Opponents Scored at Zurich Conference on Jewish Rights
Menu JTA Search

Opponents Scored at Zurich Conference on Jewish Rights

Download PDF for this date

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

The doctrine of Jewish nationalism as it aims to express itself in “national rights,” running parallel with the minority rights guaranteed in the treaties concluded at the Peace Conference with the new and enlarged states following the World War, concerning the religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities, was presanted by Dr. Simon Dubnow, well known Russian Jewish historian and leading exponent of the national rights theory in Eastern Europe, at the second session of the Conference on Jewish Rights here.

The conference was constituted with the election of three chairmen and six vice-chairmen. Nahum Sokolow, Dr. Leo Motzkin and Dr. Stephen S. Wise were elected chairmen; M. M. Ussishkin, Dr. Z. H. Chajes, Judge Hugo Pam, Max D. Steuer, Deputy H. Farbstein, Judge Gustave Hartman and Dr. Simon Dubnow were elected vice-chairmen.

Dr. Dubnow in a report on “The New and Old Forms of Organization for Jewish Emancipation,” gave a historic review of the fight of the Jews for emancipation. The national rights were termed by him the peak of Jewish emancipation.

The emancipation of the Jews in Europe started with the fight for citizens rights which was accompanied by a denial of the Jewish nationality. The Russian revolution of 1917 brought what might be termed the magna carta of the national rights. Its application however was prevented later when Russia was drowned in bloody Bolshevik terror and in the civil war which resulted in the enslavement of 3,000.000 Russian Jews together with the entire population, Dr. Dubnow said.

The recognition of the rights of the Jewish minorities in the peace treaties is the final form of Jewish emancipation. Experience has proven, however, that outside of the parliamentary struggle which every Jewish community must engage in its own country an international action is necessary in order that these rights may be protected and that their violation may be prevented. West European Jewish assimilationists have rejected the idea of this conference because they were afraid of the words “Jewish nation.” They have thus excluded themselves from the Jewish people, the speaker stated.

The Jewish masses do reject the attempt to class them merely as a religious group. “I am convinced in the final bankruptcy of the whole assimilationist policy and in the victory of the national idea. The young Jewish generation is becoming more and more nationally inclined. I believe in the future of the League of Nations and I also believe in the necessity of centralizing the political work for the protection of Jewish rights,” Dr. Dubnow stated.

The delegates warmly applauded the remarks of Dr. Henry A. Atkinson of the Church Peace Union, secretary of the American Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Religious Minorities, who just returned from Roumania. Dr. Atkinson was a member of the commission sent by the Committee to study the situation of the national minorities in Roumania.

He was introduced to the conference, declaring that the Jewish question is humanity’s question. He described the situation of the Jewish population in Roumania under the previous government and expressed the hope that a betterment may occur. Following his address Max D. Steuer expressed to Dr. Atkinson the appreciation of the delegates.

The fact that the Jewish population in Eastern and South-eastern Europe is little represented in the national minority movement in Europe was stressed by Dr. Leo Motzkin. president of the Committee of Jewish Delegations, in his report submitted to the conference. He emphasized that the national minority question is now one of the greatest problems facing European countries. A collosal literature on the Object is growing up but Jews take a very small part in this work. Considerable success has been gained in 13 countries with regard to the international protection of the national minorities. The situation of the minorities is a difficult one. It would however have been more difficult without this protection.

The speaker described in detail the cultural.” economic and political disabilities under which the Jewish population suffers in Roumania. Lithuania. Poland and Greece. He mentioned with appreciation the model statute enacted in Esthonia. In submitting a report of the activities of the Committee of Jewish Delegations for the protection of Jewish rights. Dr. Motzkin pointed to the importance of planned activity in this direction and the careful collection of documents pertaining to the matter.

He expressed his belief in the success of an organized, systematic fight for the protection of the Jewish rights and urged the support of American Jews in this undertaking.

Echoes of the controversy which raged in the United States and in Western European countries prior to the holding of the conference resounded at the opening session Wednesday. The opponents of the conference were sharply criticised by the speakers.

The conference was opened at 11 A. M. by Nahum Sokolow who started his address in Hebrew, proceeded to Yiddish and continued in German. He stated that the conference which meets in Switzerland, international center and seat of the League of Nations, the protector of the national minorities, is of historic significance. “Our slogan is not fight, but defense. Our aim is to protect the rights guaranteed in the treaties in1919, rights which were achieved with the cooperation of American Jewry. The task of the League of Nations is to protect the minorities: the majorities need no protection. We are not afraid that somebody might form an accusation against us that we are a world Kahal. The openness of our deliberations is thoroughly detrimental to the formulation of such a legend.

“It is superfluous for us to declare our patriotism on every occasion. Such continued declarations would be equal to violating our sense of honor. When the Jewish part of a country’s population reiterates their loyalty it throws suspicion on the loyalty of other parts of the population. It is no achievement to be a partiot in a country where one enjoys equal rights and general welfare. It is, however, a great achievement to be a patriot in a country where one is forced to be a martyr.” Mr. Sokolow stated.

Welcoming the delegation representing the American Jewish Congress. Mr. Sokolow said. “The conference is the only League of Nations in which America participates; Geneva might well envy us.”

Dr. Motzkin in his opening address told of the opposition with which the convocation of the conference met on the part of Jewish organizations in the United States. England and France. “They declared their opposition even before its program was announced.” he stated, adding that all Jewish organizations beginning with the Orthodox Agudath Israel and ending with the labor party. Bund, were invited to participate.

In explaining the purpose of the conference, the speaker stated that its convocation was a necessity in view of the urgent need to coordinate the action of fifteen various Jewish organizations working along the same lines. “The opponents of the conference will be responsible to Jewish history,” he exclaimed. “We consider this conference a continuation of the work begun in 1919 when Jewish leaders rendered the historic service of formulating and securing rights not only for Jews but for all minorities who number not less than forty millions. The Jews are in the background in the national minorities movement because they are poorly organized. The conference will create the compulsion for all to participate in this work,” he stated.

Dr. Stephen S. Wise in his address referred to the fact that Switzerland was the seat of the first Zionist Congress and new welcomes the conference on Jewish Rights. Referring to the controversy over the conference Dr. Wise stated that American Jews have striven for a long time to consult with representatives of the Jewish communities in Europe. “It is obvious that money alone cannot solve Jewish problems. They can be solved only through a united national action,” he stated.

“The opponents of the conference in London. New York and Paris have employed the language of anti-Semites in their criticism. By virtue of this they have lost the right to protest against the accusations such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion since they have repeated the arguments of the ‘Dearborn Independent.’

“The purpose of the conference is to reorganize and reconstruct the committee of Jewish Delegations” Dr. Wise said, appealing for Jewish unity.

Greetings to the conference were brought by Dr. Benzion Mossinson on behalf of the Vaad Leumi, the National Council of Palestine Jews, Dr. Z. H. Chajes on behalf of the Austrian Jewish League of Nations Society. Mr. Sadinsky for the East European Jewish community in Zurich, Louis Lipsky for the Zionist Organization of America.

A protest on the procedure of the conference was submitted by H. D. Naumberg. Yiddish novelist of Warsaw, who is attending the conference in behalf of the Voelkist group. Mr. Naumberg demanded that Yiddish be used in the addresses and the business of the conference.

Dr. A. Coralnick in a cable to the New York “Day” commenting on the first sessions of the Conference states that “the conference on Jewish Rights, although it is taking place in Zurich and is an international power, gives one the impression of a well attended meeting of the American Jewish Congress. The American delegates dominate. Louis Marshall’s shadow, which hovers over the conference, tends to make the protest against his attitude milder.

Dr. Coralnick also comments on the absence of delegates from Roumania and observes that “just the Jews of those countries who must be most interested have small representations.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund