This would be the convenient and intellectually lazy conclusion to draw, but I have my doubts. Support for the far right is highest in areas of enormous deprivation. In 1990 Germany did, after all, take the unprecedented step of absorbing a second- or even third-world country when the Berlin Wall came down. Large parts of the east are truly in a desperate state, with some having a population comprised of 80 percent men, I am told, who are mostly unemployed. Surely that, rather than a mechanical trip-switch of hate, better explains the rise of extremism?
Byers is right to reject the idea that the Holocaust could not have occurred in other societies, yet his economic explanation for the appearance of Nazism and now neo-Nazism in Germany is no less deficient for being common.
The economic explanation assumes that Jews are a tempting target in times of economic trauma without explaining why this should be so. Yet any theory of anti-Semitism that fails to explain its attractiveness to vast masses of people in different societies across time and space is foredoomed to obscure matters. The reasons for the resilient attractiveness of anti-Semitism are not economic envy, ethnic rivalry or competition for territory or resources, which are the usual stimulants for other forms of hatred. Rather, something on a different plane is occurring - a revolt against the restraints imposed by the Judeo-Christian heritage, seen variously as unnatural and denatured, a corrosive doctrine that destroys and frustrates the natural vigour and rightful strength of force-based cultures and utopian doctrines. Only in these conditions is it unsurprising that economic trauma in a militaristic culture like Germany's last century can lead to a declaration of war on the Jews.
Economic factors can be proximate or contributory factors in the operation of anti-Semitism, but are not the cause. Anti-Semitism needs no economic hardship for its creation, as a glance at Saudi Arabia will confirm - merely a utopian doctrine and, as I argued in this opinion piece, is therefore a common feature of all such doctrines.