Best Book on Nazi Germany (Part IV)
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. This is Part IV.
To read Part I, click here.
To read Part II, click here.
To read Part III, click here.
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

For information on purchasing this book through Amazon at a special, discounted price, click here.
Hitler’s equation of Bolshevism and Judaism is well known. Less attention has been paid to how Hitler viewed the United States—and Franklin Roosevelt—as under the control of the Jewish demon.

In a speech of December 11, 1941, Hitler declared war on the United States to the Reichstag broadcast over German radio and printed in full in the German press. He spoke for almost ninety minutes and reached a crescendo of hatred in his attack on Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Jews around him.

His central point was that “a single man,” Roosevelt, “and the forces driving him” were the cause of World War II. The brain trust that the new American president must serve “consists of members of the same people we fought in Germany as a parasitic appearance of humanity and which we began to push out of (German) public life.” Roosevelt and his brain trust, in short, were controlled by Jews.

Anti-Semitism was at the center of Hitler's attack on Roosevelt:

We know what powers stand behind Roosevelt. It is the eternal Jew who thinks his time has come to inflict on us what we shudder to see and must experience in Soviet Russia.

It was, he continued, “Franklin Roosevelt's and the Jews' intention to destroy one state after another.”

The war was a matter of the “existence or nonexistence” of nations. If given the opportunity, Roosevelt and the Jews “would now exterminate National Socialist Germany.” The United States under Roosevelt was striving for unlimited world domination” and would deny Germany, Italy, and Japan the necessities of national survival. For the “National Socialists,” he continued, it was “no surprise that the Anglo-Saxon Jewish capitalist world [found] itself in a common front with Bolshevism.”

On December 12, Hitler spoke to a gathering of Nazi political leaders. Goebbels reported:

Regarding the Jewish question, the Fuhrer is determined to settle the matter once and for all. He prophesied that if the Jews once again brought about a world war, they would experience their extermination. This was not an empty phrase. The world war is here.

The extermination of the Jews must be its necessary consequence. This question must be viewed without any sentimentality. We are not here to express sympathy for the Jews, but only to express sympathy for our own people. “As the German people again has sacrificed 160,000 dead in the eastern campaign, so the originators of this conflict must pay [for these deaths] with their own lives.”

Hitler again gave the war a casual and inherent, not a contingent or accidental, connection with his intent to exterminate the Jews.

Herf explains that as the numbers of German soldiers dying in battle and of German civilians dying in Allied bombings increased, the more the Nazi leadership stressed the supposed connections between an international Jewish conspiracy, the anti-Hitler coalition of the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States, the death and suffering of the German people, and the consequent necessity of carrying out Hitler's prophecy.

Nazi propaganda pointed its accusing finger at the Jews as the party guilty for every German death and injury. In so doing, propaganda provided a personal reason to “retaliate” against the Jews. In this way, for millions of Germans, the abstract slogan “The Jews are guilty” assumed direct emotional significance. For those who accepted this logic, Jew hatred would deepen as the numbers of Germans killed and wounded increased. The more the Allies turned the tide against the German armed forces, the more Nazi propagandists asserted that the Jews were guilty and would pay for it.

Thought Hitler’s public appearances became rarer, they remained—Herf says—the key agenda-setting documents of Nazi propaganda. In winter and spring, 1943, Hitler delivered three virulent broadcast attacks on German radio against the Jews. The first and most widely noted [broadcast] he made on January 30, 1942. Turning his attention to the Jews, Hitler declared,

We are clear that the war can come to an end only either with the extermination of the Aryan peoples or with the disappearance of the Jews from Europe. On September 1, 1939 in the German Reichstag I already asserted—I do not engage in premature prophecies—that this war will not develop as the Jews imagined—namely, that the European-Aryan people will be exterminated. Rather, the result of this war will be the annihilation of the Jews. First time, the genuine old-Jewish law will be applied: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth!

And the further this struggle expands, the more anti-Semitism will spread … It will find support in every prison camp, in every family that finally understands the cause of its suffering. The hour will come when the most evil world enemy of all time at least in the last thousand years will be finished off.

Genocide, Herf explains, was the Nazis’ response to international Jewry, which they perceived as a unified historically active, and above all political subject that was waging war against Germany. From the Nazi perspective, if the Jews had listened to Hitler’s warnings, they would not have launched World War II. But they had refused to listen, made a strategic blunder, and started the war, and they were therefore receiving the punishment they had merited: death.

Herf concludes that it was not a “racial” theory, but the supposed “war” that the Jews were waging against Germany that stood at the center of the chain of logic that led to the Holocaust. Radical anti-Semitism was first and foremost a doctrine of political fanaticism, one that described those affiliated with Judaism as members of a racial group called Jewry with extraordinary powers of control and manipulation—that produced genocide.

The Nazis, Herf says, viewed Jewry as a political subject as real as and yet more powerful than the governments of the anti-Hitler coalition. This attack on the Jews as a political subject was fully in evidence in Hitler’s third major rhetorical assault on them of April 1942, in a speech to the Reichstag, meeting in what turned out to be its last session. Its final act was to make Hitler’s will the law, unanimously and without discussion.

Parts of the speech, which was broadcast in full on the radio, were excerpted on the front page of Die Judenfrage. Because the National Socialists focused “on the essence of the race question,” Hitler asserted, “We have found the explanation for the many processes that in themselves must appear incomprehensible.” This revelation produced the following interpretation of recent history:

The hidden powers who drove England in 1914 into World War I were Jews. The power that paralyzed us in that war and finally forced us to surrender, with the slogan that Germany may no longer carry its flag home in victory, was a Jewish one. Jews instigate the revolution [of 1918-19] and thereby robbed us of any further ability to resist.

Since 1939, Jews have maneuvered the British Empire into its most dangerous crisis. Jews were the carriers of the Bolshevik infection that once threatened to annihilate Europe. They were also at the same time, however, the warmongers among the plutocrats.

A circle of Jews, acting only on the basis of Jewish-capitalistic perspectives, has driven America, against all its real interests, into this war. President Roosevelt, in a demonstration of his own lack of ability, has an intellectual brain trust whose leading men I don’t have to mention by name: it is made up only of Jews.

Jews around President Woodrow Wilson, Hitler proclaimed, had been responsible for American entry into World War I. The Jews favored the dictatorship of the proletariat and the “extermination of the national leadership and intelligentsia of nations.”

Hitler continued by saying that anti-Semitism explained what at first seemed “incomprehensible”—namely, the alliance between the Soviet Union and the Western democracies. “Jewish capitalism” had joined forces with the Bolshevik state dominated by the Jews to fight against have-not nations like Germany and Japan seeking only freedom and independence.