Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
On February 13th at the Kirchhof I von Dreifältigkeitsgemeinde in Kreuzberg (part of Hallesches Tor Cemetaries) thousands of followers accompany Adolf Stoecker, their preacher and their leader, on his way to the grave.
Stoecker, between 1874 and 1890 the court chaplain to Kaiser Wilhelm II, was also the first head of Berliner Stadtmission – Christian charity established to support the city´s poor (it exits and provides help until today). The charity´s first seat was in the so called Schrippenkirche (Bread-Roll Church) in Johannistisch 5 (more about the church in the following post). And although the church and the street are gone, one of the branches of Berliner Stadtmission is still present there.
Stoecker´s style as a preacher, theologian and politician was so impressive that very soon the name of the church was changed from Schrippen– to Stoeckerkirche. Outspoken and authoritarian he managed to attract thousands of new fervent believers. Not the least through his openly and furiously anti-democratic as well as anti-semitic views which he vented regularly in public.
Adolf Stoecker, a staunch Lutheran, believed that German culture, German spirit were being corrupted by the new, rabid form of capitalism represented mostly by Jewish entrepreneurs. Jews were in his eyes an anti-Christian, foreign force with too strong and destructive influence on German society – he saw them as “watering down German values”, as “parasites infecting German culture”. Therefore he demanded putting legal limits to both their economic as well as political rights. He was also for establishing a strict quota for Jewish professors and other academics at what he held for “German” universities.
If all of that sounds familiar – and sound familiar it must – then it is not without a reason: already by the end of the 19th century Adolf Stoecker represented a relatively well-established and increasingly powerful group of German politicians, journalists and academics who openly expressed their distrust and sometimes even sheer hatred for the Israeliten among them.
Stoecker´s own political party, established in 1881 Christlich-Soziale Partei (Christian-Social Party) was planned as a Christian bulwark against the Communists and the Socialists duping the workers into following them. It was meant to help improve the living and working condition of the working class but just as much to fight Jewish conspiracy which these two political movements were allegedly part of (even though it is relatively easy to find strong anti-semitic currents within both movements as well).
Although many historians wish to believe in Stoecker´s anti-semitism being “non-racial” and thus quite harmless (or less harmful, as some of them say), a quick scan of his recorded speeches and particularly of his 1879 work Unsere Forderungen an das moderne Judentum (What We Expect From Modern Jews) will prove their belief at best naive. Here is one typical paragraph from his book:
“Jews are and will always be a people within the people, a state within the state, a tribe of its own within a foreign race. Eventually all immigrants merge with the nation they live within. But not Jews. They oppose Germanic spirit with their unshakeable Semitism. They oppose Christianity with their cult of laws or with their hostility against Christian faith. We mustn´t judge them for that: as long as they are Jews, they cannot act any other way. However, we must be in the clear about the danger we have to protect ourselves from – the danger laying in such intermingling. There are 45,000 Jews living in Berlin only: as many as in the whole of France or in England. That is too much.”
Stoecker´s ideas will be actively picked up less than 50 years later by the Nazi party and its leader.