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Hitler’s First Major Statement on Anti-Semitism: Reply to Adolf Gemlich (September 16, 1919)

After experiencing the November Revolution and the “Councils Republic” [Räterepublik], the Bavarian Reichswehr Group Commando No. 4, which was established on May 11, 1919, decided to keep an eye on political groups and to carry out “educational work” (i.e., indoctrination) in order to combat revolutionary activities among the troops. Led by Karl Mayr, the Reichswehr’s “Information Department” (Ib/P) was commissioned for this purpose. Adolf Hitler, who had previously belonged to the demobilization unit, joined the “Information Department” as a propaganda writer and informant [Vertrauensmann], and participated in education courses organized by the department. Hitler’s contributions to group discussions caught the attention of one course lecturer, historian Karl Alexander von Müller, who knew Mayr from their school days. Müller informed Mayr of Hitler’s rhetorical gifts. Soon thereafter, Hitler was appointed as a lecturer for an educational course in Lechfeld (August 20-25, 1919). On September 4, 1919, Adolf Gemlich, a course participant, wrote a letter to Mayr and requested precise information on the government’s position on the “Jewish Question” [Judenfrage]. Mayr forwarded Gemlich’s letter to Hitler and asked him to reply. Hitler complied with the request and wrote the following response on September 16, 1919.

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If the danger represented by the Jews today finds expression in the undeniable dislike of them felt by a large section of our people, the cause of this dislike is on the whole not to be found in the clear recognition of the corrupting activity of the Jews generally among our people, whether conscious or unconscious; it originates mainly through personal relationship, and from the impression left behind him by the individual Jew which is almost invariably unfavorable. Antisemitism thereby acquires only too easily the character of being a manifestation of emotion. But this is wrong. Antisemitism as a political movement must not be, cannot be, determined by emotional criteria, but only through the recognition of facts. The facts are as follows: First, the Jews are definitely a race and not a religious community. The Jew himself never calls himself a Jewish German, a Jewish Pole, a Jewish American, but only a German, a Polish, an American Jew. From the foreign nations in whose midst he lives the Jew has adopted very little more than their language. A German who is compelled to use French in France, Italian in Italy, Chinese in China, does not thereby become a Frenchman, an Italian, or a Chinese; similarly a Jew who happens to live among us and is thereby compelled to use the German language cannot be called a German. Even the Mosaic faith, however important for the maintenance of this race, cannot be considered as absolutely decisive in the question of whether or not someone is a Jew. There is hardly a single race whose members belong exclusively to one particular religion.

Through a thousand years of inbreeding, often practiced within a very narrow circle, the Jew has in general preserved his race and character much more rigorously than many of the peoples among whom he lives. And as a result, there is living amongst us a non-German, foreign race, unwilling and unable to sacrifice its racial characteristics, to deny its own feeling, thinking and striving, and which none the less possesses all the political rights that we ourselves have. The feelings of the Jew are concerned with purely material things; his thoughts and desires even more so. The dance round the golden calf becomes a ruthless struggle for all those goods which, according to our innermost feelings, should not be the highest and most desirable things on this earth.

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.

The value of the nation is no longer to be measured in terms of the sum of its moral and spiritual forces, but solely on the basis of the wealth of its material goods.

From this feeling emerges that concern and striving for money and for the power which can protect it which makes the Jew unscrupulous in his choice of means, ruthless in his use of them to achieve this aim.

In an autocratically governed state he whines for the favor of the ‘Majesty’ of the prince and abuses it to batten on his subjects like a leech. In a democracy he courts the favor of the masses, crawls before the ‘majesty of the people’ and yet knows only the majesty of money.

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