BISMARCK, PRINCE OTTO EDUARD LEOPOLD:
Prussian statesman; born at Schönhausen April 1, 1815; died at Friedrichsruh July 30, 1898; member of the Prussian Diet (Vereinigter Landtag), 1847-51; representative of Prussia at the Bundestag at Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1851-59; Prussian ambassador at St. Petersburg from March, 1859, to May, 1862, and at Paris from May to Sept., 1862; secretary of state and premier from Sept., 1862, to Aug., 1866; then chancellor of the North German Federation until 1870, and of the German empire from Dec., 1870, to March 20, 1890.
As a delegate to the first Prussian Diet, convened in 1847, Bismarck, a strong adherent of the feudal party ("Junkerpartei"), opposed the new law which favored the emancipation of the Jews. He eloquently advocated the idea of a Christian state in which Jews might have all personal liberties, but should not be accorded the right of serving as magistrates. He evinced the same spirit of religious or, rather, racial prejudice when Eduard Simson was elected speaker of the Erfurt parliament and himself one of the secretaries: "My late father," he said, "would thrice turn in his grave should he hear that I had become the secretary of a Jewish savant" (Simson had been baptized). In 1881 Bismarck praised Simson as one of the most distinguished and patriotic representatives of the national idea.
Time and experience wrought a change in Bismarck's views. Many years later (1870), at Versailles, he confessed that he had heard and had delivered "many a stupid speech at this Diet."
As Prussian minister of state, he acquiesced in the full emancipation which had come to the Jews through the revolution of 1848; and under his chancellorship the North German Federation passed the law of July 3, 1869: "All existing restrictions of civil and political rights, restrictions derived from the difference of religion, are hereby abolished. Especially the right of participating in the representation of the municipality and of the state, and of holding public office, shall be independent of the religious creed." In words and deeds Bismarck proved himself a stanch defender of these principles, which were embodied in article 3 of the constitution of the empire. "I shall never consent to any attempt at curtailing the constitutional rights of the Jews" (Poschinger, "Fürst Bismarck," p. 227). With thesame emphasis he declared his opposition to the anti-Semitic movement: "I decidedly disapprove of this agitation against the Jews, be it on religious or on racial grounds."
In 1868, when the agitation began against the Jews in Rumania, he took the part of the persecuted, and tried to influence Prince (afterward King) Karl in their favor, as is seen from a letter addressed to Crémieux by Count von der Goltz, Prussian ambassador to the French court (April 2): "From the letter of the president of the cabinet of Feb. 22 you may have learned already of the deep interest which the royal government takes in this affair. The readiness with which Count Bismarck has complied with your wish expressed in your letter of March 26 is a new proof thereof. His Excellency authorizes me to inform you that the Prussian consul-general at Bucharest has been ordered by telegraph to remonstrate with Prince Karl against the proposed law concerning the Israelites, which has just been submitted to the Rumanian legislature."
At the Berlin Congress of 1878, Bismarck, pleading for the rights of the Rumanian Jews, remarked to Prince Gortschakoff that perhaps the sad condition of the Jews in Russia was due to the fact that they were deprived of civil and political equality. That no political considerations but the sentiments of justice and humanity dictated his actions is shown in the answer made by his coadjutor, Von Bülow, secretary of state for foreign affairs, to the representatives of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, who, desiring the chancellor's intercession in behalf of the Jews of the Balkan districts, had pleaded for toleration: "Gentlemen," said Von Bülow, "'toleration' is an incorrect word; not toleration, but unrestricted exercise of all their rights shall we demand, at the congress, for your coreligionists."
And yet the "iron chancellor," who had it in his power to crush the anti-Semitic movement at its beginning, was led by political reasons to foster it for some time. Having changed the liberal policy which he had followed since 1867, and in which he had had the support of the prominent Jewish statesmen Lasker and Bamberger, he sought the alliance of the Conservative party, which in 1878 had gained the ascendency in the Reichstag. The court chaplain, Adolf Stöcker, founder of the Christian-Socialist party and of its offspring, anti-Semitism, was not hampered in his reactionary agitations. Bismarck considered this new movement an efficient auxiliary in combating liberalism and democracy. But this strange fellowship, which, especially in Berlin, had pernicious consequences, was not of long duration. Bismarck never yielded to the demands of the agitators, and strenuously checked their attempts to deprive the Jews of the rights guaranteed to them by the fundamental laws of the empire.
- Antisemitenkatechismus, Danzig, 1901;
- Mittheilungen aus dem Vereine zur Bekämpfung des Antisemitismus since 1891;
- Anti-Semitism, and bibliography at the end of that article.