The assassination of King Alexander of Yugo-Slavia has removed a ruler who paid with his life for his ambition to be a dictator. Alexander could have been a popular king of the Serbs, Croatians and Slovenes if the militarists among the Serbs had not won him over to their side and if he had not attempted to impose the lower culture of the Serbs upon the Croatians whose cultural level is higher. The Serbs had lived long under the Turkish yoke, while the Croatians were dominated by the old Austrian Empire.
During the past few years he followed the lead of the father of the Little Entente, Edouard Benes, in international matters. His orientation until the last few months was in line with France who had helped Yugo-Slavia financially for years. Recently, after the break between Mussolini and Hitler, the Yugo-Slav government was falling under Nazi influence, chiefly for the reason that, under existing circumstances, Yugo – Slavia would side with any nation or bloc of nations opposed to Mussolini. King Alexander’s visit to France was intended for the purpose of re-establishing cordial relations with France and incidentally to obtain further financial aid and the promise of military aid in the event of a new European war.
In internal affairs, King Alexander did not follow the advice of his ally, Czechoslovakia. It is known on good authority that Dr. Benes, the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister, had urged King Alexander to give up the dictatorship and to establish a constitutional form of government. He also warned him of the dangerous consequences of his dictatorship.
Personally, King Alexander was regarded by those who knew him as brave and broadminded. As far as the Jews of Yugo-Slavia are concerned, the late King displayed on all occasions a spirit of fairness toward his subjects of the Jewish faith. He was also very sympathetic to the cause of the Jewish rebuilding of Palestine.
The Jews of Yugo-Slavia really had no Jewish problem during his regime. The Jews were treated there upon terms of equality and many of them were elevated to high positions in the government and in public life. The Chief Rabbi was chosen by the King as a member of the Senate. Jews have occupied important positions in the cultural and commercial life of the country, and quite a number of Jews have distinguished themselves in the army. There has been no discrimination whatever against the Jews in Yugo-Slavia. This was all the more remarkable since a vast number of the Russian White Guard officers of the anti-Jewish Wrangel army had remained in Yugo-Slavia. At first these Russians attempted to stir up animosity against the Jews in the typical Black Hundred manner, but they soon learned from the Yugo-Slav government that if they desired to enjoy the hospitality of Yugoslavia they must cease their political activities and give up their propaganda against any element of the people of Yugo-Slavia.
The Yugo-Slav government, shortly after the rise of Hitler to power and the anti-Jewish persecutions, invited a number of leading German Jewish scientists, physicians and engineers, thus benefiting the country as well as the refugees. A number of Jews were settled on farms with the aid of the government.
The assassination of King Alexander may lead to internal upheavals in Yugo-Slavia and the position of the Jews of Yugo-Slavia may be seriously affected by the civil strife among the minorities that constitute the population of Yugo-Slavia.
It is fortunate for Europe that the assassin of King Alexander and the French Foreign Minister, Louis Barthou, was not an Italian. Otherwise it would have been quite impossible to avert a new European war.