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Michigan State University

Resources for Researching Anti-Semitism: Primary Sources in Special Collections

About Special Collections

Special Collections is the library's department for rare, valuable, and fragile materials. Visit our website to learn more about our many collection strengths. Our Radicalism collection holds the largest concentration of material relating to anti-semitism.

The Special Collections Reading Room is on the first floor of the Main Library. Our librarians are happy to help you identify relevant material and request it for use in the Reading Room.

General anti-semitic works

The Radicalism Collection contains many examples of anti-semitic writings that are not specifically works of Holocaust denial (see below.)

A keyword search for (antisemitic or antisemitism) and arsenal will retrieve most of them.

(The Library of Congress subject heading "antisemitic" omits the hyphen commonly used in this term. "Arsenal" will retrieve items with the tag "Arsenal Collection" which we have been adding to the catalog record for newly-acquired  anti-semitic and white-supremacy material for about 15 years.)

Holocaust denial literature

"Holocaust denial literature" is the term for writings which attempt to downplay the scope of the Holocaust or to ascribe the deaths of those murdered by the Nazis to other causes, such as epidemics of typhus. This genre has its own Library of Congress call number, D804.35.

Responses to Holocaust deniers are works which assert that the Holocaust did occur as it is described in tens of thousands of books and articles, by those who experienced it firsthand and by historians. These also have a specific call number, D804.355.

Remember that these call number searches will only retrieve stand-alone publications, such as books and brochures. Holocaust denial writings and responses to them may also be published in magazines and journals. Each periodical will cover a wider subject area than that of any individual article, so it will have a more general call number.

Martin Luther, On the Jews and Their Lies

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a prominent figure in the Protestant Reformation. In 1543 he published an essay, Von den Juden und ihren Lügen -- in English, On the Jews and Their Lies. This anti-semitic work has been reprinted many times by white supremacy groups. Find copies in Special Collections.

Popular culture materials

Among our Popular Culture holdings are items which document the common stereotypes about Jewish people, or ridicule Jewish people or Jewish culture. 

Examples can be located with this keyword search: (jew* or hebrew*) and (jokes or humor)

The catalog record generally does not distinguish between friendly humor and offensive humor, so this combination of search terms will also retrieve items on Jewish cartoonists and Jewish stand-up comics which are entirely positive. You may be able to tell from the title, or you may need to request an item and examine it yourself to see if the humor is anti-semitic. The older items are somewhat more likely to be anti-semitic than newer books.

Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion

The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is a fabricated historical document which purports to be notes from a meeting of wealthy Jews from around the world, in which they discussed their plans for world domination. It was first published in Russian in 1903.

The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion seems to be the most common English translation, but it also appears under similar titles such as The Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion or The Protocols of the Meeting of the Elders of Zion.

The text has been reprinted by anti-Jewish and white supremacy groups so often that it has its own call number in the Library of Congress Classification, DS145.P5. Special Collections has at least 70 copies in English from various groups, plus printings in other languages.

Works with commentary added to the text are at DS145.P7. Most held in Special Collections support the anti-semitic message. Challenges and critiques of The Protocols... are more likely to be published by reputable scholars in academic journals or university press publications, which are held in the library's circulating collection.

Michigan State University