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1892-1910 - Anti-Semitism in Decline

The 1892 capture of the Conservative party proved the high-water mark of German anti-Semitism for the moment. From that moment the tide began to recede. All that was best in German national life was scandalized by the cynical tactics of the Conservatives. The emperor, strong Christian though he was, was shocked at the idea of serving Christianity by a compact with unscrupulous demagogues and ignorant fanatics. Prince Bismarck growled out a stinging sarcasm from his retreat at Friedrichsruh. Even Stocker raised his voice in protest against the " Ahlwardtismus " and " Bockclianismus," and called upon his Conservative colleagues to distinguish between " respectable and disreputable anti-Semitism." As for the Liberals and Socialists, they filled the air with bitter laughter, and declared from the housetops that the stupid party, had at last been overwhelmed by its own stupidity.

The Conservatives began to suspect that they had made a false step, and they were confirmed in this belief by the conduct of their new ally Ahlwardt in the Reichstag. His dbut in parliament was the signal for a succession of disgraceful scenes. Ahlwardt's whole campaign of calumny was transferred to the floor of the house, and for some weeks the Reichstag discussed little else than his so-called revelations. The Conservatives listened to his wild charges in uncomfortable silence, and refused to support him. Stocker opposed him in a violent speech. The Radicals and Socialists, taking an accurate measure of the shallow vanity of the man, adopted the policy of giving him "enough rope." Shortly after his election Ahlwardt was condemned to five months' imprisonment for libel, and he would have been arrested but for the interposition of the Socialist party, including five Jews, who claimed for him the immunities of a member of parliament. When he moved for a commission to inquire into his revelations, it was again the Socialist party which supported him, with the result that all Ahlwardt's charges, without exception, were found to be absolutely baseless. Ahlwardt was covered with ridicule, and when in May the Reichstag was dissolved, he was marched off to prison to undergo the sentence for libel from which his parliamentary privilege had up to that moment protected him.

Ahlwardt's hold on the anti-Semitic populace was, however, not diminished. On the contrary, the action of the Conservatives at the Tivoli congress could not be at once eradicated from the minds of the Conservative voters, and when the electoral campaign began it was found impossible to explain to them that the party leaders had changed their minds. The result was that Ahlwardt, although in prison, was elected by two constituencies. At Arnswalde-Friedeberg he was returned in the teeth of the opposition of the official Conservatives, and at Neustettin he defeated no less a person than his anti-Semitic opponent Stocker. Fifteen other anti-Semites, all of the Ahlwardtian school, were elected. This, however, represented little in the way of political influence; for henceforth the party had to stand alone as one of the many minor factions in the Reichstag, avoided by all the great parties, and too weak to exercise any influence on the main course of affairs.

During the subsequent seven years it became more and more discredited. The financial scandals connected with Forster's attempt to found a Christian Socialist colony in Paraguay, the conviction of Baron von Hammerstein, the anti-Semitic Conservative leader for forgery and swindling in 1895-1896, and several minor scandals of the same unsavory character, covered the party with the very obloquy which it had attempted to attach to the Jews. At the same time the Christian Socialists who had remained with the Conservative party also suffered. After the elections of 1893, Stcker was dismissed from his post of court preacher, and publicly reprimanded for speaking familiarly of the empress. Two years later the Christian Socialist, Pastor Neumann, observing the tendency of the Conservatives to coalesce with the moderate Liberals in antagonism to Social Democracy, declared against the Conservative party.

In 1894 the emperor publicly condemned Christian Socialism and the "political pastors," and Stocker was expelled from the Conservative party for refusing to modify the socialistic propanganda of his organ, Das Volk. His fall was completed by a quarrel with the Evangelical Social Union. He left the Union and appealed to the Lutheran clergy to found a new church social organization, but met with no response. Another blow to anti-Semitism came from the Roman Catholics. They had become alarmed by the unbridled violence of the Ahlwardlians, and when in 1894 Frster declared in an address to the German anti-Semitic Union that anarchical outrages like the murder of President Carnot were as much due to the "Anarchismus von oben" as the "Anarchismus von unten," the Ultramontane Germania publicly washed its hands of the Jew-baiters (1st of July 1894). Thus gradually German anti-Semitism became stripped of every adventitious alliance: and at the general election of 1898 it only managed to return twelve members to the Reichstag, and in 1903 its party strength fell to nine.

A remarkable revival in its fortunes, however, took place between 1905 and 1907. Identifying itself with the extreme Chauvinists and Anglophobes it profited by the anti-national errors of the Clericals and Socialists, and won no fewer than twelve by-elections. At the general election of 1907 its jingoism and aggressive Protestantism were rewarded with twenty-five seats. It was clear, however, from the figures of the second ballots that these successes owed far more to the tendencies of the party in the field of general politics than to its anti- Semitism. Indeed the specifically anti-Semitic movement had shown little activity since 1893.

The causes of the decline of German anti-Semitism were not difficult to determine. While it remained a theory of nationality and a fad of the metaphysicians, it made considerable noise in the world, but without exercising much practical influence. When it attempted to play an active part in politics it became submerged by the ignorant and superstitious voters, who could not understand its scientific justification, but who were quite ready to declaim and riot against the Jew bogey. It thus became a sort of Jacquerie which, being exploited by unscrupulous demagogues, soon alienated all its respectable elements. Its moments of real importance had been due not to inherent strength but to the uses made of it by other political parties for their own purposes.

By 1910 these coalitions were no longer of perilous significance so far as the Jews were concerned, chiefly because, in face of the menace of democratic socialism and its unholy alliance with the Roman Catholic Centrum, all supporters of the existing organization of society found it necessary to sink their differences. The new social struggle eclipsed the racial theory of nationality. The Social Democrat became the enemy, and the new reaction counted on the support of the rich Jews and the strongly individualist Jewish middle class to assist it in preserving the existing social structure. Hence in Prince Billow's "Bloc" (1908) anti-Semites figured side by side with Judcopphil Radicals.

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Page last modified: 07-08-2012 19:00:24 ZULU