ON MARCH 8 I wrote to the editor of The Atlantic Monthly and enclosed my editorial in which The Atlantic Monthly was criticized for referring to Alexander Stavisky as a Jew. In response to that communication, the following letter, dated March 13, came from the editor of The Atlantic Monthly:
“We do not understand that your article proves your case. If the Atlantic has been mistaken in stating that Stavisky was a Jew, we shall certainly make public denial. We have long since written to find out all the facts.
“We are not prejudiced against the Jews, as you can readily see, if you take the trouble to follow The Atlantic. Two recent articles, ‘How the Jew Did It,’ and ‘How the Jew Does It,’ by Rabbi Milton Steinberg, seem to have met with much general commendation from amongst your people.”
On March 20 I sent the following letter to Ellery Sedgwick, publisher of The Atlantic Monthly.
“I have your letter of March 13, in which you say that you do not understand that my article proves my case, and that if The Atlantic Monthly has been mistaken in stating that Stavisky was a Jew, you will make public denial.
“I regret that my editorial was not sufficiently clear to convince you. Perhaps I may be able to make this point clearer in my letter.
“The Atlantic Monthly article referred to Stavisky as a ‘Polish Jew,’ and gave his birthplace as Sobodka, near Kiev. Kiev is one of the oldest cities in Russia. Thus Stavisky could not truthfully be described as a ‘Polish Jew.’
“It has been reported after an investigation by the French weekly, Je Suis Partout, that Alexander Stavisky’s mother had been converted from the Greek Orthodox faith to Catholicism, which some of the French newspapers mistook for her conversion from Judaism. It was also revealed that Alexander Stavisky’s father and grandfather were buried in Paris, in a Protestant cemetery. If Stavisky’s grandparents and parents left the Jewish fold and became converted to Christianity, neither they nor their children were considered Jews, according to Jewish standards. Only according to Hitler’s standard could Stavisky be classified as a Jew because he had a Jewish grandmother. I suppose that since Stavisky’s grandparents and parents embraced Christianity, Alexander Stavisky could truthfully be described as a Christian.
“The point I wished to make in my editorial is that it is wrong for such a responsible magazine as The Atlantic Monthly to refer to the racial or religious origin of a criminal, especially when such reference is not based on facts. I have never seen it mentioned in The Atlantic Monthly or elsewhere that Samuel Insult is an American or British Christian, or that Ivar Kreuger was a Swedish Christian. It is therefore decidedly wrong on the part of The Atlantic Monthly to label Alexander Stavisky as a Polish Jew or a Jew, for he was not. His grandparents and parents had eliminated themselves and him from the Jewish fold long ago.”
The June issue of The Atlantic Monthly, just out, contains the following editorial, “Note On Stavisky.”
“At our request the author of ‘The Stavisky Scandal’ in the March issue has made every effort to establish the truth of Stavisky’s racial orgin. From France he reports:
“‘The statement that Stavisky was a Jew was made in an account which came into my hands. I think it was true, and so does everyone I have consulted. It is quite true that there is a cross on the grave of his parents in Paris, and Stavisky himself may well have been “born in the Christian faith,” but I am thinking of race, not religion. I can not now definitely affirm that Stavisky was a Jew, or prove it, because I can not get access to conclusive evidence. Naturalization papers, and so forth, are confidential documents, and I have been refused access by the Ministry of Justice. Now that the whole affair is sub judice; the relevant dossier is not accessible.
“‘In any event I had no intention of reflecting unfavorably on the Jewish community as a whole, and sincerely regret that my article should have given rise to that impression.’”
The Atlantic Monthly’s “public denial” based upon the anonymous author’s explanation is very weak. It is the first principle of good, conscientous journalists to secure the facts before writing and publishing an article, and not afterward. But the chief point is that a responsible publication is not justified in dragging in slurring references to the race or religion of a criminal, whether such criminal is a Jew, a Christian or a Mohammedan.
We do not doubt that the Atlantic Monthly is not prejudiced against the Jews. The integrity of its editor has been recognized for years. But in this instance a distinct wrong was committed in publishing unverified and misleading statements which are offensive to the Jews.