Ideas and Ideologies


Ideas and Ideologies

  • There was an increase in the support for Marxist ideas, by the left. 
  • Whilst, right wing politicians espoused nationalism and anti- Semitism increasingly.
  • Wilhelm II was both nationalistic and anti-Semitic.
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Before, nationalism aimed to promote parliamentary govt. However, by the end of the 19th Century, this had changed:

  • Most nationalists were now conservative and wanted to maintain the status quo in a militarised Germany.
  • Many European writers of this time promoted the virtues of the German race. 
  • Militant German nationalists were hostile to and made a great impact on other non -German races living in the Reich such as:
    • The Slavs.
    • Poles
    • French
    • Danes
  • They wanted to create an ethnically and linguistically homogeneous nation state. Therefore they had little respect for minority languages and cultures.
  • There was discrimination against them also, especially the 5% of Poles. 
  • Prussia introduced language legislation in Poland, stating that all lessons should be taught in German language.
  • This rose a political crisis of national proportions. 
  • This included a mass strike of 40,000 Polish school children in 1906. 
  • Repression fuelled Polish nationalism instead of dampening it. 
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Anti semitism

By late 19th Century, many German nationalists were anti-Semitic:

  • Before the 19th Century, European anti-Semitism was largely based on religious hostility, where the Jews were blamed for the death of Christ and for not accepting Christianity. 
  • By the mid 19th Century, anti-Semitism was insignificant in Germany politically, although it did not dissapear. 
  • The new German constitution extended total civil equality to Jews in 1871.
  • Thousands of Russian Jews fled from persecution to Germany throughout the 19th Century, where many prospered by becoming doctors, bankers, lawyers and academics. 
  • By 1900, Jews played an active and visible part in the cultural, economic and financial life in Germany. 
  • Many Jews identified themselves as loyal Germans, and no longer identified with a seperate Jewish community. 
  • In addition, many Jews intermarried with Germans, converting to Christianity. 
  • In 1910, 600,000 practising Jews lived in the Reich, constituted about 1% of the population. 
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Belief in Race Struggle

Anti-Semitism originated from religious hostility. However, during the late 19th Century, it became increasingly racial instead of religious:

  • French Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau believed that history was a racial struggle.
  • The rise and fall of civilisations was racially determined
  • He also claimed that all the high cultures in the world were the work of the Aryan race, and that it would decline when Aryans interbred with racially 'lower stock.' 
  • Social Darwinists claimed that races and nations needed to be fit to survive and rule. 
  • In addition, a number of writers claimed that the Germans had been selected to dominate the earth, adn therefore needed more land from inferior races, such as the Slavs. 
  • These visions of international politics as a struggle between different races  for supremacy, were common by 1914. 
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The Growth of Anti-Semitism

Militant German nationalists, who believed that Germans were the master race, were hostile to other races, especially the Jews:

  • This may have been because the Jews stood for everything that nationalists loathed, which was liberalism, socialism and pacifism. 
  • Anti-Semitic views were presented to the German public through pamphlets, newspapers, politicians, musicians and artists. 
  • For example, Houston Stewart Chamberlain was the prominent anti-Semitic writers, who claimed that the Jews were a degenerate race who wanted world domination and to threaten German greatness. His book was the best seller in Germany and recieved praise from Wilhelm II. 
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The Growth of Anti-Semitism: Economic Factors

Anti-Semitism may have been encouraged by economic factors including:

  • Groups. such as peasant farmers and skilled workers, hit by economic and social change the most, were easily persuaded to blame Jewish financiers for their suffering. 
  • Anti-Semitic prejudice was also strong within the higher reaches of society, such as the Court, the civil service, the army and universities. 
  • This lead to anti-Jewish feelings in broad sections of German society. 
  • In the late 19th Century, anti-Semitic politicians contested elections. 
  • Right wing parties gained a majority in the Reichstag in 1893, who espoused (supported) anti-Semitism. 
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The Growth of Anti-Semitism part 3


  • The strength of political anti-Semitism in Germany should not be exaggerated, because anti-Semitism played a small part in the nationalist parties' success, in 1893. 
  • In pre-1914, there was no major German political party that was dominated by anti-Semites. 
  • After 1900, there was a steep decline in the anti-Semitic parties as they were losing money and voters. 
  • Respectable opinion in Germany remained opposed to anti-Semitism. 
  • In 1914, German Jews seemed in less danger than the French and Russian Jews. 
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