The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


German Anti-Semitism

Towards the middle of the 18th century, a limited number of wealthy Jews had been tolerated as Schutz-Juden outside the ghettos, and their sons, educated as Germans under the influence of Moses Mendelssohn and his school, supplied a majority of the leading spirits of the revolutionary agitation. When the revolution was completed, and the Jews entered in a body the national life of Germany and Austria, they sustained this high average in all the intellectual branches of middle-class activity. Here again, owing to the accidents of their history, a further concentration became apparent.

Two men of the first rank, the greatest poet and the greatest thinker of the time, Gothe and Fichte, shared in the prejudices of the Germans against the Jews, and made no secret of it. Gothe, the representative of the aristocratic world, and Fichte, the defender of democratic opinion in Germany, both desired to see the Jews regarded as a plague beyond the pale of Christian society. Both were antagonistic to the Church, both looked upon Christianity with its belief in miracles as a folly, and both were branded as atheists. Nevertheless they abhorred the Jews in the name of Jesus. Gothe did not indeed express his intolerance against the Jews, but only showed how the current of opinion flowed in cultured German circles. Fichte, the biassed editor of Kant's work, was savage and embittered against the Jews. Like most German metaphysicians before the outbreak of the French Revolution, his philosophy was merely of a visionary nature. Fichte, the philosophical thinker, stirred up the same ill-will against the Jews and Judaism as did Gothe, the aristocratic poet, and Schleiermacher, the Gnostic preacher.

Should civil rights be granted to the Jews? Fichte expressed himself in a most decided fashion. According to his view, in no Christian State, however petty, or however contrary to right or reason might be its constitution, should they be emancipated. "The only way I see by which civil rights can be conceded to them (the Jews) is to cut off all their heads in one night, and to set new ones on their shoulders, which should contain not a single Jewish idea. The only means of protecting ourselves against them is to conquer their highly-praised land and send them thither."

Even the clerical opponents of emancipation in France, Abbe Maury and Bishop La Fare, had not spoken of the Jews in such a perverse and hateful manner. Fichte may be regarded as the Father and Apostle of a national instinctive German hatred of the Jews, of a kind hitherto unknown, or rather never before so clearly manifested. Even Herder, although filled with admiration for the antiquity of Israel and the people when in its Biblical splendour, and who was the first to examine sacred literature from a poetical point of view, felt an aversion to the Jews.

If the Jews met with no favour in the eyes of those who formed public opinion in Germany, and who had raised it from the level of old customs to a brilliant height of culture, both in the democratic and in the aristocratic camps, but only experienced at their hands repulse and scorn, how much worse was their relation to the great mass of the populace, who were still embedded in the depths of the darkest ignorance and crudeness.

The Jew's activity was almost exclusively intellectual. The bulk of them flocked to the financial and the distributive (as distinct from the productive) fields of industry to which they had been confined in the ghettos. The sharpened faculties of the younger generation at the same time carried everything before them in the schools, with the result that they soon crowded the professions, especially medicine, law and journalism. Thus the "Semitic domination," as it was afterwards called, became every day more strongly accentuated. If it was a long time in exciting resentment and jealousy, the reason was that it was in no sense alien to the new conditions of the national life. The competition was a fair one. The Jews might be more successful than their Christian fellow-citizens, bul it was in virtue of qualities which complied with the national standards of conduct. They were as law-abiding and patriotic as they were intelligent. Crime among them was far below the average.

Their complete assimilation of the national spirit was brilliantly illustrated by the achievements in German literature, art and science of such men as Heinrich Heine (1709-1854) and Berthold Auerbach (1812-1882), Felix Mendelssohn (Bartholdy) (1800-1847), and Jacob Meyerbeer (1794-1864), Karl Gustav Jacobi the mathematician (1804-1851), Gabriel Gustav Valentin the physiologist (1810-1883), and Moritz Lazarus (1824-1903) and Heymann Steinthal (1823-1899) the national psychologists. To this period belong the formidable names of Ludwig Borne (1786-1837), Edward Ganz (1708-1839), Gabriel Riesser (1806-1863), Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-1864), Karl Marx (1818-1883), Moses Hess (1812-1875), Ignatz Kuranda (1811-1884), and Johann Jacobi (1805-1877). In politics, too, Edward Lasker (1829-1884) and Ludwig Bamberger (1823-1899) had shown how Jews could put their country before party, when, at the turning-point of German imperial history in 1866. they led the secession from the Fortschritts-Partei and founded the National Liberal party, which enabled Prince Bismarck to accomplish German unity.

Even their financiers were not behind their Christian fellow-citizens in patriotism. Prince Bismarck himself confessed that the money for carrying on the 1866 campaign was obtained from the Jewish banker Bleichroeder, in face of the refusal of the money-market to support the war. Hence the voice of the old Jew-hatred - for in a weak way it was still occasionally heard in obscurantist corners - was shamed into silence, and it was only in the European twilight - in Russia and Rumania - and in lands where medievalism still lingered, such as northern Africa and Persia, that oppression and persecution continued to dog the steps of the Jews.

The signal for the change came in 1873, and was given unconsciously by one of the most distinguished Jews of his time, Edward Lasker, the gifted lieutenant of Bennigsen in the leadership of the National Liberal party. The unification of Germany in 1870, and the rapid payment of the enormous French war indemnity, had given an unprecedented impulse to industrial and financial activity throughout the empire. Money became cheap and speculation universal. A company mania set in which was favored by the government, who granted railway and other concessions with a prodigal hand. The inevitable result of this state of things was first indicated by Jewish politicians and economists. On the 14th of January 1873, Edward Lasker called the attention of the Prussian Diet to the dangers of the situation, while his colleague, Ludwig Bamberger, in an able article in the Preussischen Jahrbcher, condemned the policy which had permitted the milliards to glut the country instead of being paid on a plan which would have facilitated their gradual digestion by the economic machinery of the nation.

Deeply impressed by the gravity of the impending crisis, Lasker instituted a searching inquiry, with the result that he discovered a series of grave company scandals in which financial promoters and aristocratic directors were chiefly involved. Undeterred by the fact that the leading spirit in these abuses, Bethel Henry Strousberg (1823-1884), was a Jew, Lasker presented the results of his inquiry to the diet on the 7tb of February 1873, in a speech of great power and full of sensational disclosures. In the following May the great Vienna. "Krach" occurred, and the colossal bubble of speculation burst, bringing with it all the ruin foretold by Lasker and Bamberger. From the position occupied by the Jews in the commercial class, and especially in the financial section of that class, it was inevitable that a considerable number of them should figure in the scandals which followed. At this moment an obscure Hamburg journalist, Wilhelm Marr, who as far back as 1862 had printed a still-born tract against the Jews, published a sensational pamphlet entitled "Der Sieg des Judenhums ber das Germanihum" ("The Victory of Judaism over Germanism"). The book fell upon fruitful soil. It applied to the nascent controversy a theory of nationality which, under the great sponsorship of Hegel, had seized on the minds of the German youth, and to which the stirring events of 1870 had already given a deep practical significance.

The state, according to the Hegelians, should be rational, and the nation should be a unit comprising individuals speaking the same language and of the same racial origin. Heterogeneous elements might be absorbed, but if they could not be reduced to the national type they should be eliminated. This was the pseudo-scientific note of the new anti-Semitism, the theory which differentiated it from the old religious Jew-hatred and sought to give it a rational place in modern thought. Marr's pamphlet, which reviewed the facts of the Jewish social concentration without noticing their essentially transitional character, proved the pioneer of this teaching.

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 26-11-2015 15:36:56 ZULU