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Congressman Celler Challenges Wickersham Board Member’s Slur on Jews and Italians

Challenging the remarks of Frank Loeser, a member of the Wickersham Commission on Law Enforcement, who stated in an address at the University of Iowa that Jews and Italians, not the “real Americans”, furnish the gangsters of this country, Congressman Emanuel Celler of New York in a letter to Mr. Loeser declares that the latter’s remarks in this connection are false, display prejudice and will do incalculable harm.

Congressman Celler’s letter to Mr. Loeser is as follows:

“In the course of your remarks at the University of Iowa on June 30th you said: ‘The real Americans are not gangsters. Recent immigrants and the first generation of Jews and Italians are chief offenders, with the Jews furnishing the brains and the Italians the brawn.’

“Such slanders cannot go unchallenged. They are utterly false. Burke told us many years ago that you cannot bring an indictment against a whole people. Jews and Italians are naturally entitled to their proportion of ne’er-do-wells. So are the Germans, the English, the Mayflower descendants. Americans have no monopoly upon virtue. Forbes, Sinclair, Doheny and Daugherty prove that. The Americans Major Campbell and U. S. Attorney Tuttle of New York, are now accusing each other of Prohibition wrongs, far more important than your ridiculous aspersions upon Jews and Italians. You would not put a bar sinister upon Americans as a class because these men are accused of wrong-doing.

“Why do you single out Jews and Italians, just because a comparatively few of these people are gangsters? What of the vast preponderating majority of law-abiding and industrious Jews and Italians? Jews, for example, furnished more soldiers in the World War than any other class in proportion to their total number.

“Your statement will do incalculable harm. You display a prejudice that disqualifies you as a member of the Wickersham Commission. I, for one, shall surely oppose extension of its activities beyond Prohibition. You cannot impartially gauge crime data. Furthermore, your statements are downright ‘wicked’ and ‘sham,’ like the Commission of which you are a member.”

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