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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 IV Nihilists, Poles and East European Jews–a Hidden Government Agenda? 145


145 Part IV Nihilists, Poles and East European Jews–a Hidden Government Agenda? As an official paper, albeit with a distinctive voice, the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (Norddeutsche) had to cater for a variety of interests whilst also taking account of the views of Bismarck, for whom the paper had become a kind of house journal. One of the conditions imposed on its owners was an obligation of loyalty to Bismarck and to support his policies. Bismarck often checked the edi- torials before publication and made amendments. A significant degree of identi- fication can therefore be assumed between the views expressed by the Nord- deutsche and those of Bismarck.554 The impending election campaign and the need to retain friends whilst not alienating Jews meant that the way the contem- porary debate between anti-Semites and their opponents was covered was of critical importance. Matters were further complicated by the outbreak of anti- Jewish violence in Germany itself. Such was the backdrop when the paper turned its attention to the pogroms in Russia and their implications for the Reich. In 1878, fearing socialist and revolu- tionary challenges to the status quo, Bismarck introduced legislation and branded socialists, Catholics and non-German nationals–including Danes, and especially, Poles–as ‘enemies of the Reich’.555 Bismarck’s obsessive fear of revolution shaped his policies and the attempt on the Kaiser’s life in 1878 made him wary of socialists and regicides.556 Despite the fact that he both created and manipulated fear of revolution to promote his political aims, this...

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