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Wilhelm Marr, The Victory of Judaism over Germandom (March 1879)

Wilhelm Marr (1819-1904) is most famous for coining the term “antisemitism” in the 1870s. He thereby contributed to a new vocabulary – one with which centuries-old hostility towards the Jews could be potently expressed. Marr himself had a checkered past. He espoused communist ideals in his twenties and participated in the revolutionary events of 1848/49. Even before then, when he was living in Hamburg, he had begun to express strongly anti-Jewish views. He served as editor of several newspapers and journals, almost all of which were financial failures. The following excerpt is taken from his 1879 book, which purports to document Jewry’s “victory” over Germandom. This manuscript was drafted in February and March 1878 and then languished with publisher Rudoph Costenoble for a year before finally appearing in late March 1879. But it was an instant hit, running through twelve editions in its first year. This excerpt demonstrates the secular tone of Marr’s antisemitism and cultural pessimism. Contrary to many other antisemitic tracts, Marr’s analysis of the “Jewish Question” posits “the world-historical triumph of Jewry” and announces “the news of a lost battle.” His text concludes with the resounding words, “Finis Germaniae!” (“Germany’s end!”). Marr’s political accomplishments never matched his ambition. By the end of the 1880s, he was regarded as a relic of modern antisemitism’s founding generation. This appraisal found expression in Marr’s private correspondence with a younger, more radical antisemite, Theodor Fritsch, which appears in one of the following entries.

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With this work I intend less a polemic against Jewry than confirmation of a cultural and historical fact.

The polemical language that conditions sometimes force upon me can and must be understood as no more than a cry of pain from one of the oppressed.

A resigned “pessimism” flows from my pen.

Think, if you will, “he must be a queer bird.” But be assured that no one would be happier than myself if the facts I touch upon could be refuted.

Countless times we non-Jews have attacked Jews and Jewry in literature, but always from the standpoint of our own overweening presumption. Our self-conceit still keeps us from the open and honest admission that Israel has become a world power of the very first rank. We knew the Jews well enough – but not ourselves.

Be that as it may, this book should be permitted to lay claim to originality. Written without a trace of religious prejudice, it allows you to peer into the mirror of cultural and historical facts. Do not blame the “pessimist” if the mirror shows you to be slaves.

I have two hopes for this book:

1) first, that it will not be killed by the silence of the Jewish critics;

2) that it will not be finished off by your well-known, self-satisfied clichés.

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