JMC : Antisemitism / by Jacques Maritain

III. The Present Tragedy of the Jewish People

EVERYBODY knows that the Jews miss no opportunity for lamentation. If they are such adepts at weeping, it is because they have a sempiternal habit of sorrowing and because they are disarmed. To-day, in any case, it may be said that, in the matter of persecutions, they are plentifully supplied.

The third part of this essay, in which I shall speak of matters of fact concerning the actual situation of the Jews in various countries, will obviously be but a brief summary. If one were to enumerate in detail all the types of oppression involved, one could never conclude.

Before examining briefly the effects of antisemitism in Germany, Rumania and Poland, let us say a few words about the situation of the Jews in Russia.

The Jews in Russia

Perhaps some people will say in surprise: But does not the U.S.S.R. make a boast, and justifiably, of having officially proscribed antisemitism? Has it not given the Jews, as it has members of other ethnic groups, equality in law and free access to schools and universities? Yes, that is true. Nevertheless, Russia is one of the countries of the world in which Israel is most threatened.

I do not here speak simply of the economic ruin which the Soviet régime brought on the Jewish masses. Ninety per cent of the Jews of Russia lived from trade, industry and crafts. Their means of livelihood have been harder hit than those of the peasant masses, because the new régime no longer tolerates merchants or independent craftsmen. For them the economic disaster is complete.

No, what I want to point out above all is that, if the Jews can live, however miserably, in Russia, Jewry and Judaism are condemned to death. Their assimilation, forced assimilation, is succeeding only too well.

Here the struggle has not been, and is not being, carried on against the Jewish race, but against the Jewish religion, as against all religions. Violent persecution, conducted by some atheist Jews, has burst on religious Jews. "Here," one Jewish author writes, "it is the Jew who is the Jew's worst enemy." Finally, the great mass of Jewish youth is cut off from religion. Only the older generation perseveres, but, "in the face of the hostility of the governing classes, it dare not move, and religion is doomed."

"In this country," writes the same author, "where the Jews twenty years ago were still the most solid bulwark of Judaism, the Jewish religion is about to be destroyed."{1}

And, by the same token, Jewish culture is doomed. Rabbinical schools and almost all synagogues are closed. Teaching in the Hebrew tongue, folklore, religious holidays, circumcision, the rites of the Mosaic law, all are practically forbidden. A mighty State pressure works, on the other hand, in favour of mixed marriages, with the result that the Jewish ethnic and cultural entity is rapidly vanishing.{2} Likewise, Zionism, regarded as an "imperialist" movement, is rigorously repressed, and every attempt at Zionist propaganda becomes the object of immediate arrest and exile.{3}

It was recently said of Yiddish literature that its force and originality "come from its impotence not to be religious."{4} In a general sense, there is no Jewish culture and no Jewish people without the God of the Scriptures, if His presence be only in the dead bones of a tradition devoid of faith, which Zionism, at least, respects and preserves.

It is a remarkably significant phenomenon and one which confirms our earlier reflections, that everything proceeds as though a profound hatred of the Scriptures, wherein God testifies to Himself, rebounds on Israel itself as a mystical body, and Israel, as a mystical body, is never afflicted without Israel, as a people, feeling the same blow.

The Jews in Germany

We have dealt with German racism in its principles. Is it necessary to recall now how it works out in practice?

According to the law of April 7th, 1933 (that of the famous Aryan clause), supplemented by other legislative acts of the same year, all non-Aryans, that is to say, all human beings who bear in their veins 100 per cent. or 50 per cent. or -- when they have had a single Jewish grandfather or grandmother -- 25 per cent. of Jewish blood, are barred from public posts as well as, either directly or indirectly and by means of persecution, from the liberal and "cultural" professions.

Jews have been forbidden to participate in the world of the theatre, the Press, literature, music destined for the Aryan masses, or to become teachers or students in German universities. They are the objects of special laws, not to unite them to the life of the commonwealth, but to segregate them as an inferior and noxious race.{5} Let them work out for themselves a ghetto culture; but even if they were to be encouraged to do so, it would be as slaves are encouraged to sing songs to themselves before death comes. Let them devote themselves to commerce; but even if some of them were to hold important positions, in many sectors of economic life they are dispossessed for the benefit of Aryans. Jewish shops are boycotted; Aryans guilty of buying from Jewish merchants are threatened and molested; Jewish birth alone becomes a valid reason for the discharge of any employee.

Blood dominates everything, dominates intelligence and goodwill, grace, and baptism. The children of a baptised Jew must be taught in a Jewish, not in a Christian school.

We know that in September, 1935, the Nuremberg laws, those "laws for the protection of German blood and honour," deprived the Jews of the title of citizen and of political rights. We know that the same laws forbid marriage (as well as extra-marital sexual relations) between Jews and non-Jews under penalty of prison and hard labour. These punishments having proved insufficiently efficacious, some antisemites propose now to institute capital punishment for the crime of what they call race shame or racial pollution.

Let us cite here, as an example, certain facts which were collected by Louis Roubaud, a French journalist endowed with great objectivity, during an inquiry recently made by him in Germany, and which he published in the Petit Parisien (March, 1939):

"Posters warn imprudent citizens: 'Every girl so forgetful of her race as to visit a Jew or to receive him in her house, or to go for a walk with him, will be shaved and exposed in the public square. We invite Germans conscious of their dignity to watch over Christian women who cultivate a Jew, to give us their addresses, and to inform us of their behaviour.'

"Such punitive exhibitions are a current spectacle for citizens of large and small towns.

"I passed but one day in Nuremberg, and I was coming out of my hotel when such a procession passed before me. . . . I first beheld six soldiers in arms, pushing in front of them a young boy in women's clothes; but it was not a boy, but a girl, completely bald, and yet pretty, with blue eyes bright with tears, and so thin and fragile After having shaved her head, the soldiers had hung round her neck a sign: 'I HAVE GIVEN MYSELF TO A JEW.' She was exhausted, stumbling. Having arrived before the hotel, she let herself fall on the greasy pavement, pretending to have fainted. They kicked her to make her get up, and one of the kicks marked her delicate face with blood and mud. . . . I had the courage to join the loiterers who were following. When she was really unable to walk any more, the soldiers lifted her on their shoulders to show her to the distant spectators. . . .

"The Fritsche trial is not an exceptional case. Herr Fritsche, a widower of forty-five, is the father of a boy of eighteen, a 'boy in uniform,' like many others, and who is undergoing training in camp with others. Herr Fritsche, a decent fellow and fond of sport, is not an old man. Sarah was his wife's friend. She is thirty-five and pretty. The honest affection which he felt for her before becoming a widower, transformed itself into love. He commits the 'crime.' And immediately the 'accomplices' are frightened, they try to cross the French frontier. His 'son in uniform' denounces him, bears testimony against him during the trial. Result: fifteen months' hard labour.

"A sentence of the Tribunal of the Reich dated January 8th, 1938, condemns to ten months of hard labour young F. . . . , who is not a Jew, but who thought that he was one, when he committed the crime of letting himself be seduced by a fair German. This young man, who was legally the posthumous son of a Jew, married to a Christian, learnt during the trial that his mother, long before his birth, was the mistress of a pure Aryan, Dr. G. . 'Your father was for more than a year in the hospital, where he finally died,' the mother tearfully told him. 'I only saw him once a week in a common ward. My affair with Dr. G. . . . dates from that time.'

"The accused asks for his mother's and Dr. G.'s testimony. But according to jurisprudence, the intention suffices for the crime of 'Rassenschande' (race shame) to be committed. Not even the intention! . . . The simple appearance, a preliminary to presumption! . . .

"Take the case of Herr Samter, a Hindenburg (Upper Silesia) merchant, before the suppression of Jewish shops. He ought to be careful with that lady-client who, notwithstanding the bill 'Jude' in evidence in the shop window, did not hesitate to bargain over a radio set. This happened in the evening, just before the closing of the shop. And Samter was alone! He should have found out about the lady's religion. She was a Fraulein Martha Waldbrun, who made him test several radio sets, not being able to make up her mind, leaning over the merchant's shoulder, under the excuse to make him explain a detail. . . . The policeman arrived. . . . During the trial Fraulein Waldbrun, seized with remorse, admitted that she had been paid by the police. Samter entirely absorbed by the sale of the set, did not make a single gesture, had not the slightest thought of gallantry. . . . Notwithstanding this fact, he is ruthlessly condemned to six years' hard labour. Horrified by the consequence of her act, Fraulein Waldbrun committed suicide. 'She did not want to survive her shame,' the newspapers declared.

"One could cite endless facts. . . . Not only must Jews not run the risk of giving life outside their race, they are also forbidden to save life. Before committing suicide, the famous specialist of children's diseases, Professor Knoepfelmacher of Vienna wrote the following words: 'I have saved the lives of 60,000 children; to-day, I am obliged to take my own life.'

"Serotherapy, which saves thousands of children from diphtheria, was introducd in Germany by Von Behrend. Let German babies die rather than be healed by a Jew. In two years the number of children victims of croup has risen from 3,992 in 1932 to 6,372 in 1934. . . . The parents of the tiny creature condemned to die, implore the Christian doctor to inject the salutary serum . . . the doctor trembles, for he remembers the terrible condemnation pronounced by Streicher: 'Serotherapy represents the specifically Jewish idea of soiling German blood with the blood of animals different from the human race.' "

The imagination can picture but a small part of what these manifold legal provisions, with their accompanying illegal excesses -- ignoble parades of wretched men carrying mocking placards, Jewish cemeteries profaned by the hundreds, violence and humiliations of all sorts, confiscations of property, denunciations and travesties of justice -- produce in the way of suffering and anguish, misery and dishonour for unfortunate human beings. Naturally, suicide thrives. The labour of teachers and propagandists poisons the hearts of the common people, of children, of the poor, with hate and contempt for Jews and other victims of persecution. But wait! Worst of all is the degradation of human dignity among the persecuted. Not only are there in some Berlin public squares yellow benches reserved for Jews; the worst is the fact that one may see Jews, sad weary Jews, sitting on these benches. And there have been families of a Jewish father and an Aryan mother in which children have extracted from the mother a confession of adultery in order to prove that they were born of pure Aryan blood and had a right to civic life.

But is there ever an end to lust and cruelty? These increase ad infinitum. New means of oppression are invented each day. Even the name of Jehovah has been proscribed. The racist persecution in the course of the year 1938 has produced spectacles which show that it is always possible to dishonour human nature still further.{6}

I know that Germany and racism are not necessarily identified and although such matters "go without saying," I must nevertheless note here that hate against a whole people would be a great madness, and that despite racism and the anti-Christianity which are ravaging German hearts, the humane reserves of Germanic culture are not exhausted. But if the moral cataclysms sweeping over a country must not prevent those who hope to secure thereby the peace of the world, from desiring political agreements with that country, those same desires, in turn, must not prevent the truth from being uttered. The example of German antisemitism, which the National Socialist leaders conjured up and continue violently to provoke, and which they are simultaneously trying to regularise while welding it into a favoured instrument for influencing opinion in other countries, this example of antisemitism and its propaganda which is being furthered everywhere, in America as in Europe, are bad omens for such civilisation as remains to us. Italy, for political reasons, has begun to cultivate antisemitic sentiments, a novelty for her. Since the summer of 1938 Italian Fascism has become deliberately racist (I will return to this matter in a further section). Under moral and cultural forms, without overt brutality or legislative trappings, a very severe antisemitism existed in Austria before the Anschluss. Now the native country of the child Mozart is no more. The new events, which in recent months have changed the face of Central Europe, and to which I shall refer later, have been accompanied in these lands by a general and implacable surge of antisemitism.

Previously, other countries were already affected, Poland, of which I shall speak shortly, and also, to a lesser degree, Lithuania and Yugoslavia. Antisemitic propaganda, supported by Germany, is attempting to trouble many countries in South America.

In Rumania a wave of terror broke forth in the beginning of the year 1938.

The Jews in Rumania

The Jews of Rumania have long been treated as legal inferiors. Despite the promises made at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, it was only with the Treaty of 1919, following the world war and with the Constitution of the enlarged Rumanian State, that the equality of all Rumanian citizens before the law, "without distinction of race, language or religion," was proclaimed. In annexing Bessarabia, Bukovina, Transylvania, the Banat and Maramuresh, with some 9,000,000 inhabitants, Rumania undertook, in accord with a quite obvious rule of international public law, to recognise as entitled to the benefits of Rumanian law all the Jews, some 600,000, living in those territories.

I have but limited confidence in statistics, particularly the demographic statistics of countries subject to nationality conflicts and disputes. Relying, however, on the official data of the Rumanian statistical bureau, and rounding off figures upward rather than downward, it would seem reasonable to draw the following conclusions. Old Rumania counted some 250,000 Jews, long assimilated. Adding this figure to that which I just gave for the territories newly annexed, we see that before the war there were 850,000 Jews in the present domain of the kingdom of Rumania. To-day there are a few more or less, less rather than more,{7} that is, about 4.5 per cent. of the total population. Of this number, it is estimated that some 10,000 are Jews who fled from Russia since the war and settled in Rumania "fraudulently."{8}

Nevertheless, in January and February, 1938, the officials in power announced the intention of withdrawing Rumanian nationality and the right of settlement and residence in the kingdom, from 500,000 Jews, accused by M. Goga of having entered the country by fraud, although King Carol would reckon the number at half this figure. The cry of reprobation was being raised not against 10,000 Jews, but against 500,000.

Thus, even for the best statistical sleight-of-hand artists, it was difficult to reconcile this project with the solemn obligation of the treaty of December 9th, 1919. Moreover, for what purpose? The truth is that racism, for which the solemn pledges of treaties mean very little, was sweeping like a whirlwind through Rumania, and wanted to dispatch in the most rapid and brutal way not only 10,000 or 250,000 or 500,000 Jews, but the entire Jewish population of the country.

All Jewish citizens were barred from public posts. It was decided to close to Jews certain professions and businesses, to expropriate their agricultural enterprises, to exclude them from the theatre and cinemas, to take away from a large number of Jewish doctors, engineers, architects and lawyers, the right to practise their professions. It did not matter that the country districts suffered from a terrible shortage of doctors; Jewish doctors must first be crushed. The three Jewish newspapers in Bucharest were suppressed. The iron Guard organised a reign of terror against Jewish students in the high schools and against Jewish attorneys. The Blueshirts inspired hatred against the Jews among the rural masses, hounded Jewish peasants by the hundreds, compelled them to flee wretchedly from their farms. And all this seemed a beginning only. The worst threats, a mortal terror, hung over hundreds of thousands of human beings for several weeks.

"Well," M. Octavian Goga told the two Tharaud brothers, "couldn't we send them far away . . . somewhere . . . to some island which they could never leave. Warships of all countries could cruise around it. . . (The Goga Government was short-lived. It fell rapidly; and not long afterwards the newspapers announced the death of Monsieur Goga himself.)

It seems that in Rumania, Church and State collaborated in this new style of government, if one may rely on the declarations of the late Patriarch of the Orthodox Rumanian Church, Miron Cristea, published in a Bucharest newspaper.{9} There he expressed the opinion that Jews had "bled white" the Rumanian people, and would soon force the Rumanians to "abandon their homes and their hearths and wander through the world," and that there must be somewhere on the face of the globe, "in Africa, in Australia, in Asia, in the islands," some free land to which the Jews could be relegated. "I do not know enough about world geography to tell you where this country is," added this minister of the Gospel. He was to succeed M. Goga at the head of the Rumanian Government, and was obliged by political necessities to renounce that useful geographical inquiry, as well as the legal realisation of his wishes.

Let us recall the declaration adopted in 1931 by the Catholic Union of International Studies: "The members of a national group (that is, of a minority) are bound to observe all those duties and obligations toward the State of which they are subjects that Christian morality and politics impose on the conscience of citizens. They enjoy all the rights which both accord to the man and to the citizen." Monseigneur Beaupin recently wrote: "To reaffirm such principles, applicable to all lands and to all times, is not to intervene in the internal politics of any particular State." Moreover, Rumania had the wisdom to reject the racist madness of the Goga Government. The Iron Guard, whose plots, inspired by Nazism, were threatening the Crown, was dissolved; and severe judiciary sanctions were taken against its leader, who was later killed, according to the police report, while trying to escape from prison. The antisemitic mood remains very strong in this country, but the projects of legal persecution were abandoned.

The Jews in Poland

In Germany antisemitism has taken an anti-Christian form; in Rumania it has taken an Orthodox form, strongly tinged with anti-Catholicism. At the Congress of the "Orthodox Brotherhood" held in November, 1937, speakers put Catholicism on a plane with Communism; the Congress demanded the denunciation of the Papal Concordat, and denounced the Vatican's "aggressive and denationalising proselytism." Rumanian Catholics plain of being the object of calumnies and of campaigns o hatred which lead to religious war.

In Poland, on the other hand, although the heads of the Catholic Church, notably Cardinal Hlond, have repudiated "systematic and unconditional hostility toward the Jews," antisemitism has taken a Catholic form, from the fact that, sociologically, it is natural, all too natural, that passions, however misleading, which claim to defend a country's national interests, should claim also support from its traditional religion.

I am aware that in general Poland has rejected the doctrine of pagan racism and that its Government would like to limit the conflict to the economic field. I am aware that there are in Poland three to three and a half million Jews, a little more than 10 per cent. of the total population, so that the problems which I discussed at the beginning of this essay and which concerns countries with a large Jewish national minority, are more real for Poland than for any other country. Nevertheless, it remains a fact that intense antisemitism persists there, further stimulated by German influence and by the bad national economic situation. By heightening, on the one hand, 'touchy' national susceptibilities, and, on the other, exasperated sufferings and claims, this antisemitism is likely to lead to quite insoluble difficulties. In recent years, particularly in 1937, the Polish Jews have suffered a persecution which, although not legally organised as in Germany, nevertheless tends to render life entirely impossible for them.

I hastily record -- alas, it is always that same litany -- the extensive boycott of Jewish merchants and artisans (what is called "dry" antisemitism),{10} the frightful multiplication of brawls, pillagings, pogroms with casualties of dead and wounded, systematic travesties of justice, a tragic increase in violence, blind popular hatreds. By letting loose against the Jews peasants dying of hunger, do they imagine that they will find a solution to the agrarian question and to rural pauperism? A just redistribution of land, such as other States effected in order to head off worse developments, is just what the great landowners wish to avoid at any price, and that is why they strive to turn the anger of the poor against the Jews. The most odious events are those which occur in circles that, presumably reserved to science and culture, transform themselves into the vehicles of racist influence, and provokers of passions. In January, 1937, there were university troubles on which I prefer, for the sake of the good name of the students of Warsaw, not to dwell at length. We know that recently, giving in to antisemitic pressure, the Polish university authorities have installed separate benches for Jewish students, thus creating ghettos in classrooms. Numerous Polish professors have protested against this measure, and some of them -- like those Jewish students who, rather than sit on such benches, stand during lectures -- have also insisted on lecturing on their feet.

I must add -- I will not hide one aspect of the matter that pains me -- that for sociological reasons to which I just alluded, it is generally the Catholic sections of the Polish population which seem most affected by antisemitism. Deplorable incitements have spread among them, and the Catholic Press has all too often been an accomplice. Often, too, there seems to be a spirit which, without endorsing excesses committed against Jews, resigns itself, and, without professing antisemitism, regards the Jewish drama with the indifference of the reasonable man who goes coldly along his way. But he is our fellow-creature, this wounded Jew lying half-dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. . . .

And as for those believers who think they are serving Christianity by binding its cause to that of political, and violent, and unjust parties, we know that in reality they profoundly damage the cause they would serve.

To close this section, let me recall that, according to the Treaty of June 29th, 1919, the Polish Government is obligated to "accord to all inhabitants full and entire protection of life and liberty, without distinction as to birth, nationality, race or religion." Article VII specifies that "all Polish nationals shall be equal before the law and shall enjoy identical civil and political rights, without distinction of race, language or religion; differences in religion, creed or belief shall not be grounds for depriving any Polish national of his enjoyment of any civil or political rights, notably admission to public employment, offices or honours, or the exercise of the various professions and industries." This, we must grant, goes rather badly with the numerus clausus, ghetto benches and the indulgence, not to say worse, too often extended to pogromists by judicial authorities.{11}

1938 - 1939

In the course of the year 1938 the situation of the Jews throughout the world became still worse.

I will mention first the troubles and massacres in Palestine. The short range policy, so long hesitant and weak, of the mandate Power bears heavy responsibilities. More fundamentally, it may be that the ancient rivalry of Ishmael and Israel demands, for its appeasement, a fraternal generosity of which neither has shown himself capable since the establishment of the Zionist home. Nor am I unaware that this establishment was inevitably subject to the capitalistic and colonist methods by which all such great temporal realisations are impregnated in the world to-day. On the other hand, the Jews, who have shown admirable self-restraint (in spite of the theories of some extremists who wanted to answer terrorism with terrorism), are growing exasperated by three years of murders, lawlessness and complete governmental inefficiency; and a few terroristic acts may have been committed on their part, though these are the exception. The fact remains that the rights acquired by the heroic labour of the Jewish pioneers, as well as the rights granted to them after the war by international agreements, are unquestionable. The Jews in Palestine are suffering unjust violence, and there as elsewhere, sympathy must go first to the victims and not to the aggressors.

If persecution has subsided in Rumania -- at least in respect of discriminatory laws and the violence that pro-German elements had been willing to provoke -- Fascist Italy, on the other hand, has avowedly adopted racism in theory and practice. What reasons can be assigned to this surprising wave of official antisemitism in a country where the Jewish population is very small, has been established for centuries, and is remarkably assimilated? Must one not ascribe it to this weakness in its ideological and dynamic power that Fascism is compelled to be dragged along by the élan of its rival and ally, National-Socialist totalitarianism? Is it not reduced to imitating ostentatiously (while proclaiming that it owes nothing to anyone) the Hitlerian pseudo-mysticism of race and blood? Must one not think that antisemitism is for the Fascist chiefs merely a way of preparing a general policy which -- naturally in the name of Latin and Christian civilisation -- will place the sword of the Prophet in the hands of Il Duce? The fact is, in any event, that those who have, as we do, a reverence for Italian soil penetrated with humanity and civilisation, and who know all that the world and culture owe to the thinkers and artists of this admirable country and to the virtues of its people, feel a profound sorrow and shame in seeing its present masters striving thus to debase its history. Already the most vexatious measures are being taken in Italy against the Jews; they are being thrown out of the positions they occupied in governmental and cultural spheres, and driven on a large scale out of economic activities. There too, as in Austria, one saw men, who had devoted their life to spiritual culture and to the progress of science and to whom the very right of existence was now denied, answer this barbarous negation by suicide. A legislative proposal, aimed at preventing the marriage of Jews and non-Jews, gave rise to a protest on the part of the Catholic Church, which declared it contrary to the concordat between it and the Italian State. If the Fascist legislators hesitate before this protest and tone down the juridical measures they had at first in mind, they will not give up, however, the intention of practically attaining their aim through diverted means. The great majority of the Italian population is disgusted with this imported antisemitism; but the leaders of the régime assert their firm determination to impose it by force and to aggravate it.

But it is in Germany that the spectacle is most tragic. Everyone recollects the events echoed in the Press of the world; what the public knows less well, however, is the depths of wickedness and contempt for the human person on the one side, and of sorrow and agony on the other. The annexation of Austria provoked an unprecedented wave of violence, and unbelievable scenes of sadistic cruelty. Measures of ruthless persecution condemn the Jews to slow death, and to despair. Persecutors were seen rejoicing at the suicides to which their ferocious actions led a great number of unfortunates -- is this not a good method of racial selection? And who will tell of the ignominious treatment suffered in concentration camps by so many victims -- Jews, Catholics, and political suspects? The Catholic religion is, on the other hand, more and more seriously threatened, and the world can witness the inglorious collapse of the system of an Austrian State religion inherited from Josephism. Such Austrians as were blinded by the desire for power and who imagined that because they were more intelligent they could tame Nazism and politically profit by it, opposing at the same time its anti-religious excesses, are now dreadfully disappointed. Even the Austrian Nazis are disappointed. Besides, it may be that the Austrian temperament, with its sensitiveness and its fantasy and its suppleness (which, passive though it is, is really exhaustive of all methods of discipline), will provoke many an internal difficulty in the immense Prussian machinery which now holds it in its grip. Alas, Europeans still remember all that Austria represented for their civilisation; they remember the mission which was Austria's, to improve the gifts of the Germanic mind in the direction of happiness and freedom, not of barbarism. The collapse of this country and its absorption by the German Reich, following the errors accumulated by the victors of the war of 1914-1918, and the retaliation that the vanquished demanded from the dark forces evoked by a political sorcery which surprised the universe, is one of the most sinister signs of the present epoch.

In her turn, Czechoslovakia, sacrificed in September, 1938, to Hitler's impatient lust in return for the peace of the world and for a delusive hope of European stabilisation (as if imperialist appetites and the principle of international bad faith could ever admit stabilisation), was completely dismembered in March, 1939, and annexed as a protectorate country of the German Empire. By this act, the Reich has crossed, so we may think, the threshold of the zone where history's Eumenides waits for the conquerors who are in too great a hurry. So far as the destiny of the Jews is concerned, the results of this annexation have been immediate. The German racial laws, with all their barbarism, are already in force for the German populations of the Czech country; and by contagion, the antisemitic mentality has gained the entire former Czechoslovakian territory.

Due to German influence, intense antisemitism also reigns in Hungary. The Catholic episcopate seeks to discourage enactment of the most violent legislative measures, but anti-Jewish passion and racist ideas have been unloosened. One may say that in persecuting the Jews, Hungary stands between Germany and Italy. Considering the situation occupied by Jews in commerce and industry, it appears that German antisemitic propaganda pursues in Hungaria, as in Central Europe in general, the most concrete and precise aims, which is to ruin or enslave the industrial activity of these regions, and in reducing their national economies to a strictly agricultural status, to transform them into granaries for German needs.

What Must Be Done?

We have just seen to what excesses antisemitism has gone in various countries, revealing itself as one of the sinister symptoms of the general deterioration of our civilisation, and ranging against the unfortunate and suffering, other men no less unfortunate and suffering.

In the face of such facts, is it possible to remain indifferent and inert? How can one escape the anxious question: what must be done? I realise that the world to-day resounds with the same question inspired by other horrors without number. But that is no reason for us to shut ourselves off. Everything must be done, every possible remedy tried, however insufficient each may seem by itself.

The President of the Polish Council, General Skladkowski, recently said: "In the name of the Polish Government I declare that we will oppose with all our might every pogrom and campaign of hatred such as arose last year against the Jews. There is no place among us for racial struggles. There is merely a problem of overpopulation, lying within the economic field alone." At the same time, the Budget Director of the Ministry of the Interior called on the colonial Powers for "material and financial aid to Poland for the solution of the problem of Jewish emigration, with the co-operation of the Jews themselves."{12}

Emigration is therefore one of the proposed cures. To tell the truth, it would not, at its best, be more than a partial remedy. It would bring some mitigation to the economic crisis of Eastern Europe by compensating, at least, for population increase resulting from births, perhaps even by cutting slightly the absolute total of the local Jewish population. The idea of mass emigration of all the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe is however absolutely out of the question because it is impossible.

But the tragedy is that, even reduced to these proportions and considered with reference only to a relatively small part of the Jewish population, emigration to-day faces major obstacles. All countries are closing their frontiers to emigrants. Here we are facing the general phenomenon so fatal to civilisation, that of the turning in of nations upon themselves. As far as the Jews are concerned, Dr. Ruppin, Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has observed some years ago that "the period of mass migrations, which transformed Jewish life during the last fifty years, must be regarded as closed. Emigration can at most take 30,000 to 40,000 Jews annually out of Eastern Europe, that is to say, only one-third of their normal annual population increase (in all the countries of Eastern Europe). One must ask whether, in such conditions, the economic position of the Jews in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, is not threatened with veritable catastrophe since, during the last fifty years, emigration alone made it bearable." The same conclusion, then, is reached on the Jewish as on the Polish side.

Thus it would seem that, in the interests of all, the civilised community must take hold of itself. A special effort must be made, despite all obstacles, to facilitate some resumption, as large as possible, of Jewish emigration, that is, of voluntary emigration. And how? On the one hand, we look to Zionism, toward which, moreover, the Polish Government has long shown itself favourable. But we realise the present difficulties in the Palestinian home, which can unfortunately take in only a small quota of immigrants. On the other hand, nations, especially certain large nations possessing sparsely inhabited territories, must resume a broader policy of immigration, thanks to an appropriate international organisation;{13} the scanty generosity which certain countries, as, for example, Australia, have shown in this matter, is detrimental not only to Jews, but also to humanity at large.

Finally, if necessary, settlement in certain colonial territories must be resorted to. That method presents special difficulties, due on one hand to the climatic conditions, often extremely bad, of some of the colonial lands intended for immigrants, and on the other hand, to the indispensible financial and economic equipment. I do not think, however, that these difficulties must be considered insurmountable. So far as France is concerned, the opening of Madagascar or of some other colonial territories, as, for instance, Guiana, to a fixed quota of Jewish emigrants has at times been suggested. I believe that if solid and well elaborated offers were made in this direction to the French Government (and no doubt these offers might be so conceived as incidentally to serve national interests), this Government would be disposed to examine them favourably. The same hope may be held in regard to the other colonial Powers.{14}

German antisemitic policy has recently made the question of emigration still more urgent, although in reality, Jewish emigration has for Germany much less demographic interest than for Poland. But the aim here was to improve her economic situation in bartering Jews for money or merchandise. Whatever these mercantile motives may be, it is the conflagration of hatred enflamed by German racism that renders the situation so full of anguish. If some world catastrophe does not alter radically and tragically the terms of all the problems of to-day, this question of Jewish emigration must be regarded as one which unconditionally requires a prompt solution for the entire Western world.

Here we must consider not simply the Jewish demographic problem in itself, but also the terrible threat which antisemitic passions, blindly encouraged by some governments, add to it. If it were possible now to bring forth and decide upon the absorption of a portion of the Jewish population over several decades, not only would a real if partial relief result for the Jewish and non-Jewish populations of Eastern Europe, but perhaps there might transpire a sort of political and psychological purgation of antisemitic passions in the countries which are to-day in paroxysms.

I want to add that the insanity of antisemitism here displays itself strikingly: on the one hand, it persecutes the Jews in order to force them to emigrate, although the Jews have always provided a high percentage of emigrants and are prevented to-day only by a material obstacle, the general closing of frontiers. On the other hand, confirming a statement made at the outset of this essay, it adds one more obstacle to that emigration at which it aims, as well as to any real settlement of the Jewish problem. Because emigration, like any other settlement, presupposes the co-operation of the Jews themselves, and hence an atmosphere of understanding and collaboration. In addition, it does not seem possible that the difficulties presented by emigration, particularly to colonial countries, can be solved under prevailing economic conditions unless Jewish international welfare organisations were disposed to finance in part the settlement of emigrants who are without resources.

And yet, as far as antisemitic persecutions are concerned, the remedy we have been discussing, emigration, can at best be a mere palliative. Is there anything else to be considered? The fact remains that the great mass of the Jewish population must, in the best of cases, necessarily abide where it is. Millions of human beings cannot be expelled to become wanderers, men without a country. Are they to be driven to die of hunger? Are they all to be massacred? The more public opinion everywhere is informed and awakened, the more one can hope that persecution will lose ground. Legally, the Jewish populations may appeal to constitutional and international guarantees which have been extended to them. And it is up to the governments of countries for whom the word justice still has some meaning, to act, supported by public opinion, to compel respect for treaties which bear their signatures. The League of Nations, which showed itself so weak in so many cases, took up the case of the Jews of Rumania during the Goga Ministry. The United States has done much and can do much more for the protection of the Jewish populations. The wave of indignation raised in the United States by the Nazi persecution in the autumn of 1938 was formidable and accompanied by energetic action and efficacious measures of assistance, which merit the gratitude of all men of feeling.

And what then? Then one may hope that the entire civilised world, if it succeeds in escaping a general catastrophe, or perhaps having experienced one, will come to know a fundamentally new and a more just order. For it seems that matters have reached a pass where nothing can be remedied unless everything is transformed. This conclusion, of course, is one which brings little relief to those who are in torment to-day.

There remains for all us, Jews and Christians, to turn toward the invisible powers residing in the heart of man, toward the springs of history which lie within ourselves, in order to purify those springs.

If we but realised to what point external events and the forms of things depend on the invisible images which our free wills delineate within us, we would have more confidence in spiritual means.

At the same time, we would give up fighting hatred with hatred. We would understand what has been so often affirmed by Gandhi, the real power, even over political and social realities, of love and truth.

Perhaps I may be allowed to address a special appeal to our friends in Poland. They know that I have been careful to say nothing here which might wound them. If Poland manages to overcome, by a splendid rallying of its finest forces, the apparently irremediable conflicts to which the Jewish problem gives rise there, a great example will have been given to Europe.

According to the words of the President of the Polish Council which I just cited, there is no room among the Poles for racial conflicts. Let them realise that the union of all elements of the population is more essential for national prosperity in that country than it is anywhere else. Let them recall the declaration of Marshal Pilsudski on the reopening of the University of Warsaw, when he affirmed that, after having suffered oppression and persecution for more than a century, Poles could not harbour hates between groups of different nationality and origin. There is a real problem in Poland, and it is above all economic and social, and its real solution is to be found in the advance of social justice and of economic equipment. On this road, the co-operation of the Jewish element is not to be under-rated.

If they will dedicate the same energy to construction and invention as now goes into controversy, there would be a way for Jews and non-Jews to live on the same earth, perhaps in equal poverty, and to aid each other by brotherly labour. It has been said that "Jews and Poles must contrive to live together willy-nilly, since they are compelled to do so by fate." They will do so more profitably for the country if they arrange things voluntarily. Even with respect to economic categories, the problem here, too, is primarily of a moral order.

Polish Catholics, by entering deeply into the spirit of the reasons which have led their bishops, following the example of the Pope, to condemn Chauvinism, pagan Racism and antisemitism, along with Communism, should, it is hoped, understand that it is not enough to abstain in a heaven of spiritual exaltation from hating Jews as such, while conceding to their enemies all the legends, the prejudices, the heated arguments in whose name they are persecuted on an earth of temporal realities. No! they must, in response to the general Christian and human vocation, descend with the grace of God and His justice to the very depths of mundane woes and conflicts, the very depths of this one as of all others! Then will they give justice its chance, and many other things will be added unto them.

As to ourselves, wherever we are, we all bear responsibility inasmuch as the drama of human history is like a visible projection of that which is happening within ourselves. There is nothing more urgent than that secret labour by which those with a little faith raise, first of all in themselves, the level of mankind's spiritual energy. Such labour is effective, it brings forth tangible fruits more quickly than is realised.

There are in contemporary Europe those who, in order to fan the evil flame now consuming nations, are decreeing extermination and death, and first of all that of the Jews -- because it is this they want, after all, is it not? Under the stupid apparatus of scientific Racism or forged documents, they conceal from others and sometimes from themselves, their mad dream of a general massacre of the race of Moses and Jesus. This massacre remains a dream; but the germs of hate with which it pollutes the atmosphere are a reality. A very large measure of love, justice and charity is required to cleanse that atmosphere.

Our times offer unparalleled banquets to the demons of cruelty. Stalin gave them the Kulaks, Hitler gives them the Jews. Each one of us will have his turn perhaps. The immense clamour which arises from the German concentration camps, as well as from the Russian, is not perceptible to our ears, but it penetrates the secret fibres of the life of the world, and its invisible vibration tears them apart.

Never before in the history of the world were the Jews persecuted so universally; and never has persecution attacked, as to-day, both Jews and Christians. We can see here a sign that we have entered upon an apocalyptic period of history; this is also a sign that we must shape our means to the conditions of such a period. For a long time an all too human civilisation puts its trust in material forces, while invoking -- not always hypocritically -- equity and the spirit. To-day these material forces have been brought to the state of barbarism, and this is only the natural result of that perverted mentality which, in its delusory belief that through them it could reign supreme, put everything in their power. In order to face the violence thus let loose, men of freedom must not renounce the means which lay at their disposal in material energies, provided that these are subordinated to the spirit of justice; but they can no longer put their confidence in them, since the world itself summons them finally to put their trust in love and truth alone.

Nowadays, for political ends, there is a remarkable abuse of names still dear to us, names in which even the most crushed of men still places hope. In some countries people "buy Christian" in order to boycott the Jewish merchant. Hating the Gospel, the dominant currents of German National Socialism proclaim themselves Christians -- against the Pope and the churches. In Rumania M. Goga's party, if I am not mistaken, called itself National Christian, while that of M. Cuza was the League for Christian Defence. Perhaps some day there will be a Christian racism, perhaps Thors and Odins of Christian civilisation, Christian mustard gas, and Christian bombardments of open cities. Men vie with each other to hound from this unhappy planet God's sanctity, blasphemed by some, profaned by others. The despair into which many souls are in danger of being plunged by these things is heavy with malediction. It is not thus that Christian civilisation can be defended. I do not believe that I am indulging in national self-satisfaction when I say that the Catholics of France heard with particular fervour what Pope Pius XI told their Bishops at Christmas, 1937: "The preaching of the truth did not win many victories for Christ; it led to the Cross. It was by charity that he saved souls and led them to follow him." These words apply to Christians of the entire world. There is no other way for us to gain our own soul, and the souls of others, as well as a little peace for the world.


{1} Arthur Ruppin, The Jews in the Modern World, New York, 1934.

{2} In the Jewish State -- that is to say, in the region populated by Jews -- which the Soviets have tried to create in Birobidjan, specifically Jewish culture is languishing.

{3} Olav Leroi, La Croix, January 30th to 31st, 1938.

{4} Paul Fierens, Revue des poètes catholiques, No. 1, 1937.

{5} It is notable that the Jews form but a small proportion of the German population. Before Hitler came to power there were in Germany about 550,000 Jews. From 1933 so the end of 1937, according to the careful statistical studies of Dr. Kurt Zielenziger of Amsterdam, published in the review Population, about 135,000 Jews left Germany. Some 30,000 went to other European countries, the rest to Palestine, South America, the United States and South Africa.

{6} See pp. 46 ff.

{7} According to the figures of the Bucharest Demographic Institute, the figure would be 760,000 to 765,000. Of these some 30,000 have, since 1920, been refused naturalisation; these have only duties, and no rights, as Rumanian subjects. Their number is augmented by some thousands of others, whom the Liberal Cabinet of M. Tataresco, which preceded the antisemitic Government of M. Goga, deprived arbitrarily of their Rumanian citizenship.

{8} After the establishment of Nazism in Germany, a great number of German Jewish families crossed Rumania, which admitted them only in transit. Very few remained. The proportion of German Jews settled in the country since 1933 is insignificant.

{9} Curentul, August 19th, 1937.

{10} Those who preach this mass boycott as an economic remedy for the atrophy of non-Jewish trade, forget that, however desirable it may be to replace the régime of free competition by one of organised communal labour, the operation of any given régime cannot be violently disturbed. In fact, the boycott in question is part of a scheme to reduce Jewish traders and artisans to famine, in order to force them to emigrate. (As though the Jews, especially those of Poland, were not predisposed to furnish a great quota of emigrants, if only they could! If only other countries would open their frontiers!) Such a boycott adds a spice of cruelty to a situation already deplorable enough for all. And what it certainly contrives to do ss to develop evil passions without restraint.

{11} On the question of the Jewish drama in Poland it will be useful to consult the well-documented articles of Oscar de Ferenzy in Juste Parole, 1937 and 1938.

{12} La Croix, January 25th, 1938.

{13} For a general consideration of these problems, independent of the Jewish question, see L'Homme Réel, February - March, and several articles by Magdeleine Paz and Madame Ancelet-Hustache. In France, a bill for a law concerning immigrants was filed on December 11th, 1934. Several law-decrees (décrets-lois) concerning foreigners have been passed in 1938, but they do not go beyond the framework of police measures, antecedent to a true policy of immigration. It must be observed that the figure of foreign population, due to political emigration from many European countries, amounts in France to about three million. This fact gives rise to serious problems.

{14} If the demographic problem of Europe were considered in all its ramifications, one might be led to the idea of a general arrangement for the utilisation and settlement of the vast colonisation territories for the general benefit of the European and native populations. But such an idea would presuppose a true European community, and there again economics would appear to depend on morality and on politics.

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