An article by Sara Lipton in the New York Times, reflecting on how significant such simple things as language can be to how actual human beings are treated in the world. Hate speech causes real harm. This also includes labeling of people - simply being categorized as a "Mischling" immediately had consequences for my godmother's ability to live her life as she wished, even before such labels carried worse fates, up to death... Changing the words we use about people, and generalizing about large groups, leads to de-humanizing. Seeing an entire group of people as "other" softens the barriers against violence, with awful results. Read “The Words That Killed Medieval Jews," published December 13, 2015.
"The experience of Jews in medieval Europe offers a sobering example. Official Christian theology and policy toward Jews remained largely unchanged in the Middle Ages. Over roughly 1,000 years, Christianity condemned the major tenets of Judaism and held “the Jews” responsible for the death of Jesus. But the terms in which these ideas were expressed changed radically.
Before about 1100, Christian devotions focused on Christ’s divine nature and triumph over death. Images of the crucifixion showed Jesus alive and healthy on the cross. For this reason, his killers were not major focuses in Christian thought. ... Though there are scattered records of anti-Jewish episodes like forced conversions, we find no consistent pattern of anti-Jewish violence.
In the decades around 1100, a shift in the focus of Christian veneration brought Jews to the fore. In an effort to spur compassion among Christian worshipers, preachers and artists began to dwell in vivid detail on Christ’s pain. ... A parallel tactic, designed to foster a sense of Christian unity, was to emphasize the cruelty of his supposed tormentors, the Jews.
Partly out of identification with this newly vulnerable Christ, partly in response to recent Turkish military successes, and partly because an internal reform movement was questioning fundamentals of faith, Christian began to see themselves as threatened, too.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Jews were massacred in towns where they had resided for generations. At no point did Christian authorities promote or consent to the violence. Christian theology, which applied the Psalm verse “Slay them not” to Jews, and insisted that Jews were not to be killed for their religion, had not changed. Clerics were at a loss to explain the attacks."