Berlin (Dec. 1)
A big cultural convention of German Jewry has been held here by the Central Union of German Citizens of Jewish Faith, called for the purpose of considering the place and the achievements of German Jews in cultural life, especially the stage and the film.
Dr. Friedrich Brodnitz, who conducted the proceedings, said that the Central Union, despite the present difficult times, when people thought there was nothing else to consider except political problems, had decided to devote itself for one day exclusively to cultural problems, because it felt the need to demonstrate that it is necessary even in these days not to lose one’s nerve, that there must be time, in spite of everything, to deal with questions concerning something else than the physical and the civic safety of the Jews, that there was also the honour and the respect of the Jews to consider.
Dr. Julius Bab, the author, urged the need of protesting against the way in which Jewish matters and Jewish people were presented in the theatre, and even more so in variety and the talkies. It is dangerous, he said, for any particular group to demand exceptional treatment in matters artistic. The right of the artist to depict people as he sees them is superior to everything else. We Jews, he said, demand no special rights in this respect. What we object to is something outside art, the depicting of Jews in a cheap way merely for the purpose of ridiculing them. That is dangerous, especially at this moment. Those people who have been infected with the virus of antisemitism, exploit such situations, arguing that this is the Jew as he really is. It is particularly painful, he added, when Jews lend themselves is actors or, producers to such contemptuous depicting of Jews. That is what we are fighting against, because our honour is at stake.
Herr Heinz Goldberg, the film producer, said that it was a welcome sign that in a time of political tension like the present, they could hold such a cultural demonstration. The Jewish actor nowadays found himself often called upon not to act a part as an artist but to show the Jew in a bad light. It was playing down to the lowest instincts of the mob. Even if the actor himself was not aware of the fact, the whole atmosphere tended that way, and they had to call a halt. He himself had heard a leading film director instruct his producer, he said, to introduce into his film “a couple of comic figures Jews”. There was no attempt to depict the Jew as a human being. It had taken him three years, he said, before he could convince people to left him produce the Dreyfus film. At the same time, he added, the Jewish actor needed more self-respect.
Herr Fritz Engel, the critic of the “Berliner Tageblatt”, complained that nowadays the appearance of a Jew on the stage was enough to make any Jew in the audience squirm. There was another difficulty now. It was impossible for a Jew to become a Director in any important theatre. Professor Leopold Jessner, he said, is the last Jewish director in any State Theatre, and the movement against him, he went on, is not personal, but is aimed against the Jew. Jews must show more courage, he cried. If Jews see anything objectionable on the stage or film they should protest and walk out.
Fritz Gruenbaum, the well-known comic actor, said that it was the duty of the Jewish actor to refuse to appear in plays or films which presented the Jew in a contemptuous light. At the same time, the Jewish public ought not to be over-sensitive, and should not protest unless there was a direct affront.
HOW STANDS THE JEWISH GERMAN: DR. JULIUS BRODNITZ AND DR. GEORG BERNHARD ON THE PROBLEM: WE STAND AT OUR POSTS.
Dr. Julius Brodnitz, the President of the Central Union of German Citizens of Jewish Faith, said that the Union had arranged this cultural gathering because in the midst of chaos it was necessary to stop a while and think. We Jewish Germans must put this question to ourselves, he said – Have we been at fault? Have we done anything because of which all this has come upon us, and ought we to change our route? Ought we, a small minority, say to ourselves complacently – “The mob does not understand. The people are sick. The official doctors have failed, so they have called in the quack”.
We must remain as we are, Dr. Brodnitz went on – German Jews on German soil, suffering as minorities suffer, but also enjoying all the blessings of a minority. We stand where all good Germans stand. We refuse to agree that only those who wear the uniform of the majority have a right to membership of the State. I will not speak of what the Jew has done for the German State. But one thing must be said – There is no section of the German people that has been so trampled on, and in spite of all that has such deep and abiding love for its native land. We shall not allow bitterness to rob us of this sentiment. Suffering and fighting are the fate of the Jew. We gith so long as we live, and our life will be at an end when we can fight no more. That is how we do our work, and what we achieve is not to be spoken about. We have confidence in ourselves, and we stand at our posts. If there is anything in the fate of the German Jew that is stronger than his fate it is the power to bear this fate.
TAKES TWO TO COLLABORATE SAYS DR. GEORG BERNHARD: WE ARE NOT SHUTTING OURSELVES OUT FROM GERMAN NATION BUT WE ARE NOT GOING TO FORCE OURSELVES ON ANYONE: MUST CONCENTRATE IN JEWISH COMMUNITY AND SEE THIS MINORITY IS ONE BODY AND SOUL.
Dr. Georg Bernhard, former editor of the “Vossische Zeitung”, said: It is hard to live in a minority, but none of us need be isolated. We are each of us a support to the other.
We are not shutting ourselves out from the German nation, Dr. Pernhard went on, but it takes two to collaborate, and we are not going to force ourselves on anyone. We must concentrate in our Jewish Community and see that, at least, this minority should not break up. We must be one body and soul. No one of us can be a good German if he is not a good Jew.
The non-Jews who are engaged in the fight for liberty in Germany, he continued, have to suffer just as much as we. Those who defend the Republic and endanger their lives for it suffer equally whether they are Jews or non-Jews. The race theory is an absurdity. The Jews were settled on the banks of the Rhine before the Germans were there, and the East European Jews are the descendants of Jews who were driven from Germany and took the German language with them and developed it into Yiddish. The Jew in Germany is more than a citizen. He is part of German culture, which gushes out of the soil on which we German Jews have lived for centuries. Nothing of all that the Jews have contributed to German culture can ever be wiped out. What we have given to German life we have given as Jews. We are a minority, but a minority of nobility, whose credentials are achievement, not claims of superiority, and we recognise our distinctiveness as do other branches of the German people. We are meek like Moses, and perhaps too much inclined to be on the side of the oppressed. But when we are oppressed, we defend outselves physically and spiritually, No country that has persecuted the Jews, Dr. Bernhard concluded, has prospered.