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Study Probes German Financial Distrust Today

Finds lower stock market activity in areas where Jews were most persecuted

Brigit Katz
October 22, 2014
Frankfurt Stock Exchange. (Wikimedia)

The sinister accusation that Jews control the markets has existed for centuries, and was perhaps most notoriously spread by Hitler, who drummed up hatred of Germany’s Jewish population in part by claiming that Jews dominated the financial sector. And according to new research, this toxic stereotype may very well continue to shape the attitudes of Germans today.

A new academic study has found that people who live in areas of Germany where persecution of Jews was most pervasive are—to this day—likely to exhibit distrust in the financial market.

This distrust manifests most significantly in a reluctance to invest in the stock market. Inhabitants of German districts that saw high numbers of Jews deported to concentration camps are 7.5 percent less likely to invest in the stock market than Germans living in other parts of the country, the study found. People who live in areas where pogroms occurred during the Black Death are 12 percent less likely to purchase stocks.

The authors of the study point out that this trend should not necessarily be attributed to contemporary anti-Semitism, but to a “norm of distrust in finance, transmitted across generations.” But the lingering effects of Jewish persecution have been harmful nonetheless. Because they have little exposure to the stock market, Germans living in the aforementioned districts are less likely to experience high financial returns—further proof that Jews are not the only ones who suffer as a result of anti-Semitism.

Brigit Katz is an editorial intern at Tablet.