- The first use of the term is attributed to Wilhelm Marr, a member of the German Reichstag, in 1879. The term reflects the currents of racism and Social Darwinism that had permeated much of Western Europe and the United States at the end of the 19th century. In his use of the term, Marr intended to distinguish between traditional anti-Jewish attitudes, which were based on Christianity’s aversion to the Jews, and repugnance toward Jews based on race. Marr argued that Jews were of the Semitic race and were not a religious fellowship. Inasmuch as racial theory was widespread in the German universities, it is not surprising that the term “anti-Semitism” caught on among Volkisch and other German nationalists at the end of the century. Increasingly, Jews found themselves defined as Semites as juxtaposed to the true German “Aryans.” The significance of this definition, for Jewish converts to Christianity, was that it negated the assimilative benefits of baptism. Until Adolf Hitler made antiSemitism the primary focus of Nazi ideology, most German Jews continued to believe that the racial definition, which held that racial characteristics were fixed in the “blood,” was the rhetoric of a radical fringe group and not a threat to their place in German life.See also Chamberlain, Houston Stewart.
Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. Jack R. Fischel. 2014.