The 1919 Hitler Letter We Should All Read!

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, California, is in possession of an original letter written and signed by Adolf Hitler in September of 1919, just days after he had joined the German Worker's Party. This was 14 years before he would become Chancellor and take over Germany as a dictator. This letter was authenticated in 2011. In and of itself, a letter from a world leader of the past is a valuable piece of history, even if it doesn't contain any important information, because it validates the very period it refers to. This letter is quite different. It is quite possibly the very first recorded use of the word "antisemitism" by Hitler. At least, it is the only one on hand. It is also a rare letter because Hitler and his core group of evil co-perpetrators went out of their way to communicate without leaving much in writing so that they couldn't be accused of their crimes. There are several reasons why everybody should know about this letter.

The letter militates against Holocaust denial and revisionism: In the body of the letter, several references are made about the need to eliminate the Jews. Hitler doesn't beat around the bush, even as early as 1919. He wrote "Its final aim, however, must be the uncompromising removal of the Jews altogether. “There is no way to look at such a statement and spin it in a way that would mean anything else but the desire to completely annihilate the Jews. Yet, many people around the world continue to claim that the Holocaust never happened, was grossly exaggerated or was simply some propaganda for Jews to steal and colonize "Palestine".

The letter proves that Hitler had a desire to eliminate the Jews as early as 1919: While historians and scholars alike will continue to speculate on why Hitler was so possessed with killing all the Jews as fast as he could, nobody really doubts that he did. His goal would only exponentially increase over the next two decades as he continued to gain more power, even in the wake of the failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. Hitler then spent some time in prison where he would gather, structure and put down his genocidal agenda in "Mein Kampf".

The letter proves that Hitler was not insane: We have to be very careful not to label Hitler and his lieutenants as insane. Insanity leaves the door open for people's actions to be exonerated. It can be claimed that because of insanity, the party who acted was not really responsible. Hitler was NOT insane; he was evil and quite possibly demon-possessed; between which there is a big difference. The letter shows him being very coherent and methodical in his thinking, which is something insane people don't usually have.  However, he doesn't base his assessment of the Jewish people on facts.

The letter ignores that antisemitism is always wrong regardless of how it is justified: Antisemitism is the irrational hatred of the Jewish people characterized by thoughts, words and/or deeds against them. There is absolutely no justification for antisemitism. Hitler wrote, "Antisemitism as a political movement must not be, cannot be, determined by emotional criteria, but only through the recognition of facts." First, he tries to peg antisemitism as a political movement, probably in an effort to distance himself and those who would follow his advice from being accused of xenophobia. Then, he insists that antisemitism cannot be an emotional reaction;  but should only be based on facts, setting the stage for his legalization of the destruction of all Jews - but are they real facts?

The letter is written on a foundation of lies called "facts": It was fake news before fake news was even popular. He claimed that antisemitism was justified against the Jews, as long as it was not emotional but based on facts. The problem is that what he described as facts were misunderstandings at best and fabricated lies at worst. Hitler claims that "First, the Jews are definitely a race and not a religious community." He failed to understand the difference between Judaism and Jewishness. Judaism is a religion based on the Old Testament and later the Talmud. It is followed more or less closely by Jews around the world depending on their level of orthodoxy, from secular/agnostic to ultra-orthodox. So, Judaism is something people follow, adhere to and practice out of their own volition. Jewishness, on the other hand, is something that one is born into. One or two Jewish parents will guarantee that you have Jewish lineage regardless of your adherence to Judaism. Jewishness is something that one is born with and can never lose. Judaism is a choice. They are two different sides of the coin of Jewish identity and cannot be mixed or blurred.

The letter includes the age-old lie about "the greedy Jew": Expecting his audience not to know much about European history, Hitler accuses the Jews of being greedy and centering everything about wealth and monetary gain when he writes "The value of the individual is no longer determined by his character, by the importance of his achievements for all, but solely by the amount of his possessions, by his money." Hitler possibly didn't even know about the origins of this lie that goes back to the Middle Ages when Christians couldn't borrow money from Christians and Jews couldn't own property. Jews became money lenders, but as they charged interest, the rulers of Europe taxed them increasingly more and forced them to raise their interest rates to survive. The myth of the "Greedy Jew" was born and it lived through the ages and is alive and well today. Hitler insists that Jews do everything for money, "Everything which makes men strive for higher things, whether religion, socialism or democracy, is for him only a means to an end, to the satisfaction of a lust for money and domination. "

The letter sets the stage for the Nuremberg Laws of 1935: The Nuremberg Laws also known as the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor were passed by Hitler and his government at the Nazi party meeting on September 15, 1935. When Hitler wrote "But antisemitism based on reason must lead to the systematic legal combating and removal of the rights of the Jew, which he alone of the foreigners living among us possesses (legislation to make them aliens), he declared that Jews had to be made aliens or foreigners in the midst of the German people. This was achieved after the Nuremberg Laws were passed and it greatly facilitated and justified the "Final Solution"

When one looks at how Adolf Hitler came to power, some call it "the perfect storm". A weak post-war economy, a people desperate for recovery at any cost, even their own freedom, and a scapegoat. This letter clearly validates that the horrors of the Holocaust happened, and that Hitler was unashamedly behind it all. People's rights and freedom are also at risk today. Such a letter goes beyond exposing Hitler's intention as it serves to warn us that all that happened against the Jews could happen again, and not just against the Jews.

Antisemitism is much more than "A Certain Perception of Jews!"

When attempting to tackle the age old problem of antisemitism, the very first thing to do is to understand the meaning of the word. The one aspect of the word that is understood across the board, is that even though the word contains "Semitism", it only refers to the Jewish people. Semites include both Jews and Arabs, yet antisemitism has never applied to Arabs.

While the actions that can be labeled as antisemitic go back thousands of years and are documented in the Jewish Bible as early as the book of Exodus, the word itself is much younger. Many theologians, philosophers, pseudo-scholars and historians published numerous works against the Jewish people throughout history, but it is not until the late nineteenth century that the word anti-Semitism was coined. The first usage of such a word was by German journalist Wilhelm Marr who in 1873 published a pamphlet titled: "The Victory of the Jewish Spirit over the Germanic Spirit. Observed from a non-religious perspective." In the pamphlet, he used the words Semitismus and Judentum interchangeably to describe Jewry and/or Jewishness. The usage of the word Semitismus led to the coining of the word Anti-Semitismus used in another pamphlet titled The Way to Victory of the Germanic Spirit over the Jewish Spirit", in which Marr clearly sated his feelings about the Jewish people. In 1881, to remove all doubts, Marr founded the first German organization dedicated to fighting the “Jewish threat” to Germany, thus The League of Anti-Semites was born. The usage of the word continued to spread and was widely accepted by 1885.

Since that time, many reputable scholars have documented antisemitism through the ages, and have introduced their own definitions of the word, some better than others. Organizations helping to define and fight antisemitism, could be divided into Jewish and non-Jewish. Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are often more in tune with Jewish history, customs and/or the scarred jewish psyche of the post-holocaust era.

This is not to say that non-Jewish organizatons and/or scholars are insensitive or unaware of the trauma of antisemitism, but simply that there is a Jewish component to it making it much more personal to the global Jewish community than the rest of the world. A perfect example would be the 2008 US State Department definition: "Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities." It is not from a Jewish institution and as a result, lacks some clarity and factual boldness. Yet there are scholarly works done by non-Jews that excel at defining antisemitism. Edward Flannery "the Anguish of the Jews"  or "Toward a Definition of Antisemitism" by Gavin Langmuir are two of several that I would recommend. So , definition vary in clarity and weight.

This brings me to a recent adoption of a definition of antisemitism put forward by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. It is pretty much verbatim the US State Department definition, “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” The alliance adds that the definition is a " non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism."

I am saddened and concerned about this nebulous description of "the longest hatred." While the second part of the definition is helpful in qualifying that antisemitism can be both in words and deeds, the first part of the sentence uses words that are watering down the whole definition. Words like "a certain" or "perception" or "may be expressed" are a very weak way to describe the on-going irrational hatred against the Jews. I find it hard to believe, but it is almost as if these words were selected with political correctness in mind. It is interesting to note that the Alliance also based its working definition on a document known as the "Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust.While that document is a great work aimed at describing and denouncing the Holocaust, it must be understood that antisemitism precedes the Holocaust by more than twenty centuries and continues beyond the 1940's with a revived and repackaged version of contempt against the Jewish people. So defining antisemitism using mainly a foundation of Holocaust is too narrow.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center reported the adoption of the [not so]new definition and praised it. In their mind, it "will force European countries to confront the growing crisis head-on." I think that the definition would be clearer and much more powerful if it didn't try to package antisemitism and Holocaust denial under the same umbrella. Holocaust denial exist because of antisemitism and must be fought as such, but it does not exist alongside antisemitism.

A simpler definition of antisemitism would work even better. It deserves to be more succinct, direct, and bolder in terminology. I propose this one “Anti-Semitism is the irrational hatred of the Jewish people characterized by destructive thoughts, words and/or actions against them ”. Under such a definition, we can include Holocaust denial, BDS, Christian Palestinianism, Replacement Theology and many other erroneous claims demonizing the Jews and/or Israel.

When it came to define antisemitism, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance was faced with the challenge of getting 31 countries to adopt the same working definition, and I am certain that it wasn't an easy task. By their own definition, they are "an intergovernmental body whose purpose is to place political and social leaders’ support behind the need for Holocaust education, remembrance and research both nationally and internationally." I still feel that their agreed upon final draft was too vague and thus less than satisfactory if their goal is to fight those who want all the Jews dead and Israel off the map!