Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus

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VEREIN ZUR ABWEHR DES ANTISEMITISMUS (Abwehrverein , Ger. "Association for Defense against Antisemitism"). The association was founded in December 1890 in the building of the Berlin Reichstag by 12 men, including its initiator, Edmund Friedemann, a progressive lawyer, and most likely also the philanthropist Charles Hallgarten. Among the founders were also non-Jewish participants, such as the liberal politician Heinrich Rickert and the lawyer and professor of law Rudolf von Gneist, who were both among the signers of a public denunciation of antisemitism aimed against A. *Stoecker 10 years earlier. Soon after its founding, the organization published a list of 585 supporters, "Christian gentlemen of repute" (including 56 members of the Reichstag), drawn from educated Protestant and liberal circles; among the signers were the pathologist Rudolf Virchow, Theodor *Mommsen, Max Weber, and the author Gustav Freytag. Bureaus were opened in Berlin and Frankfurt and were soon followed by smaller branches in Stuttgart, Cologne, and other cities. In 1893 the Abwehrverein boasted almost 14,000 members in Germany. The association published its own periodical, the Mitteilungen aus dem Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus (1891–1933, from 1925 on called Abwehrblaetter, ed. by Ludwig *Jacobowski et. al.) as well as educational literature against antisemitism (such as the Antisemitenspiegel (1891), or the Abwehr-abc (1920)). It observed, documented, and denounced all manifestations of antisemitism and supported political parties in their fight against antisemitism, although the prospects of success were sometimes uncertain. The association was known among antisemites as "Judenschutztruppe" ("Jew protectors"). The Abwehrverein regarded the fight against antisemitism as a task of non-Jews and Jews alike. Although it was represented as a Christian organization and was mainly based on non-Jewish members, Jewish participation played an essential role in it from the beginning. Later on it was made a principle to reach equal non-Jewish and Jewish participation. After the founding of the *Central-Verein as an explicit Jewish "self-defense organization" in 1893, the two associations cultivated a relationship that was respectful but not too close. After the chairmanships of Rudolf von Gneist, Heinrich Rickert, and Theodor Barth, the Abwehrverein lost its impetus under the presidency of Georg Gothein (from 1909 to 1933). Despite efforts made in the difficult period after World War i, the association lost most of its non-Jewish members and waned into insignificance after 1930. In July 1933 the Abwehrverein dissolved itself. In 1891, just eight months after the German association was founded, an Austrian Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus was established in Vienna. Among its founders and prominent members were Theodor *Billroth, Arthur von Suttner, Hermann Nothnagel, and Johann Strauss. The Viennese Abwehrverein published a periodical called Freies Blatt from 1892 to 1897 (ed. by E.V. Zenker). Although it had around 5,000 members in 1893, it already declined in 1897. Despite the fact that both defense associations bore the same name and were liberal and inter-confessional, no cooperation was maintained between them.

add. bibliography:

I. Schorsch, Jewish Reactions to German Antisemitism (1972); B. Suchy, in: lbiyb, 28 (1983), 205–39; idem, in: lbiyb, 30 (1985), 67–103; J. Borut, in: lbiyb, 36 (1991), 59–96; E. Lindner, in: lbiyb, 37(1992), 213–36; A.T. Levenson, in: Journal of Israeli History, 15:2 (1994), 213–22; B. Hamann, in: Die Macht der Bilder (1995), 253–63; J. Kornberg, in: Central European History, 28 (1995) 153–173; idem, in: lbiyb, 41 (1996), 161–96; J. Borut, in: Aschkenas, 7 (1997) 467–94; A.T. Levenson, Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism (2004), passim.

[Henry Wasserman /

Mirjam Triendl (2nd ed.)]