Whoever has stood before a State Board examination and had East European Jewish students as fellow candidates must rememberâ€”perhaps not without a certain feeling of oppressionâ€”the unique mental equipment of these young men. They knew so overpoweringly, so dismally much, and what they knew they repeatedâ€”perhaps because they lacked the familiarity and fluency of the languageâ€”in the almost exact words of the text book.
The examiner had hardly uttered his question when already those quickwitted students were there with the answer. But this very quickness, this hurry, this haste to show how much they knew was apt to harm them rather than to help them. In fact it often resulted in a favorable disposition toward the more leisurely answering, the more slowly reacting candidates, for many an examiner was annoyed and rattled by the brilliant mental artillery-fire of the East European Jewish students. So much cleverness was almost a presumption. It annihilated the distance which, socially as well as intellectually, ought to divide the professor from the student, the examiner from the one who stands before him to be examined.
PHRASE IS COINED IN SPIRIT OF MOCKERY
“Jewish Haste” â€” “Aryans” who, especially in Germany, flattered themselves on having no narrow prejudices, have coined that phrase in a spirit of friendly mockery; others, however, used it as an expression of disapproval and dislike, and now it seems that this special Jewish mentality is destined to be brought forth as the ultimate reason for “Aryan” Jew-hatred, as the justification of a rampageous anti-Semitism.
But if we look upon the past in the lurid light which present conditions are shedding, at least in Germany, upon the Jewish question, then we recognize clearly one indisputable fact: Jews were only apparently co-students and co-workers with equal rights and opportunities; in fact, one considered them always if not competitors of an alien race then at least competitors of a different kind, a kind very much harder to meet and to bear than the more leisurely type one accepted uncomplainingly, as a matter of course, from one’s own circle, one’s own familiar set.
GERMANY HARRIED BY ALERT MINDS
The German intellectuals felt themselves harried by the impact of the quicker, the more alert Jewish mind. The rapid productivity of ideas which Jews displayed in the most varied fields was a constant irritant to the mass of non-Jewish brains. It disturbed them in their tendency to think and work at a far slower, a far more comfortable tempo.
Talent and efficiencyâ€”admirable as they undoubtedly areâ€”when existing in too high a concentration, displayed in too ruthless a manner, ceases to be valued. In fact, the average human being reacts to the extraordinary at first with distrust, then with fear, and finally with hatred. A hatred which has its ultimate root in the instinct for self-preservation, for one feels that one can not compete with such an overfull measure of intelligence. In this sentiment, this instinctive inferiority-complex, one has to look for the main source of present day anti-Semitism, and not in a mystical race theory which for occult reasons of blood inheritance rejects the alien type. The matter is really very much simpler: not mystic at all but economic.
ECONOMIC ENMITY MORE RELENTLESS
Of course, an economic enmity is perhaps the deepest and most relentless. Already our remotest ancestors must have fought tooth and claw for their limited food-supply, just as today animals battle for their prey. And history is full of economic wars, wars fought for no more heroic reason than the mere possibility of subsistence. Individual or raceâ€”the single man or the peopleâ€”always has the slower mistrusted the quicker, always has the duller considered the brilliant a danger, always was the more alert the enemy of the more lazy. And that held true even if the more alert was not the more greedy but simply the more saving, not the one who destroyed but who created economic values. Envy added itself, then, to hate and distrust and the result was more often than not murder and robbery.
Today we have sufficiently progressed to disguise this envy and hatred with some psychological veil, or to cloak it with the mantle of some respectable grievance, but in the end the result remains the same and leads either officially to war or unofficially to pogroms.
But to return to the specific Jewish case. It is intimated that the Jews themselves, through their haste and hurry, their over-display of talent, their undiplomatically flaunted superiority have engendered the hatred of the non-Jewish co-citizens, and that thus a certain guilt in themselves has produced the outrages of which they are the victims. But is that really so? Or was the special mental attitude which the Aryans complain of in the Jews not rather the result of the conditions under which the Jews were forced to exist?
CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE FORCED EAGERNESS
Already before the Jewish emancipation, when Israel was permitted to live only on the sufferance of the mighty, the Jew had to be alert, quick and eager in order to wrest a poor existence from the scanty opportunities at his disposal. Hunted and harried, never suffered to share the intimate life and the pleasures of the community where he was dwelling, the joys of the mind, the solace of study was the only boon left to him. And that he used the thus acquired training mentality in practical life was not only natural but an inevitable necessity if he wished to exist at all. He had to grab every chance, look sharp for every advantage, because the limitations of his opportunities were over-great and had to be offset by an ever watchful alertness and quickness.
And after the Jewish emancipation, when, at least on paper, equality was granted to the Jew, he certainly could not afford to relax and to renounce this inbred tenseness and quickness of the mind. For although he could now officially aspire to distinction in any profession, privately he was yet looked upon more often than not as an alien whom one suspected of anti-social tendencies, whom one distrusted and whose competition one began to fear. And to this fear and distrust the answer could only be a redoubled effort. In fact the individual Jews had not only to prove his personal ability but he had in addition to be so excellent that the handicap of his Jewishness was overcome.
HAD TO BE TWICE AS GOOD AS NON-JEW
“As Jew you have to work twice as much as the non-Jew, be twice as good and as competent,” that was the blessing of the bad fairy anti-Semitism which was given to each Jewish child in its very cradle. Thus innate Jewish alertness was heightened through untiring industry and a burning ambition to justify in success not only one’s own but also one’s racial qualities. The whole Jewish people were eager to prove in excellence of performance their right to acceptance and to value. So much time had been lost in the prison of the Ghetto, so much was to doâ€”Jewish haste and hurry, fired by the glorious dream of liberty, equality and fraternity, tried to make up for the wasted centuries with an explosion of talents in all fields of human endeavour.
And even later, when Jews began to lose this intense feeling of racial responsibility and tried rather through assimilation or even baptism to create a closer alliance with their Aryan coworkers, this typical Jewish haste, hurry and tenseness did not abate in the mental make-up of the renegades. Centuries of hatred, persecution and contempt, centuries of oppression, inquisition and mass murder had bred these traits into the Jewish bone and neither the caress of acceptance nor the waters of the baptismal font could erase them from brain and nerves. Subconsciously the emancipated, assimilated and even baptized Jew was constantly keyed up, tense and in a hurry, and it is no wonder that in a survey of nervous