‘No Jews, Dogs, or Consumptives’: Comparing Anti-Jewish Discrimination in Late-Nineteenth-Century Germany and the United States, Abstract by Richard E. Frankel
In the late nineteenth century, prominent voices warned of the danger posed by a ‘flood’ of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Political and religious figures described a mysterious conspiracy directed by international Jewish financiers aimed at world domination. Jews found themselves increasingly excluded from hotels, resorts, country clubs, and residential neighborhoods while facing limits on access to higher education and jobs. They also came under physical assault. While this might sound like the situation in Imperial Germany, it is actually a description of the United States of America. Both countries, it turns out, experienced a dramatic wave of antisemitism during the 1880s and 1890s. Most scholars, however, do not see the two cases as comparable. While some see antisemitism in the Second Reich as having prepared the ground for the Holocaust, many have come to see the anti-Jewish atmosphere in the United States during the same period as an unfortunate, though ultimately harmless expression of a broader American nativism.
This paper challenges this notion of exceptionalism through a comparative analysis of antisemitism in Germany and the United States that looks forward, not back through the lens of the Holocaust. It does so through an exploration of anti-Jewish discrimination in the late nineteenth century. Were there particular areas in which discrimination was more extensive in one country than the other? Were there forms that were unique to either Germany or America? What can such an approach tell us about the anti-Jewish environments of these countries at this time? What can we learn about the potential dangers posed by antisemitism in Germany and America? By placing these two seemingly incomparable cases side by side, we gain valuable insights into the nature and dynamics of antisemitism in two countries that would come to play central roles in the violent twentieth century.
Richard E. Frankel is an associate professor of modern German history at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His first book, Bismarck’s Shadow: The Crisis of German Leadership and the Transformation of the German Right, 1898-1945, appeared in 2005 with Berg Publishers. His research interests center on issues of nationalism, antisemitism, and political culture. He is currently at work on a global and transnational study of antisemitism with a focus on Germany and the United States from 1880-1945.
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