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Social Antagonism between Protestants and Catholics (1870s-1880s)

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Catholics were virtually excluded from social circles and from friendly dealings with non-Catholics, especially in small to medium-sized towns. The political party program and the confessional question even influenced business relations.

In some cities, such as Mönchengladbach and Düsseldorf, so-called black lists were printed and distributed among liberal party members to exert pressure on “ultramontane” shopkeepers or to encourage liberal customers to boycott them. On top of that, in cases in which political or municipal elections had stirred up emotions even further, it was by no means rare for workers and private employees who had voted for Center Party candidates out of conviction to be dismissed. On September 25, 1882, at a voters’ meeting in Krefeld, [Ludwig] Windthorst said, among other things: “It filled me with deep pain in the past, and again today, when I heard that there have been factory owners here – I hope their kind no longer exists – who threatened their workers’ material well-being, and even dismissed them from work or put them out of work at least for a time, because these workers had freely exercised their right to vote. This I consider an ignominy!”

The majority of parliament even deemed it entirely proper that higher officials examined the voting of indirect and direct lower-ranking public servants of the state during public elections.

These days, it is difficult to imagine just how high and how hot the flames of confessional hatred flared during the campaigns leading up to political and, even worse, municipal elections. For example, when the liberal election committee in Düsseldorf telegraphed the Reich Chancellor with the results of the Landtag election, which, thanks to a cunning display of gerrymandering, saw two seats snatched away from the Center Party and handed to the Liberal Party, it sent the following words: “A beautiful constituency has been reconquered for the fatherland.” The files of the election monitoring committee from those days contain truly incredible tales of official and private manipulations of elections.

What lower-level officials in particular took the liberty of doing to Catholics, even in Catholic regions, would be hard to believe today.

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