Rare 1940 Audio: Thomas Mann Explains the Nazis’ Ulterior Motive for Spreading Anti-Semitism

Here’s a rare record­ing of the Ger­man writer Thomas Mann, author of Bud­den­brooks and The Mag­ic Moun­tain, explain­ing what he sees as the real rea­son behind the sys­tem­at­ic spread­ing of anti-Semi­tism in Nazi Ger­many.

It’s from an NBC radio address Mann gave on March 9, 1940, while he was liv­ing in Cal­i­for­nia. Mann had gone into exile from Ger­many in 1933, short­ly after Adolf Hitler was elect­ed chan­cel­lor and began seiz­ing dic­ta­to­r­i­al pow­ers. Mann had been an out­spo­ken crit­ic of the Nazi par­ty since its emer­gence in the ear­ly twen­ties.

In 1930, a year after he received the Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture, Mann gave a high-pro­file “Address to the Ger­mans: An Appeal to Rea­son,” in which he denounced the Nazis as bar­bar­ians. A Chris­t­ian man mar­ried to a Jew­ish woman, Mann often spoke against the Naz­i’s anti-Semi­tism, which he saw as part of a larg­er assault on the Mediter­ranean under­pin­nings of West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion. In the radio address, Mann says:

The anti-semi­tism of today, the effi­cient though arti­fi­cial anti-Semi­tism of our tech­ni­cal age, is no object in itself. It is noth­ing but a wrench to unscrew, bit by bit, the whole machin­ery of our civ­i­liza­tion. Or, to use an up-to-date sim­i­le, Anti-Semi­tism is like a hand grenade tossed over the wall to work hav­oc and con­fu­sion in the camp of democ­ra­cy. That is its real and main pur­pose.

Lat­er in the speech, Mann argues that the Nazi attack on the Jews is “but a start­ing sig­nal for a gen­er­al dri­ve against the foun­da­tions of Chris­tian­i­ty, that human­i­tar­i­an creed for which we are for­ev­er indebt­ed to the peo­ple of the Holy Writ, orig­i­nat­ed in the old Mediter­ranean world. What we are wit­ness­ing today is noth­ing else than the ever recur­rent revolt of uncon­quered pagan instincts, protest­ing against the restric­tions imposed by the Ten Com­mand­ments.”

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Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Redis­cov­ered: The First Amer­i­can Anti-Nazi Film, Banned by U.S. Cen­sors and For­got­ten for 80 Years

The Enig­ma Machine: How Alan Tur­ing Helped Break the Unbreak­able Nazi Code

Lis­ten as Albert Ein­stein Reads ‘The Com­mon Lan­guage of Sci­ence’ (1941)

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Comments (4)
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  • cjd says:

    I under­stand the spin that Mann was doing. I think that appeal­ing to Chris­t­ian val­ues saved many lives back then. but today this opin­ion has become a mon­ster of a lie. it is Holo­caust revi­sion­ism of the worse kind. Chris­tians have turned an act done BY them into some­thing done TO them. here is the new Holo­caust nar­ra­tive.…

    by neces­si­ty the anti-christ must be a Jew­ish male (so said Jer­ry Fal­well) thus hitler had to kill the Jews to pre­vent the birth of the anti-christ and assume the dark lord’s posi­tion. his hench­man were scour­ing the world (google nazi bud­da) for the spear of des­tiny which would grant hitler immor­tal­ly or at least a very long life. with these things done hitler would rule the world.

    or hitler was him­self a Jew and by killing all oth­er Jews he wins the anti-christ crown by default and would rule the…well you get by now.

    James Bald­win said that after the Holo­caust white peo­ple could no long claim to be supe­ri­or to any­one else. he could­n’t have fore­seen how the white Chris­tians would claim the vic­tim sta­tus of Jews for them­selves. even the beau­ti­ful very Jew­ish look­ing Anne Frank is now recast­ed as a Tay­lor swift look alike to ease Chris­t­ian feel­ing.

    the Holo­caust was an inevitable event once a thou­sand years of Chris­t­ian jew-bash­ing met 19th cen­tu­ry eugen­ics.

  • M McL says:

    Thomas Mann con­fined his views on what was hap­pen­ing in Ger­many to his diary. On 10 April 1933 he wrote:

    But for all that, might not some­thing deeply sig­nif­i­cant and rev­o­lu­tion­ary be tak­ing place in Ger­many? The Jews: it is no calami­ty after all … that the dom­i­na­tion of the legal sys­tem by the Jews has been end­ed.

  • rt says:

    It sounds as though Mann was also remark­ing on the Nazis’ adop­tion of Niet­zsche’s phi­los­o­phy of the “uber­men­sch” (super man, or supe­ri­or race of men):

    “In Ecce Homo, Niet­zsche called the estab­lish­ment of moral sys­tems based on a dichoto­my of good and evil a “calami­tous error”,[133] and wished to ini­ti­ate a re-eval­u­a­tion of the val­ues of the Judeo-Chris­t­ian world.[134] He indi­cates his desire to bring about a new, more nat­u­ral­is­tic source of val­ue in the vital impuls­es of life itself.” — Wikipedia

  • Eva Gehring says:

    my eng­lish is not good enough to write what i feel…!
    And if my knowhow would be good enough, eav­en than i could not write what i feel! Because those words nev­er could be enough to trans­late my inner sad feel­ing, about us, so called “humans”.… Like Mar­tin Luther King, i must say: I HAVE A DREAM
    As long as iam here, i work for PEACE AND LOVE!

    I hope we wake up one day!


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