‘Bismarck: A Life’ Focus of ‘Thinking With the Past’ Talk by Jonathan Steinberg

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Media Contact:Jacquie Posey | jposey@upenn.edu | 215-898-6460April 17, 2013

The University of Pennsylvania History Department “Thinking with the Past” lectures conclude this semester with Jonathan Steinberg’s talk on Otto von Bismarck.

Steinberg is the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Modern European History at Penn and former chair of the department.

He’ll deliver a talk, “Bismarck, Anti-Semitism and the Tragedy of German Jewry,” based on his book Bismarck: A Life at the Parkway Central Library’s Montgomery Auditorium on Monday, April 22, at 8 p.m. The library is located at 1901 Vine St. in Philadelphia. The event is free and open to the public. Online registration is at http://jonathansteinbergbismarck.eventbrite.com/.

“The talk will cover an aspect which no previous biography has treated,” Steinberg said, “Bismarck's role in the first serious wave of anti-Semitism in Germany, which broke out in the late 1870s and marked the first stage in the tragic story of German Jews, who loved their country as good patriots but discovered that their country no longer loved them.”

In 1880, the Prussian lower house, the Landtag, debated the “Jewish Question” as if thousands of German Jews had suddenly become no longer German, Steinberg said. The wave of anti-Semitic agitation and publications peaked as Bismarck let it all happen, taking no steps to counter the movement. Steinberg said this inaction in spite of Bismarck’s good relations with many prominent Jews shines a lurid light on his political tactics and marks the moment when the German Jewish community no longer felt safe.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave Bismarck: A Life a favorable review in the New York Times Book Review when it was published in 2011. It has been translated into German and Danish. Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Romanian and Portuguese editions are coming soon.

At his talk Steinberg will sign copies of the book provided for sale by the Penn Bookstore.  Additional information is available by contacting Nari Baughman at nlinette@sas.upenn.edu