Anti-Semitism in 19th Century France

Essay by dcowboys3109High School, 10th gradeA+, February 2006

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Although European anti-Semitism is generally thought of as an ordeal contained to the 1930s and 40s and Nazi Germany, anti-Semitism was prominent in Europe far before the Third Reich, especially during the Enlightenment and the 19th century. The Enlightenment originally allowed for a decrease in anti-Semitism due to the shift of emphasis on religion to human reason. But, as time passed, the new practice of rationalism and reason gave ways to other ways of persecuting Jews. A great example of anti-Semitism during this time is the Dreyfus Affair, in which Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French Army, was falsely convicted of treason. This episode showed the growing anti-Semitism in France. The prejudice French media also aided the spread of anti-Semitism across France during this time period. The period of the French Enlightenment saw a dramatic increase in the persecution of Jews.

The main points of the Enlightenment were the growth of secular rationalism and reason over religion.

This eliminated some anti-Semitism due to the decreased emphasis on religion. Hatred of Jews slowly became more prominent when scientists of the Enlightenment began displaying anti-Semitism due to the sole appearance of Jews. Thus, Jews were not hated because of religion, but because of race. Voltaire, the most prominent figure of the Enlightenment, was an outspoken anti-Semite. He stated, "In short, we find in them only an ignorant and barbarous people, who have long united the most sordid avarice with the most detestable superstition and the most invincible hatred of every people by whom they are tolerated and enriched." This quote shows the growing distrust of Jews that occurred during the time of the Enlightenment. This new hatred of Jews was fueled by appearance and traditional Jewish practices, which the French population viewed as superstitious and inferior. The study of...