The Jewish Enemy: Review Essay by David Walker

Developmental Time, Cultural Space

Publisher: Harvard University Press

Author: Jeffrey Herf

Format: Paperback
Published on: May, 2010
ISBN-10: 0674027388
Language: English
Pages: 400

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The Jewish Enemy is the first extensive study of how anti-Semitism pervaded and shaped Nazi propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust, and how it pulled together the diverse elements of a delusionary Nazi worldview. In an era when both anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories continue to influence world politics, Herf offers a timely reminder of their dangers along with a fresh interpretation of the paranoia underlying the ideology of the Third Reich.

Jeffrey Herf is professor of Modern European History at the University of Maryland.

About the Reviewer

David M. Walker, PhD is professor of History at Boise State University. Dr. Walker teaches classes in military and diplomatic history, specializing in US Military history, World War II, the History of Firearms and Tactics, and the History of US Foreign Relations.

Dr. Walker’s publications include: “The Early Nuclear Age and Visions of Future War” (2009), part of the anthology The Atomic Bomb and American Society: New Perspectives.

A video interview with him can be accessed here.

The Atomic Bomb and American Society: New Perspectives

Editors: Rosemary B. Mariner and G. Kurt Piehler

Publisher: U. of Tennessee Press
Format: Hardcover
Published: 2009
ISBN-10: 157233648X
Language: English
Pages: 470

For information on purchasing this book through Amazon at a special, discounted price, click here.

Drawing on the latest research on the atomic bomb and its history, the contributors to this provocative collection of eighteen essays set out to answer two key questions: First, how did the atomic bomb shape U.S. foreign policy and society as a whole? And second, how has American society’s perception of the bomb evolved under the influence of mass media, scientists, public intellectuals, and the entertainment industry?

This is the first in a series of essays in the LSS Newsletter exploring the Holocaust and Second World War as enactment of a paranoid fantasy.

Following the Second World War, with the ensuring “explosion of scholarship,” Jeffrey Herf observes in The Jewish Enemy, two distinct scholarly communities emerged. One focused on the “battlefield narratives of World War II”; the second on the history of the Holocaust. As David Walker states in his review essay, the public began to understand the Holocaust as “proof of Nazi crimes and malevolence,” but as separate from “war aims and strategy.”

The phrase, “the war against the Jews” (title of Lucy Dawidowicz’s 1986 book), still evokes the mass murder of European Jews. Now, however, Herf believes the time has come to reach a “more inclusive understanding of the war against the Jews,” one in which “World War II plays a critical role.” When Nazi leaders—in private conversation, office memos or public statements—drew a connection between the Jews and World War II, they were referring to the war and the Holocaust as “taken together as one apocalyptic battle.” They did not limit the war against “International Jewry” to the Final Solution.

David Walker’s complete review essay of The Jewish Enemy appears on our website.

Click here to read the complete review essay.

We would appreciate your comments on this Newsletter — or the entire review essay. Leave your reflections and commentary below.

Instead, they viewed the Final Solution in the context of a broader war of defense that pitted Germany and its allies against a “colossal international conspiracy of Jewish figures working behind the scenes.” We know the Final Solution’s purpose was the extermination of the Jews. Yet, attacking the Soviet Union, Hitler spoke of a “war of extermination.” Thus, both the Final Solution and war on the Eastern Front were generated by a single motive: the desire to free the world of—eliminate—“International Jewry.”

What was the nature of the Jewish threat? What had the Jews done to warrant the Final Solution and the waging of a World War? Researching and writing about Hitler and Nazism for many years, I have conceived Nazi anti-Semitism as a fantasy put forth by Hitler, one that came to be shared by the Nazis and many Germans. This Nazi fantasy about the Jews—embodied in their ideology—was enacted upon the stage of history.

According to Herf, a “gigantic persecution mania” or “paranoiac myth” lay at the heart of the Nazi worldview. This paranoid fantasy about the Jews gave rise to both the Final Solution and the Second World War. David Walker conceptualizes what occurred in Nazi Germany as the result of a “conspiracy theory.” Examining Herf’s documentation, one feels the appropriateness of this term.

On December 11, 1941, Hitler declared war on the United States in a speech to the Reichstag broadcast over German radio and printed in the German press. Hitler spoke for almost 90 minutes. His speech reached a “crescendo of hatred,” Herf says, in his “attack on Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Jews around him.” The war was a matter of the “existence or non-existence of nations.” If given the opportunity, Roosevelt and the Jews would “exterminate National Socialist Germany.” Hitler’s central point, Herf says, was that a “single man”–Roosevelt—and the “forces around him” were the cause of World War II. The “brain trust the American President must serve,” Hitler said, consisted of the “same people we fought in Germany as a parasitic appearance of humanity.”

David Walker’s complete review essay of The Jewish Enemy appears on our website.

Click here to read the complete review essay.

We would appreciate your comments on this Newsletter — or the entire review essay. Leave your reflections and commentary below.

According to the Nazi fantasy that generated the Final Solution, Jews were “parasites on the body of the German people.” In order for the German body politic to survive, Jewish parasites had to be eliminated.

Apparently, the same fantasy or paranoid myth that was enacted to create the Holocaust was the source of the Second World War. Hitler and the Nazis imagined that “International Jewry” threatened the existence not only of the German nation, but of the entire world.

According to this paranoid fantasy, International Jewry sought to annihilate the German people. This being the case, it was necessary for Germany to wage a struggle of “life against death,” of “to be or not to be”—in order to exterminate the Jews before the Jews could exterminate Germany.

Soviet Bolshevism was conceived as waging a “battle against Western culture” in the interest of “International Jewry.” But so, apparently, was the United States and Great Britain waging such a war. In his declaration of war against the United States, Hitler declared that the power that stood behind Roosevelt was the “eternal Jew.”

The United States under Roosevelt was striving for “unlimited world domination.” Roosevelt and the Jews sought to “exterminate National Socialist Germany.” For the National Socialist, Hitler continued, it was “no surprise that the Anglo-Saxon Jewish capitalist world” found itself in a “common front with Bolshevism.”

On July 21, 1941 (after the attack on the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, that began on June 22), the party Reich Propaganda Directive (RPL), Herf tells us, distributed a pamphlet to explain the invasion. This pamphlet was entitled Germany has Entered the Fight to the Finish with the Jewish Bolshevik System of Murder—to guide local Nazi speakers, propagandists and officials.

Propagandists were to stress the “secret cooperation” between England and the Bolsheviks. Officials and party speakers were to present the war as part of Germany’s “great struggle for freedom,” which must destroy a “conspiracy among Jews, democrats, Bolsheviks, and reactionaries.”

“Now,” the pamphlet explained, we “recognize our old enemy, world Jewry.” After being defeated within Germany, it now was embodied in “Anglo-Saxon plutocracy and Bolshevik state capitalism,” and was trying to “attain its goal from abroad.”

David Walker’s complete review essay of The Jewish Enemy appears on our website.

Click here to read the complete review essay.

We would appreciate your comments on this Newsletter — or the entire review essay. Leave your reflections and commentary below.

The pamphlet renewed Nazism’s long-standing hatred of “Jewish Bolshevism.” Bolshevism was described as a “system of Jewish criminals and their accomplices” whose purpose was the “exploitation and enslavement of humanity.” England’s decision to ally itself with the Soviet Union was a “new piece of evidence of the absolute identity of plutocracy and Bolshevism.”

Speakers needed to answer the “oft-posed question”: How is it possible that “very wealthy plutocrats and the moneybag dynasties of America are going hand in hand with the (supposedly) anti-capitalist power holders?” Nazi propaganda directly addressed this central paradox with the assertion, “plutocracy and Bolshevism have one master, the Jews.”

Richard A. Koenigsberg, Ph.D
Telephone: 718-393-1081
Fax: 413-832-8145

3 thoughts on “The Jewish Enemy: Review Essay by David Walker

  1. Robyn Goldstein

    According to Comte, “the mind at its outset, finds itself to be sure, imprisoned in a vicious circle from which it is incapable of leaving except by means of the development of theological concepts.” From that standpoint, it may well be that Judaism as a religion has misinterpreted and been misinterpreted in the sense of what is meant by “chosen” i.e., not special in the self-rightous sense, but in a position to help lead the way towards freedom, justice and understanding for all. Just a thought. I will leave to you and yours to sort the question out.

  2. Bob Yeats

    I have wondered how the country of Kant, Schopenhauer, Goethe and Beethoven could also produce Hitler and his acceptance by the German people. I believe we are seeing a repeat in the United States with the right-wing extremists of the Tea Party, most recently by the statements of Ted Nugent in support of the Republican candidate for Texas governor in which Obama is characterized as subhuman and a mongrel. Large corporations including the Koch brothers have signed onto this characterization of a black president with huge campaign contributions and a propaganda campaign that Goebbels would have loved to be part of This invective seems to suit a lot of Americans, who previously had inveighed against the Muslims after 9/11. I hope one of your colleagues undertakes this comparison, because in my view the suppression of low-income voters and racial and religious minorities is part of the scheme to take over our system of democracy.

  3. Greg

    It actually should surprise none of us that the German people lived in a shared fantasy.

    Every one does.

    Briefly described, the universal fantasy is we are all separate isolated individuals doomed some day to die. The belief that we someday die creates the universal sickness “Mortality Anxiety” or more simply put “fear of death”. Until this sickness is healed we can expect only more of the same ancient mutual slaughter commonly called “war”.

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