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Those Saar Pledges

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The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has sent Mr. Wood as a special correspondent into the Saar territory to study the position of the Jews and their prospects after the plebiscite. His report follows:


The Saar problem, which for a long time received no special attention, is now one of the most important concerns of European and world politics. Either the plebiscite of January 13, 1935, or, as persons believe, forceable action before that date will decide the Saar’s final destiny.

November 23 also will be a significant day for the territory. On that date the council of the League of Nations is to frame its final resolutions prior to the plebiscite. It also will define the various proposed minorities safeguards, in case the Saar returns to Germany.


Among these measures, which are expected to lay down rules for the plebescite itself, the officials and their duties, there will be included specific safeguards for Saar Jews. These are suggested in a memorandum received by the League’s Saar Commission from the Committee of Jewish Delegations, of Paris, and the Jewish Board of Deputies, of Great Britain.

League officials in their negotiations with France and Germany have made extensive use of this memorandum, which demands that the Saar Jews be protected according to the precedent laid down by the League in the Upper Silesia plebescite area, where the Nazis were compelled to withdraw all discriminatory legislation and to reinstate Jewish professional men and officials ousted under the “Aryan” clause.

The late French Foreign Minister Barthou, left no doubt that the request for inviolability of equality of the Jews would be made a “sine qua non” of the French attitude. It is hoped, therefore, that the resolution of the League’s council, later this month, will be framed in line with the demands laid down in the Jewish memorandum.

But what value does the Saar Jewish population attach to these proposed guarantees, even if Germany should be willing to commit itself to them?

I have discussed this question with many Jews in all walks of life. One man, an engineer, ironically epitomized the situation as follows:


“If I am killed before or shortly after the plebiscite, my widow will be able to turn for legal redress to the plebiscite court or to any other official body named to supervise fulfillment of obligations.”

Others have expressed themselves as equally skeptical of the the worth of the proposed safeguards.

If, in the event of a German plebiscite victory, they say, the Reich should be forced to abandon the “Aryan” clause in the Saar, as was the case in Upper Silesia, Nazi leaders will avail themselves of a thousand ,and one devices to make life miserable for the Jews, while adhering to the letter, if not the spirit, of their agreement.

Observers feel certain the Hitlerites will resort to boycott, proscription and terrorization, and that physical violence will become a commonplace.


The National Socialists already have made extensive preparations towards these ends, it is pointed out. They already have appointed the future commander of Saar concentration camps. Implications inherent in this act are obvious from an examination of the Third Reich’s past record.

There is a wide divergence of opinion regarding the plebiscite. It is generally assumed that opponents of Hitlerism are more plentiful than the noisy Nazi propaganda would seem to indicate. Whether the opposition will be strong enough to retain the status quo, however, is a question which only the January plebiscite can answer. Much may happen between now and then. During the last few months we have witnessed changes in the political scene nearly every four weeks.


The problem presents many other questions. What will England’s and Italy’s attitude be? Will Germany accept minorities safeguards as laid down by the League? Will the League of Nations and the Great Powers be in a position to enforce such promises, if they are made, or to exact reparation for unjust acts?

Virtually all Saar Jews are skeptical on these subjects. It is true that the German Front, central organization for disseminating Hitler propaganda, is treading softly these days in its stand on the Saar question. It is bending backwards to avoid too vigorous anti-Semitic agitation in the Saar and to refrain from spreading sanguinary anti-Jewish slogans. It even has expressly invited Jews to membership in it.

Three Jews actually have joined the German Front. But these are exceptions. Saar Jews in general know quite well what they may expect from the German Front. They are prefectly aware that Nazism has not retreated an inch from its determination to debase all Jewry. They realize clearly that although the German Front, as a matter of tactics, prefers not to emphasize its bigotry at the moment, its troops continue to march to the strains of that song which proclaims that “when Jewish blood spurts from our knives, life will be much sweeter. “


These circumstances explain why, of the nearly 5,000 Jews living in the Saar, 3,500, or about seventy per cent, are preparing to leave the territory in the event that next January’s plebiscite returns the district to the Reich.

Paupers and well-to-do residents alike are included in this body of prospective refugees. Where will they turn? The official French Jewish community already has taken the stand that it is opposed to a further influx of German-speaking Jews into France. There is some reason to hope that this will not be the attitude of the French Government.

But what will be the fate of the 1,500 Jews who in any event will be chained to their Saar homes by old age, ill health and poverty?

No one thus far has suggested anything resembling a ray of hope for them.

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