George Soros Targeted By Anti-Semitic Meme That Predates The Nazis

This article delves into the pernicious legacy and resurgence of the “Jewish Octopus” motif, an anti-Semitic symbol with origins in the 19th century that reached its zenith during the era of Nazi Germany. This exploration is dedicated to preserving the memory of Paul R. Weinstein and aims to shed light on the enduring impact of such hateful imagery.

In recent times, this harmful stereotype has found new life in modern caricatures, such as the portrayal of philanthropist George Soros in a January issue of The Times of Israel, which featured him as a monstrous figure with tentacles wrapping around the globe. This depiction echoes an earlier instance from October 2018, when the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) used a similar image to illustrate the sinister undertones behind conspiracy theories about Soros. This imagery, tracing back to at least 2015, reflects a disturbing ignorance of its anti-Semitic roots.

A striking example of this ignorance was displayed by Adam Milstein, chairman of the Israeli American Council, who in 2017 shared a comparable image on Twitter, likely unaware of its offensive historical connotations. Similarly, a Dutch public broadcaster’s description of Soros in 2018 mirrored the offensive trope, prompting significant backlash and subsequent retraction of the language used.

In the United States, the Freedom from Facebook coalition’s protest in 2018 depicted Jewish Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg as a two-headed octopus, aiming to criticize corporate dominance but inadvertently invoking a classic anti-Semitic symbol. This depiction intended to reference anti-monopoly sentiments but instead paralleled Nazi-era propaganda.

Additionally, the Columbia University College Republicans’ promotion of a panel discussion in 2018 utilized a 1937 anti-Semitic cartoon featuring an octopus over the Soviet Union, highlighting a dangerous conflation of Jewish influence with communist threats.

The origins of the “Jewish Octopus” metaphor can be traced back further than Nazi propaganda, to literature and political discourse in the 19th century. Wilhelm Raabe’s 1863 novel “Der Hungerpastor” contains perhaps one of the earliest literary references, using the octopus as a metaphor for greed and manipulation. This trope gained traction in the early 20th century through works like Theodor Fritsch’s “Der jüdische Zeitungs-Polyp”, which accused Jews of controlling the German press.

Adolf Hitler and Nazi propaganda heavily utilized the octopus metaphor in “Mein Kampf” and other materials to symbolize alleged Jewish domination and to justify the persecution of Jews. This motif was prevalent in Nazi imagery, depicting Jews as a global threat and was used to foster hate and justify genocide.

The recurrence of the “Jewish Octopus” motif in contemporary imagery and rhetoric, often unbeknownst to those who perpetuate it, underscores a troubling lack of historical awareness. This ignorance risks reinforcing age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes and contributes to the normalization of hate. The continuous appearance of such stereotypes, whether intentional or inadvertent, necessitates a concerted effort to educate and raise awareness about the origins and implications of these harmful images. Recognizing and understanding the deep-seated nature of such imagery is crucial in combating the resurgence of anti-Semitism in modern discourse.

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