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Pogroms and Riots

German Press Responses to Anti-Jewish Violence in Germany and Russia (1881-1882)

Sonja Weinberg

The establishment of universal manhood suffrage and legal equality for Jews in Germany in the 1860s and 1870s gave way to the rise of political anti-Semitism to a degree not witnessed before. In Russia too, as a consequence of the reform era (1855-1881), the «Jewish Question» became one of the most hotly debated topics. In 1881 and 1882 the anti-Semitic climate in Germany and Russia culminated in anti-Jewish pogroms sweeping over parts of Prussia and Southern Russia. This study explores the heated debate which unfolded in 1881 and 1882 in the German press in response to these events. The simultaneity of the pogroms in Russia and Germany offers a unique opportunity to examine the response of German commentators to both domestic and foreign anti-Jewish violence.


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Part I The Framework 21


21 Part I The Framework 1 Ethnic Violence: Antipathy, Justification and Social Legitimation Ethnic violence does not occur out of the blue. Various conditions are necessary for ethnic riots to happen. Whilst the focus of this book is, specifically, how anti- Semitic violence was perceived by the press in 1881 and 1882, reviewing some of the theoretical approaches to general conditions of ethnic violence31will assist in understanding some of the mechanisms leading to, and accompanying, ethnic violence whilst at the same time clarifying the assumptions on which this book is based. The discussion which follows is not intended to provide a comprehensive overview of existing theoretical scholarship; its focus will be on the aspects and approaches to ethnic violence which are of particular importance for this study. Scholars of ethnic violence disagree about the role of differing circumstances in ethnic riots. There are two prevailing approaches: the first, adopted mainly by rationalists or instrumentalists, emphasises general conditions, especially eco- nomic factors, while the second, generally propounded by primordialists (or eth- nic conflict scholars) focuses more on particular aspects–especially ethnic con- flict, prejudice, and the social legitimation of violence–as the decisive causes for ethnic violence.32 These two approaches have significant implications for the question as to why particular ethnic groups are attacked while others are not. 31 It is beyond the scope of this book to examine some of the broader issues of ethnic violence such as the direct causes of the violence, or the relationship between ideolo- gies...

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