Karl Lueger, Christian-Socialist and one-time mayor of Vienna, Austria, dies. Adolf Hitler viewed him admiringly and his Christian Democratic party is widely regarded as providing a model for the Nazi Party, particularly when it comes to the use of anti-Semitism.
The devoutly Catholic Lueger himself was a vicious anti-Semite who regularly called for the exclusion of non-Germans from Austrian society and is credited with coining the label Judapest for the Hungarian capital city. Lueger was, furthermore, an ardent admirer of Guido von List's nationalist romanticism, something that would also play an important role in the Nazi movement in Germany a generation later.
In his book Mein Kampf, Hitler writes:
"Although not a racist, Lueger believed that Vienna was 'built by German strength and courage' and should remain German in sprit forever. He regarded German nationalism with skepticism, but since he believed that accomplishments were more important than ideology, he was not above using the continuous anti-Semitic and anti-Slav currents in Vienna for his own purposes.
Although Lueger had a Jewish ancestor in his family tree he joined the anti-Semitic forces, though slowly and with qualifications. His party's program acknowledged a 'Jewish problem,' but only in the sense that the Jews, in their desire to make profits, were merely following the liberal way of life. 'Eliminate the poison' of complete economic freedom, he believed, and the 'Jewish problem' would go away."
To be fair to Karl Lueger, though, he never actually enacted any anti-Semitic policies like those that will become typical under Nazi rule. Some believe that Lueger harbored very little genuine anti-Semitism personally and instead only used it rhetorically in order to get votes. If that's the case, though, it's not much of a defense because insofar as Lueger's populist, rhetorical anti-Semitism helped inspire and encourage the anti-Semitism of Adolf Hitler, Lueger can be blamed for the crimes committed in the name of Hitler's anti-Semitism.
There's a lesson here for all politicians who use the rhetoric of hate to get votes and without personally believing it: just because you don't believe and act on it doesn't mean you aren't inspiring and encouraging others who will come along and take your words seriously. What will you do then?