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Emil Lehmann Addresses Leipzig Jews on the Antisemitic Movement (April 11, 1880)

Emil Lehmann (1829-1898) was a Dresden lawyer and the first Jew to be elected (in 1865) to Dresden’s municipal council. From 1863 onwards, he practiced law and increasingly turned his attention to the struggle for Jewish rights. He was elected head of Dresden’s Jewish community [Gemeinde] in February 1869. Lehmann supported the assimilation of Jews into German society without the abandonment of their religion faith. His efforts had already contributed substantially to the (formal) emancipation of the Jews in Saxony on December 3, 1868 – that is, before passage of the Law of Religious Freedom by the North German Reichstag (July 3, 1869). In the speech excerpted below, Lehmann comments on the “Berlin Antisemitism Conflict” [Berliner Antisemitismusstreit]. He mocks the advocates of antisemitism, including composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883), Court Preacher Adolf Stöcker (1835-1909), and Berlin historian Heinrich von Treitschke (1834-1896), all of whose names he studiously avoids mentioning. But Lehmann sees a palpable danger in the support that Treitschke had received since his public pronouncement that “The Jews are our misfortune” (November 1879). He also identifies the absurdity of conceiving of Jews as “Semites.” The prospects for Jewish assimilation, he declares dramatically, are threatened by the “vivisection of Judaism” – “our opponents’ cutting into our living body.” [“Diese neuzeitliche Vivisektion des Judenthums, dieses Heineinscheiden unsrer Gegner in unseren lebendigen Leib hat – wie Alles was Gott Schickt – auch sein Gutes.”] Nevertheless, in his final lines he declares that German Jewry must bear such wounds in order to reveal its true humanity and patriotism.

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On the Antisemitic Movement in Germany
(Lecture presented at the Third Regular Congregation Meeting in Leipzig, April 11, 1880)

[ . . . ]

The Kulturkampf sparked the most recent wave of antisemitic literature. The authors of texts like the “Talmud Jew” and all those writers who exposed the Talmud and the Jews to general loathing can be found among those [Catholics] against whom the Kulturkampf was aimed. Written with the type of Dominican fanaticism known since time immemorial, these writings are being duplicated to this day in the form of countless imitations, especially in the capital of Silesia. Coming from another perspective (one that is different but displays an elective affinity), agrarian writers also joined the choir of “hep-hep”* calls.

Third in the group were the so-called Christian Socialists, who sought to combine agrarian tendencies with Social Democratic maxims. Fourth was a pessimist, an ultra-radical who was dissatisfied with everything that had happened in Germany, who did not care for any of the political parties, and who now blamed the Jews for political and social conditions in Germany. Many other discontented persons followed this pamphleteer and peddled similar intellectual products.

Finally, a strict National Liberal Professor** appeared on the scene and announced to the German people in more refined phrases, in more moderate language, that the Jews are Germany’s misfortune. Thus, the struggle has broken out in all corners. The extreme Right, the party of the court preacher,*** the Center Party, National Liberals of the most orthodox bent, ultra-radicals – all have voiced the battle cry against the Jews. Sabuni Kidevaurim.

In all three directions – the religious, political, and social – this hostile literature is used to agitate against us, and with the most contradictory reasoning at that. One group affirms that they are not against the religion and the persons per se but against the tribe. The others attack the religion, especially the Talmud, and even the Old Testament. Here, it is curious that those who adhere most strictly to one confessional perspective tend to agree with those who reject all of them. In late November 1879, an central German [mitteldeutsch] official newspaper published the following in one and the same issue: an editorial amounting to a deep sigh against religious liberalism and a feuilleton report beaming with delight about the latest “Kulturgeschichte des Judenthums” and its attempt to excoriate the Old Testament and the old Hebrews from the most radical and non-denominational perspective.

[ . . . ]

* i.e., antisemitic calls – trans.
** Heinrich von Treitschke – trans.
*** Adolf Stöcker – trans.

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