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German Question/Jewish Question

German Question/Jewish Question: Revolutionary Antisemitism in Germany from Kant to Wagner

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    German Question/Jewish Question
    Book Description:

    In this compelling narrative of antisemitism in German thought, Paul Rose proposes a fresh view of the topic. Beginning with an examination of the attitudes of Martin Luther, he challenges distinctions between theologically derived (medieval) and secular, "racial" (modern) antisemitism, arguing that there is an unbroken chain of antisemitic feeling between the two periods.

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6111-8
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The German Revolution and Antisemitism
    (pp. xv-xviii)

    This book seeks to reinterpret both the “German revolution” and German antisemitism in more authentic terms than has usually been the case. A great deal of sterile controversy has arisen as a result of the tendency of historians to view the German revolutionary movement, German antisemitism, and Jewish emancipation in Germany through modern Western liberal spectacles. One thinks of the endless futile arguments over whether Fichte was a universal revolutionary or a nationalist reactionary, whether Herder was “pro-” or “anti-Jewish,” whether either of them was a “proto-Nazi” or a free spirit. In these disputations, one school of historians naively lines...


    • CHAPTER 1 The Genealogy of Modern Antisemitism: National Character, Race, and Revolution
      (pp. 3-22)

      Traditional Christian hostility to the Jews and Judaism revolved around a cluster of related theological and social themes. The first and earliest of these was the conception of Judaism as a superseded religion that was essentially national, and based on the Law, and thus merely a precursor of Christianity, the new universal religion of Love. This basic critique of Judaism is clearly expressed in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 8–11) in the framework of a relatively benign attitude toward the Jews themselves. But with the destruction of the Second Temple and the Jewish Commonwealth, a bitter, punitive...

    • CHAPTER 2 Ahasverus and the Destruction of Judaism
      (pp. 23-43)

      The original Christian mythology of Jew-hatred that had coalesced out of the New Testament formed a repertoire of intellectual and emotional signals. In later centuries these were amplified by a mythogenic process as the European imagination created new icons, above all, the myth of Ahasverus, the Wandering, Eternal Jew. An allusive, plastic myth, comprehending themes of death, eternal Jewish character, and final redemption, Ahasverus supplied the most potent vehicle for the secular mythology of the “destruction of Judaism” that came to dominate German revolutionary antisemitism in the nineteenth century.¹

      Far from being a Gospel story, the Wandering Jew is in...

    • CHAPTER 3 “Against Humanity”: Moloch, Mammon, and the Secularization of the Blood Libel
      (pp. 44-50)

      Verjudung—“Jewification”—was an allegory of German redemption from the Jews, but it was really a special case of a more universal allegory—Molochism and Mammonism—which spoke for the redemption, not just of the Germans, but of all humanity from Judaism.

      TheVerjudungof Germany manifested itself abrasively in the spread of a “Jewish” materialism, based on “money,” that was corroding the spiritual substance of Germanness. This theme of Jewish “money” united the whole spectrum of hostile—and sometimes even friendly—opinion on the Jewish Question, whether conservative or radical. Of course, the precise ideological explanations varied. Those on...

    • CHAPTER 4 Myth and Reality in Antisemitic Mentalities
      (pp. 51-58)

      Ahasverus, Moloch, and Mammon were the mythological figures conjured up in the early nineteenth century to express a secular vision of the need for a revolutionary change both in Judaism and in humanity. For the new secularized religions these figures personified the evil from which mankind had to be redeemed by a revolution of the spirit as well as of society. It was essentially a “Jewish” evil, taking the forms of lovelessness, egoism, and Mammonism. Through such distortions, modern Jews now sacrificed humanity just as their ancestors had crucified Christ. Ahasverus lived on into the present as an eternal reminder...


    • CHAPTER 5 The Jewish Question: Conceptions and Misconceptions
      (pp. 61-69)

      A great deal of modern scholarship on the Jewish Question in Germany in the first half of the nineteenth century has been undermined by a number of misconceptions. Chief among these has been a liberal prejudice that sees the debate as revolving around the central issue of Jewish emancipation, meaning the granting of civil and political rights to the Jews of Germany. Historians have been rather too quick to accept the views of Gabriel Riesser (1806–63) and his liberal contemporaries who at the time—admittedly for the best of moral reasons—reduced the Jewish Question to one simply of...

    • CHAPTER 6 The German Statists and the Jewish Question, 1781–1812: Dohm, Humboldt, and Hardenberg
      (pp. 70-90)

      The beginning of modern, formal political discussion of the Jewish Question in Germany may be dated to 1781, the year when the Prussian administrator Christian Wilhelm von Dohm (1751–1820) published his book onThe Civil Improvement of the Jews.¹ It was the first serious attempt to shift the discussion of the Jewish Question from the terms of medieval Christianity into quite new categories typical of secular enlightened thought. In it, Dohm blended arguments taken from the rationalist and humanitarian currents of the Enlightenment with principles of Prussian constitutionalist and raison d’état doctrine. Humanity and politics alike led Dohm to...

    • CHAPTER 7 The German Moralists and the Jewish Question: Kant, Herder, and Hegel
      (pp. 91-116)

      So persuasive was the assumption of Jewish immorality in Dohm’s tract of 1781 that only two critics found it questionable. Moses Mendelssohn rejected the tendency of his friend Dohm to say that Jews were morally inferior to Christians “at present,” while Heinrich Diez confessed his amazement that in speaking of the depravity of the Jews Dohm had forgotten the same degree of depravity existed among Christians!¹

      The danger of this well-intentioned prejudice was to emerge clearly in the following revolutionary decade, but even in 1782 Moses Mendelssohn was warning how the shift from a Christian to a secular morality had...

    • CHAPTER 8 The German Nationalists and the Jewish Question: Fichte and the Birth of Revolutionary Antisemitism
      (pp. 117-132)

      In 1793—the year in which Kant published the first of his moralist attacks on Judaism, the year of the Revolutionary Terror in France—the specter of revolutionary Jew-hatred appeared before the alarmed eyes of the German Jewish rationalist Saul Ascher (1767–1822). It manifested itself in an anonymous radical defense of the events in France entitledContribution to the Correction of the Public Verdict on the French Revolution,whose author was soon revealed to be the erstwhile Kantian philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814), then going through a Jacobin phase before his final epiphany as the prophet of German...


    • CHAPTER 9 Revolutionary Judaism and the German Revolution: Börne and Heine
      (pp. 135-170)

      Rhineland Jewry produced four of the most eminent exponents of revolutionism—Ludwig Börne, Heinrich Heine, Moses Hess, and Karl Marx.² All four also made critically important contributions to the theory of revolutionary antisemitism, each goaded on by an itching consciousness of the fact that his Jewishness, no matter how much it was rejected or suppressed or nullified by conversion, prevented him from being a fully normal and true German.³ This “embarrassment” at being Jewish is often termed “Jewish self-hatred” and its dynamics are quite well known. It fed on the psychological need to become a member of the dominant culture...

    • CHAPTER 10 “Young Germany—Young Palestine”: The Junges Deutschland Controversy of 1835
      (pp. 171-184)

      The most publicized progeny of the revolutionary preachings of Börne and Heine was the famous (verging on notorious) literary movement known as “Young Germany” (Junges Deutschland). For a brief few years in the 1830s Young Germany formed the vanguard of both literary and political “modernism” in Germany, and indeed achieved a succès de scandale culminating in its proscription by the federal parliament in 1835.

      Young Germany is generally seen as a liberal movement very much in favor of Jewish emancipation. There is no doubt that two of its most prominent personalities, Gutzkow and Laube, did support the civil emancipation of...

    • CHAPTER 11 Karl Gutzkow’s “New Ahasverus”: Lovelessness, Egoism, and the Redemption of the Flesh
      (pp. 185-210)

      With the publication ofWally, the Doubtressin 1835, Karl Ferdinand Gutzkow (1811–78) sprang into public notoriety and sparked the campaign against Young Germany. Though denounced as a celebration of Heinean sensualism, the real focus ofWallyis the Jewish Question. The conventional forms of Christianity and Judaism alike are seen to be not only superstitious, but obsolescent. The Jewish Question has arisen because of Christian oppression on the one hand and Jewish apartness on the other; in the new religious age, it will be solved by intermarriage, which will finally break down the barriers and redeem the Jews....

    • CHAPTER 12 Heinrich Laube: Revolutionary German Art and Jewish Mammonism
      (pp. 211-223)

      Heinrich Laube (1806–84), Gutzkow’s fellow leader of Young Germany, had a far more profound impact on the development of German revolutionism and revolutionary antisemitism than his colleague.¹ For it was Laube who developed the ideals of literary revolutionism that directly influenced his intimate friend Wagner in the two decades before 1848. Laube not only invented the idea of a revolutionary German art, but also exposed its anti-Jewish corollaries. Indeed, the two central ideas of Wagner’sJudaism in Musiccame from Laube: firstly, that the Jewish artistic spirit was itself sterile, and secondly, that the Jews had degraded German revolutionary...

    • CHAPTER 13 Berthold Auerbach: Reconciling Jewishness and Germanness
      (pp. 224-248)

      The first Jew I ever met with whom I could discuss the whole subject of Jewishness with a hearty lack of inhibition,” was how Wagner remembered Berthold Auerbach (1812–82), the best-known German-Jewish writer of the nineteenth century after Heine.¹ Auerbach sought throughout his life to erase the deleterious aspects of Jewishness by two strategies. Firstly, he envisaged Judaism as an integral part of a universal religion of humanity, consisting of reason, social love, and progress. Applying Young Hegelian reasoning, he tried to prove the continuing validity of Judaism by showing that it was still contributing to the “true and...


    • CHAPTER 14 Judaism as Molochism: The Philosophical and Socialist Revolutionary Critiques of Judaism, 1836–1844
      (pp. 251-262)

      The new mythology of rational human “freedom” of the nineteenth-century German philosophical humanists took its inspiration from the writings of Kant and Hegel. While never repudiating Christianity outright, both Kant and Hegel had undertaken the task of clearing away the philosophical and religious rubble that obstructed the road to reason and freedom. After their critique of religion had done its work, there might remain a purified Christianity, but of Judaism—that fossilized remnant of a primitive and impure stage of human progress—nothing should survive. Ahasverus, the eternal Jew who had outlived his proper span, was the perfect symbol of...

    • CHAPTER 15 Revolution to Race I: Bruno Bauer and the Critical Revolution
      (pp. 263-278)

      The career of Bruno Bauer (1809–82) vividly demonstrates the intimate connection between revolutionism and racism in the German tradition. Bauer began as a radical professor preaching a critical, rational revolution that would destroy theology and institute a “free state”; by the 1850s he had developed this program into a campaign for a rationalist, but reactionary revolution in Germany; and by the 1870s he was urging an aggressive militaristic crusade that would enable German revolutionary “freedom” to dominate Europe.

      In each of these stages of Bauer’s revolutionism, the Jewish Question was ineluctably present. This was inevitable, considering how deeply Bauer’s...

    • CHAPTER 16 Revolution to Race II: Wilhelm Marr and the Antisemitic Revolution
      (pp. 279-295)

      The first German to popularize the term “antisemitism” as the watchword of a fully racist Jew-hatred began his career as a revolutionary atheistic disciple of Bruno Bauer. Wilhelm Marr (1819–1904), the son of the Hamburg theatrical director Heinrich Marr, spent his twenties in exile as a political agitator in Switzerland.¹ There he had founded the revolutionary democratic movement known as Young Germany, modeled on the politically activist Young Italy of Giuseppe Mazzini rather than on the original literary Young German group formed by Gutzkow and Laube in the 1830s.²

      Marr’s task in Switzerland was twofold: to advance the causes...

    • CHAPTER 17 Karl Marx: Judaism as Moral Myth and Social Reality
      (pp. 296-305)

      Karl Marx (1818–83) never escaped completely the fact of his Jewish ancestry. He constantly sought to persuade himself that he had transcendedJudentum, first by baptism as an infant, then by a progressive Christian education, and later by a “human” emancipation from Christianity into universal love of humanity.¹

      It was in August 1842 that the young Marx first announced his plan of setting discussion on the Jewish Question on a new course.² His project was stimulated by the publication in November 1842 of “The Jewish Question” by his close collaborator of the time, Bruno Bauer.³ But it was not...

    • CHAPTER 18 Beyond Ahasverus and Moloch: Moses Hess’s Subversion of the Revolutionary Myths of Judaism
      (pp. 306-338)

      Moses Hess (1812–75)—the “communist rabbi” and the founder of Zionism who helped convert Marx, Engels, and Bakunin to revolutionary socialism—was one of the very few in the nineteenth century to reprimand his good friend Marx for his diatribeOn the Jewish Question. Marx, said Hess, “ought to be ashamed of joining the German racist enemies of the Jews and insulting his ancestors in their graves.”¹ This basic disagreement arose from the utterly contrasting characters of the two Jewish communists, which carried through into their political ideas. Where Marx claimed scientific proof of the victory of socialism and...


    • CHAPTER 19 The Chosen Race and the Revolution: Constantin Frantz’s Revolutionary Christian Federalism
      (pp. 341-357)

      The new racist “antisemitism” of the 1870s was built on the connection betweenraceandrevolutionurged unremittingly by such luminaries as Marr, Bauer, and Dühring. The three were rabid atheists and bitterly anti-Christian, and it might be tempting to conclude that modern revolutionary antisemitism has little to do with Christianity. Yet Christianity itself was being revolutionized from within in these years so as to engender powerful new currents of revolutionary Jew-hatred. At Berlin, the court chaplain Adolf Stöcker preached a “Christian socialism” impregnated with hatred of Judaism; although he rejected the biological racism of Marr and company, Stöcker nevertheless...

    • CHAPTER 20 Richard Wagner: Prophet of Revolutionary Antisemitism
      (pp. 358-380)

      A major problem stands out in current interpretations of Richard Wagner’s thought. It is the “paradox” of his simultaneous acceptance of racist antisemitism and revolutionary idealism. The solution to this problem lies in an approach that draws on the general mythology of revolution, setting Wagner and his antisemitism within the context of the German revolutionary tradition. Many other Wagnerian problems stem from this false but central paradox, especially the relationship between his social thought and his operas, but the present brief chapter can sketch in only the main lines of an analysis that requires a separate volume.¹

      In 1848 Richard...

  11. Afterword to the 1992 Edition
    (pp. 381-388)

    Though afterwords to new editions are a useful way of answering one’s critics (and this one is no exception), the subject of this book and its implications are so grave, as well as tendentious, that I think it necessary to say a few words to clarify certain of its arguments which were misunderstood by some reviewers of the first edition, whether through my own fault or theirs.¹

    1. “Revolutionary antisemitism” is a coinage of mine that was devised to illustrate the deep structure of the German secular antisemitism that in the eighteenth century replaced the religious or merely social prejudice of...

  12. INDEX
    (pp. 389-397)