HIS2N: ANTI-SEMITISM, HITLER AND THE GERMAN PEOPLE, 1919-1945
INTRODUCTION: ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE SECOND REICH
§ By 1871, the year of the unification of the German Empire, there were just over half a million Jews living in Germany.
§ Jews represented less than 1% of the total German population. Many were middle class and earned their living in trade, industry and the professions.
§ Jews were regarded as German citizens and were entitled to full emancipation although this was only achieved in many German states in the 1860s. However, service by Jews in the Prussian army against France in 1812 led to an edict giving them equality within the Prussian domains.
§ Jews were particularly well represented in the professions. 6% of doctors and 15% of lawyers were Jews. In 1895, 10% of university students were Jewish.
§ Jews played a full part in German life and regarded themselves as Germans. They received official recognition of their position on many occasions. Synagogues were keen to play their part in national events and support the Empire.
§ The New Synagogue in Berlin was opened on 5th September 1866. Minister-President Bismarck was present at the inauguration and this symbolised the tolerance that Jews in Germany received before the First World War.
§ From 1866 until 1914, the New Synagogue was the scene of many important services and events that proclaimed the loyalty of the Jewish community to the German state.
§ In September 1870, a service was held to celebrate the Prussian victory over the French at Sedan. On 18th June 1871, a thanksgiving service was held to celebrate the foundation of the German Empire. This took place five months after the proclamation of the empire in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris.
§ On 18th May 1878, a service of thanksgiving was held on the occasion of the Kaiser surviving an assassination attempt.
§ On 30th December 1879, the Imperial family attended a concert held in the New Synagogue. On 16th March 1888, a Service of Mourning was held after the death of Kaiser Wilhelm 1. On 14th June 1913, a service was held to celebrate the centenary of victories during the Napoleonic War.
§ The industrialist and banker, Walter Rathenau is a typical example of Jewish assimilation at this time. He became head of AEG after his father died and served as minister during the First World War and in the Weimar Republic. He believed that assimilation would lead to the end of anti-Semitism.
Why did Anti-Semitism develop during the Second Reich?
§ Whilst Jews were insignificant in terms of their numbers in the total population (they only made up 1%), they appeared to exercise undue influence in key areas.
§ Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, there had been…