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Paul de Lagarde on Liberalism, Education, and the Jews: German Writings (1886)

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No one is capable of escaping the influence of life as it assails one from all sides. If the Jews in Germany currently remain an alien element, this circumstance proves that life in Germany is not vigorous and serious enough. The nation, however, has a duty to remedy this very considerable defect. Every Jew who is a nuisance to us represents a serious reproach to the authenticity and truthfulness of our Germanness. But the nation cannot live vigorously and seriously itself – and by this “itself”, I mean both for itself and unto itself – if the governments fail to remove the burden from its neck and soul, which are weighed down by a well-meaning, but very naïve, liberalism, of which the Prussian educational system and the established church system are the worst components. Our Jews, though, will still not cease to be Jews, even when that burden is thrown off, if our governments fail to put an end not only to that liberalism but also to the dreadful accrual of debt in the state and the municipalities, upon whose interest the Jews have built their material livelihood easily and contemptuously. The Jews will remain Jews because we are too highly educated; they remain Jews not merely owing to our fault but also owing to what we owe. The answer to the Jewish question will be prepared not by the ministries of justice and of the interior, but by the ministries of culture – let me be perfectly clear: I am not saying the ministry of education – and of finances. It will be brought to a conclusion only by the German people in whom that same hot life that melts foreign ice must also pulsate in peacetime. During the last war, that hot life even drew those Palestine Jews living among us, those who had reached the age of compulsory service, into the path of German feeling and German action, much to our satisfaction.

Only anti-liberals are true friends of the Jews, just as only anti-liberals are true friends of Germany. Jews and liberals are natural allies, for they are not natural types but artificial products. Anyone who does not want the German Reich to be a playground for homunculi has to take a stand against Jews and liberals – the latter term understood as explained above.

I would like to sum up:

The greatest praise the German nation confers is that of authenticity. Now you judge what this nation must think of those who view themselves as the educated lot vis-à-vis this people; now you judge how it must regard the conditions in the state, the schools, and the church; you decide for yourself how German the new Reich seems to Germans.

On our own, we are not capable of helping ourselves achieve authenticity; therefore, the governments have to do their share by deliberately removing anything that is artificially made, and by fostering, under the steady eye of informed love, the growth of that which will spring forth from old ground cleared of rubble – thus far the roots of our nature are still alive.

Source: Paul de Lagarde, “Die graue Internationale” [The Grey International] (February 1881) in Deutsche Schriften. Gesammtausgabe letzter Hand [German Writings. Most Recent Version of the Complete Edition]. Göttingen: Dieterichsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1886, pp. 399-414.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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