Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Nazis and Anti-Semitism, the Christianity connection, Houston Stewart Chamberlain

Nazi anti-semitism has always been a mystery to me. Previously, nothing that I had come across even rose to the level of pseudo-scientific pretension the scientific racism did, which is saying something. So, I decided to look at one of their acknowledged sources, "Foundations of the 19th century by Houston Stewart Chamberlain". Chamberlain liked the Nazis, and they liked him back. High Nazi figures visiting him in his last days, after they had seized power, and got a thumbs up from him for their actions.

"Foundations" certainly provides answers, but the answers lead back into familiar territory, that is to say to the tradition of blaming the Jewiswh community for the death of Jesus. After slogging through pages and pages of Chamberlain's writings on art, Greece, and Rome without seeing getting anything anti-semitic, I finally got to the section on Christianity. That's when it started. Turns out Chamberlain was a Christian, and viewed the death of Christ as the most important event in world history.

Chamberlain viewed Christ and Judaism in Manichean terms. Judaism, as the "Old Law", represented everything identified as bad, base, and material. He viewed Judaism as being purely legal, consisting solely of personal regulations, advice on life, with no spirituality behind it. His version of the culture of the Middle East is one of people utterly focused on the here and now and not admitting anything transcendent. Christ, who he didn't believe was Jewish, was supposed to be the anti-thesis: pure spirit, freedom, self direction, cosmic contemplation. If Judaism was supposed to be centered on the market, Christ was supposed to be centered on the Heroic, although the way he links Christ to things more commonly associated with Homer and the Sagas is circuitous in the extreme. I mean, dying on the cross after preaching for a few years is hardly great heroism.

From it followed that Christ's death was at the hands of bad materialists and that his resurrection both proved them wrong and opened up the door for cosmic redemption through heroic deeds of love and justice.

In distorting Judaism, both past and present, out of all recognition Chamberlain recapitulates the Passion story, but twists it through the interjection of a European or "Aryan" Christ,linking distant deeds in the middle east to 19th century Europe. It's very obvious that he's projecting into the past his feelings about the present-what he liked and didn't like about the world around him, what he thought was wrong and right with society. Everything that he doesn't like about the modern world....gets wrapped up into a bundle and then put onto people who are Jewish, changing their beliefs and maligning there religion to make it look like they believe the worst and most crass ideas around. Everything good, nice, and positive gets the opposite treatment....bundled up and ascribed to the Germanic "Aryan", or, failing that, to Europeans, or Indo-Europeans.

You get the feeling that Jews were picked out of the hat of history for this role, and that if it had been some other people and some other religion that had come to Europe that they'd have been the target instead. Their religion would have gotten the treatment, their culture would have been distorted and maligned. To me, nothing in Judaism itself provides the basis for what Chamberlain argues. Instead, it's all backwards projection based on a Christian interpretation of the role of Jews that assigns to them an old and primitive covenant and the murder of Christ.

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