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Jews in Business and their Representation in German Literature 1827-1934

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John Ward

This book gives an account of the literary representation of Jews as businessmen from the early nineteenth century to the onset of the Third Reich. The historical context provides the background for an examination of the literary representation of Jewish businessmen and presents evidence for the perpetuation, transformation, and combination of stereotypes.
The double bind of assimilation – that the Jews were vilified whether they succeeded or failed – is illustrated from literary treatments by the Romantic writer Wilhelm Hauff and the early twentieth-century writers Lion Feuchtwanger and Paul Kornfeld of the historical figure of ‘Jud Süß Oppenheimer’. Gustav Freytag’s use of the Jews as ‘counter-ideals’ in his notorious bestseller Soll und Haben (1855) and the onset of racial anti-Semitism in Wihelm von Polenz’s Der Büttnerbauer (1895) are illustrative of how literary anti-Semitism hardened in the course of the nineteenth century.
The book considers a number of literary texts, some well known, some less familiar, which are revealing of the way in which Jewish–Gentile relations were imagined in their time.

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Chapter Four - The Challenge of the ‘Jewish Commercial Spirit’ in the Early Writing of Heinrich Mann 137

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Chapter Four The Challenge of the ‘Jewish Commercial Spirit’ in the Early Writing of Heinrich Mann The stock market crash of 1873 left many demanding an explanation for the malaise that had turned the positive, if frenetic, speculative atmosphere of the early 1870s into one of despair and anger. An indication of the heady mood is given by Norbert Kampe in his essay on the ‘Gründerkrise’: In der rasch expandierenden neuen Hauptstadt des Deutschen Reiches hatte die Grundstücks- und Bauspekulation zwischen 1871 und 1873 wahnwitzige Dimensionen angenommen. In den Jahren 1871–72 wurden neben den bereits existierenden Hypothekenbanken und Kreditanstalten 40 weitere Baubanken als Aktiengesellschaften gegründet. Die Zahl der Baugesellschaften stieg von 1872 bis 1874 von 25 auf 45. Im gesamten Deutschen Reich wurden 1870 bis 1873 1918 neue Aktiengesellschaften gegrün- det. Diese Aktiengesellschaften, mehr auf die Erwartung kommender enormer Gewinne als auf eine solide ökonomische Basis gegründet, schütteten nicht selten atemberaubend hohe Dividenden aus.1 Jew-baiters such as Wilhelm Marr and Otto Glagau, who had lost money in the stock market crash, placed the blame for the crisis on a Jewish ‘Spekulationsgeist’ thereby reanimating the traditional stereotype of the ‘Wucherjude’ in such liberal publications as Die Gartenlaube. Theirs was a reaction to the rapid economic expansion and a clarion call against what they deemed to be the destructive influence of the new public companies, which they considered ‘judaised’, ‘verjudet’. Such anti-Jewish notions had thus left the narrow, bigoted and unseemly realm of the coarse,...

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