Wilhelm Marr (1819–1904) has gone down in history as the first racial anti-Semite. His signature work, The Victory of Judaism over Germanism: Viewed from a Nonreligious Point of View, expresses Marr’s views on the conflict between Germans and Jews in a strikingly modern manner.
The pamphlet is difficult to obtain, and there have been no English translations. Now the text has been translated by Gerhard Rohringer and is available online in pdf format. The following summarizes Marr’s ideas as presented in this translation of the 8th edition, first published in 1879.
Marr was a journalist, and his pamphlet is expressed in a journalistic style with all the pluses and minuses that that entails. Marr’s pamphlet contains a number of ideas that agree with modern theories and social science research on Jews, as well as some ideas that are less supported but interesting nonetheless. His ideas on future events are fascinating with the 20/20 hindsight of 130 years of history.
Marr describes his writing as “a ‘scream of pain’ coming from the oppressed” (p. 6). Marr sees Germans as having already lost the battle with Jewry: “Judaism has triumphed on a worldwide historical, basis. I shall bring the news of a lost battle and of the victory of the enemy and all of that I shall do without offering excuses for the defeated army.”
In other words, Marr is not blaming the Jews for their predominance in German society, but rather blaming the Germans for allowing this to happen. He sees historical hatred against Jews as due to their occupational profile (“the loathing Jews demonstrate for real work” — a gratuitously negative and overly generalized reference to the Jewish occupational profile) and to “their codified hatred against all non-Jews” (p. 8). Historical anti-Semitism often had a religious veneer, but it was actually motivated by “the struggle of nations and their response to the very real Judaization of society, that is, to a battle for survival…. I therefore unconditionally defend Jewry against any and all religious persecution” (p. 10).
Marr claims that Jews have a justified hatred toward Europeans:
Nothing is more natural than the hatred the Jews must have felt for those who enslaved them and abducted them from their homeland[i.e., the Romans; Marr seems unaware that the Jewish Diaspora predated the failed Jewish rebellions of the 1st and 2nd centuries]. Nothing is more natural than that this hatred had to grow during the course of oppression and persecution in the Occident over the span of almost two thousand years. … Nothing is more natural than that they responded using their inborn gifts of craftiness and cleverness by forming as ‘captives’ a state within a state, a society within a society. (p. 11)
Jews used their abilities to obtain power in Germany and other Western societies: “By the 19th century the amazing toughness and endurance of the Semites had made them the leading power within occidental society. As a result, and that particularly in Germany, Jewry has not been assimilated into Germanism, but Germanism has been absorbed into Judaism” (p. 11).
Marr claims that Judaism retreated in the face of “Christian fanaticism,” and achieved its greatest successes first among the Slavs and then among the Germans — both groups that were late in developing national cultures. He attributes the success of Jews in Germany to the fact that Germans did not have a sense of German nationality or German national pride (p. 12).
This is a point that I have also stressed: Collectivist cultures such as medieval Christianity tend to be bad for Jews because Jews are seen as an outgroup by a strongly defined ingroup. (See, e.g., here.) Moreover, a general trend in European society after the Enlightenment was to develop cultures with a strong sense of national identity where Christianity and/or ethnic origins formed a part. These cultures tended to exclude Jews, at least implicitly. An important aspect of Jewish intellectual and political activity in post-Enlightenment societies has been opposition to national cultures throughout Europe and other Western societies (see, e.g., here).
Marr credits Jews with bringing economic benefits to Germany: “There is no way to deny that the abstract, money-oriented, haggling mind of the Jews has contributed much to the flourishing of commerce and industry in Germany.” Although “racial anti-Semites” are often portrayed as viewing Jews as genetically inferior or even subhuman, a very strong tendency among racial anti-Semites is to see Jews as a very talented group. Marr clearly sees Jews as an elite.
Indeed, Marr sees the Germans as inferior to the Jews and as having a mélange of traits that caused them to lose the battle to Jews:
Into this confused, clumsy Germanic element penetrated a smooth crafty, pliable Jewry; with all of its gifts of realism [as opposed to German idealism], intellectually well qualified as far as the gift of astuteness is concerned, to look down upon the Germans and subduing the monarchical, knightly, lumbering German by enabling him in his vices. (p. 13)
What we [Germans] don’t have is the drive of the Semitic people. On account of our tribal organization we shall never be able to acquire such a drive and because cultural development knows no pause, our outlook is none other than a time when we Germans will live as slaves under the legal and political feudalism of Judaism. (p. 14)
Germanic indolence, Germanic stinginess, convenient Teutonic disdainfulness of expression are responsible [for the fact] that the agile and clever Israel now decides what one shall say and what not…. You have turned the press over to them because you find brilliant frivolity more to your liking than moral fortitude …. The Jewish people thrive because of their talents and you have been vanquished, as you should have been and as you have deserved a thousandfold. (p. 30)
Are we willing to sacrifice? Did we succeed in creating even a single anti-Jewish leaning paper, which manages to be politically neutral? … To de-Judaize ourselves, for that we clearly lack physical and spiritual strength.
I marvel in admiration at this Semitic people which put its heel onto the nape of our necks. … We harbor a resilient, tough, intelligent foreign tribe among us, who knows how to take advantage of every form of abstract reality. (p. 24)
We are no longer a match for this foreign tribe. (p. 27)
As a result of his high estimation of Jews and low estimation of Germans, Marr claims that he does not hate Jews. It’s simply a war where one side loses. The conflict between Jews and Germans is “like a war. How can I hate the soldier whose bullet happens to hit me? — Does one not offer one’s hand as victor as well as a prisoner of war? … In my eyes, it is a war which has been going on for 1800 years” (p. 28).
Despite their long history of living together, Jews, unlike other peoples who have come to Germany, remain foreigners among the Germans — the separatism that is fundamental to Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy (and hence my titles, A People that Shall Dwell Alone and Separation and Its Discontents):
[The Jew] was a typical foreigner to them and remained one until today; and yes, his exclusive Judaism, as we shall demonstrate in what follows, shows itself even more today after his emancipation, than it did in earlier times. (p. 13)
All other immigration into Germany … disappeared without a trace within Germanism; Wends and Slavs disappeared in the German element. The Semitic race, stronger and tougher, has survived them all. Truly! Were I a Jew, I would look upon this fact with my greatest pride. (p. 17)
One of Marr’s most interesting observations is his proposal that Germans formed idealistic images of Jews during the Enlightenment when others had more realistic and negative views. Jews are realists, accepting the world as it is and advancing their interests based on their understanding of this reality. Judaism is characterized by particularlst morality (Is it good for the Jews?). Germans, on the other hand, tend to have idealized images of themselves and others — to believe that the human mind can construct reality based on ideals that can then shape behavior. They are predisposed to moral universalism — moral rules apply to everyone and are not dependent on whether it benefits the ingroup.
This is a reference to the powerful idealist strand of German philosophy that has been so influential in the culture of the West. An illustrative example is American transcendentalism, a movement that created an indigenous culture of critique in 19th-century America. This perspective resulted in overly optimistic views of human nature and tended toward radical egalitarianism; it also provided the theoretical underpinnings the abolitionist movement among elite intellectuals like Ralph Waldo Emerson.
In particular, Marr notes that, whereas prominent and influential Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire were critics of Judaism (seeing it as reactionary tribalism), in Germany the most influential writer was Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781). Lessing presented a very positive image of Judaism in his play Nathan the Wise. The Jewish Nathan (Marr calls him “Rothschild” to give it contemporary relevance) makes an eloquent plea for religious tolerance — while at the same time he finances the Muslim war against the Christian Crusaders. Marr suggests that Lessing engaged in a bit of self-deception: Despite his positive portrayal of Nathan as the essence of tolerance, “Lessing could not in his subconscious self overcome the identity of Jew and servant of Mammon” (p. 15).
The influence of Lessing was profound: “German idealism was captivated bythe legend of the ring [i.e., Lessing’s metaphor for religious tolerance], but missed that Lessing’s Nathan could only be — a character from a fable” (p. 16).
Marr suggests that instead of a fictional character like Nathan the Wise, Lessing should have seen 17th-century Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza as an illustration of what Judaism is really like. Whereas Nathan the Wise suggests that religious tolerance is a characteristic of Judaism, Marr interprets Spinoza’s fate as illustrating Jewish intolerance and fanaticism in the real world — features of Judaism also noted by several contemporary writers, most notably Israel Shahak, but also including Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire. Spinoza was hounded out of the Jewish community of Amsterdam because of his views on religion: “This truly great Jewish non-Jew had been cursed by his own tribal associates — all the way to attempted murderous assault” (p. 16). But in the 19th century, “woe to the German who dares to show the Jewish masses who the great Spinoza was and what he stood for!!” (p. 16).
Another trait of Germans that Marr sees as deleterious is “abstract individualism.” Marr states that Jewish economic success within capitalism is “in agreement with the dogma of ‘abstract individualism’ which you have accepted with enthusiasm from the hands of Judaism” (p. 30). In other words, Marr believed that individualism was something Jews imposed on Germany, not a tendency within the Germans themselves. (Contrary to Marr’s position, I have argued that the fundamental uniqueness of European peoples is a greater tendency toward individualism than other human groups. Individualism then leads to moral universalism, a form of idealism, rather than the tribally-based morality of groups like the Jews.) As noted above, Marr (correctly) believed that individualistic societies are relatively defenseless against Jews, whereas societies centered around a strong collectivist religious core (e.g., medieval Christianity) or a strong sense of ethnic nationalism are more able to defend themselves.
Because of their grievances against Europeans, it is not surprising that Jews support revolution:
Who can hold it against the Jews that they happily welcomed the revolutions of 1789 and the one of 1848 and actively participated in them? “Jews, Poles and writers” was the battle cry of the conservatives in 1848. Well, of course, three suppressed factions!(p. 16)
Following his first decisive victory of 1848 he had to — whether he wanted to or not — pursue his success further and must now attempt to ruin the Germanic, Occidental world. (p. 28).
By 1848 Judaism had entirely ceased being a religion at all. It was “nothing else but the constitution of a people, forming a state within a state and this secondary or counter-state demanded certain material advantages for its members” (p. 17). Marr states that Jewish emancipation only meant political equality because Jews had already achieved “a leading and dominating role” (p. 17), and dominated all political factions except the Catholics. “The daily press is predominantly in Jewish hands, which have transformed journalism … into a business with public opinion; critique of the theater, of art in general — is to three quarters in the hands of Jews. Writing about politics and even religion is — in Jewish hands” (p. 19). While Jews are deeply involved in creating the culture of Germany, “Judaism has been declared a subject off-limits for us Germans. … To comment on [Jewish] rituals is ‘hatred’, but if the Jew takes it upon himself to pronounce the last word in our religious and state affairs, then it is quite a different matter” (p. 20).
Jews are particularly involved in the “culture struggle” against ultramontanism— the view that papal authority should extend over secular affairs. Ultramontanism was attacked by Jews because the Church “opposed Judaism for world domination.” Although opposition to ultramontanism was also an interest for many Germans, Jews did all the talking, and any criticism of Roman Catholicism was banned “if Israel was touched on ever so slightly!!” (p. 20).
Jews are powerful and they will continue to obtain more power. In the end, Germans will be at the mercy of the Jews:
Within less than four generations there will not be a single office in the land, including the highest, which will not have been usurped by the Jews. Yes, through Jewry Germany will become a world power, an Occidental Palestine… Jewry has fought the Occident for 1800 years. It has conquered and subjected it. We are the vanquished and it is quite in order that the victor chants ‘Vae Victis’ [woe to the vanquished]. (p. 22)
The Jew has no real religion, he has a business contract with Jehovah and pays his god with statutes and formulations and in return is charged with the pleasant task of exterminating all that is not Jewish. (p. 14)
Marr saw Russia as the only European nation that had resisted the Jewish onslaught. However, he believed that Russia would eventually fall by bloody revolution and this revolution would lead to the downfall of the West:
[Among European nations, only Russia] is left to still resist the foreign invasion. … [T]he final surrender of Russia is only a question of time. … Jewish resilient, fly-by-night attitude will plunge Russia into a revolution like the world might never have seen before. … With Russia, Jewry will have captured the last strategic position from which it has to fear a possible attack on its rear …. After it has invaded Russia’s offices and agencies the same way it did ours, then the collapse of our Western society will begin in earnest openly and in Jewish fashion. The ‘last hour’ of doomed Europa will strike at the latest in 100 to 150 years” (p. 24–25).
Indeed, Jews are already taking the lead in fomenting anti-Russian policy, as in the Russian-Turkish war. For example, ideas that “the insolence of the great sea power England might be curbed” by allying with Russia were banned from the Jewish newspapers (p. 26).
Marr is entirely pessimistic about the future, foreseeing a cataclysm:
The destructive mission of Judaism (which also existed in antiquity) will only come to a halt once it has reached its culmination, that is after Jewish Caesarism has been installed” (p. 28).
Jewry will have to face a final, desperate assault particularly by Germanism, before it will achieve authoritarian dominance. (p. 29)
Marr thinks that anti-Jewish attitudes will become powerful but ultimately they will fail to fend off disaster for the Germans and the West. Marr lays part of the blame on the fact that the only people who publicly oppose the Jews conceptualize them incorrectly as a religion. As a result, responsible, informed criticism of Jews that would appeal to non-religious people and intellectual elites never appears in the press: “A catastrophe lies ahead, because the indignation against the Judaization of society is intensified by the fact that it can’t be ventilated in the press without showing itself as a most abstruse religious hatred, such as it surfaces in the ultramontane and generally in the reactionary press” (p. 30). Nevertheless, even a “violent anti-Jewish explosion will only delay, but not avert the disintegration of Judaized society” (p. 30).
Regarding his own mission, Marr sees himself as a soldier fighting a lost cause:“I am aware that my journalist friends and I stand defenseless before Jewry. We have no patronage among the nobility or the middle class. Our German people are too Judaized to have the will for self-preservation (p. 32).
Marr concludes with the following:
The battle had to be fought without hatred against the individual combatant, who was forced into the role of attacker or defender. Tougher and more persistent than we, you became victorious in this battle between people, which you fought without the sword, while we massacred and burned you, but did not muster the moral strength to tell you to live and deal among your own. …