What Lies Beneath
They say the tip of an iceberg represents only 10 percent of its volume; the other 90 percent sits quietly below the surface. April 2019 marks 130 years since Adolf Hitler’s birth in Braunau am Inn, the largest town in northern Austria near the German border. He is forever remembered as the devilish dictator obsessed with the extermination of the Jewish people during World War II, and his name is stained with the blood of 6 million Jewish souls who were systematically murdered because of their ethnicity.
Yet Hitler did not invent anti-Semitism in Europe. He was merely the tip of the iceberg. The vast bulk of the insidious structure lies beneath the surface, which is why today’s Europe is beginning to resemble 1939 all over again.
Hitler tapped into the prevailing attitude in Germany at the time. In 1879, German politician and publicist Wilhelm Marr created the League of Anti-Semites to oppose the emancipation of Jewish people in Germany. Marr invented the word anti-Semitism. His publication The Victory of Judaism over Germandom called for Germans to resist the Jewish people, claiming they wielded too much power in the world. Marr’s publication was so popular in Germany it was reprinted many times before Hitler ever stepped into German politics.
In 1894 Jewish journalist Theodor Herzl was so profoundly affected by the vicious anti-Semitism he saw when he covered the Dreyfus Affair in France that he became convinced the Jewish people were in danger. French Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a high-ranking Jewish officer in the French military, was falsely accused of treason. Following his conviction, he was marched before an angry crowd that shouted, “Death to Judas, death to the Jew.” Dreyfus was later exonerated, but the incident propelled Herzl’s mission to establish a homeland for the Jewish people.
Holocaust scholars agree that anti-Semitism reached a fever pitch in Europe between 1899 and 1939; and, unlike other minorities in Europe, Jewish people were targeted for their faith, race, economic status, and political affiliation.
A now-declassified 1946 U.S. State Department report, The Jews in Poland Since the Liberation, stated that hatred of Jewish people in Poland was embedded in the fabric of Polish political and economic life.
We might think that almost 75 years after the end of World War II, the European nations would have learned to protect their Jewish citizens to ensure a calamity like the Holocaust would never happen again. But according to a recent CNN poll, anti-Semitism is alive and well in most of Europe.
More than a quarter of Europeans believe Jewish people have too much power in business and finance. In Poland, 50 percent believe Jewish people use the Holocaust to advance their position, while almost 20 percent of Europeans believe anti-Semitism originates from “everyday behavior of Jewish people.” Sounds a lot like Wilhelm Marr.
Millions of Jewish people died horrible, cruel deaths in Poland in the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor, Chełmno, and Majdanek. Yet today, 50 percent of the people in Poland believe Jewish people exploit the Holocaust. There are no words.
The steady, blatant rise in anti-Semitism should sound an alarm. History repeats itself, and European history has been anything but kind to our Jewish friends. If we’re sitting around waiting for another Hitler to come to power before we cry foul, we’ve waited too long. Remember, Hitler was merely the tip of the iceberg. We must never forget the 90 percent that lies beneath.