A great deal has been said and written about the means by which the Jews of Poland are being gradually forced out of all avenues of employment and subsistence. But it is rarely that so calm, clearly-reasoned and dispassionate a statement covering the situation has been made as that addressed by Dr. Joshua Thon, president of the Club of Jewish Deputies to the recent opening session of the Sejm.
The occasion was the first session of the Sejm during the past seven months. The main task of the session was the consideration of the budget.
Dr. Thon followed Finance Minister Zawadsky and members of various opposition parties represented in the Sejm. Zawadsky had admitted the financial difficulty of the situation and confessed that the income from indirect taxation and from the State monopolies had fallen by 183 million zlotys during the past six months. Most important was the minister’s statement that the income from the monopolies alone, which had become the principal instrument of Jewish economic ruin in Poland, had dropped by no less than 40%. He also foreshadowed that the Government would enforce the severest measures against all who failed to pay their taxes punctually, a threat that has produced the greatest trepidation in Jewish circles where methods employed for the “encouragement of payment of taxes” have already been experienced.
Dr. Thon spoke with great restraint, dealing only with facts and not allowing his emotions to get the better of him, as would have been quite easy in the circumstances. He said that the Government had come to the Sejm with the announcement that it was faced with a large deficit. What did the Government do to ease the situation? It could think only of one remedy: more taxation and more burden, mainly on the urban population. Perhaps it was in principle a good idea to save, first of all, the peasants. It was said that Poland was an agrarian State, but he would remind them that no agrarian State could become a Great Power. If they wished Poland to play an important role in affairs they would also have to attend to industrialization and take part in the larger fields of commerce in the world’s markets. It was therefore difficult to understand a policy that imagined it could improve the position of the State by impoverishing the towns. In the towns there was a class of citizens who were particularly singled out for treatment as stepchildren. Every finance office, every taxcollector who wished to make a career, devoted the whole of his attention to