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Where the German Ghetto Leads

William Zukerman

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  1. THE Ghetto has now been established in Germany. It was legally introduced with much pomp on September 14 with the promulgation of the Nürnberg laws and has since become an important fact in German life, one which both Jews and non-Jews must take into account in dealing with the German situation.

  2. Soon after the promulgation of the Nürnberg laws many well-informed observers of foreign affairs in Germany, including some of the best foreign correspondents, believed that the new laws, cruel and bitter as they are, would end the chapter of anti-Jewish persecution in Germany and would somehow effect an improvement in the position of Jews. Several facts were adduced to support this belief. The first was that a considerable part of German society was thoroughly nauseated by the eternal din of "Jew, Jew, Jew," which has not ceased in Germany since the Nazis came to power, and felt a very intelligible desire to have a rest from the: accursed question, which occupies more space in the Nazi press and in Nazi public pronouncements than almost any other problem facing the German people. It was thought that the Nürnberg laws would bring this respite, both to Germans and to Jews. Jewish life, it was recognized, would be tragically restricted within the confines of a virtual Ghetto, but the Jew would at least be free from anxiety and would have some assurance for his future. The lines of demarcation being rigidly drawn, the Jews would be left at peace within them.

  3. Another ground for hope was the expectation that the new legislation would do away with the legal anarchy prevailing in Germany with regard to the Jewish question, which made it possible for every petty Nazi official in the provinces to proclaim his own laws and issue his own decrees affecting the lives and fortunes of many Jews. Under this state of legal anarchy hundreds of cities, towns, and villages in Germany had prohibited Jews from entering their precincts and proudly announced the fact by means of illuminated sign-boards; hundreds of other cities had banned Jews from their public libraries, archives, museums, theaters, cinemas, and other public places; many famous cities forbid Jews to use their public baths, swimming pools, rivers and medicinal springs. A number of towns in Germany even now prohibit the sale of food to Jews, of mill: to Jewish children, and of medicines to Jewish sick. This state anarchy was also responsible for the terrible Jew-baiting campaign conducted by Julius Streicher, with its blood libels, its revolting particulars of "race pollution," its high-pressure blackmail methods in the boycott of the Jews, its hysteria and near-lynching of Jewish youths seen associating with German girls.

  4. These considerations accounted for the comparative quiescence with which the Nürnberg laws were accepted some sincere friends of the Jews and even by some of the Jews themselves. The government issued many pronouncements about the stabilizing effect of the legalization of the Jewish position. Dr. Goebbels, and even Streicher himself proclaimed the end of individual anti-Jewish acts. Some the official Nazi newspapers gave expression to a feeling of fief in words which seemed to say: Now we shall be a to forget the Jews for a while, and we shall have a little peace. Certain foreign liberals also placed hope in the average German's respect for law now that he had laws concerning Jews to go by.

  5. Such hopes were doomed to disappointment. Within a brief fortnight from the proclamation of the Nürnberg decrees it became clear to all who cared to see that this legislation was not the end of a chapter but the beginning of a new period of persecution. The new anti-Jewish laws have legalized the state of pogrom created by the Streicher drive, and this has been done not in order to call a halt to Jew-baiting but to make possible further advances. No sooner were the new laws proclaimed than a period of interpreting and implementing them began which promises be even more tragic than earlier stages. The anti-Jewish boycott is being waged with as much virulence as before the municipalities have been declared to be within their rights as autonomous governments in enacting their fanatical laws against the Jews; the orgy of Jew-baiting has not abated in the least. Moreover, the anarchic situation has not been resolved. There is as much agonizing uncertainty about the meaning of the Nürnberg laws as there was about the status of the Jew before these laws existed. The hunt of the Jew has not been called off; the beast has only been declared fair game for all, and the hunt has been made a legal national sport. The effect of the legislation upon the average law-abiding German burgher, too, has been only to put his legal conscience at rest. It is no longer verboten to bait the Jew, to persecute and humiliate him; so, therefore, it cannot be wrong. On with the hunt!

  6. The fact is that Nazi Germany is already going ahead with a new and intensified anti-Jewish drive, probably the last and greatest of all. The new drive is against the remaining economic positions held by the Jews. Having safeguarded German blood, the Streicher forces are now out to safeguard German commerce and industry. And with much better reason than before. The economic position of the Third Reich is notoriously bad, even if the political prestige of the regime has risen. The new army, navy, and air force may be a source of pride and satisfaction, but they eat up 40 per cent of the budget. The internal debt has risen from two to ten billion marks since the Nazi regime came into power. Exports have diminished to a point never known before; wages have gone down; raw material is scarce; so are also certain kinds of foodstuffs. There were signs of unrest in the summer, and they may be expected to increase this winter. How is the emergency to be met? What other means has National Socialism of quieting the unrest except a strong drive against the remaining economic positions of the Jews? There still remain several thousand shops and enterprises in Jewish hands; several thousand Jewish physicians are still practicing in Berlin and in a few other cities. What more natural than that these businesses and posts should be turned over to pure Aryans to allay the increasing economic discontent? If there is not scope enough within the framework of the new laws for the new drive, a pretext will be found in some action of Jews abroad to warrant new legislation. Did not the Fuhrer himself openly admit at Nürnberg that German Jews were, in effect, being held as hostages by the Nazi regime to insure the good behavior of Jews abroad?

  7. Those who have looked for security. legality, and certainty in the Nürnberg laws have misjudged the temper of the Nazi regime and misread the clear lessons of history, one of the most striking of which is to be found in the remarkable resemblance between the present position of the Jews in Germany and their position in Czarist Russia in the last decades of the nineteenth century. There is a fascinating analogy between the Nürnberg decrees and the infamous anti-Jewish laws of Alexander III proclaimed in 1882. The resemblance is so close, both in spirit and detail, that one cannot escape the conviction that the Nazi regime is consciously imitating the legislation of fifty years ago which made the regime of Alexander III notorious for its barbarism.

  8. The Nürnberg laws will lead German Jews and Germany itself along the path that Russia followed after the passage of the laws of '82. These laws drove Russian Jews, almost as a body, into the Russian revolutionary movement ant thus quickened the process which brought the violent collapse of the forces of social reaction. It is probable that no other single legislative act of Czarist Russia served more effectively to bring about the downfall of the regime than did the anti-Jewish laws of '82. Once history has begun to repeat itself, what will stay its course? Who can say that Germany will follow the ghosts of Czarist history only until 1905 and no farther?

  9. As the first result of the present anti-Jewish laws in Germany, German Jews will be thrown into closer association with those suppressed labor groups now working underground for the overthrow of the Nazi regime. Neither Germans nor German Jews are a revolutionary people. In spite of Hitler's ravings about Jewish Marxists, the Jews in Germany are mostly a middle-class people with a typical bourgeois psychology very much like that of the Nazis themselves before they were brutalized by power. They are an orderly, well-to-do, comfort-loving people, such as a high state of industrial civilization tends to produce everywhere among the middle classes. They lack the deep spirituality of the Russian Jews, and that passionate inborn sense of revolt against injustice which under similar circumstances of oppression in Russia sent thousands of Jews into the vanguard of the revolutionary movement and made their fight against Czarism one of the epic events of the Russian Revolution. But circumstances are rapidly changing the psychology as well as the social and economic status of the German Jews. The Nürnberg laws cut them off from all association with bourgeois society, of which they were an integral part, and no other social relationship is left for them except with labor.

  10. For if anything emerges clearly from the chaos in Germany it is that the outburst of anti-Semitism which seems to have swept the whole people is, in fact, confined to the German middle class and petty bourgeoisie. Like Nazism itself, the orgy of Jewish hatred is probably the last stand of an impotent and ineffectual class doomed to extinction even as Czarism was, a class which sees its end approaching and clutches madly at the last chance of power. All competent observers of Germany are in agreement that neither the higher German aristocracy nor German labor is swayed by that anti-Semitic mass-hysteria which animates the small German shopkeeper and petty official. It is the German middle class, not the German people, that has failed the Jews. In labor quarters in Germany Jews not only find no hatred but often even sympathy and help. If it were not for this silent but powerful moral support from the mass of the German working people, the Jews in Germany could not have withstood so long the fierce fury of the Streicher drives. If the German working class were as anti-Semitic as the middle class, there would long ago have been massacres in Germany no less bloody than those that took place in Czarist Russia.

  11. German Jews have hitherto entirely ignored German labor. Jewish associations have always been with the petty bourgeoisie in Germany, to whom they have rendered great historic services. The gratitude shown for these is the present anti-Semitic outburst and the re-establishment of the Ghetto. But German Jews have too long been a part of German society to go back to the Ghetto now and to feel self-sufficient in segregation. It is only the Jewish Nationalists, with a mentality akin to that of other nationalists, who find it easy to acquiesce in the Nazi plan of complete Jewish segregation and even to accept with equanimity the prospect of a Jewish exodus from Germany. The bulk of the German Jews have been a part of Germany too long to succumb so easily to despair. They do not accept Hitler's verdict as that of the entire German people, or National Socialism as the last word of German history. They feel that Germany is their home and that they are a part of German society. But with the German shopkeeper maddened for the moment and wildly shouting "Jude, Verreckel" German Jews naturally turn to that other "nation" which they have hitherto neglected, which pleads for the aid and abilities of Jews in' the hour of its greatest emergency. If German Jews will serve the German working class with half the zeal they showed in the service of the German shopkeeper and petty official, the Nürnberg laws will not mean a return to a red Ghetto. The future historian may see these laws as marking the turn of the tide in National Socialism, even as the Czarist laws marked a similar turn in Russia.

  12. The fact is that Nazi Germany is already going ahead with a new and intensified anti-Jewish drive, probably the last and greatest of all. The new drive is against the remaining economic positions held by the Jews. Having safeguarded German blood, the Streicher forces are now out to safeguard German commerce and industry. And with much better reason than before. The economic position of the Third Reich is notoriously bad, even if the political prestige of the regime has risen. The new army, navy, and air force may be a source of pride and satisfaction, but they eat up 40 per cent of the budget. The internal debt has risen from two to ten billion marks since the Nazi regime came into power. Exports have diminished to a point never known before; wages have gone down; raw material is scarce; so are also certain kinds of foodstuffs. There were signs of unrest in the summer, and they may be expected to increase this winter. How is the emergency to be met? What other means has National Socialism of quieting the unrest except a strong drive against the remaining economic positions of the Jews? There still remain several thousand shops and enterprises in Jewish hands; several thousand Jewish physicians are still practicing in Berlin and in a few other cities. What more natural than that these businesses and posts should be turned over to pure Aryans to allay the increasing economic discontent? If there is not scope enough within the framework of the new laws for the new drive, a pretext will be found in some action of Jews abroad to warrant new legislation. Did not the Führer himself openly admit at Nürnberg that German Jews were, in effect, being held as hostages by the Nazi regime to insure the good behavior of Jews abroad?

  13. Those who have looked for security. legality, and certainty in the Nürnberg laws have misjudged the temper of the Nazi regime and misread the clear lessons of history, one of the most striking of which is to be found in the remarkable resemblance between the present position of the Jews in Germany and their position in Czarist Russia in the last decades of the nineteenth century. There is a fascinating analogy between the Nürnberg decrees and the infamous anti-Jewish laws of Alexander III proclaimed in 1882. The resemblance is so close, both in spirit and detail, that one cannot escape the conviction that the Nazi regime is consciously imitating the legislation of fifty years ago which made the regime of Alexander III notorious for its barbarism.

  14. The Nürnberg laws will lead German Jews and Germany itself along the path that Russia followed after the passage of the laws of '82. These laws drove Russian Jews, almost as a body, into the Russian revolutionary movement ant thus quickened the process which brought the violent collapse of the forces of social reaction. It is probable that no other single legislative act of Czarist Russia served more effectively to bring about the downfall of the regime than did the anti-Jewish laws of '82. Once history has begun to repeat itself, what will stay its course? Who can say that Germany will follow the ghosts of Czarist history only until 1905 and no farther?

  15. As the first result of the present anti-Jewish laws in Germany, German Jews will be thrown into closer association with those suppressed labor groups now working underground for the overthrow of the Nazi regime. Neither Germans nor German Jews are a revolutionary people. In spite of Hitler's ravings about Jewish Marxists, the Jews in Germany are mostly a middle-class people with a typical bourgeois psychology very much like that of the Nazis themselves before they were brutalized by power. They are an orderly, well-to-do, comfort-loving people, such as a high state of industrial civilization tends to produce everywhere among the middle classes. They lack the deep spirituality of the Russian Jews, and that passionate inborn sense of revolt against injustice which under similar circumstances of oppression in Russia sent thousands of Jews into the vanguard of the revolutionary movement and made their fight against Czarism one of the epic events of the Russian Revolution. But circumstances are rapidly changing the psychology as well as the social and economic status of the German Jews. The Nürnberg laws cut them off from all association with bourgeois society, of which they were an integral part, and no other social relationship is left for them except with labor.

  16. For if anything emerges clearly from the chaos in Germany it is that the outburst of anti-Semitism which seems to have swept the whole people is, in fact, confined to the German middle class and petty bourgeoisie. Like Nazism itself, the orgy of Jewish hatred is probably the last stand of an impotent and ineffectual class doomed to extinction even as Czarism was, a class which sees its end approaching and clutches madly at the last chance of power. All competent observers of Germany are in agreement that neither the higher German aristocracy nor German labor is swayed by that anti-Semitic mass-hysteria which animates the small German shopkeeper and petty official. It is the German middle class, not the German people, that has failed the Jews. In labor quarters in Germany Jews not only find no hatred but often even sympathy and help. If it were not for this silent but powerful moral support from the mass of the German working people, the Jews in Germany could not have withstood so long the fierce fury of the Streicher drives. If the German working class were as anti-Semitic as the middle class, there would long ago have been massacres in Germany no less bloody than those that took place in Czarist Russia.

  17. German Jews have hitherto entirely ignored German labor. Jewish associations have always been with the petty bourgeoisie in Germany, to whom they have rendered great historic services. The gratitude shown for these is the present anti-Semitic outburst and the re-establishment of the Ghetto. But German Jews have too long been a part of German society to go back to the Ghetto now and to feel self-sufficient in segregation. It is only the Jewish Nationalists, with a mentality akin to that of other nationalists, who find it easy to acquiesce in the Nazi plan of complete Jewish segregation and even to accept with equanimity the prospect of a Jewish exodus from Germany. The bulk of the German Jews have been a part of Germany too long to succumb so easily to despair. They do not accept Hitler's verdict as that of the entire German people, or National Socialism as the last word of German history. They feel that Germany is their home and that they are a part of German society. But with the German shopkeeper maddened for the moment and wildly shouting "Jude, Verreckel" German Jews naturally turn to that other "nation" which they have hitherto neglected, which pleads for the aid and abilities of Jews in' the hour of its greatest emergency. If German Jews will serve the German working class with half the zeal they showed in the service of the German shopkeeper and petty official, the Nürnberg laws will not mean a return to a red Ghetto. The future historian may see these laws as marking the turn of the tide in National Socialism, even as the Czarist laws marked a similar turn in Russia.