Terrible tale of two anti-Semitic cities

German Politics and the Jews
April 18, 1997

German Politics and the Jews charts the rise of 20th-century political anti-Semitism in Dusseldorf and Nuremberg. The cities make for interesting comparisons. The former is a predominantly Roman Catholic commercial centre in Protestant Prussia with a reputation for tolerance; the latter a bastion of revivalist Protestantism in Catholic Bavaria and home to the infamous anti-Semite, Julius Streicher.

But readers expecting a closely contextualised comparative "local study" will be disappointed. Anthony Kauders has virtually nothing to say about the significance of anti-Semitism for specific social and occupational groups. Nor is there any attempt to analyse associational and partisan networks in the two localities or to locate them in a specific urban space.

Kauders provides a cursory outline of social and economic developments in both cities, only to conclude that these say little about the rise of anti-Semitism as a political force. The author's central concern is less with social practices than with anti-Semitism as a phenomenon in political language and argumentation.

The book's best analytical passages are based on a close study of local weekly newspapers with specific partisan and confessional affiliations. Kauders finds that in the wake of war, defeat and revolution the collapse of traditional political paradigms opened the door for the widespread infiltration of political discourse by anti-Semitic language and arguments. This process was particularly pronounced in Nuremberg, where the left liberals (DDP) became the only party to offer consistent and principled opposition. Even the parties of the left, and especially the Communists, frequently deployed anti-Semitic rhetoric in order to undermine their opponents.

The book's chief interest for students of the Weimar period will lie in the connections the author draws between the rise of political anti-Semitism and the dynamics of a competitive political environment.

He is able to distinguish, for example, between a period before the Nazi electoral breakthrough, when a range of competing centrist and right-wing parties deployed anti-Semitic rhetoric, and the period from 1930, when the growing success of the Nazis (especially in Nuremberg) prompted some parties to modify or abandon anti-Jewish themes in order to retain their distinctiveness as a political alternative to the NSDAP.

German Politics and the Jews makes a useful contribution to recent debate on the role of trans-party political discourses in the Weimar Republic and offers a stark reminder of the extent to which the extreme right succeeded in setting the political agenda in Germany after 1918.

Christopher Clark is a fellow, St Catharine's College, Cambridge.

German Politics and the Jews: Dusseldorf and Nuremberg 1910-1933

Author - Anthony Kauders
ISBN - 0 19 820631 3
Publisher - Clarendon Press, Oxford
Price - £35.00
Pages - 214

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