Jokers in German-jewish Registration Law Will Give False Picture of Total Capital

There is reason to believe that the first use the Nazis will make of the recently filed returns under the Jewish fortunes registration law will be to show a “staggering” amount of capital that still remains in Jewish hands. Such propaganda is of prime importance to the radical anti-Semites, who have been complaining — lately with a good deal of violence — that Jews are not emigrating fast enough and that economic “Aryanization” of the country is proceeding at a snail’s pace.

There is no question but that the returns, as made under the law are likely to add up to an extraordinary sum. But whether they will represent a true picture of Jewish finance is another matter. Unbiased observers have found that the complicated four-page registration formula abounds in jokers capable of distorting the picture beyond all reality.

The basic provision of the law is that all Jews owning fortunes of more than 5,000 marks must declare these fortunes on a prescribed detailed form. The word used in the law is “Vermoegen,” which according to the dictionary may be translated variously as fortune or capital. To the ordinary German the word definitely means capital in the sense implied by the term “capital tax.” But to the Jew in receipt of the registration formula, the word means more than either fortune or capital; it includes not only artificial values on existing assets, but capital which has no existence at all.

For example, Mr. A, living in a home for aged Jews, has nothing to his name except his clothes and a pension of 60 marks monthly (£5) as a former government employee. He has no money in the bank, no jewels, no luxuries, no real estate or securities of any kind. He is distinctly a man without capital who is just managing to eke out an existence on his income. Yet under the law Mr. A. has had to register a fortune of 5,040 marks.

The explanation lies in Section 4 of the registration formula. This requires that all receivers of pensions must multiply their yearly income by a figure which varies with the age group. For persons up to 25 years of age, for instance, the multiplying unit (apparently based on life expectancy) is 17; at the age of 55 it is 13; at 75 it is 7; at 80 it is 3. The section makes clear that whenever the multiplication yields a sum greater than 5,000 marks, it becomes automatically declarable as “capital.”

Mr. A. is 75 years old. His 60 marks monthly income means an annual income of 720 marks. Multiplied by 7 under the law, his “capital” amounts to 5,040 marks, which he not only does not possess, but of which death or a sudden change in Nazi law may deprive him even as a “future” asset.

How many Mr. A.’s there are in the Greater Reich it is impossible to estimate. Certainly they run into tens of thousands. They include not only Jewish civil servants, who were retired as superannuated before the Nazi regime, or who lost their jobs under the Nuremberg laws in 1935, but persons retired under pension from numberless private enterprises. They include owners of war loan bonds, the value of which was swept away during the inflation, but which by law yield “pensions” in lieu of interest or principle. They include old people receiving regular support from their children; a 60-year-old mother, for instance, who is receiving 20 marks monthly (£2) from each of her three children, possesses under the law a “capital” of 7,200 marks. They include a few comparatively high salaried teachers or other State employees, dismissed at the advent of the Nazi regime and who may be receiving pensions as high as 6,000 marks (£500) yearly. Such persons, if they are around 40 years of age, must declare a “capital” of nearly 100,000 marks (about £833).

Curiously, this provision does not apply to Jews whose income is in the form of a salary or wages. Thus the executive of a Jewish business, receiving a salary of 500 marks a month, need not compute this as part of his capital, while the mother he supports with a gift of 60 marks monthly is considered a “capitalist.”

(In Vienna, however, a new interpretation has been placed upon this provision, under which even salaries and wages must be registered on the same principle. This interpretation — reported by the J.T.A. on July 9 — apparently applies only to the Austrian province–Editor).

Some observers estimate that joker No. 1, as represented by Section 4, will contribute 33 per cent to the sum of Jewish-owned capital as pictured by the registration law returns. Joker no. 2, though implied rather than explicitly set forth, is in some ways even more important. Jews who have wanted to determine a method for evaluating their business have been told by Nazi officials that they must not make any deduction for the fact that the business is in Jewish hands. Thus the Jewish store keeper, whose business outlook becomes bleaker from month to month because of increased boycott pressure against him, must assess his enterprise at normal market value rate. Should the Jew try to sell his business, of course, such “normal values” are promptly and conveniently ignored by the “Aryan” buyer, who backed by police and the party beats down the price to a ridiculous figure.

Indeed, in many instances, the Jewish business man has no opportunity whatever to sell his property. The policy of cutting down the number of establishments, particularly in the retail trade, is being more and more widely applied. By forcing the Jew into practical bankruptcy, and by withholding from him even the modicum of help represented by the bargain-seeking buyer, the Nazis get rid of both Jew and his business. Thus it may well be that Jews have had to register millions of marks worth of capital assets which do not represent “capital” at all, in the sense that they represent conversion value, but which represent only a source of continually diminishing income.

There are strong indications that the registration law represents the barrage preceding the greatest economic attack on German Jewry launched since the Nazi revolution. The law was passed April 27, but full explanations of it and the registration formulas were not available until the middle of June. By June 30 all Jews living within the Reich had to file their returns. Thus German Jewry had two weeks in which to fill out a formula more complicated and ambiguous than any faced by a British tax-payer. It seems characteristic of the hapless fate of German Jewry that Nazi radicals should have picked this fortnight to stage the greatest anti-Semitic drive since 1933, with mass arrests, raids, boycotts and paint slinging drives creating a veritable reign of terror.