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The Human Touch

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When we say that fifty thousand Jews have left Germany or that 3,527 Jewish lawyers in Thuringia, for example, have been disbarred, the mind refuses to build out of such statistics a picture vivid enough to serve as a statement of the situation. Statistics are unfortunately too often an evasion of the crisis which they are supposed to bring into relief. The fully-told record of one typical refugee out of Germany often will suggest the drama and the pathos in the “cases” of the other 49,999 refugees and a few brief sentences concerning the fate of one of the disbarred lawyers in the state of Thuringia will suggest the “cases” of the 3,526 other Jewish lawyers.

There is in Germany today the fragment of a Jewish family which in its recent shifts of fortune suggests a paragraph or two of the epitome of the Jewish fate in Germany. I do not call this a typical German-Jewish family, but it is a specific family and its break-up is symptomatic of the temporary demonetization to which Hitler is subjecting Jewry.

The family is intrinsically bourgeois, with some of the members showing a distinct inclination to Nationalism rather than Socialism. Before his death, the father had built up a prosperous business, which his widow continued to manage. Her attitude may be seen from the fact that shortly after Hitler’s rise to power, she wrote to one of her sons that she, and members of her set, would be happy to say “Heil Hitler!” but for his anti-Semitic plank. A year before Hitler, however, the only son had come in under the quota and taken out naturalization papers. Several years before, a daughter had left for the states. Shortly after the mother had expressed herself about Hitler the New York son had received from a refugee friend in Paris news that another sister had fled to Prague. Now there remains in a small town in Germany but the mother and one daughter, out of a thriving family group. And this one daughter, as much in loyalty to the Germany she had been brought up to love as to her own mother, had refused to accompany the sister who had fled to Prague. And now, in the same week that the refugee daughter is to sail from a French port for Rio, her mother and sister are to sail out of Germany for parts unspecified. In the meantime, the white-haired woman is liquidating her little property, and it is in a fashion something like this, and much worse than this, that Hitler is liquidating the Jews of Germany.

Shortly after the war years, when the young people of this family were stopping at a Belgian seaside resort, young Belgians of their age would taunt them with the word Huns!


You may have read the other day of what the Executive Committee of the World Alliance for International Friendship did. In the name of its thirty-seven national units, it sent a protest to the Protestant General Synod and to the other Synods representing the churches of Germany against the so-called “Aryan paragraph.” This paragraph says, in effect, that no son of a Jew or grandson of a Jew may preach the gospel of Christ or serve the Church in any way. Groups other than the Alliance have protested against this, as they have also against the Hitler persecution of the Jews and the assumption that the creed of a man is implicit in his birth, his heritage, his race; that a Jew, baptized or unbaptized, churchgoer or not, remains a Jew.

However much Jews should welcome the protests of Christians against the Hitler persecution, they should recognize also the basis on which some of these protests are made. Jews should recognize, for good or for ill, that the Hitler racial ideology destroys, root and branch, that conception on which is based the enormous missionary effort of the Christian churches, whether in the jungles of Africa or in the depths of Whitechapel and the East Side. The Aryan race theory destroys also, or seeks to destroy rather, the principle of free will in the choice of a creed. The Hitlerites, in effect, preach predestination and damnation. A man does not choose his creed; his race claims him and his race determines the whole body of his creed, of which the religious faith of the man is the least considerable part. Indeed, in the early part of “My Battle” Hitler points out that the anti-Semitism of such predecessors of his as Lueger in Austria was balked of its prey because it was based on religious grounds, and the hunted could evade such anti-Semitism by submitting to the minor inconvenience of the baptismal font.

Self-preservation is the first law of man. There have been gifted Jews who have made the little trip to the baptismal font in order not to be denied their ambitions; others have gone to the font in order not to have to go to the fire; in brief, the baptismal waters put out the Inquisitorial flames. Nevertheless, enough have ascended the funeral pyres in the course of history. The fate of those who did not has been portrayed, with the imaginative liberty we accord to novelists, in Ludwig Lewisohn’s “The Last Days of Shylock”, who begins the story of the Venetian money-lender where Shakespeare left off. Nevertheless, although many Jews became converts for the sake of their skins—as did the Marranos of Spain and Portugal—and although many became converts for the sake of their careers—note Heine and his friend Boerne—there have been others who have become Christians and zealous workers of the Christian Church without compulsion being exercised against them or without their deriving any obvious advantage from it.

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