Austrian Jews have no illusions about their position. Despite promises periodically given them and systematically broken, despite assurances given with almost monotonous regularity that their rights will not be infringed, they know what is happening. And they object to being a football in Austrian politics.
After viewing the situation in Eastern Europe, it came as a refreshing sock to me to attend a mass-meeting of Jewish war veterans here and listen to Jewish leaders boldly speaking with their eyes wide open to the situation.
Chancellor Schauschnigg sent his personal aide-de-camp to the mass meeting. The Lord Mayor deputized a Jewish councillor to represent him. The Fatherland Front had a detachment of honor present, as did several other military organizations. Outstanding Jewish leaders of the community were in attendance.
VON FRIEDMANN SPEAKS
And to these notables, Capt. Edler von Friedmann, head of the war veterans organization, declared:
“We keep hearing that the government and the responsible leaders of the state are opposed to anti-Semitism. But many branches of administration interpret the laws in an anti-Semitic spirit and deal in that fashion…. We shall never understand that an anti-Semitic note is to be struc only in order to take the wind out of the sails of a movement which is designated all over the world as barbarism….”
He reminded his auditors that “the treatment of minorities, especially of the Jews, has always been a measure of the civilization of a nation.”
The Jews realize that the Schuschnigg government is in a ticklish positionâ€”that it has alienated every large political groupâ€”that it is threatened by the Heimwehr, on which it relies for support, by the Hitler Nazis, by the Socialistsâ€”and they object strongly to the government’s attempt to appease the Nazis and the anti-Semitic Heimwehr elements by a tricky brand of veiled anti-Semitism which on the surface is not in violation of the treaty of St. Germain, but in practice deprives the Jews of their rights as thoroughly as Germany’s “Aryan” clause.
Austrian Jewish leaders frequently have had the boldness to criticize this course. Many of them have refused to be intimidated and have courageously voiced protest against this secret policy of the government.
IMPRESSED BY CHALLENGE
I was impressed by Captain von Friedmann’s forthright challenge:
“….We do not ask for equality of rights. We do not beg for equality. We demand it!”
And I was equally impressed by the roar of approval from 4,000 Jewish throats which greeted his declaration.
What do the Jews of Austria want? This is what Capt. von Friedmann replied:
“We recognize the right of the Austrian population to build their house in a way that corresponds with the wishes of the majority. We Jews only want that those rooms that are, in this house, destined for the Jewish population should be just as light, just as airy, just as sunny, as all the other rooms. We Jews have deserved that, even if there are some people in Austria who want to shut us out from the sun because we are Jews.”
The Jews, of Austria, he declared, have a right to complete equality. “Our loyalty to the Fatherland, our stand for Austria goes without saying. But though we Jews have nothing with which we can be reproached in regard to our loyalty to our Fatherland, though the whole of our past is evidence of the fact that we have always carried out our duties to the State and that we continue to carry out these duties loyally, we are unfortunately compelled to see that we are measured with a different measure than non-Jewish citizens….
“When the War broke out, it was a matter of course that not only those Jews who were of military age, but thousands of young Jewish lads who had only just come out of school, joined up voluntarily to defend Austria’s frontiers. It was the most-natural thing in the world for us to do. And it is just as natural for us now to expect that after the many sacrifices which Austrian Jewry has made in dead and wounded, just like every other section of the population, there should be no discriminatory, unjust treatment. Was the Jewish blood that was spilt of less value than the blood of non-Jews? Were the tears of Jewish mothers less sorrowful than the tears of non-Jewish mothers?
“For that reason we do not ask for equality of rights. We do not beg for equality. We demand it!”
URGES STUDY OF SPEECH
I wish that the Lord Mayor of Vienna, whose administration has brought such great hardship upon the Jews of this once-happy city, would study this declaration. I hope that Chancellor Schuschnigg’s adjutant brought him a good account of it.
I believe that, personally, Dr. Schuschnigg is not an anti-Semite, that he permits official anti-Semitism only as a sop to some of his supporters and as a misleading gesture toward some of his foes. I hope that he, too, studies this declaration and that it stirs him to a keener recognition of his duty to a loyal, faithful part of the population, and to the courage of his convictions.