Antisemitism, the prejudice against or hatredof Jews, did not begin during the Holocaust. Although the Holocaust is the mostnotable case of anti-Semitism in Europe it is surely not the only case.
Asearly as 70 CE, you see negative attitudes towards Jews. Jews have a long history of being oppressedand are still battling ongoing persecution today. In this essay, I will explorethe roots of anti-Semitism and how it transitioned into what it has becometoday.
Mostof the early anti-Jewish beliefs stemmed from religion. Although Christianityemerged from Judaism there were many misconceptions about Jews by Christians.Because of the general Jewish belief that Jesus was not the Messiah, Christiansbelieved that the Jews were to blame for the death of Jesus.
They wereconsidered the killers of the son of God. The early Christian church showedJews as “unwilling to accept the word of God.” This portrayal of Jews causedsome church leaders to believe that Jews worked for the devil.
The Roman Catholics even went as far todestroy the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, causing many Jews to be exiled andother to flee out of the area. Jews were occasionally welcomed in somecountries. But, as religion was the main form of self-identification of thetime, Jews were shown more and more as a minority Asthe prominent religion in Europe transitioned into Christianity, many stateswere passing laws that prevented Jews from doing things such as owning land andholding public office.
Due to their religion, Christians were not encouraged towork with money so, this became an empty void for Jews to fill. Because Jewswere not allowed in most profession they ended up filling these positionsbecoming involved in trade, commerce, and lending. This also led to negativeviews of Jews as people felt they were constantly being ripped off by the Jews.
Attributing tothis negative view of Jews was the many misconceptions that people had aboutthem. As I stated before, the misconceptions started with the thought that theJews were to blame for the violent murder of Jesus of Nazareth. Another notablemisconception was that Jews were involved in blood libel. Blood libel is theidea that Jewish people were using the blood of Christian children for ritualpurposes. Christians genuinely believed that Jews were taking their childrenand taking their blood for use in religious practices. One of the most far outmisconceptions of the time was the Jewish people caused the black plague. Thesemisconceptions were the popular thought of the time and highly contributed tothe widespread oppression of Jews all throughout Europe.
With the reformationof the Catholic church in 1517 lead by Martin Luther, Jews were pressured toconvert Protestantism. When the Jews were still not willing to convert theywere hated by Luther. Luther Is quotedsaying “What then shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemnedpeople, the Jews? Their synagogues should be set on fire, and what does notburn must be covered over with earth so that no man will ever see stone orcinder of them again.
Their houses alsoshould be razed and destroyed and all their prayer books should be taken fromthem.”