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Walther Rathenau, "Hear, O Israel!" (1897)

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I repeat: I will not deal with the economic question here, the real sphere of so-called anti-Semitism. For a long time yet, I fear, the lower classes of Jewry will be dependent on the profession of commerce and trade. It is natural and justified that, like any lopsided endeavor, commerce, too, and especially its typical participants, should arouse a counterforce and opposition. The meaning of this process is more mercantile than cultural. To me, the heart of the social question does not lie in the economic interests of individual circles, no matter how broad, but in the almost passionate antipathy of the disinterested majority. And this social question poses a danger in all corners of the Reich. It buzzes through the classrooms and lecture halls; it runs through the streets and scrutinizes the shop signs; it rumbles in the business offices and workshops; it gingerly walks up the front steps of the houses and chuckles its way down the back stairs; it nests in the cushions of the railroad compartment and presides at the tavern tables; it spreads out in the barracks square and knocks on the doors of the courtrooms.

Who today is seriously looking for an answer to it? To the ethnic German, the question is as repugnant as its subject. He is content if the swarthy people leave him alone. He has no reason to worry about its future. After all, assimilation hardly succeeds with Poles and Danes. And what is Israel doing to free itself from the curse? Less than nothing! Of course, you no longer consider yourselves as more chosen than other peoples – and barely still as smarter. But with whatever you are left with, you deem yourselves above all criticism. Do you think the old tribal God will send his Messiah King to help you? Alas, you have not noticed that he has not had anything to do with you for several thousand years! The Lord of Wrath took delight in a nation of warriors; he is not interested in a nation of grocers and brokers. He who is enthroned on Horeb and Zion does not relocate to Rosenthalerstraße or Heidereutergasse. You said that you are clever and skilled in worldly affairs: "He who has the wealth, has the power." Now you have the wealth – and the rich among you are less esteemed than your poor. Your eloquence was vain and your agitation futile. You established associations – for defense, instead of introspection. You made life unpleasant for the best among you, so they turned their backs on you, and when they broke away, all you could do was curse them; that is they reason why they are doing well. Do not shout for the state and the government. The state made you citizens in order to educate you into Germans. You have remained strangers and demand that it should now grant full equality? You speak of obligations fulfilled: war service and taxes. But there was more to fulfil here than obligations: namely, trust. There is a lot of talk of the right of the weaker; that right exists, but you cannot compel it by defiance. No stone will be removed from your path; you will not be spared one step. But if, entrenched in your quarters, you wish to continue to parade with false martyrs' crowns – go right ahead, no one will stop you.

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