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

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. The author 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.”

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared in our site in June 2013.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

J.R.R. Tolkien Snubs a Ger­man Pub­lish­er Ask­ing for Proof of His “Aryan Descent” (1938)

Fritz Lang Tells the Riv­et­ing Sto­ry of the Day He Met Joseph Goebbels and Then High-Tailed It Out of Ger­many

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)

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.