[FS_Discussion] Hannah Arendt on the Hofjuden

Orest Slepokura slepokuo@cadvision.com
Sun, 2 Apr 2000 07:41:54 -0700

Excerpted from Chapter V: What is 'Anti-Semitism'? of William N. Grimstad's
Talk About Hate: A Brief for the Defense in the New Era of Thought Crime
Trials [Publications of the Council on Hate Crimes Injustice, 1999, pp. 93
- 95]:

Arendt show many European Jews did OK

Well, how about the later European Christian epoch, usually denounced as
one long nightmare of anti-Jewish hate crime? Any evaluation of the
veracity of that now universally accepted assumption really ought to
consider the work of Hannah Arendt, the German-born Jewish historian and
philosopher best known for her controversial account of the Israel trial
and condemnation of the German concentration camp official, Adolf Eichmann.
However, long before Eichmann in Jerusalem (I 963), or even the
rnuch-acclaimed Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), Arendt wrote an
important scholarly article, "Privileged Jews, Is which reveals that
European Jews were by no means so persecuted in bygone centuries
as we now are taught.

She here chronicles the rise of the Hofjuden ("court Jews") in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who, through moneylending and military
procurement talents, were able to attach themselves and their abundant
hangers-on to the protection and "perks" of most of the ruling houses
across Western Europe.  These people, writes Arendt, "enjoyed all
privileges, they could live wherever they liked, they could travel anywhere
within the realm of their sovereigns, they could bear arms and demand the
special protection of all local authorities.  Their way of life was on a
much higher level than that of the middle-class of the period.  The Hof
juden possessed greater privi leges than the majority of the population of
their homelands ... "

Each Hofjude had under his control one or more Jewish villages, for which
he actively interceded with his noble patron. "The Jews were thus better
protected than the surroundingnon-Jewish population, who were left helpless
to the exploitation of the feudal landowners," Arendt points out. The
best-known of these oppressive rather than oppressed characters was the
notorious Jud S=FCss ("sweet Jew"), Josef Oppenheimer, a wealthy factotum at
the court of W=FCrttemberg until his execution for financial and moral
corruption in 1738. He was the subject of a famous novel and two 1930s
motion pictures.

The colorful oldtime Hojjuden merged into a new and, for Arendt,
unappetizing type with the advent of the mercantilistic nineteenth century.
She described these as a sort of Janus-face: the pariah/parvenu, who was
wretched in poverty but once rich, displayed "inhumanity, greed, insolence,
cringing servility and ambition."8 [Arendt, Hannah, "Privileged Jews,"
Jewish Social Studies, 1946, 8:7, 8, 28-9]Such individuals typified the
assorted Rothschilds, Warburgs, and the like plutocrats who are still much
on the scene today, and formed the line of incompetent, self-serving and
culturally objectionable world Jewish "leadership"  whom she took so
severely to task in the extensive section on "anti-Semitism" in Origins of

By the time she began Eichmann in Jerusalem, Miss Arendt's distaste had
hardened to a virtual indictment of this class who, she felt, had willfully
betrayed the Jewish masses into the flaming maw of the fabled Holocaust:
"[T]o a Jew this role of the Jewish leaders in the destruction of their own
people is undoubtedly the darkest chapter of the whole dark story..."

As for our present consideration of anti-Semitism and the true origins of
longstanding and widespread hostility to Jews among so many diverse
peoples, Hannah Arendt simply dismissed the "absurd assertion of a kind of
collective innocence of the Jewish people" in causing these problems. 9
[Arendt, Hannah, Eichmann in Jerusalem, New York: Viking, 1964, 117, 297]


                                    Orest Slepokura