20,000 Stateless Jews in Reich Fear Fate As Nations Bar Gates
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20,000 Stateless Jews in Reich Fear Fate As Nations Bar Gates

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The case of Ignaz Kunowitz, 56, a stateless Jew who was ordered to leave Germany in 1936 and has since been trying to find a country which will accept him, is in the hands of the Reich Foreign Office for final adjudication. The decision may profoundly affect the future of perhaps 20,000 stateless Jews here whose ultimate fate becomes more uncertain daily.

Kunowitz was “de-nationalized” in 1934 and offered to be deported the following year. He was fined 100 marks and sentenced to ten days imprisonment if he did not leave within the specified time. He appealed successfully to a Koenigsberg court. Subsequently the affair travelled back and forth several times between the courts at Koenigsberg and Tilsit.

Kunowitz’s defence was that he could not obey the deportation order because he had no place to go. He testified that he had tried to enter Danzig, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, Austria, Hungary and the United States. The prosecutor, on the other hand, declared he was not convinced that Kunowitz had done everything possible to leave Germany.

The practical impossibility of emigration, is, of course, what makes the position of the stateless Jews untenable when they are forced to leave Germany. The great majority of nations will not accept such stateless persons because it is impossible to repatriate them should occasion require.

In spite of this situation, the pressure against the stateless Jews here has increased noticeably in the last few weeks. Two recent developments indicate the trend in this regard. One was an order prohibiting stateless Jews from working with the large Jewish welfare organizations. Another was a regulation forbidding re-admission to stateless Jews who left the country.

There are now in Germany many thousands of stateless persons, “Aryan” and “non-Aryan,” comprising three general groups:

1. Russian emigres who sought safety here during the Revolution and who thus lost their Russian citizenship without necessarily acquiring a German one.

2. Persons who were left stateless by the juggling of frontiers at Versailles and who, for one reason or another, missed the opportunity to become citizens of the nation which had taken over the land on which they lived.

3. Jews who became citizens of Germany during the post-war period but who have been “de-naturalized” under a law passed by the National Socialists in 1933.

It must be emphasized that many members of Group 3 were German-born, despite the fact that they did not acquire a German nationality until after the war. This unusual situation arose because the German Empire, before 1918, naturalized but few foreigners. Thousands of Jews and “Aryans,” some born abroad and others born here of foreign parentage, lived in Germany under the Empire not as citizens but as “guests.” As aliens they were permitted to live at peace and to pursue their vocations in much the same way as their citizen neighbors.

With the coming of the Republic, thousands of these aliens were admitted to citizenship, thus losing whatever citizenship they held before. The “denaturalization” process to which the Nazis have subjected the naturalized Jews since 1933 has thus created a new group of stateless persons.

The position of the stateless Jews here is that of persons walking on the edge of a precipice. So long as they are granted labor and residence permits they are at liberty to remain and to earn a living if they can find a job. At this moment most of them are living “normal” lives; that is to say, the kind of life that is normal for any Jew in Germany. But others — and the number is increasing from day to day — are being refused working permits, or are losing their jobs or trades as a result of direct pressure, or are actually being ordered out of the country.

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