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Anti-Semitism in Austria-Hungary

In Austria-Hungary the anti-Semitic impulses came almost simultaneously from the North and East. Already in the 1870s the doctrinaire anti-Semitism of Berlin had found an echo in Budapest. Two members of the diet, Victor Istoczy and Geza Onody, together with a publicist named Georg Marczianyi, busied themselves in making known the doctrine of Marr in Hungary. Marczianyi, who translated the German Judeophobe pamphlets into Magyar, and the Magyar works of Onody into German, was the chief medium between the northern and southern schools.

In 1880 Istoczy tried to establish a "Nichtjuden Bund" in Hungary, with statutes literally translated from those of the German anti-Semitic league. The movement, however, made no progress, owing to the stalwart Liberalism of the predominant political parties, and of the national principles inherited from the revolution of 1848. The large part played by the Jews in that struggle, and the fruitful patriotism with which they bad worked for the political and economic progress of the country, had created, too, a strong claim on the gratitude of the best elements in the nation.

Nevertheless, among the ultramontane clergy, the higher aristocracy, the ill-paid minor officials, and the ignorant peasantry, the seeds of a tacit anti-Semitism were latent. It was probably the aversion of the nobility from anything in the nature of a demagogic agitation which for a time prevented these seeds from germinating. The news of the uprising in Russia and the appearance of Jewish refugees on the frontier, had the effect of giving a certain prominence to the agitation of Istoczy and Onody and of exciting the rural communities, but it did not succeed in impressing the public with the pseudo-scientific doctrines of the new anti-Semitism.

It was not until the agitators resorted to the Blood Accusation - that never-failing decoy of obscurantism and superstition - that Hungary took a definite place in the anti-Semitic movement. The outbreak was short and fortunately bloodless, but while it lasted its scandals shocked the whole of Europe. Dr August Rohling, professor of Hebrew at the university of Prague, a Roman Catholic theologian of high position but dubious learning, had for some years assisted the Hungarian anti-Semites with rchauffs of Eisenmenger's Entdecktes Judenthum (Frankfurt a M. 1700). In 1881 he made a solemn deposition before the Supreme Court accusing the Jews of being bound by their law to work the moral and physical ruin of non-Jews. He followed this up with an offer to depose on oath that the murder of Christians for ritual purposes was a doctrine secretly taught among Jews.

Professor Delitzsch and other eminent Hebraists, both Christian and Jewish, exposed and denounced the ignorance and malevolence of Rohling, but were unable to stem the mischief he was causing. In April 1882 a Christian girl named Esther Sobymossi was missed from the Hungarian village of Tisza Eszlar, where a small community of Jews were settled. The rumor got abroad that she had been kidnapped and murdered by the Jews, but it remained the burden of idle gossip, and gave rise to neither judicial complaint nor public disorders. At this moment the question of the Bosnian Pacification credits was before the diet. The unpopularity of the task assumed by Austria-Hungary, under the treaty of Berlin, which was calculated to strengthen the disaffected Croat element in the empire, had reduced the government majority to very small proportions, and all the reactionary factions in the country were accordingly in arms. The government was violently and unscrupulously attacked on all sides.

On the 23rd of May there was a debate in the diet when M. Onody, in an incendiary harangue, told the story of the missing girl at Tisza Eszlar, and accused ministers of criminal indulgence to races alien to the national spirit. In the then excited state of the public mind on the Croat question, the maneuver was adroitly conceived. The government fell into the trap, and treated the story with lofty disdain. Thereupon the anti-Semites set to work on the case, the magistrate at Nyiregyhaza, and a noted anti-Semite, was induced to go to Tisza Eszlar and institute an inquiry.

All the anti-liberal elements in the country now became banded together in this effort to discredit the liberal government, and for the first time the Hungarian anti-Semites found themselves at the head of a powerful party. Fifteen Jews were arrested and thrown into prison. No pains were spared in preparing the case for trial. Perjury and even forgery were freely resorted to. The son of one of the accused, a boy of fourteen, was taken into custody by the police, and by threats and cajoleries prevailed upon to give evidence for the prosecution. He was elaborately coached for the terrible rle he was to play. The trial opened at Nyiregyhaza on the 19th of June, and lasted till the 3rd of August. It was one of the most dramatic causes clbres of the century. Under the brilliant cross-examination of the advocates for the defence the whole of the shocking conspiracy was gradually exposed. The public prosecutor thereupon withdrew from the case, and the four judges - the chief of whom held strong anti-Semitic opinions - unanimously acquitted all the prisoners.

The case proved the death-blow of Hungarian anti-Semitism. Although another phase of the Jewish question, had still to occupy the public mind, the shame brought on the nation by the Tisza Eszlar conspiracy effectually prevented the anti-Semites from raising their voices with any effect again.

Meanwhile a more formidable and complicated outburst was preparing in Austria itself. Here the lines of the German agitation were closely followed, but with far more dramatic results. It was exclusively political - that is to say, it appealed to anti-Jewish prejudices for party purposes while it sought to rehabilitate them on a pseudo-scientific basis, racial and economic. At first it was confined to sporadic pamphleteers. By their side there gradually grew up a school of Christian Socialists, recruited from the ultra-Clericals, for the study and application of the doctrines preached at Mainz by Archbishop Kotteler. This constituted a complete Austrian analogue to the Evangelical-Socialist movement started in Germany by Herr Stcker. For some years the two movements remained distinct, but signs of approximation were early visible.

Thus one of the first complaints of the anti-Semites was that the Jews were becoming masters of the soil. This found an echo in the agrarian principles of the Christian Socialists, as expounded by Rudolph Meyer, in which individualism in landed property was admitted on the condition that the landowners were "the families of the nation" and not "cosmopolitan financiers." A further indication o anti-Semitism was found in a speech delivered in 1878 by Prince Alois von Liechtenstein (b. 1846), the most prominent disciple of Rudolph Meyer, who denounced the national debt as a tribute paid by the state to cosmopolitan rentiers.

The growing disorder in parliament, due to the bitter struggle between the German and Czech parties, served to bring anti-Semitism into the field of practical politics. Since 1867 the German Liberals had been in power. They had made enemies of the Clericals by tampering with the concordat, and they had split up their own party by the federalist policy adopted by Count Taaffe. The Radical secessionists in their turn found it difficult to agree, and an ultra-national German wing formed itself into a separate party under the leadership of Ritter von Schnerer (b. 1842), a Radical nationalist of the most violent type.

In 1882 two anti-Semitic leagues had been founded in Vienna, and to these the Radical nationalists now appealed for support. The growing importance of the party led the premier, Count Taaffe, to angle for the support of the Clericals by accepting a portion of the Christian Socialist programme. The hostility this excited in the liberal press, largely written by Jews, served to bring the feudal Christian Socialists and Radical anti-Semites together. In 1891 these strangely assorted factions became consolidated, and during the elections of that year Prince Liechtenstein came forward as an anti-Semitic candidate and the acknowledged leader of the party. The elections resulted in the return of fifteen anti-Semites to the Reichsrath, chiefly from Vienna.

Although Prince Liechtenstein and the bulk of the Christian Socialists bad joined the anti-Semites with the support of the Clerical organ, the Vaterland, the Clerical party as a whole still held aloof from the Jew-baiters. The events of 1897-1805 put an end to their hesitation. The Hungarian government, in compliance with long-standing pledges to the liberal party, introduced into the diet a series of ecclesiastical reform bills providing for civil marriage, freedom of worship, and the legal recognition of Judasim on an equality with other denominations. These proposals, which synchronized with AMwardt's turbulent agitation in Germany, gave a great impulse to anti-Semitism and served to drive into its ranks a large number of Clericals. The agitation was taken in hand by the Roman Catholic clergy, and the pulpits resounded with denunciations of the Jews. One clergyman, Father Deckert, was prosecuted for preaching the Blood Accusation and convicted (1894). Cardinal Schlauch, bishop of Grosswardcin, declared in the Hungarian House of Magnates that the Liberals were in league with "cosmopolitans" for the ruin of the country.

In October 1894 the magnates adopted two of the ecclesiastical bills with amendments, but threw out the Jewish bill by a majority of six. The crown sided with the magnates, and the ministry resigned, although it had a majority in the Lower House. An effort was made to form a Clerical cabinet, but it failed. Baron Banffy was then entrusted with the construction of a fresh Liberal ministry. The announcement that he would persist with the ecclesiastical bills lashed the Clericals and anti-Semites into a fury, and the agitation broke out afresh. The pope addressed a letter to Count Zichy encouraging the magnates to resist, and once more two of the bills were amended, and the third rejected. The papal nuncio, Mgr. Agliardi, now thought proper to pay a visit to Budapest, where he allowed himself to be interviewed on the crisis. This interference in the domestic concerns of Hungary was deeply resented by the Liberals, and Baron Banffy requested Count Kalnoky, the imperial minister of foreign affairs, to protest against it at the Vatican. Count Kalnoky refused and tendered his resignation to the emperor. Clerical sympathies were predominant in Vienna, and the emperor was induced for a moment to decline the count's resignation.

It soon became clear, however, that the Hungarians were resolved to see the crisis out, aud that in the end Vienna would be compelled to give way. The emperor accordingly retraced his steps, Count Kalnoky's resignation was accepted, the papal nuncio was recalled, a batch of new magnates were created, and the Hungarian ecclesiastical bills passed.

Simultaneously with this crisis another startling phase of the anti-Semitic drama was being enacted in Vienna itself. Encouraged by the support of the Clericals the anti-Semites resolved to make an effort to cany the Vienna municipal elections. So far the alliance of the Clericals with the anti-Semites had been unofficial, but on the eve of the elections (January 1895) the pope, influenced partly by the Hungarian crisis and partly by an idea of Cardinal Rampolla that the best antidote to democratic socialism would be a clerically controlled fusion of the Christian Socialists and anti-Semites, sent his blessing to Prince Liechtenstein and his followers. This action alarmed the government and a considerable body of the higher episcopate, who felt assured that any permanent encouragement given to the anti-Semites would in the end strengthen the parties of sedition and disorder.

Cardinal Schnborn was despatched in haste to Rome to expostulate with the pontiff, and his representations were strongly supported by the French and Belgian bishops. The mischief was however, done, and although the pope sent a verbal message to Prince Liechtenstein excluding the anti-Semites from his blessing, the elections resulted in a great triumph for the Jew-haters. The municipal council was immediately dissolved by the government, and new elections were ordered, but these only strengthened the position of the anti-Semites, who carried 92 seats out of a total of 138. A cabinet crisis followed, and the premiership was entrusted to the Statthalter of Galicia, Count Dadeni, who assumed office with a pledge of war to the knife against anti-Semitism. In October the new municipal council elected as burgomaster of Vienna Dr Karl Luegcr (b. 1844), a vehement anti-Semite, who had displaced Prince Liechtenstein as leader of the party.

The emperor declined to sanction the election, but the council repeated it in face of the imperial displeasure. Once more a dissolution was ordered, and for three, months the city was governed by administrative commissioners. In February 1896 elections were again held, and the anti-Semites were returned with an increased majority. The emperor then capitulated, and after a temporary arrangement, by which for one year Dr Lueger acted as vice-burgomaster and handed over the burgomastership to an inoffensive nominee, permitted the municipal council to have its way. The growing anarchy in parliament at this moment served still further to strengthen the anti-Semites, and their conquest of Vienna was speedily followed by a not less striking conquest of the Landtag of Lower Austria (November 1896).

Since then a reaction of sanity slowly but surely asserted itself. In 1908 the anti-Semites had governed Vienna twelve years, and, although they had accomplished much mischief, the millennium of which they were supposed to be the heralds had not dawned. On the contrary, the commercial interests of the city had suffered and the rates had been enormously increased, while the predatory hopes which secured them office had only been realized on a small and select scale. The spectacle of a anti-Semitic tammany in Vienna had strengthened the resistance of the better elements in the country. Time had also shown that Christian Socialism was only a disguise for high Toryism, and that the German Radicals who were originally induced to join the anti-Semites had been victimized by the Clericals. The fruits of this disillusion began to show themselves in the general elections of 1900-1901, when the anti-Semites lost six seats in the Reichsrath. The elections were followed (20 January 1901) by a papal encyclical on Christian democracy, in which Christian Socialism was declared to be a term unacceptable to the Church, and the faithful were adjured to abstain from agitation of a demagogic and revolutionary character, and "to respect the rights of others." Nevertheless, in 1907 the Christian Socialists trebled their representation in the Reichsrath. This, however, was due more to their alliance with the German national parties than to any large increase of anti-Semitism in the electorate.




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