Assess the way in which various factors interplayed to shape the growth of antisemitism within Imperial Germany.

Essay by deborahukUniversity, Bachelor'sB, March 2007

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The scale of anti-Semitism within Imperial Germany was by no means directly comparable to that which occurred under the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s. In contrast, the 1861-1864 legislation passed by Baden and Wurttemberg meant that the Jews enjoyed unrestrained legal emancipation throughout the pre-war period. However, it was essentially during this time that the anti-Semitic feelings that decades later were so unashamedly vocal and apparent were first developing in to a conscious and socially accepted mind-set. The term ‘anti- Semitism’ was introduced in 1873 into the German vocabulary by Wilhelm Marr; he published a series of anti-Jewish pamphlets in which the Jews were depicted as distinct Semitic race, separate to and enemies of the German people . Hans Ulrich Wehler notes that there were no fewer than 500 publications on the ‘Jewish Question’ between 1873 and 1880. Furthermore, the growth of anti-Semitic movements during this period is a reflection of this developing mentality; in the 1880s the Antisemitic German Social Party was founded and in 1887 the first candidate defining himself as a political anti-Semite was elected to the Reichstag .

Thus, the founding of the ‘Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith’ which had over 100 000 members and whose main task was to both embrace their status as Germans and combat anti-Semitism , was a direct reaction to, and reflection of, this developing social climate.

One of the most overt reasons for the increasing anti-Semitic feelings of the time was in relation to Germany’s changing economic status; the period of economic growth followed by the 1873 stock market crash gave rise to various economically motivated anti-Jewish sentiments. They were, in many ways, the ‘scapegoat’ to whom various social groups directed their blame. However, to assess this as the primary factor for the increasing...