Clinchy Sees Anti-semitism Checked
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Clinchy Sees Anti-semitism Checked

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(Editor’s Note: The following article by Dr. Clinchy concludes a chapter from his new book, “All in the Name of God,” which in the author’s own words is “a vigorous plea to end racial and religious prejudice.” The first part of the chapter appeared yesterday. Dr. Clinchy, an ordained Presbyterian Minister, has since 1928 been director of the National Conference of Jews and Christians of which Newton D. Baker, Carlton J. Hayes and Roger Straus are co-chairmen. This article is published by special arrangement between the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the John Day Company, publishers of the book.)

About this time many thoughtful Jews acted on the assumption that a scientific diagnosis of anti-Semitism would be more valuable than moralizing on the subject. This led them to assert that, as the treatment for a malignant disease demands both restraints and action on the part of the victim of it, so the Jew suffering from anti-Semitism can do much to help himself. “Such a formula,” said one Jew, “must necessitate a biting self-analysis among Jews, as a preliminary requisite” The willingness of forward-looking Christians to confess Christian faults in the relations between Christians and Jews, led to plain speaking by Jews about Jewish faults. The frank admission and straight dealing by Christian leaders of Christian prejudice and intolerance toward Jews, brought Jewish leaders to the point where they called for a study of Jewish prejudices against Christians, to be made by Jews.

The progress along these lines, however, was threatened by influences from Germany under Hitler. The reactionaries in Europe began to plant the seeds of hatred of the Jew upon the soil of economic misery, political chaos and general timidity and fear by the simple strategy of making the Jew a scapegoat for all the evils from which society suffers. In Germany anti-Semitism was organized with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine. Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party made its case chiefly around a mania against one per cent of Germany’s population. The Nazi “Program for the Ages” had twenty-five points, of which seven planks were devoted to the humiliation and disenfranchisement of Jewish citizens. For the first time in the history of modern civilization anti-Semitism became an integral part of a state policy when Hitler came into power in 1933. During the ten years previous the Nazi campaigners initiated and executed a devastating attack on the Jews, using pamphlets, derisive songs, speeches and posters. Before the election of Hitler, potent newspapers had been headlining anti-Semitism for five years. To warm up the party, Hitler in his campaign declared, “We need spite, hatred, hatred and once more #atred.” To stimulate this mad#ess, which Hitler aroused in order to unify his followers in a consuming emotion, he wanted a com#non enemy upon which to focus ###t, and singled out the Jews. The Nazi anti-Semitic agitators drew the worst slander of Jews from the storehouse of historic Jew-baiting, and from current “Aryan” racial legends. They used the fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion to indict Jews as guilty of the Red Revolution. In another mood they damned the Jews for the diametrically opposite crime of exercising outrageous capitalistic power.


“Hitler’s anti-Semitic agitation,” wrote a German Lutheran Christian pastor in 1932, “surpasses by far all past anti-Semitic propaganda and the immorality of the methods has increased in the same measure. By baiting, lying, slandering, forging, insinuating, in word and print, Die Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartie (The Nazi Party) overshadows all previous achievements at mass suggestion. The level of taste has sunk far below any human dignity.”

The years of agitation, social ostracism, business boycott, and vocational discrimination by Nazis not only hurt the Jews, it coarsened the Germans who themselves were infected by the poisonous spirit that they exhibited. Obviously the campaign brought woe to the Jews; when any human being is mistreated and denied full rights as a man, he undergoes a psychological distortion. If tormentors belonging to the major groups think a Jew or Quaker or Negro or Oriental to be “peculiar” they should learn that persecution creates peculiarities. And it is obvious, too, that the Nazis suffered; the years of anti-Semitic talk, mulled over in mass meetings night after night by orators who combined the technique of Aimee Semple MacPherson with that of the Ku-Klux-Klan, made hooligan rowdies out of many storm-troopers. Their rough horseplay turned frequently into bullying parties for whippings with steel rods, and sadistic torturing of Jewish victims, even to the point of death.


A surprising aspect of this anti-Semitic parade, drummed up by Hitler in Germany, was the resistance to it in America. The Nazis exhibited missionary ambition in 1933, hoping to spread their doctrines and influence internationally. Nazi spokesmen lectured in the United States, Nazi drill masters introduced the goose step, and Nazi publicists scattered tons of printed matter, all with the anti-Semitic note in the refrain of their song. But anti-Semitism simply, did not catch on in the America of 1933.

To be sure, during this period, high-powered anti-Semitic organizers were active in this country. Not only did twenty-four anti-Semitic organizations emerge sponsored by friends of the Brown Shirts, but the Klan rode again in some communities. Whisperings went the rounds, “We need a Hitler in America.” Moreover, Khaki Shirts, White Shirts and Silver Shirts appeared. Taking their cues from Hitler these outfits emphasized the dangers to the United States of “Jewish bankers” and “Jewish communists,” adding a third warning against “the Jewish N.R.A.” But the seed thus sown fell on stony ground. In 1934 the Silver Shirts went bankrupt in North Carolina, where their national headquarters were located. A few months earlier, failure to make headway closed their offices in Oklahoma where, twelve years before, the agents of the Ku-Klux-Klan had successfully swept the State in a whirlwind campaign for members at ten dollars a man. In Southern California where Shirt organizers had solicited members from door-to-door, with an auto-Semitic appeal, the first flush of success in 1933 faded out in 1934, whereas the Utopians, a society with pronounced social passion free from group animosities, in the same year rolled upon a membership five times that of which the dying anti-Semites could boast.


The industrial depression introduced by the financial crash of 1929 was accompanied, as earlier depressions have been, by an acute outbreak of racial and religious prejudice, but this was the first major depression during which such hysteria met with so little hospitality or support. While Nazis were duping their followers once more with summons to meet the depression with hatred, and setting one group against another, Americans, refusing to be fooled again, seemed to have the sense to realize that Protestants, Catholics and Jews were all in the same economic boat, and that all would float or sink together.

The career of anti-Semitism, however, is not yet ended. Anti-Semitism is a disease of the body politic whose course it is difficult to predict. We may believe that the disease is arrested; we cannot hope that it is cured. At any time it may break out again, perhaps at some new place, for the seeds of it are deeply embedded and widely spread. Let any portion of the social organism be subjected to unusual strain and the insidious malady is likely to appear once more. Like a convalescent patient, the American people will do well to guard their social health during the critical decade that is ahead, since, as thoughtful observers are aware, the adjustments in industrial and political economy that are already under way will provide occasions for a relapse into anti-Semitism. It is in seasons of stormy economic weather that chronic religious and racial prejudices are revived and exploited.

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