A. A. Roback, former Professor of Psychology and English at Northwestern University, and instructor at Harvard University, in the following article makes a penetrating analysis of the new Jewish attitude since the Hitler persecutions. He also treats of the future outlook of Jewry as a national group.
While the Nazis and Hitler in particular have been excoriated for their brutality toward their opponents and the Jews, there has been no analysis of the situation in terms of the Jewish future. That many thousands of individual Jews have suffered because of Nazi ruthlessness in crushing Semitic aspirations is a truism, but the result of the anti-Jewish campaign is not wholly unfavorable to the Jews as a people. In a sense Hitler is a benefactor of the Jewish race; for he has provided the arena for the Jew to demonstrate his stamina.
RALLY TO RACE
Nothing has ever happened to the Jews since their dispersion tending to consolidate them so much as the Nazi treatment of them. Men who stood aloof from the race, who were converts to Christianity, who even reviled their race fellows returned penitently to the fold, even dying a martyr’s death like the late Professor Theodor Lessing. The galaxy of German-Jewish writers, like Emil Ludwig, Jakob Wasserman, Alfred Doeblin, to mention only a few, have found themselvesâ€”Jews after years of both conscious and unconscious inner conflicts, after tortuous soul wandering and racial stammering.
The group consciousness or esprit de corps has been intensified in those very circles which have begun to repress almost successfully their Jewish antecedents and to sing the paeans of Deutschtum in crescendo tones. There is now talk of a Jewish inter-territorial parliament, of a possible seat for Jewry on the League of Nations and other such projects and claims, which even if they should not be realized, are a step forward toward the recognition of Jews as a national group.
REICH JEWS SEE ERROR
The German Jews were wont to consider themselves apart from all the other Jews, as if their residence in the land of Bach and Beethoven, Goethe, Kant and Hegel elevated them to a status which their brethren in other countries could not attain. Toward the beginning of the Reign of Terror in Germany, I questioned a German Jew as to the happenings in the Jewish quarters in Germany and he was disposed to make light of the situation. “These activities are directed only against the Ostjude,” he said as if the East European Jews were hardly human enough to consider. Of course no harm could befall the patrician German Jew from the Nazi Walpurgisnacht.
So the German Jews thought at first. It was Hitler who taught them the lesson of fraternity; and it was not long before they saw in the Ostjude not an uncouth vagrant but a potent factor, both moral and material, abroad. A great many German Jews in their naivete were under the impression that all the Jews who amounted to something in the world were of German origin.
NAZIS WAR ON NATION
The Nazis themselves have been eminently just in their absence of discrimination between Jew and Jew. Even baptized Jews were not recognized as anything but Jews, and were treated accordingly i.e. deprived of the rights of earning a livelihood at the occupation they were engaged in. The Jews were thus looked upon as a national foe; in other words, Nazi Germany is recognizing Jewry as a nation with which it is at war. It matters not that Jewry was the first to be attacked, or that it is more helpless than Belgium in 1914. The fact remainsâ€”and it is the first time in centuries that such a compliment is paid themâ€”the Jews are regarded as a nation in bello by a more or less powerful country.
The strength of the international Jewish unit cannot yet be fully felt by Nazi Germany, but already the reaction is noticeable. In nearly every country, the Nazi German is confronted with a powerful foe in the shape of the wandering Jew whose influence is a match for the sinister propaganda and plot of the myrmidons of Nazidom.
SEES PALESTINE GAINING
The oppression of the German Jews will have led to the exodus of nearly 100,000 Jews, most of them fairly young and efficient and many of them unusually able, not to mention famous men like Einstein, Wassermann, Feuchtwanger, Walter and scores of others. The majority of these expatriates is settling in places where there is already a Jewish nucleus, and thus the existing colonies of Jews are greatly strengthened by the influx of a highly capable element. Palestine, in particular, will be benefited by its increment of German Jewry. The re-distribution of the German Jews and their transplantation in distant countries is not altogether a bane to the Jewish people; although to the individuals involved the ordeal is most trying.
VIEWPOINT IS CHANGED
Finally, it must be said that Hitler and his cohorts have afforded the world’s Jewry a point of view which is apt to stay with it. Hitherto the Jews as a group were decidedly partial to Germany. There was a glamour about Germany’s great men, about its court, about its military organization, which could not fail to impress. The linguistic kinship of Yiddish and German, the hegemony of the German Jews in the World’s Jewry and the subtle propaganda which emanated from Central Europe at all times conspired to make the Jews admiringly sympathetic of Germany.
At the time of the World War, by far the majority of the Jews could not bring themselves to side with the Allies. They could not believe the tales of atrocity related about the Germans and simply could not dissociate the Junker Germany from the cultural country of philosophers, poets, composers and scientists. The Jews have now learnt their lesson. It will not be easy to win them over to a doubtful cause again.
We are reminded of the story of Balaam in that the contemplated curse had been turned into a blessing, even if Hitler is very far from changing his attitude. At any rate, we may recall here Emerson’s words in his famous essay on Compensation “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something. Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”
Individually the Jews in Germany have drained the cup of bitterness. Collectively the Jews have suffered but little, if any, at the hands of the Fuehrer and his bands. The war between the Swastika and the Shield of David is yet to be fought out not on the battlefield but in the realm of ideas and public opinion. Hitler has placed into the hands of the Jews a weapon of moral force, which elevates the Jews to that status required by Hegel for a nation to survive. Hitler has invigorated the backbone of the Jews, which in Germany was becoming a bit arthritic, and this is not a slight favor.