The Jewish Daily Bulletin herewith presents the full text of a statement by Dr. Kurt von Schuschnigg, Chancellor of Austria, outlining his regime’s views on the Jewish question in Austria. The statement was specially prepared for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency during Dr. Schuschnigg’s recent visit to London.
In reality there is no Jewish question, in the general sense of the word, in Austria. The Federal Constitution is based on the complete equality of all citizens, without religious or national distinction.
So far no law and no decree has been published, which entails any measures prejudicial to members of a religious community; this is true also so far as Jews are concerned. There is no doubt, that during the reconstruction of the State, several measures have been taken that have directly affected one or more categories of citizens, but these measures were taken without any religious considerations, solely for political or economic reasons.
As a result of developments, the causes of which are well known, the Austrian Jews engaged mainly in certain fields of activity, in which they were previously in a great majority; this was so in commerce, banking, law, medicine, journalism, and in a general way, in all professional occupations. This state of affairs was further accentuated by the fact that other careers remained open to other sections of the population, which in consequence were not particularly interested in the liberal professions. The non-Jewish population preferred public careers as state or municipal officials, teachers, and in the judiciary, and the military; and they had no reason to seek their livelihood in commerce, banking and the liberal professions.
The post-war period and the changes which accompanied it, changed the situation. The number of openings for public careers has been greatly reduced. The pay of the officials, and their chances of advancement have both diminished. The military career is almost closed to them.
As a result, the non-Jewish section of the population has turned to an increasing extent to law, medicine, and the other professions, and when they found the majority of the positions in these professions occupied by Jews, they resented it, and held it to be an injustice that the Jews should furnish seventy to eighty per cent of the members of these professions, when the Christians form ninety-five per cent of the total population.
People who are seeking their livelihood have no patience with historical considerations. They find themselves confronted with a situation that makes it impossible for them to assure their economic existence, and they demand that something should be done to alter that state of affairs.
THE NUMERUS CLAUSUS
It is under these conditions that several professional corporations are putting forward the demand for the enforcement of a numerus clausus. But it must be said that the difficulties in the legal and medical professions have grown to such an extent, that it has become necessary even in the interests of the Jewish members of these professions to restrict further access to these professions.
No measures have been taken, however, which would have infringed acquired rights; on the contrary, the government has acted only along purely objective lines, and the steps which the government was forced to take, owing to the circumstances, are in no way animated by an anti-Semitic spirit. Indeed, the same sacrifices should have been demanded in the same measure from other professions.
HELD MANY BANK POSTS
Jews also held the great majority of positions in banking. The directors of the great banks were to a large extent Jews, who gave jobs to their relatives, friends and acquaintances, who occupied the majority of the higher posts.
In consequence of the crash of the large banks, the federal government, being unable to run any risks in the administration of the public finances, which affect the entire country, found it necessary to place at the head of the great financial institutions new men, who had not previously occupied leading positions. This involved changes of personnel, but the system of selection was never inspired by religious considerations. The simplification of the Austrian banking system and the reduction of staff which it necessitated, has affected Jews and Christians to the same extent.
SPIRIT NOT ANTI-SEMITIC
The new legal measures in connection with artisanship and industry have had consequences which have indirectly affected a certain category of Jews, but they are not inspired by an anti-Semitic spirit. Merchants and artisans have complained for years of the damage caused them by the practices employed by certain moneylenders, agents, etc. At the same time, there was an absence of sufficiently strict laws regulating professional requirements, as a result of which certain elements were able to start enterprises, in which they made up for their lack of technical knowledge by using unscrupulous methods.
The new legislation has been able to check these conditions to some extent, and Jewish artisans and merchants have also benefited as a result, so that they must not be considered as an expression of anti-Semitic tendency.
SHOOK OFF POLITICAL INFLUENCES
During the fifteen years of the Social Democratic regime in the City Hall of Vienna, they established a principle that all who wanted to obtain a position or a Municipal post, or who wished in some way to enter into relations with them, had to affiliate themselves with the Social Democratic party.
Consequently, when the power of the Social Democrats was broken, the new regime tried to liberate the administration of the city from these political influences; and this is why a great number of officials and employes were dismissed. Doubtless, a certain number of Jewish doctors were affected by these measures; but that was not for religious reasons, but because of their political activities.
It is difficult to determine the extent to which an individual adhered to Socialism out of real inner conviction. But in every case where it has been found that an injustice has been committed in respect of persons affected by these measures, it has been redressed as far as possible.
DENIES EXPULSION PLAN
The possibility of the expulsion of “Eastern Jews,” proposed by several quarters, has not been envisaged by the government. There are many reasons that make such a measure impracticable; it concerns a section of the population that has lived in Vienna for the last twenty years, and is rooted there.
These people have also allied themselves with old-established Austrian-Jewish families, and have entered into economic relations with them of such a nature that their expulsion would have a deplorable effect on the whole of Austrian Jewry. Furthermore, these Jews have renounced their former nationalities, and have become “heimatslos,” and this would entail complications in regard to international law.
All rumors about the application of such measures are therefore absolutely without any foundation, and the fears which they inspire are entirely unjustified.
ON SCHOOLS QUESTION
A decree promulgated in the Autumn of 1934 in regard to the municipal schools in Austria, has also given rise to fears and unjustified complaints in certain Jewish circles. Some remarks should be made regarding this matter. The imperial law of the old Austrian monarchy concerning municipal schools already provided that the directors of these schools should belong to the religion to which the majority of the pupils attending them belong. This favored, therefore, the appointment of Jewish school directors in Jewish centers. On the other hand, orthodox Jews have often expressed the wish that their children should be educated in special schools and special classes, so that the school program could be drawn up in such a way that it would not be necessary for the children to write or draw on Saturday.
The fact that these measures provide that classes with a large number of pupils should be subdivided into several parallel sections, in which the pupils would be seated according to their religion, should not be regarded as inspired by a desire to create for the Jewish pupils a “school ghetto” but rather the wish to build up a practical organization, which is also of advantage to the Jewish pupils.
It must not be forgotten that important Jewish groups have demanded a proper Jewish education, and that the orthodox religious schools, and the Austrian Jewish People’s League have demanded the creation of national Jewish schools. These measures and similar measures should not therefore be considered as being inspired by anti-Semitic motives. Nor should it be overlooked that there is a special department at the Bureau for Public Education in Vienna, which takes charge of everything connected with Jewish education, and is under the direction of a rabbi.