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The Jews of Frankfurt

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The visitor who seeks information in Frankfurt-on-the-Main on the situation of the Jewish population is met with a continual assurance th## Frankfurt is “a paradise”—with this significant reservation: it is a paradise in comparison with, say Cologne or Nuremberg. The same assurance is heard in Hamburg or in Wurzburg, that idyllic Franconian university town set amid vineyards. The assurance was given to me again and again by Jews themselves—by intellectuals able to carry on their practices as doctors or lawyers, subject to the familiar restrictions and difficulties; by shopkeeper big and little; by the poor Jews dependend on the charity of their coreligionists. In recent months there has not been a single known case of maltreatment of Jews or of damage to Jewish shops and houses, apart from occasional scrawling on walls by young roughs, who do not even spare the synagogues.

On those days on which the regular parades or S. A., S. S., Hitler Youth, the German Girls’ Union, or the Labor Front are not taking place public life goes on with the peaceful rhythm characteristic of Frankfurt. But there are always liable to be sudden transformations, as on the afternoon on which the crowds of Storm Troopers poured into the various stations from the party congress at Nuremberg. Suddenly the streets belonged to the Brown Troops. On both sides along their route the population stood five deep mostly women, as the #. A. men marched past like soldiers coming home from a victory on the battlefield.


But the normal street scene is scarcely altered any longer from past years. Men and women are less smiling and carefree; but they no longer give the impression of people apprehensively awaiting some blow which may strike at any one of them. What blow could there be still to come? People have got used to the restriction of personal freedom, to the ubiquitous informer, to the distinction between “Aryans” and “non-Aryans,” between acknowledged citizens and those who are only tolerated.

People have also got used to the fact that the share of the good things of life, material and moral alike, has been greatly reduced for everybody, and the realization of this mitigates the moral impression inevitably made on the Jew by being declassed and “sent to Coventry.” He feels, moreover, a new comradeship—in an almost grotesquely heterogeneous company—with all the others who are being gradually but deliberately pushed out of the community; the old officers, the old civil servants, the former German Nationalist politicians, the convinced monarchists, and a large section of the students. He is no longer alone.

With the sharpened senses of the persecuted and expropriated, he perceives that the number of the privileged and pampered section who are admitted to full citizenship is steadily diminishing and the number of those who stand outside that favored circle or have been thrust out of it is steadily growing. This discovery has brought him renewed confidence. In spite of all the anti-Semitic excesses the cramping regulations and official chicanery, he no longer bows before the storm, he can lift his head again, he begins once more to feel that he is a member of a human community.


Several times I had the impression that the Sabbath services are once more becoming sunnier the rabbi’s message more confident, the congregational singing more unrestrained and the prayers imbued with firmer faith. The Jew who perhaps for many years shunned the synagogue now draws from it once more his moral strength and the means of keeping himself pure in spite of all defilement.

The growing self-confidence is observable everywhere in public life. The Jew goes now into the cafes and restaurants as a matter of course as of old. More striking are the cases of recovered confidence in dealing with the authorities. The Jew is able to stand once more in quiet dignity as a Jew before the official on whose decision some part of his fate depends.

Still more significant the Jewish lawyer has no hesitation in repelling an anti-Semitic outburst on the part of an “Aryan” colleague with a refreshing energy and decision. The result has frequently been that a judge who would have allowed the democracy of a National Socialist lawyer to ### without comment has remembered his duty and followed the Jew’s manly self-defense by administering a rebuke later on.

I am writing only of Frankfurt where I was in a position to make exhaustive ###tions. What follows and what has been said already must not, therefore be ###. The Jew today finds justice at the bonds of the Frankfurt courts. There are ######tions and striking ones but they apply almost exclusively to the younger judges and lawyers and they go to prove the rule. It is true that the Jew only goes into court when he knows that the justice of his cause is as clear as daylight. Then he is able once more to demand justice. I am assured by Jewish lawyers that for months ##st there have been no cases of deliberate twisting of the law to the disadvantage of Jews. The majority of the judges have taken thought once more for the high responsibilities imposed on them by their office.


But this picture would be incomplete if I omitted to mention how many Jewish lawyers, deprived of their functions as notaries, unable to represent “Aryans” as counsel, and in some cases entirely excluded from appearance in court, are enduring a life of absolute penury. They are reduced to administering estate and house property, to serving as legal consultants and so on and can scarcely keep their families from starving. No amount of capacity or legal knowledge will help them. They are reduced to pariahs in their profession.

And they go into their shells. Some of them are ardent music lovers; they go no more to concerts. They used to be active in the highly developed cultural life of their towns: now they are scarcely seen in public. The names of all the Jewish benefactors of the well-known cultural institutions of Frankfurt have been removed from the memorial tablets. Without the active cooperation of her Jewish citizens, Frankfurt would have had no Senckenberg Museum, no Observatory, no University, no Stadium. In all this, the Jews no longer exist. In opera and theatre no Jewish artist is seen any longer.


Rare are the instances in which Jews and non-Jews can intermingle socially. The Jews are thrown back on themselves. Even in this city this relative “paradise,” there is once more a sort of ghetto, a rigid social segregation of the Israelitish population. Once more it forms a community within the community, determining its own way of living—and developing its own national sense. The young people find comradeship only in community with their racial kindred. It has become a matter of course for the young Jewish men and girls to train in their own sports associations, to found their own hiking clubs.

This process, forced on the young generation of Jews clearly has its dangers. Responsible Jews who are not ready to give up the hope of once more sharing in the upbuilding of Germany when the time comes, when medieval division into Aryans and non-Aryans has dropped into the past and they have once more the opportunity of returning to membership of the general community, scent in this process the materialization of an enemy of their hopes, the coming of a Jewish nationalism, against which they are energetically preparing their defense-Here there arise critical problems of education, not only for the Jews of Frankfurt but for those of all Germany.

But for the moment the Jew in Germany has a more urgent task— to find his feet in the narrow space that has been left to him, to preserve those things that cannot be taken away from him, his personal convictions and moral valuations, and to prepare himself and his children for the day when the walls of the ghetto fall once more.

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