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Court Preacher Adolf Stöcker Introduces Antisemitism to the Christian Social Workers’ Party (September 19, 1879)

Adolf Stöcker (1835-1909) was a court preacher and the leader of the antisemitic Christian Social Workers’ Party, founded in 1878. This party was initially formed to draw the working classes away from socialism. By time this speech was delivered, however, it was evolving in the direction of a mainly antisemitic party. Hence the word “Workers” was dropped from the party name. Up to 1896, when Stöcker was forced to leave the Conservative Party, he was responsible for much of that party’s appeal to lower-middle-class voters in Berlin and other large German cities. Some contemporaries referred to him as Germany’s “second Luther.” Others referred to his prodigious (even “demagogic”) talent as a speaker and his ability to move the masses. In the passage below, Stöcker displays his considerable rhetorical talent. He keeps his audience’s attention by listing his party’s “demands” on the Jews, each of which is intentionally ironic. He calls on the Jews to be “a little more modest,” “a little more tolerant,” and a little more dedicated to the principle of equality. This speech also reflects Stöcker’s ongoing effort to stake his claim to leadership among competing antisemitic leaders by linking the “Jewish Question” and the “social question.” Stöcker was always uncomfortable with calls to define the “Jewish Question” in purely racial terms. The underlying cause of Jewry’s “threat” to Christian society, he felt, was Germany’s rapid industrialization, the triumph of “Mammonistic” capitalism, the rise of a class-conscious proletariat, and workers’ alienation from the church. In a nutshell, his solution to the “Jewish Question” was for German society to disavow liberalism and rededicate itself to the Christian faith.

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The Jewish question has long been a burning question. Amongst us it has flamed brightly for several months. It feeds on neither religious fanaticism nor political passion. The orthodox and the freethinker, the conservative and the liberal, write and speak about it with equal violence. None of them treats Jewry as the apple of discord because of religious intolerance but because of social concern. “The social question is the Jewish question,” writes [Otto] Glagau. “Elect no Jews!” cries W. Marr in his third pamphlet; in the first he reported on the “Victory of Jewry over Germandom” and from the “Jewish Theater of War” in the second. His highly agitated appeal to the nation ended with Finis Germaniae – “the end of Germany is at hand.” Well, now, we don't believe the death of the German spirit to be so near. Nations, like individuals, can be reborn. Germany, and even Berlin, will recover and free itself from alien spirits.

Yet symptoms of illness are present. Social evils are visible in all the limbs of the body politic, and social enmity is never without a cause. Christians and Jews must be seriously concerned that conflict does not grow into hatred. Here and there the summer lightning already flashes, heralding a distant storm.

It is quite remarkable that the Jewish-liberal press does not have the courage to answer the complaints and accusations of its attackers. It is usually all too ready to uncover scandals where there are none. They sharpen their poisoned quills on the sermons delivered in our churches and on the debates of our church assemblies. But they condemn the Jewish question to silence, and they avoid having their readers hear anything of those hostile voices. They adopt the air of scorning their opponents, pretending that they are unworthy of an answer. It would be better for them to learn from their enemies, to acknowledge their faults, and to work in common for the social reconciliation we so need.

It is with this intention that I would like to deal with the Jewish question in full Christian love but also in full social truthfulness.

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