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The State, the Nation, and the Jews

Liberalism and the Antisemitism Dispute in Bismarck's Germany

Marcel Stoetzler

Publication Year: 2009

The State, the Nation, and the Jews is a study of Germany’s late nineteenth-century antisemitism dispute and of the liberal tradition that engendered it. The Berlin Antisemitism Dispute began in 1879 when a leading German liberal, Heinrich von Treitschke, wrote an article supporting anti-Jewish activities that seemed at the time to gel into an antisemitic “movement.” Treitschke’s comments immediately provoked a debate within the German intellectual community. Responses from supporters and critics alike argued the relevance, meaning, and origins of this “new” antisemitism. Ultimately the Dispute was as much about Germans and how they could best consolidate their recently formed national state as about Jews and those who hated them. Treitschke’s liberal antisemitism threw into sharp relief the antinomies inherent in the modern constellation of state, culture, and society.

In a newly united Germany the Dispute forced the intellectual community to question the parameters of national identity. Born within the liberal tradition that, at the time, mostly championed Jewish emancipation, the Dispute’s core question was how state, nation, race, ethnicity, and religion should relate to one another. From a close analysis of the crucial contributions to the debate, Marcel Stoetzler crafts a compelling critique of liberalism and liberal notions of national identity. The specifics of the Dispute raise uncomfortable questions about the role of race, religion, and ethnicity within modern liberalism. The Dispute provides an avenue for understanding the development of antisemitism within liberal society and, ultimately, is an indictment of liberalism itself.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

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pp. vii

This book is based on the research I did for my PhD at Middlesex University, London, between 1999 and 2003. I am grateful to the School of Arts, Middlesex University, for funding this work. I was enabled to make the necessary revisions and add further layers of writing by an Economic and Social Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship held subsequently...

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pp. 1-28

In the November 1879 edition of the prestigious Berlin-based journal Preussische Jahrbücher (Prussian Annals), one could read the following words by its editor, Heinrich von Treitschke: "What we have to demand from our Jewish fellow-citizens is simple: that they become Germans, feel themselves simply and justly as Germans, regardless of their faith and their old sacred...

Part 1. The Berlin Antisemitism Dispute

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1. Liberals, Antisemites, and "Educated Men"

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pp. 31-46

Treitschke's comments on the "Jewish question" were made in the context of a longer argument on foreign affairs that culminated in his thoughts on the relationship between Germany and Austria-Hungary. This provided a framework and opportunity for Treitschke to speak his mind on "the German Jewish question." Treitschke strongly rejects the grossdeutsche (pan-German)...

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2. Jew-hatred and Nationality

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pp. 47-62

More than the questions of the social background of the anti-Jewish agitation and how it relates to liberalism, the question of the link between the anti-Jewish or antisemitic tendencies and nationalism was a main theme in the Dispute. Paulus Cassel might have been the first contributor who emphasized this connection when he called the anti-Jewish movement the...

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3. German-Jewish "Mixed Culture"

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pp. 63-90

Along with "the Jews are our misfortune" and the remark about the "trouser-selling youths," the sequence that contains what Treitschke has to demand from the German Jews is one of his best-known formulations: "What we have to demand from our Jewish fellow-citizens is simple: that they become Germans, feel themselves simply and justly as Germans, regardless of their faith and their...

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4. State, Nation, Race, Religion

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pp. 91-145

Conflicting constellations of the concepts state, nation, race and religion are at the heart of the Berlin Antisemitism Dispute and attracted a large number of more elaborate treatments, including some by leading scholars of the time: the political analyses by Treitschke, Breßlau, Bamberger, Oppenheim, and Naudh were joined by the more scholarly contributions in particular by...

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5. Emancipation, Assimilation, and the Concept of Rights

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pp. 146-154

In this crucial paragraph, Treitschke makes four distinct statements. First, all "civilized peoples" have granted "civil equality." Since by implication this is part of what makes them "civilized," one ought not attempt to challenge this. Second, although the fact that the Jews enjoy the same civil equality as other groups seems to be grounded in universalist liberal values, Treitschke...

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6. The Riddle of Treitschke's Intentions

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pp. 155-170

The preceding chapters have been concerned with how Treitschke and his respondents used a number of crucial political, social, and historical concepts in differing (or not so differing) ways. This final chapter of textual analysis looks at what Treitschke explicitly wrote about how he wanted to see the "Jewish question" resolved, and what some of his respondents thought his...

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7. Dissent and Consensus in the Berlin Antisemitism Dispute

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pp. 171-187

Treitschke formulated the positions that triggered the Dispute in the context of his analysis of the growing precariousness of international relations. The continued existence of the kleindeutsche nation-state is the supreme value underlying his analysis. The international situation makes enforcing national cohesion, including religiosity and moral culture (Sittlichkeit), more urgent...

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Part 2. The State, the Nation, and the Jews

This section is devoted to exploring the theoretical implications of the Berlin Antisemitism Dispute. Taking its cues from the textual analysis, the discussion focuses on the interrelations among liberalism, nationalism, and antisemitism, aiming at theoretical-conceptual as well as historical-political contextualization of the Dispute. In the exploration of National...

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8. Antisemitism

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pp. 191-220

The Viennese rabbi Adolf Jellinek predicted in 1866 that the antithesis "Christians against Jews" was going to be replaced by that of "Aryans against Semites," the "new Jewish question."1 The emergence of a movement that chose to refer to itself with the neologism "antisemitic" around 1880 proved him right. The social and intellectual process that found expression in the...

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9. Liberalism and National Liberalism

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pp. 221-251

The National Liberal journal Grenzboten, one of whose editors was Gustav Freytag, published in 1879 the following statement: "Manchester radicalism is as anti-national as ultramontanist and socialist radicalisms are. Its delusion is the cosmopolitan free trader society, the atomistic cosmic fog that has some kind of a core preventing it from total disintegration only in the power...

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10. Nationalism and the Reich of 1871

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pp. 252-273

Although one of the defining characteristics of the modern nation is that it is an ethnic-cultural and political entity at the same time, one of the dominant themes of nationalist discourse, and also of scholarly and other discussions about them, is the effort to establish a dichotomy between two types of nationalism: ethnic or cultural, sometimes dubbed German or...

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Conclusion. Antisemitism and the Limits of Liberal Society

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pp. 275-308

A German "liberal Tory" finds that antisemitism deserves to be taken seriously and declares it, quite happily, an authentic expression of the general mood of the nation.1 It has its reason in the fact that the "Jewish question" is in Germany more acute and of a different character than in other countries. Some other liberals object: antisemitism is only a product of manipulation...

Appendix 1. Heinrich von Treitschke's "Our Prospects" (1879)

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pp. 309-316

Appendix 2. Moritz Lazarus's "What Does National Mean? A Lecture" (1880)

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pp. 317-359

Appendix 3. Open Letter on the Jews by Löb Baruch (Dr. Ludwig Börne) to the Member of the German Reichstag and Heidelberg Professor Dr. Heinrich Gotthard von Treitschke (Berlin, 1880)

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pp. 360-377

Appendix 4. The Berlin Antisemitism Dispute in the Literature

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pp. 378-388


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pp. 389-474


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pp. 475-503


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pp. 505-530

E-ISBN-13: 9780803218956
E-ISBN-10: 0803218958

Publication Year: 2009