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Snyder, D.M. (1986). A Comment on Anti-Semitism. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 13:358-361.

(1986). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 13:358-361

A Comment on Anti-Semitism

Douglas M. Snyder


While doing some research for a paper, I came across 'A Comment on Anti-Semitism', one of Freud's last published works (Freud, 1938). In this short piece, which appeared in a periodical edited by Arthur Koestler, Freud wrote that he had read an essay about the Jewish people that had struck him as so unusual that he had made a précis of it for his use. He described what he believed the author of the article had written. Freud wrote that he could not remember where he had read this essay or who had written it. In his brief article, Freud asked readers to provide him with this information. Strachey's note on Freud's article indicates that no one was able to provide this information.

A few months ago, I read an essay by Mark Twain entitled 'Concerning the Jews' that bears some strong similarities to the essay Freud described. Twain's essay originally appeared in the September, 1899 issue of Harper's Magazine(Twain, 1899) and was reissued in pamphlet form by Harper & Brothers in 1934 (Twain, 1934).

The chief similarities are these:

1. Both essays include a statement that the author was not a Jew and thus had no vested interest in observations he would make about the Jewish people. Freud's recollection was:

By way of preface I must explain that I am not a Jew and therefore I am not driven into making these observations by any egoistic concern (p. 291).

Twain (1899) wrote:

I will begin by saying that if I thought myself prejudiced against the Jew, I should hold it fairest to leave this subject to a person not crippled in that way. But I think I have no such prejudice (p. 528).

2. Both essays have a certain sarcastic tone indicating the hollowness of protestations of religious or humanistic concern. Freud wrote:

All these protests [of concern for the Jewish people], I think, might be preceded by a particular introduction, which would run: 'Well, it's true, I don't like Jews either. In some sort of way they seem strange to me and antipathetic. They have many disagreeable qualities and great defects … But we profess a religion of love.

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