German-Jews. The history of German-Jewish conflict is widely known but many might wonder why it started in the first place. Why would Germans show such extreme hatred for an ethnic group while the other did not seem to have threatened the latter? This question is certainly strange but answer is worth seeking which also helps us understand the concepts of conformity and social perception that affects global conflicts of such magnitude. The German-Jewish conflict is as much grounded in ugly realities of imperislaims and racism as any other. Arendt discovered two important innovations that were cultivated during the rise of modern imperialism i.e. “race as a principle of the body politic” and “bureaucracy as a principle of foreign domination.” (Arendt, p. 185) While racism was seriously grounded in the fear of the white man, bureaucracy emerged as a result of over exaggerated and entirely false sense of protection that white men felt towards their obviously “inferior” savage counterparts. Even though they emerged independently of each other, race and bureaucracy eventually got entangled to the extent that they became parts of the same phenomenon. I will argue that these two forces are intricately linked and that one has given rise to the other in such a manner that they cannot exist independent of each other anymore.
Hatred directed at Jews by Nazis is a slightly different form of racism which is not based on skin color but a person’s religious beliefs and values. However it is still very much racism and must be studied in the same context. The only difference here is that in the case of anti-Semitism, both the oppressed and the oppressor belonged to the same skin color. This may confuse some but when we study racism, we normally think of it as a fight between the whites and the others. However in the case of anti-Semitism, we notice a marked difference. The people who were persecuted were also whites and had once been imperialists themselves. In order to see how imperialism and racism may have a connection in anti-Semitism is rather difficult.
This is because for ages, white people went to different parts of the world and treated people of other skin colors as savages and inferior. However in the case of Jews, we do not see racism in terms of skin color. The racism in this case is purely religion-based and hence its connection with imperialism is rather difficult to establish. But it should not be if we close study history.
Why would people suddenly turn against Jews when apparently they were coming from the same race or skin color? This is a puzzling question but one that Arendt has answered very well. In her book on the subject, Arendt writes that anti-Semitism is very much based on racial discrimination because it was a long time back when Jews got the idea that may be the animosity between them and Gentiles was not based on doctrinal differences but on pure race. “It was at this time that Jews, without any outside interference began to think that the difference between Jewry and the nations was fundamentally not one of creed or faith, but one of inner nature and that ancient dichotomy between Jews and Gentiles was more likely to be racial in origin rather than a matter of doctrinal dissension.” (Arendt, xii)
But is this the only connection with imperialism? The fact is that racism in its mainstream meaning has a definite connection to imperialism and so does anti-Semitism but there is a difference in the nature of these two connections. While racism and imperialism were linked by skin color, anti-Semitism and imperialism were connected through the desire to rule the world. As we already know that imperialism was grounded in the desire for world supremacy. Spanish, English, French and Dutch for example had come to believe that they had a birth right to rule the world and since it wasn’t possible to rule each other, they began looking for inferior nations. Inferior here means inferiority in terms of skin color and education as imperialists viewed it. In their desire to rule the world, imperialists discovered many places which they later turned not their colonies and thus the entire world thus became part of some imperial power. India for example was ruled by the British imperial powers that entered the country on the pretext of trade. However within a short span of time, it was clear that their intentions had been far more dangerous than mere trade. And slowly British people turned Indians into their slaves and India became a British colony, despite its huge size. The same happened to many other parts of the world including Sri Lanka, Ghana, and Algeria etc.
Now anti-Semitism basically started when European powers were crashing down. The hatred for Jews for a way of gaining back the control that Europeans had lost. Imperialism was a dead concept by then or at least a failed one. It was thus clear that suppressing another nation, however “inferior” wouldn’t be the right policy for world domination. Instead there had to be something different and that’s when anti-Semitism emerged as Nazi’s way of showing that it was powerful enough to entirely wipe out a race. And the reason why Jews were chosen was because of their apparent poor condition in terms of influence. Jews had been a persecuted group for some time and they had been facing serious influence drought which had made them weak and thus unable to put up a fight.
“Anti-Semitism reached its climax when Jews had & #8230;lost their public functions and their influence, and were left with nothing but their wealth. When Hitler came to power, German Jewry as a whole after a long steady growth in social status and numbers was declining so rapidly that statisticians predicted its disappearance in a few decades.” (Arendt, p. 4)
Discuss the concept of conformity and how it relates to your selected ethnic groups.
Power is thus more important than wealth and this is what we learn from the history of anti-Semitism. Even though Jews were rich and had been wealthy for a long time, they virtually had no power or influence and this is what made them a vulnerable group. The reason so many people supported Hitler in his hatred of the Jews is grounded in the fact that society seeks order and sometimes it wouldn’t care about justice at all. By uniting against a vulnerable group, people could show solidarity to one purpose and this gave them a sense of order and social superiority and hence Hitler could continue with his anti-Semitic tactics.
“Persecution of powerless or power-losing groups may not be a very pleasant spectacle, but it doesn’t spring from human meanness alone. What makes men obey or tolerate real power and on the other hand hate people who have wealth without power is the rational instinct that power has a certain function and is of some general use.” (p. 5)
For this reason people unite against the weak and the powerless to seek some sense of belonging and mainly to protect themselves from persecution. This is what turned anti-Semitism into such a huge phenomenon that remnants of it can still be seen in several societies.
The other very plausible explanation for persecution against Jews is the scapegoat theory. According to Arendt, there was a scapegoat theory that had always been used and later discarded by historians to explain why certain people randomly became the victims of various movements. According to this theory, a person or group of people may become victims regardless of anything they may or may not have done. These people do not necessarily have to possess certain qualities or characteristics but they became victims simply by virtue of having been chosen as scapegoats. As vague as it may appear at first, this is actually a very plausible explanation for persecution in the case of Jews because apparently there was nothing that they had done or failed to do which led to their intense persecution by the Nazis.
Arendt explains, “â€¦the victim of the modern terror shows all the characteristics of the scapegoat: he is objectively and absolutely innocent because nothing he did or omitted to do matters and has any connection with his fate.” (Arendt p. 6)
Modern terrorism or totalitarianism is not the same thing it used to be. Modern terror is not targeted against the victim; it is more geared at ruling the timid majority that lacks the power to fight back. Nazi Germans however were strangely doing both things together. They used terror not only to target an apparently innocent group and also used terror indirectly to numb the minds and bodies of millions who watched as silent spectators as a group was being brutally victimized.
This was in a way similar and yet different to the terror tactics used by the Russians during the Bolshevik movement. In their desire to victimize just about anyone simply to maintain their supremacy, the Russians had left no one outside of their circle of possible and potential victims. In other words, they chose victims arbitrarily and hence even the executors of terror could become victims someday. In case of Germans, the victims had been arbitrarily chosen but they were still persons with certain characteristics i.e. their religion. Thus while the group may have become a randomly selected scapegoat, it was still a certain group that was targeted unlike what had been witnessed in Russia.
In short, Jews became victims of a social and political movement that strangely targeted them for persecution. There may not appear to be any rhyme or reason for what they faced but we at least understand that it was their lack of power coupled with the modern terror tactics that led to their inexplicable persecution that lasted for decades and in some minds, still continues.
Explain the relationship between social perception and social cognition, and how these concepts apply to your selected ethnic groups.
Social cognition is a concept that refers to the thinking and feeling power of individuals in a group. It says that individuals have a xcertain way of storing and processing information and similkarly social perception refers to the process by means of which we judge others (Allen & Wilder, 1975). We must undertstna dthat the conflict of Jews and Germans have turned people into two widely polarized grpups. There are those who believe that Jews were victims of hatred on the basis of their regilion and there are others who maintain that while Nazis may have done something wrong to Jews but that doesn’t apply to all Germans. This means that some of us who might perceive Germans as racists may not undertstand that our perception is based on yeears of information related to antisemtism that our brains have been fed. It may not be based on truth and may not even be original since it doesn’t rely on our own research but instead on what we have been taught. (Claldini, 1998)
Jews also have this perception that they are always persecuted. They have often used it to their advantage by rfeering to holocaust everytime someone speaks against a Jew. This kind of social perception and cognition has actually done more harm to world peace than naything else.
Discuss the social perceptions that will need to be addressed in order to resolve the conflict between your selected ethic groups.
The two groups need to see things in a much better and clearer framework than they have done so far. Jews do not need to use scapegoat theory to always consider themselves victims in every situation. They are not victims anymore. Instead they have been source of victimizatuion in some cases as some recent cases indicate. We must also understand that Germans by the same standards are not all racists. They may actually be ashamed of what Nazis had done. We need to listen to each other to come to better resolution of this old conflict. The two groups must pay closer attention to actualy histporical facts and the changes that have transpired over the years to come to terms with their past and move on with their lives in a more positive manner.
Allen, V.L., & Wilder, D. (1975). Categorization, belief similarity & intergroup discrimination. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology. 32, 971-977.
Claldini, R.B., & Trost, M.R. & (1998). Social influence: Social norms, conformity, and compliance In D.T. Gilbert, S.T., T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.). The handbook of social psychology. New York: McGraw Hill.
Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. 1976
Du Bois. The Souls of Black Folks.
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