Geneva (Jun. 6)
Franz Bernheim, an Upper Silesian Jew, today won a complete victory over Nazi Germany when the Council of the League of Nations accepted the report of Sean Lester, its rapporteur on minorities, and the Council’s committee of three jurists rejected all German claims that the Bernheim petition regarding violation of Jewish rights in Upper Silesia was not admissible.
The petition came up on the Council agenda today despite intensive behind scene efforts of the German delegation to induce the Council to declare itself satisfied with the German declaration of May 26 in which the German Government declared that international obligations in Upper Silesia would not be infringed by internal legislation and blamed minor agencies for violations that had occurred.
The German delegation had to go much farther today than this original declaration. It had to declare categorically that the German Government would “rectify measures” complained of. Moreover it had to accept the Lester report which it previously declared it would not do and had to agree to keep the rapporteur informed as to the steps taken for carrying out the restoration of minority rights in Upper Silesia.
LAST ATTEMPT BY GERMANS
A last attempt to stave off this defeat was made by Friedrich von Keller, head of the German delegation, when the report of the jurists’ committee holding the Bernheim plea admissible, was presented. Von Keller declared he was not convinced by the committee’s verdict that the German objections to admission of the petition were invalid. Nevertheless, he said, he would not vote against it. The Council thereupon adopted the report of the committee, with Germany abstaining from the voting. The petition was thus declared definitely receivable by the Council.
A discussion of the substance of the petition was begun. Von Keller repeated his former declaration, which, however, on this occasion was in far more precise form, and added, “Germany will rectify measures taken in Upper Silesia which are incompatible with the convention.” (The Polish-German convention of 1922 under which the Upper Silesia territory is governed.)
Mr. Lester followed the German delegate. He said this new statement was more explicit and that he will point this out particularly in his report. His report, with this addition, was then adopted by the Council with Germany and Italy abstaining from voting. The Italian action, which was something of a surprise, was explained as due to the fact that general questions had been touched in connection with the discussion on the Bernheim matter.
BROADER ASPECTS TO FORE
The broader aspects of the German Jewish problem were brought into the discussion on the Lester report by M. Massigli, the French representative, just before the voting.
“Public opinion will not be satisfied with a regional solution of the Jewish question confined to Upper Silesia,” M. Massigli declared. “The Council can, however, juristically determine only the Upper Silesian position.”
He expressed the hope that all who had suffered in Upper Silesia as a result of discriminatory legislation and methods would be restored to their rights and that the rapporteur would watch all measures to be applied to this end.
The Czechoslovakian representative, Dr. Stefan Osusky, pointed to the record of toleration toward the Jews in his country since the thirteenth century. Prague, he said, possessing the oldest synagogue and cemetery, “respects the rights of the living as well as of the dead.” He hinted that the whole question of the Jews in Germany would be brought up at the next session of the Council, which will be held in September.
Captain Anthony Eden, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and British representative at Geneva, expressed gratification at the progress thus far made and hope that this progress will continue until a final solution of the German Jewish problem is reached. The Norwegian delegate also stated he hoped for further progress.
FOLLOWED LONG NEGOTIATIONS
The Jewish victory here today followed prolonged negotiations of the powers with Germany to move the Reich to abandon its stand that the League should consider itself satisfied with the previous German declaration.
League circles are highly pleased with the German defeat hoping that this, indirectly, will make Germany more reasonable in its stand on other important world problems before the League, and also in her treatment of the Jews within the Reich proper.
In closing the discussion, Mr. Lester said he was sure that the League Council would not again have to consider the Upper Silesian question since Germany will adhere to its obligations.