Why were Jews singled out?
Image: Propaganda poster, circa 1941. The Nazi exhibition "The Jew and France" was on display in Paris from September 1941 to January 1942. This antisemitic poster accompanied the exhibition, emphasizing the negative effects of the Jewish people and culture upon French society. The text reads, 'Et Derriere: Le Juif' - "And Behind It All: The Jew." (See full image - on display at the Holocaust Center for Humanity.)
Why were Jews singled out for mass murder; why did people hate them so much?
The answer to this question goes back to the long history of Jew-hatred in Western Civilization. Living in many countries as a minority, Jews continued to practice their own religion, Judaism, which was different from their neighbors’ religions. Jews were kept apart and not allowed to integrate into society until the modern period. Over centuries, many negative stereotypes about them took root. Jews became the ultimate “other.” For example, one of the most incendiary accusations made against the Jews was that they had killed Jesus and deserved to be eternally punished. This accusation was officially rejected by the Catholic Church in Nostra Aetate, passed during the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican (known as Vatican II), in 1965. The Nazis, in particular, had a racial view of the world, and saw Jewishness as a race more than a religion. They adopted the idea that the Jewish “race” was the cause of all the world’s ills (especially communism, modernization, and capitalism) and their foremost enemy. They believed the Jews sought to dominate the world and enslave and destroy the Nordic Aryan race (the Germans). The Nazis believed that they had to get rid of this “Jewish Problem”; their “Final Solution” was murder. (Echoes and Reflections - "Students' Toughest Questions")
ANTISEMITISM. Article | Grades 7-12
"Throughout history Jews have faced prejudice and discrimination, known as antisemitism..." US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
HISTORY OF ANTISEMITISM AND THE HOLOCAUST. Lesson | Grades 7-12 | One class period, extensions available
"Antisemitism alone did not lead to the Holocaust, but it was a necessary precursor, contributing to an environment in which prejudice, hate speech and violence could occur. This lesson will focus on the history of antisemitism and its role in the Holocaust to better understand how prejudice and hate speech can contribute to violence, mass atrocity, and genocide. Learning about the origins of hatred and prejudice encourages students to think critically about antisemitism today. Included is a review of of key definitions distinguishing fact, opinion, and belief when analyzing historical events." - U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
PRE-WAR JEWISH LIFE AND NAZI ANTISEMITISM and NAZI ANTISEMITIC IDEOLOGY AND PROPAGANDA. Two Lessons | Grades 6-12 | 60-90 minutes each lesson
Students will learn about prewar Jewish life in Germany and antisemitism in Nazi ideology and its similarities and differences from pre-Nazi antisemitism. Students will also examine propaganda methods that were used to exploit antisemitic attitudes among the German people and to create an atmosphere of terror. - Echoes and Reflections
AFTERMATH OF WORLD WAR I AND THE RISE OF NAZISM - 1918-1933. Film | 13 minute excerpt | Grades 7-12
This excerpt from the film, "The Path to Nazi Genocide," is accompanied by a transcript. It helps explain this significant issue succinctly. - U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum