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It was a matter of priorities. Most of this generation of German Jewish intellectuals had no particular interest in Jewish affairs and anti-Semitism. Furthermore, since there were so many Jews in the Frankfurt School they made an effort to play down this fact so as not to harm the influence of the school and the message it tried to convey. In the publications of the Frankfurt School the Jews and anti-Semitism figured for the first time only in 1939 in an essay by Max Horkheimer. And their bosses in OSS had made it clear that the Jewish issue was not to be among the important ones to be covered in their work. Towards the end of the war they were involved in the preparation of the Nuremberg trials. Again, they were told that they should concentrate on Nazism as the enemy of Christianity rather than the persecutor of the Jews.

As the war went on Neumann began to modify his views on anti-Semitism to a certain extent; his friend Marcuse (as appears from private correspondence) had always had doubts about the "spearhead theory" and other leaders of the Frankfurt school seem not to have been too happy with it either. It simply did not make sense. Even with all these mitigating circumstances the attitude of Neumann, and to a lesser extent those of his colleagues, seems quite strange. 

Anti-Semitism, after all, was not an abstract issue: it affected the life (and death) of so many of their friends and close relations. Did they really fail to understand the difference between a concentration camp and gas chambers? Did they really think that the Nazis were about to carry out far more horrible massacres than Auschwitz among the Dutch or the German middle class?

Poor Frankfurt School: posterity has been dealing with it in strange ways. The documents now presented in this book are recommended by the school's admirers as indispensable, outstanding, of exceptional force, coolly objective insights of relevance and power, illuminating and of excellent scholarly service. Such loyalty is touching, and it is of course true that not all these disinterred documents are as misleading and indeed nonsensical as the spearhead theory. But it is not easy after all that is known to whitewash some of their wartime attitudes. Some of those trying now to make sense of these publications tend to underrate the element of naivety involved; surely such sophisticated and deep thinkers must have known better? But naivety did apparently play a major role — and not just as far as the theory of anti-Semitism was concerned. 

Those roaming the internet will encounter websites promoting "Smash Cultural Marxism" in which the critical thinkers of the 1930s appear as the grandchildren of the Elders of Zion, engaged in a giant, nefarious conspiracy dating back centuries, villains committing crimes too sinister to put into words. The current slogan of the discoverers of this megacrime is: Marxist socialism is supercapitalism. 

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September 15th, 2013
3:09 PM
People who live in ivory academic towers are destined to intellectually suffocate in them. The so-called left had a problem with National Socialists, it currently has problems with Islam. Anti-semitism is a thread running through some "left" world-views. Might secular/atheistic Jewish "antisemitism" have contributed to this? That beginning with Marx.

Russ Davis
September 9th, 2013
2:09 PM
As usual, the whole vacuous consideration of motives and notions misses the most important, underlying matter of man's rebellion against God from the beginning with Adam & Eve. Because Jews & Christians are in varying aspects objects of God's Covenant, they are thus likewise the devil's objects of persecution and destruction before, above and beyond all other considerations, as America's Founders of her Christian endeavor understood (no matter the blind, ignorant, groundless bigotry of those in antiChristian denial). See and for a true understanding of this.

September 8th, 2013
2:09 PM
I think this analysis is somewhat misguided. The spearhead theory, as articulated in this review, might seem unpalatable, but Horkheimer and Adorno's explanation of antisemitism and the threats of fascism in Dialetic of Enlightenment offer a more nuanced view. The legacy of the Frankfurt School argument on antisemitism and genocide is, in my opinion, this: The extermination of the Jews in Nazi Germany was not just a singular, local, delimited event in history, but rather represents a dangerous potential within the structure of late capitalism itself. When ideology combines with limitless technological mobilization, evil on a grand scale is possible. I have always seen, therefore, the "conservative" strain of thought in the later Horkheimer and Adorno as being an attempt to preserve humanism against this dangerous potential. These OSS papers might not make this argument clearly, but the seminal works of the school hold up better to criticisms of naivete.

September 8th, 2013
4:09 AM
Hitler's madness may have come from influenza.

Wim Schul
September 5th, 2013
8:09 AM
I do not consider the spearhead concept as essential element in Frankfurter thought. This alarmist consideration can be found in nearly every consideration of nazism that calls to action. The legacy consists in taking attention from social and geopolitical images to that of the mindset of fascism, later autoritarism, more parallel to lines of thought of Wilhelm Reich or someone like Walter Benjamin. Apart from onesidedness and narrowness there still remains this lasting legacy of the Frankfurters in connection with fascism, as well as - contrary to some of the others - the obligation to take sides in practice, that was the Allied cause.

Granite Sentry
September 5th, 2013
2:09 AM
Not especially surprising; the record of Leftist intellectuals woefully misunderstanding, misinterpreting, and misstating political developments around the world during most of the last 100 years is unfortunately quite extensive. But to this day they still think they're the smartest guys and gals in the room. Go figure.

Ted Schrey Montreal
September 2nd, 2013
6:09 PM
This is one sad story. It is depressing in the extreme to realize activist-theorists of this calibre didn't amount to a whole-hell-of-a-heap of useful thought. It is quite incredible, actually, coming from those who lived close to the abyss, and obviously blinded by their own precious ideas. Yuck.

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