Persecution Perpetuated: the Medieval Origins of Anti-Semitic Violence in Nazi Germany

Authors: Nico Voigtländer and Hans-Joachim Voth

Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 127, No 3, 1339--1392, January, 2012

How persistent are cultural traits? Using data on anti-Semitism in Germany, we find local continuity over 600 years. Jews were often blamed when the Black Death killed at least a third of Europe's population during 1348-50. We use plague-era pogroms as an indicator for medieval anti-Semitism. They reliably predict violence against Jews in the 1920s, votes for the Nazi Party, deportations after 1933, attacks on synagogues, and letters to Der Stürmer. We also identify areas where persistence was lower: cities with high levels of trade or immigration. Finally, we show that our results are not driven by political extremism or by different attitudes toward violence.

This paper originally appeared as Barcelona GSE Working Paper 551