The Police Authority. Department II (Political and Criminal Investigation Unit), Report by Constable Erxleben. Re: Observations Carried out in the Streets and Public Houses, Hamburg, October 1st, 1898

Source Description

This source is one of ca. 20,000 reports written by police spies about conversations they overheard in Hamburg pubs and in public spaces between the end of 1892 and the end of 1910.

When the Anti-Socialist Law  The “Law against the Publicly Dangerous Endeavors of Social Democracy,” [Sozialistengesetz] passed on October 19, 1878. was not renewed in 1890, the Hamburg senate began to fear the Social Democratic labor movement and the outbreak of social revolt. As part of a reorganization of Hamburg’s police force following Prussia’s model in the early 1890s, the chief of the political police succeeded in establishing a department for gathering intelligence on the mood and political views among Hamburg’s workers and craftsmen. The department consisted of six civil servants who visited Hamburg’s pubs, beer halls, and streets disguised as workers in order to observe the conversations of those present and subsequently write reports on them. The city was split into 16 observation districts, one of which was the dockland area called Billwerder Ausschlag. Hamburg’s political police reports on the mood of those observed have been given little attention in historical scholarship for the most part until historian Richard J. Evans reviewed and published a selection of them. They proved to be a trove of archival material that is immensely informative with regard to the cultural history and everyday life of workers, craftsmen, and the lower classes. This 1898 report written by Constable Erxleben sheds light on a common conversation in which antisemitic stereotypes are being evoked.
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Recommended Citation

The Police Authority. Department II (Political and Criminal Investigation Unit), Report by Constable Erxleben. Re: Observations Carried out in the Streets and Public Houses, Hamburg, October 1st, 1898 (translated by Insa Kummer), edited in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:source-98.en.v1> [May 27, 2017].