Dated 16 September 1919, the ‘Gemlich letter’ is the first known written statement of Hitler’s Antisemitism.
It a letter written by Adolf Hitler at the behest of Karl Mayr to Adolf Gemlich, a German army soldier. The letter, written in 1919 in response to a request for clarification on the Jewish question.
(Karl Mayr in uniform seen to the left of Minister of Defence Gustav Norske at the Continental Hotel in Munich)
Written on a German army typewriter, Hitler’s letter has long been known to scholars. It is considered significant because it demonstrates how early he was forming his anti-Semitic views.
Hitler, who had been wounded during the First World War, returned to Munich in September 1919 to an army Intelligence and propaganda unit of the Reichswehr which was run by Captain Karl Mayr who assigned him to write a response to Adolf Gemlich’s question on the army’s position on the Jewish Question. Hitler’s response, dated 16 September 1919, was either written by him or dictated by him and subsequently typed by another.Two copies of the letter are thought to exist. One in the Bavarian state archives in Munich which is typewritten but unsigned, and the second at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, also typewritten but signed by Hitler.
The second version, now believed to be the original, was discovered in a Nuremberg archive by a William F Ziegler, who brought it to the United States where it ended up in a private collection. In 1990, Charles Hamilton, the handwriting expert, authenticated the signature on the letter and, in 2011 it was purchased by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Below is the English translation of the letter. I refer to it in the title as his first letter of hate, I am sure he will have written more hateful letters but this would be the first in a wider political context.
16 September 1919
“Dear Herr Gemlich,
The danger posed by Jewry for our people today finds expression in the undeniable aversion of wide sections of our people. The cause of this aversion is not to be found in a clear recognition of the consciously or unconsciously systematic and pernicious effect of the Jews as a totality upon our nation. Rather, it arises mostly from personal contact and from the personal impression which the individual Jew leaves almost always an unfavorable one. For this reason, antisemitism is too easily characterized as a mere emotional phenomenon. And yet this is incorrect. Antisemitism as a political movement may not and cannot be defined by emotional impulses, but by recognition of the facts. The facts are these: First, Jewry is absolutely a race and not a religious association. Even the Jews never designate themselves as Jewish Germans, Jewish Poles, or Jewish Americans but always as German, Polish, or American Jews. Jews have never yet adopted much more than the language of the foreign nations among whom they live. A German who is forced to make use of the French language in France, Italian in Italy, Chinese in China does not thereby become a Frenchman, Italian, or Chinaman. It’s the same with the Jew who lives among us and is forced to make use of the German language. He does not thereby become a German. Neither does the Mosaic faith, so important for the survival of this race, settle the question of whether someone is a Jew or non Jew. There is scarcely a race whose members belong exclusively to just one definite religion.
Through thousands of years of the closest kind of inbreeding, Jews in general have maintained their race and their peculiarities far more distinctly than many of the peoples among whom they have lived. And thus comes the fact that there lives amongst us a non German, alien race which neither wishes nor is able to sacrifice its racial character or to deny its feeling, thinking, and striving. Nevertheless, it possesses all the political rights we do. If the ethos of the Jews is revealed in the purely material realm, it is even clearer in their thinking and striving. Their dance around the golden calf is becoming a merciless struggle for all those possessions we prize most highly on earth.
The value of the individual is no longer decided by his character or by the significance of his achievements for the totality but exclusively by the size of his fortune, by his money.
The loftiness of a nation is no longer to be measured by the sum of its moral and spiritual powers, but rather by the wealth of its material possessions.
This thinking and striving after money and power, and the feelings that go along with it, serve the purposes of the Jew who is unscrupulous in the choice of methods and pitiless in their employment. In autocratically ruled states he whines for the favor of “His Majesty” and misuses it like a leech fastened upon the nations. In democracies he vies for the favor of the masses, cringes before the “majesty of the people,” and recognizes only the majesty of money.
He destroys the character of princes with byzantine flattery, national pride (the strength of a people), with ridicule and shameless breeding to depravity. His method of battle is that public opinion which is never expressed in the press but which is nonetheless managed and falsified by it. His power is the power of money, which multiplies in his hands effortlessly and endlessly through interest, and which forces peoples under the most dangerous of yokes. Its golden glitter, so attractive in the beginning, conceals the ultimately tragic consequences. Everything men strive after as a higher goal, be it religion, socialism, democracy, is to the Jew only means to an end, the way to satisfy his lust for gold and domination.
In his effects and consequences he is like a racial tuberculosis of the nations.
The deduction from all this is the following: an antisemitism based on purely emotional grounds will find its ultimate expression in the form of the pogrom. An antisemitism based on reason, however, must lead to systematic legal combating and elimination of the privileges of the Jews, that which distinguishes the Jews from the other aliens who live among us (an Aliens Law). The ultimate objective [of such legislation] must, however, be the irrevocable removal of the Jews in general.
For both these ends a government of national strength, not of national weakness, is necessary.
The Republic in Germany owes its birth not to the uniform national will of our people but the sly exploitation of a series of circumstances which found general expression in a deep, universal dissatisfaction. These circumstances however were independent of the form of the state and are still operative today. Indeed, more so now than before. Thus, a great portion of our people recognizes that a changed stateform cannot in itself change our situation. For that it will take a rebirth of the moral and spiritual powers of the nation.
And this rebirth cannot be initiated by a state leadership of irresponsible majorities, influenced by certain party dogmas, an irresponsible press, or internationalist phrases and slogans. [It requires] instead the ruthless installation of nationally minded leadership personalities with an inner sense of responsibility.
But these facts deny to the Republic the essential inner support of the nation’s spiritual forces. And thus today’s state leaders are compelled to seek support among those who draw the exclusive benefits of the new formation of German conditions, and who for this reason were the driving force behind the revolutionthe Jews. Even though (as various statements of the leading personalities reveal) today’s leaders fully realized the danger of Jewry, they (seeking their own advantage) accepted the readily proffered support of the Jews and also returned the favor. And this payoff consisted not only in every possible favoring of Jewry, but above all in the hindrance of the struggle of the betrayed people against its defrauders, that is in the repression of the antisemitic movement.
The aforementioned Karl Mayr did not fare well under Hitler’s regime. Mayr in 1921 was a Nazi Party supporter, but later became a critic. In 1925 he joined the SPD. Subsequently he was the leader of the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold, an SPD paramilitary force.
In the early 1930s, Mayr collected among other things, information on Georg Bell, an associate of Ernst Röhm, and other material against the Nazi Party, which he leaked in the Social Democratic press. After 1933, Karl Mayr emigrated to France. After the German invasion of France in 1940, he was arrested in Paris by the Gestapo. Mayr was taken back to Germany and was incarcerated in Sachsenhausen concentration camp until 1943, when he was transferred to Buchenwald concentration camp and forced to work at the Gustloff ammunition plant, where on 9 February 1945 he was killed.
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