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Theodor Fritsch to Wilhelm Marr on New Tactics for the Struggle against the Jews (1884-85)

Theodor Fritsch (1852-1933) was a prolific writer of antisemitic tracts – often published under pseudonyms such as Thomas Frey, Tritz Thor, and F. Roderich Stoltheim. He was also an editor of antisemitic newspapers, journals, and handbooks. The Nazis considered him a pioneer of their movement. Indeed, Fritsch’s historical importance derives from his role as a bridge between two generations of antisemites – and this fit well with his self-fashioned image as a despairing prophet. In 1882, he participated in the First International Anti-Jewish Congress [Erster Internationaler Antijüdischer Kongreß] in Dresden. In 1887, he published the Antisemitic Catechism [Antisemiten-Katechismus] under the name Thomas Frey: it became one of the most widely read antisemitic works of the day. In 1902, Fritsch founded the “Hammer” publishing house [Hammer-Verlag], which existed up to 1940. During the First World War, he participated in several political initiatives by the radical Right and contributed to the increasing prominence of antisemitism within the Pan-German League. The following excerpts are from Fritsch’s letters to Wilhelm Marr (1819-1904), another antisemitic publicist who first coined the term “antisemitism.” In this correspondence, the two men express divergent views about the present state of the antisemitic movement in Germany, its future prospects, and the profit motive driving some of its representatives. Fritsch, the younger man, advances more radical views than Marr, whom he addresses in the salutation (not included here) of the first letter as “Herr W. Marr, Pessimistic Ober-Antisemite in Hamburg.” Marr describes the Jews in terms that are as pernicious as those used later during the Third Reich.

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Leipzig, May, 8 1884

[ . . . ]

I am as much concerned as you are about the present situation of antisemitism. I am also looking tirelessly for a lever with which to overturn the Jewish world. As long as we come as beggars we cannot win the love of the people. Love needs a proud beloved, like a king, not like a crawling beggar. Power and success are the decisive factors in acquiring the sympathy of the masses, and as long as power and success are on the Jewish side the hearts of the multitudes will go out to them. You know the expression: ‘The Jews do it cleverly, that way they come to something; that is the way for things to be done’. The Jews are nowadays an object of envy for the majority of the people. Only when antisemitism achieves a striking i.e. a resounding success [ . . . ] will the whole world become antisemitic too, out of deep persuasion!

[ . . . ] There must be ‘profit’! – Otherwise nobody is going to swallow the bait of antisemitism. (Most of the present skirmishing antisemites provide the proof themselves; they would not make half so much noise if they did not expect to gain something by it – they are ‘business-antisemites’.)

But now, dear Marr, comes the real problem: we have nothing to spare; how could we give to everybody without taking from anyone? The Jewish problem is solved when you find the ‘trick’ – not a moment before. And, by God, I believe I might be allowed to shout ‘Eureka’. A plan has been simmering in my mind for quite a long time – by the way a very simple one- which may fulfill my hopes. The quintessence of the matter is of course the isolation of the Jews, not through platonic principles, but by practical deeds.

I do not want to betray any part of the plan right away, because I am somewhat superstitious- it seems to me always as if the power to do something melts away when the Idea is put into words.

Besides, I belong in the matter of the Jews to the ‘radicalism’. I regard it as no misfortune if ‘crude popular force’ is used as salt to get rid of the leeches. Still, I have nothing against a few hypocritical expressions of regret in the newspapers. There must be some consideration given because of the existing misunderstandings.

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