Did a backlash to Communism contribute to Hitler’s success in implementing the Holocaust?

There would have been no Holocaust without Hitler. His deranged, obsessive hatred of Jews was his most salient characteristic.  He pursued his monomaniacal goal of annihilating Jews even when, as defeats piled up, it seriously undercut the Nazi war effort.  This said, a factor  that contributed to the popular support he received in this project, was his success in identifying Jews with Bolshevism (Communism). 

An Austrian soldier who fought for the Nazis wrote home to his wife that

During the first try, my hand trembled a bit as I shot, but one gets used to it. By the tenth try I aimed calmly and shot surely at the many women, children and infants. I kept in mind that I have two infants at home, whom these hordes would treat just the same, if not ten times worse. The death that we gave them was a beautiful quick death, compared to the hellish torments of thousands and thousands in the jails of the GPU [Soviet Secret Police]. Infants flew in great arcs through the air, and we shot them to pieces in flight…

Historian Paul Johnson writes:

in the period before World War II, it was generally believed, not only in Germany but throughout Central and Western Europe, that Bolshevism was Jewish-inspired and led, and that Jews were in control of Communist Parties, and that they directed Red revolutions. Jews had been prominent in the Spartacist rising in Berlin, in the Munich Soviet government, and in the abortive risings in other German cities.

He adds that bloodthirsty Jewish Reds did exist, such as the Latvian Jew Latsis of the Cheka. (The Cheka investigated counter-revolutionary activities during Lenin’s rule of Russia and executed many victims.)

Johnson also notes that often leading non-Jewish Reds were labeled as Jews basically by inference – to fit the generalization when facts were scarce.

Britain’s Winston Churchill, a lifelong friend of the Jews, said the Jews had “created another system of morality and philosophy [Bolshevism], this one saturated with as much hatred as Christianity was with love.’

Another Englishman, Victor Marsden, who had been held in a Bolshevik prison, returned to England with gruesome tales. Britain’s Morning Post asked Marsden who was responsible for the persecutions he had suffered…he answered with two words: “The Jews”.

Many of the British officers in Palestine had a copy of the Russian forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, which claimed that the Jews wanted world domination. Some people who had not taken the Protocols seriously originally, subsequently changed their mind when Bolshevism took over Russia, thinking that Communism was proof that the Protocols were being implemented. We might speculate that this belief in paranoid theories may have contributed to the unfair British treatment of Jews in Palestine, such as disarming them in the face of Arab mobs.

So was there any truth to the association of Jews with Bolshevism?

Unfortunately, there were too many Jews in that movement. Professor Edward Alexander, a retired Jewish non-leftist Professor of English, tells the tale in a chapter on the topic of Jewish utopianism by concentrating on the story of Isaac Bashevis Singer. Professor Alexander writes (I paraphrase a bit):

Isaac Bashevis Singer was a literary intellectual who was hostile to leftism in all its forms In a world where youthful addiction to leftism was as common as the measles, Singer must have been a remarkable anomaly. He was warned that he would be hanged from the nearest lamppost on the day the revolution came to Poland. Even when he came to the United States, he felt surrounded by Jewish leftists. Arriving in New York in 1935, he was appalled to find the building that contained the offices of Der Forverts [A Yiddish Socialist Newspaper] draped in red.

When Singer was in Warsaw, he wanted to be apolitical. But Singer himself tells us:

My enemies were Jewish youth, fledgling writers who lauded the Russian revolution, already glorified Comrade Dzerzhinski [Dzerzhinski was one of the architects of the mass killings of hundreds of thousands of people during the Red Terror and Decossackization], and demanded death for all rabbis, priests, bourgeois, Zionists, and even Socialists who didn’t follow the Moscow line. I was shocked to see how bloodthirsty Jewish boys and girls had become. Two thousand years of exile, ghetto, and Torah hadn’t created a biological Jew. All it took was a few pamphlets and speeches to erase everything the books of morals had tried to imbue in us throughout the generations.

Singer knew a few of these leftists personally, and he did not like them. Professor Alexander summarizes Singer’s observations “that the personal relations of these Communist friends of the species were always little hells of hatred and discord…and that some strange paradox of human nature always led those doctrinally committed to the transformation of mankind to lace the treacle of humanitarianism with the acid of hatred of real human beings.”

A character in one of Singer’s books says “The Gentile makes gods of stone and we of theories.”

Isaac Bashevis Singer

Jewish immigrants to the U.S. included fervent revolutionaries, and it took a few generations for their descendants to shake off the extremism. In fact, even in 1970, a Harris study showed that 23 percent of Jewish college students termed themselves “far left” versus 4 percent of Protestants and 2 percent of Catholics. There is an interesting book by Irving Kristol with a chapter about his radical college days in the 1930’s at City College in New York. He was a Trotskyist then, but totally abandoned Socialism later on. He says this:

Joining a radical movement when one is young is very much like falling in love when one is young. The girl may turn out to be rotten, but the experience of love is so valuable it can never be entirely undone by the ultimate disenchantment.

He also says that his involvement in radical politics put him “in touch with people and ideas that prompted me to read and think and argue with a furious energy.” He says that the leftism of his circle in the 30’s was not the alienation that came later in the 60’s. His group felt they were the ‘happy few’ who had been chosen by history to guide our fellow creatures toward a secular redemption.” (Many of this group could barely afford to bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to their meetings; they were not pampered rich kids).

There were many discussion or social alcoves in the CUNY cafeteria, including the Catholic alcove, a black students alcove, an athletes alcove, but alcove # 1 was the anti-Stalinist left alcove, and alcove # 2 was the pro-Stalinist alcove. Kristol hung out with the students of alcove #1. He says alcove #2 seemed to be a dreary bunch especially since they had to follow the party line no matter what atrocity had to be justified out of Stalin’s Russia. He says he only remembers two graduates of the Stalinist group. One became a famous scientist, the other betrayed the U.S. – the latter was Julius Rosenberg who would later provide top-secret information about radar, sonar, and jet propulsion engines as well as valuable nuclear weapon designs to the Soviet Union. At that time the United States was the only country in the world with nuclear weapons.

Obviously anti-Semitism long antedated Communism. The Nazis came from what Paul Johnson calls a “race paranoid” tradition, and also killed gypsies, for instance. Nonetheless, part of their propaganda was that Jews were Communists (as well as Capitalists).

Of all the Jews I’ve met, including my relatives, only one was a radical leftist.

The Jewish Idea and Its Enemies – Edward Alexander (1988)
A history of the Jews by Paul Johnson (1987)
Modern Times – The World from the Twenties to the Eighties – by Paul Johnson (1983)
Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder (2012)

Reflections of a Neoconservative by Irving Kristol (1983)

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