Yesterday the German, Austrian and other European Jewish communities commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the outbreak of the World War. At these meetings the patriotism and sacrifices of the Jews in various lands during the war were recalled. The present plight of Israel in Europe could not be discussed frankly and publicly in certain countries, especially in Naziland.
During my last interview with Dr. Max Nordau, in 1921, in London, the brilliant philosopher and great Jew revived the Jewish tragedy during the World War and the problems confronting the Jewish people in the aftermath. In my opinion, no one has summed up the sufferings of the Jewish people during the war and their hopes after the war, better than did that modern Jewish prophet.
I met Dr. Nordau many times. I visited him practically every time I came to Europe before the World War. I corresponded with him while he was in exile in Spain during the war. Our last meetings took place in London, in 1921. I visited him in his little room in the Zionist offices there, and he called on me at my hotel. He talked about his last literary works and about his keen disillusionment in some of the Zionist leaders. He was wholeheartedly absorbed in the painful problems of the Jewish people and was enthusiastic in his optimism concerning the triumph of the Zionist ideal of rebuilding Palestine as the Jewish National Homeland.
During that last interview, Dr. Nordau said to me, among other things, as follows:
“The World War was a war of the Jewish people. There were proportionately more Jews in the firing lines than even Frenchmen, although these furnished the highest percentage of mobilized soldiers. They fought at least as heroically as the English and the Americans who covered themselves with the greatest glory, to judge by the numbers of distinctions and honors they won. They suffered more than the Serbs and the Belgians, who were considered to be the most lamentable victims of the conflagration, and the conclusion of the peace treaties leaves the Jews in worse condition than the Austrians, the Germans and the Russians, who are justly, if cruelly, punished for having been the cause of the scourge which tortured and martyred mankind for five years.
“It is easy to substantiate these affirmations with figures and facts. The number of Jewish soldiers in the ranks of all the contending armies is estimated as having been 850,00 and 900,000. Eighty thousand Jews have fallen in battle or died from wounds, while the other Jewish casualties as a result of the war amounted to a little under 200,000. These are the direct losses, which do not include the numberless victims of that infamous scoundrel, the chief commander of the Tsarist Russian army, the mass-murderer Grand Duke Nicholas, who, at the beginning of the campaign, ordered the whole Jewish population of the war area in Poland to be driven out of their homes and to be hunted in the interior of Russia where vast numbers of the unfortunate Jewish women, children and old men perished along the roadside, like beasts of the wilderness, from cold, hunger, exhaustion and cruel treatment.
“So much as to our active and passive share in the war. But now the tragic difference between Jews and other nations that particpated in the horrible adventure. The other nations all fought for an interest which they understood, which was clear to them, which they felt to be worth even the supreme sacrifice. The aggressors broke the peace in greed for domination, for profit, for conquest, for glory, for the gratification of vanity. The assaulted nations knew that they were bound to risk everything, all that they possessed and their life as well, in order to defend their national existence and honor. But we Jews, what did we fight for? For one thing onlyâ€”for the fulfillment of our duty toward the state of which we were citizens or subjects. Far be it for me to minimize this reason for our heroic effort. We had always spoken of our patriotism, we had boasted of it, we had gloried in it, and it was only right and just that in the hour of supreme danger, when feelings are tested as to their sincerity, we should prove by acts the value of our words.
“But if this holds good of the Jews of such countries as the United States, England, France and Italy, where the laws make no difference among nationals of different creeds and races and where all citizens enjoy the same rights, it is heart-rending to think that our brothers had also to brave death for states like Germany and Russia, where they were despised and persecuted, where the governments treated them worse than criminals. Yet even in the German and Russian armies the Jewish soldiers did more than their share, as is proved by the number of casualties as well as distinctions bestowed upon them, surely not out of favor, but because even the most hardened, unjust and anti-semitically biased superiors could not help acknowledge, most reluctantly, with a bit of ribbon or a cross of inferior rank, the conspicuous deeds of valor accomplished by Jews under the eyes of their comrades in arms.
“And now that the war is over, at least theoretically, the nations draw up their accounts and establish the balance sheet of profits and losses. The vanquished, of course, have no reason to rejoice. They are inexorably punished for their sins. They have to atone for the abominable crimes of their rulers, whom they cheered enthusiastically when they were led on to murder, arson and pillage, whom they followed, not only without revolt or even mere reluctance, but with overbrimming joy. They are ruined, humiliated, dishonored, and it will take a century of honest work and decent behavior before they will be pardoned for their misdeeds.”
To be concluded tomorrowMake a habit of glancing through the classified advertising columns. They may have a surprise in store for you.