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Marr, Wilhelm°

MARR, WILHELM°

MARR, WILHELM ° (1819–1904), German antisemite. Marr, the son of a famous theater personality, was of Lutheran descent; the still frequently heard assertion that he was Jewish has no basis in fact. His political career began among left wing exile circles in Switzerland, from which he was expelled in 1843. Back in his native Hamburg, he participated as an ultraleftist in the revolution of 1848. But the return of the old regime persuaded Marr to "resign from the democratic movement" and to spend the next decade trying to establish himself in North and Central America. By the time he came back to Hamburg, his political outlook had changed completely. No longer the champion of progressive causes, he used his undoubted journalistic skills to champion black slavery, condemn proletarian emancipation, and to attack Jews. In 1862, his Der Judenspiegel ("A Mirror to the Jews") made a racially based argument against Jewish equality. The pamphlet provoked slight interest and soon disappeared. Seventeen years later, however, when Germany was in the throes of economic and social turmoil, Marr returned to the so-called Jewish Question with his influential bestseller, "The Victory of Jewry over Germandom, Considered from a Non-Religious Point of View," which went through 12 editions, all in 1879. He repeated many of his arguments from 1862, but now they appeared in a world-historical context, lodged in a systematically racist framework, and were made all the more potent because of the author's insistence that Jews had been engaging in an 1,800-year worldwide conspiracy against gentiles that was about to culminate in their absolute victory. In the last edition of the book, Marr recruited members for his Antisemiten-Liga (Antisemites' League). Although his attempt to form a political organization dedicated to solving the Jewish Question failed almost immediately, Marr alerted more powerful forces in German society to the utility of antisemitism as a tool of political mobilization. Both the word and the movement entered German and then European political culture at this time, never again to leave it. The irascible Wilhelm Marr, on the other hand, already 60 years old, was soon cast aside by antisemites of the younger generation. He died in obscure poverty in 1904.

bibliography:

P.W. Massing, Rehearsal for Destruction (1949), 6–10, 211–212; M. Zimmermann, Wilhelm Marr: The Patriarch of Anti-Semitism (1986); R.S. Levy, Antisemitism in the Modern World: An Anthology of Texts (1991), 74–93.

[Richard S. Levy (2nd ed.)]

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