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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 24, 2010

The 1890's as a Turning Point in German Jewish History

Yaakov Borut
From the journal Aschkenas


During the early 1890s, profound changes occurred in German Jewry's organizational culture and public activities, which amounted to a turning point in its history. They led to the rise of a Jewish organizational network that constituted a »partial subsociety«, in reversal of the previous trend towards disintegration of the Jewish realm. Those changes corresponded to major changes that took place within the German Reich during the same period. The former manner of public activity of German-Jewish leaders can be described as a »low profile mode«, keeping out of the public limelight, avoiding conflict with the government and refraining from public defense of Jewish interests. Three processes that were evident in German politics and society in the early 1890s were manifest within Jewish society: I) The rise of mass-politics and the use of noisy mass-propaganda techniques. Its Jewish manifestation was public defense against anti- Semitism. II) The rise of an extra-parliamentary political system based on pressure and interest groups. Its Jewish manifestation was the foundation of the Centralverein that defended Jewish interests and reversed the »low profile mode«. III) Rising particularism. Its Jewish manifestation was the creation of specifically Jewish groups, and especially a network of Societies for jüdische Geschichte und Literatur. An examination of the personal characteristics of the leaders who initiated those changes, in comparison with the older Jewish leaders (who mostly opposed the new initiatives), reveals common attributes shared by the new leaders, which explain their ability to grasp the changes occurring in Germany and implement them within German Jewry.

Published Online: 2010-08-24
Published in Print: 2009-12-01

© 2010 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston