Asserting that the taxes which the Polish government is imposing are leading to the gradual economic ruin of Polish Jewry, and denying the statement made by the Polish Ambassador in Washington, Pan Phillipowicz, to the effect that the Jews in Poland are now being well treated, Deputy Isaac Gruenbaum made a vigorous attack on the attitude of the government towards the Jews in a recent speech in the Polish Sejm, as reported in the Warsaw Yiddish daily, “Hajnt,” of December 9.
“I wish to assert,” said Gruenbaum in his speech, “that the attitude of the government is one of defending the Jews against violence-for which we are thankful-and at the same time of the economic annihilation of those Jews that are regarded as an unnecessary element in the country. Those Jews which the government regards as necessary for the country it is striving to assimilate completely. Only the Jewish upper ten thousand, only the wealthiest Jews, are given privileges and opportunities. The masses of Jews, on the other hand, get no opportunities for work or other opportunities.
“We are groaning under the yoke of taxes, which is threatening to destroy us economically. We find ourselves in an unheard of tragic situation to which I wish to call your attention.
“One of my colleagues, the representative of the Peasants Party, read you a letter from a peasant who complains of the unheard-of brutal manner in which the taxes are being collected Gentlemen, you have perhaps forgotten that several times Jewish deputies read or told your from this platform of siimlar and often worse treatment that the Jews have received. The same people who first practiced these brutalities upon the Jews are now practicing them upon the village. Always in Poland one begins with Jews and then continues with others.
“The Finance Minister has spoken in an optimistic vein about the crisis, calling attention to the positive sides of that crisis. We Jews are suffering from the general crisis, and besides we have our own, our specific Jewish crisis, a crisis in the whole Jewish economic structure that was fitted for the pre-war conditions, which is now being shattered not only because of change of conditions but also because of the tactics being pursued towards us by the government.
“The tax burdens, the change in economic conditions, the monopolization of various branches of production and commerce-all this is serving to destroy the economic life of the Jews, to remove whole masses of Jewry from the economic life of the country. We have a right to demand from the government that it should help us, not only from the point of view of our own interests, but also from the viewpoint of the interests of the government, taking into consideration our large numbers and the economic role that we play in the country. We have a right to demand of the government that it find for these large masses new sources of livelihood, that it open for them new avenues of employment where Jews until now have not been allowed to enter or in which they haven’t participated until now.
“That government leaders understand their duty in this respect can be seen from the fact that outside the borders of the country, where it is a question of winning Jewish sympathies, where Jews wield a certain political and economic influence and the representatives of Poland want those influences used in favor of Poland and not to its detriment-there, in foreign countries, it is spoken of. Pan Phillipowicz, the Polish Ambassador in Washington, gives interviews to the representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency which no minister would dare repeat from this platform, since he would be hissed both by his supporters and his opponents.
“Pan Phillipowicz in Washington says that Poland is a real paradise for the Jews, that the Jews here receive equal treatment, although the Czarist restrictions are still being enforced here and haven’t yet been abolished, though you admit that they should be at last abolished. Pan Phillipowicz says that the Polish government is trying to find new means of livelihood and new sources of employment for Jews.
“He knows that a large number of Jews have been forced out of their economic positions; nevertheless. Pan Phillipowicz says that the government is doing everything it can for us. He will even consider every fact that will be brought to his attention, and he will of course bring the matter before the home government and perhaps see to it that changes be made.
“But we know that if in Czarist times there were in a certain town in the Kielcz district a Jewish mail-carrier, he has now too been thrown out. We know that if there was a man in the Ministry of Education who concerned himself with affairs of the Jewish religion he too has been lately dismissed. We know that when a Jew wants to get any sort of employment in a government institution he is advised to undergo baptism. We know that if one is received in such an institution, a specialist who cannot be found in Poland, he is told after he has already taught someone something. ‘Sir, either you will have to undergo baptism or you will have to resign.’
“Our governments are much concerned over Jewish public opinion, but only over the public opinion abroad. Our governments are immensely satisfied over the fact that Jews abroad believe that since the overthrow of the former government in May conditions in Poland have become much better. The Polish embassies are creating this opinion among the Jews abroad. The Jews abroad see from afar only the (Continued on Page 8)
“The Jews abroad can even be made to believe that the reconstruction work was carried out more than everywhere else in those places where Jews live in large masses and with great benefit for the Jews. We here know that everything that was rebuilt here from the war ruins among the Jews was done with the money of American Jews, with the money of the ‘Joint.’ In our archives, gentlemen, you will find innumerable letters, innumerable requests to all government institutions, to show how the Jews were wronged in neglecting to repair their war damages, how they were refused even building materials. Nevertheless Pan Phillipowicz in Washington dares to state that before all other nationalities the Jewish war sufferers were helped.
“If the Socialist International regards it as its duty to express an opinion about what is going on among us, since from here sparks may arise that may set afire the entire world, we Jews have even a larger duty, we Jews who are scattered over the whole world and who recognize the unity of the entire Jewish people throughout the world. (Voice: ‘Go to Palestine.’) You needn’t be afraid, most likely as regards me your wish will very soon be fulfilled. But it is not a question about myself. It is a question of millions of Polish Jews, it is a question of the public opinion of the entire world Jewry, which you are trying hard to win.
“Because the present government goes against Jewish interests, because it is conducting a policy of annihilation, a policy of economic enslavement, of financial exploitation, of de-nationalization,-because of that we have no confidence in that government.”
In the course of further debates a controversy arose between Gruenbaum and Minister of the Interior Skladkowsky. Gruenbaum attacked the policy of the police in mistreating those whom it arrested, and stated that his own son who was arrested on suspicion of Communist propaganda was beaten and tortured in the jail in Lodz. On the basis of police reports, Minister Skladkowsky denied this, upon which Gruenbaum exclaimed:
“The police are lying! You can hold me responsible for this statement, and I shall make no use of my immunity from trial because I am a deputy.”