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German Studies Association

Reluctant Justice: Government Legal Intervention on Behalf of Jews in Imperial Germany


Author(s): Barnet Hartston
Source: German Studies Review, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Feb., 2004), pp. 83-102
Published by: German Studies Association
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Reluctant Justice: Government Legal
Interventionon Behalf of Jews in Imperial
Germany

Barnet Hartston
Eckerd College
Abstract:In 1900, Prussiangovernmentofficialssent special police commissarsto
intervene in a sensational ritualmurderinvestigationin the West Prussiantown
of Konitz.Despiteoccasionaldisplaysof incompetence,these specialinvestigators
generally held themselves aloof from popularanti-Semiticpressureand worked
diligentlyto secure an acquittalfor the Jewishdefendant. But was this interven-
tion by outside investigatorsan isolated case in ImperialGermany?Did it repre-
sent a trend of "responsible"government behavior in dealing with anti-Semitic
incidents? This article will attempt to answer these questions by examining
government actions in four additional anti-Semiticcauses c6elbres in the early
Kaiserreich.

Helmut Walser Smith's recent book, The Butcher's Tale: Murder and Anti-
Semitismin a GermanTown,is a chilling accountof ritualmurderaccusationsin
the small West Prussian town of Konitz at the turn of the twentieth century.1
Through detailed research into investigative records and court proceedings,
Smith describeshow a complex web of interpersonalconflicts, a familiaritywith
old anti-Semitic stories and stereotypes, and the influence of outside agitators
could turna simple murdermysteryinto sensationalallegationsof ritualslaugh-
ter against a local Jewish butcher.These accusationsmotivatedordinarytowns-
people in Konitz to isolate and exclude Jews from daily village life, and also
threatenedto engulf the regions of West Prussia and Pomeraniain anti-Semitic
violence. Clearly, as Smith suggests in his epilogue, the Konitz Affair not only
sheds light on the nature and extent of popular anti-Semitism in Imperial
Germany,but also hints at the readiness with which many Germansand Poles
would turnon their Jewish neighborsagain more than 40 years later.
TheButcher'sTale,however, is not simply a story aboutthose who invented,
corroborated,and believed in the allegationsagainst Jewish defendants.At least
indirectly,it is also the story of those who resisted or rejectedsuch accusations.
Admittedly,the numberof those from Konitz who were willing to standpublicly
againstthe tide of anti-Semitismwas small.2This is perhapsunderstandablecon-
sideringthe almost constantthreatof violence in the region thattargetedboth the
Jews and anyone who daredside with them. There were, however, a small num-
ber of conspicuousoutsiderswho did tend to resist the flood of prejudiceagainst
local Jews-these were the special detectives and prosecutors sent by Berlin
authoritiesto take charge of the local investigation. In Smith's account, these
84 German Studies Review 27/1 (2004)

outside investigators,commissionedby the Justiceor InteriorMinistry,rangedin


intelligence and abilities and varied in their own attitudestowardthe Jews and
toward Jewish stereotypes.Most of these men, however, worked diligently to
salvage an investigationthat local authoritieshad allowed to go awry.Although
Smith criticizes many of these investigatorsfor missing obvious leads and wast-
ing time following obvious fabrications,he also portraysmost as genuinelyhon-
orable men, whose revulsion at the biased and unreliabletestimony of towns-
people was accompaniedby zealous attemptsto seek the truthhiddenin the tan-
gled web of lies. Clearly, without the interventionof men such as the special
investigator Johann Braun and District Attorney Lautz, the case against the
JewishbutcherfromKonitz,AdolphLewy, could have takena muchmoredread-
ful turn.3
The interventionof special investigatorsfromBerlin into the Konitzcase was
not an isolated incident. In several other sensationalcriminal cases during the
early Kaiserreich,officials from the Justice and InteriorMinistrywere alarmed
enoughby anti-Semiticagitationto send special police officials to the scene. This
articlewill focus on four such incidentsthatoccurredbefore the KonitzAffair in
1900: the Neustettinsynagogue arsontrials (1881-1884) and ritualmurderalle-
gationsin Skurcz(1885), Breslau(1889), andXanten(1892). Althoughthese few
sensational trials do not represent a true cross section of legal proceedings
involving anti-Semitismin ImperialGermany,they do provide insight into the
attitudesand reactionsof particulargovernmentofficials to outbreaksof popular
anti-Jewishsentiment.These four cases show justice officials doing what they
were often hesitantto do in more minorcases-intervene to protectJews against
anti-Semitic accusations. Although individual motives in these cases are not
always clear from the recordsavailable,these governmentinvestigatorsdo seem
to have striven consistently for fair-mindednessand against popularprejudices
and stereotypes.4These men may often have been interestedin protectinglaw
and orderas much as the rights of the innocent;however, they did work to help
securejustice for Jewish defendantsagainstthe inertiaof local prejudiceand in
spite of frequentattacksby segments of the Berlin political press.

Government Prosecutorial Policy in the Eyes of Jews and Anti-Semites


As anti-Semiticagitationbegan to increase in Germanyin the late 1870s and
1880s, many Jews turnedto the governmentfor help. Both individualJews and
Jewish communityleadershoped that state prosecutorswould step in to defend
them againstslanderousattacksin the anti-Semiticpress.The reactionof various
governmentauthorities,however,was inconsistentat best. In minorcases (espe-
cially slander complaints),governmentpolicy was dependentnot on a federal
mandate,buton the attitudesof individualstategovernments,andeven local pros-
ecutorsandjudges. This led to a greatdegree of variationamong differentstates
andlocalities.5A few stateofficials did make systematiclegal attemptsto curbthe
influenceof particularanti-Semiticagitators.JacobFinger,for example,the Prime
Barnet Hartston 85

Minister of the GrandDuchy of Hesse, issued a decree in 1890 that instructed


prosecutorsto help facilitate libel actions against anyone who slanderedJews.
This effortwas primarilydesignedto underminethe popularityof the agitatorOtto
Bockel, who was active in the region.6Many other state and federal authorities,
however, asserteda kind of "neutrality"on the Jewish Question,an attitudethat
permittedthemto ignorebothpleas for protectionby Jews anddemandsfor action
by radicalanti-Semites.7
There were many reasons why German state and federal authoritieswere
reluctantto intervenein cases involving anti-Semiticagitation.First, many high
officials in the early Kaiserreich,especially those in Prussia, had sympathyfor
the anti-Jewishrhetoric of men like Adolf Stocker and sincerely believed that
Jewish immorality tended to corrupthonest German values. There was also a
common antipathyamong conservativeofficials towardprominentJewish liber-
al politicians such as EduardLasker,who were leading critics of the government.
This antipathysometimes extended to all Jews, even those who had no desire to
be linked to liberalpolitics. Finally, there was also a more pragmaticreason for
not protectingGermanJews against anti-Semitism.At least in the early 1880s,
Bismarckand many other governmentofficials hoped that anti-Semiticrhetoric
(and attackson Jewish involvementin liberaland socialist politics) could be used
to draw lower class sentimentto the conservativecause-especially in Berlin.
Thus, while prominentindividualJews such as Gerson von Bleichroderfos-
teredclose ties to leadingpoliticalandjustice officials andcould requesttheirhelp
to fight slandersagainsthim, the complaintsof most otherJews fell on deaf ears.8
Withoutthe supportof state prosecutors,individualJews or Jewish groups were
forced to resortto civil suits (Privatklage),which often had both less substantial
punishmentsand less chance for success than state prosecutions.Thus, it is not
surprisingthat,in the first decadesof the new Reich, manyJewish groupsfelt that
governmentofficials were not simply indifferent,but were actuallygoing out of
theirway to obstructefforts to prosecuteanti-Semitesfor slander.The early legal
effortsof the Deutsch-IsraelitischerGemeindebund,for example,were abandoned
because of prosecutorialresistance. After 1893, the Centralvereindeutscher
StaatsbirgerjiidischenGlaubens(CentralOrganizationof GermanCitizensof the
Jewish Faith) was slightly more successful in its legal campaigns,but it still had
to overcome the frequentindifferenceof stateprosecutorsto its complaints.9
If we read anti-Semitictexts from this period,however,we get quite a differ-
ent impressionof the government'slegal response to anti-Semiticattacks.After
1880, anti-Semitic agitatorscomplained bitterly about having to face repeated
prosecutionsfor slander.Radicalanti-Semites,such as Otto Bockel and Hermann
Ahlwardt,were ferventcritics of the governmentand thus naturaltargetsfor state
prosecution.But even those anti-Semiteswho vigorously professed their loyalty
to the Kaiser (such as Max Liebermannvon Sonnenbergand BernhardForster)
arguedthatgovernmentofficials were far too readyto prosecuteanti-Semitesand
protectJewish defendants.As evidence, they pointedto theirown misadventures
86 German Studies Review 27/1 (2004)

in court,whereconvictionsandfines had often led to politicalembarrassment and


financialhardship.When coupled with concernsaboutthe increasingnumberof
Jewishjudges andlawyers,these courtroomexperiencesled many anti-Semitesto
claim that the Germanjustice system had alreadybeen thoroughlycorruptedby
Jewish influence.
The unevenrecordof federaland stateauthoritiesthus servedonly to increase
dissatisfactionamongboth Jews and anti-Semitesaboutthe reliabilityof govern-
ment officials. Despite this general frustration,however, in incidents (such as
Konitz) where local passions againstthe Jews ran high and seemed to influence
local investigators,Jewish groupsstill tendedto turntowardBerlinin the hope of
securingoutside intervention.

Arson in Neustettin
On February 18, 1881, the synagogue in the small Pomeranianvillage of
Neustettinburnedto the ground.10 At first, many Germansdismissedthe burning
of the synagogue as an isolated incident. But, during the following summer,a
wave of anti-Jewishviolence began in Neustettin and spread throughoutthe
PomeranianandWest Prussiancountryside.Althoughthis violence was less seri-
ous than that of the concurrentRussianpogroms,the suddennessand ferocity of
the riotsneverthelessshockedmost Germanobservers.Duringthe firstfew weeks
of the violence, most governmentofficials tendedto sharethe opinionof the con-
servativeand anti-Semiticpress andattributethe unrestto a patternof Jewisheco-
nomic exploitation.But as the violence continued,the attitudeof governmentoffi-
cials began to change.The Berlin Police-President,Guido von Madai,for exam-
ple, was at first quite sympathetictowardthe riotersand held the Jews directly
responsiblefor provokingthe violence. After riotingcontinuedto spreadthrough
the Pomeraniancountryside,however,Madaibegan to criticize anti-Semiticagi-
tatorsfor whippingup anti-Jewishsentiment.11 As a result,the governmentsoon
promised to take a hard line againstany anti-Semitic agitatorwhose rhetoricpro-
voked or encouragedviolent action.12
In the months after the outbreakof violence, both local groups and national
politicians engaged in a public battle to assign blame for the riots. Liberaland
Jewish newspaperstendedto blame the fire (andthe rashof violence) on an anti-
Semitic agitatornamedErnstHenrici,who had given a speech in Neustettinonly
five days before the fire. Anti-Semiticnewspapers,however, suggested that the
fire had been set by the Jews themselvesin orderto gain insurancemoney and to
discreditHenrici.This latterconclusionwas strengthenedby a streamof local wit-
nesses who came forwardwith eyewitness testimonythat targetedseveral local
Jews as the culprits.It is unclearif the local investigatorsactedbecause of popu-
larpressureor out of theirown convictions,but eventuallythey arrestedfive local
Jewishmen as suspects.The accusedwere 76-year-oldHirschHeidemannandhis
adultson Gustav,41-year-oldHirschLesheimandhis teenageson Leo, anda local
Jewish merchantnamed Adolf L6wenberg.Because of the seriousness of the
Barnet Hartston 87

charges, the local Jewish communityhired a well-known Berlin lawyer named


Dr. Erich Sello as a defense attorney.The leaders of the Jewish communityalso
immediatelyappealedto the new InteriorMinister,Robertvon Puttkamer,to send
a special investigatorfrom Berlin, but this requestwas denied.
Because of a lengthy and complicatedinvestigation,the trial of these Jewish
men did not begin until October 19, 1883-almost two years afterthe synagogue
fire. Thanksto continuedanti-Semiticagitation,however,the Berlinpress and the
local populationin Pomeraniawere still fixated on the case. In addition,because
the trialin this case occurredshortlyafterthe infamousTisza-Eszlarritualmurder
trialin Hungary,the Berlinpress eagerlycoveredNeustettinas a kind of sequel to
Tisza-Eszlaron Germansoil. The trial was held at the koniglicheLandschwur-
gericht in the town of Koslin. It was attendedby many membersof the German
press, and a host of citizens made the shorttrip(75 km.) from Neustettinto watch
(or testify in) the trial.
There was little physical evidence against the Jewish defendants. In fact,
expertwitnesses disagreedaboutwhetherthe fire was really arsonor the resultof
an accident.The core of the prosecutionwas a series of local witnesses who had
seen the defendantsacting suspiciouslyin the hoursbefore the fire. One witness,
for example,claimedthathe saw a defendantcarryinga petrolcan towardthe tem-
ple on the morningof the fire.Anotherwitness, a teachernamedPiper,claimedhe
saw severalJews crawlingaroundandgiving handsignals immediatelybeforethe
fire brokeout. While defense attorneystriedto attackthe credibilityof these wit-
nesses with evidence of personalgrudges and preexistinganti-Semiticleanings,
the largely sympathetic court spectators loudly supported all witnesses who
denounced the Jews. The jurors, almost all of whom were conservative local
landownerswith anti-Semiticsympathies,deliberatedfor less thanan hourbefore
reaching a verdict. Four of the five Jews were convicted on charges of being
accessoriesto arsonor of havingknowledgeof the conspiracy.The fourwho were
convictedreceived termsrangingfrom six monthsto four years in prison.
The local response to the verdict was quite positive. Whipped up by anti-
Semitic propaganda,crowds of people gatheredat the Neustettinrailroadstation
to welcome home the witnesses who had testifiedagainstthe Jews. Those who tes-
tified for the defense or showed sympathyfor the defendants,on the otherhand,
were harassedor even attackedwith stones. Beyond these local reactions, the
Neustettinverdictsalso provokedimpassionedresponsesfrom the Berlinpolitical
press. Ultraconservativeand anti-Semiticnewspaperscelebratedthe verdict as a
triumphof thejustice system andproof of Jewishcriminality.'3LiberalandJewish
newspapers,on the otherhand,were clearly stunnedby the verdict.The Berliner
Tageblattand Berliner Borsen-Courier,both of which had devoted significant
attentionto the trial, were hesitantto attackthe trial officials directly.But these
organsstronglysuggestedthatan injusticehad occurredin the case, and they also
criticized the governmentfor not preventingthe outbreakof violence that took
place after the verdict was delivered.l4Both the jubilationand despairover this
88 German Studies Review 27/1 (2004)

verdict, however, were short-lived.Just a few months later, the verdict in the
Neustettincase was overturnedbecause of a proceduralerror,and the case was
sent for retrialto anotherSchwurgerichtin the West Prussiantown of Konitz.15
This retrialbegan in Februaryof 1884.
If public attentionhad been greatfor the first trial,for the second it was over-
whelming.All public and privatelodging in Konitz was full, and two directtele-
graphlines were laid all the way to Berlin to aid Germanand internationaljour-
nalists in relayingthe latest trialdetails.While the first trialhad includeddozens
of witnesses from Neustettin,the second broughtover 150 witnesses along with
theirfamily and friends.'6But this time, a new participantin the case would dra-
maticallyalterthe proceedings.After renewedrequestsby the local Jewish com-
munity,the InteriorMinister,Robertvon Puttkamer,finally decided to send an
investigatornamedCriminalCommissarHoft to look into the case. This conces-
sion by Puttkamerwas undoubtedlymotivatedby more than a simple desire to
redressan injusticedone to Jews or by a generalabhorrenceof anti-Semitism;his
decision was almostcertainlya responseto the fearthata new Neustettintrial,left
to local authorities,might serve to incite renewedunrestin the region.As in the
case of the original Pomeranianand West Prussianviolence, it was not anti-
Semitism per se that finally provokedgovernmentreaction,but the threatto the
civil order posed by radical agitation. It must be added, however, that once
involved in the Neustettincase, the CriminalCommissar'sactionshelpedto serve
the cause of justice as much as they served to reinforceorder;that is, much like
the governmentinvestigatorsin the later Konitz case, CriminalCommissarHoft
would work diligently against significantpopularpressureto ascertainthe true
course of events.
In the weeks before the startof the second trial, CriminalCommissarHoft
re-interviewed hundreds of witnesses. Through his comments and actions,
Neustettin residents quickly came to realize that Hoft believed the charges
against the Jewish defendantshad no basis in fact. CommissarH6ft, however,
was not the only outside figure to influence the investigation.A shadowy figure
named Landratvon Bonin, a local official with anti-Semiticleanings, had also
been active in "uncovering"new witnesses in the monthsafterthe first trial.Not
surprisingly,Bonin's witnesses always testified for the prosecutionand against
the Jews. Both CriminalCommissarHoft and Landratvon Bonin would be pres-
ent in the courtroomthroughoutthe entire second trial.
In additionto Bonin's new witnesses, many of the old ones appearedin the
secondtrialwith revisedversionsof theirtestimony.Forexample,the witnesswho
earliertestifiedto seeing one Jewishdefendantwith a petrolcan now also testified
that he found fuses inside anotherdefendant'shouse. But this time his testimony
was attackednot only by the defense attorneys,but also by CriminalCommissar
Hoft, who arguedthat this new more detailedversion of the story emergedonly
after serious doubts were raised abouthis credibility.For each witness who was
discreditedby H6ft and the defense attorneys,however, several more came for-
Barnet Hartston 89

ward claiming to have direct eyewitness accounts. Most of these witnesses had
been "discovered"and encouragedto testify by Landratvon Bonin. For instance,
16-year-oldEmilie Ratznercame forwardfor the first time to claim that she had
seen the defendantGustavHeidemannsqueezing througha gap in the fence and
Leo Lesheim runningout of the burningtemple with a petrol can in his hand.
Another new witness named Girtner testified that he heard the wives of two
defendantssay on a local trainthat their husbandswere just pawns, and that the
real mastermindof the scheme was Rabbi Lowe, the leader of the local Jewish
community.All of these new witnesses were vigorously attackedby Criminal
CommissarHoft, who confrontedthem with theirconflictingstatementsor ulteri-
or motives. In Girtner'scase, Hoft checkedthe ticketrecordsand provedthatnei-
ther he nor the defendants'wives had been on that train.Gartnerwas forced to
admitthat he was "in error"about the conversation.Thus, despite the additional
eyewitness testimonyfor the prosecution,thanksto CriminalCommissarH6ft, the
trial seemed to be heading in a directionfavorableto the defendants.17 After the
prosecutor delivered a lackluster closing argumentthat admitted the flaws in his
case, the jury retiredto considerthe verdict.This time, afteronly 45 minutes,the
defendantswere acquittedon all charges.
As one mightexpect, the second verdictprovokeda very differentpublic reac-
tion than the first. Rioting and looting of Jewish businesses were reportedin
Neustettin,and anti-Semiticagitatorsrespondedwith outrageto the fact that the
Jews had been able to corruptthe Germanlegal system. Anti-Semitic,ultracon-
servative,and severalCatholicnewspapersalso expressedtheirshock and dismay
at what appearedto be not only a miscarriageof justice, but also a demonstration
of the unreliabilityof the justice system.18
Liberal newspapers,however, were equally critical, and blamed the Interior
Ministerfor once again not takingsufficientprecautionsto preventpost-trialvio-
lence.19On March 14, 1884, a liberalLandtagdeputynamedZelle made an inter-
pellationto challenge the InteriorMinisteron the issue. Ministervon Puttkamer,
the same man who had originally sent CriminalCommissarHoft to Neustettin,
respondedto Zelle's challengeby suggestingthatlocal Jews may have themselves
startedthe unrestby throwingstones into a crowd. Puttkamerclaimed to want to
withholdjudgementon the believabilityof these local reports,but he went on to
suggest that whetherthe anti-Jewishviolence was provokedor not, liberaljour-
nalists and politicianswere clearly exaggeratingthe disorderfor theirown propa-
gandapurposes.20

Skurcz
Even before the Neustettintrials had come to an end, a new anti-Semiticcause
celebre began to emerge in the small town of Skurcznear Danzig.21On January
22, 1884, the dismemberedbody of the young boy, OnophiriusCybulla, was
found in a marshoutside of Skurcz.An autopsyperformedby local doctorsfixed
the cause of deathas loss of blood, reportingseven long wounds on the neck and
90 German Studies Review 27/1 (2004)

judgingthatthe body had been dismemberedby someonewith experiencein such


things. As these details became public, talk of a possible Jewish ritual murder
spreadthroughoutthe region.22
Two witnesses soon came forwardto supportthe theoryof ritualmurder.One,
a local workernamed Sprada,told police that he had witnessed a Jewish busi-
nessmannamedHeymannBoss invite the young victim into his home on the night
of his disappearance.23 A second witness, a local worker named Mankowski,
claimed to have seen anotherJewish merchant,HermannJosephson,carryinga
sack the next morningwith what could have been a young boy's body. The local
investigatorssoon turnedup additionalevidencethatseemedto pointto the Jewish
suspects. Several neighborstold police thatthey had heardloud noises in Boss's
house on thatnight, and a searchof his animalstall revealedcopious amountsof
blood thoughtto be of recentorigin.Investigatorsalso found what appearedto be
bloodstainson clothes owned by both Boss andJosephson.This seeminglydamn-
ing testimony and physical evidence eventually led to the arrestof Josephson,
Boss and his fatherin early February1884.
The case againstthe Jewish merchantstook a dramaticturnless thana month
later,however,when the InteriorMinistersent the investigatorfromthe Neustettin
case, CriminalCommissarHoft, to look into the matter.After reviewingthe case
with local investigators,Hoft decidedto re-interviewseveralwitnesses. He start-
ed with the workerMankowski,who, afterseveral ster warningsby Hoft to tell
the truth,suddenlychangedhis story.Mankowskinow said that he had not seen
the defendant(Josephson)with the sack thatmorning,but rathera local Christian
butchernamed Joseph Behrendt.Allegedly, Behrendthad come to Mankowski
afterthe body was discovered,and had promisedhim money to give a false story
to police. Now convinced that the accusations against the Jewish men were
unfounded,CriminalCommissarHoft beganto refocusthe investigation.He soon
learnedthatBehrendthad behavedstrangelyon the day thatthe body was found,
andwas laterovereagerto blamethe incidenton Boss andthe Jews. Hoft also dis-
covered thatBehrendtwas a convinced anti-Semitewho had allegedly been pre-
viously investigatedfor robberyand sex crimes.Althoughtherewas stronglocal
pressureto continuethe case againstthe Jewish defendants,Hoft was unmoved.
In earlyApril 1884, the Jewish suspectswere released,andless thana monthlater
JosephBehrendtwas takeninto custody.
The trial of Joseph Behrendtbegan on April 22, 1885 in Danzig before a
packedhouse. AlthoughBehrendtenteredthe courtas the defendant,it was gen-
erally assumedthatthatthe verdictof the trialwould affectthe fate of the Jews as
well. The popularperceptionwas that either Behrendtwas guilty of trying to
frameBoss and Josephsonfor the murder,or the formerJewish defendantswere
the guilty parties.Eitherway, the issue of guilt or innocencewould be resolvedby
the verdictin this trial.
Despite H6ft's efforts,or perhapsbecause of them, a flood of witnesses came
forwardto testify on behalfof Behrendtandagainstthe Jewishformerdefendants.
Barnet Hartston 91

But this time, Hoft himself was also a target.Two formerassociates of the main
witness, Mankowski,testifiedthatit was CriminalCommissarHoft, not Behrendt,
who hadbeen guilty of bribingwitnessesto changetheirtestimony.AlthoughHoft
ferventlydenied the accusations,Behrendt'sdefense lawyers used this testimony
to suggest the presenceof a powerfulconspiracybehind Mankowski'schange of
heart. The weight of the general witness testimony, the lack of credibility of
Mankowski,and the public hostility towardCommissarHoft all made a convic-
tion very unlikely.At the end of a brief trial,the jury deliberatedfor less thanhalf
an hourbefore acquittingBehrendtof all charges.
The acquittalof the ChristianbutcherBehrendtmarkedthe practicalend of
Commissar Hoft's involvement in the Skurcz case. Prosecutorsnever reintro-
duced charges against the two Jewish former defendants,a fact that provoked
angry criticism in the anti-Semiticpress. Otto Glagau's Der Kultur-kampfer,for
example, devoted a long article to the Skurcz case that demandedthat the gov-
ernmentcontinue its investigations:
The bestial murderat Skurzcries out to heaven, and it must be redressed.
Otherwise it will result in a deep shock to public perceptionsof the jus-
tice system.... The murderat Skurzshould also be a warningto the gov-
ernmentthatit must employ native Germanscholarsto thoroughlyexam-
ine rabbinicaltexts in orderto gauge if these teachings pose a dangerto
the general public.24
The Christlich-SozialesCorrespondenzblattechoed Glagau's concerns and also
expressed its incredulitythat governmentofficials still refused to consider any
Jews as suspects in the murder.After voicing its frustrationwith the behavior
of the investigators, the prosecutors, and the judge in the Skurcz trial, the
Correspondenzblatt concludedin exasperation:"Beyond a fallible earthlyjustice
thereis still an infallibleeternaljustice; thatis our consolation."2

Breslau
The actionsof CommissarHoft in the Skurczcase do not necessarilysuggest that
all governmentofficials were equally skepticalaboutritualmurderaccusations.In
fact, another blood ritual case in Breslau in 1888 motivated the new Kaiser,
WilhelmII, to follow the wishes of men like Otto Glagauand orderhis ministers
to collect scholarlytestimonyon the natureof Jewish religiousteachings.
In July of 1888, the rabbinicalcandidate Max Bernstein allegedly lured a
Catholicboy namedSeverinHacke to his apartmentwith the promiseof cherries,
andpersuadedhim to remove his clothes. Bernsteinthen gave him a slight wound
on the genitals,andcollected a little blood on a blotter.The boy at firsttold no one
about the incident, but he later told his father, who reportedit immediatelyto
police. Bernsteinadmittedsome kind of involvementwith the boy, but his testi-
mony to the investigatorswas confused and contradictory.Nonetheless,the pros-
ecutorbelieved therewas enough evidence to chargeBernstein,and he was even-
tuallybroughtto trialin February1889. The courtfoundthattherewas compelling
92 German Studies Review 27/1 (2004)

proof of Berstein's guilt,butbecausethe injuriesinflictedon the boy were slight,


the court sentencedBernsteinto only threemonthsin prison.
This verdictbroughta mixed reactionin the Berlin anti-Semiticpress. On one
hand,they now believedthey had"proof'to substantiateritualmurderaccusations
since a Jewishdefendanthad been convictedfor collectingblood from a Christian
boy. However, the actual court verdict said nothing about Jewish rituals and
refused to speculate on the motive for the attack. This outraged many anti-
Semites, who called for an immediategovernmentinquiry.As the Antisemitische
Korrespondenzwrote:
Now we have a legally substantiatedcase in which an apprenticeRabbi
used Christianblood, and we can now justifiablyexpect thatthe Statewill
interveneto investigatethe motives in the case thatthe courtdeemedirrel-
evant.26
Otheranti-Semiticnewspapersproclaimedthat this new verdictprovidedample
groundsto reopen old ritualmurdercases, and they demandeda thoroughgov-
ernment examinationof Jewish religious practices. After rebuttalsby several
Jewish and liberalnewspapers,the coverageof this case quicklydegeneratedinto
a long and heateddebateover the natureof the Purimholiday and other"barbar-
ic" Jewish rituals.27
Undoubtedlyspurredby the uproarin the press, KaiserWilhelmII asked his
PrussianJusticeMinister,Hermannvon Schelling,to furtherinvestigatethe mat-
ter of Jewish blood-rituals,especially as they pertainedto the Bernsteincase.
Wilhelm'sinterestin the Bernsteincase is not at all surprising.As his biographers
have demonstrated,the Kaiserhad an extensive historyof anti-Jewishstatements
and writings,both before and afterhis ascent to the throne.His prejudicewas a
by-productof his aristocraticand militaryupbringing,and his anti-Jewishatti-
tudes were cultivatedby an entouragethat also harboredsuch sentiments.28 Like
many Germans,however, Wilhelm was of
capable voicing the ugliest anti-
of
Semitic statementsand at the same time fosteringalliancesor even close friend-
ships with prominentJews.29Wilhelm's verbal attackson Jews were also rarely
translatedinto action or into direct supportfor anti-Semiticorganizations,and
those anti-Semiteswho celebratedhis rise to the thronein 1888 were soon disap-
pointedby his lack of open support.30 Like many of his contemporaries,Wilhelm
could representhimself as "neutral"on the Jewish Question simply because he
generallyheld both Jews and most radicalanti-Semitesin contempt.
Acting on the Kaiser's request, Justice Minister Schelling asked the
Kultusminister,Gustavvon Gossler,to secretlysolicit threenon-Jewishexpertson
whetherJewishritualsexisted thatcould offer an explanationfor Bernstein'scon-
duct.31Gossler contactedthreerenownedexpertson Jewishreligioustexts: Franz
Delitzsch, HermannStrack,and Paul de Lagarde.Delitzsch was a professorof
Theology at the University of Leipzig, and was recognized as one of the most
prominentOld Testamentscholarsin the world. In additionto being a Lutheran
pastorand a prominentmemberof the Judenmission,Delitzsch had been actively
Barnet Hartston 93

involved in attempts to publicly refute the conclusions of the infamous anti-


Semitic scholarAugustRohling in the early 1880s. HermannLebrechtStrackwas
a professorof the Old Testamentat the Universityof Berlin.Like Delitzsch, Strack
was also involved in Christianmissionaryactivity among the Jews and founded
an InstitutumJudaicum for the study of the Jewish religion. He later battled
againstanti-Semiticagitatorssuch as Adolf Stockerand TheodorFritschboth in
literarydebatesand in court.Paul de Lagarde,on the otherhand,had a reputation
for being much less sympatheticto Judaism.Known in scholarlycircles for his
expertexegesis of the Old Testament,Lagardehad also achievedpublic notoriety
because of his collected essays called Deutsche Schriften,in which he rejected
Judaismand traditionalChristianfaiths and called instead for a new Germanic
religion.32
Kultusministervon Gossler forwardedthe testimony of these experts to the
Kaiser and the Justice Minister, along with his own opinions on the subject.33
Accordingto Gossler,the threeexpertwitnesses representeda rangeof opinions.
Delitzsch, a convertedJew, was describedas the most sympatheticto Judaism.
Lagarde,on the other hand, was assumedto have anti-Semiticleanings. Gossler
concluded,therefore,that the most objective viewpoint belonged to Strackwho
seemed to occupy a middle ground.Althoughall three scholarsdisagreedin their
speculation about the motivations for Bernstein's attacks, they all agreed that
Jewish ritualsand teachingswere not to blame. Lagardedid discuss blood super-
stitionsthathad come indirectlyfromJudaism;however,even he did not conclude
that the Jewish scriptureswould condone such an act. Unfortunately,there is no
recordof Wilhelm'sresponseto these expertopinions.Gossler,however,was firm
in relaying his own opinion to the Kaiser that "the acts of Bernsteincannot be
tracedback to any existing Jewish rituals."4
In the meantime, local prosecutors continued to keep Justice Minister
Schelling informedof the progressof the Bernsteininvestigation.But the further
proceedingsturnedout to be ratheranticlimactic.Bernstein'slawyers repeatedly
attemptedto overturnthe originalconviction (as well as several new charges)on
grounds that Bernstein was insane. The case dragged on for almost two years
while medical experts debated Bernstein'smental stability.Eventually,in early
1891, long after the political press had moved on to other matters,the Royal
Scientific Deputationgave a final opinion that Bernsteinsufferedfromparanoia
chronicareligiosa.The proceedingswere immediatelyhaltedandKaiserWilhelm
II was informed that the criminal prosecution of Max Bernstein had reached
an end.

Xanten
The furorsurroundingthe blood ritualaccusationsat Skurczand Breslaupaled in
comparisonto the infamousXantenAffair of 1891-1892. Xantenin Westfalen,a
small town on the Rhine River near the Dutch border,was in a region that had
experienced sporadic anti-Jewishviolence throughoutthe nineteenth century.35
94 German Studies Review 27/1 (2004)

While local tensions and prejudicesundoubtedlyfueled these new accusations,


intensified national political rivalries in the early 1890s also helped turn the
Xantencase into a cause cedlbre.
On the morningof June29, 1891, JohannHegemann,the five-year-oldson of
a local cabinetmaker,was reportedmissing by his family.Severalhourslater,the
boy's body was found in the barn of a local city councilmannamed Wilhelm
Ktippers.The boy had bled to death,and a local doctor,Dr. Steiner,reportedthat
his throathad been cut almost to the spine. Several local witnesses immediately
came forwardto say thatthey had seen the wife of the local Jewishbutcher,Wolf
Buschhoff,lead the boy into her home earlierin the day.This, apparently,was the
last time young Johannhad been seen alive. Because the Buschhoffs lived next
door to where the body was found, and because of rapidlyspreadingrumorsthat
the case was a Jewish ritualmurder,local pressuremountedfor an arrestof the
Buschhofffamily.
Fearfulof the growing unrest,local Jewish communityleaders immediately
broughtthe case to the attentionof governmentofficials in Berlin.The leaderof
the local Jewishcommunityeven offeredto pay the cost for a special investigator
to come to Xantento take over the case. A local prosecutor,Baumgard,from the
nearbytown of Cleve, sympathizedwith the fears of the Jewish community,and
he recommendedto JusticeMinistervon Schellingthatinvestigatorsfromoutside
the region be sent in since "thelocal police officials may not be up to the task."36
Baumgarddescribedthe generalpopulationof Xantenas "veryagitatedand sin-
gularly focused on the delusion that this is a case of Jewish ritualmurder."He
went on to complainto the JusticeMinisterthat"so far,all the significantwitness
testimonythat has been directedagainstthe Jews, namely againstthe Buschhoff
family, has proven to be fabricatedand untrue;I must confess that in my long
years of criminalpractice,I have never experiencedsomethingso sad and dis-
turbing."37A few monthslater,an investigatornamedCriminalCommissarWolff
was sent directlyfrom Berlinto supervisethe case.
As rumorsspreadthatthe Jewish communitywas paying for outside govern-
ment investigatorsto intervene,severalanti-Semiticnewspapersbeganto suggest
that this case would have a similaroutcome to the Neustettinand Skurcztrials,
where CriminalCommissarHoft was allegedly sent from Berlin to secure an
acquittal.However,afterinterviewswith local residentsand visits to the scene of
the crime, CriminalCommissarWolff unexpectedlyconcludedthattherewas sig-
nificant evidence that Wolf Buschhoff had indeed committedmurder.Although
CommissarWolff doubtedwhethersuch a crime had been based on Jewish ritu-
als, he nonethelessconcludedthatthe witness evidence was substantialenoughto
warrantan arrest.ProsecutorBaumgard,while not convincedof Buschhoff'sguilt,
agreed that an arrestmight be the prudentcourse despite the potentialrisk of
adding to local anti-Semiticfeeling. As Baumgardexplained in a letter to the
JusticeMinister:
Barnet Hartston 95

Although the fear may exist that the prosecutionof Buschhoff-even on


completelydifferentcharges-might give nourishmentto the legend of rit-
ual murder,I am still of the opinion thatthe due process of law shouldnot
be constrainedon these groundsalone. I shouldalso addmy personalview
that such legal proceedingswould at the presenttime serve to calm rather
thanincite the people of Xanten.38
Thus, despiteBaumgard'sdoubtsabouttheirguilt, local police officials took Wolf
Buschhoff, his wife, and his daughterinto "investigativecustody" in October
1891.39
To many observers, the formal filing of murdercharges against the Jewish
couple seemed imminent.But then, on ChristmasEve 1891, withoutpublic com-
ment or justification, Baumgard and the investigating judge (Untersuchungs-
richter)Brixius suddenlyorderedthatthe Buschhofffamily be releasedfromjail.
The local population was furious, and anti-Semiticjournalists, many of whom
had already published brochures proclaiming the guilt of the accused, were
stunned by this reversal of fortune. After sporadic violence in and around
Xanten, Buschhoff and his family fled to Cologne.40
Anti-Semiticjournalistsalleged that once again variouspublic officials were
actively aidingthe Jewish defendantsand interferingin the administrationof jus-
tice. Naturallythere were frequentcomparisonswith the Skurczincident, where
a governmentofficial was also alleged to have interferedin a case to free Jewish
defendants.41 The Berlin Staatsbiirgerzeitung,for example,printedan angryfront
page article called "WhoThen is Guilty?"which examinedprevious ritualmur-
der allegations in Tisza-Eszlar,Skurcz, Lutscha, and Korfu and described the
"miscarriagesof justice" thathad allowed guilty Jewish defendantsto go free in
each case.42While this newspaper'seditors were careful not to slanderGerman
justice officials directly, they demandedthat the charges against the Buschhoff
family be reinstated.
The public clamor over the investigation reached its height when the
Progressive deputy Heinrich Rickert gave a long speech on the issue in the
Prussian Landtag on January9, 1892.43In this parliamentaryspeech, Rickert
denouncedthe anti-Semiticpress, the ultraconservativeKreuzzeitung,and espe-
cially Adolf Stockerfor spreadingreligious hatredand attemptingto manipulate
the court system for propagandapurposes.Stockerrespondedthat it was not he,
but the liberalpress thathad attemptedto make a mockeryof the justice system.
While claiming that he had never asserted that "ritualmurder"existed in the
Jewish religion, Stockerinsistedthattherewas overwhelmingevidence thatJews
often had killed Christiansout of fanaticismor superstition:
I remind Mr. Rickert of the Bernstein case, which was tried in Breslau.
There it was clearly proven that an apprenticeRabbi did in fact draw
blood several times from Christianchildren, and, as he was being inter-
rogated,he said that he had done it to soothe religious concerns...Here is
a case along the same lines as the Buschhoff case.44
96 German Studies Review 27/1 (2004)

St6ckerthenproceededto review the stateof the Xanteninvestigation.He argued


thatthe Xantencase, along with a numberof othercontroversialcriminalverdicts
involving Jews, was creatinga crisis of public confidencein the justice system.
While St6cker'scommentswere framedwith faint praisefor the Germanjus-
tice system, they were a clear attackon the Justice Ministryfor its bias toward
Jews. Minister of Justice Schelling offered an immediate response that was
deeply criticalof St6cker,and which defendedthe objectivityand sanctityof the
German justice system.45 But Schelling's speech did contain an official
announcementon the Xanten case that boosted the spirits of the anti-Semites:
afterthe appearanceof new evidence in the case (a knife that matchedthe boy's
wounds), both Wolf Buschhoff and his wife had once again been taken into
investigativecustody.
Many of the local prosecutors,meanwhile,were still not convinced that the
chargesagainstBuschhoff could, or should, be sustained.Just a shorttime after
Criminal Commissar Wolff ordered the re-arrest of Buschhoff, Prosecutor
Baumgard and Chief ProsecutorHamm both began to express doubts about
Wolff's actions.As Baumgardwrote to the JusticeMinister:
The allegedfindingsof CriminalCommissarWolff need to be viewed with
the greatestcautionsince this official seems to have acted in a biased and
superficialmanner... If CriminalCommissarWolffhas repeatedlyclaimed
that Buschhoff's alibi for his whereaboutson June 29th of last year has
been "demolished,annihilated,and completely disproved,"these state-
ments are not at all supportedby the latest investigations,which in many
respectscontradictall of Wolff's conclusions.46
Baumgardwas equally suspicious of the medical expert who had providedthe
new evidence that led to Buschhoff's re-arrest.The district medical officer
(Kreisphysikus),Dr. Bauer,had conductedthe autopsyon the boy and concluded
that a knife found at Buschhoff's house seemed likely to have been used in the
crime. But when Baumgardconsultedother medical experts,they all concluded
that there was no special reason to believe this knife was the murderweapon.
AlthoughBaumgardstill believed a trialwas the best way to resolve the affair,he
warnedthe JusticeMinisterthat it might be best to allow public pressureto sub-
side: "it seems especially importantnot to rush this importantand difficultcase,
but insteadto let a publictrialbegin only when the proceedingscan assurethatthe
possibilityof convictingan innocentman is precluded."47
The trial against Buschhoff finally opened on July 4, 1892 in the town of
Cleve. As in previousritualmurdercases, it was the witness testimonythat pro-
vided the biggest spectacle. The witness list against Buschhoff was comprised
mostly of townspeoplewho claimed to have seen Buschhoffbehaving strangely
on the day of the murder.A few even claimedto have seen the victim pulled into
the defendant'shome. In addition,other "witnesses"continuedto come forward
even duringthe trialitself to testify to havingheardBuschhoffor otherlocal Jews
whisperingto each otherabouttheirown guilt. In court,however,these witnesses
Barnet Hartston 97

faced attackson theircredibilitynot only from hostile defense attorneys,but also


from skepticalprosecutorssuch as Hammand Baumgard.
After the witness testimony was completed, both Prosecutor Hamm and
ProsecutorBaumgardgave closing statementsthat stressedthe weakness of the
evidence and soughtto exoneratethe defendant.In light of these presentations,the
jurorsdeliberatedonly 45 minutes before returningtheir verdict:Buschhoff was
acquittedon all counts.
As in Neustettinand Skurcz,the Xantenverdictbroughtangryreactionsfrom
anti-Semiticnewspapers.Vicious attackswere leveled againstthe Jews and their
liberal supporters,who had apparentlyconspired to pervertthe Germanjustice
system. Much of this anger,however,was also directedat stateprosecutorsand at
the Berlin government.Accordingto the anti-Semites,the prosecutorshad aban-
doned the interestsof the Germanpeople and the rightsof the young murdervic-
tim, and instead accepted the task of shielding Jews from prosecutionfor their
crimes.4 Anti-Semiticnewspaperssuch as the Staatsbiirgerzeitungdemandedan
immediatereformof the Germanjustice system and criticizedwhat they saw as a
bias toward Jews in the highest levels of the Justice Ministry.49Several anti-
Semitic newspapersalso launcheddirect attackson the actions of Baumgardand
his associates;predictably,these articlesprovokedmultipleslandercases filed by
the government.50
After the verdict, Baumgardcontinuedto search dutifullyfor the real perpe-
trator.The InteriorMinistryeven sent a new investigator,CriminalCommissar
Rautenberg,to assist in furtherinterrogations.However, Rautenberguncovered
little new evidence, and sent in his final, inconclusivereportin November 1893.
Thereafter, Baumgard wrote to Schelling about his frustrations with local
witnesses: "I can confirm the opinion of CommissarRautenbergthat the local
populace,includingall Xantenpublicofficials, has only wantedto prosecutea Jew
as the murderer."5' A few weeks later, Baumgardceased his regularreportson
the case.

Conclusions
A long record of historicalscholarshiphas left no doubt that anti-Semitismwas
prevalentthroughoutthe highest levels of the ImperialGermangovernment.In
additionto Otto von Bismarck'sown record of anti-Semiticstatements,several
different InteriorMinisters, Justice Ministers, and police officials also openly
expressed sympathy for anti-Jewishsentiment.This was especially true of the
InteriorMinister,Robertvon Puttkamer,whom Fritz Ster has characterizedas
"less fastidiousin discriminatingamong [conservativeand liberal]Jews; he liked
no varietyof them and found license for his prejudicein Treitschke'sjudgment."52
The motives of otherhigh officials involved in these four cases were also less
than pure. Kaiser Wilhelm II's desire to commission outside expert testimony
aboutthe Breslaucase might be interpretedas an impartialinquiryinto scholarly
opinionsaboutJewishteachings.But this would be a distortion.His inquirieswere
98 German Studies Review 27/1 (2004)

evidence that he still found ritual murderaccusationspotentially credible and


Jewishteachingspotentiallydangerous.And even Kultusminister von Gossler(the
arbiterof scholarlyreportsin the Breslaucase), who clearlythoughtritualmurder
allegations were nonsense, still cast aspersionson Franz Delitzsch's testimony
aboutthe case as "too friendlyto the Jews."
As many historianshave argued,however,the frequentanti-Semiticslurs and
stereotypesused by Imperialofficials belie an inherentcomplexity in the way
these officials relatedto GermanJews. The same officials who voiced concernfor
the "JewishQuestion"or disdainfor "Jewishvalues"could also cultivatebusiness
ties, political alliances, or even intimatefriendshipswith individualJews. These
kinds of relationshipsdo not somehow excuse or reduce the significanceof the
generalanti-Semiticrhetoricused by these men. However,the complexitieshere
remindus to look for the nuances,both in individualattitudestowardJews and in
the general governmentresponse to the growth of anti-Semitism.In a society
where individualscould voice the most repulsive anti-Semiticslogans and still
maintainclose associationswith particularJews, it is not surprisingto find gov-
ernmentofficials who could sympathizewith anti-Jewishsentimentandyet inter-
vene in cases where anti-Semitismgrew out of control.
Unfortunately,otherthantheirpublishedstatementsin courtand a few reports
to Berlin, it is difficultto fix the backgroundsor the personalmotives of individ-
uals like Hoft or Baumgardwith much certainty.While they very well may have
sharedsome of the same anti-Jewishstereotypesas men like KaiserWilhelmand
Puttkamer,these sentimentswere not madeobvious in theirlettersor theiractions.
Regardlessof their own personalviews, these particularinvestigatorsdid work
vigorously to overcome local prejudicewhile seeking justice for Jewish defen-
dants.This is especiallytruein the Neustettincase, whereHoft intervenedafteran
initialconvictionto pushfor a moreobjectivereconsiderationof the evidence.The
efforts of these investigatorsdid not put an end to local anti-Semitism,nor were
they intendedto. Thanksto theirinvolvement,however,none of these four crim-
inal prosecutionsresultedin the final convictionof Jewish defendants.
While men like Hoft and Baumgardfrequentlymentionedtheir desire to see
justice done, it is also importantto rememberthattheirprimaryconcernwas not
necessarilythe welfare of local Jews, but the preservationof law and order.The
violence in Pomeraniain 1881 had made it clearto governmentofficials thatpop-
ularanti-Semiticfervorhad the potentialto turnviolent, and scatteredriotingsur-
rounding the Neustettin and Xanten trials seemed to reinforce this fear. As
Baumgard'sanxiouslettersto Schelling in the Xantencase illustrate,his primary
concern was not so much the trial of an apparentlyinnocentman, but the threat
such a trialposed to local peace and stability.53 Of course, for Jewish defendants
and their families, this kind of government"impartiality"was certainlyof little
comfort.
Finally,it is also clearthatthe four cases discussedhere were unique.As caus-
es celebres, these trials demandedspecial attentionand eventuallyspecial inter-
Barnet Hartston 99

vention by governmentofficials. As historianssuch as Ismar Schorch, Marjorie


Lamberti,and SanfordRagins have demonstrated,in less prominentcases that
involved Jewish interests, especially those without significant concerns about
law and order,Berlin governmentofficials were often much more reluctantto
intervene.54
That such outrageousaccusationsagainstJews were so common at the end of
the nineteenthcenturyis a sign of how volatile popularanti-Semitismcould be -
especially amongpoorruralpopulationson the fringesof the GermanEmpire.The
actionsof governmentinvestigators,however,seem to standout againstthe back-
ground of these anti-Semiticoutbursts.At least in these cases, the most radical
forces of popularanti-Semitismmet with resistanceamong governmentofficials
in ImperialGermany,even if those resisting may have also harboredtheir own
stereotypesand prejudicesaboutthe Jews.

I wouldlike to thankDavidLuft,HeleneGold,andthe GSRreviewerfor theirthoughtfulcom-


mentsand suggestions,andI am gratefulto my colleaguesat EckerdCollege for theirgener-
ous supportof my research.
1Helmut Walser
Smith, The Butcher's Tale: Murder and Anti-Semitism in a German Town (New
York:Norton,2002). Suchritualmurderaccusationstracebackto the late medievalperiodand
usuallyincludedchargesthatJewsneededto use Christianbloodto makePassovermatzoor to
performspecialritualablutions.Konitzis the modernPolishtown of Chojnice,approximately
300 km. northeastof Berlin.
2Aside fromthe
mayor,thecountyofficial,anda few liberalbusinessmenandcouncilmen,few
Konitzresidentsremainedaloof fromthe anti-Semiticconsensus.Smith,181-82.
3
As it was, the outcomewas farfromjoyful for AdolphLewy andhis family.Althoughnever
convictedof the crime, Lewy was eventuallyforced to move his family to Berlin.His son
Moritz,who was also neverconvictedof chargesrelatingdirectlyto the murder,nonetheless
was convictedof perjuryfor denyingthathe was acquaintedwith the murdervictim. Moritz
servedtwo yearsin prisonbeforebeingpardonedby KaiserWilliamII. Smith,210.
4 When
possible,I havereconstructed thesetrialaccountsfromstenographiccourtrecords,and
otherwiseby newspaperaccountsandgovernmentdocuments.The periodicreportssubmitted
by justice officialsin the field for the BreslauandXantentrialsarein GeheimesStaatsarchiv
PreuBischerKulturbesitz(GStA PK). Unfortunately,there were no reportsin the Justice
Ministryfiles for the NeustettinandSkurcztrials,so the actionsof CriminalCommissarHoft
werepiecedtogetherthroughthe accountsof newspapersandpamphlets.
5 Richard Levy, The Downfall of the Anti-Semitic Political Parties in
Imperial Germany (New
Haven:YaleUniversityPress,1975), 130-31.
6
Levy, 139-41. The GrandDuchy of Hesse was not the only stategovernmentto take legal
actionagainstanti-Semiticpoliticiansor organizations.
Levy also describesconcentrated
oppo-
sitioneffortsin Badenled by GrandDukeFriedrichI, andmoresporadiceffortsin Prussia.
7 Levy, 137.
8
Bleichroder'sgovernmentcontactsdid notpreventhis reputationfrombeingdamagedby anti-
100 German Studies Review 27/1 (2004)

Semiticagitatorsor criticsin the press.Cf. FritzStem, Goldand Iron:Bismarck,Bleichroder,


and the Building of the German Empire (New York: Knopf, 1977).
9 The Deutsch-Israelitischer Gemeindebund,founded in 1869, engaged primarily in educational
and philanthropic
activitiesand was responsiblefor only scatteredattemptsto combatanti-
Semitism. The more aggressive Centralverein (1893) established a Rechtschutzcommissionto
helpprosecuteslanderousspeechesandpublications:
SanfordRagins,JewishResponsestoAnti-
Semitismin Germany(Cincinnati:HebrewUnionCollegePress,1980),28-29.
10Neustettinis the moder Polishtownof
Szczecinek,ca. 250 km northeastof Berlin.
"See the changedtone in the reportsby Oberregierungsrat GrafD'Haussonvilleto Minister
Puttkamerandvariouspoliceauthoritieson thecausesof the violence:GStAPK,I. HARep.76
Nr.56 Band1,230-36,270-73,275.
Kultusministerium,
12
See the announcement in the semiofficial Provincial Correspondenz, 19 August 1881.
(Kassel),18 November1883;ReichsboteI, 25 October1883.
3 E.g., Geldmonopol
14
See a collectionof variouspressresponsesin Germania,25 October1883,ZweitesBlatt.See
also Berliner Tageblatt,25 October 1883, Abend.
15Thissensational
retrialin Konitzwas an important to theKonitzritualmurderaccu-
precursor
sationdescribedby HelmutWalserSmith,whichwouldcomeonly 16 yearslater.
16
Germania, 2 March 1884, Erstes Blatt.
17The prosecutionwitnesseswere confrontednot only by CriminalCommissarHoft and the
defenseattorneys,but also by the leadjudge in this secondtrial,Landgerichtsrat Arndtfrom
Danzig,who was muchmoresuspiciousof theirtestimonythanthe firstjudgehadbeen.
18
TheReichsbote,for example,firstsuggestedthatit was improperto criticizethe trialauthori-
ties.It thenimmediatelylauncheda not-so-subtlecritiqueof themotivesandactionsof theretri-
aljudge.See Reichsbote,11March1884.Latercritics,suchas OttoGlagau,weremuchless hes-
itantto suggestthattherehadbeencollusionbetweenJewsandjusticeofficialsin theNeustettin
case. See Der Kulturkimpfer Heft 128 (February1886):3.
19See e.g. the criticismof the liberalVossischeZeitung,14-15 March1884;andthe opinionsof
the BerlinerTageblattas reprintedin Germania,11 March1884,ZweitesBlatt.Cf. also a criti-
cal articleon the reactionof the liberalpressin Reichsbote,11 March1884.
20 See
stenographicrecord of the Zelle interpellationin several newspapers,including
Reichsbote,16 March1884,BeilageandGermania,15 March1884.
21
Skurczis the modernPolishtownof Sk6rcz,ca. 70 km.eastof Konitzandsouthof Gdansk.
22 Berliner
Tageblatt,22 April 1885,Abend,claimedthatritualmurderchargeswere madeso
easilybecauseanti-Semiticbrochureson theTisza-Eszlar case hadbeendistributed.
of Polish names variedin differentsources.I have used those from Otto
23 Transliterations
Glagau's journal Der Kulturkampfer.
24
Der Kulturkampfer,Heft 118 (May 1885): 36.
25
Christlich-Soziales Correspondenzblatt,6 May 1885, Beilage.
26 AntisemitischeKorrespondenz, 17 March1889.
27
See, for example, Das Volk, 8 March 1889 and 27 March 1889;Deutsche Wacht, 10 March
1889and 14April1889;Reichsbote,9 March1889.
28
See LamarCecil, WilliamII. 2 vols. (ChapelHill: Universityof North CarolinaPress,
1989-96);Christopher Clark,KaiserWilhelmII. (New York:PearsonEducation,2000);Giles
Barnet Hartston 101

MacDonough, The Last Kaiser: The Life of Wilhelm II. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000);
and John C.G. Rohl, Kaiser and His Court: WilhelmII and the Government of Germany, trans.
TerenceF. Cole (Cambridge:
CambridgeUniversityPress,1994).
29 See
WernerMosse, "WilhelmII andthe Kaiserjuden:
a Problematical in Jehuda
Encounter,"
Reinharz and Walter Schatzberg, eds., The Jewish Response to German Culture: From the
Enlightenment to the Second WorldWar.(Hanover: University Press of New England, 1985).
30Levy, 136.
31 LetterSchellingto Gossler,8 March1889.GStAPK, I. HA Rep. 84a Nr.56464:25.
32 On Lagarde see Fritz Ster, The Politics of Cultural Despair (Berkeley: University of
CaliforniaPress,1961).
33Unfortunately, the originaltestimonyof the threeexpertwitnessesis not presentin the case
file, only the reflectionsof Gossler.See GStAPK, I. Rep. 84a Nr.56464.
34LetterGosslerto Schelling,Berlin,4 May 1889.GStAPK, I.
Rep. 84a Nr.56464:70.
35StephanRohrbacher
andMichaelSchmidtdiscusscases of ritualmurderaccusationsin 1808,
1819, 1834, 1835, 1840, 1862, all of whichoccurredwithina 40 kilometerradiusnorthwestof
Cologne.Rohrbacherand Schmidtuse this patternto arguethatit was not social or economic
tensionsthatservedas the primarymotivefor suchaccusations,buta regionaltraditionof ritu-
al murder stereotypes. See Stephan Rohrbacherand Michael Schmidt, Judenbilder:
Kulturgeschichte antijiidischer Mythen und antisemitischer Vorurteile (Reinbek bei Hamburg:
RowohltTaschenbuch Verlag,1991).
36
LetterErsterStaatsanwalt Baumgardto Justizminister
Dr.von Schelling,Cleve, 7 July 1891.
GStAPK, I. HA Rep. 84a Justizministerium, Nr.57459:3.
37 LetterErsterStaatsanwalt Baumgardto Justizminister
Dr.von Schelling,Cleve, 16 July 1891.
GStAPK, I. HA Rep.84a Justizministerium, Nr.57459: 10.
38 LetterErsterStaatsanwalt
Baumgardto JustizministerDr. von Schelling,Cleve, 7 October
1891.GStAPK, I. HA Rep.84a Justizministerium, Nr.57459: 33.
39Rohrbacher et al., 337.
40Ibid.

41 Der Fall Buschhoff. Die Untersuchung iber den Xantener Knabenmord. Von einem
Eingeweihten (Berlin: Verlag der Vaterlandischen Verlags-Anstalt, 1892). The
made an even more directcomparisonwith Skurcz.It alleged that the
Staatsbiirgerzeitung
Jewish Communityof Xantenpaid 700 Marksto get CommissarHoft, the investigatorwho
"helpedto dismiss"thechargesin NeustettinandSkurcz,sentfromBerlin.Unfortunately
forthe
Jews,thepaperclaimed,theygot CommissarWolffinstead.See Staatsbiirgerzeitung,
20 January
1892,Abend.
42
Staatsbiirgerzeitung, 10 January 1892, Morgen.
debateson ritualmurderaccusationswere also commonin Austria-Hungary,
43 Parliamentary
especiallyin 1883 (Tisza-Eszlar),1890,and 1899 (Polna).See AlbertLichtblau,"DieDebatten
iiberdie Ritualmordbeschuldigungen im 6sterreichischen
Abgeordnetenhaus am Ende des 19.
Jahrhunderts,"in Die Legende vom Ritualmord: Zur Geschichte der Blutbeschuldigung gegen
Juden,ed. RainerErb(Berlin:Metropol-Verlag, 1993),267-92.
44
Transcriptprintedin JiidischePresse, 11 February1892.
5 Schellingvigorouslydefendedthe independence andobjectivityof thejudiciaryandthe legal
process:"Thereis thereforeno reasonfor anykindof anxietyin thepublicperceptionof law and
102 German Studies Review 27/1 (2004)

order(offentlichenRechtsbewusstseins); the verdict,whateverit may be, will be decidedby


Prussianjudges with the same impartialityand lack of bias whichhas been an innatetraitof
theirsfor centuries."HausderAbgeordneten reportfrom9 February1892 in GStAPK, I. HA
Rep. 84a Nr. 57459: 177 ff. A week later,Schellingorderedprosecutorsto beginlegal actions
againstanyonewho went too far in criticizingjusticeofficials.GStAPK, I. HA Rep. 84a Nr.
57459: 226a.
46
LetterErsterStaatsanwalt Baumgardto Justizminister Dr. von Schelling,Cleve, 17 March
1892.GStAPK,I. HA Rep.84a Justizministerium, Nr.57459:263-64.
47LetterErsterStaatsanwalt Baumgardto Justizminister Dr.von Schelling,Cleve, 15 February
1892.GStAPK,I. HA Rep.84a Nr.57459:218.
NeueDeutscheZeitungclaimedthatBaumgard's
48 Duringthetrial,theanti-Semitic actionswere
explainedby his Jewish-looking face, as was thetestimonyof theJewishandhalf-Jewishexpert
witnesses.Excerptof 17 July 1892,in GStAPK,I. HA Rep. 84a Justizministerium, Nr.57462:
94.
between17 July 1892,Morgen,andOctober1892,andarticleseries
49 Cf. Staatsbiirgerzeitung

on "Jewishpressandjusticeprivilege,"Germania,14 August1892,ErstesBlatt,ff.
50One of thesepost-XantenslandertrialsturnedHeinrichOberwinder, editorof the St6ckerite
paper,Das Volk,intoa celebrity.Todefendhimselfagainstchargesof slander,Oberwinder called
witnessesfromthe Xantentrialin the hopeof showingthatthe chargeof ritualmurderagainst
BuschhoffwastrueandtheXantenprosecutors hadhandledthecaseincompetently. Oberwinder
was convictedandsentencedto two monthsin jail. Soon after,Das Volkadvertisedpamphlets
thatlionizedOberwinder. Das Volk,21 December1892.
51Letterfrom
Baumgardto Schelling,Cleve, 29 November1893. GStAPK, I. HA Rep. 84a
Justizministerium, Nr.57461:76.
52 FritzSter, GoldandIron,516-17.
53 HelmutWalserSmithrejectsthe notionthatin thesecasesthePrussianarmypreventedwhat
wouldinevitablyhave been a large-scalemassacre:"Theriots[in Konitz]wereno doubtterri-
As enmitydeepenedandtempers
fying,butthey did not descendinto a tempestof destruction.
flared,insteadof wantoncarnage,a familiarroutineof ominousthreatsandsymbolicgestures
mediatedthe voices of hatred...for the Germansof Konitzit sufficedto rituallyenact vio-
lence..." Smith,166. This may be correct.But therewas no way for local Jewsor police offi-
cials to knowthatthe violencewouldnot continueto escalate.
54 Ismar Schorsch, Jewish Reactions to German Anti-Semitism, 1870-1914 (New York:
Columbia Univ. Press, 1972); Marjorie Lamberti, Jewish Activism in Imperial Germany: The
Strugglefor CivilEquality(New Haven:YaleUniversityPress,1978);SanfordRagins,Jewish
Response to Anti-Semitism in Germany (1870-1914) (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press,
1980).