Anti-Semitism and World War II
By Catherine Sullivan

Since Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages, anti-Semitism has been a large part of culture. One of the first forms of anti-Semitism comes from the idea of Jewish betrayal, the belief that Jews are to be blamed for killing the Catholic prophet Jesus. Ancient anti-Semitism is shown in the idea of Jewish Greed, as Jews were moneylenders in the Middle Ages, a profession Catholics were forbidden to do. Anti-Semitism also originates from the ancient belief of blood libel, that Jews killed young Catholic boys for their blood in order to make Passover bread. In modern times, Christian hostility toward the Jews was shown in popular culture though sermons, plays, literature, and art. As anti-Semitism was part of popular culture, many were exposed to anti-Semitism since childhood. While earlier persecutions had been based upon religion, the new way to persecute Jews was to claim that they were a separate race, and could never be fully integrated into a broader society.[1] Although the idea of anti-Semitism was not new going into the Second World War, the way Jews were persecuted changed dramatically throughout the war.
crucifiction.jpg<-Jesus being crucified - origins of Anti-Semitism
medieval_jews-moneylending-300x231.jpg<Jews money lending>ShowImage.ashx.jpeg

Entering the Second World War, anti-Semitism was part of popular culture. In America, many people were exposed to anti-Semitism since childhood.[2] Many people worldwide regarded Jews as being racially different than Christians, and claimed that Jews “formed a distinctly inferior branch of humanity.”[3] Heading into World War Two, Americans linked Jews to the fear that “Jewish-communist subversion” was threatening the United States.[4] The Great Depression of the 1930s led Americans to view Jews as people who were stealing jobs and destroying the country’s economy through their greedy culture. Anti-Semitism began to increase leading up the Second World War. The idea of anti-Semitism was an old idea that would begin to be fueled by World War Two.
adolf_hitler.jpg<-Adolf Hitler
A main catalyst in the spread and increase of anti-Semitism during World War Two is the Nazi Regime’s large anti-Semitic views. The first immediate laws against Jews from the Nazi Regime were the Nuremberg Laws in 1935. These laws, the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor and the Reich Citizenship Law, forbade Aryans and Jews to marry and took citizenship away from Jews.[5] These laws brought a definition to how one was to be racially Jewish, which required three grandparents to be fully Jewish. This began to concrete idea of Jews as a being another biological race. In 1938, the first wide spread use of massive force against Jews by the Nazi Regime, known as Kristallnacht, occurred. Kristallnacht, meaning Crystal Night, which refers to the broken glass, was a sudden and widespread assault on Jews and their property. Following Kristallnacht, Jews began to rapidly immigrate or be sent to concentration camps.[6] This rapid immigration would lead to anti-Semitism in countries taking in refugees.
225px-Kristallnacht_example_of_physical_damage.jpg<-Aftermath Kristallnacht (broken glass of Jewish businesses)
Chart explaining if you were Jewish (White=Aryan and Black=Jewish)>250px-Nuremberg_laws.jpg

The Second World War and German treatment of Jews led to more anti-Semitism throughout the world. In the United States, Americans blamed the Jews for making them join the war because they “had to save the Jews from Hitler.”[7] This growing anti-Semitism led the Roosevelt administration to not make Hitler’s persecution of the Jews a cornerstone of the war effort. To aid this effort, the US State Department attempted to censor information about the extent of Hitler’s destruction of European Jewry through the Holocaust.[8] As Hitler persecuted Jews, many immigrated to other countries. This influx of Jews led many European nations to persecute them as they were stealing jobs and space. Jews had difficulty assimilating, tending to live together in their own communities, and locals resented the competition for housing jobs. Violence and terrorism occurred against the Jews in the form of vandalism of restaurants, cemeteries, and synagogues. As Germany forced many Jewish to immigrate to other countries, the worldwide resistance of Jews grew.
images-1.jpeg<-Roosevelt signing papers to join WWII
As the war ended, news of Hitler’s concentration camps and the Holocaust spread throughout the world. The Holocaust, Hitler’s “Final Solution” to exterminate the Jews of Europe killed over six million Jews. The news of Hitler’s treatment of the Jews led many people to believe that getting rid of racial and religious prejudice was the greatest priority for postwar Europe and America.[9] Learning of Hitler’s persecution of the Jews led many Americans to support the United States for entering the war to help the Jews. On the other hand, some Americans became even more anti-Semitic and blamed the Jews for the war. The US was not alone, for as Jewish refugees returned to their homes in Poland and other eastern Countries, Jews were faced with harsh anti-Semitism. Many countries initially responded to the news of the Holocaust by turning away refugees and most refused to increase their country’s quotas for immigrants. This treatment of Jews by the world led Jewish and world leaders to form a state that would always provide a haven for Jews in the event of future persecution.
camp_inmates.jpg<-prisoners of a concentration camp
dead bodies in a concentration camp->images.jpeg

When World War Two ended and the news of the Holocaust reached the world, Zionism experienced a huge upsurge of popularity and support. While the Balfour Declaration of 1917 said that it was important for Jews to establish a home in Palestine, they were never actually granted it.[10] With the support from many countries such as the United States, the State of Israel was established as a homeland to the Jewish population on May 14, 1948. As a result of the creation of Israel, the United Nations mandated a fundamental right of return for Jews, stating, “the State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the exiled [of World War Two].”[11] The treatment of Jews during World War Two led to the creation of Israel as a save haven for the Jewish population.
220px-Flag_of_Israel.svg.png<-Flag of Israel us_ellis_pic_children_immigrants.jpg<-Jewish immigrants
As a result of the Second World War, anti-Semitism would begin to change. While anti-Semitism used to be based on the cultural and religious aspects of Judaism, it would now focus on the racial differences in Jews. For many people, the Holocaust showed people that anti-Semitism leads to murder and hatred of human beings. For others, the rapid immigration of Jews led to increase in anti-Semitism. The creation of the State of Israel would lead the Jews to become a separated group of people, which would later aid the belief that Jews are a separate race and cannot assimilate into society. While the creation of the State of Israel would save many Jews from persecution in other countries and the decrease of anti-Semitism, it would also lead to the separation of Jews and the increase of anti-Semitism in the world.

[1]Watts, Tim J. "Emancipation of the Jewish Population: Arab-Israeli Wars." World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.
[2]Krome, Fred. "Anti-Semitism: World War II." World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.
[3]Krome, Fred.
[4]Krome, Fred.
[5]Keithly, David M. "Nuremberg Laws: World War II." World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.
[6]Newman, Jason. "Kristallnacht: World War II." World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.
[7] Krome, Fred.
[8] Krome, Fred.
[9] Krome, Fred.
[10]Blackwell, Amy Hackney. "Zionism: Arab-Israeli Wars." World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.
[11]Olivares, Jaime Ramon. "Law of Return: Arab-Israeli Wars." World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.

Screen_Shot_2012-04-05_at_10.32.25_PM.png(Taken from the Holocaust Museum Website:

Screen_Shot_2012-04-05_at_10.33.46_PM.png(Taken from the Holocaust Mesum Website:


This is a great Animated Map of the Aftermath of the Holocaust (I don't know how to add it as a widget):

"Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century: The Resurgence" - A great video on Anti-Semitism and how it is occurring in our modern era. While it is long, its interesting if you have time to see the similarities between anti-Semitism today and anti-Semitism of WWII.

"A History of Anti-Semitism" - A video of pictures to show real examples of how anti-Semitism has been shown throughout history. (Sort of what I discussed in my introduction)

"Anti-Semitism on the Rise in Europe" - A video discussing how the increase in anti-Semitism today is showing to similarities in the increase of anti-Semitism leading up to the Holocaust.

Anti-Semitic German Propaganda in World War 2

"Anti-Semitism: Hitler's Rise to Power"

"World War II: Liberation of Concentration Camps" - This video has actual footage from when soldiers liberated the camps.

Nazi Propaganda Video on Jewish Immigration