Editor’s Note: Will the Jewish position in Austria improve under Schuschnigg or will it become even worse than under Dollfuss?
The title of this article is naturally not wholly in accord with the general events which recently took place in Austria and which are still in a state of constant flux. On the other hand, one cannot describe the situation in which the Austrian Jews find themselves under the present circumstances otherwise than by a variation of the famous book-title, “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
Just as the author of the novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” wished to express by that phrase that the horror and fearful pressure on Germany’s western front became a permanent condition, so the words “All Quiet in Austria” are intended to convey, in regard to the Jews, that the process which set in a few years ago, and which has for its object the practical disfranchisement and removal of the Jewish elements from all fields of public, social, and economic endeavor, is going on irresistably and with inexorable consistency.
“LEGALLY” JEWS ARE SAFE
Formally the legal equality of the Austrian Jews has not been impaired even in the new constitutional laws, although the interpretation of the article which guarantees the equality of all Austrian citizens suggests something elastic. For it is stated therein that exceptions may be made on “material grounds.”
What are material grounds? This is left to the discretion of a higher authority. And this authority is essentially anti-Jewish. The assassinated Chancellor, Dr. Dollfuss, was no doubt a great Austrian patriot, for whom the preservation of Austria’s independence was the most important aim of all. Yet it should not be forgotten that he was likewise a reactionary in many respects, and wholly untrustworthy, to put it mildly, as regards the Jews. It is well known that for years he sought to avoid making any positive statement on this issue. Until the sanguinary occurrences of February 12, 1934, when Austrian Socialism was crushed,â€”an event which created a sensation throughout the world,â€”Chancellor Dollfuss declined to receive an authoritative Jewish delegation and to discuss with it the question of the status of Austrian Jewry. Only in February, 1934, when alarming reports as to the intentions of the new Austrian regime concerning the Jews reached the outside world and aroused amazement, did Dr. Dollfuss find it necessary for the first time to say a few reassuring words in this regard.
In reality Dr. Dollfuss, who was credited with an iron will in many respects, was extraordinarily vacillating in regard to the Jewish question. A member of the Dollfuss cabinet is said to have declared a few days before the assassination of the Austrian Chancellor, that Dr. Dollfuss was often ready to yield to the pressure of anti-Jewish trends.
It is doing no violence to historical truth to affirm that in the Jewish question Dr. Dollfuss was no safe pillar on which one might have been justified in setting hopes for the granting of real equality to the Jews of Austria.
Actually, under his regime the process of eliminating Jews from the civil service went on ruthlessly. Of course, it was not said that physicians were being removed from the municipal administration of Vienna and from the Sick Fund on account of their Jewishness; the reasons assigned were those of economy and Marxist activity; in practice, however, the government’s course tended to deprive Jews of opportunities for earning a livelihood and to replace the dismissed Jews with Dollfuss partisans.
CRISIS SPURS ELIMINATION
The process of elimination is being very much furthered by the prevailing economic depression in Austria. This, to be sure, hits the whole population, but affects the Jews particularly, if only because the Jews are exclusively city folk, and both the Dollfuss government and its successor, the Schuschnigg – Starhemberg government, have relied for support on the rural population and are less alive to the needs of the cities. The collapse and closing of all Austrian banks, of which, strictly speaking, only one â€” the Credit-Anstalt â€” survives, has so worked that all of Austria’s credit facilities are controlled by the State. At the head of the most important financial institution there now are two outspoken anti-Semites, and it may be surmised that neither as employers nor as borrowers of credit do the Jews find favor in the eyes of these new directors of finance. What this means for business, in which the Jews have always played a great part, can easily be imagined.
VIEWS RESEMBLE NAZIS’
The most important figures of the new regime in Austria areâ€”who knows for how long?â€”Chancellor Schuschnigg and Vice-Chancellor Starhemberg. All that one can say of both of these gentlemen, as regards the Jewish question, is that it is very hard to distinguish their views in the matter from those of a dyed-in-the-wool Nazi.
Naturally, both refrain, and that on the ground of their actual or alleged clerical orientation, from combating the Jews with such arguments as the racial principle. They also declare, as Starhemberg did in an interview in a British newspaper, that they are violently opposed to pogroms and violent methods. That, moreover, would be contrary to the nature of Austrians, and also of Austrian ministers of State. However, both Schuschnigg and Starhemberg are of the opinion, which they have voiced in speeches and statements, that it is necessary to resist the excessive influence of the Jews in various fields of public endeavor.
Schuschnigg says, to be sure, that there really are not so many Jews in the administration, and that there can be no question of a ban on Jewish applicants for government posts in the future, for which reason this campaign against the Jewish element is, strictly speaking, of no moment; but behind these words there lurks nothing less than the absolute intention of making life as hard as possible for the Jews.
STARHEMBERG MORE BLUNT
Starhemberg is far more outspoken in his arguments. He eschews bloodshed, of course, but he is not against depriving the Jews of any possibility of public and economic activity, and, so to speak, smoking them out and ruining them. It is doubtful if the other cabinet members differ in their views and objects by so much as an iota from the two leading figures of the cabinet.
In Austria nothing possesses sharp contours. Everything is fluid: there is no true dictatorship, for it is mitigated by slovenliness; there is none of the stiff, scientifically-established race-hatred of the Nazis, but a pussy-footed method of fighting the Jews. With polite gestures and amiable words the Jews are being strangled, nor do the executioners fail to roll their eyes compassionately. The same characterization of deliquescent may also be applied to the Jewish defensive measures. Here, too, there is no determination, no well-knit organization, no consistent struggle for self-preservation. Multiplicity of Jewish parties with consequent dissipation of energy, disunited action even among the national-conscious Jewsâ€”the Zionistsâ€”lack of a central organization to embrace all the Jews in the country, ostrich-like policy, blind aping of wrong methods such as were employed in Germanyâ€”for example, the formation of a League of Jewish Front Soldiers, a flocking of Jews to the so-called “Fatherland Front,” â€” an omnium-gatherum where one loses his bearings and no united will can be established. Just as the general political situation in Austria is chaotic, so the actions of the Austrian Jews are obscure and divided.