Hitler as Plague Doctor
Hermann Esser was a second-tier Nazi and friend of Hitler. He has made a recent internet list of “Ten Dead Nazis You’ve Never Heard Of.”
Starting in the mid-1920s, when Hitler was writing Mein Kampf, Esser began work on The Jewish World Plague. It appeared in two editions at opportune times for hate propaganda in Germany: 1933, when Hitler seized power; and 1939, months after the Kristallnacht pogrom.
This quote should be enough to convey his book’s rancid flavor: “The knowledge of the Jew must be brought to every attic and every corner of Greater Germany, the knowledge that the Jew was a world plague from the beginning, remained so for millennia, and will forever remain one. … From the days of the Romans to our day, Jewry in every century, in every people, was and remained a foreign body, a destroyer of real and ideal values, a denier of any upward progress, a plague for body and soul. … Jewry always and everywhere has been a homeless racial mish-mash, a world plague.”
And Hitler took antisemitic plague metaphors with deadly seriousness. Here are two passages, both from Mein Kampf.
First, on Jews and the Black Death: “If you cut even cautiously into such an abscess, you find, like a maggot in a rotting body, often dazzled by the sudden light—a kike! This was pestilence, spiritual pestilence, worse than the Black Death of olden times, and the people were being infected by it.”
Second, on Jews and syphilis, which Jews were accused of introducing into Europe from the Americas: “The invention of a remedy of questionable character and its commercial exploitation can no longer help much against the Plague … the Jewification of our spiritual life and mammonization of our material instinct.”
For Hitler, the Jewish plague and Jewish syphilis were not merely metaphors. The Fuhrer viewed himself as “the great doctor” or “the Robert Koch of politics.” The father of modern bacteriology, Koch identified the causes of tuberculosis, cholera, and anthrax, and pioneered the study of infectious diseases.
The Fuhrer declared: “[Koch] discovered the bacillus and thereby ushered medical science onto new paths. I discovered the Jew as the bacillus and the fermenting agent of all social decomposition. … The discovery of the Jewish virus is one of the greatest revolutions that has taken place in the world. The battle in which we are engaged today is of the same sort as the battle waged, during the last century, by Pasteur and Koch. How many diseases have their origin in the Jewish virus! We shall regain our health only be eliminating the Jew.”
While scientists searched for cures of infectious viruses as well as syphilis, Hitler believed the only cure was political, because “the Jewish plague” was an opportunist aggressor with global-spreading potential. Left to his own devices, Hitler had contempt for any half-way solutions short of extermination.
Today according to the FBI, neo-Nazis practice “domestic terrorism” by encouraging “one another to spread the [corona]virus, if contracted, through bodily fluids and personal interactions” to kill Jews and law enforcement. To them, coronavirus is “a cure for Jewishness.”
Hitler would be proud.
Historian Harold Brackman is a senior consultant for the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC). This article is extracted from a new SWC Report: “Deadly New Virus Intersects with History’s Oldest Hate,” April 2, 2020.