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Austria and Poland

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After a short stay at Zurich, where I had the opportunity of consulting various authorities on problems connected with the Jewish position in the Saar, I arrived in Vienna. The four days I spent there were fully occupied. Long talks with the leaders of the Jewish community, both lay and clerical, gave me the necessary information on the basis of which I could pursue personally investigations of the conditions in which the Jewish community lives.

I was taken over the highly organized communal headquarters which is sub-divided into departments dealing with communal taxation, infant and maternal welfare, poor relief, and from which all communal activities are directed. These activities are, however, sadly limited by a budget which is a direct reflection of the prevailing economic distress. The intensity of this and its widespread character no one who has visited the poorer Jewish quarters can doubt.

Economic depression, it must be admitted, is general among all sections of the populace, but it bears most heavily upon the Jewish community owing to the discrimination exercised against Jews in the civil and municipal services, in banks and other commercial concerns, in hospitals and public teaching institutions of all grades. These avenues of employment are practically closed to Jews, and where economic circumstances can be made an excuse for dismissals, Jewish employes are the first to suffer.

The Jewish professional classes, especially doctors and lawyers, even when they are in private practice, have the greatest difficulty in making ends meet. Discrimination is not overt, but is unmistakable, and representations made to the government on this head, even when accompanied by statistics which cannot be impugned, have had on ameliorative results.


Government spokesmen are anxious to deny the existence of anti-Semitism in Austria. In the absence of Dr. Schuschnigg, the Austrian Chancellor, I interviewed the Foreign Minister and his principal secretary and Herr Stockinger, the Minister of Trade.

I represented to them that inasmuch as the welfare of Austria depended to a large extent on the good feeling of America, Great Britain and other Western European countries, it was to Austria’s interest that such good feeling should not be jeopardized by the Austrian government’s toleration or encouragement of anti-Semitism.

I indicated that I was anxious to convey a good impression of the Austrian government’s attitude towards Jews to my own community in England and those of other countries, but these communities were not likely to rest content with mere protestations of just treatment without tangible evidence in that regard

From Vienna, I went by air to Warsaw. The following brief account of my visit may give some indication of the situation of Polish Jewry as it was presented to me in numerous interviews with representative Jews of all shades of opinion and activity, and especially as it impressed me from close contact with the Jewish quarters in Warsaw and neighboring townships.

The scenes of abject poverty which met me on many walks through the Jewish centres were indescribable, and make one despair of civilization. A typical example of living conditions was that of a sign painter who, with his wife and four children occupied one room for which he paid five dollars per month and whose average wage was little more than three and a half dollars a week. Miserable looking shops with scarcely fifty cents worth of stock all told carry on a pathetically exiguous trade. A distinguished publicist told me that the same conditions obtain in all Polish towns, and that of the 3,500,000 Jews in Poland 2,000,000 are in a state of permanent starvation.


Worse than all is the well grounded fear that even such means of earning a pittance as stil lexist may disappear or be taken away. The main reason for this fear lies in the past and present policy of the government and the administration of that policy by its officials. The State has not only created monoplies in such products as tobacco, salt, etc., which were formerly in the hands of Jews, but has excluded them from participation in these monopolies.

There seems to be a tacit understanding that government departments and municipalities are not to give contracts to Jews. Credit facilities for exporters and artisans which are made available by the government are rarely extended to Jews. Trade regulations such as those requiring installation of machinery in bakeries, examinations for artisans and affiliation to voluntary trade guilds are administered so as to create obstacles against Jews earning any sort of livelihood.

The result of this discrimination is that the number of Jews engaged in trade and commerce is constantly decreasing, while the number of non-Jewish artisans and shopkeepers is as constantly increasing. It is hardly necessary to add that official posts in the government and municipalities are practically closed to Jews, though some important offices are held by baptised Jews. If it were not for the aid rendered by the Joint Distribution Committee and the ICA through the Loan Cassas, which lend small sums free of interest, the position of Jewish artisans would be beyond hope.

As in Vienna the activities of the Jewish community in Warsaw are centralized and as efficient as slender resources make it possible. The medical organization known as the Toz, which receives substantial subventions from the Joint Distribution Committee, does most useful health work through its many branches in Poland.


The examples of discrimination which have been given could be multiplied a thousandfold, and together exercise a silent and relentless pressure which, unless it is checked, will render the existence of Jews in Poland impossible; but there is also a vocal and powerful anti-Semitism which is widespread and which, owing to the influence of the Nazi regime in Germany, has recently assumed violent forms under the direction of the National Radical party. It is true that the government has taken measures to suppress this party, but it is not so certain that the anti-Jewish nature of its campaign played a considerable part in its suppression.

Between Jews and Poles there is a social gulf which apparently only baptism can bridge. Among the Jews themselves there are many divisions and parties, and internecine strife is the order of the day.

For the most part Polish Jewry is conservative in religion, in customs, in dress, etc. The Agudah is a most powerful force and has the support of the government vis-a-vis the Zionists and religiously lax elements. The Rabbi of Ger and others have a tremendous following and exercise great influence. Nothing perhaps illustrates more clearly the cleavage between old and new than the existence side by side of the old type of Yeshivas on the one hand and the Tarbuth and technical schools on the other. Zionism apart from its general Jewish appeal, provides the only hope for a very large number of the artisan class, and it was pathetic to observe the eagerness with which they looked forward to obtaining emigration certificates for Palestine.

The Ukrainian population creates another problem for the Jews, for whatever differences there might be between Poles and Ukrainians, they are on common ground in regard to agitation against Jews.


My first official interview was with Colonel Beck, the foreign minister, who stated that he was anxious to demonstrate, particularly to the Jews of England and America, that Poland wished to treat its Jews fairly. I expressed my conviction that Marshall Pilsudski’s government was probably more favorable to the Jews than a possible alternative, but that my knowledge of the Jewish position in Poland led me to believe that much more could be done than had been done to ameliorate the distressing situation of the Jewish population.

I had further official interviews with the Minister of Trade and the Minister for the Interior, as well as with several minor officials. They, too, were ready to repudiate anti-Semitic feeling, and when in response to the examples of discrimination that I was able to give them, they were obliged to admit the existence of anti-Semitism, the explanation was offered that at any rate other countries were more anti-Semitic, that the Poles were themselves extremely impoverished, that the Jews were too prominent in the professions and in trade, and other well worn cliches of the same kind.

The impression I carried away from these interviews was that even where Ministers were well intentioned towards the Jews, the fear of being considered pro-Jewish by the Polish populace was gener-

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