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Anti-semitism at the turn of the century

Anti-semitism at the turn of the century

Anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism

Christian anti-Semitism-kept alive by age-old charges leveled against "perfidious and deicidal Jews," "the crucifiers of Christ," -was given new life by anti-capitalist anti-Semitism. In 1846, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant speculators were all qualified as Jews by Alphonse Toussenel, in his book Les Juifs, rois de l'époque. Following the failure of the Catholic bank L'Union Générale in 1882, the 1889 bankruptcy of the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocéanique de Panama ruined 85,000 investors. In his anti-Semitic daily La Libre Parole, Édouard Drumont denounced 140 members of Parliament as corrupt and attributed it to the harmful role played by Jewish financiers. His book, La France Juive (Jewish France), published in 1886, sold nearly 150,000 copies; it was a blend of anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism and judeophobia. Readers were treated to verses from 1791 taken from the Journal de la Cour et de la Ville: "We must judaize to be citizens. For priests, we shall have the usurer from Judea, the insolent sophist and the Protestant atheist."

Racist anti-Semitism

According to Michel Winock, a Republic of Jews and freemasons was feared because social mobility was seen as endangering an established civilization. Drumont extended his absurd, caricatured frenzy to include the so-called specific physiology of Jews, evoking their soft, moist hands and their particular immunity: "[They] appear to be infected with some sort of permanent plague that protects [them] against ordinary plague!" Racist anti-Semitism bolstered both Christian and anti-capitalist anti-Semites, drawing support from the reflections of Renan who, in 1855, referred to "the Semitic race, an inferior blend of human nature." At the time of the Dreyfus affair, spurious scientific theories and popular prejudices concerning both German Jews and German-speaking Alsatians gave strength to xenophobic nationalists. Following Maurice Barrès's deduction of Drefyus's guilt based on his "race," the year 1898 witnessed an increase in expressions of hatred against Zola, freemasons and Jews-of which Catholics were very often the instigators. Two hundred deputies supported the idea of excluding Jews from the government, and the Catholic paper La Croix du Midi asserted the legitimacy of anti-Semitism: "the primary effort of the indigenous Frenchman to reconquer his native soil."


The crowd shouts abuse at Zola in 1898

Anti-Dreyfusard cartoons