Antisemitism in Literature and in the Arts


Wassermann, Henry: Stereotypes and Antisemitism, from the Middle Ages to the Present. Jerusalem: Israel Information Centre, 1985. 23 pp. ("Da et amcha"). (Hebrew)

Examines the negative stereotype of the Jew as depicted in European art, especially in Germany, France, and England. Discusses themes in medieval Christian art (e.g. Ecclesia versus Synagoga, the Jew and Satan, the "Judensau"), and humanization and dehumanization in the Renaissance and Reformation period, which saw the birth of the caricature. Between 1750-1880, Jews were ridiculed for attempting to appear as honorable members of society. They were depicted with crooked body parts, and in connection with money, in thousands of 19th century caricatures. From 1880 on, there was an increase in antisemitic political caricatures, which reached its height in "Der Stuermer." In the postwar period, antisemitic and anti-Israel caricatures have appeared mainly in the Arab and Soviet press. States that the antisemitic stereotype reflects the changing position of Jews throughout history.

Boldy, Steven: "Cambio de piel": Literature and Evil. Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 66, 1 (Jan 1989) 55-72.

Analyzing the use of symbolism in the novel "Cambio de piel" by Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes, mentions that one of its main themes is the unchanging recurrence of evil and violence throughout history. The Holocaust and the history of persecution of the Jews are evoked, together with the genocide of the ancient Mexicans by the Spaniards and the persecution of women as witches, as violent attempts to deal with the different or "the Other."

Bremer, Natascha: Das Bild der Juden in den Passionsspielen und in der bildenden Kunst des deutschen Mittelalters. Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang, 1986. 244, [44] pp.

Compares representations of Jews in German passion plays and religious art up to the 14th century with those of the late 15th-early 16th centuries. Traces changes in Church policy and in society which turned the Jews from tolerated witnesses to the truth of Christianity into hated and despised pariahs. The early passion plays, written and acted by clerics, transmitted the Gospel story without elaboration: the Jews were condemned for rejecting Christ. In the paintings and sculpture of this period, Jews were identified by their beards and pointed hats, but not by repellent features. The later plays added details from contemporary town life. Jews were portrayed as usurers who worship only money, in league with the Devil and mocking Jesus. In art works their faces are depraved and vicious; the Synagogue is wicked and blasphemous. Plays and art reinforced stereotypes absorbed from the teachings of the Church, and incited attacks on the Jews who became the scapegoats for the crises of this period.

Bunte, Wolfgang: Juden und Judentum in der mittelniederlaendischen Literatur (1100-1600). Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang, 1989. 592 pp.

Pt. A (pp. 11-121) summarizes the history of the Jews in the Low Countries (today, southern Netherlands and northern Belgium), and presents texts describing their relations with Christians in the various provinces. Focuses on the massacre of Jews during the Black Death and by the Flagellant movement, and accusations of Host desecration. Pt. B (pp. 123-576) surveys the negative image of the Jews in Dutch literature influenced by Christian anti-Judaism. Jews were presented as stereotypes, as servants of the Devil, as usurers, and as responsible for blood libels and Host desecration. Mentions the specific genre of anti-Jewish satire and jokes. Includes extracts from literary works in Dutch with German translation.

Craig, Terrence: Racial Attitudes in English-Canadian Fiction, 1905-1980. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1987. xii, 163 pp.

Examines stereotypes in Canadian literature reflecting both the racist view that Jews and other aliens could never become good "white" Canadians because of their inherent defects, and the belief that with time they could assimilate. Discusses the origins of ethnic tension in Canada. Up to 1939, English Canadian literature expressed the demand for British Protestant political and cultural dominance. The popular novelist Charles Gordon, a Presbyterian minister, viewed the British (especially the Scots) as the chosen race, and even when trying to present Jews sympathetically he treated them as stereotypes. John Murray Gibbon was violently antisemitic. F.P Grove saw the Jews as urban businessmen exploiting the peasant immigrants. After 1945 antisemitism became unfashionable. Works by Jews such as Mordecai Richler exposed anti-Jewish discrimination, and English Canadians produced works attacking antisemitism and racism.

Dreizin, Felix; Guaspari, David, eds.: The Russian Soul and the Jew: Essays in Literary Ethnocentricism. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1990. xviii, 246 pp.

Analyzes several Russian popular images of the Jew and the negative stereotype of a mythical Jew, surveying its impact on Gogol, Dostoevsky, Pasternak, and Solzhenitsyn. Based on semantic and psychoanalytic interpretation, discusses the significance of the Jewish characters and the negative image of the Ukrainian Jewish community in Gogol's novel "Taras Bulba," pointing out Gogol's attachment to anti-Jewish prejudices prevalent in Russian and Ukrainian culture. Examines the obsessive hatred of the Jew as the embodiment of evil expressed in Dostoevsky's private letters and parts of his ideological writings, attributed to his paranoid tendencies. Remarks, however, on the almost total absence of antisemitism in Dostoevsky's literary work. Surveys the history of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," focusing on its role in enforcing the myth of a Jewish and Masonic world conspiracy. Points out the ambivalent attitude of Solzhenitsyn toward the Jewish characters in his works. Concludes that he made no effort to prevent an antisemitic ideological interpretation of his negative Jewish characters in "Lenin in Zurich" and "August 1914."

Fischer, Jens Malte: Literarischer Antisemitismus im zwanzigsten Jahrhundert: Zu seinen Stereotypen und seiner Pathologie. Erkundungen: Beitraege zu einem erweiterten Literaturbegriff, Festschrift fuer Helmut Kreuzer, eds. Jens Malte Fischer et al. Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1987. Pp. 117-138.

Surveys the latest research on antisemitism and discusses the use of antisemitic stereotypes in literature. Analyzes the works of Celine, especially "Bagatelles pour un massacre" (1937), using Erich Fromm's theories to explain his violent hatred of the Jews. Another racist stereotype is expressed in Artur Dinter's "Die Suende wider das Blut" (1917), where the Jew is portrayed as contaminating Aryan blood. Compares this work with passages from "Mein Kampf." Eduard Fuchs' studies of the Jewish stereotype in his "Die Juden in der Karikatur" (1921) shows that sexual anti-Jewish elements were present in German folklore during the Renaissance. Quotes a poem from an anonymous German pamphlet published in the 1920s as a supplement to the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." According to Sartre, Adorno, and Horkheimer, these perverse antisemitic depictions arise from psychological disturbances.

Gilman, Sander L.: Plague in Germany - 1939/1989: Cultural Images of Race, Space and Disease. MLN - Modern Language Notes 104, 5 (Dec 1989) 1142-1171.

Examines the themes of race and disease in German culture as expressed in the novels "Patrouille gegen den Tod" by Rudolf Heinrich Daumann (1939) and "Die Seuche" by Peter Zingler (1989). Contends that one must view the themes of Daumann's novel against the background of German science which identified the Jew with syphilis. Two models existed: Hitler viewed the Jews as carriers of sexual diseases who transmitted them to the rest of the world; but it was also argued that Jews had a lower rate of syphilitic infection because of their immunity after centuries of exposure. The view of the diseased Jews stemmed from the need to distinguish them at a time when most Jews showed no external signs of difference. By the 1930s, terms of disease and plague and their inherent association with the Jews had entered the cultural vocabulary of Germany. Zingler's novel, a science fiction account of AIDS in Germany in 1999, includes many associations from the Nazi period: concentration camps of AIDS victims are set up and "gay" ghettos are established. Points out that Zingler continues the same imagery used in 1939, i.e. the association of the Jew with disease.

Gunzberg, Lynn Marian: Strangers at Home: Jews in the Italian Literary
Imagination. Berkeley, CA: University  of California Press, 1992. 294 pp.

Explores the image of the Jews in Italian popular, mass-market literature
written from the early 1800s until the enactment of the fascist racial laws in
1938. States that the popular tradition in Italy, expressed in this kind of
literature, assigned to the Jews a prescribed social role that they could
abandon only by giving up their Jewishness. Analyzes the stereotyped, negative
image of the Jew and the ghetto in the 19th century writings of Carlo Varese,
the poet Giuseppe G. Belli, Antonio Bresciani (e.g. his novel "L'Ebreo di
Verona," 1851), and writers of "mysteries" of the ghetto, inspired by Eugene
Sue's model (e.g. Ausonio Liberi, Carolina Invernizio). Examines the
representation of the Jews in fascist ideology and literature (e.g. Gian Paolo
Callegari, Mario Carli), noting that in popular literature of the 1930s the
Jews lost any potentially positive traits. Mentions the world Jewish conpiracy
myth in Giovanni Papini's vision, expressed in intellectual terms. Concludes
that despite Jewish religious and cultural assimilation, the tradition of
literary representation, based on negative stereotypes, allowed for little
change.

Inglot, Mieczyslaw: The Image of the Jew in Polish Narrative Prose of the
Romantic Period. Polin 2 (1987) 199- 218.

Surveys Jewish figures in Polish fiction between 1822-63 and states that most
were depicted as evil or as comic figures, according to stereotypic images of
the Jew in multiethnic Poland. Many of the characters were innkeepers or
smugglers; some were villains, with demoniacal traits. The only writer who
broke with this stereotype was J.I. Kraszewski. Concludes that positive Jewish
characters appeared in Polish literature only after 1863.

Press, Jacob: Firing the Canon: The Jewish Stereotype in Anglo-American
Culture. Mosaic 10 (Spr 1991) 51-61.

Examines the persistence of the Jewish stereotype in English literature,
appearing in two basic categories: the Jew-devil and the Jew-saint. The Jew-
devil is represented in Shakespeare's Shylock, Dickens' Fagin, and T.S.
Eliot's Bleistein. The Jew-saint is the Christianized Jew, as depicted in
George Eliot's Deronda and Joyce's Bloom. The positioning of the Jew as
demonic Other persists in the political perception of the Israeli Jew as
demon. There is a fundamental sense of betrayal felt in a Christian society
which viewed the Jews as saints immediately after the Holocaust. Thus, the
dichotomous images revealed in examination of the literary canon continue to
influence the perception of Jews today.

Schiff, Ellen: Demythologizing the Demon: Updating the Stock Type. World
Congress of Jewish Studies, 9th  (1985): Proceedings. Division D2. Jerusalem:
World Union of Jewish Studies, 1986. Pp. 213-218.

Although the traditional formula of the "stage Jew" is no longer acceptable,
the sophisticated Jewish figures of modern drama can be seen as descendants of
the stock caricature. Since the medieval passion and morality plays, the
figure of the Jew served as a symbol of evil, of the demonic and the
different. Shows the use of Jewish figures in plays by Jewish writers such as
Arnold Wesker, Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter, and others. Even when the demon
is demythologized, the Jew remains "extravagant, exotic, daring, comic - in a
word, different."

Schwanitz, Dietrich: Shylock: Von Shakespeare bis zum Nuernberger Prozess. Mit
einem Abdruck von "Shylock's  Revenge" by David Henry Wilson. Hamburg: Verlag
Dr. R. Kraemer, 1989. 293 pp.

Analyzes the development of antisemitism from the early Renaissance to Nazism.
Traces the complementary figures of Shylock and of Ahasuerus, the Wandering
Jew, in literary works and stage presentations, showing that they reflected
changing attitudes to Jews. Suggests that Shakespeare's Shylock embodies all
the traditional stereotypes of the Jew, such as bloodthirstiness and love of
money. Shows that the plot of "The Merchant of Venice" is based on the
interplay of bourgeois, aristocrat, and Jew, a triangle that appears again and
again in history and literature, e.g. in the Dreyfus Affair or in Gustav
Freytag's "Soll und Haben." Analyzes variations of the model in Disraeli and
Marx, which made possible the identification of Jews with any hated class, or
with all of them simultaneously as in Nazism. Antisemitism was reinforced by
the Church's allegations, after the French Revolution, of a Jewish world
conspiracy, and by racist ideology. All these elements met in Hitler's vision
of extirpating the strangers from society in order to return to pre-capitalist
brotherhood. Describes the Nuremberg Trials as a counter-play to the trial
scene in "The Merchant of Venice." Pp. 237-293 contain the text of a play by
David Henry Wilson.

Steele, Peter: Prejudice and Antisemitism in English Literature. Gesher -
Bridge 1, 2 (June 1992) 36-40.

A paper presented to the Council of Christians and Jews in October 1991.
Taking as an example a postcard which circulated in America in 1913 which
caricatured a Jew and an Irishman, discusses the function of stereotypes in
society and in literary works in general, and the preoccupation with the
stranger, the "Other." Contends that life involves contrast; the ability to
acknowledge and cope with "otherness" is a precondition of living
meaningfully. A Christianity which rejects otherness is rejecting God. Writers
cope with "the Other," including Jews, in the attempt to "place" them and
command them intellectually. Wherever Jews are encountered in English
literature, and however they are rendered, it is likely that they will carry a
charge of meaning beyond their overt role in the text. To Gentile eyes they
are always somewhat "other," somewhat abnormal; but that otherness is an
emblem of any individual's otherness.

Steinlauf, Michael Charles: Mr. Geldhab and Sambo in "Peyes": Images of the
Jew on the Polish Stage, 1863-1905.  Polin 4 (1989) 98-128.

Against the background of changes in Polish society (capitalism, growing
nationalism, etc.), surveys the figure of the Jew in the Polish theater.
Analyzes plays by Jozef Korzeniowski, Aleksander Fredro, Sarnecki, Zalewski,
and others. At the beginning of the 19th century the Jews were depicted in
comic form, and later as money-makers, but still making up part of Polish
society. With the rise of the National Democrats movement, the Jews were
identified as an "alien" element within the Polish "organism" which should be
fought and ultimately expelled. This feeling found expression in Polish
society, as well as in the theater, and was a sign of crisis in that society.
Steinlauf compares the image of the Jew in the Polish theater to the
stereotypical image of Black Sambo in American 19th century theater for a
better understanding of the problem.

Vicente, Arie: Lo judio en el teatro espanol contemporaneo. Madrid: Pliegos,
1991. 200 pp.

Analyzes the myth of the Jew in the Spanish theater, from the medieval comic-
grotesque character through the image of the heretical Converso accused of
ritual murder in Lope de Vega's plays, to the incarnation of all evils in Juan
Valera's. The contemporary Spanish theater rejects the perpetuation of this
collective myth by disclosing the dilemma of the Converso, of the persecuted
"Other" (e.g. by the Inquisition and by the Nazi regime). The integration of
the Jew in today's Spanish theater echoes Western man's conflict with his
origins and the redefinition of what is Spanish through demystification of the
past and acceptance of multiculturalism and multiracialism.

Zoeller, Sonja: Judenfeindschaft in den Schwaenken des 16. Jahrhunderts.
Daphnis 23, 2-3 (1994) 345-369.

Surveys humor at the expense of Jews in the "Schwank" literature (coarse comic
tales) written in German or Latin in 16th century Germany. States that in this
period Jews were seen as the enemies of Christendom both because of their
false religion and their practice of usury, through which, it was alleged
Satan was trying to dominate the world. The "Schwaenke" ridicule Jewish
religion, in particular the Jews' credulity in their expectation of the
Messiah, and the untrustworthiness of conversion. Many are scatological,
perhaps because of the association of money with feces. Some are parodies of
theological disputations, in which the Jew often gains the upper hand in
argument but is soundly and, in the narrator's eyes, deservedly trounced for
it. These tales marginalized the Jews and thus justified their expulsion from
the towns.

Zolotonosov, Mikhail: "Master i Margarita" i subkul'tura russkovo
antisemitizma ["The Master and Margarita" and  the Subculture of Russian
Antisemitism]. Dvadtsat Dva 76 (Apr-May 1991) 200-215.

Introduces the concept of a "subculture of Russian antisemitism," and argues
that Mikhail Bulgakov used some elements of this subculture in his novel "The
Master and Margarita." The elements include the clandestine Jewish power over
the world; the connection of the Jews with the Devil; the participation of the
Jews in clandestine societies such as Masons and illuminati; the ritual use of
blood by Jews. These beliefs were popularized by the proliferation of mystical
literature in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. Suggests that in
the early version of the novel, destroyed by the author, the antisemitic tenor
was even stronger than in the extant version.
 

Copyright ,2005 , The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. All Rights Reserved.