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Georg von Schönerer
Schönerer was born in Vienna and became known as Georg Ritter von Schönerer after his father, railroad pioneer Matthias Schönerer, was knighted in 1860. According to Austrian law Georg too was entitled to add the noble particle von to his surname, and unofficially, but by custom, also the knightly title Ritter. When his very wealthy father died in 1881, Georg also inherited the title in his own right, thus becoming Georg (Knight of) Schönerer.
As a young man he became a political activist and got elected to Austria’s Reichsrat (Parliament) in 1873. Originally a liberal, Schönerer became more nationalist as his career progressed, and by the peak of his career had transformed into a far right politician, considered by left-leaning liberals to be even a conservative.
Schönerer developed a political philosophy that featured elements of violent antisemitism, anti-Slavism, anti-Catholicism, authoritarianism, popular solidarism, nationalism, and pan-Germanism, themes which appealed to many lower class Viennese. As such, Schönerer rapidly became a popular and powerful political figure. In 1879 he formed the Pan-German Party, which would become a considerable force in Austrian politics.
During these years, while the Kulturkampf divided Imperial Germany, Schönerer founded the so-called Away from Rome! (Los-von-Rom-Bewegung) movement, which advocated the conversion of all Roman Catholic German speakers of Austria to Lutheran Protestantism, or, in some cases, to the Old Catholic Churches.
In 1888, Schönerer was temporarily imprisoned for ransacking a Jewish-owned newspaper office and assaulting its employees. This action increased Schönerer’s popularity and helped members of his party get elected to the Austrian Parliament. The prison sentence also resulted in the loss of his status as an Austrian noble.
Schönerer was reelected to the Reichsrat in 1897, and later that same year helped orchestrate the expulsion of Prime Minister Kasimir Felix Graf Badeni from office. Count Badeni had proclaimed that all civil servants in Austrian-controlled Bohemia would have to know the Czech language, an ordinance which prevented many ethnic German-speakers in Bohemia (the majority of whom could not speak Czech) from applying for governmental jobs.
Schönerer staged mass protests against the ordinance and disrupted parliamentary proceedings; actions which eventually caused Emperor Franz Joseph to dismiss Badeni. Schönerer became even more powerful in 1901, when 21 members of his party gained seats in the Austrian Parliament.
His career crumbled rapidly thereafter, however, due to his forceful views and personality. His party suffered as well, and had virtually disintegrated by 1907, buut his views and philosophy would go on to greatly influence Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party as a whole. Hitler for his part would never admit to being influenced by any other Austrian nationalist except Georg von Schönerer, who of course was safely dead and therefore not a potential rival.
Schönerer died at his castle Rosenau at Zwettl, Lower Austria on August 14, 1921. An admirer of Otto von Bismarck, he arranged before his death to be buried near Bismarck's mausoleum on his estate at Friedrichsruh in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany.
NotesRegarding personal names: Ritter is a title, translated approximately as Knight, not a first or middle name.
There is no equivalent female form.
See alsoLinz Program of 1882
Whiteside, Andrew G. (1975). The Socialism of Fools: Georg Ritter von Schönerer and Austrian Pan-Germanism. University of California Press
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