Conservative Party, German

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CONSERVATIVE PARTY, GERMAN

CONSERVATIVE PARTY, GERMAN (Deutsche Konservative Partei ), party formed in 1848 for defending the economical and political interests of the Prussian Junkers. In 1866 the Free Conservative Party split off, which led to its reorganization in 1876. The newspaper Kreuzzeitung published the party's views for many years. The Conservatives, who stood for the old feudal ideal in Prussian society in opposition to the liberal, democratic, and social political theorists, affirmed their belief in the romantic vision of a state based on the virtues of monarchy, hierarchy, and, above all, military might. They also made "positive Christianity" basic to their platform. At first a loosely knit organization which had enormous influence at court, the Conservative Party did not adopt an antisemitic program until 1892. After Bismarck's retirement, however, the party constituted the opposition and the anti-parliamentarian groups within the Conservatives, particularly the Kreuzzeitung group with Adolf *Stoecker and Wilhelm von Hammerstein, joined hands to eliminate "Jewish influence." On the eve of the 1893 elections, the party called its first public conference at Berlin's Tivoli Hall (December 1892) and moved to demagogic antisemitism. The first paragraph of the new Tivoli party program stated: "We combat the obtrusive and debilitating Jewish influence on our popular life… We demand a Christian authority for the Christian people and Christian teachers for Christian pupils." Thus, at Tivoli, antisemitism moved up the social ladder and became respectable. It also proved to be a powerful attractor of votes, as the elections resulted in a joint victory for the Conservative and antisemitic parties, the antisemitic candidates winning 262,000 votes (2.9% of the total), and 16 seats in the German parliament. During World War i they worked against political and social reform, which led to their dissolution at the end of the war after the breakdown of the German state in November 1918.

bibliography:

P.W. Massing, Rehearsal for Destruction… (1949), 64–66; P.G.J. Pulzer, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria (1964), 118–26; K.S. Pinson, Modern Germany… (1954), 165–8. add. bibliography: J.N. Retallak, Notables of the Right – The Conservative Party and Political Mobilization in Germany 1876–1918 (1988); J.N. Retallak, "Antisemitism, Conservative Propaganda and Regional Politics in late Nineteenth Century Germany," in: German Studies, 11 (1988), 3, 377–403; G. Eley, Reshaping the German Right – Radical Nationalism and Political Change after Bismarck (1980).

[Bjoern Siegel (2nd ed.)]