Menu JTA Search

Full Text of AJC Letter to Minister

Following is the full text of the letter accompanying the memorandum submitted to the Austrian Minister to the United States Edgar #. G. Prochnik, by the American Jewish Congress protesting the treatment of the Jews in Austria as contrary to the rights under the Treaty of St. Germain:

On November 22, 1934, a committee of the American Jewish Congress consisting of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Professor Horace M. Kallen, Dr. Samuel Margoshes, Nathan D. Perlman and Dr. Joshua Goldberg, had the honor of calling upon you by appointment for the purpose of expressing to you, and asking you to transmit to your government, the deep concern of the officers and members of the American Jewish Congress over the increasing disabilities imposed upon the Jewish citizens of Austria.

It was then agreed that the views of the American Jewish Congress should be set down in a memorandum and that you would transmit this memorandum to your government.

In accord with this undertaking I have the honor herewith to make the following representations in behalf of the American Jewish Congress, which is an organization representing the majority of the Jewish citizens of the United States.

The officers and members of the American Jewish Congress, in common with American citizens of other groups and persuasions, are moved by deep anxiety over the policy of the Austrian government toward the citizens of Austria who are Jews. Reports of impartial observers, together with statements in the press and in private correspondence, covering the period of a year and more, have led us to the reluctant conclusion that not only are there in Austria voluntary propaganda and activist movements directed against the Jewish citizens of Austria merely because they are Jews, but that the government of Austria condones and even cooperates with these movements.

This regrettable and disturbing conclusion has been forced upon us by the record of which we herewith append a summary.

We have admired the valiant and noble stand which the government of Austria has taken in defense of Austrian sovereignity and independence against the assault of Hitlerized Germany, and we have done what we could to call attention to the courage and nobility of the government and to win support for it. The more are we disturbed to find that the government which victoriously prevented the political anschluss of free Austria to oppressed Germany is to such a degree surrendering to Nazi principles and programs, especially in the matter of anti-Semitism, that it makes the painful impression of fostering and encouraging a moral anschluss.

RECALLS PLEDGES

We have not forgotten that on different occasions the government has issued statements to offset these impressions. We hold in mind that the late lamented Chancellor Dollfuss advised British and American newspapermen that there would be no change in the established policy of Austria toward the Jews. This is the policy which has been defined under the Treaty of St. Germain, to which Austria is a signatory, and in the fundamental law of the land which has reference to it. We hold in mind that on September 20, Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg declared to Neville Laski, president of the Board of Jewish Deputies, and Dr. Nahum Goldmann, chairman of the Executive Committee for the World Jewish Congress and the Committee of Jewish Delegations:

“There is equality for all according to their outward and inward attitude toward the State and society. Thus reports of discriminatory treatment current abroad are not true. It is true, however, that the specific character of the Jewish question in Vienna is due primarily to political conditions and to the post-war naturalization system strengthened by the Jewish influx from Eastern Europe. As a consequence there has been a certain reaction, but the law protects all citizens equally if they are loyal.” We especially stress the fact that a month later Chancellor Schuschnigg, after a conference with leaders of the Jewish citizens of Austria, issued a formal statement to the effect that it is the intention of his government to make no distinction between citizens on the ground of race or religion.

All the more significant is it that these statements did not and could not result in relieving the growing anxiety of Jews of other countries and of the enlightened public opinion of the world, in which the Catholic is naturally included. We note, with deepest regret and anxiety, that the words of the Chancellor are not confirmed by the record of events in Austria.

We ask that your government set this record, to the summary of which we again respectfully call your attention, besides these professions.

The record, it will be found, indicates an intention not only to permit but to facilitate an evasion of treaty obligations and the basic law of the land by means of anti-Jewish propaganda designed to set Austrian citizens of one religion, the Christian, against Austrian citizens of another, the Jewish. It shows unchecked agitation against Jews by the official and semiofficial press of the party in power followed by a series of laws and acts which in fact deprive the Jewish citizens of Austria of their equal status as citizens.

Although, according to treaty obligations and to the basic laws of your country, as of any civilized country, all citizens must stand equally under the protection of the law; and although the Jews, as a minority group, are safeguarded in this equality by Paragraph 5, Part 3 of the Treaty of St. Germain, the stipulation of which Austria undertakes according to Article 62, to fulfill, government decree and administrative action in various parts of Austria result in a practical nullification and defiance of these undertakings.

Analysis of the record leads us to the reluctant but inescapable conclusion that anti-Semitism in Austria is fostered by decree; supported by the highest officials of the land; openly propagated by the organs of the government, and by its party adherents. The record forces us to the painful conclusion, further, that while the Nazi party has been outlawed in Austria, its ideology, notably, its emphasis on “Aryan purity,” have rooted themselves deep among organized Austrian groups with the concurrence of governmental authority. Merely because they are Jews, Jewish citizens of Austria have been and are being driven from the practice of the liberal professions, are being expelled from employment in government agencies, are being denied credits, are being excluded from membership in labor unions and in general are being deprived of the bare opportunity to earn a living. Jewish children are being segregated in the schools; books by Jewish authors are being banned in Austrian libraries; Jewish religious institutions are being deprived of the subsidies properly due them. The anti-scientific and irreligious myth of “Aryan” descent is being applied as a test of fitness of men and women to practice their professions and of their right to earn a livelihood.

NUMERUS CLAUSUS

We cannot believe that the government of Austria wishes to persist in a policy which will automatically cost it the good opinion and sympathy of the world, and which cannot fail to have evil effects upon the well-being of each and every one of the people of Austria.

We have been given to understand that, in the view of the party in power in Austria, Jews figure in the learned professions, the arts and the sciences in ratios exceeding their proportion in the total population of Austria, and that their numbers must be reduced accordingly. We take the liberty, in the interests of the Christian citizens of Austria even more than of her Jewish citizens to point out the fallacies and dangers of this view.

In the enlightened countries of the world access to the professions, the arts and the sciences is equally open to all people, regardless of race, faith or sex. If women prevail in a certain profession, such as teaching, it is not because women keep the men out, but because men either do not wish to enter the profession, or prove themselves less competent than women in the practice of it.

Similarly it is not possible that Jews, being a minority everywhere, should keep Christians out of any profession they wish to enter. If Jews predominate in any field of endeavor it can be only because Christians have not chosen to enter it, or because those who do enter are not among the most skillful and intelligent of the Christians. For proficiency in medicine, law, art, or science does not depend on whether a person adheres to one faith or another, but on whether he is intelligent and skillful. In civilized countries patients do not choose their doctors because they are Jews or non-Jews, but because they are known to be skillful in curing the sick and in advancing the art and science of medicine. Even the princes of the church hold this view, since they have throughout history called to their aid physicians who were Jews at least as frequently as physicians who were Christians.

WILL TURN TO JEWS

To shut Jews out from medicine, the law, or any other field on the basis of numerus clausus can only have the effect of making unavailable to the people of Austria the services of the most competent. As the experience of Hitlerized Germany has shown, shutting Jews out does not draw equally competent Christians into the field; it only gives the less competent an artificial and temporary advantage. For the people, seeking the most skillful help available soon turn back to the men who can give it, even though they are Jews. Meanwhile, as the record of Hitlerized Germany shows, the professions, the arts and the sciences lose in status, the flow of foreign students, tourists and others, drawn by the pre-eminence of the nation’s intellectual and professional leaders stop and the general standard of national well-being is lowered.

The sequence we have here traced we believe to be an expression of a sociological law which applies to all countries alike, regardless of whether their form ### government be democratic, Communist, or Fascist.

In the nature of things, the culture, the well-being and the strength of any land depends on the degree in which the fullest skill and knowledge of each of its inhabitants are made available to the service of all, who together are represented by government. A policy which tends to set one section of the citizenry against another, which tends on whatever grounds, to cut off from the service of the State and the people the best talent available to it, cannot help being self-defeating.

It is our sincere faith that the members of the government of Austria are, like the people of Austria, too Christian, too civilized and too patriotic to continue in a policy which can lead neither to the prosperous growth of the State within, nor to the most satisfactory relations with civilized States without.

NEXT STORY