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(ăn'tē-sĕm`ĭtĭz'əm, ăn'tī–), form of prejudice against JewsJews
[from Judah], traditionally, descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, whose tribe, with that of his half-brother Benjamin, made up the kingdom of Judah; historically, members of the worldwide community of adherents to Judaism.
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, ranging from antipathy to violent hatred. Before the 19th cent., anti-Semitism was largely religious and was expressed in the later Middle Ages by sporadic persecutions and expulsions—notably the expulsion from Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella—and in severe economic and personal restrictions (see ghettoghetto
, originally, a section of a city in which Jews lived; it has come to mean a section of a city where members of any racial group are segregated. In the early Middle Ages the segregation of Jews in separate streets or localities was voluntary.
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). However, since Jews were generally restricted to the pursuit of occupations that were taboo, such as moneylending, the sentiment was also economic in nature.

The Enlightenment to the Holocaust

After the emancipation of the Jews, brought about by the Enlightenment of the 18th cent. and by the French Revolution, religious and economic resentments were gradually replaced by feelings of prejudice stemming from the notion of the Jews as a distinct race. This development was due not only to the rising nationalism of the 19th cent., but also to the conscious preservation, especially among Orthodox Jews, of cultural and religious barriers that isolated the Jewish minorities from other citizens. It has also been charged that in the years between the fall of Napoleon and the rise of Hitler the Roman Catholic Church, which sometimes subscribed to the idea of Jewish racial identity and sometimes denied it, not only failed to condemn European anti-Semitism, but actually contributed to it. Jewish reaction to the phenomenon of anti-Semitism in its many forms found political expression in ZionismZionism,
modern political movement for reconstituting a Jewish national state in Palestine. Early Years

The rise of the Zionist movement in the late 19th cent.
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The unpopularity of the Jews was exploited by demagogues, such as Édouard DrumontDrumont, Edouard
, 1844–1917, French journalist and anti-Semitic leader. His book, La France juive [Jewish France] (1886) and his periodical, La Libre Parole, were equally brilliant and virulent. Drumont reached his apex of influence in the Dreyfus Affair.
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 in France, to stir the masses against an existing government, and by reactionary governments, as in Russia, to find an outlet for popular discontent. The millions of Russian and Polish Jews who, after the assassination (1881) of Alexander II, fled the pogromspogrom
, Russian term, originally meaning "riot," that came to be applied to a series of violent attacks on Jews in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th cent. Pogroms were few before the assassination of Alexander II in 1881; after that, with the connivance of, or at least
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 and found refuge in other countries contributed to the popular feeling that Jews were aliens and intruders. In addition, a spurious document, the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," purporting to outline a Jewish plan for world domination, emerged in Russia early in the 20th cent. and was subsequently circulated throughout the world. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Jews were accused of plotting to dominate the world by their international financial power or by a Bolshevik revolution.

Pseudoscientific racial theories of so-called Aryan superiority emerged in the 19th cent. with the writings of Joseph Arthur GobineauGobineau, Joseph Arthur, comte de
, 1816–82, French diplomat and man of letters. The chief early French proponent of the theory of Nordic supremacy, he was antidemocratic and anti-Semitic.
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 and Houston Stewart Chamberlain and found their climax in those of Alfred Rosenberg. These theories were incorporated in the official doctrine of German National SocialismNational Socialism
or Nazism,
doctrines and policies of the National Socialist German Workers' party, which ruled Germany under Adolf Hitler from 1933 to 1945.
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 by Adolf Hitler. Hitler's persecution of the Jews during World War II was unparalleled in history. It is estimated that between 5 and 6 million European Jews were exterminated between 1939 and 1945 in the HolocaustHolocaust
, name given to the period of persecution and extermination of European Jews by Nazi Germany. Romani (Gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, the disabled, and others were also victims of the Holocaust.
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 (see also concentration campconcentration camp,
a detention site outside the normal prison system created for military or political purposes to confine, terrorize, and, in some cases, kill civilians.
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Since the Holocaust

The end of persecution did not mean the end of anti-Semitism, as the sporadic attacks on synagogues in many countries since the end of World War II indicate. In the USSR and Eastern European countries, where anti-Semitism was officially outlawed, it continued to reappear in new forms. From the late 1940s until Joseph Stalin's death in 1953, anti-Semitic persecution took the form of deportations, jailings, and the suppression of Jewish publications and cultural institutions. Although anti-Semitism in these countries receded during the 1950s, it reappeared in the 1960s and 70s, when synagogues were periodically closed, particularly in the upsurge of anti-Semitism that followed the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. With Gorbachev's glasnostglasnost
, Soviet cultural and social policy of the late 1980s. Following his ascension to the leadership of the USSR in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev began to promote a policy of openness in public discussions about current and historical problems.
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 and the breakup of the Soviet Union, however, increasing numbers of Jews have emigrated. International anti-Semitism has been so accepted that the United Nations did not condemn it as racism until 1999.

The existence of anti-Semitism has complicated internal Israeli politics as well as political opposition in other countries to Israeli policies. Arab and Islamic anti-Semitism has increased because of resentment over Israel's existence and its treatment of Arab Palestinians. Right-wing nationalistic movements, which are generally anti-Semitic, became vocal in the republics of the former Soviet Union, in Germany, and other European countries in the 1990s. In the United States, anti-Semitism has never been an instrument of national policy, but in certain communities and regions it resulted in the exclusion of Jews from membership in certain private clubs, schools, and housing.


See J.-P. Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew (tr. 1948, repr. 1960); J. Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction (1980); H. A. Oberman, The Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Age of Renaissance and Reformation (1984); D. A. Gerber, ed., Anti-Semitism in America (1986); M. Zimmerman, Wilhelm Marr: The Patriarch of Anti-Semitism (1986); P. Pulzer, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria (1988); L. Dinnerstein, Anti-Semitism in America (1994); F. C. Jaher, A Scapegoat in the New Wilderness: The Origins and Rise of Anti-Semitism in America (1994); J. Carroll, Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History (2000); D. I. Kertzer, The Popes against the Jews: The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism (2001).

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hostility towards the Jewish people, ranging in form from the varying degrees of institutionalized PREJUDICE widely found in European societies historically, to the highly explicit ideology of Hitler's NATIONAL SOCIALISM.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



one form of national and religious intolerance, expressed in hostility toward Jews. During the course of its history, anti-Semitism has adopted various forms—from religious and psychological prejudice and segregation, which are manifested primarily in the area of everyday relations, to policies of forced resettlement and even physical annihilation of Jews (genocide), which have been carried out by state organs. Anti-Semitism as a social phenomenon has been utilized by exploitative ruling classes toward various ends—for political and economic purposes, for inflaming nationalist feeling, for drawing workers away from the struggle to resolve fundamental social problems. Over the centuries the social discontent of the masses of people, who are entangled in religious and ethnic prejudice, has been deliberately channeled into anti-Semitism.

The historical roots of anti-Semitism go back to antiquity, when the Jews, as a result of the Diaspora, found themselves in the situation of being a national religious minority in the new countries in which they settled. By its practices in the areas of worship and everyday life, by the proclamation of the Jews as a people “chosen by God,” and for other reasons, Judaism—the religion of the Jews—marked them off sharply from the populations that surrounded them. During the course of many centuries, socioreligious anti-Semitism was the most clearly expressed form. Enmity toward the heterodox Jews was maintained in Christian countries by devices of every possible kind: churchmen charged Jews with the ritual murder of Christ, with murdering Christian children and using their blood to prepare the Passover matzoth, with defiling Christian sacred objects, and with other crimes. The social and economic motives of anti-Semitism grew out of the fact that Jews had concentrated economically on trade, usury, and handicrafts; as commodity-cash relations developed, Jews became serious rivals to the local (non-Jewish) commercial and handicraft population. In ancient times one of the best-known manifestations of anti-Semitism was the persecution of the Jews in Alexandria, Antioch, and other centers of the Roman Empire during the first century. During the Middle Ages, anti-Semitism began to increase sharply in Western Europe in the late 11th and 12th centuries as a result of increasing religious intolerance during the Crusades (on their way east the crusaders waged pogroms against the Jews); it assumed particular intensity from the 13th to the 14th centuries, as commodity-cash relations developed rapidly. Anti-Semitism was expressed not only in the segregation of Jews—prohibitions on marriages between Jews and Christians, restrictions on everyday contacts between them as expressed in special clothing or distinguishing badges Jews were forced to wear on their clothes, and special sections, later called ghettos, in which they were forced to live—and their legal inequality with the Christian population but also in the expulsion (complete or partial) of Jews from a number of Western European countries (from England in 1290, France in 1394, Spain in 1492, and other countries). Feudal lords and the church took advantage of the persecution of the Jews to seize their wealth.

Medieval legal restrictions on the Jews were abolished as a result of the bourgeois revolutions of the 16th—19th centuries. However, by the last third of the 19th century, amid the economic crises of the 1870’s to 1880’s and the ruin of the petite bourgeoisie on a mass scale, a new wave of anti-Semitism took shape, fortified by the myth of Jewish guilt for the economic and political instability of life. Petit bourgeois opposition to large-scale capitalism was diverted to anti-Semitism, which was accompanied by social dem-agoguery. The anti-Semitic movement became particularly strong in Germany and Austria-Hungary, where its heralds were the leaders of Christian Social parties (A. Stócker in Germany, K. Lüger in Austria-Hungary). The term “anti-Semitism” itself was first disseminated during this period (it emphasized hostility to Jews, who belonged to the so-called Semitic peoples).

The first international anti-Semitic congress was held in Dresden in 1882. Attempts to intensify anti-Semitism encountered resistance from progressive forces—for example, during the Dreyfus case in France. At the end of 19th century, the struggle against anti-Semitism was complicated by the spread of Zionism, which became ever more reactionary. Zionism today is an ideology , the ramified system of organizations and political practice of the large Jewish bourgeoisie, which is intertwined with the monopolistic circles of the USA and other imperialist powers. Contemporary Zionism ignores the real interests of the Jewish people; its essential content is violent chauvinism and malicious anti-communism. Zionist leaders, expounding ideas of the “age-old” nature of anti-Semitism, call for Jews to isolate themselves from other peoples; in this way they have in effect increased and continue to increase anti-Semitism and to utilize it in their own interests.

In Russia anti-Semitism was essentially a recognized state doctrine. Jews (unbaptized) were restricted in their place of residence (“the Jewish pale”), prohibited from purchasing land and engaging in farming, becoming officers, or working in the state service, railroads, or postal service; from the 1880’s there were admissions quotas for Jews in secondary schools, institutions of higher education, and other areas. Anti-Semitism was inflamed by trials of Jews for ritual murders (the Velizh Affair of the 1820’s-30’s, the Beilis Case of 1913, and others). The crudest form of anti-Semitism was the Jewish pogroms: the first wave (at the start of the 1880’s) was unleashed by reactionary circles after the killing of Alexander II, the second wave during the period of the Revolution of 1905–07. At the head of the pogrom forces were the Black Hundreds from the Union of the Russian People; behind their backs stood the tsarist Okhranka (secret political police). Later, as early as the Civil War, Jewish participation in the revolutionary movement was made the justification for massive pogroms, arranged by the followers of Petliura and Denikin, the bands of Makhno, and other “hetmans.” Russian social democracy, like the Marxist parties of other countries, had to struggle against both anti-Semitism and Jewish nationalism (which was manifested, in particular, by Jewish political parties like the Bund). Russian social democrats regarded the struggle against anti-Semitism as a constituent part of the general liberation struggle and the struggle for a democratic resolution of the national question. Pointing to the “... unquestionable connection of anti-Semitism to the interests of none other than the bourgeoisie, and not the workers’ strata of the population” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 7, p. 121), V. I. Lenin stressed that anti-Semitism is fanned by the exploiting classes, who take advantage of the ignorance of the masses; he noted the corrupting influence of anti-Semitism, which poisons the consciousness of the people. At the same time, Lenin emphasized that the struggle of the Jews themselves against anti-Semitism should not take the form of nationalism and thereby violate the revolutionary alliance of the Jewish proletariat with the proletariats of other nationalities. Representatives of the Russian progressive intelligentsia, M. Gorky and V. G. Korolenko among them, decisively opposed anti-Semitism.

The Great October Socialist Revolution laid the basis for the resolution of the national question in the USSR. In particular, it established the complete equality of Jews in all areas of life. The resolution of the Council of People’s Commissars of July 25, 1918—signed by V. I. Lenin—declared anti-Semitism to be “ruin for the cause of the workers’ and peasants’ revolution” and ordered that all who engaged in pogroms and conducted pogrom agitation be placed outside the law.

During the 1930’s-40’s, fascist Germany became the center of anti-Semitism; there it was reinforced by racist theories and assumed the character of officially organized genocide. During this period, fascist groups and organizations in a number of other countries also intensified anti-Semitism sharply. During World War II, about 6 million Jews were exterminated (primarily in “death camps” constructed for this purpose) in Germany and the countries occupied by it, in accordance with plans expressly worked out by the fascist state. The destruction of Hitler’s Germany and the international condemnation of the Nazi government’s persecution of Jews (classified as a crime against humanity by the Nuremberg tribunal) were blows against anti-Semitism. However, it did not disappear in capitalist countries, although it began to assume milder forms (mainly in everyday segregation and discrimination against Jews); more rarely, it was expressed in violent forms (local pogroms as, for example, in Liverpool in 1947; burning of synagogues; and so on). The revival of anti-Semitism is usually coincident with the intensification of political reaction in a given country.

Imperialist and Zionist propaganda strives to represent the struggle of Arab peoples against the aggressive policies of the ruling circles of Israel as a manifestation of anti-Semitism.

All progressive forces of world public opinion condemn anti-Semitism. The International Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties of 1969 made an appeal to step up the struggle “. . . against race and national discrimination, Zionism, and anti-Semitism, which are inflamed by capitalist reactionary forces and exploited by them in order to confuse the masses politically” (International Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Dokumenty i materialy,1969, p. 323).

The socialist system creates the basis for full equality of people regardless of their race and national affiliation and consequently makes possible the complete elimination of anti-Semitism. In accordance with Article 123 of the Constitution of the USSR, all preaching of racial or national discrimination (consequently, anti-Semitism included) is punishable by law.


Engels, F. “Ob antisemitizme.” Marx, K., and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 22.
Lenin, V. I. “O pogromnoi travle evreev.” Poln. sobr, soch.,5th ed., vol. 38.
Lenin, V. I. “K voprosu o natsional’noi politike.” Ibid. vol. 25.
Lenin, V. I. “Zakonoproekt o natsional’nom ravnopravii.” Ibid.
Bebel, A. Sotsial-demokratiia i antisemitizm. St. Petersburg, 1907.
Larin, Iu. Evrei i antisemitizm v SSSR. Moscow-Leningrad, 1929.
Lozinskii, S. G. Sotsial’nye korni antisemitizma v srednie veka i v novoe vremia. Leningrad, 1929.
Niurnbergskiiprotsess, vol. 4. Moscow, 1959. Pages 655–733.
Niurnbergskii protsess, vol. 7. Moscow, 1961. Pages 307–541.
Kon, I. S. “Psikhologiia predrassudka.” Novyi mir, 1966, no. 9.
Lazare, B. L’Antisémitisme, son histoire et ses causes. Paris, 1894.
Levinger, L. J. The Causes of Anti-Semitism in the United States.
Philadelphia, 1929.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


See also Bigotry, Genocide.
(799–840) Lyonnais archbishop, father of medieval anti-Jewish racism. [Fr. Hist.: Wigoder, 15]
Anti-Defamation League
B’nai B’rith organization which fights anti-Semitism. [Am. Hist.: Wigoder, 33]
medieval bands; ravaged Alsatian Jewish communities. [Ger. Hist.: Wigoder, 41]
Ashkenazi, Simcha and Jacob
discover the tenuousness of their position when anti-Semitism spreads in Poland. [Yiddish Lit.: Brothers Ashkenazi]
Babi Yar
Russian site of WWII German massacre of the Jews. [Russ. Hist.: Wigoder, 56]
Bernheim Petition
1933 petition exposed Nazi treatment of Jews. [Jew. Hist.: Wigoder, 83]
Black Death pogroms
plague blamed on Jews who were later murdered. [Jew. Hist.: Bishop, 382]
Black Hundreds
early 20th-century armed squads ravaged Jews. [Russ. Hist.: Wigoder, 92]
blood libel
trials of Jews who allegedly murdered non-Jews for Passover blood. [Jew. Hist.: Wigoder, 95]
Bok, Yakov
victim of Russian anti-Semitism; falsely accused of murder. [Am. Lit.: The Fixer]
Final Solution
Nazi plan to exterminate Jewish race. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler, 1037–1061]
Frank, Anne
(1929–1945) young Dutch girl found and killed by Nazis after years in hiding. [Dutch Lit.: Diary of Anne Frank]
Gentleman’s Agreement
indictment of anti-Semiticism. [Am. Lit.: Gentleman’s Agreement]
convinces king to issue decree for Jewish extermination. [O.T.: Esther 3:1–11]
Hep Hep
riots Jewish pogroms Germany (1819). [Ger. Hist.: Wigoder, 251]
Hitler, Adolf
(1889–1945) Nazi dictator of Germany; eclipsed all predecessors’ hatred for Jews. [World Hist.: Hitler]
Jacobowsky and the Colonel
anti-Semitic Polish colonel refuses to recognize his rescuer because he is Jewish. [Ger. Lit.: Jacobowsky and the Colonel]
Moldavian city; scene of pogroms and WWII genocide. [Jew. Hist.: Wigoder, 344]
destruction of Jews’ property anticipated later atrocities (November 9–10, 1938). [Ger. Hist.: Hitler, 689–694]
Mein Kampf
Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, including his theories on treatment of the Jews. [Ger. Hist.: Mein Kampf]
Nuremberg Laws
stripped Jews of citizenship and civil rights (1935). [Ger. Hist.: Wigoder, 458]
Protocols of the Elders of Zion
forged tract revealing Jewish conspiracy to control world. [Jew. Hist.: Wigoder, 170]
symbol of German anti-Semitism since 1918; became emblem of Nazi party. [Ger. Hist.: Collier’s, XVIII, 78]
Torquemada, Tomás de
(1420–1498) head of Spanish Inquisition; instrumental in expelling Jews from Spain (1492). [Span. Hist.: Wigoder, 600]
subhumans; Nazi conception of Jews and Slays. [Ger. Hist.: Shirer, 1223]
Volkischer Beobachter
Nazi party organ featuring Jew-baiting articles. [Ger. Hist.: Shirer, 75–78]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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