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Historical Background Preliminary Work for The Diary of Anne Frank
SECTION 1 - Directions: Read the following passages. You must use your active reading
strategies (code the text, annotate, and write comments showing your thoughts and
questions about the information in the passages). As you read, also identify unfamiliar
vocabulary.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A Brief History of Anti-Semitism
Annotate and
comment
about the text
in this space
below:
The term anti-Semitism was first used in the nineteenth century by Walter Marr, a German. He
used it to mean “hatred of Jews and Judaism.” But Marr misused it. The word Semitic actually refers to
a group of languages, not a group of people. Semitic languages include Arabic, Aramaic, Amharic, and
Hebrew. Marr’s form continues to be wrongly used to mean anti-Jewish feeling and actions.
Even before Christianity, there was anti-Semitism. The Jewish people’s unbending belief in one
God offended the Greeks and Romans, who worshiped many gods. The early Christian church treated
Jews harshly, blaming them for the death of Christ (who was himself a Jew). During the Middle Ages,
the armies of the First Crusade marched across Europe to liberate the Holy Land from Muslims. As part of
their holy mission to stamp out “unbelievers,” the Crusaders murdered European Jews.
For about 300 years, from the eleventh to the fourteenth century, Jews were tolerated as
businesspeople in most Christian communities. This was often because their businesses were essential.
But as outsiders, they were always subject to rumors and hate campaigns. In the fifteenth century, Jewish
people who refused to convert were among the victims of the Inquisition, a bloody campaign to make Spain
a Catholic nation. The hatred continued after the Protestant Reformation, although some Protestant sects
were more tolerant of Jews than the Catholic Church was. In parts of Europe, Jews were forced to live in
ghettos, separate from Christians. During the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, Jews gained more
political freedom, often at the price of their religious observances.
In nineteenth-century Europe, a more tolerant atmosphere led to the acceptance of Jewish people,
again at the price of their religious practices. Jews who became assimilated in an attempt to fit in with their
Christian neighbors often gave up their traditional religious practices. In the late nineteenth century, some
Jewish people reacted against this trend. To assure their continuation of Judaism and to protect themselves,
some Jews began the Zionist movement. Zionists dreamed of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine.
Anti-Semitism again became more prevalent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Using trumped-up scientific evidence that made a mockery of science, people who called themselves experts
said the Jewish people were an inferior race. Nationalists in many countries embraced these racial theories and
regarded Jews as lesser citizens compared to “pure” French, German, or Russian citizens. In Russia, Jews fell
victim to massacres called pogroms. It was not unusual for Jewish families to flee under cover of night. That was
one reason they tended to be in businesses that could be easily moved.
Anti-Semitism based on economic worries fueled suspicions of wealthy Jewish families like the Rothschilds,
who were bankers. Jews were blamed for all kinds of problems, especially those having to do with money. In
reaction to this virulent anti-Semitism based on race, many Jews and non-Jews insisted that Judaism was a
religion. They said it was like any other and that Jews were as French, Russian, or German as other citizens.
After World War I, some Germans blamed the Jews for Germany’s defeat, ignoring the fact that many Jews
had fought bravely for their country.
Anti-Semitism became less important in Germany during the mid- to late 1920’s when good economic
times returned. But with the start of the Great Depression in 1929, hard times fueled the flames of the violent
anti-Semitism spread by Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist (Nazi) Party. With Hitler’s political victory in 1933
anti-Semitism became government policy. Eventually, at the cost of millions of lives, the murderous reach of that
policy of hate extended across Europe into the countries occupied by or allied with Germany.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------“Holocaust”
The Holocaust refers to a specific genocidal event in twentieth-century history: the
state-sponsored, systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and
its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. Jews were the primary victims—6 million were murdered;
Gypsies, the handicapped, and Poles were also targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic,
or national reasons. Millions more also suffered grievous oppression and death under Nazi tyranny.
SECTION 2 – MEDIA CLIP - Directions: Use your user name and password to access the online
textbook at .my.hrw.com.
- go to the online textbook
- at the top: (first box) go to Unit 4 (second box) go to The Diary of Anne Frank
- in the left side margin scroll down until you see Online Extras
- click History Video - This is a brief background video on Adolf Hitler.
- Watch the video and take notes in the space provided.
NOTES FROM VIDEO
MY COMMENTS
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------SECTION 3 - Directions: Read the following passage. You must use your active reading
strategies (code the text, annotate, and write comments showing your thoughts about the
passage). As you read, also identify unfamiliar vocabulary.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Real Stereotypes
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comment
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in this space
below:
Real stereotypes are not funny. They are harmful and hurtful. They keep us from seeing people as
individuals. Stereotypes are especially dangerous when they determine how people act toward one another.
In the1930s in Germany, the Nazis used stereotypes of Jews to turn other Germans against them.
Posters with hateful stereotypes of Jewish people---- showing exaggerated features such as big noses and
greedy expressions-----were common. Frustrated by losing World War I and by the economic problems they
then faced during the Great Depression, many Germans needed someone to blame. The Nazis picked up on
this. To take the public’s attention off them, even before they came to power in 1933, the Nazis blamed
Germany’s problems on “international Jewry.” Jews everywhere, not just in Germany, were blamed for the
economic conditions, even for losing the war.
Germany had a totalitarian government in which all sources of information were controlled. But even
if that hadn’t been true, Germans needed someone to blame. They were easily persuaded to make Jewish
people scapegoats for their problems.
Scapegoating, or attributing blame, works because it gives people a focus for their frustrations and their
anger and gives them a reason for their prejudices. Scapegoating doesn’t have to be based on fact for it to work.
Neither does prejudice. Many Germans and people in other countries were prejudiced against Jews for all kinds of
reasons that didn’t make sense. Prejudice is strong feelings that can be difficult to change. People who hate a certain
group often have never actually met a member of that group.
Discrimination is prejudice in action. Discrimination is a way to exclude or abuse people for reasons
that make no sense---- usually because of their race, religion, nationality, or anything else that sets them apart.
Discrimination requires action on the part of the person who discriminates. That’s why it is easier to identify someone who
discriminates than someone who is prejudiced.