An admitted turnabout in his sentiment toward Jews, a sentiment hitherto described as anti-Semitic, was expressed by Gilbert K. Chesterton, versatile man of letters and philosopher, in an interview with The London Chronicle of Sept. 22.
“I am quite ready to believe,” said Mr. Chesterton, “that Belloc and myself will die defending the last Jew in Europe. Thus does history play its ironical jokes upon us.”
Mr. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc have been notably sympathetic toward the attitude that the Jew is a “foreign element” in Europe. They contend that the Jewish problem is inimical to the interests of Europe. But the revulsion aroused by the Hitlerite persecutions has resulted in a change in the tempo of their antagonism.
Mr. Chesterton said in part:
“In our early days Hilaire Belloc and myself were accused of being uncompromising anti-Semites.
“Today, although I still think that there is a Jewish problem, and that what I understand by the expression “the Jewish spirit” is a spirit foreign in Western countries, I am appalled by the Hitlerite atrocities in Germany. They have absolutely no reason or logic behind them, and are quite obviously the expedient of a man who, not knowing quite what to do to carry out his wild promises to a sorely-tried-people, has been driven to seeking a scapegoat, and has found, with relief, the most famous scapegoat in European historyâ€” the Jewish people.
“I am quite ready to believe now that Belloc and myself will die defending the last Jew in Europe. Thus does history play its ironical jokes upon us.
“Hitlerism is not the real spirit of Germany, which is, for the most part, a country of reasonable and friendly people, particularly in Bavaria and the Rheinland. But the Russian and the Prussian spirit are a menace to Europe, and always have been.
“The mark of the barbarian, as it seems to me, is that he accepts no judgment outside himself. If opinion on his actions is not as he would wish it to be, he appeals to force. Most of us are anxious for the goodwill and approval of some person or body other than ourselves. We are anxious for the knowledge that we have been held to have done well. Whether it is humanity or our friends, or the Catholic Church, or the Press, we are anxious to hear, and willing to profit by, their verdicts. But the Prussian does not; he never has. He has the arrogance and the truculence of the self-righteous. It would be amusing were it not fraught with so much danger to harmless people.
“By treating harmless, and in scores of cases, valuable and distinguished Jewish citizens of the German Reich as he has, Hitler has forfeited all claim to the label statesman. He had a great chance to do incalculable good; all he has done is the worst possible mischief. The real evils in Germany are still there, more rampant than ever.”