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Ernst Henrici Addresses Berlin Antisemites in the Reichshall Meeting: A Report in the Tribune (December 1880)

The 1880s saw the rise of increasingly racialist variants of antisemitism. This radicalization did not gain the favor of the Christian Social court preacher Adolf Stöcker, who was closely involved in Conservative Party affairs, but Stöcker's competitors within the movement pushed for it. One such antisemite was Ernst Henrici (1854-1915), a grammar school teacher and the founder of the Social Imperial Party [Soziale Reichspartei], a splinter group. This rabble-rousing speech by Henrici to Berlin antisemites achieved immediate notoriety on account of its vicious language, its call for physical attacks on Jews attending the rally, and the tumults that broke out during the meeting. While most accounts of political assemblies in Bismarckian Germany suggest rather sedate (even sleepy) proceedings, this account stands apart: instead of providing a brief summary of predictable speeches, it vividly describes how a public rally was allowed to get out of hand – intentionally or not. The interventions hurled from the floor are as telling as the anti-Jewish pronouncements offered from the podium.

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A turbulent meeting, far eclipsing all Social Democratic and Christian Socialist ones, took place on Friday evening in the upper hall of the “Reichshallen” on Döhnhofsplatz: “Meeting of the Antisemitic Liberal Party” was the description used in the editorial sections of some newspapers to draw attention to the event. “A Meeting of All Truly Liberal Citizens of the Christian Religion” was used as well. The following topic was specified: “Lecture on the Means For Maintaining Christian-German Interests.” On public advertising columns, however, large posters read “People’s Assembly and Discussion of a Highly Important Matter! – The Committee. On the authority of H. Weber.” It was probably on account of these various invitations that a great number of Israelites, Social Democrats, etc., were in attendance. Soon after 8 p.m., all parts of the great hall were completely overcrowded. Over 3,000 people may have gathered there. After a police officer and a constable had taken seats next to the committee table, the grammar school teacher Dr. Henrici stepped onto the platform and declared, on behalf of the committee, that the meeting was open. (There was shouting in the hall: Who is the committee? – Jews, shut your traps!) Henrici: I call on you to elect a chairman. (Shouting: First off, name the committee! – Racket in the hall.) Henrici: Is Herr Ruppel present? Ruppel: Yes, absolutely! [Henrici:] I ask Herr Ruppel whether he is possibly willing to chair the meeting? – Ruppel: I will chair the meeting, possibly. (Great hilarity.) – Ruppel: I am prepared to preside over the meeting if I am given the assurance that this assembly consists only of Christian men of German descent. [ . . . ] (Thunderous applause and prolonged drumming. Shouting: Jews out! Let’s get on with the rules of procedure!) – Ruppel (continuing): I am prepared to preside over the meeting if I am assured that only Christian men of German descent are present in this assembly. (Thunderous applause and racket. Shouting: We have Jews here, Yiddish wheelers and dealers; Jews out!) At the back of the hall, a number of Jews are thrown out by force, with knocks and blows. Finally, the print shop owner Ruppel was elected chairman. Ruppel: I want to thank you for my election and would like to mention that only Christian men of German descent were invited. (Thunderous applause and racket.) Anyone who does not meet these criteria is requested to leave the premises. (Thunderous applause and prolonged, really deafening tumult. Shouting: Jews out! On to the rules of procedure! This is a people’s assembly!) In various parts of the hall, brawls flare up. – At last, a Herr Schultz is called to speak on the rules of procedure. He states that he considers the conduct of the chairman absolutely unjustified, for according to the public advertising columns, this is a people’s assembly and anyone is allowed to attend such a meeting. (Thunderous applause and intense racket.) – Dr. Henrici: According to the constitution, any Prussian has the right [ . . . ] (Shouting: To be

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