most-vital aspect of the entire Nazi program. Hitler’s comments were always “confined to generalities,” sprinkled in with the “occasional menacing allusion.” Thus, with a mere wink and a nod, the mass murder of 6 million Jews was effected.
Given the striking lack of evidence, and the inconceivability that mass murder of millions was underway without awareness at the top, only two alternatives are possible: (1) the Nazi hierarchy knew all about the mass murder but mutually agreed to never discuss it, or to refer to it only in euphemisms and code language—even in the most private of settings; or (2) no systematic mass murder occurred at all, and the reality was in fact just as they said: expulsion and deportation, along with a certain degree of incidental death. The distinction between these two alternatives cannot be over-estimated. This is not mere quibbling over minor details; it is a matter of world-historical importance. I would suggest that a detailed look at Goebbels’s diary entries, in conjunction with the alleged ‘extermination’ actions that were occurring at the same time, may shine some light on this dispute.
Context: Jews and Germans in History
Before turning to the diary entries themselves, I need to give a fair amount of historical context. All events related to National Socialism and its Jewish policy have roots that reach back centuries. German actions were not some aberrant phenomenon, and not invented from whole cloth by Hitler. Harsh, critical and hostile words and actions against the Jews in Germany have a long and distinguished pedigree; and despite modern-day impressions, they have considerable justification. Here I will look at the main historical critiques of Jews by Germans, and in the next chapter I will examine the lead-up, conduct and aftermath of World War One.
Long before anyone in Germany even contemplated the possibility of a world war, Jews were there, causing problems. They had resided among the Germanic people for centuries, at least since the Dark Ages. Gradually they rose to positions of prominence, attaining significant influence under the reigns of Charlemagne (800-814) and Louis the Pious (813-840). Their power stemmed from money, as they had long been associated with usury and lending at interest, something that was banned for others by Church authorities of the time. When the Black Death hit Europe in 1348 and 1349, many Jews were blamed and thus banished from Germanic territories. Yet they persisted, returning again to positions of power and influence among German nobility. This angered many, in particular the noted theologian Martin Luther. In 1542, he remarked that “I intend to write against the Jews once again because I hear that some of our lords are befriending them. I’ll advise them to chase all the Jews out of their land. … They’re wretched people”. The following year he published a striking work, On the Jews and their Lies. Referring to that “miserable and accursed people” and their “poisonous activities,” Luther catalogued a whole litany of vices: self-glory, conceit, lying, blasphemy, usury, theft, arrogance. If all else fails, “we must drive them out like mad dogs,” he exclaimed.
By the late 1700s, prominent German intellectuals were taking note of the Hebrews. In 1791, Johann Herder referred to Jewry as a “widely diffused republic of cunning usurers,” one that managed to dominate the finance and commerce of the host Germans. Their financial gains, coming primarily from interest, were thus drawn directly from the wealth of the German masses—a situation that Herder likened to “parasitical plants on the trunks of other nations” (1968: 144). Two years later, the philosopher Immanuel Kant observed that Judaism, as originally constituted in the Old Testament,
excludes from its communion the entire human race, on the ground that it [Jewry] was a special people chosen by God for Himself—[an exclusiveness] which showed enmity toward all other peoples and which, therefore, evoked the enmity of all. (1793/1960: 117)
In a later work, Anthropology (1798), Kant examined the ethics of deception—a fitting topic for the race at hand:
[The Jews], living among us, or at least the greatest number of them, have through their usurious spirit since their exile, received the not-unfounded reputation of deceivers. It seems strange to think of a nation of deceivers; but it is just as strange to think of a nation made up of nothing but merchants, which are united for the most part by an old superstition that is recognized by the government under which they live. They do not seek any civil honor, but rather wish to compensate their loss by profitably outwitting the very people among whom they find protection, and even to make profit from their own kind. It cannot be otherwise with a whole nation of merchants, who are nonproductive members of society… (1978: 101)
Georg Hegel was briefer but no less pointed. In his philosophical examination of Christianity, he remarked that “the only act Moses reserved for the Israelites was… to borrow with deceit and repay confidence with theft” (1975: 190). Another noted intellectual, Johann Fichte, saw the need to question the Jewish proclivity for creating an inbred and isolated sociopolitical system of their own, as a means of circumventing the rule of German law and morality. Fichte condemned this Jewish “state with the state”: “this state is fearful—not because it forms a separate and solidly united state but because this state is founded on the hatred of the whole human race” (in Poliakov 1965: 512). These concerns evidently did not hold sway, however, because the Jews of Germany gradually attained full civil rights: in Prussia (1812), Württemberg (1826) and upon German unification in 1870 in the whole nation.
In the mid 1800s, Arthur Schopenhauer saw the need to comment on “this wretched religion of the Jews,” one that “occupies the lowest place among the dogmas of the civilized world”. For Schopenhauer, Jews were a gens extorris, a refugee race, eternally uprooted, always seeking but never finding a homeland: “Till then, it lives parasitically on other nations and their soil; but yet it is inspired with the liveliest patriotism for its own nation” (vol 2: 262). The “contemptible little Jewish race” (393) has held far too much influence in Western religion and culture; it is telling, says Schopenhauer,
how much the Jews were at all times and by all nations loathed and despised. This may be partly due to the fact that they were the only people on earth who did not credit man with any existence beyond this life and were, therefore, regarded as beasts… Scum of humanity—but great master of lies [grosse Meister im Lügen]. (357 note)
Above all, the corrupt Jewish ideology had to be purged: “We may therefore hope that one day even Europe will be purified of all Jewish mythology” (226).
The problematic role of German Jews affected even Karl Marx—himself a German Jew. In a famous early essay, he comments on “the real Jew,” the “everyday Jew,” for whom religion is something secondary. What truly matters for Jews, said Marx, are material goods: “What is the profane basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly cult of the Jews? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money” (1843/1978: 48). Present disputes over the “emancipation” of German Jews were best resolved through the “emancipation of mankind from Judaism.”
It was around this same time that a well-known German historian, Theodor Mommsen, produced a major study on ancient Rome. Among other things, he made pointed observations on the Jewish role at that time. Mommsen wrote, “Also in the ancient world, Judaism was an effective ferment of cosmopolitanism and of national decomposition” (1856/1871: 643). In other words, Jews were a disruptive force, agitating for social and political changes that would serve to benefit them. They would disturb and even disintegrate the social order, no matter the cost to other peoples, simply because they stood to gain in power and wealth. This idea caught the attention of Goebbels and Hitler, both of whom frequently referred to the Jews as the “ferment of decomposition”.
With the formation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867 and German unification in 1870, Jews throughout the Germanic world found great opportunities to further enhance their wealth and prestige. As Jerry Muller (2002: 348) observes, “[n]o group had benefited more from the liberal era than the Jews.” Their rapid success in Austria, for example, was astonishing:
By the end of the empire [in 1918], between a quarter and a third of students at the University of Vienna were Jewish. Jews dominated the liberal professions of medicine and law. They owned many of the major Austrian banks as well as the most important newspaper in the country, the Neue Freie Presse.
Albert Lindemann quotes a German-Jewish writer who lived in Vienna around 1900: “[A]ll public life was dominated by Jews. The banks, the press, the theater, literature, social organizations, all lay in the hands of the Jews…” All this was made possible by “liberal principles of equality” and the democratic ideal; and hence one can well understand how it is that, in the present day, such principles are proclaimed as the highest accomplishments of mankind.
In Germany, meanwhile, Jews quickly took up dominant positions in finance and commerce after unification, and they became closely associated with free-market capitalism and the stock exchange. “Many highly visible Jews made fortunes in dubious ways… Those Jewish newly rich in Germany… were widely regarded as especially offensive… [T]hey were unusually ruthless in their quest for monetary gain.” In 1874, a popular liberal magazine reported that “90% of brokers and stock promoters in the capital [Berlin] were Jews”—“which,” admits Lindemann, “may have been true” (119-120). Sarah Gordon cites a whole range of impressive statistics on German Jews of that era:
Before the First World War, for example, Jews occupied 13 percent of the directorships of joint-stock corporations and 24 percent of the supervisory positions within these corporations. … [D]uring 1904 they comprised 27 percent of all lawyers, 10 percent of all apprenticed lawyers, 5 percent of court clerks, 4 percent of magistrates, and up to 30 percent of all higher ranks of the judiciary. … Jews were [also] overrepresented among university professors and students between 1870 and 1933. For example, in 1909-1910… almost 12 percent of instructors at German universities were Jewish… [I]n 1905-1906 Jewish students comprised 25 percent of the law and medical students… The percentage of Jewish doctors was also quite high, especially in large cities, where they sometimes were a majority. … [I]n Berlin around 1890, 25 percent of all children attending grammar school were Jewish… (1984: 10-14)
Astonishing numbers, given that Jews never exceeded 2% of the German population.
Such a turn of affairs gave further impetus to criticism. Journalist Wilhelm Marr declared in 1879 the “victory of Jewry over Germandom.” Germans had proven themselves unable to fend off the invader, and were now suffering the consequences:
The slick, cunning, elastic Jews wormed their way into this confused, clumsy Germanic element. The Jews were well-suited by their purely realistic intelligence—their slyness—to look down upon Germandom, and to subdue the monarchical, knightly, lumbering German by enabling him in his vices.
Famed composer Richard Wagner fully agreed with this sentiment. In an 1881 letter, he wrote:
I regard the Jewish race as the born enemy of pure humanity and everything that is noble in it; it is certain that we Germans will go under before them, and perhaps I am the last German who knows how to stand up as an art-loving man against the Judaism that is already getting control of everything.
That same year he also published an essay titled “Know thyself” in a Bayreuth newspaper, again criticizing the negative effects of Jews on German society. Wagner wrote (Wagner 1881, Vol. 6, pp. 264-274):
The Jew, on the other hand, is the most astonishing example of race consistency ever produced by world history. … Even racial mixing fails to harm him; he mixes male or female with the most foreign of races, and a Jew always comes to light. … He has not the slightest contact with the religion of any civilized nation, for in truth he has no religion at all, but only the faith in certain promises of his God, which in no sense extend to a life beyond this temporal life, as in every true religion… Thus the Jew has neither to think nor ponder, nor even to calculate, because the hardest calculation lies in his instincts which, closed to any ideality, are perfectly finished in advance. A wonderful, incomparable phenomenon: the plastic demon of decay of humanity, in triumphant security—and German citizens as well, of a Mosaic denomination, the darling of liberal princes and guarantor of our imperial unity. (emphasis added)
Again, as with Mommsen, this striking phrase caught the eye of Goebbels, who often referred to Jews as “plastic demons of decay” in both his diary and his speeches.
And then there is the critique offered by Friedrich Nietzsche, which is so intricate and far-reaching that it demands a separate study of its own. Much of his case it too complex to be synopsized here, but in short, he blames Christian morality—or rather, Judeo-Christian morality—for the decline of the West, which was marked in its greatness by the worldviews of ancient Greece and Rome:
The symbol of this battle, written in a script which has remained legible through all human history up to the present, is called “Rome against Judea, Judea against Rome.” To this point there has been no greater event than this war, this posing of a question, this contradiction between deadly enemies. Rome felt that the Jew was like something contrary to nature itself, its monstrous polar opposite, as it were. In Rome the Jew was considered “guilty of hatred against the entire human race”. And that view was correct, to the extent that we are right to link the health and the future of the human race to the unconditional rule of aristocratic values, the Roman values. (OGM, I, Sec. 16)
If one thing is certain, he says, it’s that the Jews are, in some sense, deeply untrustworthy:
People of the basest origin, in part rabble, outcasts not only from good but also from respectable society, raised away from even the smell of culture, without discipline, without knowledge, without the remotest suspicion that there is such a thing as conscience in spiritual matters; simply—Jews: with an instinctive ability to create an advantage, a means of seduction out of every superstitious supposition… When Jews step forward as innocence itself, then the danger is great. (Will to Power, Sec. 199)
Because of this, they seem to have never moved beyond their historical role as subverters of society and culture. As Nietzsche writes in one of his final works, Antichrist (1888):
[T]he Jews are the most catastrophic people of world history… The Jewish nation… took the side of all decadence instincts… because it divined in them a power by means of which one can prevail against ‘the world.’ The Jews… have a life-interest in making mankind sick, and in inverting the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ ‘true’ and ‘false’ in a mortally dangerous and world-maligning sense. (sec. 24)
In the hands of the Jewish priests—Paul above all—Christianity becomes radically falsified: a lie perpetrated against the pagan masses in order to propagate a lowly ‘slave morality,’ thus undermining the local base of the Roman Empire:
In Christianity, all of Judaism, a several-century-old Jewish preparatory training and technique of the most serious kind, attains its ultimate mastery as the art of lying in a holy manner. The Christian, the ultima ratio of the lie, is the Jew once more—even three times a Jew. (sec. 44)
Such observations form the backdrop for the rise of National Socialism. Knowledge of them is crucial for an understanding of Nazi attitudes and actions.