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The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust First edition. Edition

16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674021754
ISBN-10: 0674021754
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Editorial Reviews


With the market so saturated with books that have "Nazi" in their titles, when a path-breaking new work does appear, one that explains the "why"--not just another documentation of the "how"--there is a chance it will slip under many readers' radar. One can only hope that such a fate will not befall Jeffrey Herf's incredibly important The Jewish Enemy, one of those rare works of Holocaust history that poses the most essential question: "Why did European, especially German, antisemitism, which had never led to an effort to murder all of Europe's Jews before, do so between 1941 and 1945 in the midst of World War II? What changed to make anti-Semitism a rationale for mass murder rather than for a continuation of centuries old patterns of persecution?"...[Herf is] the legitimate intellectual heir to [George] Mosse. (Noah Strote Forward 2006-07-21)

Jeffrey Herf's latest book, The Jewish Enemy--dealing with Nazi propaganda during the Holocaust--sheds new light on what happened then in Europe and is a trenchant refutation of those who try to make us believe that antisemitic hate speech is merely a cynical tool employed by politicians...At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the demented discourse of radical antisemitism has resurfaced in different idioms and cultural contexts. It would be complacent to assume that variants on the narrative explored in Jeffrey Herf's brilliant work will not play a part in the future as well...This is a book that should be read widely. (Karl Pfeifer Searchlight)

What may be the most important book on the Holocaust in a generation...In The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust, [Herf] concedes that hatred and racism were important, but he argues that they don't explain Germany's unique efforts to destroy the Jews...The real answer isn't hate, but fear. Poring through miles of speeches, private comments, journal entries, party memoranda and all 24,000 pages of Goebbel's diaries, Herf concludes that the Nazis really believed that the Jews ran the world and wanted to destroy Germany. They believed that Jews controlled not only the Bolsheviks to the east but the capitalists to the west. (Jonah Goldberg Los Angeles Times 2006-08-17)

Many historians who have tackled Hitler and the Third Reich have found it impossible to take the Führer's rhetoric or Nazi ideology seriously. A. J. P. Taylor was infamous for treating Hitler as an ordinary statesman in the German mould. A succession of historians, including Rainer Zitelmann, Detlev Peukert and Götz Aly, continues to insist that Nazism was a rational modernizing force. It is hard to see how this approach will withstand Jeffrey Herf's patient, incisive and ultimately devasting analysis of the Nazi world-view in The Jewish Enemy. (David Cesarani Times Literary Supplement 2006-09-22)

Which of the major findings of this excellent study is more disturbing: that human beings are capable of inventing and believing the kind of vicious nonsense the Nazis believed about Jews, or that such profoundly irrational beliefs can become the basis of a meticulously devised and implemented program of industrial mass murder? It is indeed the case, to say the least, that 'an examination of modern political culture draws attention to the causal significance of many irrational and illusory ideological perspectives'...The Jewish Enemy is both a revealing, carefully documented historical study and a reminder of the timeless and astonishing human capacity for demented belief, bottomless hatred, and a correspondingly stunning readiness to act upon bizarre convictions and fantasies...This study is also highly informative about the methods and character of Nazi propaganda. The author makes use of sources not widely used before, such as the ubiquitous wall newspapers (also favored in communist states), posters, and archival materials (including directives to the press about the tasks and methods of propaganda), and the diaries of Goebbels, among others. Some striking visual images of 'the Jewish enemy' used in the press and posters are reproduced (remarkably similar to both Soviet anti-capitalist, anti-American propaganda and the images purveyed in Arab anti-Israeli propaganda). (Paul Hollander New Criterion 2006-11-06)

Through a chronological structure that moves seamlessly from an introductory section on pre-1939 Nazi propaganda themes and structures to the shifting narratives of the wartime period, Herf shows convincingly that the attacks on the regime's wartime "enemies" (Britain; after 1941 the Soviet Union and the United States) were underpinned by the same Überbegriff of an alleged "international Jewish conspiracy."...Herf's book adds much-needed intellectual ammunition to the argument that propaganda should be taken very seriously. (Aristotle A. Kallis H-Net 2007-03-01)

Undoubtedly, this is a much-needed study that convincingly demonstrates the centrality of radical anti-Semitic language in the Nazi leadership's thinking and the regime's wartime propaganda. Herf has succeeded in showing how in the minds of the regime's leaders and propagandists the Second World War and the Nazi genocide of the Jews were directly and inherently connected. (Thomas Pegelow Kaplan Canadian Journal of History)

Herf is meticulous in his scholarship, and the book's vivid detail can certainly hold up to historians' scrutiny...This is a must-read. (Dave Roy Curled Up with a Good Book 2007-05-14)

Herf has made excellent use of many overlooked sources...Most shockingly, he shows the remarkable extent to which the German people were informed by Hitler and his colleagues that the Third Reich was engaged in annihilating Europe's Jews. The overall effect is one of a regime in thrall to its own paranoid fantasies, with devastating consequences that are all too familiar. (Dan Stone Journal of Genocide Research)

Jeffrey Herf, one of the most prolific and challenging historians of twentieth-century Germany, has written an important book, the first comprehensive work detailing the structure of the Third Reich’s effort to inculcate antisemitism in the German population. This was a propaganda effort, and much of Herf’s book focuses on Joseph Goebbels; but Herf also carefully delineates changes in the antisemitic content of Hitler’s speeches and gives a great deal of attention to Otto Dietrich, the Reich press chief. The result for readers is a nuanced sense of the volume and flow of antisemitic propaganda—and The Jewish Enemy leaves no doubt that antisemitism, indeed murderous antisemitism, was an ideology propagated up front and in public. For some readers, this may seem an obvious point, but a great deal of older research underscored how the Nazis placed antisemitism in the background, emphasizing instead the material gains that ordinary citizens could expect from Nazi rule. Herf shows that nothing could be further from the is Herf’s significant achievement to gather the antisemitic propaganda of the Third Reich and demonstrate its patterns. For the first time, we have a nuanced account of how state-produced antisemitism changed during the war and how this antisemitism connected to the Holocaust. (Helmut Walser Smith Journal of Modern History)


Here, practically for the first time, we can see how Germans before and during World War II were at all times in their daily lives confronted with a carefully designed view of the world in which a mythical Jewish enemy was portrayed as threatening Germans and hence had to be killed. No prior study has shown as clearly as this one how central this theme was to German wartime propaganda in all its forms. (Gerhard L. Weinberg, University of North Carolina)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; First edition. edition (May 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674021754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674021754
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #380,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By John Harpur on March 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are so many interesting and revealing facts and analyses in this work that it is hard to approach a review without leaving large chunks of information aside. On a personal note I found this one of the most interesting books I have read on the anti-semitism of the period. Moreover, many of the illustrative examples dredged up by Herf still echo sharply today.

The book charts a gradual adaptation of anti-semitism to lubricate the goals of Naziism. Traditional charges of racial impurity and economic shiftiness were reshaped to meet eugenic and planned economy policies. What comes across very strikingly is the sheer amount of anti-semitic propaganda produced by the Nazis. Jews were aligned with Bolshevism, the Allies, International Banking, etc. Typically the enemy was associated directly with any threat to Nazi hegemony.

Herf's very careful annontation of instances was disturbing at times, and as a reader rather than a professional historian of the period, it was hard to set aside one's emotional and ontological revulsion. Very troubling, in the light of Israel's modern travails, is Herf's extended acount of the propagandistic support given by Grand Mufti al-Husseini for the Nazi machine. Herf cites his address at the opening of the Islamic Institute in Berlin in December 1942. The Mufti, consistent with his Nazi hosts' anti-semitism, lays the blame for all evils at the door of Jews. In 1944, Goebbels, having noted the Grand Mufti's "absolutely Nordic appearance", was puzzling over how to the get the "right" propaganda into the Mufti's hands. While the Mufti's intimate collaboration with the Nazis is despicable and shocking it is worthwhile recording that the vast majority of those staffing the extermination programmes were of Christian origin.
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51 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Werner Cohn on June 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Herf's materials are powerful and unsettling, even to readers who are well acquainted with the literature on Nazism. He shows, in detail that has not previously been seen, how the Nazi war-time hate propaganda combined verbal attacks against Jews with attacks against the Allies. To these Nazi propagandists, the Jews were the overall enemy, standing behind and stage-managing the Allies.

Herf's interpretation differs in some respects from previous work by others. He holds that the Nazis' anti-Semitic propaganda in wartime was essentially different from what they had done in the pre-war period: this war-time propaganda was, in his view, a deliberate incitement to commit the Holocaust, while previous campaigns had been no more than "traditional" anti-Semitism.

Since the Nazis were never explicit in their propaganda about the mass killing of Jews, Herf's assertions about their intentions in this propaganda cannot be proven. Nevertheless, I find his interpretations highly suggestive, if not conclusive.

Other aspects of Herf's interpretations of the war-time Nazi materials can be checked systematically. For at least fifty years, scholars have practiced and developed methods of content analysis, which, unfortunately, Herf does not use in this work. At least two of his claims should have been subjected to such analysis:

1) The relative prominence of anti-Semitic themes as compared to other themes, in the period in question, is a textbook example of the kind of problem for which content analysis is appropriate.

2) The periodization that Herf proposes -- the new themes that he sees in the wartime period -- can and should be tested by systematic methods.

Despite these shortcomings, the book is highly suggestive. It will no doubt influence the scholarly work of the future.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Richard Koenigsberg on May 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Herf demonstrates in this important book that Hitler and Goebbels and Himmler and other Nazi leaders truly BELIEVED in their anti-Semitic propaganda. The idea or fantasy of the Jew lay at the heart of Nazi ideology. Yet this conclusion had been established in my book, HITLER'S IDEOLOGY. Please see: Hitler's Ideology: Embodied Metaphor, Fantasy, and History (PB)

What is original about this book is Herf's documentation of how the Nazi fantasy about the Jew was a significant SOURCE OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR as well. Hitler and Goebbels believed that what united the United States and the Soviet Union in their war against National Socialism was that BOTH OF THESE NATIONS WERE CONTROLLED BY THE JEWS.

The Nazis were dominated by a paranoid fantasy. This paranoid fantasy was the source of the World War. Herf hesitantly reaches the conclusion--but does reach it--that the Nazis believed their anti-Semitic ideology. However, I recently lectured with him at a conference and when I told him that the Nazi's belief system was psychotic, he became very disturbed.

He knew that their belief system was insane, but couldn't acknowledge the psychotic dimension of Nazi ideology. I wasn't saying that Hitler and Goebbels were psychotic, but that an ENTIRE SOCIETY MAY BE DOMINATED BY PSYCHOTIC THOUGHT PROCESSES.

To read about how the Nazi fantasy about the Jew led to the Holocaust, please see my recently published NATIONS HAVE THE RIGHT TO KILL:Nations Have the Right to Kill: Hitler, the Holocaust and War
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