While attending the University of Berlin in the late 19th century, the African-American thinker W.E.B. Du Bois studied under the tutelage of the anti-Semitic historian Heinrich von Treitschke, and after returning to the U.S. occasionally deployed anti-Semitic stereotypes in his writings. By the second decade of the 20th century, however, he had rejected such ideas, as Harold Brackman writes:
Du Bois’s attitude . . . changed when he worked with Joel E. Spingarn, Henry Moskowitz, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Lillian Wald, and other Jews prominent in forming the NAACP. Zionism [also] provided a model for Du Bois’s own pan-African ideology: “The African movement means to us what the Zionist movement must mean to the Jews,” [he wrote].
He condemned anti-Semitism in Poland and Hungary, as well as in Germany, and commended Albert Einstein. In May 1933, he editorialized about the dangers of Nazism, and [attending] Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics, . . . decided that Nuremberg was worse than Alabama.
In 1940, Du Bois warned against African-American anti-Semitism, inflamed by German and Japanese propaganda. Despite initial doubts about America entering World War II, Du Bois remained steadfast in denouncing Hitler’s war against the Jews and supporting Zionism. As the Nazi war machine rolled east in June 1941, Du Bois joined African-American intellectuals like Ralph Bunche in warning of the threat of “a new slavery and barbarism, terrorism and darkness” engulfing the world.