Anti-Semitism has a much longer history than its existence in Nazi Germany, particularly throughout the Christian tradition, which states that the murder of Jesus Christ was directly perpetrated by Jews. As Christ is one of the three most venerated figures in Christian tradition, Anti-Semitism often grew from blame into far more intense forms of human hatred.

For instance, Robert Michael explains in “The Tradition of AntiJewish Language” that St. Ambrose, a highly influential ecclesiastical figure during the 300s, professed that Jewish synagogues were places “of unbelief, a home of impiety, a refuge of insanity, damned by God himself”.[1] St. Ambrose was not the only important Christian to claim such things: St. Jerome called the synagogue “a place to deprave the soul”; St. John Chrysostom called Jewish peoples “congenitally evil”; and Julius Streicher called them “the sons of the devil”.[2] Their biblical connections to Judas and to usury seemed to justify, in some minds, these claims.


Anti-Jewish German Propaganda

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This history of anti-Semitism is significant for Nazi Germany because, at a time wherein Germans were feeling betrayed as well as feeling the effects of a withering economy, Jewish peoples became an effective scapegoat with, what’s more, a preexisting rhetoric to support such notions. The solution appeared to many that Jews were “fit for slaughter”.[3] If not annihilation, some argued that Jewish peoples should at least be slaves for Christians, and are effectively destined to be the property of the latter. Yet another facet of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany which was already part of Jewish history was the medieval notion that cultural visibility was important. For instance, Michael notes that “Canon 68 of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 decreed that the Jews had to be distinguished from Christians by the quality of their clothes”.[4] The reintroduction of such ideas into the fabric of German society thus clearly had a strong foundation of historical means to make such goals a reality.

The Empty Chairs Memorial

Below is a photograph of the Empty Chairs Memorial in Krakow, Poland. The display is located in a former Jewish ghetto which, in 1941, was one of many mandated locations of residence for Jewish peoples in Poland under control of the Nazi regime. While conditions were often cramped and poverty was rampant, the empty chairs symbolize instead the removal of the Jews from the ghetto. The empty chairs devoid of its occupants are meant to convey a sense that something is distinctly missing or absent in the ghetto.

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Photo Credit: Original Photograph by Taylor Bengert, in Plac Bohaterow Getta, Krakow, Poland

For further information on anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, see

[1] Robert Michael and Karin Doerr. Nazi-Deutsch/Nazi-German : An English Lexicon of the Language of the Third Reich (Santa Barbara: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002), 1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 2

[4] Ibid.

Title Photo Credit: Original Photograph by Taylor Bengert, in Auschwitz Bierkenau