Bucharest (Nov. 3)
On top of all the previous economic distress among the Jews of Roumania, we are facing now the economic destruction of our old-established wealthy Jewish big bourgeoisie, which till now was almost untouched and was therefore able to help the others, ex-Deputy Dr. William Filderman, the President of the Union of Roumanian Jews, declared in an interview with the J.T.A. representative here to-day.
In the last few months we have had a number of big banks and big industrial enterprises directed by Jews closing down one after the other, he said. This is the most striking symptom of the present economic process. The destruction of this wealthier Jewish class will inevitably increase the already heavy unemployment among the Jewish population and will mean the end of a great number of independent small Jewish enterprises which were maintained largely by the credits they obtained from the organisations with which these wealthy Jews were associated. In the same way their elimination will spell the end of our Jewish relief organisations and will thus add to the extent of Jewish misery.
The general economic position in Roumania is no worse than in the other States of Europe, Dr. Filderman went on. The world crisis is endured more easily in Roumania, if only for the reason that 80 per cent. of the population are peasants who are able to provide for their needs out of their own little farms. The wealth of the country in natural resources and the small extent of its indebtedness to the foreign world also make for a strong measure of resistance to the consequences of the economic world crisis.
But the position of the Jewish population is extremely serious, he continued. The coming winter will be one of the most severe which Roumanian Jewry has ever experienced. The Jews are a town population, and the economic crisis, therefore, does not merely affect any one section of the Jewish population, as in the case of the other sections of the population, but it hits the entire Jewish population. The Jews are almost exclusively engaged in trading and industry, both branches of economic life which are worse hit by the crisis than any other. Big financial institutions have closed their doors. No credits can be obtained. Thousands of Jewish officials are already unemployed. Thousands more will soon have to share their fate. Tens of thousands of Jewish souls are in danger of being utterly wiped out, unless extraordinary relief measures are taken.
The trouble is so much the worse, Dr. Filderman said, because we see no possibility of solving our problem now by our own efforts inside the country. We have never before appealed for help to the Jews abroad. I fear that it will soon have to come to that.
The Jewish big bourgeoisie has been literally swept away by the recent financial occurrences. Hitherto, the rich Jews have fulfilled their normal function of helping out their Community. What will happen now that they are no longer available we can hardly imagine.
To take one instance only, the Jewish Community of Bucharest will by the end of the current financial year have a deficit of about 6 million lei, which is about a fifth of the entire budget. The salaries of the teachers in the Jewish schools maintained by the Community have not been paid for months. The winter is coming on. It would be a calamity if the poor Jews in the towns could not be provided with fuel. The distress is so widespread that we are compelled to open people’s kitchens in all the Jewish centres of the country to give the poorest people a chance to obtain food at the minimum cost. Without the assistance we have had in the past from our wealthy Jews, who are no longer wealthy now, shall we be able to do all this?
Turning to speak of the general economic position in Roumania, Deputy Filderman said that in 1928 he had submitted a financial project to Parliament, and Dr. Lupu, who was a member of the Cabinet at the time, adopted the proposals contained there and for several months conducted a vigorous propaganda in their favour. In contradiction to the general belief, Dr. Filderman said, I showed in 1928 that Roumanian finance not only was not tending to inflation, but was actually tending to definite deflation. I showed that in eleven countries, including, America, England, and France, there was a note circulation ten times as large as in Roumania. Leaving out of account the pre-war exchange of the lei, present-day Greater Roumania, with its 18 million inhabitants, has a smaller note circulation than the Old Kingdom had before the war with only seven million inhabitants.
In a reply to my interpellation, the Prime Minister of the time, the late Vintila Bratianu, accepted my point of view, and promised that after the stabilisation of the lei measures would be taken for a new emission issue of at least 25 milliard lei. The Maniu Government which followed the Bratianu Government, did not, unfortunately, take over this obligation from its predecessor. Besides, emission alone could not heal all the injuries inflicted by the economic crisis. Certain other activities would have to be undertaken at the same time. I proposed such activities and several of my projects were accepted by the Bratianu Government, and the others were still under investigation.