No. 289.
Mr. White to Mr. Blaine.

No. 205.]

Sir: As you have doubtless heard much of the “Anti-Jewish movement” in Germany and may be interested in the facts regarding it, I have drawn up an account of its general history, which I have now the honor to forward.

The form of active opposition to the Jews in Germany, known as the anti-Semitic agitation, had its origin in the “Christian Socialists,” a party formed in 1878 to oppose Social Democracy, its founder being one of the Berlin court preachers, the Rev. Dr. Stöcker. Social Democracy was then at its height. The Emperor’s life was in continual danger, and two daring attempts to assassinate him had been made in the public streets. Socialistic opinions were gaining victories at the polls, and the conservative and moderate part of the community was becoming greatly alarmed. This was the state of affairs when Prince Bismarck [Page 466] passed the socialistic law of October, 1878, which declared Berlin in a state of siege, and when Dr. Stöcker set forth the social and religious means of regenerating the working classes of the country. As a main factor in the origin of the discontent which filled those classes, Stöcker pointed to the Jews, who had, he said, alienated the community from Christianity, continually reviled the Christian religion in their press, were, as in the case of Lassalle, the founders of impracticable socialistic schemes, and had been in 1873 and 1874 the originators of hundreds of bubble companies, to the break-up of which was due, in no small degree, the industrial depression and the prevalent want of “commercial morality.” Dr. Stöcker therefore called upon the working class to become “Christian Socialists,” especially were they to remain loyal to the Emperor; to resist the attack on the Christian religion made by Jewish skeptics, and to seek relief from social evils by legislation rather than by revolution and outrage. To this end he proposed laws regulating factory labor, compulsory insurance against accidents, the formation of trades guilds, and the extension of paternal government generally.

This programme was advocated at public meetings of the Christian Socialist party, which often ended in great uproar. All of it attracted much attention; but its most popular feature was undoubtedly that attacking the Jews. Not much eloquence was needed to inflame the anti-Semitic feeling of many patriotic Germans. Envy at the wealth of the Jews, especially those of Berlin, had probably more influence in arousing hostility than the religious, ethnological, and æsthetic reasons advanced by Dr. Stöcker.

The 600,000 Jews in Prussia are possessed of great wealth. They are exclusive socially; and do not encourage intermarriage. The finest places of worship and of business, and the most prosperous newspapers are theirs. Since 1848 their influence as lawyers, professors, and legislators has become extraordinary, so that at present the chief orators of the Prussian Diet and the Imperial Parliament, several of the foremost members of the Berlin faculty, and many of the most vigorous men of letters and writers for the press are Jews. The restrictions upon their liberty were removed by the exertions of the Liberal and Progressive parties, and to these accordingly they have always attached themselves, hoping, doubtless, to wring from the Conservative and Court parties yet greater concessions—concessions which shall, for example, place them on a footing of social equality with Christians in court and military circles.

Among the first supporters of the Stöcker agitation were, therefore, many of the naturally conservative—the landed proprietors, the junkers or petty nobility, the great nobility and the court. Jews, they said, had identified themselves with the Liberal and Progressive parties, with social Democratic agitations and all that is usually supposed to be inimical in Germany to political and social safety; and Jews had as a necessary consequence fallen into discredit among those who were interested in the existing order of things.

The meetings of the Christian Socialists grew more and more frequent during 1879, and more devoted to expressions of anti-Semitic feeling. Towards the close of that year Dr. Stöcker issued his views regarding the Jews in a pamphlet. His gravest charge against them was their attitude towards the Christian religion, which he declared they were undermining in their newspapers and books. He pointed to the education of German children by Semitic schoolmasters as a great evil, attacked the “overbearing” conduct of the Jews in Berlin, where they number 45,000; remarked upon the fact that 30 per cent. of the [Page 467] scholars in German high schools were Jews; that out of 100 Jews 71.3 were employers, while out of 100 Protestants only 38.7 had reached that position; that 55 per cent. of the Jewish and only 12 per cent. of the Protestant population was engaged in trade; and was especially severe upon Jewish disinclination to physical labor, and upon their “anti-Germanic” character.*

Up to this point Dr. Stöcker had carried on his agitation in comparative obscurity; but now he and his party suddenly became notorious. His pamphlet ran through five or six editions, and soon there engaged in the controversy a man of far more ability and influence—Dr. Treitschke, professor of history at the Berlin University—a member of the Imperial Parliament, and one of the most admired of German historians. In a political journal, edited by him, he wrote several articles dealing with the question and republished them in pamphlet form.

In these he took ground against the Jews on the ground that they are “non-German;” that they have produced no national German literature, no great works of art; that they conduct a press which discredits all purely German tendencies; that they are not assimilated with the German nation, remaining a nationality within a state whose people they regard as antagonists, and that they continue to swarm over the German borders from Poland as “trouser-selling youths” in order to become rich by preying on the easy-going Germans. On this coming in of the Jews from the eastern provinces he laid especial stress. He declared Prussian Poland a kind of vast hive, sending constantly new swarms of barbarians to pervert the ideas and eat out the substance of the German people. He asserted that in this lies the fundamental difference between the state of the question in Germany and in other countries; that in England, France, and Spain, the Jews are comparatively few, subjected from childhood to the influence of Christian civilization and that they are rapidly assimilated by society; whereas in Germany they come in hordes, greedy for prey, too many and too far gone in their ideas to be assimilated.

These articles aroused a storm. The spring and summer of 1880 produced a great crop of Jew literature; the booksellers’ shop-windows were darkened by it; Professor Treitschke’s position was vehemently attacked by writers of the Liberal and Progressive press, and as vehemently defended by the Conservative press. Several Jewish university professors replied to his argument, but when a Christian minister put in a word for peace the Crown Prince strongly and publicly recommended the pamphlet of the latter.

Among the replies the most effectual was one by Dr. Harry Breslau, a personal friend of Treitschke, and, like him, a professor of history in the University of Berlin.

Breslau pointed out the numerous sins of Germans against Jews at present, and especially in times past, showing particularly, too, how the Roman Catholic press of Germany had, in 1875, begun a crusade against them; that the restrictions imposed upon them until 1812 and 1848 had rendered their assimilation with Germans impossible; that many had become entirely German in sentiment, and that thousands had made sacrifices for the fatherland; that the German press was not so entirely under the influence of the Jewish editors and correspondents as was [Page 468] supposed; and he called attention to the enormous debt modern civilization owes to the ancient literature of the Jews, and all this in an admirable spirit and temper.

Despite the efforts of the Crown Prince and the sober reasoning of Professor Breslau, the agitation grew in intensity. Dr Stöcker confined to hold his meetings and new pamphleteers appeared every day in various parts of the empire with new developments of the arguments of Stöcker, Treitschke, and their opponents. The Jew was no longer to be hated as a usurer; but he was to be combated for reasons of “race,” for his “non-Germanism.” An anti-Semitic league was formed, which drew up a petition to the chancellor, and which was circulated throughout Germany for signature. It implored Prince Bismarck (1) to limit, at least, if not wholly hinder, the immigration into Germany of foreign Jews; (2) to exclude Jews from all offices of authority, and to restrict their activity in the legal career, particularly on the bench; (3) to prevent their becoming teachers in the Christian schools, and to admit them only in very exceptional cases into others; and (4) to cause statistics to be collected as to the Hebrew population of the empire.

Throughout the summer of 1880, this petition formed the text for thousands of anti-Semitic addresses, and in the autumn the agitation reached its highest point. It had spread among the students at the universities of Berlin, Leipsic, and Göttingen, who formed anti-Jew societies; even schoolmasters and professors in gymnasiums were affected by it. In Berlin two of the last-named class provoked a Jewish trader into an assault upon them in a public conveyance, and in Leipsic a Jew was led to assault a “baiter,” as the anti-Semitic agitators are called.

Public indignation was at length aroused. In Berlin it resulted in the offending gymnasium professor being expelled from his position, and in a public declaration against the anti Jew agitators by Professors Deoysen, Virchow, Hoffmann, (now rector of the university), Mommsen, and others distinguished for scholarly and political activity. But large meetings, at which from 4,000 to 6,000 persons were present, continued to be held, and the disorderly proceedings at some of these gave rise to much comment in the foreign press. The strictly Germanic idea was studiously maintained. Public announcements calling the meetings asked none but men of German origin to be present, and if Jews were detected in the audience they were somewhat unceremoniously expelled to the accompaniment of groans and hisses. Yet it does not appear that any Jew received bodily injury at these meetings, and the reports published in foreign journals to the effect that Jews were the objects of general assault and insult throughout Germany were undoubtedly exaggerated.

The most serious phase of the agitation was that finding expression in the universities. In Berlin the anti-Semitic students refused to hear the lectures of certain Jewish professors, entitled though these are by ability, age, and past services to the greatest respect. All friends of the Jews among the professors, even the rector and Professor Mommsen, were made to feel the antagonism of the anti-Semitic league by the shouts which drowned their lectures.

On the 20th of November the petition was discussed in the Prussian Diet in connection with a question put by a member of the Progressionist party as to the attitude of the government towards such a petition. Count Stolberg-Wernigerode, vice-president of the ministry, replied that a petition of the kind referred to had not been presented to the government, and could not therefore be officially taken into consideration; but that at the same time the government would not hesitate [Page 469] to say that the existing laws insured the equality of all religious creeds in political respects, and that the ministry had no intention of altering the state of the law. The standing orders of the Diet allow a debate to follow a question, but they exclude the possibility of the House passing a resolution upon the subject of an interrogation.

The result of the animated two days’ debate which followed this answer of the minister could not, therefore, be revealed by a division and vote; but it was clear to those present that a majority of the members did not have much fault to find with the agitation. The chief speakers in the first days debate were Professor Hänel, the leader of the Progressionists, who had asked the question, and who strongly opposed the whole agitation; a leading member of the Central or Roman Catholic party, who complained that “the Jews contribute the main contingent to the non-productive, speculative part of society,” and who “did not think they had justified the hopes attending their emancipation;” a Conservative, who stated on behalf of his party “that a feeling of deep displeasure prevailed against the Jews among nearly all classes of the people, because the Jews, especially in their press, did not show that respect for the institutions of the state which the Christians had a right to demand;” Professor Virchow, the well-known scientist, who complained that the answer of the government, though quite correct, was very cool, and cited statistics to show that there was no cause for alarm as to the immigration or overgrowth of the Jews, and traced the present popular antipathy to them to the baser passions, especially envy at their possessions.

In the course of the second day’s debate, which was longer and more tumultuous than the first, Mr. Richter, a leader of a section of the Liberals, said there were more Christian than Jewish usurers; that a Jew, Dr. Lasker, had been the first to expose the swindling joint stock companies, and that the founder of the largest popular savings bank was a Jew. He stated further that the movement was much more dangerous than that of the Social Democracy, and asked that its leaders be deprived of their offices and dignities.

The next speaker was the Rev. Dr. Stöcker, who had done so much to stimulate public feeling on the question. He described the movement as social and economical, resulting from the fact that “half a million Jews take a position in Germany out of harmony with their numbers.” He then denounced the Jewish press, which is nearly synonymous with the Liberal press, for its attack on the Christian religion, and pointed to the Israelite Alliance as a powerful political combination, which must be wrestled with.

Several other speakers took part in the debate, which ended in great uproar, the question being really left where the House had found it. The public journals eagerly discussed the debate, those of Progressive views claiming that it had forever silenced the Stöcker party, and those of Conservative and semi-official character declaring that the question should never have been asked, and that the debate had injured the Jewish position.

But it was soon shown that the current of popular feeling had not diminished. Crowded and stormy meetings continued to be held, at which the attacks on the Jews were revived; and a new series of pamphlets on the question was issued. The most noticeable of these was one by Professor Mommsen, whose object was to prove that, in the formation of the modern German Empire, the Jews had co-operated in proportion not less materially than the other races. He also made an [Page 470] attack on Professor Treitschke for his part in the agitation, which ended in personal recriminations between the two historians.

The example thus set by the professors was followed by the university students, great numbers of whom refused to hear their Jewish instructors, and attended anti-Semitic meetings, which in some instances had to be dispersed by the police.

At this latter series of discussions the political character of the movement became more apparent, resolutions being passed to the effect that “the citizens of Berlin are convinced that the Liberal party should not identify itself with Judaism if not wishing to drive the electors into the Conservative camp.”

Notwithstanding the answer of the vice minister president in the Prussian Diet and the tone of the semi-official press, the attitude of the government, or at the least, the personal inclinations of its leading members and of the court, became more and more a matter of public interest, and it was doubtless with a desire to satisfy this curiosity that a writer in the Grenz Boten, which has often been privileged to reveal the policy of the chancellor, energetically protested against the belief that Prince Bismarck favors the anti-Semitic movement, and commented very severely upon Court Chaplin Stöcker’s connection with it. The chancellor’s semi-official organ also, the “Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung,” especially denied that the government secretly favored the agitation, but the meetings were allowed to continue, and the place of Dr. Stöcker, who had gone on a lecturing tour in the provinces, was supplied by Dr. Henrici, a quondam schoolmaster and a successful mob orator. His efforts kept up the agitation throughout January, breeding much hatred; and aided in the establishment of an additional anti-Semitic newspaper, for which, it was reported, the sum of 50,000 marks had been subscribed. The petition was briskly advertised, and on April 13, when the number of signatures had reached 255,000, was presented to the chancellor. Of these one-fifth came from Silesia; the province of Brandenburg supplied about 38,000, including 12,000 from Berlin; Westphalia, 27,000; the Rhine province, 20,000; Bavaria, 9,000; and Baden and Hohenzollern, 7,000.

Of the views of the Emperor very little, if any, indication has been given. He has acknowledged certain loyal resolutions, transmitted to him by an anti-Semitic meeting, but has spoken with much severity of some riotous proceedings of over-zealous Jew-haters. As to the crown prince, when the agitation had been rekindled by the parliamentary debate, he publicly attended the worship at the Jewish synagogue, doubtless to express his sympathy with the attacked; and in January, he again took occasion openly to express his entire disapproval of the agitation.

At present the movement shows signs of becoming more and more political in character, losing its distinctive social features by an alliance with the Conservative parties. As offshoots from the Christian Socialists, there have come into existence the Anti-Semitic League and the Volks Verein (People’s Union). The first has the avowed object of simply attacking the Jews, and the latter aims at expressing national conservative opinions in opposition to Jewish, Liberal, and Progressionist views. These societies continue to hold meetings, which are now, however, extremely orderly, in consequence of a new city police regulation forbidding all direct attacks, or incentives to attacks upon any section of the community. That the anti-Semitic feeling is still the mainstay of these societies is beyond question; it manifests itself as [Page 471] bitterly as ever in their public journals, and becomes embodied in new conservative associations.

That this is shrewd policy is hardly to be doubted, and its result will doubtless be seen at the next elections. There are, especially in Berlin, strong prejudices against Jews even among “Liberals” and “Progressionists.” Around those who claim to have personal grievances against the Jews, the tradesmen who have been driven from better business quarters into worse by “rings” of Hebrew dealers; the people whose rents have been raised when the houses they occupied came into the possession of Jews; the smaller speculators whose occupation has been taken from them by Jewish millionaires; the borrowers sold out by Jewish usurers; and the bankrupts who attribute their failure to unscrupulous Jewish trading and to combined and systematic competition on the part of Jews until the Christian trader is driven out of the field; around these men there are gathered those who oppose Judaism from less material motives; those who regard with alarm the ascendency of Jewish power in politics, literature, and art, where, it is declared, purely Germanic ideas are scarcely permitted to come to light, and where the idealizm of the German character, which has again and again been the well-spring of German vigor, is being gradually weakened by the materialistic and skeptical tendencies of Jewish thought.

But larger and more hopeful ideas are also at work. Thinking men can hardly fail eventually to see that the services of Jews to Germany have been very great; that harsh dealings are attributable to Christians as well as Jews; that the characteristics complained of are mainly due to ages of wrong; that time will steadily work an amalgamation of races; and that the result of such a union will be to increase German vigor. The present anti-Semitic movement is to be regretted as a temporary hinderance to the process, but that it will result in any new constitutional or legislative barriers, I see no reason to believe.

I have, &c.,

  1. Das Moderne Judenthum in Deutschland, besonders in Berlin Von Adolf Stöcker. Berlin, 4 Auflage, 1880.
  2. Ein Wort über unser Judenthum von Heinrick von Treitschke. Berlin, 1880.
  3. Zur Judenfrage, Sends chreiben an Prof. De H. v. Treitschke, von Dr. Harry Breslau. Berlin, 1880.