Protestants, Catholics, and Jews in Germany, 1800-1914

Protestants, Catholics, and Jews in Germany, 1800-1914

Protestants, Catholics, and Jews in Germany, 1800-1914

Protestants, Catholics, and Jews in Germany, 1800-1914

Synopsis

In the course of the nineteenth century, the boundaries that divided Protestants, Catholics and Jews in Germany were redrawn, challenged, rendered porous and built anew. This book addresses this redrawing. It considers the relations of three religious groups-Protestants, Catholics, and Jews-and asks how, by dint of their interaction, they affected one another.Previously, historians have written about these communities as if they lived in isolation. Yet these groups coexisted in common space, and interacted in complex ways. This is the first book that brings these separate stories together and lays the foundation for a new kind of religious history that foregrounds both cooperation and conflict across the religious divides. The authors analyze the influences that shaped religious coexistence and they place the valences of co-operation and conflict in deep social and cultural contexts. The result is a significantly altered understanding of the emergence of modern religious communities as well as new insights into the origins of the German tragedy, which involved the breakdown of religious coexistence.

Excerpt

This chapter focuses on the impact of Christian religious concerns on the debate over Jewish emancipation in Prussia. in doing so it swims against the current of the historiography in this field, which has generally seen Jewish policy in the German states as driven by secular preoccupations. I argue that the debate over Jewish entitlements - initially conducted under secular auspices - was reframed in the confessionally charged environment of post-Napoleonic Prussia as a question touching on the identity and purpose of the state. the “Christian state” so often invoked in the 1840s was conceived in part as an argument against the legal emancipation of Jews; but it also expressed authentically religious aspirations. Jewish policy and “Christian policy” were intertwined, both for the Prussian state authorities and for an influential sector of the political elite. It was of course the liberals, not the partisans of the Christian state, who ultimately won the argument over legal emancipation. However, as I argue below, the continuing impact of the concept should not be underestimated. It was enshrined in fragmentary form in the new Prussian constitution of January 1850 and it enjoyed a long afterlife - albeit in a debased and philosophically impoverished form - as a conservative slogan.

Religion does not loom large in the historical literature on the development of Jewish policy in the early-nineteenth-century German states, and it is easy to see why. the Enlightenment, one might argue, had recast the terms of the confessional opposition between Christianity and Judaism in a secular mold, and thereby cleared the way for the later emergence of a post-Christian anti-Semitism founded on ethnic categories. the Protestant philosophers and publicists of the revolutionary and Napoleonic eras . . .

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