(In the following, the fourth of a series of seven articles appearing daily in the Jewish Daily Bulletin, Eugene Lyons, noted correspondent now on an investigatory tour of Europe for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, describes the hold the anti-Semitic tenets of Nazism have taken upon the general German population.)
Most incredible of all, in the phantasmagoria of Nazi ideas, is the charge that Jews dominated the county’s life coupled with the theory of “Aryan” race superiority.
The Jews are only one per cent of the German population–at most two per cent, if you count in admixtures of Jewish blood three generations back. Yet they acquired a disproportionate, often a dominant, place in the German legal and medical professions, in the universities, arts and sciences, in banking and trading.
That, in Nazi logic, is adduced as proof of the unique virtues and ineffable superiorities of the Germanic strain!
By making blood rather than religion or faith–even highly diluted blood–the test of the matter, the Nazis deprived themselves of the argument that this Jewish control is the result of some mysterious plot. They use that argument, of course, but proceed to refute it themselves by persecuting Germans who have long forgotten their distant relationship with Jews.
THE JEWISH ‘PLOT’
They declaim over the Hebraic cabal, holding control by racial log-rolling as it were. But surely a professor whose grandfather was a Jew but who does not know it cannot have taken part in such a cabal. In casting him out from the university the Nazi regime is in effect admitting that it was Jewish blood, even one-sixteenth part of it, that helped him attain his eminent post.
I have read through a good deal of the anti-Semitic literature officially published and circulated here. The facts are unquestionably doctored and weighted for effect. But it must be admitted that these books and pamphlets prove their point, prove it over-whelmingly. The extent to which Jewish Germans held posts of leadership in the national professions, sciences, letters, theatre and the like was truly phenomenal.
MONUMENT TO SERVICE
However this literature may strike an “Aryan” German, surely it can only evoke a deep pride in a Jewish reader. If half that the anti-Semitic writers charge be true, then the non-Jewish Germans have little in the picture to feed their vanity. The foul language in which most of this writing is couched, the obscene cartoons with which it is embellished, may be disregarded. They can only make Germans and Jews alike blush for the vulgarity that struts as patriotism. But the facts themselves, demonstrating so forcibly that Jews played a leading role in the cultural and economic life of a great nation despite their numerical weakness, stand as a monument to the service of Jews to their native land.
For all their prattle about the Germans as a chosen race, the Nazis do not go out of their way to flatter the ordinary German. The way in which they inform him that a tiny minority managed to put its stamp on the national culture is hardly a compliment. One can go further and show that this low opinion implied in the anti-Jewish propaganda is not a mere slip of logic. It really seems to reflect a genuine conviction on part of the Nazi leaders that the Germans are as a whole a weak and pliable people. No less an authority than Reichskanzler Hitler can be cited on this point.
PROOF FOR BELIEF
In his autobiography Hitler refers to “the stupidity, ignorance and gullibility of the German masses.” He asserts that the German people can be managed only by the methods of demagogy and goes into great detail on the proper procedure for bamboozling them. That this book is actually read and venerated in Germany is possibly a better proof than any that Hitler gives of the qualities he attributes to his followers.
The spectacle of a great nation working off its resentments against the Versailles treaty, its chagrin over. defeat in the war and ungenerous treatment by the victors after defeat, on a small and helpless minority is by no means edifying. I know that some outstanding Germans, though in sympathy with other aspects of the Nazi movement, are saddened and revolted by the Jewish policy.
“It’s accidental and I regret it with all my heart,” one such said to me. “But the world is making a grave mistake in judging the Nazi revolution purely on the basis of the anti-Jewish part of it. The great and important things in the revolution are the unity of our nation, the end of weak incompetent government and its substitution by strong centralized direction, the tackling of the economic problems and a lot of other points. The Jewish question is really unimportant and its injection a misfortune. But admitting that to be a mistake, even a crime, still we should not judge the movement of a whole nation solely on that.”
The same apologia I heard in other quarters. An American correspondent argued that too much attention is being accorded to “the Jewish angle” in the news out of Germany. The changes in German political and economic life being made by the Nazis, he said, will be studied and discussed long after the Jewish incidents are forgotten. The fierce hatred of Jews and the barbarous legal disabilities against them are, in his view, merely a sop to the German masses–a sort of safety valve for pent-up dissatisfactions. It is unfortunate for the Jews that they are the victims, said he, but what revolution proceeds without such illogical excesses?
It is true, indeed, that anti-Jewish measurcs are not the whole of the Nazi program, nor even an unavoidable adjunct to it. The political reorganization and economic reforms outlined by the Nazi leaders, and in part already enacted, could very easily have been formulated without dragging in anti-Semitism.
But the fact remains that in the mind of the German population, taken as a whole, the Jewish phase of the revolution looms largest. For some whom I have met it overshadows everything else. They may not quite understand the new agricultural and tax laws, or the revised relations between worker and employer. But they understand readily how to hate their Jewish neighbors. That is one contribution to the national cause which costs nothing and comes easily.
For an outsider observing the strangely altered Germany of today, its persecution of the Jews begins to take on the aspect of a symbol. The Nazis are looking backward, reverting to ancient forms, reviving forgotten sentiments. Inevitably the revival of mediaeval forms of Jew-baiting and ghetto restrictions is accepted by the outside world as a measure of that reversion to ancient “Aryan” ways. By the treatment of its Jewish population, I feel sure, judged wherever civilization is not quite extinct.