Heinrich Gothard von Treitschke (September 15, 1834 - April 28, 1896), German historian and antisemitic political writer, was born at Dresden.
Treitschke was a son of an officer in the Saxon army who rose to be governor of Königstein and military governor of Dresden. Young Treitschke was prevented by deafness from entering the public service. After studying at Leipzig and Bonn universities, where he was a student of Dahlmann, he established himself as a Privatdozent at Leipzig, lecturing on history and politics. At one point he became very popular with the students, but his political opinions made it impossible for the Saxon government to appoint him to a professorship.
At that time Treitschke was a strong Liberal; he hoped to see Germany united into a single state with a parliamentary government, and all the smaller states swept away. In 1863 he was appointed professor at Freiburg; in 1866, at the outbreak of Austro-Prussian War, his sympathies with Prussia were so strong that he went to Berlin, became a Prussian subject, and was appointed editor of the Preussische Jahrbücher. His violent article, in which he demanded the annexation of Hanover and Saxony, and attacked with great bitterness the Saxon royal house, led to an estrangement from his father, who enjoyed the warm friendship of the king. It was only equalled in its ill humour by his attacks on Bavaria in 1870. After holding appointments at Kiel and Heidelberg, he was in 1874 made professor at Berlin.
In 1871, Treitschke became a member of the Reichstag, and from that time till his death he was one of the most prominent figures in Berlin.
On Sybel's death he succeeded him as editor of the Historische Zeitschrift. He had outgrown his early Liberalism and become the chief panegyrist of the house of Hohenzollern. He made violent and influential attacks on all opinions and all parties which appeared in any way to be injurious to the rising power of Germany. He supported the government in its attempts to subdue by legislation the Socialists, Poles and Catholics.
As a strong advocate of colonial expansion he was also a bitter enemy of Britain. He was to a large extent responsible for the chauvinistic anti-British feeling of the last years of the 19th century.
In the Reichstag he had originally been a member of the National Liberal Party, but in 1879 he was the first to accept the new commercial policy of Bismarck, and in his later years he joined the Moderate Conservatives, though his deafness prevented him from taking a prominent part in debate.
Treitschke was one of the few important public figures who supported antisemitic attacks which became prevalent from 1878 onwards. He attacked the refusal of German Jews to assimilate into German culture and society and the flow of Jewish immigrants from Poland. Treitschke coined a phrase "Die Juden sind unser Unglück!" ("The Jews are our misfortune!") adopted as a motto by Der Stürmer several decades later. Because of his respected status, Treitschke's remarks aroused widespread controversy.
Treitschke approached history as a politician, and confined himself to those periods and characters in which great political problems were being worked out: above all, he was a patriotic historian, and he never wandered far from Prussia. His great achievement was the History of Germany in the Nineteenth Century. The first volume was published in 1879, and during the next sixteen years four more volumes appeared, but at his death he had only advanced to the year 1847. The work shows extreme diligence, and scrupulous care in the use of authorities. It is discursive and badly arranged, and partisan, but stylish and vigorous. He also wrote biographical and historical essays, and essays on contemporary politics.
The most important essays were collected as Historische und politische Aufsatze ; a selection from his more controversial writings was made under the title Zehn Jahre deutscher Kämpfe; in 1896 a new volume appeared, called Deutsche Kämpfe, neue Folge. After his death his lectures on political subjects were published under the title Politik. He brought out also in 1856 a short volume of poems called Vater-ländische Gedichte, and another volume in the following year. His first works to be translated into English were two pamphlets on the war of 1870, What we demand from France (London, 1870), and The Baptism of Fire of the North German Confederation (1870).
Treitschke's students included Heinrich Class, Hans Delbrück, Otto Hintze, Max Lenz, Erich Marcks, Friedrich Meinecke, Karl Peters, Ludwig Schiemann, Gustav Schnürer, Georg Simmel and Friedrich von Bernhardi. During World War I, many writers in the West, particularly in Britain, blamed Bernhardi for creating attitudes amongst the political class of Germany that were seen as an incitement to war. A complete translation of both volumes of Treitschke's Politics was published in London in 1916. Politics also appeared in an abridged English translation edited by Hans Kohn and published in 1963.
This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain