cover image Why the Germans? Why the Jews?Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust

Why the Germans? Why the Jews?Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust

Gotz Aly, trans. from the German by Jefferson Chase. Metropolitan, $30 (304p) IS

Traditionally, scholars have divided anti-Semitism into religious and racial types, but German historian Aly (Hitler's Beneficiaries) posits a third type in modern Germany, one motivated by "envy, fear of failure, resentment, and greed." He notes that modern German Jews became increasingly urbanized and tended to be better educated and more professionally successful than their largely rural gentile counterparts. In 1913, the anti-Semitic ideologue Theodor Fritsch wrote, "In the big cities... Jews and Jewish sensibilities rule, and a person accustomed to nature feels like an alien, a clueless child." Even when the educational and status gap between German Jews and gentiles narrowed starting around 1910, the Depression crushed many Germans' hopes, leading some into the Nazi Party, which strove to "replace a class-based state with a mass-based one." Aly does not ignore unadulterated racial anti-Semitism, but his focus is on how status issues often fueled it. Though prone to sweeping generalizations, Aly has written a readable, nuanced, and important work on how German Christians' longstanding obsession with German Jews so prepared the ground for Nazism that its emergence seemed almost inevitable. (Apr.)