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Anti-Semitism in Europe, 1850-1914

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Park, Ju Hyun
Term Paper, AP European History Class, Winter 2007

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. The Situation of Jews in European Society prior to Emancipation
III. Emancipation and Assimilation
III.1 Impact of Enlightenment
III.1.1 Court Jews
III.1.2 Salon Culture
III.2 The Era of Napoleon
III.3 The Years When Equality was Granted to Jews
III.4 Emancipation Movements
III.5 Jewish Assimilation into European Society
III.6 Formation of Jewish Organizations
IV. The Rise of New Anti-Semitism
IV.1 Arthur de Gobineau and Race Theories
IV.2 Prominent cases of Anti-Semitism
IV.2.1 Pogroms against Jews in Russia
IV.2.2 Anti-Semitic parties in Austria (1882)
IV.2.3 France : The Dreyfus Affair (1894-1899)
IV.2.3.1 Overview
IV.2.3.2 Emile Zola and "J'Accuse."
IV.2.3.3 The Split in Two Opposing Camps : Anti-Dreyfusards and Dreyfusards
IV.2.3.4 The Dreyfus Affair and Zionism
V. Zionism
V.1 Formation
V.2 Objectives
V.3 World Zionist Organization
VI. Notes
VII. Bbliography

I. Introduction
            Being referred to as "the longest hatred", (1) the history of anti-Semitism dates back to Alexandria in the 3rd century BCE. (2) Instances of anti-Semitism include hostility toward individual Jews to organized persecutions against Jews as a religious group or ethnic group.
            By the early 19th century, with the enlightenment fostering equality and respect for the individuals, most nations in Europe except for Russia granted emancipation to the Jews. As the barriers to civil society fell, Jews began to play a prominent role in public life.
            Jewish emancipation led to ambivalent consequences. It triggered intense hostility as many Christians feared Jewish domination within society. This paper covers the period starting from 1850 onward to 1914 when modern anti-Semitism was frequently translated into action. For a better understanding of anti-Semitism, it will also include a brief history of the anti-Semitism prior to this era.

II. The Situation of Jews in European Society prior to Emancipation
            For several centuries throughout western and central Europe, Jews were placed under strict regulations. Having been viewed as a cultural minority due to their non-Christian beliefs in Renaissance Christian environment, they were forced to live in Jewish quarters. (Ghettos) Ghettos became prevalent throughout Christendom and in all cities with a Jewish presence. Residents of a ghetto had their own justice system. Around the ghettos existed walls that during pogroms, were closed from inside and out at night and during Christmas, Pesach, and Easter Week. Moreover, Jews were ostracized from many sectors of the society. Laws were enacted which limited the areas in which Jews could live, the professions they could engage in, and the property they could own.

III. Emancipation and Assimilation

III.1 The Impact of the Enlightenment
            The Enlightenment was a period characterized by breakthroughs in ways of thinking which steered the society away from the religion and more toward secularism, humanism, individualism, and rationalism. Popularized concept of individualism along with the increased emphasis on civil rights paved the way for the Jewish emancipation. With the enlightenment fostering respect for individuals and demanding basic equality of all human beings, it was possible for the Jews to be admitted as equals in European societies.

III.1.1 Court Jews
            Court Jews, (Hofjuden) called also court factors, served as bankers or businessmen who managed the finances of Christian European noble houses. They played a part at the courts of the Austrian emperors and German princes in the 17th, 18th and the early 19th century. They frequently suffered from the envy of the rivals and co-citizens, and were often the objects hostility of the people. (3) Among the successful Court Jews was the Rothschild family. The Rothschild family rose to prominence starting from Amschel Meyer Rothschild, the founder, who was born in ghetto of Frankfurt-am-Main. He was a court banker of Duke Wilhelm of Hessen-Kassel and spread his empire by installing business in European cities with his five sons. They were to become avid supporters of the Zionist movement.

III.1.2 Salon Culture
            Enlightenment ideas offered wealthy Jewish women unprecedented opportunities for integration with non-Jewish elites. Jewish women in the 18th century formed a disproportionately large number of the most influential and discussed salonieres. (4) Salon served as an opportunity for the Jewish women to achieve female emancipation and assimilation into society. Jewish cultural traditions that emphasized education, debate, mediation, and cosmopolitanism, several Jewish women emerged in Berlin to lead dynamic and successful salons that attracted prominent Jews and non-Jews alike. (5)

III.2 The Era of Napoleon
            The Era of Napoleon brought legal emancipation of the Jews of western and central Europe. (6) Starting in 1806, Napoleon granted a number of measures supporting the status of Jews in the French Empire, including assembling a representative group elected by the Jewish community, the Sanhedrin (Jewish high court). In conquered countries, he abolished laws confining Jews to the ghettos. Also in 1807, Napoleon made Judaism one of the official religions of France along with Roman Catholicism, Lutheran and Calvinist Protestantism.

III.3 Years When Jews were Granted Emancipation
            France 1791/1804, Netherlands 1796, Greece 1830, Ottoman Empire 1839, United Kingdom 1856, Italy 1861, Habsburg Empire 1867, Germany 1871, Switzerland 1874, Bulgaria, Serbia 1878, Spain 1910, Russian Empire 1917.

III.4 Emancipation Movements
            Early stages of Jewish emancipation movements were simply part of the popular uprising to achieve freedom and rights for minorities. The attempt to abolish restrictions and prejudices against the Jews was closely related to the demand for constitution and equal civil rights. Jewish statesmen and intellectuals such as Heinrich Heine, Johann Jacoby, Gabriel Riesser, Berr Isaac Berr and Lionel Nathan Rothschild pursued liberty and political freedom rather than Jewish emancipation specifically. (7)

III.5 Jewish Assimilation into European Society
            As the barriers against Jews were removed, they took advantage of new freedoms and moved into new professions. Jewish assimilation on an extensive level began with the Jewish emancipation. With hopes to be assimilated better in the non-Jewish European communities, and also due to the lack of absence of a Jewish state in which they could realize their national religious identity, Jews often dissociated themselves with Orthodox Judaism. Still, despite their attempt to assimilate, Jews encountered obstacles on their career path, no legal obstacles but collective prejudice. (8) Well known assimilated Jews of this period include Karl Marx, Heinrich Heine and Benjamin Disraeli.

III.6 The Formation of Jewish Organizations
            In the face of persevering anti-Semitic incidents and failure of many states to emancipate the Jews, Jewish organizations are founded in order to push for the emancipation and protection of Jews. These organizations include The Board of Deputies of British Jews under Moses Montefiore (1760), the Central Consistory of Paris (1808) etc.

IV. The Rise of New Anti-Semitism
            Many cases of successful career opportunities of assimilated Jews as a result of Jewish emancipation soon triggered envy from those who felt threatened by their dazzling success. The removal of residence restrictions also resulted in the appearance of Jews in areas where people were not accustomed to them. (9) Economic interests also play a role, and in some areas Jewish attempts to enter new economic activities are strongly resisted. New Barriers against Jews are thrown up by nationalism. As people begin to define themselves by a shared cultural background, language and common "blood", even Jews who have converted to Christian and fully assimilated are now consider "aliens". (10) Discrimination against the Jews are no longer based on religious differences alone which differentiates anti-Semitism of this period from the ancient anti-Semitism.

IV.1 Arthur de Gobineau and Race Theories
            French diplomat, writer, ethnologist, and social thinker, Arthur de Gobineau's theory of racial determination had an enormous influence upon the subsequent development of racist theories and practices in western Europe. In his "Essay on the Inequality of Human Races" (1853-1855), he asserted the superiority of the white race over others and claimed that ancient Indo-European culture, also referred to as "Aryan" as representing the zenith of civilization. He presented the theory that the fate of civilization's racial character is diluted through miscegenation in which he regarded the 'Nordic Race' the most pure and the 'Jewish Race' the least pure. (11) Although Gobineau himself was more concerned with academic examination of social life rather than racist programs, his work had a marked effect on people as the movement called Gobinism developed. Later, racist politicians such as Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler turned to Gobinism for inspiration.

IV.2 Prominent Cases of Anti-Semitism

IV.2.1 Pogroms against Jews in Russia
            Pogrom, which means "devastation" or "riot" in the Russian language, is a mob attack either approved or condoned by authorities, against the persons and property of a religious, racial, or national minority. (12) The first pogrom followed the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. in 1881. False rumors had it that assassin was a Jew. It was true that one of the close associates of the assassin, Gesya Gelfman, was indeed a Jew but the fact that the rest of the assassins were all Christians didn't prevent the spread of anti-Semitic feelings. The pogrom which started in Elizavetgrad in April, 1881, led to destruction of thousands of Jewish homes and injury in the southwest provinces of the Empire (modern Ukraine). As a consequence of the pogrom, Alexander III. denounced revolutionaries and the Jews themselves for the riots and issued a further restrictions on Jews. The authorities did neither protect the victims nor prosecute the perpetrators. (13)
            During the next two decades following, pogroms gradually became less frequent; but form 1903 to 1906 they were prevalent throughout the country. Thereafter, to the end of the Russian monarchy, mob attack against the Jews was less widespread. The Russian central government did not organize pogroms as it is commonly believed, but the anti-Semitic policy that it carried out form 1881 to 1917 made them possible. (14) Official persecution and harassment of Jews by the government and official engagement in fostering attacks caused anti-Semitics to believe that their actions were justifiable. This led to significant Jewish emigration, mostly to the United States. Russian pogroms served as an indirect cause to the early Zionist movement.

IV.2.2 Anti-Semitic Parties in Austria (1882)
            An Austrian politician, Karl Lueger was the leader of the Christian Social Party. He appealed to the lower middle classes of Vienna by propagating his anti-Semitic platform. In the 1860es and 1870es the Austrian craftsmen, accustomed to regulated guild system experienced an increasingly volatile market in which they had great difficulties to gain a profit. (15) Occasionally craftsmen had to borrow money from moneylenders, which were most of the time Jews. As the situation is Vienna made it more and more impossible to gain support unless the political group has a anti-Semitic platform, Lueger associated Jews with the corruption as a opportunistic attempt to obtain votes. His tactics are said to have influenced Adolf Hitler.

IV.2.3 France : the Dreyfus Affair (1894-1899)

IV.2.3.1 Overview
            Son of a wealthy Jewish textile manufacturer, Alfred Dreyfus entered the Ecole Poytechnique and decided on a military career in 1882. By 1889, he had risen to the rank of captain. He was appointed to the War Ministry when, in 1894; he was accused of selling military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. He was arrested on October 15th , and on December 22th , was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on the notorious penal colony of Devil's Island, off the coast of French Guiana.
            Captain Alfred Dreyfus' conviction was based on a handwritten list (the bordereau) offering access to secret French military information. Dreyfus was suspected because of his artillery training, his Alsatian origin, and his yearly trips to his now-German home town of Mülhausen to visit his ailing father. (16) Furthermore, the writing on the bordereau resembled Dreyfus' own handwriting. Fearing the anti-Semitic press, the High Command pressed for an early trial and conviction within themselves.
            Although he denied his guilt, public opinion and the French press dominated by anti-Semitic sentiment, welcomed the sentence. In particular, the newspaper La Libre Parole, edited by Edouard Drumont, used Dreyfus to symbolize the supposed disloyalty of French Jews. (17)
            However, Lieut. Col. Georges Picquart found evidence that Maj,C.F.(Walsin-) Esterhazy was engaged in spying and that it was his handwriting found on the letter that had incriminated Dreyfus. It led to the crystallization of the whole movement for revision of Dreyfus' trials. Major Henry who participated in the conspiracy committed suicide in 1898, after confessing his forgeries. In June 1898, the trial was reopened with the presentation of exonerating evidence. Despite the evidence, he was reconvicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was subsequently pardoned by President Emile Loubet and freed, but wouldn't yet be formally exonerated.
            In 1904, a retrial was granted and in July, 1906 a civilian court of appeals cleared Dreyfus and reversed all previous convictions.

IV.2.3.2 Emile Zola and "J'Accuse."
            A novelist, Emile Zola, published a public letter to the president in "L'Aurore," under the tile "J'Accuse," It gave an overview of the Dreyfus affair; how it had happened that Dreyfus has falsely accused of a crime and asserted that the real criminal was Esterhazy. His bold action brought a considerable amount of stir. He had two purposes in mind when he wrote his article. (18) One was to provide with a succinct overview of the Dreyfus affair thereby mobilize public opinion in favor of Dreyfus, the other was to provoke authorities into prosecuting him for having written the article, so that at his trial new evidence could be produced. He succeeded in both his objectives. His first trial was tried before the jury of the Seine department, and lasted from 7th February to 23 February 1898. (19)

IV.2.3.3 The Split into Two Opposing Camps : Anti-Dreyfusards and Dreyfusards
            The Dreyfus Affair attracted a widespread public attention so that it exceeded a personal matter of the guilt or innocence of Dreyfus.
            The anti-Dreyfusards who were mostly nationalists and authoritarians, viewed the controversy as an attempt by the nation's enemies to discredit the army and saw it as a case of national security against international socialism and Jewry, of France against Germany. (20).
            The Dreyfusards were those who sought for retrial and exoneration of Dreyfus. They interpreted the controversy as the issue of individual freedom being subordinate to that of national security.
            The Dreyfus affair not only evoked a division between right-wing nationalists and anti-militarists but also an intensified anti-Semitism which led to internal disunity within the nation.

IV.2.3.4 The Dreyfus-Affair and Zionism
            Jewish-Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl who was assigned to report on the Dreyfus trials wrote "The Jewish State" (1896) and founded the World Zionist Organization, which pursued creation and support of a Jewish State. Anti-Semitic sentiment which prevailed during the Dreyfus affairs is said to have a significant influence on Herzl.

V. Zionism
            Zionism is a political ideology regarding assimilation as failed and striving for the establishment of a Jewish nation state. (21)

V.1 Formation
            The Dreyfus Affair, previously mentioned in this paper had a significant influence on the emancipated Jews. They grew suspicious and uncertain about their future security in the Europe. Among them, Theodor Herzl who was an anti-Zionist prior to the Dreyfus affair became a ardent pro-Zionist as a consequence of the affair. He believed in a Jewish state for the Jewish nation; in that way the Jews, he argued could become a people like all other peoples and anti-Semitism would cease to exist. (22) He established the World Zionist Organization as mentioned before, together with Nathan Birnbaum, planned its First Congress at Basel in 1897.

V.2 Objectives
            During the first Congress at Basel in 1897, agreements commonly known as the Basel Program was introduced. It includes
      (1) The Promotion by appropriate means of the settlements in Eretz-Israel of Jewish farmers, artisans, and manufacturers.
      (2) The organization and uniting the whole of Jewry by means of appropriate institutions, both local and international, in accordance with the laws of each country.
      (3) The strengthening and fostering of Jewish national sentiment and national consciousness
      (4) Preparatory steps toward obtaining the consent of governments, where necessary, in order to reach the goals of Zionism. (23)

V.3 World Zionist Organization
            The World Zionist Organization met every year for the first 4 years, up to the Second World War they gathered every second year. Since the war the Congress meets every four years. The World Zionist Organization initially planned to obtain permissions from the Ottoman Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid II. to allow systematic Jewish settlement in Palestine. It later pursued a strategy of building homeland as the Jewish National Fund in 1901 and the Anglo-Palestine Bank in 1903. (24).


(1)      Webster, Our Common inhumanity : anti-Semitism and history
(2)      The Anguish of the Jews : Twenty-Three Centuries of Antisemitism
(3)      Article, Court Jews, from Wikipedia
(4)      Bilski and Braun, The Power of Conversation
(5)      Ibid.
(6)      Article, Assimilated Jews, Alexander Ganse
(7)      Article, Jewish Emancipation, from Wikipedia
(8)      ibid.
(9)      Bilski and Braun, The Power of Conversation
(10)      ibid.
(11)      Beyond the Pale : Emancipation
(12)      Article, Pogrom, in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropaedia, vol.9
(13)      Article, Judaism, Alexander Ganse
(14)      Ibid.
(15)      Article, Anti-Semitism, by Alexander Ganse
(16)      Article, Dreyfus Affair, from Wikipedia
(17)      ibid.
(18)      "J'Accuse ...!" Emile Zola, Alfred Dreyfus, and the Greatest Newspaper Article in History
(19)      Article, The Public Scandal of the Dreyfus Affair, from Wikipedia
(20)      Article, Dreyfus, Alfred, from Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropedia, vol.4
(21)      Article, Zionism, by Alexander Ganse
(22)      Article, Zionism, from Wikipedia
(23)      ibid.
(24)      ibid.


Note : websites quoted below were visited in October-December 2007.
1.      Article Pogrom, in Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropedia, vol.9
2.      Article Zion, in Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropedia, vol.12
3.      Article Zionism, in Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropedia, vol.12
4.      Article Dreyfus, Alfred, in Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropedia, vol.4
5.      Article, Gobineau, Joseph-Arthur, comete, de, in Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropedia, vol.5
6.      Edited by Alain Pages; translated by Elenor Levieux, The Dreyfus Affair: ¡°J¡¯accuse¡¯ & Other Writings, Yale University, 1996
7.      Ganse, Alexander, "Zionism", World History at KMLA
8.      Ganse, Alexander, "Pogroms", World History at KMLA
9.      Ganse Alexander, "From Empire to Nation State", World History at KMLA
10.      Ganse Alexander, "Anti-Semitism", World History at KMLA
11.      Article, History of Anti-Semitism, Wikipedia
12.      Article, Anti-Semitism, Wikipedia
13.      Article, Jewish Emancipation, Wikipedia
14.      Article, Court Jews, Wikipedia
15.      Article, Pogroms, Wikipedia
16.      Article, Dreyfus Affair, Wikipedia
17.      Article, Public Scandal of the Dreyfus Affair, Wikipedia
18.      Article, Zionism, Wikipedia
19.      Our Common inhumanity : anti-Semitism and history by Richard Webster (a review of Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred by Robert S. Wistrich, Thames Methuen, 1991
20.      "J'Accuse ...!" Emile Zola, Alfred Dreyfus, and the Greatest Newspaper Article in History,

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