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Christian Social Party

The Christian Social Party was an Austrian Catholic political party. Founded by Karl Lueger in 1893, along ideological lines elaborated by Karl von Vogelsang, it achieved the distinction of being the first political party anywhere to attain power on the issue of anti-Semitism, winning 66% of the seats on the Vienna City Council in 1895.

Christian Social Party propaganda was conducted in the scurrilous anti-Jewish style popularized in Vienna by Abraham a Sancta Clara and developed by Quirin Endlich, Sebastian Brunner, and Joseph Deckert. Its program was made topically relevant by identifying big business and chain stores with Jews. The lower ranks of the clergy supplied the ideological backbone of the party.

In character with its archaic tendencies, the party at the end of the 19th century revived the blood libel, especially pressed by Ernst Schneider. On the other hand, at its founding, it was opposed by the episcopate, not least because of its vulgar anti-Semitism. In 1895, however, Pope Leo XIII rejected protests by the bishops, thus giving the party Vatican approval. Eventually, it gained ground over the veteran Austrian Catholic Conservative Party, some of whose main leaders joined the Christian Social Party, until the two amalgamated in 1907. Subsequently, the Christian Social Catholic brand prevailed over G. von Schoenerer’s racial anti-Semitism. Hence a number of apostates such as Julius Porzer and Max Anton Loew could figure henceforth among its leaders.

After World War I, the Christian Social Party became the dominant political party in Austria, leading all governments in Austria, except the first, until 1938. It thus shaped the policies of Engelbert Dollfuss, Ignaz Seipel, and Kurt von Schuschnigg.

In the first few years after World War I, the Christian Social Party propaganda still retained strong Semitic elements. In 1918, the party talked about the Jewish peril and was prepared to grant the Jews national self-determination as part of the bitter defensive war against Jewry. In 1919. the Christian Social politician Leopold Kunschak, who later become a deputy of the parliament and leader of the party, openly agitated against the Jewish refugees in Vienna and called them a plague of our time. 

In 1920, the theme of the Jewish snake strangling the Austrian eagle was still depicted on election posters. Later, the main leaders of the party attempted to tone down the virulence of its anti-Semitism. However, the party rank and file and certain leading elements laid increasing stress on anti-Semitism, partly out of resentment at Austria's treatment by the Western "Jewish" powers, and later intensified by competition with the Nazis and their influence. One minister of education, Emmerich Czermak, advocated the segregation of Jewish students in the universities. When, in 1934, the Christian Social Party amalgamated with the Vaterlaendische Front, the latter inherited its ideas and slogans. After World War II, a number of former leaders of the Christian Social Party, including Leopold Kunschak, continued to stress anti-Semitism. Some of them founded the Oesterreichische Volkspartei. Kunschak became the first president of the parliament of the second Republic of Austria.


A. Fuchs, Geistige Stroemungen in Oesterreich 1867–1918 (1949), 43–82; I.D. Van Arkel, Anti-Semitism in Austria (1966), 56–107, 186–92; P.G.J. Pulzer, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria (1964), index; idem, in: J. Fraenkel (ed.), The Jews of Austria (1967), 429–44; Karbach, in: Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden (1964), 1–8, 103–16, 169–78; J.S. Bloch, My Reminiscences (1923), 227–352; C. Gulick, Austria from Habsburg to Hitler (1948), index; A. Diamant, Austrian Catholics and the First Republic (1960), index; J. Braunthal, The Tragedy of Austria (1948), index; F. Heer, Der Glaube des Adolf Hitler (1968), index; H. Greive, Theologie und Ideologie, Katholizismus und Judentum in Deutschland und Oesterreich 1918–1935 (1969). See also bibliography to Karl *Lueger . ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Hellwing, Der konfessionelle Anti-semitismus im 19. Jahrhundert in Oesterreich (1972); A. Staudinger, "Christlichsoziale Judenpolitik in der Gruendungsphase der oesterreichischen Politik," in: Jahrbuch fuer Zeitgeschichte 1978, 11–48 (1979). B.F. Pauley, From Prejudice to Persecution. A History of Austrian Anti-Semitism (1992).

[Meir Lamed]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.