Outbreak of the war
End of the war

Antisemitism as a political movement

The German-National anti-Semitism of Georg Ritter von Schönerer

The decline of political liberalism towards the end of the 19th century was accompanied by a surge of anti-Semitic movements. In Vienna, anti-Semitism manifested itself at political level in two competing directions: in German-National and Christian-Social anti-Semitism.

The last decade of the 19th century saw a change of generation in the middle class. The generation hitherto characterised by liberalism and constitutional demands was replaced by a new middle class that focused less on humanist ideals. Instead of an egalitarian demand for integration and the subjecting of power to constitutional principles, they supported a nationalist change that excluded Jews. This reversal of social trends expressed itself in the anti-Semitic position of the Austrian political parties. In the two decades before the First World War, political anti-Semitism became socially acceptable and anti-Semites were promoted to influential positions.

Within the German National movement, Georg Ritter von Schönerer was the driving anti-Semitic force and one of the first to introduce anti-Semitism into politics. Schönerer combine his rejection of the Habsburg monarchy, liberalism and capitalism with a racially defined anti-Semitism that incited violence. His hostility to the Jews was even directed towards baptised Jews, being convinced that "the Jewish" was a determinant that demanded the social exclusion of Jews as members of an alien "race". The core of his racial anti-Semitism was a concept of race that did not permit assimilation. In accordance with this conviction, he introduced the Twelfth Clause into the Linz Programme in 1885, thus giving it a clearly anti-Semitic focus: "In order to implement the intended reforms, the elimination of Jewish influence in all fields of public life is indispensable."

The racial anti-Semitism of the German National movement was decisively influenced by the German student fraternities, which based their stance on the allegedly scientific nature of racism and displayed enormous anti-Semitic zeal. They penetrated all organisations in which students and graduates played a leading role.

Although Schönerer was unable to mobilise the masses and did not achieve any major electoral successes, he was nevertheless decisively involved in establishing anti-Semitism in Austria's political landscape.

Translation: David Wright



Beller, Steven: Wien und die Juden 1867–1938, Wien/Köln/Weimar 1993

Bunzl, John/Marin, Bernd: Antisemitismus in Österreich. Sozialhistorische und soziologische Studien, Innsbruck 1983

Pulzer, Peter: Die Entstehung des politischen Antisemitismus in Deutschland und Österreich 1867 bis 1914, Göttingen 2004

Schubert, Kurt: Die Geschichte des österreichischen Judentums, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2008

Weiss, John: Der lange Weg zum Holocaust. Die Geschichte der Judenfeindschaft in Deutschland und Österreich, Hamburg 1997

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    On the eve of war

    The last decade of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth were a time of modernisation, mechanisation and speed. In 1910, Vienna, capital of the Habsburg empire, had 2.1 million inhabitants and had grown to become an international metropolis. New technologies changed working life and leisure. Railways increased mobility, as did the bicycle, motor vehicle and aeroplane. How did this development manifest itself and what other trends emerged in the last years before the outbreak of the First World War?


  • Development


    Around the turn of the century anti-Semitism entered the political agenda and became part of the ideological programme and guiding principle behind political activities. It was based on an ideology that stigmatised Jews as “different” and as a threat to society. During the First World War, anti-Semitic agitation abated initially underthe domestic “truce”, but it heated up again as the war failed to take the desired course.