The reports in the metropolitan press of Max D. Steuer’s statement on his arrival from Europe that monies of the Jewish relief funds sent by American Jews for the aid of Jews in Europe were “stolen” dwindled to an assertion that forty percent of the monies sent prior to 1925 disappeared in the manipulations by the bankers in the fluctuating rate of exchange.
Mr. Steuer, who qualified his first statement to eliminate the original charge of theft, received a large number of New York press representatives in his office late Tuesday afternoon in the presence of whom he dictated his statement. He made his statement following the submission by the newspapermen of the statement of Mr. Marshall urging him to present the evidence of his charges. When asked by the representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as to whether this forty percent charge was made in regard to the Joint Distribution Committee or to other relief agencies, he stated he does not know.
As the source of his information he quoted Deputy Isaac Gruenbaum, member of the Polish parliament and leader of a Zionist minority group there, Joseph Tchernichow, lawyer of Vilna, H. D. Naumberg, Jewish journalist of Warsaw and Dr. Szabad of Vilna who, it was asserted, is the distributing agent for the Joint Distribution Committee in the district of Vilna. The last three named are the leaders of the Jewish Voelkist group in Poland, which advocates the inauguration of Jewish land settling work in Poland. Mr. Steuer met the European representatives at the Zurich Conference on Jewish Rights which he attended as a representative of the American Jewish Congress. He obtained his information during a luncheon and a subsequent meeting with these representatives.
To avoid the possibity of a denial that these interviews had taken place, he asked the Voelkist leaders to submit in writing to him a summary of their complaints, which they did, Mr. Steuer declared.
While dropping the original charge attributed to him. Mr. Steuer insisted in his assertion that the relief work carried on by the J. D. C. in Poland has not a constructive character. On this point he quoted an article by Louis Fischer in the Menorah Journal. While absolving the leaders of the Joint Distribution Committee in American from any possible blame, he stated that he had previously expressed his doubts as to whether the funds of the J. D. C. are used in the best possible manner. He refered to a communication he addressed to Mr. Baerwald some time ago. He also attacked his recent financial report declaring that “Since coming back from the other side, I have carefully examined the report that was made by Mr. Baerwald, the Treasurer of the Distribution Committee. Again, I want to say that I yield to no man in my respect for the members of the Distribution Committee including Mr. Marshall. Nevertheless, I am perfectly willing to leave it to any person to examine that treasurer’s report, and have him say whether that constitutes an accounting of what was done with the funds by the persons in charge on the other side. I have no doubt that every dollar that was ever collected by the Distribution Committee was sent to foreign countries in the hope that the best possible use would be made of it.”
Mr. Steuer’s statement re-echoed the theories advocated by the Voelkist leaders in Poland, who have recently established a society to further Jewish land settlement work in Poland.
Mr. Marshall, commenting upon this statement of Mr. Steuer, repeated that Mr. Steuer had not obtained his information from reliable sources, but has instead “obtained it from soreheads who were not in a position to judge the difficulties under which the Joint Distribution Committee worked during and after the World War when it had to take advantage of any opportunity which offerred through any agency possible to prevent the death by starvation and disease of the Jews in Eastern Europe and that constructive work had to be delayed while people were being helped to live.
In his statement Mr. Steuer said: “I have read with amazement, the suggestion that I am supposed to have charged anybody with having stolen any money that was collected from the Jews of this country to be sent abroad for the relief of Jews on the other side. I am confident that nobody will undertake to assert that I ever made any such declaration.
“On the other hand, it is absolutely true that I stated yesterday that I had learned, to my utter amazement, while on the other side, that while the money that had been sent over during the past two years had been economically administered and that it had been distributed in the countries and among the people for whom it was intended, that I had learned that prior to these two years the money had not been economically administered, and that a substantial part of it had never reached either the countries or the persons for whom it was intended.
“Mr. Louis Marshall, to my utter astonishment, takes it for granted that there was some accusation of dishonesty toward, or against, or about any person connected with the Joint Distribution Committee. No one will substantiate this suggestion on his part because it is thoroughly well known that I now have and have always had the highest possible regard for the men who are at the head of the Joint Distribution Committee, including Mr. Marshall. My estimate of those men has not in the least changed by reason of anything that I learned on the other side.
“The fact, however, is that before I left for the other side I wrote to Mr. Baerwald, the treasurer, indieating that, despite my unquestioned regard for those who are in charge of the Joint Distribution Committee affairs in this country and despite their known ability and unquestioned integrity, there was considerable doubt as to whether the best use was made of the funds that were being sent abroad.”
In describing the source of his information Mr. Steuer stated: “In consequence of this conversation (with Deputy Gruenbaum) on the very next day I invited Dr. Joseph Tzernichow, Mr. H. D. Naumberg and Dr. C. Szabad to lunch with me. Dr. Tchernichow is by birth a Russian, the most eminent trial lawyer in Vilna. Vilna, subsequent to the war became a part of Poland, and he is now an ardent Pole; as I understand it, the most representative barrister in the whole of that country–a cultured gentleman. To me, he seemed of the highest integrity.
“Mr. Naumberg is a journalist, a Jew by birth and by practice; a man, too, whose integrity at the conference was questioned by nobody, and I was led to believe his standing of the highest. Dr. Szabad, in addition to being a medical practitioner of the highest standing in Poland, is, as I understand it, the authorized distributing agent at the present time of the Distribution Committee I would ### suppose therature that his #########“These ## genaiemen all comirmed man up on the last two ###, of ## sent. and no more of the moneys that were sent to Poland were used to refere the needs of the undertunase than of per cent, of in disuppeasent in the maninrzi### made by the bunitees in the subject of exchange. The ### handling I do act understand not did I make inquimies as to how it was done. I was not there to prosecnce ##### I was there in learn whether the money was used is in was intended to be used. I believe these people ## the ##. They had to ## to do ethervise, and they said that while during the last two years every dollar of the money that was sent over was property adiministated because in was under the personal eye of Dr. Szahad. zevertheless. the Jewish problem ever there was in no way assisted execpt that the people were prevented whom starting.
“I ##.” Mr. Steuer continued. ## bedeve that men who were on the ## who have the Jewish cause at heart who knew the #### them acc##. eather than to accept the assurance of some person who was not there who does not know the ## but whose integriny I do not in the sliahtest degree impeach.”
Mr. Marshall. in his reply to this ## of Mr. Steuer declared.
“The Joine Distribution Committee has during all the years in has done work made use of all the assistance it could possibly get in all the various countries in has workerd to save people from ## and death. For a long time it was possible only to save them from starvation, disease and fumine. The conditions in these countries then were so acute than we had to work sometimes under the firing of cannot and the need of all the people so greun that we assisted non-Jews as well as Jews.
“We were working under the most trying ciraumstaness. Efforts were made in see what could be done to give construetive relief, but when starvation was stalking through the land it was impossible to do anything constructive until after the war and the conditions following the war ceased and matters setiled down. As it was hundreds of thousands of lives were suved by the Joint Distribution Committee.
“As everybody knows the currency of that part of Europe was in chaos. We could do only what was practical. We seek advannage of every condition pcesible. cut we had to work repidly #### gceat adds. and if the ## worked against all the money reacling the people for whom in was ## in is a ## that is unders ? make now.
? great many people of high ## who visited Poland at that time and saw our work spoke hightly#### Dr. ## D, Bcgen of ## had charge of the work for seven years. He had ## men ## him and he had the benerit of the ecoperation of He. Herbern Hocver and the assistance of the American Relfed Asscciation and he often used ##. We also operated with the American Red Cross in various countries, and we followed the armles to give assistance on our people.
“Our people were seamered then over the ## of the country. We had to help as best we could. As soon as we could penetrnte into the farthest remote seeuleas we did so. In was impossible to get to Enssin at ##, but we did peneurate there after the acute stages of the war, and two of our workers. Abraham Friedlander and Dr. Cannor. were murdered in the Ukraine.
“The persons who were in the work know how difficult it was. We felt that if we had saved lives we had done something commendable. We should not be erituicized after condiuions are normal. In is impossible to Judge now the conditions under which we worked then. We went there because of live for our dellow-men Nene went for personal gaim. We couldn’t work then wich local organizations. There were none. Congregations were dissolved and changing Families were seataered. Able persons were ofter uncbtaimable. We had to ## on the means at hand.
“The idea of quoting these men safely esconcsd in Switzeriand now who are looking at matters in an entirely different ## is absurd Dr. Gruenhunm and the others are soreheads, men who are politicians, who have ares to grind. Dr. Gruenbaum does not represent the views of our people in those countries. He attacked the Zionists recently and on a visti to this country he made an attack on Dr. Weizmann. We would not have picked him (Dr. Gruendaum) in any eircumstance.
“We relied on able. unselfish men who gave their services when conditions were setuled. We selected persons in whom we held conridence. But in the beginning we had to take whom we could get. It was impossible then to get men as able as those we were able to get later.
“We established ecoperative Ican societies and furnished money to help persons to be seld-supporting but it is idle to charge us now with not doing more reconseruetive work” when people were starting and typhus was raging in the land. The conditions of hunger then had no paralled in the history of the world, and we are repreached for not doing “reconstructive work.”
“There was nothing to do, nothing could be done exespt keep body and soul together. If the people of the United States had given more money, we could have done more, if we had not been interfered with by certain interests. We had to eat our ecat to our cloth.”