Mises Daily Articles
The Socialist Calumny Against the Jews
[Written in 1944]
Nazism wants to combat the Jewish mind. But it has not succeeded so far in defining its characteristic features. The Jewish mind is no less mythical than the Jewish race.
The earlier German nationalists tried to oppose to the Jewish mind the "Christian-Teutonic" world-view. The combination of Christian and Teutonic is, however, untenable. No exegetical tricks can justify a German claim to a preferred position within the realm of Christianity. The Gospels do not mention the Germans. They consider all men equal under God. He who is anxious to discriminate not only against Jews but against the Christian descendants of Jews has no use for the Gospels. Consistent anti-Semites must reject Christianity.
We do not need to decide here whether or not Christianity itself can be called Jewish. At any rate Christianity developed out of the Jewish creed. It recognizes the Ten Commandments as eternal law and the Old Testament as Holy Writ. The Apostles and the members of the primitive community were Jews. It could be objected that Christ did not agree in his teachings with the rabbis. But the facts remain that God sent the Saviour to the Jews and not to the Vandals, and that the Holy Spirit inspired books in Hebrew and in Greek but not in German. If the Nazis were prepared to take their racial myths seriously and to see in them more than oratory for their party meetings, they would have to eradicate Christianity with the same brutality they use against liberalism and pacifism. They failed to embark upon such an enterprise, not because they regarded it as hopeless, but because their politics had nothing at all to do with racism.
It is strange indeed in a country in which the authorities officially outrage Jews and Judaism in filthy terms, which has outlawed the Jews on account of their Judaism, and in which mathematical theorems, physical hypotheses, and therapeutical procedures are boycotted, if their authors are suspected of being "non-Aryans," that priests continue in many thousands of churches of various creeds to praise the Ten Commandments, revealed to the Jew Moses, as the foundation of moral law. It is strange that in a country in which no word of a Jewish author must be printed or read, the Psalms and their German translations, adaptations, and imitations are sung. It is strange that the German armies, which exult in Eastern Europe in cowardly slaughtering thousands of defenseless Jewish women and children, are accompanied by army chaplains with Bibles in their hands. But the Third Reich is full of such contradictions.
Of course, the Nazis do not comply with the moral teachings of the Gospels. Neither do any other conquerors and warriors. Christianity is no more allowed to become an obstacle in the way of Nazi politics than it was in the way of other aggressors.
Nazism not only fails explicitly to reject Christianity; it solemnly declares itself a Christian party. The twenty‑fourth point of the "unalterable Party Program" proclaims that the party stands for positive Christianity, without linking itself with one of the various Christian churches and denominations. The term "positive" in this connection means neutrality in respect to the antagonisms between the various churches and sects.
Many Nazi writers, it is true, take pleasure in denouncing and deriding Christianity and in drafting plans for the establishment of a new German religion. The Nazi party as such, however, does not combat Christianity but the Christian churches as autonomous establishments and independent agencies. Its totalitarianism cannot tolerate the existence of any institution not completely subject to the Führer's sovereignty. No German is granted the privilege of defying an order issued by the state by referring to an independent authority. The separation of church and state is contrary to the principles of totalitarianism. Nazism must consequently aim at a return to the conditions prevailing in the German Lutheran churches and likewise in the Prussian Union Church before the Constitution of Weimar. Then the civil authority was supreme in the church too. The ruler of the country was the supreme bishop of the Lutheran Church of his territory. His was the jus circa sacra.
The conflict with the Catholic Church is of a similar character. The Nazis will not tolerate any link between German citizens and foreigners or foreign institutions. They dissolved even the German Rotary Clubs because they were tied up with the Rotary International, whose headquarters are located in Chicago. A German citizen owes allegiance to his Führer and nation only; any kind of internationalism is an evil. Hitler could tolerate Catholicism only if the Pope were a resident of Germany and a subordinate of the party machine.
Except for Christianity, the Nazis reject as Jewish everything which stems from Jewish authors. This condemnation includes the writings of those Jews who, like Stahl, Lassalle, Gumplowicz, and Rathenau, have contributed many essential ideas to the system of Nazism. But the Jewish mind is, as the Nazis say, not limited to the Jews and their offspring only. Many "Aryans" have been imbued with Jewish mentality—for instance the poet, writer, and critic Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, the socialist Frederick Engels, the composer Johannes Brahms, the writer Thomas Mann, and the theologian Karl Barth. They too are damned. Then there are whole schools of thought, art, and literature rejected as Jewish. Internationalism and pacifism are Jewish, but so is warmongering. So are liberalism and capitalism, as well as the "spurious" socialism of the Marxians and of the Bolsheviks. The epithets Jewish and Western are applied to the philosophies of Descartes and Hume, to positivism, materialism and empiro-criticism, to the economic theories both of the classics and of modern subjectivism. Atonal music, the Italian opera style, the operetta and the paintings of impressionism are also Jewish. In short, Jewish is what any Nazi dislikes. If one put together everything that various Nazis have stigmatized as Jewish, one would get the impression that our whole civilization has been the achievement only of Jews.
On the other hand, many champions of German racism have tried to demonstrate that all the eminent men of non‑German nations were Aryan Nordics of German extraction. The ex‑Marxian Woltmann, for example, has discovered features of Germanism in Petrarch, Dante, Ariosto, Raphael, and Michelangelo, who have their genius as an inheritance from their Teutonic ancestors. Woltmann is fully convinced that he has proved that "the entire European civilization, even in the Slavonic and Latin countries, is an achievement of the German race."
It would be a waste of time to dwell upon such statements. It is enough to remark that the various representatives of German racism contradict one another both in establishing the racial characteristics of the noble race and in the racial classification of the same individuals. Very often they contradict even what they themselves have said elsewhere. The myth of the master race has been elaborated carelessly indeed.
All Nazi champions insist again and again that Marxism and Bolshevism are the quintessence of the Jewish mind, and that it is the great historic mission of Nazism to root out this pest. It is true that this attitude did not prevent the German nationalists either from coöperating with the German communists in undermining the Weimar Republic, or from training their black guards in Russian artillery and aviation camps in the years 1923–1933, or—in the period from August, 1939, until June, 1941—from entering into a close political and military complicity with Soviet Russia. Nevertheless, public opinion supports the view that Nazism and Bolshevism are philosophies—Weltanschauungen implacably opposed to each other. Actually there have been in these last years all over the world two main political parties: the anti-Fascists, i.e., the friends of Russia (communists, fellow travelers, self-styled liberals and progressives), and the anticommunists, i.e., the friends of Germany (parties of shirts of different colors, not very accurately called "Fascists" by their adversaries). There have been few genuine liberals and democrats in these years. Most of those who have called themselves such have been ready to support what are really totalitarian measures, and many have enthusiastically praised the Russian methods of dictatorship.
The mere fact that these two groups are fighting each other does not necessarily prove that they differ in their philosophies and first principles. There have always been wars between people who adhered to the same creeds and philosophies. The parties of the Left and of the Right are in conflict because they both aim at supreme power. Charles V used to say: "I and my cousin, the King of France, are in perfect agreement; we are fighting each other because we both aim at the same end: Milan." Hitler and Stalin aim at the same end; they both want to rule in the Baltic States, in Poland, and in the Ukraine.
The Marxians are not prepared to admit that the Nazis are socialists too. In their eyes Nazism is the worst of all evils of capitalism. On the other hand, the Nazis describe the Russian system as the meanest of all types of capitalist exploitation and as a devilish machination of World Jewry for the domination of the gentiles. Yet it is clear that both systems, the German and the Russian, must be considered from an economic point of view as socialist. And it is only the economic point of view that matters in debating whether or not a party or system is socialist. Socialism is and has always been considered a system of economic organization of society. It is the system under which the government has full control of production and distribution. As far as socialism existing merely within individual countries can be called genuine, both Russia and Germany are right in calling their systems socialist.
Whether the Nazis and the Bolsheviks are right in styling themselves workers' parties is another question. The Communist Manifesto says, "The proletarian movement is the self-conscious independent movement of the immense majority," and it is in this sense that old Marxians used to define a workers' party. The proletarians, they explained, are the immense majority of the nation; they themselves, not a benevolent government or a well-intentioned minority, seize power and establish socialism. But the Bolsheviks have abandoned this scheme. A small minority proclaims itself the vanguard of the proletariat, seizes the dictatorship, forcibly dissolves the Parliament elected by universal franchise, and rules by its own right and might. Of course, this ruling minority claims that what it does serves best the interests of the many and indeed of the whole of society, but this has always been the pretension of oligarchic rulers.
The Bolshevists set the precedent. The success of the Lenin clique encouraged the Mussolini gang and the Hitler troops. Both Italian Fascism and German Nazism adopted the political methods of Soviet Russia. The only difference between Nazism and Bolshevism is that the Nazis got a much bigger minority in the elections preceding their coup d'état than the Bolsheviks got in the Russian elections in the fall of 1917.
The Nazis have not only imitated the Bolshevist tactics of seizing power. They have copied much more. They have imported from Russia the one-party system and the privileged role of this party and its members in public life; the paramount position of the secret police; the organization of affiliated parties abroad which are employed in fighting their domestic governments and in sabotage and espionage, assisted by public funds and the protection of the diplomatic and consular service; the administrative execution and imprisonment of political adversaries; concentration camps; the punishment inflicted on the families of exiles; the methods of propaganda. They have borrowed from the Marxians even such absurdities as the mode of address, party comrade (Parteigenosse), derived from the Marxian comrade (Genosse), and the use of a military terminology for all items of civil and economic life. The question is not in which respects both systems are alike but in which they differ.
It has already been shown wherein the socialist patterns of Russia and Germany differ. These differences are not due to any disparity in basic philosophical views; they are the necessary consequence of the differences in the economic conditions of the two countries. The Russian pattern was inapplicable in Germany, whose population cannot live in a state of self-sufficiency. The German pattern seems very inefficient when compared with the incomparably more efficient capitalist system, but it is far more efficient than the Russian method. The Russians live at a very low economic level notwithstanding the inexhaustible richness of their natural resources.
There is inequality of incomes and of standards of living in both countries. It would be futile to try to determine whether the difference in the living standards of party comrade Goering and the average party comrade is greater or smaller than that in the standards of comrade Stalin and his comrades. The characteristic feature of socialism is not equality of income but the all‑round control of business activities by the government, the government's exclusive power to use all means of production.
The Nazis do not reject Marxism because it aims at socialism but because, as they say, it advocates internationalism. Marx's internationalism was nothing but the acceptance of eighteenth-century ideas on the root causes of war: princes are eager to fight each other because they want aggrandizement through conquest, while free nations do not covet their neighbors' land. But it never occurred to Marx that this propensity to peace depends upon the existence of an unhampered market society. Neither Marx nor his school was ever able to grasp the meaning of international conflicts within a world of etatism and socialism. They contented themselves with the assertion that in the Promised Land of socialism there would no longer be any conflicts at all.
We have already seen what a questionable role the problem of the maintenance of peace played in the Second International. For Soviet Russia the Third International has been merely a tool in its unflagging warfare against all foreign governments. The Soviets are as eager for conquest as any conqueror of the past. They did not yield an inch of the previous conquests of the Czars except where they were forced to do so. They have used every opportunity to expand their empire. Of course they no longer use the old Czarist pretexts for conquest; they have developed a new terminology for this purpose. But this does not render the lot of the subdued any easier.
What the Nazis really have in mind when indicting the Jewish mind for internationalism is the liberal theory of free trade and the mutual advantages of international division of labor. The Jews, they say, want to corrupt the innate Aryan spirit of heroism by the fallacious doctrines of the advantages of peace. One could hardly overrate in a more inaccurate way the contribution of Jews to modern civilization. Peaceful coöperation between nations is certainly more than an outcome of Jewish machinations. Liberalism and democracy, capitalism and international trade are not Jewish inventions.
Finally, the Nazis call the business mentality Jewish. Tacitus informs us that the German tribes of his day considered it clumsy and shameful to acquire with sweat what could be won by bloodshed. This is also the first moral principle of the Nazis. They despise individuals and nations eager to profit by serving other people; in their eyes robbery is the noblest way to make a living. Werner Sombart has contrasted two specimens of human being: the peddlers (Händler) and heroes (Helden). The Britons are peddlers, the Germans heroes. But more often the appellation peddlers is assigned to the Jews.
The Nazis simply call everything that is contrary to their own doctrines and tenets Jewish and communist. When executing hostages in the occupied countries they always declare that they have punished Jews and communists. They call the President of the United States a Jew and a communist. He who is not prepared to surrender to them is by that token unmistakably a Jew. In the Nazi dictionary the terms Jew and communist are synonymous with non-Nazi.
Interventionism and Legal Discrimination against Jews
In the days before the ascendancy of liberalism the individuals professing a certain religious creed formed an order, a caste, of their own. The creed determined the membership in a group which assigned to each member privileges and disqualifications (privilegia odiosa.) In only a few countries has liberalism abolished this state of affairs. In many European countries, in which in any other respect freedom of conscience and of the practice of religion and equality of all citizens under the law are granted, matrimonial law and the register of births, marriages, and deaths remain separate for each religious group. Membership within a church or religious community preserves a peculiar legal character. Every citizen is bound to belong to one of the religious groups, and he bestows this quality upon his children. The membership and procedure to be observed in cases of change of religious allegiance are regulated by public law. Special provisions are made for people who do not want to belong to any religious community. This state of things makes it possible to establish the religious allegiance of a man and of his ancestors with legal precision in the same unquestionable way in which kinship can be ascertained in inheritance cases.
The bearing of this fact can be elucidated by contrasting it with conditions concerning attachment to a linguistic group. Membership within a linguistic group never had a caste quality. It was and is a matter of fact but not a legal status. It is as a rule impossible to establish the linguistic group to which a man's dead ancestors belonged. The only exceptions are those ancestors who were eminent personalities, writers, or political leaders of linguistic groups. It is further for the most part impossible to establish whether or not a man changed his linguistic allegiance at some time in his past. He who speaks German and declares himself to be a German need seldom fear that his statement could be disproved by documentary evidence that his parents or he himself in the past were not German. Even a foreign accent need not betray him. In countries with a linguistically mixed population the accent and inflection of each group influence the other. Among the leaders of German nationalism in the eastern parts of Germany, and in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the other eastern countries there were numerous men who spoke German with a sharp Slavonic, Hungarian, or Italian accent, whose names sounded foreign, or who had only a short time before substituted German-sounding names for their native ones. There were even Nazi Storm Troopers whose still living parents understood no German. It happened often that brothers and sisters belonged to different linguistic groups. One could not attempt to discriminate legally against such neophytes, because it was impossible to determine the facts in a legally unquestionable way.
In an unhampered market society there is no legal discrimination against anybody. Everyone has the right to obtain the place within the social system in which he can successfully work and make a living. The consumer is free to discriminate, provided that he is ready to pay the cost. A Czech or a Pole may prefer to buy at higher cost in a shop owned by a Slav instead of buying cheaper and better in a shop owned by a German. An anti-Semite may forego being cured of an ugly disease by the employment of the "Jewish" drug Salvarsan and have recourse to a less efficacious remedy. In this arbitrary power consists what economists call consumer's sovereignty.
Interventionism means compulsory discrimination, which furthers the interests of a minority of citizens at the expense of the majority. Nevertheless discrimination can be applied in a democratic community too. Various minority groups form an alliance and thereby a majority group in order to obtain privileges for each. For instance, a country's wheat producers, cattle breeders, and wine growers form a farmers' party; they succeed in obtaining discrimination against foreign competitors and thus privileges for each of the three groups. The costs of the privilege granted to the wine growers burden the rest of the community—including the cattle breeders and wheat producers—and so on for each of the others.
Whoever sees the facts from this angle—and logically they cannot be viewed from any other—realizes that the arguments brought forward in favor of this so-called producer's policy are untenable. One minority group alone could not obtain any such privilege because the majority would not tolerate it. But if all minority groups or enough of them obtain a privilege, every group that did not get a more valuable privilege than the rest suffers. The political ascendancy of interventionism is due to the failure to recognize this obvious truth. People favor discrimination and privileges because they do not realize that they themselves are consumers and as such must foot the bill. In the case of protectionism, for example, they believe that only the foreigners against whom the import duties discriminate are hurt. It is true the foreigners are hurt, but not they alone: the consumers who must pay higher prices suffer with them.
Now wherever there are Jewish minorities—and in every country the Jews are only a minority—it is as easy to discriminate against them legally as against foreigners, because the quality of being a Jew can be established in a legally valid way. Discrimination against this helpless minority can be made to seem very plausible; it seems to further the interests of all non-Jews. People do not realize that it is certain to hurt the interests of the non-Jews as well. If Jews are barred from access to a medical career, the interests of non-Jewish doctors are favored, but the interests of the sick are hurt. Their freedom to choose the doctor whom they trust is restricted. Those who did not want to consult a Jewish doctor do not gain anything but those who wanted to do so are injured.
In most European countries it is technically feasible to discriminate legally against Jews and the offspring of Jews. It is furthermore politically feasible, because Jews are usually insignificant minorities whose votes do not count much in elections. And finally, it is considered economically sound in an age in which government interference for the protection of the less efficient producer against more efficient and cheaper competitors is regarded as a beneficial policy. The non-Jewish grocer asks, Why not protect me too? You protect the manufacturer and the farmer against the foreigners producing better and at lower cost; you protect the worker against the competition of immigrant labor; you should protect me against the competition of my neighbor, the Jewish grocer.
Discrimination need have nothing to do with hatred or repugnance toward those against whom it is applied. The Swiss and Italians do not hate the Americans or Swedes; nevertheless, they discriminate against American and Swedish products. People always dislike competitors. But for the consumer the foreigners who supply him with commodities are not competitors but purveyors. The non-Jewish doctor may hate his Jewish competitor. But he asks for the exclusion of Jews from the medical profession precisely because many non-Jewish patients not only do not hate Jewish doctors but prefer them to many non-Jewish doctors and patronize them. The fact that the Nazi racial laws impose heavy penalties for sexual intercourse between Jews and "Aryans" does not indicate the existence of hatred between these two groups. It would be needless to keep people who hate each other from sexual relations. However, in an investigation devoted to the political problems of nationalism and Nazism we need not deal with the issues of sex pathology involved. To study the inferiority complexes and sexual perversity responsible for the Nuremberg racial laws and for the sadistic bestialities exhibited in killing and torturing Jews is the task of psychiatry.
In a world in which people have grasped the meaning of a market society, and therefore advocate a consumer's policy, there is no legal discrimination against Jews. Whoever dislikes the Jews may in such a world avoid patronizing Jewish shopkeepers, doctors, and lawyers. On the other hand, in a world of interventionism only a miracle can in the long run hinder legal discrimination against Jews. The policy of protecting the less efficient domestic producer against the more efficient foreign producer, the artisan against the manufacturer, and the small shop against the department store and the chain stores would be incomplete if it did not protect the "Aryan" against the Jew.
Many decades of intensive anti-Semitic propaganda did not succeed in preventing German "Aryans" from buying in shops owned by Jews, from consulting Jewish doctors and lawyers, and from reading books by Jewish authors. They did not patronize the Jews unawares—"Aryan" competitors were careful to tell them again and again that these people were Jews. Whoever wanted to get rid of his Jewish competitors could not rely on an alleged hatred of Jews; he was under the necessity of asking for legal discrimination against them.
Such discrimination is not the result of nationalism or of racism. It is basically—like nationalism—a result of interventionism and the policy of favoring the less efficient producer to the disadvantage of the consumer.
Nearly all writers dealing with the problem of anti-Semitism have tried to demonstrate that the Jews have in some way or other, through their behavior or attitudes, excited anti-Semitism. Even Jewish authors and non-Jewish opponents of anti-Semitism share this opinion; they too search for Jewish faults driving non-Jews toward anti-Semitism. But if the cause of anti-Semitism were really to be found in distinctive features of the Jews, these properties would have to be extraordinary virtues and merits which would qualify the Jews as the elite of mankind. If the Jews themselves are to blame for the fact that those whose ideal is perpetual war and bloodshed, who worship violence and are eager to destroy freedom, consider them the most dangerous opponents of their endeavors, it must be because the Jews are foremost among the champions of freedom, justice, and peaceful coöperation among nations. If the Jews have incurred the Nazis' hatred through their own conduct, it is no doubt because what was great and noble in the German nation, all the immortal achievements of Germany's past, were either accomplished by the Jews or congenial to the Jewish mind. As the parties seeking to destroy modern civilization and return to barbarism have put anti‑Semitism at the top of their programs, this civilization is apparently a creation of the Jews. Nothing more flattering could be said of an individual or of a group than that the deadly foes of civilization have well-founded reasons to persecute them.
The truth is that while the Jews are the objects of anti‑Semitism, their conduct and qualities did not play a decisive role in inciting and spreading its modern version. That they form everywhere a minority which can be legally defined in a precise way makes it tempting, in an age of interventionism, to discriminate against them. Jews have, of course, contributed to the rise of modern civilization; but this civilization is neither completely nor predominantly their achievement. Peace and freedom, democracy and justice, reason and thought are not specifically Jewish. Many things, good and bad, happen on the earth without the participation of Jews. The anti-Semites grossly exaggerate when they see in the Jews the foremost representatives of modern culture and make them alone responsible for the fact that the world has changed since the centuries of the barbarian invasions.
In the dark ages heathens, Christians, and Moslems persecuted the Jews on account of their religion. This motive has lost much of its strength and is still valid only for a comparatively few Catholics and Fundamentalists who make the Jews responsible for the spread of free thinking. And this too is a mistaken idea. Neither Hume nor Kant, neither Laplace nor Darwin were Jews. Higher criticism of the Bible was developed by Protestant theologians.The Jewish rabbis opposed it bitterly for many years.
Neither were liberalism, capitalism, or a market economy Jewish achievements. There are those who try to justify anti-Semitism by denouncing the Jews as capitalists and champions of laissez faire. Other anti-Semites—and often the same ones—blame the Jews for being communists. These contradictory charges cancel each other. But it is a fact that anticapitalist propaganda has contributed a good deal to the popularity of anti‑Semitism. Simple minds do not grasp the meaning of the abstract terms capital and exploitation, capitalists and exploiters; they substitute for them the terms Jewry and Jews. However, even if the Jews were more unpopular with some people than is really the case, there would be no discrimination against them if they were not a minority clearly distinguishable legally from other people.