In the mid-18th century, laws and ordinances such as Emperor Joseph II’s Rescripts of Tolerance were enacted in individual territories and Jews were placed under the protection of the respective rulers.

The relationship between majorities and minorities began to change again when, after the French Revolution of 1789 and after the end of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in 1806, first individual territorial and later national states were formed. This was accompanied by definitions of the “national” or of what “constituted a nation”. These soon led to a general self-image of national and increasingly nationalistic majority societies vis-à-vis minorities. Accordingly, Jews were soon classified as “foreigners” who did not belong to the majority society.

“Anti-Semitism” as a political fighting term for general “hostility toward Jews” emerged in Germany in the second half of the 19th century, when authors such as Wilhelm Marr (1819-1904) called for hatred and persecution of Jews in inflammatory writings. Soon Jews had their civil rights restricted and their dignity taken away in anti-Semitic articles and caricatures. This anti-Semitism found resonance in the German Empire, but also in France and elsewhere in Europe through inflammatory writings by the French diplomat Arthur de Gobineau, the Anglo-German writer Houston Stuart Chamberlain, by Richard Wagner or the Berlin historian Heinrich von Treitschke, etc. Not to be underestimated in their media impact were vicious caricatures such as those of the French draftsman Gustave Doré.

The “anti-Semitism” that developed into the Holocaust in the 20th century did not end with the end of the National Socialist German Reich and the liberation of the people from the extermination camps: on the contrary, it continued and is gaining new momentum in the 21st century among right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists in Germany, Europe and North America.

The European Union (EU) opposes this inhuman ideology with its democratic and liberal stance and therefore adopted this resolution on May 15, 2016 at the proposal of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA): “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which can be expressed as hatred towards Jews.

Anti-Semitism is directed in word or deed against Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, as well as against Jewish communal institutions or religious bodies. In addition, the State of Israel, understood in this context as a Jewish collective, may also be the target of such attacks.


Fig. 6 | 7: Ecclesia and Synagoga Notre-Dame de Paris, allegorical Gothic statues (Source: Statue on the west facade / Statue. Synagoga of Notre-Dame de Paris, France, Luis Miguel Bugallo
Sánches [Lmbuga]).
Fig. 8: Sculpture of the “Jew sow” at the Wittenberg town church, here as an insult leaf, Wittenberg 1546.
(Source: broadsheet depicting the Wittenberg Judensau, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).
Fig. 9: The Wandering Eternal Jew, color woodcut after Gustave Doré, 1852 Reproduction in an exhibition at Yad Vashem, 2007 (Source: The Wandering Eternal Jew, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)