According to Wikipedia, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany was founded in 1890. The German empire was founded in 1871:

{German empire shown in green on a map of Europe}

Inside of this territory, there were many people who were ethnically non-German, for example, (ethnically) Jewish, Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, etc. Were they allowed to join the SPD?

What proportion of the SPD was composed of these, and other, ethnicities? It would be great to have a comprehensive look at the demographics. However, the time period I am interested in is about 1900 - 1914; also curious during 1914-1918.

I have already read the wikipedia page about the history of the SPD but it has no information about demographics. And a google search about this seems to focus on the keywords "Polish" "SPD" and ignores the "before 1918" keywords. I've tried a bunch.

Edit: To clarify what I'm looking for, I imagine a circular pie chart, with some % German, some % Polish, % Jewish, % Latvian, etc.

  • It is worth noting that there was a Polnische Liste representing ethnic Poles in the Reichstag. So even though Poles were not excluded from other parties, they were not represented by them. Commented Feb 7 at 9:39
  • According to Wikipedia, the General German Workers' Association was founded in 1863 and it merged with the Social Democratic Workers' Party to form the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany in 1875, and that in turn changed its name to the SPD in 1890. Hmm.
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Feb 7 at 11:50
  • @ilkkachu Thanks! Updated. Commented Feb 7 at 12:21
  • You should clarify what you mean by Jewish and Polish in this question. For instance, Jewish might mean ethnicity or religion. Commented Feb 7 at 17:11
  • 2
    Why do you think that SPD limited the nationality of their members? Don't forget, that till WWI it was a pure Marxist party, and Marxism disallows nationalism. And Marx himself was a Jew. If they only tried something of that kind, they would immediately get very bad press from Engels or Marx themselves.
    – Gangnus
    Commented Feb 7 at 19:44

3 Answers 3


Rosa Luxemburg was a fairly prominent SPD member before WWI. She was from a Jewish family in Poland.

This SPD-affiliated page says that in 1914, the SPD had 12 Jewish Reichstag members (out of a total of 110 SPD seats)

  • Nitpick, I would call the FES "affilated" rather than "semi-official." Both sides acknowledge that they are legally different entities, but both the relation is close.
    – o.m.
    Commented Feb 6 at 19:16
  • Rosa could not vote nor being voted. A sad membership.
    – Grim
    Commented Feb 7 at 10:46
  • @Grim Only since 1908 were women allowed to join (any) party and since 1918 allowed to vote. Commented Feb 7 at 20:48
  • @MarkJohnson Rosa joined 1898 the SPD, SPD was a political party. But yes, very sad.
    – Grim
    Commented Feb 7 at 21:49

SPD emerged from the merger of the Lassalle's General German Workers Association (ADAV) and Marxist Social Democratic Workers party. Both Lassalle and Marx (as well as many of their followers) were of Jewish origin, although estranged from Judaism and Jewish traditional life. So it is fair to say that Jewishness have never been a problem in the SPD.

It is also worth mentioning that Lassalle was from Breslau, so he could be also viewed as a Polish Jew.

Remark Technically, Marx father converted to Christianity, and Marx' upbringing was formally Christian. Lassalle was raised in a traditional Jewish family, although he had been long dead by the time of the merger.

  • 2
    Considering a person from Breslau at that time to be "Polish" is quite a stretch and not supported by the demographics of that city. It was a overwhelmingly German city back than. It is Polish now because of the ethnic cleansing of Silesia from 1945 on. Commented Feb 7 at 9:28
  • @SirCornflakes my understanding is that the family changed their original name to Polish-sounding "Lasel" after moving to Breslau, and that they spoke fluent Polish.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Feb 7 at 9:41
  • 1
    @SirCornflakes The question is not about how he identified himself, but about whether somebody's Polish and Jewish background could pose a problem to SPD. The rest is not relevant to the Q.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Feb 7 at 14:02
  • 2
    @SirCornflakes what about "Loslau" - is that Polish enough? (see here: jstor.org/stable/23506487) If you want to collaborate on improving this answer, I am open to suggestions... even though I consider your confrontational attitude as unfriendly, and contrary to the SE rules.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Feb 7 at 14:08
  • 1
    @SirCornflakes Lassalle was not a member of SDP - he was the founder of ADAV, which would later merge with SDAP to form SPD. The conjecture here is that, given their antecedents, SPD was unlikely to discriminate against Jews.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Feb 7 at 14:31

The other answers so far have given clear indication of Jews being admitted to the SPD and its parent organisations.

Here's a clearly Polish member of the party Julian Marchlewski

P.S. I tried Large Language Models on this question, and they don't give much useful information. The consistently drop the names of Rosa Luxemburg and Adolf Warski, but one of them claims not to have enough information (bard-jan-24-gemini-pro) and the other (llama-2-7b-chat) went on to invent some Polish social democrats, or to assign some existing persons to the SPD without verifiable source (their Wikipedia entry does not mention any political affiliation)

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