If You Are a Jew

Seventh message from the National Security League, Committee on Patriotism through Education, of which The Independent is the official publication

By I. L. Bril
(Managing Editor of the "Jewish Forum")

[The Independent, April 13, 1918]

In the early part of the year 1891 I represented the London Jewish World in Berlin. I was assigned to secure interviews with German leaders of thought, I went to Treitschke, the historian. For a moment he listened to me, and then glaring at me, he shouted in that harsh voice of his: "No! You are doubly damned. You are a Jew and you come from England." I beat a hasty retreat.

It is well for all liberal-minded people to understand the principles for which Treitschke stood, for they reflect the fundamentals upon which Teutonism rests. Treitschke, a favorite of the court, was intolerant of every foreigner, and a Jew was his special bête noir. When the present war broke out, the position of the Jews, especially that of the six millions living in Eastern Europe, was most pitiable. At that time, Jewish sentiment was distinctly anti-Russian—not pro-German. Surprize and chagrin were exprest that liberal countries should ally themselves with the government of Czar Nicholas II. Scarcely one in a thousand knew which way to turn.

The Russian Revolution a year ago produced a complete change of sentiment. For the time being, it is true, the Russian Revolution has become abortive, for the strangle hold of Germany upon Russia has complicated the state of affairs, but it is advisable that Gentiles and Jews alike should know what may be expected if German domination in Russia prevails. The liberal world must awake to the situation because it affects millions of human beings, Jews and Gentiles alike. Jews are particularly interested in this question, since it concerns intimately the fate of six millions of their coreligionists in Russia.

What has been Germany's attitude toward the Jew? To know this gives us an insight into the German mind and helps us understand what may be expected if Germany is allowed untrammeled sway in the future.

There are a little over six hundred thousand Jews in the, German Empire, the total population of which is about sixty-five million. The Jews of Germany have again and again demonstrated their loyalty, yet Germany, is the home and the fountainhead of anti-Semitism.

Jews could not 'be officers in the German army, and altho today, as a result of the heroism and martyrdom of German-Jewish soldiers, some have been elevated to the rank of officers, there has been an outcry against that.

No Jew could become a full professor of any German university and remain Jew. There have been only a few exceptions, and when the incumbents, either retired or died, no other Jews were appointed.

Foreign-born Jews could not become naturalized subjects of the German Empire, and in the middle eighties there were wholesale expulsions of these foreign-born Jews, altho large numbers of them had resided in Germany for twenty years or more and their children-had been born in the country.

German scholars wrote books in which they attempted to show that the Jew did not even give a religion to the world. The famous Bible-Babel controversy will be recalled in this connection. Professor Delitsz and Houston Chamberlain, a renegade Englishman, the son-in-law of Richard Wagner, are the chief exponents of this theory of the inferiority of the Jewish people.

Anti-Semitism was officially recognized in court circles. Bismarck, it is true, appointed Jews to positions in the foreign office, but he advanced only those who agreed to become converts to Christianity. Indeed, official Germany has regularly .promoted baptism among Jews. The notorious Pastor Stoecker was court chaplain and the confidant of Emperor William II. His influence was most pernicious and he was never checked. The historian Treitschke, to whom reference has already been made, was another favorite at court. From his platform at the University of Berlin, Treitschke openly insulted Jews and impressed the students with the inferiority and unworthiness of the Jewish race.

Germany, official as well as unofficial, has given credence to the shameful blood accusation. A Jewish butcher in Konitz was arrested and actually convicted upon the charge that he had killed a Christian boy, and used the blood for Passover. Tho it was conclusively established that the man had never committed the deed, and that the Jews have no such heinous practise, the German press, with a very few exceptions, raised the cry against Jews.

Germany has fostered anti-Semitism in other countries. Back, in the late nineties, Ahlwardt, another notorious anti-Semitic leader, came to this country and began an anti-Semitic agitation here. He addressed at Cooper Union a meeting largely attended by Germans. Colonel Roosevelt, at that time Police Commissioner, detailed policemen who were Jews to guard the meeting against any disturbance, and incidentally to protect Ahlwardt.

Germany, in establishing colonies in Palestine in the Lebanon region, harassed the Jewish colonies in the Holy Land and endeavored to prevent the settlement of Jews in the ancient homeland of their people.

Recently there has been a decided recrudescence of anti-Jewishness. This is by no means surprising. The governing element in Germany is inspired by anti-Jewish sentiment and this feeling has been fostered among all sections of the population. At this very moment, the German People's Gazette, the official organ of the anti-Semite movement in Germany, has begun a campaign against German Jews. The Gazette states that the time has come when Germany must declare open warfare against the Jews for fostering a spirit of revolt, and for being opposed to the war. This assertion borders upon the ridiculous because the six hundred thousand Jews of Germany have contributed more than their quota to the German army. Leaders like Ballin, Rathenau and Loewy have given themselves unstintingly to the service of their country, and yet the campaign of the Gazette has the approval of the rulers of the land.

Let us pull the curtain down over this unpleasant picture and turn to a brighter one.

The United States has never closed its doors against Jews. The Government as well as the people of this country, have at all times protested against their oppression in Russia under the old regime.

Theodore Roosevelt while President intervened on behalf of the Jews of Russia. In 1905, when Count Witte was in this country for the purpose of concluding peace with Japan, Mr. Roosevelt arranged for a deputation consisting of Jacob H. Schiff, Oscar S. Straus, Isaac M. Seligman, Louis Marshall and Leo N. Levi, to present a memorandum in favor of their coreligionists to the Russian statesman. This was a rnost unusual procedure, but the world accepted it because it realized the good intention back of the deed.

Prior to that, John Hay, then Secretary of State in President Roosevelt's Cabinet, issued a note to Rumania protesting against that country's violation of the Berlin treaty of 1878 which distinctly stipulated that the Jews of Rumania should be granted full and equal rights. No other Government ever did that.

The abrogation of the treaty with Russia by President Taft stands forth in striking contrast to the attitude of the Kaiser and his advisers toward the Jewish people. While, they were working in full accord with the forces of reaction in Russia, supporting by their hostile demonstrations their policy of repression and openly approving of the pogroms, the United States thru its President was opposing the autocratic forces in Russia. When it is remembered that war between the United States and Russia might have resulted, the full weight of our policy will be understood.

The United States was the first country in the world to appoint a Jew as Ambassador to a foreign country. Oscar S. Straus, Henry Morgenthau and Abram I. Eikus were sent as our representatives to Turkey; Nelson Morris is today upholding our interests in Sweden against the attacks of the Kaiser and his crew.

Jews are regularly elected as representatives of our people. They hold offices of trust and of honor in every state in this land. No Jew has ever been asked to give up his faith or to deny the cause of his people because he sought advancement.

Finally, on numerous occasions, the President of the United States has given voice to his sympathy for the suffering Jews in all countries. Two years ago, he issued a proclamation setting aside January 27, 1916, officially as Jewish Relief Day. No other representative of a great country has done a thing commensurate with that.

The contrast between Germany and the United States is one that should make it absolutely clear on which side the sympathies of all liberals in this country, and in all countries where freedom of opportunity is still a principle for which men are willing to offer sacrifices, should lie. This is a matter in which the interests, not alone of Jews but of all freedom-loving people, are at stake. America stands for freedom and equality. Germany stands for repression, discrimination, and the fostering of race hatred.

Bad as the position of the Jews was under the old regime in Russia, it will be a thousand times worse if German influence prevails. The issue is plain—which side will the liberals of the world take?

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013



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