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  • Antisemitische Kriminalität und Gewalt: Judenfeindschaft in der Weimarer Republik
  • Helmut Berding
Antisemitische Kriminalität und Gewalt: Judenfeindschaft in der Weimarer Republik, by Dirk Walter. Bonn: Verlag J. H. W. Dietz, 1999. 349 pp. 48 DM.

More than anything else, research on antisemitism has raised the question of why National Socialism came to power and how the genocide of the European Jews could have been perpetrated by Germany. In search of historical preconditions, numerous studies have been concerned with the spread of antisemitism in the German Imperial Empire. For too long, however, a specific study on antisemitism in the Weimar Repub lic has been missing. This fact, which is itself astonishing enough, was deplored time and again because it complicated discussion about continuity and change in anti semitism in Germany.

This book, which is from a Freiburg dissertation, represents in many respects a remarkable academic achievement. Note of the broad base of material should first be made. In addition to acts from around a dozen German archives, records of the Centralvereins deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens preserved in the Special Archive Moscow are utilized. Numerous unpublished printed sources and collections of documents are also incorporated. A further advantage of this empirical study is the careful preparation of the material, the clear arrangement of the study—which concentrates on Bavaria and Prussia—and the discernment of the diverse antisemitic manifestations.

The investigation proceeds chronologically. First treated are the anti-Jewish manifestations of the early and crisis-laden years of the Weimar Republic (1919–1923) which, in comparison to the Kaiserreich, were more broadly divided and often violent. One of the novel antisemitic pogroms, with as many as a million hastily produced leaflets distributed, hit the Public and brought The Protocols of the Elders of Zion into circulation. There was also the discovery of the “Ostjuden” question in Bavaria: political campaigns against the largely unassimilated Jews from eastern European lands, expulsions and internments by the antisemitic and antidemocratic ruling Bavarian State. Further, despite the opposition work of the Centralverein, antisemitic judicial sentiments developed relatively unhindered. The same was true for the antisemitic acts of violence that Jewish notables and businessmen had to endure in Munich, and for the assaults upon Jews in the Bavarian province.

In the relatively stable phase of Weimar (1924–1928), to which the work next turns, the picture changes. While violent riots still hardly occurred, the land was inundated by a well of dishonor not known to that extent before. It was, as Dirk Walter has shown, a new generation of offenders, who appeared for the first time in antisemitic activities: the youth. They overturned gravestones in night-time actions and besmeared synagogues with images of crucifixes. Obviously, National Socialist youth groups were in many cases behind cemetery and synagogue desecration. They were accompanied after as before by a lively agitation from antisemitic extremists. They insulted the Jewish religion and attempted, through ritual murder propaganda, to raise the anti-Jewish [End Page 146] voice especially in the countryside. The Centralverein was, not without success, mobilized against it.

In both of the last chapters the investigation turns to the crisis years of the end of the Republic (1928/29–1932/33). First, Jews were clearly plagued in the shadow of the increasing political power of the SA groups. The “Kurfürstendammkrawall” of 12 September 1931 is only an example of these broadening incidences. Second, in addition to this “warning-alarm” antisemitism, a broadening popular political antisemitism developed in legal-intellectual circles.

From this it is to be expected that “after the seizure of power the Jewish element in the State could to an increasingly important extent be removed directly (through expulsion) or indirectly (through hindering its existence in the countryside)” (p. 227).

Helmut Berding
Historical Institute
University of Gießen
translated by Dean Bell

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pp. 146-147
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