Comment and Reflection on Topics of the Day

It is of course easy from this safe distance to advise the Jews of Germany to put up a little more resistance to their complete undoing by the Nazi regime. It would be presumptuous for us to contrast our own untested and problematic heroism with their terrorized submissiveness. We have no right to judge them. Their catastrophe completely overwhelmed them by its suddenness, its thoroughness and its stunning brutality.

For that matter no other section of the German population behaved any differently. The “Eiserne Front” of the Social Democrats turned out to be a confetti wall. Those who had vowed to die to the last man in defense of the Republic had not even the courage to throw up a few street barricades. Socialists, Communists and Liberals, all alike, submitted tamely to Hitler’s Gleichschaltung. The most ignominious defaulters were the German intellectuals, professors and scientists. Their pitiful display of leporine courage has no parallel anywhere in the world.

But the first stirrings of non-conformity have now appeared in Germany and singularly enough among the religious groups whom smug liberals so frequently taunted with supine truckling to privilege and authority. On the occasion of the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther’s birthday, three thousand clergymen read from their pulpits a manifesto declaring: “We preachers of the gospel do not want to draw upon ourselves the reproach of the prophet Isaiah that we are ‘all dumb dogs that cannot bark, sleeping, lying down, loving slumber’.” These clergymen dared to raise their voice against the Nazi effort to turn Protestant Christianity into a new worship of their race and war Moloch, against “the neo-Germanic heathendom which has sprung up in our nation and which has invaded the church itself.”

These religious leaders dared to speak. And they scored the first victory. The Aryan clause which was to drive non-Aryan Christian clergymen from their posts was promptly suspended. The importance of this cannot be over estimated. Hitler’s race program has received its first definite check. It will not apply any more to Christian clergymen who have Jewish blood in their veins. It cannot long be made to apply to Christian laymen who have Jewish blood in their veins.

A race program which permits such incriminating exceptions sadly exposes its own inherent and grotesque inconsistencies and falsehoods. If Jewish blood is not sufficiently virulent to disqualify a man from being a spiritual leader of Aryan Germans, how can it disqualify one from being an intellectual or political leader, and a majori ad minus—a citizen of Germany?

It is questionable whether these protesting Christian leaders will with equal conscience and consistency speak up for the non-Christian non-Aryans in the Reich—the Jews. The mandate of their faith is of course clear and unequivocal on this point: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all.”

Perhaps this is asking too much of them under present conditions. But they have made the necessary beginning, and the Catholic group is backing them up in their war upon the attempted Nordic revision and pollution of Christianity.

Is it asking too much, however, of our Jewish brethren in Germany at this time to speak up a little more courageously for their human rights even in the face of certain danger and reprisal? Does not a moment sometimes arrive in the history of a people when a hard and desperate decision must be made? What would happen if all the rabbis in Germany and the lay-leaders of the Jewish communities would issue a manifesto publicly condemning and repudiating the anti-Jewish policies of the Nazi regime and announcing their resolute determination to resist them to the bitter end, at the same time appealing to the conscience of the German people and of the world against the cruelty of their persecution and against the entire race lie by which they are being victimized?

A futile gesture, you will say? By no means! A heroic and a manly gesture which the whole world would applaud even if it failed to reach the German people. It would be a mighty and resonant deed whose heroic quality could not fail to stir the imagination of the world and to strengthen the hands of friends throughout the world.

And should such an act lead to martyrdom, does not the situation call for a measure of self-willed and holy martyrdom on the part of some of the leaders of German Jewry to redeem themselves and their people from the reproach of the prophet Isaiah, which the Christian clergymen have now refused to draw upon themselves?

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