ANTISEMITISM: HERMAN HESSE - 1922, 1958*.

* Part 1 of this essay was written in 1922, and Part 2 was added in 1958.

I

A pamphlet by Wilhelm Michel, entitled Treason against the German People, offers me an occasion to say a word against one of the ugliest and most inane forms of new German nationalism, against the idiotic, pathological Jew-baiting of the bards of the swastika and their numerous adherents, in particular among students.  The older brand of anti-Semitism was philistine and stupid, as such anti movements tend to be, but it did little harm.  Today there is a kind of Jew baiting among the misguided German youth that does a great deal of harm, because it prevents these young people from seeing then world as it is, and because it  disastrously encourages the inclination to blame everything that goes wrong on some convenient devil.  Whatever you personally like the Jews or not, they are human beings, often infinitely more intelligent, more energetic, and better human beings than their fanatical enemies.  Where you think they do harm, you may combat them, as we sometimes combat evils that are recognized to be necessary but that forever goad us to new efforts.  But to regard a class of men as the evil of the world and take them as a scapegoat for the thousand dire sins and complacencies of your own German people, that is a grave perversion, and the harm it does far outweighs any harm that may ever have been done by Jews.

 

II

Primitive man hates what he fears and at certain levels of his psyche civilized, educated man remains a primitive.  The hatred of peoples and races for other peoples and races does not spring from superiority or strength, but from insecurity and weakness.  Hatred of Jews is a masked feeling of inferiority: toward the very old and very intelligent Jewish people the less intelligent sections of another race feel competitive envy and a shaming inferiority, and the more blatantly this base feeling parades as superiority, the more surely fear and weakness are behind it.  When a truly superior, masterful man knows he is superior to someone, he will pity him, perhaps occasionally despise him, but never hate him.

    We old people still remember the day when the Germans spoke with horror of the persecution of the Jews in Russia and elsewhere.  Whether or not they liked the Jews and esteemed them their proper worth, they regarded  the pogroms as barbarous and inhuman.  Yet their minds and hearts had seldom advanced to the point of perceiving and condemning the anti-Semitism in their own people and state, which for the time being took the form not of massacres but only of juridical discriminations and a vocabulary of jibes and insults.

    This seemingly trifling sin of omission had dire consequences.  The same German people that was once outraged at the pogroms in other countries so outdid those atrocities a few decades later that in many countries the Germans as such have come to be regarded as far more dangerous and contemptible that the Jews of the Huns ever were.

    True, this judgment is not that of the most advanced and intelligent people; like the Nazis' hatred of the Jews, it is born of fear.  But such a judgment exists, it is a fact, and what such hatred can lead to with a little incitement and organization from above, the German concentration and extermination camps have shown the world.

    It is one of the tasks of the German youth to counter this hatred of the Germans with a reasonable an worthy attitude. This requires first of all an insight into the causes of the disgrace that National Socialism and above all its extermination of Jews brought upon Germany, and perpetual vigilance in avoiding the bad thinking and bad character of that generation and its leaders.

    Anyone who in Germany today still or again mouths Hitlerian and anti-Semitic phrases, who closes his eyes to the terrifyingly logical and concatenation of German history.  If any of you young men are not convinced by what everybody knows, and if a seducer starts telling you the fairy tales about Jewish crimes with which Hitler and Himmler flooded their people, just remember that what the Germans did to the Jews is not a fairy tale.  The history of the third Reich and the Jews leaves no room for empty phrases.

 

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