Jewish Questions Podcast: Anti-Semitism

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Jewish Questions is the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies’ podcast on issues that matter now in Jewish life, politics, history and culture — from a scholarly perspective.

This season, hosts Laurie Marhoefer and Noam Pianko talk with faculty experts from the University of Washington about anti-Semitism: what it is, its long history, and how to push back against it today.

Jewish Questions comes out weekly on Wednesdays. This season’s five episodes will look the causes and consequences of anti-Semitism across history, from medieval Spain to Nazi Germany to the United States in the 20th century.

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Episode 2: Could it happen here? The rise of Nazi Germany

Guest: Laurie Marhoefer, Associate Professor of History

We often connect Germany with anti-Semitism, but in the early twentieth century, Germany was actually considered to be one of the best places in the world to be Jewish. How did the progressive Weimar Republic give way to the genocidal Nazi regime… and could it happen here?

In this episode, guest Laurie Marhoefer explains the rise of the Nazi party in one of the one progressive places in the world, detailing the swift and dramatic shift in government, efforts to resist, and troubling echoes of these events in the present day.

Episode art. Pictured, top to bottom: Sketch of German gay rights activist Kurt Hiller in 1924; the Reichstag, one of the Weimar Republic’s governmental buildings, in 1932; painting of a Weimar-era club by Rudolf Schlichter; Hitler driving through a crowd in the newly annexed territory of Cheb in 1938; 1935 Nuremberg Laws stripping Jews and others of citizenship rights; a 1941 gymnastics performance by members of the Nazi League of German Girls.

Episode 1: Is America an exception? Anti-Semitism in the United States

Guest: Susan A. Glenn, Professor of History

The United States was the country where Jews came to finally be free from anti-Semitism… or was it? Historians of the modern era tend to think of the U.S. as an exceptional place for Jews — a place where Jewish people have been able to exist in relative freedom from violence and prejudice.

But is this common understanding of the United States as “the exception” really accurate? In this episode, guest Susan A. Glenn discusses the history of anti-Semitism in the U.S., touching on the Second Ku Klux Klan, anti-Semitic industrialist Henry Ford, the “mother of all conspiracy theories,” the secret rehabilitation of Nazi war criminals, and the resurgence of anti-Semitism in the U.S. in the present day.

Episode art. Pictured, top to bottom: Still from the 1947 film “Gentleman’s Agreement”; a Ku Klux Klan rally in the 1920s; Walt Disney with rocket scientist and Nazi war criminal Wernher von Braun in 1954; headlines from papers reporting on the Leo Frank lynching in 1915; President Franklin D. Roosevelt and treasury secretary Henry Morgenthau; Henry Ford and Clara Bryant Ford visiting Germany in 1930.

About the Hosts

Portrait of Laurie Marhoefer in T-shirt, smilingLaurie Marhoefer is an associate professor in the University of Washington’s Department of History. She studies Weimar and Nazi Germany (1918-45), with a focus on fascism and the politics of sex and gender in Germany before 1933. Her first book, “Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis,” was published in 2015. Laurie’s writing has appeared on The Conversation,,, and in numerous other publications.

Portrait of Noam smiling in a suit, trees behind himNoam Pianko is the director of the University of Washington’s Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, and is a professor in the UW’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. His research interests include modern Jewish history, Zionism, and American Judaism. His most recent book, “Peoplehood: An American Innovation,” published in 2015, won the American Jewish Historical Society’s Saul Viener Book Prize. Noam currently serves as president of the Association for Jewish Studies.

Jewish Questions is produced, recorded, and edited by Kara Schoonmaker.

Season one was supported by an Ignition Grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and by the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies.