Monday, February 21, 2011

Marx, Garlic, & Nazis

The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Mark and Friederich Engels, was published on this date in 1848. (Marx was 30 years old at the time, thus this picture of young Marx seems more apt than the iconic gray bearded image.) Marx’s father converted from Judaism to Protestantism after his son was born and young Karl was baptized in 1824 and grew up in an anti-Semitic environment. This didn’t stop Neue Rheinische Zietung correspondent Eduard von Muller-Tellering from calling Marx “a conceited Jew” who “perspired democratic garlic.”

While the menace of anti-Semitism in Europe grew throughout the 19th century, the idea of a foetor Judaicus (Jewish stink) was not new. It was used in medieval Europe to differentiate “the base and odorous Jews” from “the pure, sweet-smelling Christians.” Some Christians believed that Jewish people were responsible for the death of Jesus and had him crucified so they could use his blood to get rid of the foetor Judaicus.

The Nazis called on science to explain the smell of the Jew. In the periodical Forschungen fur Judenfrage (Researches on the Jewish Problem), Baron Otmar von Verschuer wrote, “It has also been claimed by various sources that the Jews are characterized by a particular ‘racial scent’ ... it is difficult to judge what is attributable in this regard to environmental influences, such as living quarters, clothing, occupational activity, cleaning of the body and the composition of food; one need only think of the consumption of garlic, which the Jews like.”

The garlic plant was so indelibly associated with Jews that the Nazis issued buttons with pictures of garlic bulbs so wearers could broadcast their ardent anti- Semitism. According to historian Mark Graubard, "The mere mention of garlic by a Nazi orator caused the crowd to howl with fury and hatred."

Okay, this is another intense post to which adding a recipe doesn’t feel right. But don’t worry. Tomorrow is the 31st anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, when the US Olympic hockey team stunned the Soviet team, so I’ll share a garlic-studded recipe for chicken and figs from Lake Placid’s Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa. (Marx would have considered the spectacular inn hopelessly bourgeois.)

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Blogger Richard Hartzell said...

Robin --

Came to your post by way of Howard Javobson's *The Finkler Question*, which uses the term foetor judaicus. I didn't know what it meant, but since I was reading the book on my new Kindle Fire I could highlight the phrase and do a Google search on it. And the results led me here.

I enjoyed your post very much but was disappointed by how short it was. Perhaps you really had nothing more to say on this bizarre little topic -- in any case you extricated yourself admirably by mentioning that the following day was the anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, which I'm old enough to remember watching on TV.

In any case your splendid short form writing deserves to be longer and more leisurely, as does mine in this comment were I not hunting and pecking on the Fire's annoying virtual keyboard!

-- Dick Hartzell

December 24, 2011 at 12:46 PM  
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