The Lueger effect in fin-de-siècle Catholic Poland: the Imaginary Jew, the Viennese Christian Socials, and the rise of Catholic anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe

[This article is part of the  Open Peer Review-Publication series “Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitism in International Perspective”]

von Grzegorz Krzywiec

Introduction: anti-Semitism as social and cultural phenomena in fin-de-siècle Poland

Anti-Semitism as a socially and culturally acceptable project in the Polish lands was born during the 1880s and its main founder was Jan Jeleński (1845-1909), a journalist, political writer, and the editor of the die-hard conservative weekly “Soil” (Rola). The “old-new” resentments which immediately appeared on its columns stemmed from the former landowning elites which felt in many cases overshadowed or even “eclipsed’ by “new men”, most often Jews and Poles of Jewish origins[1].

was established in 1883 in Warsaw in Russian Poland, i.e., the part of Polish lands which fell to the Tsarist Empire. Following the Christmas Pogrom (1883), Rola consistently called for the political, social, and above all economic division of Jews from Christian Poles[2]. For this “holy” purpose the paper intended to mobilize what contributors called the “silent majority” –namely, the Christian community defined in opposition to Jewry. However, the ultimate goal for the editor and his team was what became a recognizable feature of the program spread in Rola: an unconditional alliance between all layers of society with the Catholic Church hierarchy at the very top. The weekly at once set about developing its growing network of contributors and correspondents in all Polish lands.

And as a matter of fact, this popular weekly presented Catholicism as a sort of greater good permeating all levels of human activity. The most apparent manifestation of this idea was the constant emphasis on the reconstruction of Catholic morality in society, along with the assertion that the Catholic clergy played, and should play a crucial part in the fight to the death struggle against “foreign elements”. This extreme conservatism closely intermingled with social Darwinism and popular xenophobia and characterized the language of the group from the very beginning.

It was not by accident that the group which evoked the strongest “anti-modernist sentiments” was modern Jewry, which appeared as a result of late 19th-century emancipation. In the columns of Rola the Jews were the most easily recognizable symbol of foreign values, standing in opposition to every aspect of the traditional model of Christian life. Jews became a metaphor of modernity with all its disastrous consequences.

(soilers), as they usually called themselves, were convinced of the crisis of modernity and the inevitable demise of the “materialistic and godless world”. This conviction was accompanied by a profound belief in the imminent moral rebirth of the national Christian community. If one tries to sum up the entire program of Rola with a single phrase, it would have to be the notion of the “organic” development of a “spirit of solidarity” in Christian society[3]. Rola and Jeleński himself often addressed the proverbial “ordinary man”, implying that they cared about the fate of every Catholic Pole as a member of the national community defined by religion. And indeed, the weekly drew enormous attention from the lower Catholic clergy in the mid of 1880s and was treated as a social and cultural public forum by said clergy and many contemporary observers[4].

This old/new, hostile approach to the Jews was built on the “traditional” and “anti-Judaic” premises of economics and religion, but also on the more modern foundations of “anti-emancipation” and propaganda machinery. Rola constantly relied on the authority of the Church, pointing out its anti-Judaic legislation and rooting its political and social message in the Catholic social teaching of the period.[5] Initially, what many critics witnessed was a tremendous flood of a new, aggressive language, one that was vitriolic and contained meticulously fabricated invectives against the Jews and Judaism as such. The late 19th-century Polish anti-Semitic vocabulary was built around such categorizations as Judaization (zażydzenie), “filthy insects (plugawe robactwo), “weeds” (chwasty), “Jewish plague” (plaga żydowska”), “enslavement by Jews” (niewola żydowska)and many others– all of which were endlessly reproduced in the columns of Rola whenever the paper dealt with the Jews and the Jewish question.[6]

The weekly devoted particular attention to the presentation of a plethora of its supposedly great ideological predecessors in the Church Fathers, nonetheless starting with Thomas Aquinasin the first place.[7] However, the most-often quoted authors during the first period of Rola’s activity were actually infamous anti-Semites of the time, like the German philosopher and political economist Eugen Dühring and the French journalist Edmond Drumont. Interestingly enough, the weekly made some attempts to publish Drumont’s most ominous book (La France Juive) in Polish, and then proceeded to do the same with many other Catholic extreme conservative writers such as the French papist Louis Vouillon, the Lithuanian priest JustinasPranajtis (later on a regular contributor to the weekly), and first and foremost August Rohling, a professor of theology at Prague University.[8]

The regular readershipof Rola in the last two decades of the 19th century, specifically, between 1886 and 1905, was estimated at 2,500-3,000, which put the magazine in the middle of the opinion weeklies. However, in the mid-80s Antoni Zaleski (a conservative, influential, and well-informed journalist of the Warsaw press, albeit rather hostile towards Rola and Jeleński personally claimed that: >>the antisemitic movement today is popular in all places, and particularly here has caused this mediocre periodical to gather an impressive number of subscribers<<.[9] In other places he frequently stated that Jeleński hated the Jews more than they actually deserved. [10]

’s most sophisticated ideologue was the writer, dramatist, and cultural journalist Teodor Jeske-Choiński (1854-1920). To some extent, Jeske-Choiński seemed to be a son of his age: an ex-progressivist who turned to die-hard conservatism. However, his religious and in a way ‘spiritual’ anti-Semitism rapidly intermingled with a racist attitude that was aimed not so much against the Jews as money-lenders and innkeepers or peddlers, as was usual for his colleagues from Rola. For him, the Jew remained above all a symbol for the modern age with all its horrors and distortions, such as “Manchesterian” capitalism, bourgeois mentality, materialistic atheism, and socialism, too[11]. The numerous publications of Jeske-Choiński indeed covered a broad range of subjects, including decadent literature and various form of art and popular culture – but also ritual murder, the psychology and failure of the French Revolution, emancipation of women, ‘sexualism’ in Polish culture, and brand new racial theories. As a matter of fact, he provided the most elaborate description of the process of developing from “an era of materialist decline” to an “era of Christian morality”. His works offered not only key Polish anti-Semitic tropes, but also the most comprehensive rationalization and justification of anti-Semitism as national self-defense[12]. The only source of regeneration, according to Jeske-Choiński, was to stop the disintegration of the modern world by embracing true, militant Catholicism. Jeske-Choiński’s works failed to find a broad popularity and even readership, but in the aftermath of the 1905 Revolution his works (both literally and critical ones), achieved great, even enormous popularity in Catholic public opinion.

Quite interestingly, neither the Catholic hierarchy nor the official Catholic journals of the time devoted much space to the Jewish question during those years. The official Church representatives found themselves in a highly uncomfortable and embarrassing situation with this new tendency. In fact, although, the Church authorities shared most of Jeleński’s and Jeske–Choinski’s visions of the Jewish question, at that time they were far more scared of the disorder and chaos part and parcel to 19th-century modernization.[13]

It need not therefore come as a surprise that conservative Catholic Church officials wound up supporting the status quo over all such new tendencies and novelties. On the one hand, nearly all articles about the Jews in the Catholic press were generally straightforward reports, occasionally manifesting slight or stronger Judeophobia, but never anything akin to the rabble-rousing xenophobia of Rola and smaller such undertakings. Moreover, the Catholic Church’s crucial role during the January Insurrection of 1863 made the institution one of the main targets of subsequent Tsarist retribution. The repressions of the post-January era not only diminished the social position of the Church both in the Polish Kingdom and in all Polish lands, but actually had a crippling effect on various of the Church’s social practices: e.g., it generated a vacuum among Catholic leadership and produced an overwhelming feeling of instability among both the hierarchy and laity. Together this created a climate of paralyzing conformity and everyday conservatism that overwhelmed the Church in this part of Poland.[14]

On the other hand, the weekly did compete successfully for Catholic readers, specifically those hailing from the lower clergy of the provinces, along with, paradoxically, Catholic intellectuals of diverse tendencies.[15] While at the very beginning the paper’s distribution and influence remained limited, the emergence of openly anti-Semitic motifs into the world of late 19th-century Polish journalism set a significant, if not centralpoint for future relations between Poles and Jews, and (in the much longer perspective) for whole of Polish social Catholicism. Under the conditions of martial law in Russian Poland in the second half of the 19th century (precisely speaking, from the January 1863 insurrection on), journalism remained the only way of spreading the new ideological propaganda.

The Lueger effect: Western Galicia as a laboratory for the popular Catholic anti-Semitic movement in Polish lands.

The Jewish communities under the Habsburg Empire, especially in the western half of the Monarchy, were comprised mostly of German Jews, while the Jews of the eastern part, mainly in Galicia and Bukovina, formed an integral part of Eastern European Jewry (Ostjuden). Within Habsburg Austria, the Jews lived in several provinces, particularly in Polish and Ukrainian-speaking Galicia and Bukovina in the far East. In Czech lands they lived in German-speaking Bohemia and Moravia, German-, Czech-, and Polish-speaking Silesia, and in the end in Vienna itself. In every province, the Jewish community was highly varied: e.g., in Galicia, Orthodox, even ultra-Orthodox, and Yiddish-speaking communities lived alongside modern and secular Jews, ones which had assimilated into Polish or German cultural communities.

Whereas in Germany and in Western Europe Jews sought to join the given national culture, in Habsburg Austria they asserted a type of a national identity which was not shared by many others. Even more acculturated Austrian Jews, either because of the weakness of liberalism or the stronger influence of local popular anti-Semitism, found themselves asserting their Jewish identity more vigorously than the Jews in Germany or any other Western European country. In contrast to Germany then, Judaism in the Habsburg Monarchy remained modern in style, but much more traditional and self-confident in content. In the Monarchy, especially in the Austrian part, one could easily deem oneself an Austrian, and at the same time remain a Jew. This multifarious Jewish experience under the Habsburg Empire widely contributed to a renewal of “chimerical”, imaginary Jews[16].

Therefore, the achievement of legal equality under the constitution of 1867, which resulted in a great influx of Jews from Galicia and Bohemia (e.g., 6,000 Jewish legal residents from among Vienna’s population of 500,000 in 1857, to 145,000 among Vienna 1,674,000 inhabitants in 1900), a kind of success story, became a pretext for enormous anger and frustration between various Christian middle classes. Many artisans and white collar workers who were excluded by the suffrage law felt an everyday challenge from Jewish and foreign competition and thus treated the visible, public presence of the Jews with increasing suspicion.

It was in the mid-70sthat the new image of the Jews as the main victors of the revolution 1848 emerged with a great vehemence. The driving factor behind this lay with the hated German- “Jewish” Liberals and liberalism as such, which mixed as well with the “vicious and godless” leadership of “Jewified” Social Democracy and the corrupted “Jewish” capitalists in charge of the 1873 stock crash, and thereby lent a powerful political weapon. To some extent one could point out that Karl Lueger, a popular lawyer, brilliant speaker, and first of all a gifted politician from Vienna, simply picked up what was on the table in the late 1880s.[17]

Thus, for many Catholics from Eastern Europe, a role model for the revitalization of the Catholic public scene came neither from Germany, nor any other European country, but from Habsburg Austria and from Vienna in particular. Teodor Jeske-Choiński, while staying in the capital of Austria-Hungary in the early 1880s, wrote in a letter to a friend: >>Here in Vienna work is abundant. I am collecting material for new works on literary history that are unattainable in Warsaw. I am planning to conduct the main attack on liberals, Jews, and positivists, but I require scientific facts for this purpose<<[18]. And indeed, nearly every Catholic and conservative journal in the Polish lands tracked what was happening in Vienna, at least from the late 1880s.Rola had its own Vienna correspondents from the very beginning, and Jeske-Choiński personally traveled to Vienna, where he had studied law, frequently.

Karl Lueger was not, of course, the first to discover how flexible an explanatory tool was anti-Semitism on the social and political level. Buthe was in fact the one who redefined political Catholicism as the handmaiden of aristocratic oppression and as a mental product of the lower bourgeois  and allowed it to return as the fully-fledged ideology of Catholic middle classes for whom liberalism mean capitalism and capitalism meant Jews. Jews as a metaphor for “untrue” and even “false” modernity was repeated in this discourse continuously: loving money and breaking down Christian order and national identities, dominating the press and spreading socialism, and propagating various types of sexual abnormality and prostitution. We ought to bear in mind that, at its founding, the new Christian Social party was opposed by the Austrian episcopate, not least because of its vulgar, rabble-rousing anti-Semitism. In 1895 however, Pope Leo XIII, with the great assistance of his state secretary Cardinal Mariano Rampola, rejected protests from the conservative Austrian hierarchy, giving the party Vatican approval. As many rumors had it, the pope, the great reformer of Catholic social doctrine, had a portrait of Lueger at his desk[19]. And obviously, the Catholic world did not reject modernity altogether. It refuted with vehemence only a “false” modernity, “the values of 1789”, as Lueger once said during a street meeting[20]. It would not be such an exaggeration to claim that the discourse of “deceitful” modernity was one of the defining feature of fin-de-siècle Catholicism, in the Polish lands, as well.

For many such reasons the victory of Karl Lueger inthe elections to Vienna’s Rathaus in 1895 was followed all over Catholic Europe and had an immediate and enormous effect both on Habsburg opinion and, what is far more interesting, abroad[21]. Particularly in Habsburg Western Galicia, Lueger served as a bearer of hope – and this all culminated in the call for a local anti-Semitic movement[22]. In the late 1880s Galicia’s usually conservative-oriented Catholics radically changed their attitude towards politics and social life. They struggled to find a new Catholic way into modern times and to present their goals to believers by new methods.

Established in 1893, the Voice of the Nation (Głos Narodu), as an unofficial organ of the Cracovian Archbishop with a circulation of 5,000 copies, and the anti-Jewish slogans (such as buy only from Christians” and “stick to your own for all you own) became the biggest daily in Kraków. In the following years, many other weeklies and monthly newspapers appeared, often functioning as press organs of the numerous newly-founded Catholic, Catholic-national, and “Christian Social” associations. They attempted to convince readers of Christian social doctrine and to “protect” them from the influence of “Jewified” social democracy. In most cases they were established and directed by Jesuits and new Catholic intellectuals.

In 1895 the weekly addressed Catholic workers “Thunder” (Grzmot) was founded in Lemberg (Lwów/Lviv), the Galician city where the second Catholic assembly had taken place. Nearly a year later the paper moved to Kraków and its circulation tripled, reaching the peak of ca. 1,500 copies.[23]That same year there appeared another bi-weekly:“Truth” (Prawda), which defined itself as a “newspaper for religious, national, political, economic, and amusing matters”. Its message was directed to villages and provincial towns and its content was almost completely packed with anti-Semitic propaganda. It was published by the later bishop Jan Puzyna and edited exclusively by local priests. As historian Tim Buchen put it: >>When we consider these newspapers, the appropriation of the Viennese Christian-Social movement in different shades becomes apparent as a common pattern<<.[24]

However, in Kraków and in Habsburg Galicia by and large, this new clerical camp disposed neither of people nor organizations which could embody the Catholic breakthrough into mass politics. Therefore, as Buchen put it, both Cracovian and Lvovian Christian-Socials directed their view across the Galician borders toward Vienna. One could quote those speeches, but they exhibited little or no charisma and thus failed to move the masses. Lueger was referred to in these Galician Catholic newspapers as he seemed to be one of them[25].

As a successful fighter against the rule of liberalism and capitalism and for the rights of the God-fearing Christian masses, the local Christian Socials aimed to use some of his “reflected glory” in winning success “on the street.” Here the Jews functioned as a code name for liberalism, socialism, capitalism, and the betrayal of rights, the sensations and needs of the Catholic man in the street. Within just a few months, all organs went through an “anti-Semitic turn”. Since the beginning of their existence these newspapers and organizations had clearly been anti-Jewish. They characterized Jews above all by using jokes and mixed announcements, presenting them as swindlers and shameless blasphemers. In 1895,1896, and 1897 the “Jewish issue” appeared more and more often in articles and announcements and set the tone for the papers’ and organizations’ political rhetoric. The Jews were mentioned no longer as individuals or connected to concrete events, but rather as the embodiment of all “modern” threats.

The unanimity and determination of the Viennese Christian Socials and Lueger personally against the Jews seemed to be a model for the undifferentiated Western Galicians who were not able to oppose the immense menace posed by “Jewish power”. Specifically, the Cracovian Catholic camp did subsequently take over “the pattern” of the Viennese Christian-Socials even more clearly. Around the Catholic activist and editor in chief of Głos Narodu, Kazimierz Ehrenberg (1870-1932), the Christian-social community (Stowarzyszenie Chrześcijańsko-Społeczne) was erected, in obvious resemblance to the Viennese Christlicher Sozialverein. Two months later, the community united with the Association of Antisemites (Związek Antysemitów) which had also been founded in Kraków after the elections (1897).[26]

Nonetheless, the new political camp lacked an integrating and charismatic figure, a party bureaucracy, and first and the foremost even latent and indirect support from the hierarchy. In the end, the Viennese context could not be encapsulated and easily grafted to the former capital of Polish Kings and the alliance devised seemed to be only a one-sided dream. Looking to Vienna brought no success story at home – not, at least, at the political level.[27]

All the same, after years of heated debate this “new-old” tendency gained its own ideologue among Polish Catholic opinion. Father Marian Morawski (1845-1901) was a professor of theology at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and first and the foremost the editor of the influential Jesuit monthly Universal Review (‘Przegląd Powszechny’), one of the most relevant journals of opinion amongst Polish Catholics and clergy. Father Morawski was actually not a Church specialist on the Jewish issue, and therefore his journal seemed to be even more emblematic to the debate. In an article published in February 1896 Morawski stood out from both liberal “philosemitism” and anti-Christian “pagan” anti-Semitism, proposing instead ‘a-semitism’.[28] Taking examples directly from Vienna and viewing Jews as the enemies of all Christianity and the Polish nation, he claimed to avoid any contact with them for the reason that their influence was and ever would be inherently harmful. Morawski understood his program of “separatism’” as an enforced policy of social, economic, and cultural segregation Poles from Jews: e. g., he provided at the same time a detailed explanation on why Polish youth and Polish women should be strictly isolated from the everyday presence of Jewry.

One contemporary reader of this programmatic manifesto, the Ukrainian progressive journalist and regular contributor to many Polish journals Ivan Franko (1858-1916), not himself free from anti-Semitic clichés, noted: >>The most appropriate conclusion of Father Morawski arguments is [… ] that Jews should go to Hell<<[29].

At the very end of the 19thcentury this Christian social “self-defense” program as formulated by Father Morawski gained significant interest in anti-Semitic circles. The concept of “a-Semitism” which, in theory, rejected anti-Semitism in order to become an effective strategy for countering Jewish solidarity with solidarity between Christians. The essence of this program was the demand to strictly isolate Jews from the Christian world, both professionally and in private life. Reprints of Father Morawski’s publication were widely published in the former Kingdom of Poland and abroad (e.g., in Czech lands they contributed to the popularization of his views). For Jan Jeleński’s followers, who fully supported Morawski’s claims, this was yet further and final proof of the correctness of their proclaimed policy of “self-defense against Jewish moral and material terrorism”[30].

Moreover, the article was enthusiastically received and commented on among conservative, especially Catholic circles. “Polish Soil” (Niwa Polska), another Varsovian radical conservative weekly, reestablished in 1895 for the sake of the “Christian order”, reprinted Morawski’s credo. Many other conservative opinion-making journals, such as the daily Century (Wiek), the Varsovian Gazette (Gazeta Warszawska), and the weekly Pilgrim (Wędrowiec) under the editorship of Antoni Skrzynecki (e.g., the author of the most famous fin-de-siècle Polish anti-Semitic novel “Seek out the jew. A picture from life” (Szukając żyda. Obrazek z życia, 1899) took the name ‘a-semitic’ as their own. Other Catholic journals such as the official Catholic Review (Przegląd Katolicki) appraised the program as a way to achieve a compromise with the Church’s traditional social teaching with new tendencies[31].

‘A-semitism’ became a well-known catchphrase for nearly all Catholic movements, and not only in Galicia, but throughout the Polish lands: e.g., in western Galicia like the Catholic National Party (Stronnictwo Narodowo-Katolickie) of the Jesuit priest Stanisław Stojałowski, the Peasant Union (Związek Chłopski) of brothers Jan and Stanisław Potoczek, and multifarious forms of endemic Christian socialism in cities like Lwów (Lviv) and Kraków, but in Congress Poland under Tsarist rule, as well. One of the most vicious anti-Semitic weeklies (under the slogan “the only Polish and Catholic paper against the Jews”) in Prussian Poland was “Progress” (Postęp), founded in 1890 by the journalist and local “Christian” businessman, Stanisław Knapowski, which tried to present itself both as “anti-Semitic” and “a-Semitic”, depending on relevant circumstances.

Concerning the vicious attacks on Jews in western Galician villages in 1898, they were cheered on by crowds with the local Catholic priests’ support. In that year the brochure entitled “Jewish secrets” (Tajemnice żydowskie, published as well under title “Our friends (Nasi przyjaciele” and later on “About Jews”/O żydach), fabricated by Father Mateusz Jeż (1862-1949), a Jesuit priest, regular contributor to Prawda (Tajemnice żydowskie were first serialized in Prawda in 1897 and early 1898), was widely spread among the Catholic population[32]. It contained e.g., August Rohling’s accusation that Jews call Christians animals, mainly apes, and still practice ritual murder. With this “knowledge” in mind, along with the confrontations between “Christian” readers and the Jews described in letters to the editors of many Catholic journals, it might seem that ‘a-Semitism’ was regarded as a natural and organic part of Catholic identity.

As a matter of fact, within the last decade of the 19thcentury, the nature of Catholic hostile neutrality towards aggressive anti-Jewish demagoguery had undergone a significant change in the all Polish lands. The marginal tendency of the determined groups increasingly came to dominate throughout the whole of Catholic opinion in the Polish lands. This Catholic revival of late 90s in Galicia strictly related to 1897 electoral mobilization and conflated with economic tensions between Poles and Jews – the impoverished peasantry depended on Jewish middlemen ignited by priest Stojałowski alone, the official ally of the Viennese Christian Socials in the Austrian parliament[33]–exploded into a wave of physical violence against Jews across much of western Galicia in 1898.[34] In other Polish lands this new toxic message was waiting to be picked up.

A hot debate in Warsaw’s conservative and Catholic press about the successes of Karl Lueger in Vienna left no doubts that anti-Semitism had taken deep roots among the Catholic public and opened a discursive window for the absorption of other such clichés. But politically speaking, all those Catholic anti-Semites–both in the province of the Habsburg Empire and in Russian Poland not mentioning Prussian Poland– remained on the fringe of mass politics.

Quite interestingly, Karl Lueger dropped into Galicia fora short visit only once, on July 14, 1896 on the way to Romania, and quite by chance, as one can reconstruct. Nevertheless, he was welcomed by the Galician Christian Socials and the Polish anti-Semitic press from Congress Poland similarly as during the aftermath of his infamous Goerth speech[35] as a heroic warrior for Christ, battling the materialistic influence of the Jews, sent by God to lead the whole “Christian world” to greatness

Epilogue: the 1905 Revolution and the anti-Semitic turn in Catholic Poland

The Revolution of 1905 marked a clear watershed in Polish politics, not least of which regarding the relations between Poles and Jews in the Russian Empire, and then throughout Polish lands generally. At the very outset in 1905, Poles and Jews struggled side by side against Russian authoritarianism. But when violence and anarchy grew in late 1905, and perhaps even more in early 1906 when Tsarist repressions lashed out at revolutionaries, the desire among the Christian public to find scapegoats elsewhere grew even more intense. The imagination of the conservative section of Catholic society was then, for the very first time on that scale, attacked so deeply by the ominous spectre of revolt seen as the result of a socialist-Jewish plot.

This was the time when Jan Jeleński, an infamous “godfather of Polish anti-Semitism”, briskly opposed the revolutionary events of 1905 blaming the Jews for causing social unrest. At this time he felt the wind in his sails. He set up the Popular Daily (Dziennik Powszechny) and tried to spread such popular catchphrases as “ Do not buy at Jewish shops” (Nie kupuj u żyda) and “Beware of the Jew” (Strzeż się Żyda) with his nationwide political message. It became very obvious that the formation of a new Catholic political culture would be accompanied by a rapid revitalization of enmity towards the Jewish population. Even though the Catholic Church did not turn officially anti-Semitic at that time, its basic ambiguity certainly abounded over the place of Jews, and in time it reduced the whole Jewish question to a social problem.

From 1905 onwards, Catholic opinion began dealing uncompromisingly with the Jews. Moreover, the picture of the Jew as the enemy of Christian civilization became,from1905, a permanent element of the writings of Catholic publicists11. .Several conditions stood out as potential harbingers of success for these anti-Semitic drives among the Catholic public. The Church as a whole for the very first time faced a deep crisis from the new mass politics and many new religious rivalries[36]. Priests and local clergy sought to retain their flocks with chic politics, and anti-Semitism recommended itself from high on as a suitable, actually handy ersatz. Jeske-Choiński’ best known works of the period (such as Know the Jew/ Poznaj Żyda) lay on many of the country’s tables beside the catechism and the new Catholic dailies (such as Dziennik Powszechny, and Pole-Catholic), carrying a message sandwiched between regional, practical, and national information: anti-socialist, anxiety-mongering on Jewish financial and press power, adding the Jewish unbelievers to Christ’s Killers. Since 1905 Jeske-Choiński enjoyed a free entry at almost every Catholic journal in the Polish lands.

By the autumn of 1905, when the revolution approached its peak, the very first wave of accusations of “foreign elements” foisting on innocent Polish and Christian opinion was being widely aired in nearly all Catholic dailies. In all those articles, that ‘foreign and hostile’ element was in most cases identified strictly with the Jews. In this respect, as the wave of violence and anarchy grew in late 1905 and the repressions of the government lashed out revolutionaries, the visions of the ‘imaginary Jew’ became more than necessary in Catholic opinion.

But then a new competitor appeared on the Catholic and conservative scene. In this regard the vision of a disciplined society governed by a “national organization” defined by Roman Dmowski, the new nationalist leader, might have appeared therefore on the one hand as an authentic barrier against the chaos of revolution, on the other as the only way to preserve Polish national identity. In contrast to Jeleński and other Catholic anti-Semites, the National Democrats (called Endeks), the new nationalist movement, had at their disposal not only a centralized media, but a mass party organization,as well. Within the early months of 1906 that nationalist machine would spread over near the whole country and win a comprehensive victory in Congress Poland’s first elections to the Russian State Duma. Eventually, the decline of the 1905 Revolution was the first such significant victory of nationalist anti-Semitism over political Catholicism and Catholic anti-Semites such as Jeleński or Father Ignacy Kłopotowski, a founder of the Catholic media concern (among others the popular daily “Pole-Catholic” (Polak-Katolik) and Posiew). Therefore this new political Catholicism and a “new Luegeris m on the Vistula River” as Jeleński himself claimed frequently on the columns of his papers, had failed to provide the unifying element for a successful popular movement, and merely compounded the already serious divisions within it over the other clerical “issues”. Anti-Semitism also could propose a unifying symbol for many Polish Catholics, at a time of declining religiosity and rising strife with dissident movements (e.g., Mariavite), but it did not sort the other problems out. Therefore, the significance of anti-Semitism among Catholic opinion was not so much that of a coherent political program or mass party like in Vienna, but rather as an expression of disorientation caused by fundamental changes in politics, the economy, society, and last but not least the lonely position of the Church in society at the time.

On that basis the Catholic political party Catholic Union (Związek Katolicki) established in 1907with Jan Jeleński and Teodore Jeske-Choiński on the top, utterly failed to keep the Catholic bourgeois, workers, clergy, and workers under one roof. The old-new hatred did not bridge the cracks between these groups and organizations and political Catholicism in its Polish version remained marginal on the political scene apart from the enormous Catholic contribution to the general anti-Semitism in Poland during the period.


[1]See above all Maciej MOSZYŃSKI, “A quarter of a century of struggle” of the Rola Weekly. “The great alliance” against the Jews.”, in: eds. Werner BERGMANN, Ulrich WYRWA, “The Making of Antisemitism as a Political Movement. Political History as Cultural History (1879-1914)”, Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History. Journal of Fondazione CDEC, no.3, July 2012 url:; Michał ŚLIWA, „Rolarski” antysemityzm Jana Jeleńskiego, in: Ibidem, Obcy czy swoi? Z dziejów poglądów na kwestię żydowską w Polsce w XIX i XX wieku, Kraków 1997; Theodore WEEKS, From Assimilation to Antisemitism. The Jewish Question in Poland, 1850-1914, DeKalb 2006, p. 89-99; Małgorzata DOMAGALSKA, Zatrute ziarno. Proza antysemicka na łamach „Roli” (1883-1912), Warszawa 2015, p.19-45.

[2] See. Jerzy JEDLICKI,  A suburb of Europe: nineteenth-century Polish approaches to Western civilization, Budapest, Plymouth 1999, p.276.

[3] MOSZYŃSKI, “A quarter of a century of  struggle”

[4] Ibid.

[5] Agnieszka FRIEDRICH., Talmud i “talmudyzm” w ujęciu „Roli”, in: Studia Judaica, no.2, 2013, p. 145-169.

[6] On the unique rhetoric of Rola see, Małgorzata DOMAGALSKA, Zatrute ziarno. Proza antysemicka na łamach „Roli” (1883-1912), Warszawa 2015, p.19-45.

[7] See Hyppolite GAYRAUD, Antysemityzm Św. Tomasza z Akwinu, Warszawa 1903.

[8] Nevertheless, all the afore-mentioned authors were serialized on the columns of Rola see, FRIEDRICH, The Impact of German Anti-Semitism on the Polish Weekly Periodical Rola in: (Hrsg.) Michael NAGEL, Moshe ZIMERMANN, Judenfeindschaft und Antisemitismus in der deutschen Presse über fünf Jahrhunderte: Erscheinungsformen, Rezeption, Debatte und Gegenwehr. Five hundred years of Jew-Hatred and Anti-Semitism in the German Press: Manifestations and Reactions, Band 5, Bremen 2013.

[9] [Antoni ZALESKI] Baronowa XYZ, Towarzystwo warszawskie. Listy do przyjaciółki, , Warszawa  1971, p. 381. On Zaleski as a political columnist and commentator see WEEKS, A City of Three Nations: Fin-de-Siècle Warsaw, „The Polish Review”, vol. XLIV, no.2004, p.753-755.

[10] [ZALESKI] Baronowa XYZ, p.381-382.
[11] Theodore R. WEEKS, The “International Jewish Conspiracy” Reaches Poland: Teodor Jeske-Choiński and His Works, “East European Quarterly”, march 1997, vol. 31 Issue 1, p.21.
[12] WEEKS, The „International Jewish Conspiracy”, p.37.

[13] On discussion on Rola within the Catholic circles, see WEEKS, From Assimilation to Antisemitism, p. 92-93; Brian PORTER-SZÜCS, Faith and Fatherland. Catholicism, Modernity and Poland, New York 2011, p.279-280. On the particular case of the official organ of Warsaw’s Archbishop see, LEWALSKI, Problem antysemityzmu na łamach „Przeglądu Katolickiego” w latach 1863-1914, in: „Nasza Przeszłość”. Studia z dziejów Kościoła z kultury katolickiego w Polsce”, vol. 84, 1995, p.186-191.

[14]On social and cultural position of Catholic Church in Congress Poland see, Krzysztof LEWALSKI, Kościół katolicki a władze carskie w Królestwie Polskim na przełomie XIX i XX wieku, Gdańsk 2008. Ilona ZALESKA, Kościół a Narodowa Demokracja w Królestwie Polskim do wybuchu I wojny światowej, Warszawa 2014, p. 41-50.

[15] According to apologetic to Jeleński but nevertheless still usually truthful account of his collaborators with Rola at various periods cooperated crucial Catholic intellectual of fin-de-siècle Poland see, Ćwierćwiecze walki. Księga pamiątkowa „Roli”, Warszawa 1910, p.192-194.

[16] Gavin I. LANGMUIR, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism, Berkeley 1990, p.341.

[17] On Lueger see Richard S. GEEHR, Karl Lueger, Mayor of Fin de siècle Vienna, Detroit 1990; Peter PULZER, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany & Austria, in particular chap. „Lueger and the Catholic Revival”, p.156-170; John W. BOYER, Karl Lueger (1844-1910). Christlichsoziale Politik als Beruf, übersetzt Otmar BINDER, Wien Köln-Weimar 2010; Robert WISTRICH, “Karl Lueger and Catholic Judeophobia in Austria”, in: idem, Laboratory for World Destruction. Germans and Jews in Central Europe, Jerusalem 2007, p.324-351.

[18]Korespondencja redakcyjna Walerego Przyborowskiego, Biblioteka Ossolineum (Rps Ossol. 13602/I), p.156 Quotes from MOSZYŃSKI “A quarter of a century of struggle”.

[19] On fin-de-siècle public image of Lueger as a politician and anti-Semite, see Ulrich WYRWA, The Image of Antisemites in German and Austrian Caricatures, in: The Making of Antisemitism as a Political Movement. Political History as Cultural History (1879-1914) , eds. Werner BERGMANN, Ulrich WYRWA, Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History. Journal of Fondazione CDEC, n.3 July 2012 url:

[20] BOYER, Karl Lueger (1844-1910), p. 298.

[21] See Vicki CARON, Catholic Political Mobilization and Antisemitic Violence in Fin-de Siècle France: The Case of the Union Nationale, in: “The Journal of Modern History, vol.81, no.2, june 2009, p.294-296; Derek HASTINGS, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism. Religious Identity and National Socialism, Oxford 2010, p. 24-25; Michal FRANKL, Can We, the Czech Catholics, Be Antisemites? Antisemitism at the Dawn of the Czech Christian-Social Movement, in: “Judaica Bohemiae”, vol. 33, 1998, p.54-55; idem, “Emancipace od židů”. Česky antisemitismus na konci 19 století, Praha-Litomyšl 2007, p.111-150.

[22]First of all, see Tim BUCHEN, “Learning from Vienna Means Learning to Win”: the Cracovian Christian Socials and the ”Antisemitic Turn’ of 1896, in: “Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History. Journal of Fondazione CDEC”, n.3, July 2012url:; idem, Antisemitismus in Galizien. Agitation, Gewalt und Politik gegen Juden in der Habsburgermonarchie um 1900, Berlin 2012, p.156-166; idem, „Herrschaft in der Krise – der “Demagoge in der Soutane” fordert die galizischen Allerheiligen”, in: Hrsg. Jörg Baberowski, Imperiale Herrschaft in der Provinz. Repräsentationen politischer Macht im späten Zarenreich, Frankfurt am Main 2008, p. 331-355. In this regard only Porter-Szücs recognized those first reflections of the Lueger impact on Galician Catholic public scene with more skepticism see, Faith and Fatherland, p. 280-281; idem, Antisemitism and the Search for a Catholic Identity in: ed. Robert BLOBAUM, Antisemitism and Its Opponents in Modern Poland, Ithaca and London 2005, p. 106.

[23] Czesław LECHICKI, Pierwsze dwudziestolecie krakowskiego „Głosu Narodu”, in; „Studia Historyczne”, no. 4, 1969, p.507-509; Nathan WOOD, Becoming metropolitan: Urban selfhood and the making of modern Cracow, DeKalb 2010, p. 60-63
[24] See Tim BUCHEN, “Learning from Vienna Means Learning to Win”.
[25] Ibidem.

[26] See Jacek M. MAJCHROWSKI, „Antysemita”- zapomniana karta dziejów ruchu chrześcijańsko-społecznego w Krakowie, „Zeszyty Naukowe Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego. Prace z Nauk Politycznych”, no.23, 1991, p. 191-197; ŚLIWA, „Grzmot” i „Antysemita” czasopisma antyżydowskie w Krakowie, [in:] idem, Obcy czy swój, p. 53-65.

[27] BUCHEN, “Learning from Vienna Means Learning to Win”

[28]Marian MORAWSKI, Asemitism, Kraków 1896. On in-depth discussion about the Morawski’s article see PORTER-SZÜCS, Faith and Fatherland, p. 285-289. On refreshing discussion on term “asemitism” see, BUCHEN, “Asemitismus” in: (Hrsg.) Wolfgang BENZ, Handbuch des Antisemitismus. Judenfeindschaft in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Bd.3: Begriffe, Theorien, Ideologien, Berlin 2010, p.151-172.  Miloslav SZABÓ, Populist Antisemitism. On the Theory and Methodology of Research in Modern Antisemitism, in: Judaica Bohemiae, vol. 49, no.2, 2014, p.74-75.

[29]Quoted from J. MICHLIC, Poland’s threatening other: the image of the Jew from 1880 to the present, London, Lincoln 2006, p. 48. On Franko in this regard see Jarosław HRYCAK, Między filosemityzmem a antysemityzmem – Iwan Franko i kwestia żydowska, in: Krzysztof JASIEWICZ, Świat NIE-pożegnany, Warszawa-London 2005, p. 451-480.

[30]See MOSZYŃSKI, Nieznośna konkurencja. O sporach między warszawskimi antysemitami końca XIX i początku XX wieku, in: Kwartalnik Historii Żydów, no.1, 2015, p. 70-79; DOMAGALSKA, The Linguistic Image of the Jew in „Rola” and „Niwa” Weeklies at the Turn of the 19th and 20th Century, in: Studia Judaica vol. 13, no.2, 2010, p. 320-321.

[31] LEWALSKI, Problem antysemityzmu na łamach „Przeglądu Katolickiego” w latach 1863-1914, p.205-207.

[32] Father Mateusz Jeż remains an intriguing case of fin-de-siècle Catholic anti-Semite who actively kept on operating in the reborn Second Republic of Poland (e.g., as the author of “A-semitic songbook, ” (Śpiewnik asemicki), 1924.

[33]  On Stojałowski see, BUCHEN, Herrschaft in der Krise: Der „Demagoge in der Soutane”, p. 333-346; Andrzej KUDŁASZCZYK, Wpływ doktryn austriackiej I niemieckiej na katolicyzm społeczny w Galicji, „Studia Historyczne”, no.3, 1981, p. 389-407. See as well idem: Koncepcje polityczne Karla Luegera, „Dzieje Najnowsze”, no.4, 1994, p.8-9.

[34] On Western Galician violent effects of this campaign see Daniel UNOWSKY, Local Violence, Regional Politics, and State Crisis, in: Sities of Anti-Semitism, p. 13-35; idem, Peasant Political Mobilization and the 1898 Anti-Jewish Riots in Western Galicia, “European History Quarterly”, vol. 40, no.3, july 2010, p. 412-435; BUCHEN, Antisemitismus in Galizien, p. 167-194.

[35]See Anna EHRLICH, Karl Lueger, Die zwei Gesichter der Macht, Wien 2010, p.271.

[36]See  BLOBAUM, Rewolucja. Russian Poland, 1904-1907, Ithaca and London 1995, p.240-249. See as well idem, The Revolution of 1905-1907 and the Crisis of Polish Catholicism, in: “Slavic Review”, vol. 47, no. 4, 1988, p. 667-689;LEWALSKI, Kościół katolicki wobec społeczno-politycznej rzeczywistości lat 1905-1907, in:] (ed.) Marek PRZENIOSŁO, Stanisław WIECH, Rewolucja 1905-1907 w Królestwie Polskim i w Rosji, Kielce 2005, p. 93-108.


Cite as: “Grzegorz Krzywiec, The Lueger effect in fin-de-siècle Catholic Poland: the Imaginary Jew, the Viennese Christian Socials, and the rise of Catholic anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, in: Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitism in International Perspective – Open Peer Review, 15.12.2016,



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redaktionmws (2016, December 15). The Lueger effect in fin-de-siècle Catholic Poland: the Imaginary Jew, the Viennese Christian Socials, and the rise of Catholic anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitism in International Perspective. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from

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