Pan-German League
The Pan-German League was an extremist, ultra-nationalist political interest organization which was officially founded in 1891, a year after the Zanzibar Treaty was signed. It was concerned with a host of issues, concentrating on imperialism, anti-semitism
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

, the so called Polish Question, and support for German minorities in other countries. The purpose of the league was to nurture and protect the ideology of German nationality as a unifying force. By 1922, the League had grown to over 40,000 paying members. Berlin housed the central seat of the league, including its president and its executive, which was capped at a maximum of 300. Full gatherings of the league happened at the Pan-German Congress. Although numerically small, the League enjoyed a disproportionate influence on German state through connections to middle class, political establishment and the media, as well as links to 300,000 strong Agrarian League


The organization was created in 1891 as a response to the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty
Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty
The Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty of 1 July 1890 was an agreement between the United Kingdom and the German Empire concerning mainly territorial interests in Africa.-Terms:...

. Ernst Hasse was its first president, and was succeeded by Heinrich Class
Heinrich Class
Heinrich Claß was a German right-wing politician and president of the Pan-German League from 1908 to 1939. He is commonly known for his books about far-right policy, written under the pseudonym Daniel Frymann or Einhart...

 in 1908. The industrialist Emil Kirdorf
Emil Kirdorf
Emil Kirdorf was a German industrialist, one of the first important employers in the Ruhr industrial sectors...

 was also a founding member.

The creation of the Pan-German League was preceded by a similar organization. In 1886, Dr. Karl Peters
Karl Peters
Karl Peters , was a German colonial ruler, explorer, politician and author, the prime mover behind the foundation of the German colony of East Africa...

 unofficially had created a “German League” under which many national organizations converged. However, this league fell apart when Karl Peters left Germany for Liverpool. Later, the Pan-German League was created in the wake of the Zanzibar Treaty. This treaty, signed between Great Britain and Germany, concerned territorial issues in East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

. This treaty coupled with Bismarck
- People :* Bismarck family, a German noble family descending from Herebord von Bismarck* Otto von Bismarck , German statesman of the 19th century* Herbert von Bismarck , Secretary of State, son of Otto von Bismarck...

’s fall from power provided the impetus to form a new German nationalistic outlet. Thus league emerged to bolster the nationalist movement. Membership included an annual fee of one mark. Reichstag President Hasse worked to save the league, bringing it back to life by issuing the Pan face-German Leaves, which spread the ideals of pan-Germanism
Pan-Germanism is a pan-nationalist political idea. Pan-Germanists originally sought to unify the German-speaking populations of Europe in a single nation-state known as Großdeutschland , where "German-speaking" was taken to include the Low German, Frisian and Dutch-speaking populations of the Low...


The aim of the Alldeutscher Verband was to protest against government decisions which they believed could weaken Germany. A strong element of its ideology included social Darwinism
Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism is a term commonly used for theories of society that emerged in England and the United States in the 1870s, seeking to apply the principles of Darwinian evolution to sociology and politics...

. The Verband wanted to uphold German racial hygiene
Racial hygiene
Racial hygiene was a set of early twentieth century state sanctioned policies by which certain groups of individuals were allowed to procreate and others not, with the expressed purpose of promoting certain characteristics deemed to be particularly desirable...

 and were against breeding with so-called inferior races like the Jews and Slavs. Agitation against Poles was a central focus for the Pan-German League The agitations of the Alldeutscher Verband influenced the German government and generally supported the German foreign position developed by Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...


One of the prominent members of the league was the sociologist Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

 who, at the League's congress in 1894 equated Germandom with civilization. Weber left the league in 1899 because he felt it did not take a radical enough stance against Polish migrant workers in Germany. Later Weber went on to become one of the most prominent critics of German expansionism and of the Kaiser's war policies. He publicly attacked the Belgian annexation policy
Schlieffen Plan
The Schlieffen Plan was the German General Staff's early 20th century overall strategic plan for victory in a possible future war in which the German Empire might find itself fighting on two fronts: France to the west and Russia to the east...

 and unrestricted submarine warfare
Unrestricted submarine warfare
Unrestricted submarine warfare is a type of naval warfare in which submarines sink merchantmen without warning, as opposed to attacks per prize rules...

 and later supported calls for constitutional reform, democratisation and universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...


The position of Pan-German league gradually evolved into biological racism, with belief that Germans are "superior race", and Germans need protection from mixing with other races, particularly Jews. By 1912 in publication "If I were the Keiser", the Pan-German League's leading member Class called on Germans to conquer Eastern territories inhabited by "inferior" Slavs, depopulate their territories and settle German colonists there. There were also calls for expulsion of Polish population living in Prussian territories

The Alldeutscher Verband had an enormous influence on the German government during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, when they opposed democratization and were in favour of unlimited submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

 war. Opponents of the Verband were called cowards. Influential figures in the Alldeutscher Verband founded the Vaterlandspartei
Fatherland Party (Germany)
German Fatherland Party was a pro-war party in the German Empire.The party was founded close to the end of 1917 and represented political circles supporting the war. Among founding members were Wolfgang Kapp and Alfred von Tirpitz . Walter Nicolai, head of the military secret service, was also...

in 1917 following the request of the majority of the German parliament to begin peace negotiations with the allies.

After World War I, the Alldeutscher Verband supported general Erich Ludendorff
Erich Ludendorff
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg...

 in his accusation against democrats and socialists that they had betrayed Germany and made the Germans lose the war. According to Ludendorff and the Verband, the army should not have been held responsible for the German defeat. Ludendorff, however, had declared that the war was lost in October 1918, before the German November Revolution
German Revolution
The German Revolution was the politically-driven civil conflict in Germany at the end of World War I, which resulted in the replacement of Germany's imperial government with a republic...

. That accusation is called the Dolchstoßlegende ("stab in the back legend").

Membership in the league was overwhelmingly middle and upper class males. Most members' occupations reflected the League's emphasis on education, property ownership, and service to the state. They were, in this sense, solid representatives of the German classifications of Bildung and Besitz (education and position in life).

The Alldeutscher Verband was dissolved in 1939.

Further reading

  • The Pan-Germanic Doctrine. Harper and Brothers: London and New York. 1904
  • Jackisch, Barry Andrew. ‘Not a Large, but a Strong Right’: The Pan-German League, Radical Nationalism, and Rightist Party Politics in Weimar Germany, 1918-1939. Bell and Howell Information and Learning Company: Ann Arbor. 2000.
  • Wertheimer, Mildred. The Pan-German League, 1890-1914. Columbia University Press: New York. 1924.
  • Chickering, Roger. We Men Who Feel Most German: Cultural Study of the Pan-German League, 1886-1914. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. 1984.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica
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