Judaism on trial : antisemitism in the German courtroom (1870-1895) / by Barnet P. Hartston.
This dissertation shows that the decades after German unification were characterized not just by a few sensational antisemitic trials, but by a constant drumbeat of large and small cases involving public discussion of the “Jewish Question.” Based primarily on newspaper accounts, government files, and court documents, this study examines the nature of these antisemitic trials, assesses their role in German politics, and evaluates their effect on the overall development of German antisemitism. A majority of the cases examined in this dissertation are slander trials involving prominent Jews and antisemitic agitators. These trials provided individual agitators with a valuable public forum for spreading their own political propaganda, in which even a conviction could allow them to portray themselves as martyrs to their cause. In addition to these slander trials, however, I also discuss the use of ritual-murder trials and many other incidental criminal proceedings as anti-Jewish propaganda. In many instances, these kinds of legal proceedings resulted in profound personal and political defeats for individual antisemitic agitators. In addition, the propaganda victories from such events led to few long-term electoral successes for the fringe German antisemitic parties. However, frequent discussion of the trials in the national press kept public attention focused firmly on the “Jewish Question.” Such cases added a sense of immediacy to the Jewish Question, and they allowed the otherwise small antisemitic parties and political press to exert a disproportionate influence on the course of German politics. Even the most obscure of these “antisemitic trials” were often transformed into causes célèbres by the German political press. Because ultra-Conservative and Catholic politicians commonly associated liberalism with Jewish influence, they often used antisemitic trials as an opportunity to ridicule their liberal political opponents for embracing “Jewish values” and protecting Jewish criminals. Liberal and Jewish newspapers, on the other hand, commonly attacked the Conservative and Catholic press for using such cases to fan the flames of anti-Jewish prejudice. In times of great political tension and rivalry, therefore, even seemingly minor antisemitic trials could have significant political repercussions.
Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:47:00
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