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Heinrich von Treitschke Pronounces, "The Jews are Our Misfortune" (November 15, 1879)

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There can be no talk, among those with any understanding, of a revocation or even an abridgment of the completed emancipation. It would be an open injustice, a falling away from the good traditions of our state, and would sharpen rather than ameliorate the national conflict that pains us. The Jews in France and England have become a harmless and in many ways beneficial, element of civil society. That is in the last analysis the result of the energy and national pride of these two ancient culture-bearing peoples. Our culture is a young one. Our being still lacks a national style, an instinctive pride, a thoroughly imprinted character. That is why for so long we stood defenseless against alien essences. Now, however, we are at the point of acquiring those goods. We can only wish that our Jews recognize in time the transformation that is the logical consequence of the rise of the German state. Quietly, here and there, Jewish associations against usury do much good. They are the work of insightful Israelites who understand that their racial brothers must adapt to the morality and ideas of their Christian fellow citizens.

There is still a great deal to be done in this direction. To make hard German heads into Jewish ones is surely impossible. Thus, only one possibility remains: Our Jewish fellow citizens must resolve to be German without qualification, as so many of them have already done, to our benefit and their own. The task can never be wholly completed. A cleft has always existed between Occidental and Semitic essences [ . . . ]; there will always be Jews who are nothing more than German-speaking Orientals. A specific Jewish civilization will also always flourish, as befits a historically cosmopolitan power. But the conflict will lessen when the Jews, who speak so much of tolerance, really become tolerant and show respect for the faith, customs, and feelings of the German people, who have atoned for the old injustice and bestowed upon them the rights of man and citizen. That this respect is wholly missing in a section of our commercial and literary Jewry is the ultimate basis for the passionate embitterment of today.

It is not a pretty picture – this storming and wrangling, this bubbling and boiling of half-baked ideas in the new Germany. But we are now the most passionate of peoples, even though we often berate ourselves as phlegmatic. New ideas have never established themselves among us without convulsive twitches. May God grant that we emerge from the rashness and ill humor of these restless years with a stricter conception of the state and its duties, a more powerful national feeling.

Source of English translation: Richard S. Levy, Antisemitism in the Modern World. An Anthology of Texts. Lexington, Mass., and Toronto: D.C. Heath, 1991, pp. 69-73.

Source of original German text: Heinrich von Treitschke, “Unsere Aussichten” [“Our Views”], in Preußische Jahrbücher [Prussian Yearbooks] 44, Heft 5 (November 1879): pp. 572-76; reprinted in Karsten Krieger, ed., Der „Berliner Antisemitismusstreit“ 1879-1881. Eine Kontroverse um die Zugehörigkeit der deutschen Juden zur Nation. Kommentierte Quellenedition [The “Berlin Antisemitism Conflict” 1879-1881. A Controversy Over Whether German Jews Belong to the Nation. Annotated Source Edition], 2 parts. Munich: K.G. Saur, 2003-2004, pt. 1, pp. 10-16.

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