On the persistence of anti-Semitism

Sad but fascinating work by Nico Voigtlaender of UCLA and Hans-Joachim Voth at CREI in Barcelona looking at the cultural persistence of anti-Semitism. They found that communities that blamed (and killed) Jews during the Black Death of the mid-1300s were more likely to also engage in violence against Jews in the 20th century:

Pogroms during the Black Death are a strong and robust predictor of violence against Jews in the 1920s, and of votes for the Nazi Party. In addition, cities that saw medieval anti-Semitic violence also had higher deportation rates for Jews after 1933, were more likely to see synagogues damaged or destroyed in the ‘Night of Broken’ Glass in 1938, and their inhabitants wrote more anti-Jewish letters to the editor of the Nazi newspaper Der Stu?rmer.



  1. The skeletons in the well tell a story. Just reading this morning: http://bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13855238 it occurred to me that 17 corpses decomposing in a well would severely contaminate the water table for some time. A local outbreak of plague, disease and death might cause superstitious locals to assume the God of the Jews was taking vengeance on them for the pogrom. The survivors might go on to see it as a validation of their belief that God is a mean arbitrary punisher, even if it was not them personally who committed the pogrom. And the stories propagated far and wide. So you can see how superstition, fear and blame begets even more of it down through the generations.

  2. OK John,
    I’ll bite.
    Why is this a good predictor over six centuries? Is it as simple as the Jews and their attackers were still living in the same places and fighting over the same resources?

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