Outbreak of the war
End of the war
The Christian Social anti-Semitism of Karl Lueger

With Karl Lueger's election as Mayor of Vienna in 1897, political anti-Semitism reached its climax and became a social force dominating everyday life.

The period between 1890 and 1910 saw a phase of populist mass politics that was decisively dominated by Karl Lueger's anti-Semitism. As leader of the Christian Social party, he represented a verbally radical anti-Semitism, effectively establishing an anti-liberal middle-class block with clerical, anti-Semitic and anti-socialist values, which attracted above all the disoriented petty bourgeoisie and middle-class.

Karl Lueger had a pronounced sense for demagogic language and adopted an anti-Semitic stance for tactical reasons. In the Christian Social party, anti-Semitism became the political instrument for mobilising the masses. Lueger developed a xenophobic and anti-Semitic cultural code that became the set of values that gave his supporters a sense of identity. Lueger's populist rhetoric of stereotyping Jews as outsiders enabled the Viennese to form an imagined community by process of differentiation.

Lueger's anti-Semitic attitude had but little ideological basis. He made random use of religious, economic and racial anti-Semitic positions. This opportunist approach was expressed in the cynical claim: "I determine who is a Jew".

On the one hand, Lueger's position was based on a long tradition of religious anti-Jewish resentment. He made use of the popular myths of Catholic anti-Jewishness that had been passed down over centuries and supported by official Church doctrine. In addition, Lueger exploited the economic anti-Semitism in which Jewish industrialists and bankers were regarded as the cause of social problems. Jews were the "specialists in vile profits", they were accused of a "disproportionate addiction to monetary profits" and the "expropriation of the indigenous population".

By merging the different anti-Jewish positions, Christian Social anti-Semitism achieved a particularly explosive mass-mobilisation effect. In its core, the exclusion and defamation of Jews was, however, a means to an end, the mobilisation of the people against the old elites and the elimination of liberalism.

Translation: David Wright


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

Maderthaner, Wolfgang/Musner, Lutz: Die Anarchie der Vorstadt. Das andere Wien um 1900, Frankfurt/New York 1999

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

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.