Of Supreme Bench, Baltimore City
The American Jew, like the great mass of Americans, is devoted to the principles of the Constitution of the United States and yields to it his loyal support. In it, and in his State Constitution and Bill of Rights, he finds the source of his greatest security and protection in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
So long as the Federal Constitution persists and is accorded the reverence, devotion and loyalty that it has received during the one hundred and forty-four years of its existence, the Jew will be protected in the enjoyment of life and of those things that make life worth while. It is of the utmost importance to him, therefore, that no enfeebling changes take place in the fundamental constitutional guarantees of freedom of worship, freedom of speech, of peaceable assembly, of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, of citizenship, of equal protection of the laws, of due process of law, secured alike by the Federal Constitution and that of the State in which he lives.
The preservation of these constitutional guarantees is most important to the minority groups of which the Jews constitute a relatively small one. The majority is always able to protect itself. The security afforded by written constitutions such as ours, amendable only by formal action by the concurrence of more than mere majorities, enforced by the courts even as against the action of the executive and legislative departments of the government, is of the highest order.
The rights afforded to the Jews of Germany, under the Weimar Constitution of 1919 seemed to be amply protected. The situation in Germany was not, however, comparable with that in this country. The American Constitution has persisted unimpaired for nearly one hundred and fifty years and not only has worked but in the minds of the American people has always been the best form of government available. Its protection is invoked and obtained by the humble and oppressed as well as by the proud and powerful. Under it, all men are equal, and resort to its beneficient powers is easy and effective.
The German Republic never had taken firm root. Hamilton Fish Armstrong quotes an eminent German as having said to him two or three years ago, “We made a republic; but there were no republicans.” Mr. Armstrong, an experienced and impartial observer, in his recent book, “Hitler’s Reich”, says: “The German Republic was a puny plant. Beneath the inch or so of top-soil in which its seeds were hastily placed were a dozen unyielding strata, packed down and solidified by tradition and usage.” Its growth was hindered by many adverse circumstances. Its leaders came to care less and less about saving it. It was easily overthrown by the Nazis without even the form of abrogation. The rights purporting to be secured to Jews as Germans were dissipated by the first murmurs of the Nazi storm.
It behooves us American Jews for our salvation to cherish, support and defend the Constitution. As Jews, we have always recognized the efficacy of repeated protestations and acts evidencing our faith in God. As Americans it is our duty and our salvation to renew ceaselessly our devotion to and our support of the Constitution of our country.
RESPONSIBILITY FOR MURDER
The National Socialist movement and the National Socialist government share responsibility for the murder of Professor Theodor Lessing with the cowardly assassins who fired the bullets into the head of the sleeping pacifist and philosopher as he lay in his villa outside Marienbad.
This is not to prejudge on insufficient evidence. It is to point to the general direction from which flows the ultimate and overshadowing responsibility for individual crime. Let assassins be punished as assassins should be punished, but let us not forget that even assassins may derive their “philosophic” sanction, if not actual incitement and encouragement to murder, from a cowardly government.
One can only hope, since Professor Lessing is dead, that he shall not have died in vain. The Czechoslovakian government is doing its best to track to their lair the individual cowards who could attempt to answer with bullets the courage and the reasoning of a man of peace and scholarship. By the teachings of the Nazis themselves, who scorn what they call sickly humanitarianism, the execution of the assassins, when and if apprehended, is ordained. But whether or not his murder is avenged by the law, his death must serve to dramatize to the world in what ways National Socialism governs and by what methods it makes reply to enemies.
The Lessing murder, more than any other single offense, publishes to the world the fact that there is no honor among Nazis. It publishes to the world that what Nazis can do today to a refugee professor they may and will do tomorrow to the neighbors on their frontiers. It is said that Professor Lessing was warned that there was a price on his head, and he ignored the warning. His death then is a warning of tomorrow. The spite that kills feeds on its kill and whets the appetite for reprisal, murder, revenge.
The Lessing murder is the most dramatic instance of reprisal-murder of enemies of the Nazis outside the borders of Germany. Swiss frontier guards reported Nazis dragging a refugee across their border into Germany, there to be dealt with in the Nazi style. An article in The Nation recently told of raids into Czechoslovakia by Nazis who dragged back with them refugees who thought they had made good their escape from the terror by crossing the border. The same writer reported raids made by German Nazis on Czech trains while those trains were technically on Czech soil. Even in London recently the office of a Jewish lawyer was raided by a group of Nazi sympathizers. Let world opinion consider the meaning of these cowardly revenges. Today’s deed is the index to tomorrow’s. The governments of the countries bordering Germany must act now lest Nazi insolence destroy civilization by tramping upon the international code. The code of Nazis is the code of gangsters. There is still a world society of nations based on a body of recognized international law. It is not from the Nazis that that society of nations will derive sanction or support.
How much more blatantly must the Nazi trumpets announce their war-like intention? Professor Lessing is only one of the symbols of that intention. The world must not let his death have been in vain.