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Treitschke, Heinrich von°


TREITSCHKE, HEINRICH VON ° (1834–1896), German historian and politician. Treitschke was a member of the National Liberal Party and author of a popular German history of the 19th century (Deutsche Geschichte im 19. Jahrhundert, 5 vols., 1879–94). He became well known as a staunch advocate of German nationalism increasingly critical of liberalism. The Berlin historian was very vocal in various campaigns for a cultural unification and homogenization of the young German nation-state. In this context, he published an anti-liberal article in 1879 entitled "Unsere Aussichten" in the Preussische Jahrbuecher in which he justified the antisemitic movement which had emerged in Germany since 1873. Behind this, Treitschke saw "a brutal but natural reaction of German national feeling against a foreign element," and he praised the "instinct of the masses, which has perceived a grave danger," that of Jewish domination of Germany. He launched the famous slogan: "The Jews are our misfortune!"

As a result, the antisemitic agitation, which until then had been considered vulgar, especially in intellectual circles, now received the approval of one of the most illustrious thinkers in Germany at the time and acquired a warrant of respectability. Over the course of the following year, controversies about his attacks broke out among the educated bourgeoisie; participants included the historian Heinrich *Graetz, who had been personally attacked in Treitschke's article, and the historian of Rome, Theodor *Mommsen, who accused Treitschke of disturbing the public peace in Germany. Treitschke was not a "racist" in the radical sense of the word. He limited himself to demanding the rapid and complete assimilation of the Jews in the Germanic culture, yet he became more and more skeptical about the likelihood of accomplishing this objective. In the years after 1879 his political and historical writings, therefore, remained persistently antisemitic.


A. Dorpalen, Heinrich Von Treitschke (Eng., 1957); H. Liebeschütz, Das Judentum im deutschen Geschichts bild (1967). add. bibliography: U. Langer, Heinrich von Treitschke (1998); K. Krieger (ed.), Der "Berliner Antisemitismusstreit" 18791881… (2003); U. Jensen, Gebildete Doppelgänger… (2005), 197–324.

[Leon Poliakov /

Uffa Jensen (2nd ed.)]

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