Wilhelm Marr

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Wilhelm Marr (1819, Magdeburg – 1904 Hamburg) was a German agitator and publicist, who coined the term "antisemitism" (1879).



Marr was born in Magdeburg as the only son of an actor and stage director. He went to a primary school in Hannover, then to a high school in Braunschweig. In Hamburg and Bremen he was an apprentice in commerce, then he joined his father in Vienna, who had been engaged by the Burgtheater. There he worked as an employee in two Jewish firms. He later claimed that he had unjustly lost his job.

In 1841 he went to Zurich, where he became acquainted with political émigrés (like Georg Herwegh, Julius Fröbel, and August Follen), most of them members of the democratic or liberal leftist movements of the early 19th century.

In 1843 Marr was expelled from Zurich under the accusation that he had furthered communist activities. He turned to Lausanne, where he joined Hermann Döleke and Julius Standau, the founders of the secret Léman-Bund, which belonged to the "Junges Deutschland" (Young German Movement). Marr eventually became the head of the secret society and began to lean towards anarchism and atheism, founded another secret society, the "Schweizerischer Arbeiterbund" (Swiss Worker's Union) and edited the "Blätter der Gegenwart für sociales Leben" (Present-Day Papers for Social Life, 1844/45). In 1845 he was expelled from Lausanne, too, and went to Hamburg. There he became a political journalist and published the satirical magazine "Mephistopheles" (1847/48-1852). He belonged to the leftists of the radical-democratic "party" and was a delegate to the National Assembly in Frankfurt after the March-Revolution of 1848. After the ultimate failure of the revolution he - like so many other former revolutionaries - became a proponent of the idea of German unification under Prussian leadership.

In 1852 Marr went abroad, to Costa Rica, where he tried to make a living as a businessman. Lacking success he returned to Hamburg, worked again as a journalist, and in 1854 he married Georgine Johanna Bertha Callenbach, daughter of a Jewish businessman who had renounced his faith. The couple was divorced in 1873. In 1874 Marr remarried the Jewish Helene Sophia Emma Maria Behrend, who died within the same year. In 1875 there was a third marriage, with Jenny Therese Kornick (whose parents lived in a Christian-Jewish mixed marriage), who bore him a son. In 1877 this marriage was divorced, too; Marr's last wife was Clara Maria Kelch, daughter of a Hamburg working man.

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