Prejudice or discrimination against, and persecution of, the Jews as an ethnic group. Historically this was practiced for almost 2,000 years by European Christians. Anti-Semitism was a tenet of Nazi Germany, and in the Holocaust 1933–45 about 6 million Jews died in concentration camps and in local extermination pogroms, such as the siege of the Warsaw ghetto. In eastern Europe, as well as in Islamic nations, anti-Semitism exists and is promulgated by neofascist groups. It is a form of racism.
The destruction of Jerusalem AD 70 led many Jews to settle in Europe and throughout the Roman Empire. In the 4th century Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Empire, which reinforced existing prejudice (dating back to pre-Christian times and referred to in the works of Seneca and Tacitus) against Jews who refused to convert. Anti-Semitism increased in the Middle Ages because of the Crusades and the Inquisition. Martin Luther was one of the first major writers of anti-Semitic literature, claiming that Jewishness contaminated the soul of the German people. Legislation in the Middle Ages forbade Jews to own land or be members of a craft guild; to earn a living they had to become moneylenders and traders (and were then resented when they prospered). Britain expelled many Jews 1290, but they were formally readmitted 1655 by Cromwell.
From the 16th century Jews were forced by law in many cities to live in a separate area, or ghetto.
Late 18th- and early 19th-century liberal thought improved the position of Jews in European society. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for example, they were allowed to own land, and after the French Revolution the “rights of man” were extended to French Jews 1790. The rise of 19th-century nationalism and unscientific theories of race instigated new resentments, and the term “anti-Semitism” was coined in 1860. Literally it means prejudice against Semitic people (see Semite), but in practice it has been directed only against Jews. Anti-Semitism became strong in Austria, France (epitomized by the Dreyfus affair 1894–1906), and Germany, and from 1881 pogroms in Poland and Russia caused refugees to flee to the US (where freedom of religion was enshrined in the constitution), to the UK, and to other European countries as well as Palestine (see Zionism).
In the 20th century, fascism and the Nazi Party's application of racial theories led to organized persecution and genocide. Less dramatic forms of anti-Semitism were also common, such as the routine exclusion of Jews from academic posts in US universities prior to 1945. After World War II, the creation of Israel 1948 provoked Palestinian anti-Zionism, backed by the Arab world. Anti-Semitism is still fostered by extreme right-wing groups, such as the National Front in the UK and France, and the neo-Nazis in, particularly, the US and Germany.
The intense dislike for and prejudice against Jewish people.