(Continued from last week)
We will see that individual groups and organizations spoke and wrote about the Jews creating a hate, resulting from the Jews being successful in politics, business, banking and other areas of activity. These groups and organizations felt that after the creation of the unified nation Deutschland, their country should be for the Germans only, and any outsiders should be excluded. Jews were considered outsiders since they were different, had a different religion, mostly dressed differently and were not rein Deutsch. It made no difference if the Jews were assimilated, since particularly the assimilated were the leaders in business, politics and finance. It was feared that the Jews could become the ruling class in the new country.
Already during the years of the establishment of the Deutsche Kaiserreich from 1866 to 1871, the fear that outsiders, which meant primarily Jews, would have the upper hand generated aggression against the Jews that would develop into Christian Jew hatred after a few years. It was especially the sworn Federalists and Separatists who made the first attacks against the Jews, since they particularly opposed the assimilated Jews who were engaged in the national unification movement on the side of the liberal citizens. There were many who feared the establishment of a unified state and that the influence of the Jews in the unification would be at the expense of their own influence. The Jews who were active in the establishment of the new state did so not as strangers, but as equal partners in the liberal camp. The Jews jumped at the chance to be active in the building of the new state after hundreds of years of seclusion and prejudice. It gave them the opportunity to show their abilities and strengths.
Just these successful collaborations on the part of the Jews in the social and commercial changes in Germany were resented by those who felt that they, due to their education and financial situation, were the ones called on to lead the new nation. Already in 1874 Constantin Frantz wrote, “What is considered advancement is actually only advancement in the Jewishness. A German REICH Jewish Nation is developing before our eyes.”
Until the mid-1870s the political enemies of the Jews remained without any meaningful influences. Downturn of the economy, with many unemployed, created unrest amongst particularly the middle class. The German high schools became the center of anti-Semitism; teachers and students competed in trying to protect the “German spirit,” although many had no idea what the talking was all about. But that did not affect their passion in any way.
Of great interest to the reader is an expression used by the historian Heinrich von Treitschke, who wrote in an article in the newspaper that even in the most educated circles the expression “Die Juden sind unser Unglück” (The Jews are our misfortune) was known. I clearly remember that in my youth in Germany, I saw and heard that expression in Frankfurt. The Hitler Youth shouted it out as they marched through streets inhabited mostly by Jews, the hate newspaper “Der Stürmer” carried it often as their headline and store windows were smeared with that phrase during Kristallnacht. In other words, it was not an invention at all of Hitler or his propaganda people, but it was already thrown around in 1879.
The students were promised that the future would be better for them, and during these difficult economic times, that fell on very receptive ears. That sounds just like what Hitler promised to the German people during the early 1930s. The German priority was in the forefront to the exclusion of everything un-German and Jewish.
Already at the end of the 19th century, Jews were excluded from employee organizations (unions), university clubs, old age leagues, student unions and other social alliances.
From July 1880 to April 1881, 269,000 people signed a petition addressed to the national government requesting the exclusion of Jews from judgeships, a prohibition of immigration of East European Jews and the establishment of a special “Jew-statistic.”
Many students circulated amongst the population spreading anti-Semitism even though they had never met a Jew nor had ever been disadvantaged by a Jew. A high Army officer in East Germany admitted that his “feelings” gave him the push away from the Jews “although he really does not know anything about them.” Even the famous conductor Hans von Bülow ordered various examples of hate articles for distribution and at one point considered to become active in anti-Semitic politics.
At the turn of the century anti-Semitism did not show up anymore in spectacular actions or excesses as it had in the ’80s and ’90s, but the thoughts and watchwords were now widely known in all levels of society. That most of the people were now infected by anti-Semitism, or at least considered anti-Semitic thoughts as acceptable, was no doubt due to the exploitation of the Christian Jew hatred. Christians were convinced that God had canceled the old covenant with the Jews and had founded a new one with the Christians. Since Jews did not accept that, they were considered stubborn, and therefore enemies of the true religion, and therefore were to be fought. Protestant churches, who had declined in popularity, particularly were active in anti-Semitism in order to appeal to the common folks who had greatly been burdened by the economic hardships. Preachers spread the poison that Jews are the “Fremdkörper innerhalb des deutschen Volkes” (Foreign substance within the German people). This was enough to exclude the Jews from society and to take away their rights.
(To be continued next week)
By Norbert Strauss