Johann Jacoby

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Johann Jacoby

Johann Jacoby (born on May 1, 1805 in Königsberg i. Pr .; Died on March 6, 1877 there ) was a German doctor and radical democrat in Prussia.


Johann Jacoby was born as the son of the Jewish merchant Gerson Jacoby and his wife Lea Jonas, the youngest of five children. After graduating from the Collegium Fridericianum , he studied medicine at the Albertus University in Königsberg from 1823 , which at that time was strongly influenced by the teachings of Immanuel Kant . Supported by Eduard von Simson , he founded the third Littauer Kränzchen on February 2, 1827 , which in 1829 became the Littuania Corpsland Team . He completed his studies in 1827 with a dissertation on delirium tremens and in 1828 with the state examination. He worked as a general practitioner and from 1829 also at the Jewish hospital in Königsberg. After the outbreak of the great cholera epidemic , he traveled to a Russian-controlled district on behalf of the state during the Polish uprising in 1831 to become the first East Prussian doctor on the spot to find out about the epidemic. A little later she reached Königsberg. His medical work was honored in his hometown, and the Prussian chief president, Theodor von Schön , is said to have said: “I will also report to Berlin about it, but you know you cannot get a medal, an award. You are a Jew. "

Struggle for Jewish equality

Jacoby was already suspicious of Prussian government policy in the 1820s because of its restrictive stance on Jewish equality . But it was not until the July Revolution of 1830 and the Polish uprising that his political commitment spurred on. As an active member of the Jewish community, to whom, among other things, he had made suggestions for reforming the worship service, he initially addressed the question of civil equality. For Jacoby, who, as his biographer Edmund Silberner thinks, “is quite alienated from the spiritual roots of Judaism, not emotionally bound to the Jewish religion; grew up in German culture and [was] deeply attached to it, "was the goal of equal rights dependent on the success of the liberal-democratic and national movement:" As I am a Jew and a German myself, the Jew in me cannot become free without the Germans and the Germans not without the Jews. ”In a pamphlet published in 1833 he emphasized that“ not granting a grace ”, but rather equality is“ a right withheld from us ”until a“ humane future fully satisfies our reasonable demands. “He never deviated from his confession,“ according to birth and inner conviction - Jew, ”. Until his death he belonged to the Jewish community, even if he had lost interest in the Jewish religion through his philosophical studies and his preoccupation with Spinoza .


Four questions answered by an East Prussian (new edition 1863)

From 1839 Jacoby was significantly involved in a liberal discussion group in Königsberg, from which the "Thursday Society" he founded emerged. In 1841, in his pamphlet, published anonymously by the Saxon publisher Otto Wigand , he demanded four questions, answered by an East Prussian, a constitutional constitution for Prussia and a general state parliament with "real participation of the people in politics". He relied on the royal constitutional promise of 1815. For fear of state persecution, Jacoby had initially published his work anonymously. However, after police informers began to look for the author, Jacoby revealed his authorship in a letter to the Prussian king a little later. He even dedicated his writing to the new Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV - an act with which he wanted to remind the monarch of his father's unfulfilled constitutional promise. Friedrich Wilhelm IV did not, however, go into it; he called Jacoby a "cheeky rebel" and initiated a high treason trial for libel against Jacoby. The king wanted to punish Jacoby's political emancipation efforts with death. The Koenigsberg Higher Regional Court, however, declared that it was not responsible because such a high case would have to be heard before the Berlin Higher Regional Court. The Berlin judges, on the other hand, did not want to see high treason in Jacoby's pamphlet and sent the files back to Koenigsberg. But now Friedrich Wilhelm IV intervened in the process. In 1842 Jacoby was sentenced to more than 2 years imprisonment for lese majesty and ridicule of state laws, which he did not have to serve, however, as he appealed and was acquitted again by the Berlin Higher Regional Court. The President of the Court of Appeal justified the acquittal by stating that Jacoby's disposition clearly showed "awe" towards the sovereign.

The writing made him a recognized representative of Prussian liberalism. The later deputy Franz Ziegler described Jacoby's effect as follows: "When we were all still living in political darkness, Johann Jacoby emerged from the dark, ready, clear, shiny, bold and became the creator of political life in Prussia." Robert Prutz later confessed : “ With him [Jacoby] the whole of Prussian liberalism stood on trial. “In the following years Jacoby was often active as a political speaker and journalist and in letters to the Prussian provincial parliaments called for full political representation. Renewed charges were the result, which he met with deliberately public defenses.

On April 11, 1847, a united state parliament met for the first time in Berlin , which comprised the previous eight provincial parliaments . However, it was not yet a politically representative representation, but was structured according to a class. Jacoby traveled to Berlin to exchange ideas with the liberal-minded delegates and to influence them. He took part in the meetings of the opposition, in particular he met regularly with the East Prussian representatives. He had expected the unified state parliament to speak out against government policy, but after a short period of observation he criticized the diplomatic "quiet treading" of the negotiations. The delegates are well-disposed, but without determination. On May 5th, he left Berlin and traveled for three months, always with intensive contacts to prominent representatives of the opposition through half of Germany, with trips to Zurich and Brussels.

Revolution time

Wilhelm refuses to listen to the parliamentarians (1848)

After the outbreak of the March Revolution , Jacoby was a staunch Democratic Republican in the pre-parliament and the only Jew on the Fifties Committee . However, he did not consider the objective prerequisites for a German republic to be given and renounced their propagation. Nevertheless, he was not elected as a member of the Königsberg National Assembly, among other things because he was a member of the Fifties Committee for the cession of the Prussian province of Posen (see Posen question 1848-1851 ). Poland's political and state independence is only a matter of time, which must be recognized as an equal national liberation idea. Instead Jacoby was elected a member of the Prussian National Assembly in a Berlin constituency . There he contributed significantly to the formation of the left parliamentary group . He seldom emerged as a speaker in parliament because he was primarily concerned with the organization of the Prussian democratic movement. After the storming of Vienna by counter-revolutionary troops and the replacement of the Prussian Prime Minister Ernst von Pfuel by the ultra-reactionary Count Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg , the Prussian National Assembly decided on November 2, 1848 to send a deputation to Friedrich Wilhelm IV in Potsdam on the same day . The emissaries gave the king an address on the state of the country. The king accepted the petition without saying a word and then wanted to turn away without having addressed the deputies. Then, breaking the court etiquette (subjects were not allowed to speak directly to the monarch, they had to wait until the king spoke to them himself) Jacoby called after his famous sentence:

"It is the misfortune of kings that they do not want to hear the truth!"

Because of this audacity, Jacoby was exposed to violent reproaches from his fellow delegates after the audience had ended. Word of Jacoby's courageous demeanor quickly got around in Berlin and was enthusiastically received by liberal-minded circles. On December 5, 1848, a coup led to the dissolution of the Prussian National Assembly, and the new constitution was imposed. In February 1849 Jacoby was elected to the second chamber of the Prussian state parliament . After its dissolution in April 1849, he succeeded Daniel Friedrich Gottlob Teichert on May 24, 1849 as a member of the Frankfurt National Assembly, which was already in the process of being dissolved. He remained in the rump parliament in Stuttgart until its end on June 18, 1849. He then fled to Switzerland with other parliamentarians . When he was accused of high treason in Königsberg because of his participation in the rump parliament, he returned and faced the court. The seven-week pre-trial detention ended in an acquittal.

Oppositionist to Bismarck

In the years of reaction that followed, Jacoby was under police supervision and focused on his medical practice. He also worked on an ambitious philosophical work, which, however, remained a torso. He only published fragments of it shortly before his death.

After King Friedrich Wilhelm IV resigned and with the beginning of the so-called New Era in 1858, Jacoby also began to be politically active again. The following year he joined the German National Association and in 1861 joined the German Progressive Party . Between 1863 and 1870 he represented the 2nd Berlin constituency in the second chamber of the Prussian House of Representatives. There he belongs to the extreme left within the Progress Party. In the Prussian constitutional conflict , in which the parliamentary majority refused an army increase demanded by King Wilhelm I and his Prime Minister Bismarck, he and other MPs called for tax refusal. Just four days after the state parliament was opened on November 9, 1863, he gave a speech to hundreds of listeners in the electoral assembly of his constituency about the constitutional struggle, in which he declaimed: “ If Prussia is to emerge as a constitutional state, the military and junker state of Prussia must necessarily go under. "In the further course of the speech he appealed to the" political self-help "of the people:

The people must be ready to stand up for their right themselves ... Not revolution, not the honest will of free-thinking princes can give freedom to a people, just as the wisdom of statesmen and parliamentary speakers can not do this. The people have to think for themselves, act for themselves, work themselves in order to make the paper constitutional document a living constitutional truth. As in the economic field, just as in the political - 'self-help' is the solution! "

After he was charged and sentenced to six months in prison, Jacoby arranged for his speech to be printed. While in custody in Königsberg, he wrote the text “The Free Man. Review and preview of a state prisoner. "

He fought against the small German solution in his newspaper Die Zukunft , which he published together with Guido Weiss from 1867 to 1871 (employees include Josef Stern (journalist) and Franz Mehring ). In the run-up to the German-Danish War of 1864, Jacoby called for the " cocky Dane " to be driven back over the borders of the German fatherland in order to redeem Schleswig-Holstein " from the yoke of foreign rule forever ". However, he championed the right of the two duchies to state independence and after the war spoke out against their annexation by Prussia. For similar reasons he protested against the German War of 1866 and the annexation of new areas into the Prussian state. He also rejected the constitution of the Prussian-dominated North German Confederation . In the essay Nationality Principle and State Freedom , he presented his conviction, borrowed from Herder , Schiller and German idealism , especially Kant and Fichte , that according to this state and nationality are only means on the way to freedom of the individual as well as of peoples. A nation, which he understands as a community that has become culturally, can organize itself alone or with other nations in a common state, or belong to several states. The only decisive factor is what corresponds to the development of the “national character” into human freedom. The mere urge for unity of a people does not decide on this. His speech to the Prussian House of Representatives on May 6, 1867 on the occasion of the adoption of the constitution of the North German Confederation should also be understood in this sense:

Gentlemen, allow me, as one of the oldest fighters for the rule of law in Prussia, to conclude with a brief word of warning. Do not be mistaken about the consequences of your decision! The stunting of civil liberties has never led a people to national power and greatness. Give the 'supreme warlord' absolute power and you will at the same time proclaim the war of nations! Germany - united in state freedom - is the most secure guarantee for the peace of Europe; Under Prussian military rule, on the other hand, Germany is a constant threat to neighboring peoples, the beginning of a war era that threatens to throw us back into the sad times of the law of the fist. May Prussia, may the German fatherland be saved from such calamities! "

Turn away from the progressive party

After the war of 1866, a Greater German solution to the national unification question had become an illusion. On the other hand, the socialist labor movement pushed for greater independence from bourgeois left-wing liberalism. Jacoby tried to take countermeasures and propagated the equivalence of political and social reform, which are mutually dependent. An attempt at integration by means of a new German people's party failed and Jacoby began to move towards the labor movement with his political and social ideals. In November 1868 he resigned from the Progress Party. He no longer saw his principle of legal equality for all as a fundamental principle of democracy adequately represented. In addition, according to his fundamental statement, a representative, parliamentary government fulfills this demand more in appearance than in reality. Only the rule of the “collective will”, the unconditional self-government of the people, could guarantee equality of rights. In January 1870 Jacoby gave a speech, later printed and translated into several languages, on "The Goal of the Labor Movement", in which he described the workers' question as a question of culture, justice and humanity. He advocated the abolition of the wage system, equal associations and cooperative management, a synthesis of liberal and socialist ideas.

During the Franco-Prussian War he gave a speech on September 14, 1870 against the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine . He was arrested and imprisoned in the Lötzen fortress under martial law . Otto von Bismarck campaigned for the release of “that old, arid Jew”, as he called him, out of political calculation and probably also out of human respect. His rejection of the war also ended his close friendship with the writer Fanny Lewald . Jacoby has belonged to the "International Peace and Freedom League" based in Bern since it was founded in 1867. One of their goals was the creation of the United States of Europe .

In the first elections to the Reichstag in March 1871, he was not elected. Although he ran as a Democrat against former friends of the Progress Party in all electoral districts, his opponents did not deny him a respectable success.

Turning to social democracy

Under the influence of the Leipzig high treason trial against August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht , Jacoby joined the Social Democratic Workers' Party (SDAP) in 1872 . Its principles, Jacoby said, “ and the principles of democracy of 1848 are the same. “Whoever thinks consistently,“ will not be in doubt about it. “Despite controversy because of his“ social reformist ”ideas - with some parallels to his supporter Albert Dulk , who now lives in Stuttgart and who joined the Socialist Workers' Party (SAPD) in 1875 - Jacoby enjoyed a high reputation among the Social Democrats. He respected Karl Marx's services to the social question and spoke out appreciatively about Capital , but he rejected the revolutionary class struggle. The foundations of his writing from 1870, his " social creed " as he called it, he essentially upheld.

In the Reichstag election in 1874 , he was elected to the Reichstag as a social democratic candidate in a runoff election in the Leipzig district, but did not take up the mandate. Even before the elections, he had announced this option to several electoral associations. A little later he wrote to his constituents that he was convinced of the impossibility of converting a military state into a people's state through parliamentary channels. The rejection of the mandate cost the SDAP a seat in the Reichstag (in the subsequent by-election in this constituency the free-spirited candidate Carl Erdmann Heine won ) and was sharply condemned by the party. In November 1876, in Königsberg, democrats and social democrats agreed on August Bebel as a candidate for the Reichstag. At an election event, Bebel got to know Jacoby personally, who left him with " an extremely favorable impression ".

Johann Jacoby died at the age of 71 after an operation. Between 5000 and 10,000 people followed the funeral procession at his funeral. Although he did not believe in any revealed religion, Jacoby is said to have told his sister that he wanted to be buried according to the Jewish rite. Isaak Bamberger, the rabbi of the Jewish community of Königsberg , gave the funeral address . His marble bust by Rudolf Siemering was placed in the Junkersaal next to the Kneiphöf town hall in 1877 . It has been missing since 1933.


  • Contribution to a future history of censorship in Prussia. Imprimerie de Bourgogne et Martinet, Paris 1838.
  • An East Prussian answered four questions. H. Hoff, Mannheim 1841. Text at Wikisource , digitized version and full text in the German Text Archive , 1863 digitalized version from Google .
  • The royal word of Friedrich Wilhelm III. Renovard, Paris 1845 digitized
  • The free man. Review and preview of a state prisoner. Jullius Springer, Berlin 1866.
  • Correspondence 1816–1849 and correspondence 1850–1877. Edmund Silberner, Neue Gesellschaft, Bonn-Bad Godesberg 1974 and 1976.
  • Collected writings and speeches by Dr. Johann Jacoby. 2 volumes, Otto Meißner, Hamburg 1872. (The 2nd edition from 1877 with the supplement volume: Supplements to Dr. Johann Jacoby's collected writings and speeches containing the essays and speeches published since 1872. )
  • Speech before the Supreme Court on January 9, 1865 . In: Collected Writings and Speeches. Second part. Otto Meißner, Hamburg 1872 pdf
  • The goal of the labor movement. Speech to the Berlin voters on June 7, 1870. In: ibid. Pp. 345–371 pdf


  • Public characters II. Johann Jacoby. In: The border messengers. Vol. 7, 1848, 2nd semester, III. Volume, pp. 434-452 digitized .
  • Karl WippermannJacoby, Johann . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 13, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1881, pp. 620-631.
  • Moritz Brasch : Philosophy and Politics. Studies on Ferd. Lasalle and Johann Jacoby. Friedrich, Leipzig 1889.
  • KS: Johann Jacoby. In: The True Jacob . No. 222, 1895, pp. 1865-1868 digitized .
  • Gustav Mayer : The beginnings of political radicalism in pre-March Prussia. In: Journal of Politics. Volume 6, Berlin 1913, pp. 1-91.
  • Hans Rothfels : Bismarck and Johann Jacoby. In: Königsberg contributions. Festival ceremony for the four hundred year jubilee of the State and University Library in Königsberg Prussia. Koenigsberg Pr .; Gräfe and Unzer, Königsberg Pr.1929, pp. 316-325.
  • Reinhard Adam: Johann Jacoby's political career. In: Historical magazine . Volume 143, 1931, p. 48 ff.
  • Ernst Hamburger : Jews in Public Life in Germany. Members of government, civil servants and parliamentarians in the monarchical period, 1848–1918. Mohr, Tübingen 1968, ISBN 978-3-16-829292-0 .
  • Edmund Silberner : On the youth biography of Johann Jacoby. In: Archives for Social History. Vol. IX., Verlag für Literatur und Zeitgeschehen, Hannover 1969, pp. 6–112.
  • Peter Schuppan: Johann Jacoby. In: Men of the Revolution 1848. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1970, pp. 239–276.
  • Wilhelm Matull : Johann Jacoby and Eduard von Simson. A comparison. In: Friedrich von Hoffmann and Götz von Selle : Yearbook of the Albertus University in Königsberg / Pr. Volume 21, 1971, pp. 18-35.
  • Edmund Silberner:  Jacoby, Johann. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 10, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1974, ISBN 3-428-00191-5 , p. 254 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Edmund Silberner: Johann Jacoby. Politician and man. Neue Gesellschaft, Bonn-Bad Godesberg 1976, ISBN 978-3-87831-213-0 .
  • Bernt Engelmann : Johann Jacoby. A radical in the public service , in: Wilfried Barmer (Hrsg.): Literatur in der Demokratie. For Walter Jens on his 60th birthday. Munich 1983, pp. 345-354.
  • Walter Grab : The Jewish-German freedom fighter Johann Jacoby , in: Walter Grab and Julius H. Schoeps (Eds.): Jews in the Vormärz and in the Revolution of 1848. Burg Verlag, Stuttgart Bonn 1983, pp. 352–374.
  • Bernt Engelmann : Freedom! The right! Johann Jacoby and the beginnings of our democracy. Goldmann, Munich 1987, ISBN 978-3-442-08645-0 .
  • Rolf Weber: The misfortune of kings ... Johann Jacoby. 1805-1877. A biography. Verlag der Nation, Berlin 1987. ISBN 3-373-00118-8 Licensed edition under the title: Johann Jacoby - Eine Biographie . Pahl-Rugenstein, Cologne 1988 (Small Library. Biographies / Memoirs 478), ISBN 3-7609-1190-0
  • Hans G. Helms : Johann Jacoby - a liberal politician of the Vormärz in the Bismarck era. Journal for Marxist Renewal. ISSN  0940-0648 issue 35, Frankfurt am Main 1998, pp. 97-109.
  • Jürgen Manthey : The Democrat (Johann Jacoby) , in ders .: Königsberg. History of a world citizenship republic . Munich 2005, ISBN 978-3-423-34318-3 , pp. 442-453.
  • Heinz Kapp: Revolutionaries of Jewish origin in Europe 1848/49. Konstanz 2006, Chapter 3.6: Johann Jacoby and the misfortune of the Democrats.

Web links

Commons : Johann Jacoby  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Johann Jacoby  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Walter Passauer: Corp table of the Littuania zu Königsberg , p. 28, no. 15. Königsberg i. Pr. 1935
  2. ^ Edmund Silberner : Johann Jacoby. Politician and man . In: Publications of the Institute for Social History eV 1st edition. Verl. Neue Gesellschaft, Bonn-Bad Godesberg 1976, ISBN 3-87831-213-X . , P. 41
  3. Silberner 1976, p. 59
  4. ^ Ernest Hamburger : Jews in public life in Germany . In: Series of scientific papers by the Leo Baeck Institute . 1st edition. tape 19 . JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1968, ISBN 3-16-829292-3 . , P. 191
  5. Silberner 1976, p. 54
  6. Silberner 1976, p. 52
  7. Silberner 1976, p. 69
  8. a b Ingke Brodersen: Judentum. S. Fischer Verlag, 2012, ISBN 978-3-104-00897-4 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  9. Silberner, p. 116
  10. Silberner 1976, p. 168
  11. Walter Grab : The German - Jewish freedom fighter Johann Jacoby , in: Walter Grab, Julius H. Schoeps (Ed.): Jews in the Vormärz and in the Revolution of 1848, Stuttgart - Bonn 1983, p. 359 ff.
  12. Walter Grab 1983, p. 360
  13. Silberner 1976, p. 199
  14. Silberner 1976, p. 216
  15. List of electoral districts, polling places and elected MPs with political group affiliation ( memento of the original from August 8, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , PDF in the portal , accessed on December 13, 2014  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  16. Silberner 1976, p. 321
  17. Silberner 1976, p. 322 ff.
  18. Silberner 1976, p. 371 ff.
  19. Silberner 1976, p. 376
  20. Susanne Miller : The problem of freedom in socialism , Berlin, Bonn, Bad Godesberg 1977, p. 386
  21. Silberner 1976, p. 408
  22. Miller 1977, p. 85
  23. Hamburger, Jews in Public Life in Germany, p. 196
  24. Silberner 1976, p. 379
  25. Silberner 1976, p. 485f.
  26. Miller 1977, p. 63
  27. Miller 1977, p. 84
  28. Silberner 1976, p. 501
  29. Miller 1977, p. 94
  30. August Bebel: From my life . ( August Bebel. Selected speeches and writings . Volume 6, Berlin 1983, p. 462.)
  31. Silberner 1976, p. 536
  32. ^ Herbert Meinhard Mühlpfordt : Königsberg from A to Z. A city lexicon , 2nd edition. Munich 1976, ISBN 3761200927
  33. Ostpreußenblatt (2000) ( Memento of the original from October 31, 2004 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /