On Jews and Vampires

By Andrew Joyce for the Occidental Observer

During the Halloween festivities a few weeks ago it seemed to me a timely opportunity to indulge my interest in the darker, horror-tinged aspects of European folklore concerning Jews. I’ve been intrigued in recent years by a growing literature connecting vampire tales, both early modern and modern, with the history of the European-Jewish interaction.[1] Much of this literature argues that vampires are for the most part proxy figures for European anxieties about Jews, with the vampire figure, and allegories painting Jews as vampires, acting as dehumanizing mechanisms facilitating the alleged oppression of Jewish people. While I tend to agree that vampire allegories have been weaponized against Jews, especially between the years 1880 and 1945, this is hardly interesting in itself. All groups engage in dehumanizing strategies against opposing factions, and these strategies are found as much in the Talmud as they are anywhere else.[2] My interest then, is not in the fact that Europeans may have designed, or tinkered with, the image of the vampire in order to attack the Jews, but what exactly may be said about Jews in the depiction of the vampire, and why.

The Uses of the Mainstream

Despite itself, mainstream scholarship is quite useful in answering such questions. One of the primary features of my work at The Occidental Observer over the last nine years has been an attempt to show that our ideas are not disconnected from mainstream scholarship, and that plenty of truth can be found in mainstream texts. No clearer exposition of Jewish hoaxes and lies connected with the so-called Russian Pogroms, for example, can be found outside of John Doyle Klier’s Oxford-published Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 18811882. Klier argued that contemporary Jewish accounts of the pogroms should be treated with “extreme caution,” with many of the most popular and influential “flatly contradicted by the archival record.”[3] I have also praised the work of medievalist and folklorist Gillian Bennett, who overturned many years of Jewish portrayals of the so-called Blood Libel as a kind of mass European psychosis by arguing for their rational origin in that “where accusations of ritual murder where made in this period … it is more probable that they were cause célèbres around which anti-Jewish feeling could crystallize, rather than the cause of anti-Semitism in the first place.”[4] My theory that Jewish scholars engage in nepotism to exaggerate the importance of their co-ethnics in forming European culture is based on the work of Dutch Spinoza expert Hubertus G. Hubbeling who wrote that “there are some Jewish writers who emphasize very strongly the importance of Spinoza’s contribution to the development of democratic ideas. … According to the opinion of the present writer Spinoza’s importance is exaggerated here.”[5] Also praised in the course of my work is Hannah Johnson, another talented academic who single-handedly demolished the influential but heavily compromised pro-Jewish work of historian Gavin Langmuir and argued that his theories of anti-Semitism offered nothing more than a “one dimensional model of conflict between an intolerant Christian community and its passive Jewish victims.”[6]

I therefore find it extremely amusing when my work is characterized as anti-Semitic or bigoted, given that my four primary positions and discussion points (Jews have lied to themselves and others about significant aspects of their history; anti-Semitism has a rational basis; Jews behave in a nepotistic fashion in academia and other spheres of influence; and, Jewish historiography is little more than a one-sided story of blameless victimhood) are derived not from “neo-Nazi” pamphlets, but from leading scholars from some of the world’s best universities. You could say I was “red-pilled” by the mainstream, which, we should remember, also once included Kevin MacDonald and his trilogy on the Jews until it was decided to ostracize MacDonald and his work in every way imaginable in order to reassert the lachrymose interpretation of Jewish historical karma.

Unfortunately, mainstream scholarship appears mortally terrified of praise from our supposed “fringe,” no matter how intensively we interact with its work, as evidenced in the recent Palgrave/Springer publication of Jews in Medieval England: Teaching Representations of the Other. In the book’s introduction, a pair of editors refer to my essay on Langmuir, remarking with horror that they discovered “the work of Hannah Johnson, a contributor to this volume, quoted approvingly on an anti-Semitic white supremacist blog.”[7] The terror here is surely rooted in the earth-shattering discovery that supposed “fringe” lunatics and bigots are extremely interested in facts, logic, and research, and they often sit at the very elbow of those who thought themselves so distant and superior. Given the intimate relationship between my work and mainstream scholarship, what use are accusations of anti-Semitism when, given my intensive use of large volumes of mainstream source material (and frequent praise of the same), the charge is dangerously likely to come back, like a boomerang, to these same accusers? At the risk of terrifying more academics, then, I will present here some of the more interesting findings and arguments in mainstream scholarship connecting Jews and vampire imagery over the last century or so.

How Anti-Semitic is Dracula?

One of the clearer explorations of alleged anti-Jewish allegories in Bram Stoker’s Dracula can be found in the work of Sara Libby Robinson, especially her brief essay “Blood will tell: Antisemitism and vampires in British popular culture, 1875–1914.” While I don’t agree with all of Robinson’s conclusions, there are some interesting parallels and relationships in imagery, and I find it interesting in any case to explore Jewish paranoia and sensitivities (Robinson is based at Brandeis and almost certainly Jewish) to certain types of image (that of the gold-seeking dwarf being another that Jews are prone to focus on). For Robinson, Dracula is not like older vampire tales from Eastern Europe because it is fundamentally about a dangerous immigrant arriving in the British Isles:

At the time of publication in 1897, Count Dracula was only one in a long line of fictional vampires. However, Dracula differed from his earlier ancestors in some important ways. As described in Gordon Melton’s encyclopedia of vampires in myth, literature, and film, from Polidori’s Lord Ruthven in 1819, to Rymer’s Varney the Vampire in the 1840s, to Le Fanu’s Carmilla in 1872, whatever their menace, vampires had typically belonged to the social circles they preyed upon; no worse than a local, decadent aristocrat. Varney’s origins in particular are explicitly British. Count Dracula, on the other hand, does not belong to the society he threatens. He is an outsider, specifically an immigrant from Eastern Europe just when large numbers of Eastern European Jews were arriving on England’s shores. … The Jewish population [of Britain] more than doubled in the last quarter of the nineteenth century due to immigration from Eastern Europe. … [I]n taking jobs, money, food, and housing away from native Britons, Jews were not only viewed as competitors, but as parasites, metaphorical vampires who lived by draining away economic opportunities rather than blood.

Count Dracula himself is a kind of faux aristocrat—a member of a decaying race that can only survive by leeching on the vitality of new peoples. He is an elite of sorts, and has some of the trappings of wealth, but he remains fundamentally vile and befouls his surroundings wherever he goes, literally leaving a stench. For Robinson, Dracula is an amalgam of late twentieth-century British views of the Jews. On the one hand, Britons were confronted with an older generation of prominent Jewish oligarchs that had gradually intermarried with the British aristocracy. Like Dracula, these oligarchs sought to mimic their surroundings (Dracula is especially keen to mask his foreign accent, for example), but were essentially regarded as parasitic shape-shifters. In 1891, one newspaper, the Labor Leader, referred to the Rothschilds, a quintessential example of this Anglo-Jewish elite, as “leeches [that] have for years hung on with distended suckers to the body politic of Europe.” On the other hand, Britons were also confronted with a new generation of lower-class Jewish immigrants who brought with them the white slave trade,[8] grass-roots financial exploitation and criminality[9], mass-produced pornography[10] and moral degradation, and political terrorism (both Anarchist and Communist),[11] seen by many as literally befouling the areas they came to inhabit. Dracula, both fake aristocrat and stinking subversive, is argued by Robinson to have encapsulated both experiences.

An especially interesting argument advanced by Robinson, and which had escaped my attention when recently re-reading the novel, is Stoker’s portrayal of Dracula as having an obsession, or special relationship, with money. Robinson writes.

Count Dracula is a faithful embodiment of the caricature of Jews as greedy and parasitic, placing money above all else. Despite his supernatural abilities, Dracula is an essentially commercial character. His first action of the book (while still disguised as a coachman) is to mark the sites of buried treasure. His next is to go over deeds of purchase and other business matters with Harker, in Transylvania representing Dracula’s solicitors in Britain. While dining at Castle Dracula, Harker notes that “the table service is of gold,” an ostentatious show of wealth similar to those which Jewish bankers and nouveaux riches were accused. When Harker explores the castle, he finds a room filled with “a great heap of gold … of all kinds, Roman, and British, and Austrian, and Hungarian, and Greek[,] and Turkish.” Like the modern Jewish financier, Dracula does business and reaps profit from all over the world. The most significant scene, however, comes towards the end of the novel. In it, the heroes have cornered Dracula, and Harker lunges at him with a knife. Not stabbed, “The [knife’s] point just cut the cloth of [Dracula’s] coat, making a wide gap whence a bundle of bank-notes and a stream of gold fell out. … The next instant, with a sinuous dive he swept under Harker’s arm … , and, grasping a handful of the money from the floor, dashed across the room.” This demonstration of putting the preservation of one’s money on par with the preservation of one’s life shows that stereotypes regarding Jews and their money were alive and well in the late nineteenth century, and enacted in the fictional character of Dracula, making them seem truly monstrous.

Also interesting are Stoker’s (alleged) insinuations about Jewish loyalties. Robinson points out that Jews have often been accused of seeking after their own tribal interests rather than the interests of the nation they inhabit. She comments,

This nightmare certainly comes true with Stoker’s representation of Dracula as a symbol for supposed Jewish greed and self-interest. Dracula places his loyalty wherever it suits his convenience; speaking both German and English as easily as his native tongue. Dracula has the skills necessary to join forces with Germany, England’s chief rival, if he so wishes. In fact, when fleeing Britain, Dracula enlists the aid of a German Jew named Hildesheim, “a Hebrew of rather the Adelphi Theater type, with a nose like a sheep” who must naturally be bribed in order to aid Stoker’s heroes. Tellingly, the one overtly Jewish character in the novel is neither British nor on the side of the heroes, reinforcing the anti-Semitic charge that Jews cannot be counted upon to give help solely to aid the national interest, regardless of personal and pecuniary gain.

Like Dracula, Hildesheim’s financial transactions move across Europe, with the money leaving its country of origin, and globalizing capital. Stoker writes that Hildesheim “had been paid for his work by an English pound-note, which had been duly cashed for gold at the Danube International Bank.”

In terms of his physical attributes, Dracula has “a very strong … aquiline [nose], with [a] high bridge and peculiarly arched nostrils.” In Robinson’s view, Dracula’s nose is “labeled constantly throughout the book as hooked or ‘beaky’ [and] is [thus] simultaneously stereotypically Jewish and criminal.” Robinson connects the Count’s “bushy eyebrows, pointed ears, sharp teeth, and ugly fingers” as well as his nose to negative physical attributes commonly ascribed to Jews, as well as to the ideas of the Italian founder of criminal anthropology Cesare Lombroso which posited that the criminal face often bore a nose “like the beak of a bird of prey.”

It’s been pointed out that one of Stoker’s major source materials for Transylvania was Major E.C. Johnson’s travelogue On the Track of the Crescent, with some descriptions and incidents being reproduced so closely as to provoke accusations of plagiarism. Equally interesting, however, are some of Johnson’s descriptions of the physical characteristics of Jews he encountered in his travels, including the following:

Who can mistake them? The oval face; the ‘parroty’ beak, out of all proportion to the other features, the stooping gait and long flowing beard, the furtive glances from under shaggy eyebrows, now cringing, now vindictive. … [A]ll these show unmistakably the Hungarian branch of that race ‘against whom is every man’s hand,’ and who returns the compliment with compound interest.

In Dracula, Bram Stoker appears to have significantly increased the role of Christianity and Christian symbolism as methods of defeating vampires, another cause for Robinson to suspect anti-Semitic subtexts to the novel: “Christian iconography had not been emphasized in vampire fiction earlier in the century. Crucifixes and communion wafers, however, figure prominently in combating Dracula, at a time when a religious community that did not embrace Christianity—the Jews—was on the rise.”

While I find some of these links and allusions quite compelling, or at least entertaining to consider, Robinson stretches too far with her attempt to portray Stoker as a kind of proto-genocidal anti-Semitic eugenicist. The argument goes that Dracula’s opponents are scientifically-minded professionals (two doctors and a lawyer) who are determined to stop Dracula bringing about the degeneration of Britain through the breeding of “a new and ever-widening circle of semi-demons”—in Robinson’s view, a metaphor for miscegenation. From here, in my view, Robinson departs firmly into the deep recesses of Jewish paranoia in which all roads lead to a Spielbergian Auschwitz:

Stoker’s language is very suggestive. His heroes “sterilize” Dracula’s coffins of native soil with communion wafers in order to prevent him from finding refuge during the day. Next, they travel back to Transylvania to destroy Dracula’s castle, the source of the vampire infestation. They do to the Count what Social Darwinists advocated doing to hereditary criminals—sterilization through applied eugenics. All of the evil and danger suggested by fears about alien immigrants, as embodied by Dracula, are chased out of England and destroyed. In the words of one reviewer, Dracula is “exterminated.”

The Breed and The Tribe

Robinson’s theories on vampires as a kind of persecuted pseudo-Jewish population hunted to extinction by Christians or Fascists are echoed in the 2001 movie The Breed, directed by South African Jew Michael Oblowitz. In the film, vampires are a marginalized and persecuted race literally living in former Jewish ghettoes. Jeffrey Weinstock, in The Vampire Film: Undead Cinema, writes:

The film in a variety of ways equates vampires with Jews. The vampires, living in a fascist state that has been working towards a vampire ‘final solution,’ are ghettoised in an encampment ironically named ‘Serenity.’ Subject to anti-vampire sentiments from the bulk of the vampirophobes who know of their existence, they are represented as poor immigrants. … Most tellingly, the innocent vampires are attacked by government troops while attempting to sneak out of the country. The Breed thus enacts a series of generic inversions that clearly correlated vampires with social outsiderdom and then, rather than expelling the other as a threat to social stability, foregrounds the injustice of bigotry.[12]

The approaches of Robinson and Oblowitz, and several other Jewish scholars whose work I’ve read on this matter, are more or less the same since they both involve a kind of empathy with the figure of the vampire. Yes, it’s an uneasy empathy, and Jews are clearly fearful and uncomfortable with the prospect of being linked with the negative traits associated with the myths and fictions involving the creature. And yet it is also a strong affinity, one that accepts certain commonalities and even produces a kind of dual apologetic. This Jewish affinity for the vampire is surely one of the most remarkable and telling sociological quirks of the modern European-Jewish interaction.

Concluding Remarks

How anti-Jewish are vampire tales, and were any of them ever deliberately constructed that way? That’s open for discussion. A more interesting question, perhaps, is why Jews so readily and heavily read themselves and their history into these fictional creatures. And why, also, do they see themselves in Tolkien’s dwarves, in J.K. Rowling’s goblins, and Tim Burton’s Penguin from Batman Returns?

The answer may lie in an acknowledgment, on some level, that anti-Jewish complaints have some basis in fact, and when these complaints (or traits strongly associated with them) are manifested in fiction or other cultural products as sinister characters or plot devices, they are instantly recognized by Jews on a deep level. Because of this recognition, where the character may inspire horror and disgust among the majority of readers, the Jewish response involves a level of sympathy and a sense of shared fate. Such a divergence in perception illustrates, if nothing else, a deep and ongoing gulf in understanding between two peoples, one fearing a deadly nocturnal parasite and the other believing it the victim of mere bigotry.

[1] See, for example, Reed, Clare. “Vampires and Gentiles: Jews, Mormons and Embracing the Other.” In The Modern Vampire and Human Identity, pp. 128-145. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2013; Gardenour, Brenda. “The Biology of Blood-Lust: Medieval Medicine, Theology, and the Vampire Jew.” Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies 41, no. 2 (2011): 51-63; Zanger, Jules. “A sympathetic Vibration: Dracula and the Jews.” English literature in transition, 1880-1920 34, no. 1 (1991): 33-44; Dan, Peter. “How Vampires Became Jewish.” Studia Hebraica 9-10 (2009): 417-429; Harrison, Lori B. “Bloodsucking Bloom: Vampirism as a Representation of Jewishness in” Ulysses”.” James Joyce Quarterly 36, no. 4 (1999): 781-797; Bacon, Simon. “The Vampiric Diaspora: The Complications of Victimhood and Post-memory as Configured in the Jewish Migrant Vampire.” In The Modern Vampire and Human Identity, pp. 111-127. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2013; Davison, Carol. Anti-semitism and British gothic literature. Springer, 2004.

[2] See also the Jewish folk creation the ‘Golem,’ which serves oftentimes to fulfil revenge fantasies against Europeans.

[3] J. D. Klier, Russians, Jews and the Pogroms of 1881-82, 401

[4] G. Bennett, “William of Norwich and the Expulsion of the Jews”, Folklore 116:3, 311-314, 313.

[5] H.G. Hubbeling (ed) Spinoza’s Methodology (Royal Van Gorcum, Netherlands), 103.

[6] H. Johnson, Blood Libel: The Ritual Murder Accusation at the Limit of Jewish History (Detroit: University of Michigan Press, 2012), 61.

[7] Krummel & Pugh (eds) Jews in Medieval England: Teaching Representations of the Other. (Germany: Springer International Publishing, 2018), ix.

[8] Gartner, L. P. (1982). Anglo-Jewry and the Jewish International Traffic in Prostitution, 1885-1914. AJS Review, 7/8, 129–178.

[9] Jaffe, A. J., and Saul D. Alinsky. “A comparison of Jewish and non-Jewish convicts.” Jewish Social Studies (1939): 359-366.

[10] Hearne, S. (2021). An Erotic Revolution? Pornography in the Russian Empire, 1905–1914. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 30(2), 195-224.

[11] Knepper, P. (2008). The other invisible hand: Jews and anarchists in London before the First World War. Jewish History, 22(3), 295-315.

[12] J. Weinstock, The Vampire Film: Undead Cinema (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 120

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