Redemptive anti-Semitism is a theory expounded by Saul Friedländer.

According to Wikipedia:

he maintains that Nazi anti-semitism was distinctive for being “redemptive anti-semitism”, namely a form of anti-semitism that could explain all in the world and offer a form of “redemption” for the anti-semitic.

In his book The Years of Persecution, he explains:

Whereas ordinary racial anti-Semitism is one element within a wider racist worldview, in redemptive anti-Semitism the struggle against the Jews is the dominant aspect of a worldview in which other racist themes are but secondary appendages. (Page 87)

And that:

Redemptive anti-Semitism was born from the fear of racial degeneration and the religious belief in redemption. ... Redemption would come as liberation from the Jews - as their expulsion, possibly their annihilation.

Does this mean that redemptive anti-Semitism means the Germans would 'redeem' themselves after getting rid of the Jews? That they are saving themselves, hence anti-Semitism is excusable? What are they 'redeeming' themselves from?

How is redemptive anti-Semitism any different from the anti-Semitism that came before? (Which, according to Friedländer was religious anti-Semitism and non-racial anti-Semitism, the difference being 'a solution to the “Jewish question” was possible within society in general for the non-racial anti-Semite, whereas the only solution was exclusion from society in general for the racial.' (Adapted from page 82)) It sounds similar to racial anti-Semitism from my perspective.

  • 2
    As written this doesn't appear to be a question about history. It seems to be more of a question about one man's political terminology.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 21:16
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    @SteveBird So should this be moved to another SE site? It's still a question of what 'redemptive anti-Semitism' actually is, and arguably all history is a question of terminology... Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 21:17
  • To add to marcellothearcane's thoughts, it also very directly relates to WWII...
    – 米凯乐
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 21:18
  • @whoever-downvoted why? Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 21:23
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    Redemptive antisemitism is a form of racial antisemitism. It is constructed not in opposition to that, but in opposition to models like "eliminationist antisemitism" (Goldhagen) and "chimeric antisemitism" (Langmuir). See this interview with Christopher Browning.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 23:31

1 Answer 1


Friedländer is talking about a specifically Nazi aspect of anti-Semitism. That's the belief in a racial hierarchy, with the "Nordic race" at the top, and "the Jews" at the bottom. It holds that everything wrong with the world, and everything wrong with people, is a result of the malign influence of "the Jews." It never goes into details about how this happens.

According to this idea, exterminating the Jews will prevent them corrupting the world any further and will allow it and its peoples to be redeemed and purified.

The Nazis did seem to believe in this. Notably, they carried on transporting victims to extermination camps when the German transportation system was breaking down under bombing attacks in the winter of 1944-45. Stopping the transports would have freed transport capacity that was needed for the armaments industry. But they carried on.

  • Christopher Browning attempts to explain this rationale to continue with: 'Lebensraum and Final Solution, Hitler’s twin obsessions, had evolved and radicalised under the spur of victory and opportunity. In defeat, the evolution was over. Henceforth Hitler would cling grimly to the vision of Lebensraum and Final Solution that had been reached in the fall of 1941, bringing about the destruction first of European Jewry and then of Germany itself.' (Page 427, The Origins of the Final Solution) Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 21:33
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    FYI, if you look at Cesarani's Final Solution, he provides a much more rational explanation for the desperate attempt at the end of the war to murder the remaining Jews: that Hitler did not expect to maintain his empire, but did expect to be able to sue for peace in such a way that he might hold onto the Reich itself, and that doing so required his allies to be fully committed. The clearest way of fully committing the Hungarians was by forcing them to participate in the murders of all of their Jews.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 23:27
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    Also, transports of Jews always took second place to transports of soldiers and munitions, which is why trainloads of people frequently stood for days on end at railway spurs.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 23:28
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    @ShimonbM thiis sounds really interesting, could you please take a look at my older question here: history.stackexchange.com/questions/7412/… I think you can add a lotto the discussion!
    – mart
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 11:04

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