What is loyalty?

On thing that personally became clear to me while reading the Documents on the Status of German Jewry and the Debate over Jewish Emancipation is how little I knew about the history of Jewish people in Europe before World War II and I’m glad that I know a little more after reading this primary source. However I do feel like I was able to better understand the history of antisemitism and why it took shape and was either widely accepted or widely ignored in Germany over a hundred years later due to my knowledge of that time. 

Going to Heinrich Paulus’ letter to Riesser, this idea that the responsibility is on the individual to demonstrate their loyalty to a certain nation even when other people born in the same nation do not share the same burden seems to play a recurring role throughout history (155). When large groups of Irish immigrated to the United States throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there was the idea that they couldn’t be trusted because their loyalty would always belong firstly to the Pope and the Catholic Church. Another instance is after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the treatment of Americans of Japanese descent, specifically with Executive Order 9066 and the internment of Japanese Americans in internment camps. This paired with the fact that there was no comparable effort to protect America from Americans with German or Italian descent even after we went to war with both, shows it was more at play than a wartime protection.

Although these situations are not the exact and therefore not a perfect comparison, I still do see similarities on this idea of loyalty has allowed people to restrict the rights and classify entire groups of people based on a common belief system or ancestry. I wonder how much that has been used as an excuse to make the racism or xenophobia which is really driving people. Since loyalty is such an abstract idea, to me, it seems like it is creating an impossible standard for the group in question to achieve, allowing them to be treated differently or worse. Do you see other examples of history where this rhetoric of “other-ism” has been interconnected with this idea of loyalty? Do you agree that it is just a way to mask prejudice or do you see it differently? Finally, do you think that the extensive history of antisemitism makes what these sources are discussing (Jewish Emancipation) unique when comparing them to the examples I gave above? Especially because in all of the examples I gave, the treatment of those people in America had passed relatively quickly.

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