Sensationalizing the Jewish Question

Anti-Semitic Trials and the Press in the Early German Empire


Historians have generally assumed that the French Dreyfus Affair had no counterpart in turn-of-the-century Germany. However, while no single anti-Semitic trial in Germany had the social and political impact of the Dreyfus Affair, a series of sensational court cases did have a significant influence on the growth and development of anti-Semitism in Imperial Germany. These trials, which included prominent libel cases and several ritual murder accusations, frequently spurred debates in the German press about the nature of Judaism and the role and influence of Jews in German society. This book examines the nature of these anti-Semitic affairs, assesses their role in German politics, and evaluates their effect on the overall development of German anti-Semitism.

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Barnet Hartston, Ph.D. (1999) in History, University of California at San Diego, is Associate Dean of General Education and Associate Professor of History at Eckerd College. His research focuses primarily on the topics of anti-Semitism, legal culture, and the political press in Imperial Germany.
The press about the hardback edition: "Barnet Hartston contributes to a more nuanced interpretation of antisemitism during the Bismarck era by concentrating on the courtroom. [...] His presentation of the opposing [historiographical] views is fair and succinct; his own positions are always cautious and balanced. The thorough archival research makes new and underutilized sources available to other scholars. In summary, the book delivers on its promises and is a welcome addition to the literature." Richard S. Levy, H-German, H-Net Reviews, June, 2006 "Hartston has written a fine book. Graced with clear prose and balanced judgment, it guides the reader through a maze of cases that, if now forgotten,were very much a part of the public vocabulary of late nineteenth-century Germany. [...] And he has set his contribution in the context of the considerable new literature on anti-Semitism in the German Empire—a literature that has significantly broadened our sense that electoral politics hardly exhausted the byways of prejudice." Helmut Walser Smith, Central European History Vol. 39, No. 4 (December 2006), pp. 712–714 "[...] Barnet Hartston’s examination of antisemitic trials and the press in the early Imperial German context, Sensationalizing the Jewish Question [...] has much to offer scholars interested in a more sophisticated understanding of the complexities of the Non-Jewish Question." Lars Fischer, The Journal of Modern History Vol. 82 (2011), pp. 887-888
List of Illustrations ... ix Acknowledgments ... xi Abbreviations ... xiii Introduction ... 1 Chapter One An Empire Transformed: Politics, Anti-Semitism, and the Law in the Time of Bismarck ... 9 Chapter Two Fighting Words: Libel Trials, Jews, and the Cult of Honor ... 35 Chapter Three Arson in Neustettin: The Limits of Anti-Jewish Violence in the New Reich ... 105 Chapter Four Ritual Murder Trials: Ancient Prejudice and Modern Propaganda ...129 Chapter Five A Matter of Debate: Scholars and Pseudo-Scholars Testify on the Nature of Judaism ... 189 Chapter Six The New Demagogues: Hermann Ahlwardt and the Rise of Fanatical Anti-Semitism ... 219 Conclusion .................................................................................. 261 Appendix: An Overview of the German Press in the Bismarckzeit ... 287 Bibliography ... 307 Index ... 325
Useful for laymen, students, and specialists interested in anti-Semitism or Jewish self-defense in Imperial Germany, as well as those interested in the development of the German press and legal system.