Jews Must Live: “We Meet Our Destiny on the Road We Take to Avoid It”
The most complex episode in Roth’s life was his infamous anti-Semitic tract, Jews Must Live. It was self-published in 1934, coincidentally at the time when it would be most help to the Nazi movement. Roth used arguments of late-nineteenth century writers such as Chamberlain, Sombart, Trietschke, and Weininger, who described the Teutonic race characteristics necessary to establish a German nation and believed lacking in the Jewish character, specifically because of its degenerate language (mauscheln, inability to create rather than copy, and hostile business tactics). Written under the pressures of bankruptcy and the advantage taken of that by colleagues in the underground economy of erotica publishing, this example of ethnic self-hatred is a terrified response to insecurity and a substitute for self-examination. It is also a possible example of the Hasidic concept of redemption through sin. An embarrassment to his family, and to the writer himself, Jews Must Live is also evidence of an imperiousness and irascibility that served Roth in his iconoclastic efforts against the established legal and moral absolutes he fought.
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