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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 13, 2006 | Vol. 36 No. 11
Was Mencken An Anti-Semite? Peabody Library Examines Assertion

H.L. Mencken, ca. 1917.
Photograph courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

By Pamela Higgins
Sheridan Libraries

It's not just that some of Baltimore writer and journalist H.L. Mencken's best friends were Jewish; as Alistair Cook once said, with only slight exaggeration, "Nearly all of Mencken's best friends were Jewish," as were his lifelong business associates.

The iconoclastic social commentary of Baltimore Sun reporter and columnist Henry Louis Mencken was a major factor in American intellectual discourse during the first part of the 20th century. And although Mencken could speak some Yiddish, enjoyed kosher food, dined during the High Holidays at the homes of his Jewish friends and was often mistaken for being Jewish, he sometimes wrote disparagingly of Jews, failed to publicly denounce Hitler and was accused of being an anti-Semite.

On Sunday, Nov. 19, Mencken scholar David S. Thaler will present an illustrated lecture, based on his book The Mencken Paradox (Mercury House Press, 2006), exploring the issues associated with the persistent assertion that Mencken was anti-Semitic. In the book, Thaler offers an insightful new analysis of the political and social climate in early-20th-century Baltimore and Mencken's relationship with the German Jews and its effect on his attitude toward the burgeoning Eastern European Jewish community.

The event will take place at 3:30 p.m. at the George Peabody Library. Copies of the book will be available for sale, and a reception and book signing will follow the talk. The event is free, but seating for the lecture is limited; for reservations, call 410-516-7943.

"The Menken Paradox: Was H.L. Mencken an Anti-Semite?" is presented in conjunction with Yet Another One! H.L. Mencken, an exhibition on view at the George Peabody Library through Jan. 7. The exhibition takes its title from the fact that Mencken sent so many of his books to some friends that he sometimes inscribed them, "Noch eins!" ("Yet another one!").

Offering an intriguing view of Mencken through personal inscriptions in books, pamphlets and other publications that he gave to friends and family, the exhibition may be viewed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.


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