Best Book on Nazi Germany (Part II)
The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust
Jeffrey Herf
The editorial staff of the Library of Social Science has selected Jeffrey Herf’s The Jewish Enemy as the most significant book published on Nazi Germany in the 21st century. In a series of Newsletters, we present this book’s central ideas. The essence of scholarship is citation: ideas build upon one another. Online publication facilitates and speeds up this developmental process.
Jeffrey Herf is professor of Modern European History at the University of Maryland.
The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust

Publisher: Harvard U. Press
Author: Jeffrey Herf

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The Nazi party Nuremberg Rallies of the 1930s, shown in weekly newsreels and captured in Leni Riefenstahl’s cinematic images in Triumph of the Will, are often remembered for the visual spectacle of totalitarian coordination. Equally important, Herf says, were the content of these speeches.

Hitler and other Nazi party leaders used the rallies to reiterate points of Nazi ideology and to announce policies that flowed from it. On September 15, 1935 at the “Party Rally against Bolshevism,” Hitler stated that “exclusively Jewish elements” had emerged as “agitators of conflicts between peoples and of their inner disintegration.”

Goebbel’s speech grounded the Nazi’s anti-Bolshevism in anti-Semitism and elaborated on the threat posed by Bolshevism and the Jews. Bolshevism, he said, was the Jews’ “declaration of war” against culture. It would bring about the “absolute destruction of the accomplishments of the West in the interest of a “rootless and nomadic international clique of conspirators.”

In 1935, Herf explains, Goebbels accustomed his listeners to hearing the words “extermination” and “destruction” applied to the goals of the “Judo-Marxist domination by force” in Moscow. The propaganda minister asked who were the “men behind the effort to poison the world.” His answer was that the Bolshevik International was “in reality a Jewish International.”

Bolshevism was waging a “battle against Western culture” in the interest of “international Jewry.” The Nazis were defending Western culture from “complete destruction.” Goebbels associated National Socialism with the salvation, not the destruction, of Europe, and indeed of the West as a whole. Nazis Germany claimed the mantle of defender of the West.

The theme of the Nuremberg Party Rally of 1936 was the “World Danger of Bolshevism.” In his speech of September 9, Hitler said, “We all know that Bolshevism's goal is to exterminate (auszurotten) the existing blood and organically rooted peoples' leadership and to replace it with Jewish elements alien to the Aryan peoples.”

Goebbels presented Nazi Germany as a David courageously standing up to the Goliath of Jewish power. Because the Jews aimed at world domination, the struggle against them was “in the truest sense of the word a global battle. In his speech at the Nuremberg Rally of September 13, 1937, Hitler returned to the supposedly dominant influence of the Jews on politics and economics. He repeated his false assertion that Jews occupied “98 percent of leading positions” in the Soviet Union.

A memo from the German Foreign Office of January 1939, “The Jewish Question as a Factor in Foreign Policy in 1939,” described the United States as the “headquarters” of “world Jewry” and asserted that Roosevelt has surrounded himself with Jewish advisers.

On January 30, 1939, in his annual speech to the Reichstag and eight months before he invaded Poland, Hitler presented what became the core Nazi narrative of the coming conflict. He accused international Jewry of planning to exterminate—that is, to kill—all the German people. Hitler was at the peak of his power and popularity in Germany at that moment. Halfway through the more than two-hour Reichstag address, Hitler mentioned “the Jewish world enemy” that had been defeated “within Germany” but now confronted it from abroad.

By “international Jewry,” Herf says, Hitler had in mind an international conspiracy operating behind the scenes and dominating government policy in the Soviet Union, England, and the United States. Invisible to those lacking the insight provided by Nazi ideology, this conspiracy was perceived by Hitler and his henchmen as the driving force of modern history.

Hitler’s “prophecy” of January 30, 1939, postulated an existing historical subject called international Jewry, a threat as real to him and the rest of the Nazi elite as the nation-states of the Soviet Union, Britain, France and the United States. For the Nazis, it was Jewry, present both “inside and outside Europe,” that had as its war aim the extermination of the German people.

Operation Barbarossa came as a total surprise to Stalin, who had steadfastly refused to believe the tidal wave of reports from his own and foreign intelligence services accurately predicting the coming invasion. In the first weeks and months of the invasion, Soviet armed forces were so badly prepared that by fall 1941 more than three million soldiers had been taken prisoner. Nothing in Stalin's actions before the German attack or in the course of events in summer and fall 1941 supported the Nazi claim of an imminent Soviet attack.

These facts, however, Herf explains, caused no problem for the regime's anti-Semitic interpretation of the course of events and did not deter Hitler—or, consequently, Goebbels and Dietrich—from repeating the falsehood that the Nazi attack was an example of preventive war.

At his Minister's Conference on June 21, 1941, Goebbels noted, “National Socialism started a movement in the struggle against Bolshevism.” That struggle had been set aside for two years, until Hitler “unmasked the treachery of the Bolshevik rulers.” Goebbels said: “National Socialism and the German people are reverting to the principles that first impelled them—the struggle against plutocracy and Bolshevism.” In attacking the Soviet Union, Hitler believed he was being “true to himself.”

In his Minister's Conference on June 24, Goebbels said that Germany's propaganda task lay in “uncovering the English–Russian conspiracy.” He saw Churchill's BBC speech two days earlier as “the best proof” of the existence of that conspiracy. The following day Goebbels told his staff that “the old well-known front of capitalism and Bolshevism now reemerged in foreign policy, “as Britain and the United States indicated support for the Soviet Union.

German propaganda should exploit existing anticommunist sentiment in Western Europe and the United States. On June 25, a confidential directive to the press from the Propaganda Ministry instructed its readers that the German invasion was no “isolated battle” but instead represented the uniting of all European peoples against Bolshevism and should be mentioned in connection with the war against England.

The treasonous cooperation of Jewish plutocracy with the Bolsheviks should always be mentioned. In his editorial in Das Reich, “Die alte Front” (The Old Front), on June 26, 1941, Goebbels focused on the formation of the anti-Hitler coalition between Great Britain and the Soviet Union.

So, there it is: Nazi ideology conceived of World War as a gigantic struggle against “International Jewry.” Why did the “Allied” nations of England, the United States and the Soviet Union join forces against Germany? Because each of these nations were controlled by—under the thumb of—International Jewry. Based on this ideology—the struggle to defeat the Jewish enemy—a world war was waged. The bedrock of this conflict was a paranoid fantasy.