Berlin (Oct. 16)
With the same dramatic suddenness with which he was arrested last Wednesday, Dr. Otto Hirsch, one of the most important leaders of German Jewry, was released today by the Nazi secret police from Columbia House, known as “the torture chamber of the Gestapo.”
No explanation was given for the release. Dr. Hirsch, who is president of the executive of the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden, supreme representative body of German Jewry, had been arrested for signing a Yom Kippur manifesto protesting against anti-Jewish calumnies.
While no charges were lodged against him, Dr. Hirsch was held at Gestapo headquarters until Friday and then transferred to Columbia House. His release was made mandatory under Nazi regulations which do not permit the Gestapo to hold prisoners more than eight days without lodging charges against them.
Rabbi Leo Baeck, president of the Reichsvertretung, the other signer of the manifesto, was arrested on Yom Kippur, Oct. 7, and released after a twenty-four-hour grilling by the secret police.
It was thought Dr. Hirsch would have been arrested the same day, but he was out of the city. He was seized immediately upon his arrival in Berlin two days later and held incommunicado for a week.
The gestapo shrouded the arrest and detention with a veil of secrecy, denying all information to correspondents.
Informed foreign circles interpreted the detention as a move to hold Dr. Hirsch hostage and bludgeon the Reichsvertretung into
signing a statement for foreign consumption that the Jews were satisfied with the Nuremberg legislation and wanted the anti-Nazi boycott abroad halted.
Arrest of Rabbi Baeck on Yom Kippur and the subsequent seizure of Dr. Hirsch created consternation in the Berlin Jewish Community. It was the first time important Jewish leaders were placed under arrest by a government body.
The Yom Kippur manifesto was not read in synagogues as had been scheduled. The Gestapo telegraphed orders to have all copies seized.
The paragraph of the message which is believed to have incensed the Nazis follows:
“We stand before the Lord. With the same strength with which we have acknowledged our sins, the sins of individuals and the sins of the community, we declare with a feeling of abhorrence that the lies directed against us and the calumnies spread against our religion and its Testament are repudiated by us root and branch.”