One of the most notorious of anti-Semitic agitators; born December 21, 1846, at Krien, near Anklam, in the province of Pomerania, Prussia. After having filled various positions as a teacher he was in 1881 appointed rector (school principal) in Berlin. His inability to manage his affairs involved him in financial difficulties, from which he tried to extricate himself by the aid of money-lenders. He was extricated from these and other difficulties by Jewish friends and lawyers, and for a time claimed to be a friend of the Jews.
In a letter dated January 25, 1885, published in "Mittheilungen aus dem Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus," 1893, p. 192, he says: "Antisemitism is illogical; I have always condemned it, and shall continue to condemn religious intolerance until my last breath." As he did not find within the ranks of the Conservative party that success which he had hoped for, Ahlwardt joined the anti-Semitic movement, publishing such venomous pamphlets against the Jews as "Der Verzweiflungskampf der Arischen Völker mit den Juden," 1890; "Eid Eines Juden," 1891; and "Jüdische Taktik," 1892. These pamphlets did not rise above the average anti-Semitic literature; but an immense sensation was created by his two pamphlets, "Judenflinten," 1892, in which he made the statement that Ludwig Loewe & Company had furnished worthless guns to the army, and had been hired by the "Alliance Israélite Universelle" to cheat the commissary department in order to defeat Germany in her next struggle with France.
Ahlwardt's object was to demonstrate that the Jews possessed no patriotism; and the charges seemed the weightier since Ludwig Loewe, the founder of the firm in question, had been a member of the Reichstag. Although Chancellor von Caprivi declared these charges to be unfounded, and the leaders of all parties in the Reichstag expressed their condemnation of the tactics which destroyed the confidence of the soldiers in their leaders, Ahlwardt gained steadily in popularity. In spite of the protest of the Conservative party, he was nominated as a representative for the Reichstag from the district of Friedeberg-Arnswalde; and he was elected December 5, 1892, while still on trial for libel in a suit brought against him by Ludwig Loewe & Company. Four days later Ahlwardt was sentenced to five months' imprisonment.
Neither this punishment nor subsequent sentences for libeling public officials seemed to injure his popularity. His public lectures on "Jewish Guns"and similar subjects, for which an admission fee was charged, were attended by large audiences; and in the general elections of 1893 he was returned to the Reichstag by two constituencies. In 1895 he visited America with the view of starting an anti-Semitic agitation there; but, although he remained in the country about a year, he failed in his object. Discharged from his position as rector, Ahlwardt edited various newspapers, among others the "Bundschuh"; but neither his journalistic nor his commercial enterprises were successful, though he employed the unscrupulous tactics which he claimed were practised by prominent Jews in the business world. He conducted a cigar-store under the name of his son-in-law in order to avoid attachments by creditors. In Germany his name, like that of Drumont in France, symbolizes the worst form of anti-Semitism.
- Mittheilungen aus dem Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus, 1893;
- Kayser, Bücher-Lexicon, xxvii. and register to xxvii. and xxviii. s.v.