From Words to Genocide: Antisemitic Propaganda and the Holocaust is the theme of this year’s International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, observed on 27 January. On that day, roundtable debates, exhibitions, and an official ceremony will examine the roots and consequences of hate speech and the need to promote human rights-based education.
UNESCO is organizing two roundtable debates on the Day: A history of Hate Speech and Genocide (2.30 p.m., Room IV) and In the Shadow of the Past: Countering Antisemitism and Hate Speech Today (4.30 p.m., Room IV). The debates will bring together academics, representatives of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), as well as representatives of nongovernmental organizations and civil society.
In the picture above, we see German children reading a book with antisemitic propaganda. It is specifically written for children. It explains Jewish life, culture, and traditions through the racist, antisemitic world view of Nazi propaganda. Its title is, “The Poisonous Mushroom” (Der Giftpilz), written by Ernst Hiemer, and published by the Julius Streicher Publishing House in Nuremberg, Germany.
Julius Streicher was the editor and publisher of an antisemitic weekly newspaper called “Der Stürmer” (The Stormer). It was published from 1923 to 1945. The paper used many easy to remember phrases which attacked the Jews unfairly on a wide range of issues. During his trial, Streicher estimated the circulation of the paper was approximately 200,000 copies. One of his most infamous slogans which appeared in the newspaper is, “The Jew Is Our Misfortune.”
The “children’s book” The Poisonous Mushroom, contains 17 stories, of which the Poisonous Mushroom is the first story.
As you read the story, reflect on how words such as the ones below can lead to dehumanization, resentment, hatred, violence and genocide.
Also, keep in mind that after the war, Julius Streicher was tried at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial for crimes against humanity.
For his influential role in inciting hatred and violence, Streicher was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. His execution was carried out on October 1, 1946.
Just as it is often hard to tell a poisonous mushroom from an edible mushroom, so too it is often very hard to recognise the Jew as a swindler and criminal.
A mother and her young boy are gathering mushrooms in the German forest. The boy finds some poisonous ones. The mother explains that there are good mushrooms and poisonous ones, and, as they go home, says:
Look, Franz, human beings in this world are like the mushrooms in the forest. There are good mushrooms and there are good people. There are poisonous, bad mushrooms and there are bad people. And we have to be on our guard against bad people just as we have against poisonous mushrooms. Do you understand that?
Yes, mother, Franz replies. I understand that in dealing with bad people trouble may arise, just as when one eats a poisonous mushroom. One may even die!
And do you know, too, who these bad men are, these poisonous mushrooms of mankind? the mother continued.
Franz slaps his chest in pride: Of course I know, mother! They are the Jews! Our teacher has often told us about them.
The mother praises her boy for his intelligence, and goes on to explain the different kinds of poisonous Jews: the Jewish pedlar, the Jewish cattle dealer, the Kosher butcher, the Jewish doctor, the baptised Jew, and so on. However they disguise themselves, or however friendly they try to be, affirming a thousand times their good intentions to us, one must not believe them. Jews they are and Jews they remain. For our folk they are poison.
Like the poisonous mushroom! says Franz.
Yes, my child! Just as a single poisonous mushrooms can kill a whole family, so a solitary Jew can destroy a whole village, a whole city, even an entire folk.
Franz has understood.
Tell me, mother, do all non-Jews know that the Jew is as dangerous as a poisonous mushroom?
Mother shakes her head. Unfortunately not, my child. There are millions of non-Jews who do not yet know the Jews. So we have to enlighten people and warn them against the Jews. Our young people, too, must be warned. Our boys and girls must learn to know the Jew. They must learn that the Jew is the most dangerous poison mushroom in existence. Just as poisonous mushrooms spring up everywhere, so the Jew is found in every country in the world. Just as poisonous mushrooms often lead to the most dreadful calamity, so the Jew is the cause of misery and distress, illness and death.
German youth must learn to recognise the Jewish poison mushroom. They must learn what a danger the Jew is for the German folk and for the whole world. They must learn that the Jewish problem involves the destiny of us all.
The following 16 tales tell the truth about the Jewish poison mushroom. They show the many shapes the Jew assumes.
They show the depravity and baseness of the Jewish race. They show the Jew for what he really is:
The Devil in human form.
Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom), Ernst Hiemer (1938), Julius Streicher Publishing House, Nuremberg, Germany
Blog Post by Thomas Jerome Baker