The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry

Germany’s Prophet: Paul de Lagarde and the Origins of Modern Antisemitism

Ulrich Sieg; translated by Linda Marianiello

"Germany's Prophet: Paul de Lagarde and the Origin of Modern Antisemitism" book cover.A Sarnat Library Book

A provocative and disquieting portrait of Bible scholar and founder of modern German antisemitism Paul de Lagarde

Recognized in his own time and also today as a leading scholar of the origins and development of the Septuagint and its sources, Paul de Lagarde (1827—1892) was a vituperative German nationalist and an antisemite whose writings inspired the National Socialist (Nazi) ideology. An influential and controversial public thinker, he invoked an authentic Germanness that encompassed religion and a national ethos to counter the threat posed by the Jews and liberalism. His appeals to a “secret Germany” eventually resonated with modern conservative revolutionaries and notable antisemites from Julius Langbehn and Houston Stewart Chamberlain to Alfred Rosenberg and Adolf Hitler himself.

“Drawing on a vast array of sources and informed by a deep knowledge of 19th-century theology, philology and political history, Ulrich Sieg shows us a Lagarde driven by religious and political apocalypticism as well as by a fanatical dedication to positivist scholarship and an insatiable need for love. Sieg’s authoritative biography throws light on not only the contradictory character of the man himself but also on the many different readers who found inspiration in Lagarde’s violent denunciations of Judaism, liberalism and the spiritually desiccated modern world.” —Suzanne L. Marchand, Louisiana State University, and author of “German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Religion, Race and Scholarship”

“‘Germany’s Prophet’ easily outdistances earlier Lagarde studies and will serve as a benchmark for scholarship. For anyone interested in the history of ideas in the 19th and 20th centuries, and especially in the rise and fall of cultural pessimism, this is now the place to start.” —Thomas Meyer, Ludwig-Maximilians-University

“In‘Germany’s Prophet’ the academic roots of modern racial and political antisemitism are clearly outlined. Lagarde was both a respected academic as well as a notorious antisemite, whose academic status provided cover for his politics. Well researched and well written, Sieg’s study is a major biographical addition to the literature on the history of antisemitism and perhaps a litmus test for ‘real’ academic antisemitism.” —Sander L. Gilman, Emory University, author of ‘Jewish Self-Hatred’

About the Author

Ulrich Sieg is professor of philosophy at the Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany.