Books

The man who wrote “Why I Left Germany,” described simply as “a German Jewish scientist,” is no atrocity-monger, not even in the Hitlerian sense of the word. One of the souvenirs of old Germany which he took with him when, with his wife and two children, he crossed the frontier, was the Iron Cross he had won in the war.

He was never molested by the police or storm troopers. He looked so much like a blonde “Aryan” that the absence of a swastika emblem in his button-hole seemed inappropriate. When he resigned his job at the Institute—he could not “lose” it, being a war veteran—he deprived himself of only a small part of his income. He maintained relations with “Aryan” friends and colleagues and even their maid, whose boy friend was a Nazi storm trooper, strove, touchingly, to protect them from minor inconveniences, such as running up a small swastika flag outside their window, so that its absence would not lead to embarrassing attentions.

The time-range of this record is, roughly, from the call of Hitler to the Chancellorship to the burning of the books on May, a year ago. This scene was the straw that broke the camel’s back of patience, resignation, hope that things would right themselves soon. “Why I Left Germany” is not so much a human document of oppression as it is a vivid statement of the manner in which the Nazis make a man and his family realize what they never felt before, that they are Jews, for better or for worse, no matter how “Aryan” they look or how many “Aryan” friends they may have.

This record is not written in hot blood. It is rather calm and objective; unexciting, if the truth must be told. We are already familiar with the general outlines of the Nazi boycott, the cold pogrom, the drive on Jews in universities, hospitals, the professions and the civil service, but it can do no harm to have these facts stated anew, as they impinged upon the experience and the consciousness of a particularly civilized man who was moved by them, but not so deeply moved as to destroy his power of objective reporting. There are a number of minor episodes, the statement of which may be taken as factual contributions, such as, for example, the taking into custody by storm troopers of a Jew who had lost his position through coordination and then had had the “effrontery” to try to raise fruits and vegetables on some acres of land which he owned. His offense, it appears, was that he had violated the law against Jews opening new business enterprises. Then there is the anecdote of the scholar who was visited by police on the accusation that he was a Communist and had Communist gatherings at his home, because his below-stairs neighbor didn’t like the manner in which he paced his study when he was in deep thought.

Because of the very calmness and studiousness of this document, it is the more likely to engage the sympathies of men and women on the sidelines who may have been repelled by the statement of horrors, cruelties and injustices which have filled the pages of previous books. “Why I Left Germany” is not a harrowing document, but there can be no doubt of the force and admissability of the evidence contained therein.

It is published by the London house of J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd. , in the clear and capable translation of Margaret Goldsmith.

H. S.

“Judaism, Christianity and Germany,’ ‘by Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich, reviewed in this space last Sunday, has just been brought out in an American edition by the Macmillan Company, with a new introduction by the well known Catholic layman, George N. Shuster.

NEXT STORY