The Human Touch

I publish the following letter from a Gentile acquaintance not because I agree with it and not in order that I may exploit the opportunity of gloatingly controverting it, but in order that the preponderantly Jewish readers of The Jewish Daily Bulletin may have an opportunity of hearing an expression of opinion which I think may be regarded as typical of anti-Nazi non-Jewish opinion. I can vouch for the Gentility, sincerity and friendliness to the Jews of this writer, whose identity I cannot reveal, and I can assure the overly suspicious that he is not a secret agent of the Nazis using The Bulletin for propaganda purposes. I reserve further comment until the close of the letter, which follows, almost in full:

“Dear Harry Salpeter,

“Some of the conversation the other night kept me awake thinking about Hitlerism and the Jews. I write you not because my thoughts are in any way extraordinary, but because it may be of interest to you to have the opinions of a Gentile who has always been almost a fanatic against anti-Semitism but who at the same time disagrees with you on several points (I am assuming you agree with the paper you work for).

“If Italy, in an attempt to “purify” the nation, began to persecute the German Lutherans within its borders with ferocity like that of the Hitlerites, I should be shocked and angry. Not because I am “German” by descent and Lutheran by upbringing, but because I hate cruelty and oppression. I cannot believe that the fact that the persecuted ones were German Lutherans would add to my grief. Yet Germans are no less Germans, racially, than Jews are Jews; Lutherans no less a religious sect than the Jews are. Yet many young Jews, agnostics like myself and long detached from the old culture and religion, have suddenly become almost demented by events in Germany. Not that I wish to minimize the horror of these events. But I do hold that young intellectuals who are being converted into Zionists overnight by the German situation show something about Judaism that is not always apparent; moreover, they are making a bad mistake.

“These young people were brought up to believe, though they may have seemed to forget it, that they were of a race apart. This belief is the stamp of persecution on a large, scattered group of people, a stamp which condemns them to further persecution. Judaism, like Hitlerism, is a nationalistic culture complex. It means “We are different from you!”—a direct challenge to everyone else who may be inclined to say the same thing.

“I have always championed the Jews because I believed that they would work out their own salvation if let alone. The salvation I hoped for was amalgamation—and I desired that for all creeds. I should be much happier if there were no ‘Jews’, ‘Catholics’, ‘Lutherans’, ‘Germans’, or ‘Americans’. I will continue to be a friend to them—as human beings, not as Jews.

“Any numerically weak cultural group which delimits itself from others invites persecutions. It furnishes a reason for persecution; the cause may be entirely different. The persecution of the Jews in Germany is a device cynically adopted for political (to the leaders) and economic (to rank and file Nazis) reasons. The victims are not persecuted because they are Jews. They are attacked because they constitute a small, delimited and easily attacked minority. They are easily attacked partly because they have fostered the ‘We-are-a-race-apart’ creed. From this it is evident that wherever political policy requires it, unscrupulous politicians in any country will seize upon some minority to be the goat when conditions are bad. It follows also that in this country, now swinging into a mild social-democratic-fascist regime, no minority is safe. I believe that the Jews especially are in danger—partly because during the last few months they have revealed themselves to be a powerful but small group apart, strong enough indeed to declare war on a nation. Every notice in the press of an aggressive move on their part stimulates a latent anti-Semitism somewhere. It is inconceivable that four years ago a mayoralty candidate should have injected the issue into a campaign in New York city. But now it has been done (cynically, I believe) by La Guardia, and thousands of McKee supporters are reminding themselves that they are Catholics, that Jews are going to vote against their candidate. Among my Gentile acquaintances I sense a vague but growing anti-Semitism; just as among my Jewish acquaintances I sense their drawing of a line.

“The Jews of Germany are fighting heroically. The Jews of America are indulging in an emotional spree which is partly justifiable sympathy and partly self-pity. They seem to have gone out of their heads; otherwise how could they approve the boycott? Believe me, your leaders are leading you to disaster. The boycott is vicious, cruel, idotic and self-defeating. It will kill more Jews than Nazis. It will arouse anti-Semitism here. If it succeeds in hurting Germany, it will drive her the more certainly to war. Is there any Jew who will be proud of that?

“What can be done?

“In the first place, it should go without saying, continue to collect money to alleviate the sufferings of the German victims. Make the appeal on a simply humanitarian basis; publish the facts of occurrences in Germany as unemotionally as possible. Organize only in inter-denominational bodies, exactly as if you were raising funds for the victims of a Japanese earthquake. If you must boycott anyone, boycott the zealots among you. I do not believe, now that Germany has left the League, that there is any political or economic measure to be undertaken safely.

“Unfortunately, there is little hope that this program will be adopted. It is more likely that the vicious circle will continue, persecution breeding persecution, nationalism arousing nationalism. Therefore I believe that only an international creed can solve these problems. Judaism resurrected is a step backwards.

“It was the Allied capitalists who imposed an unbearable peace and made Germany a nation of psychopaths. German capitalism, with Versailles as an excuse, espoused the rise of Hitler. If anti-Semitism comes here it will be because thousands of little merchants, disappointed in the mild fascism of the NRA, will flock about the standard of a Howard Scott in the hope of putting their Jewish rivals out of business; and because Howard Scott (or whoever), having risen on promises he cannot keep, will whip up mass man-hunting to divert attention from his failures.

“If it sems to you that I am rather cold-blooded, for a sympathizer, towards the victims of German anti-Semitism, I will answer that the Jews are only a small number of those suffering in this ‘hateful’ world. The people of Chapei are just as real to me as the people of Berlin. Countless millions are starving in India to supply the Bank of England with gold and the (also starving) British unemployed with their dole. To come closer home, scores of American workers are beaten, maimed and murdered every year to protect property rights (some of the workers and some of the property rights being Jewish, by the way). And for the last seventy years the Negroes in America have been in a position analogous to that of the Jews in Germany. The latest wrinkle down there is that landlords are mercifully shooting non-paying tenants. In the light of all this, doesn’t it seem that the Jews are a little self-centered in their suffering, that there is no little sentimental pretense in the revival of this culture which took a Hitler to resurrect it?

“I hope you, if not your readers, will believe that I am a sincere friend of the people who by historical accident are called Jews, though I have no respect for their —or any other—archaic religion, for their—or any other—racial pretenses. Damn racial snobbery in any form!

“Yours for a better world, impossible as it appears.

“E.V.”

The chief error, and one that invalidates much of his argument, that E. V. makes is the assumption that the Hitler terror is directed only at the self-proclaimed Jews, the assumption that Jews may gain immunity from persecution by losing their identity. This may be cold potatoes to most of The Bulletin’s readers, but I think it may be ‘news’ for E.V., and I am sure there are many E.Vs. about: the lesson of Hitelerian anti-Semitism is that assimilation, baptism, even ignorance or long-since-buried forgetfulness of their racial origin has failed to serve the so-proudly assimilated Jews of Germany. Indeed, the Hitlerian intellectuals hate them with a more venomous hatred than they do the Jews of the orthodox synagogues who have maintained their racial and religious identity and separateness. It is the inexorableness of the anti-Semitic drive against Jews of any kind or degree of Jewishness that has compelled Jews the world over to recognize that no decision of theirs will avail against the identification of them with other members of their race. You may choose to be a Lutheran or even a Catholic, but the Jewish fate is beyond acceptance or rejection—by the Jew. Not Jewish zealots, but the Nazi zealots, have united Jewry, at least for the present, into what seems to be a world unit. Does not the recognition of this fact. Mr. E.V., modify your argument somewhat?

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