BERLIN (Dec. 30)
The Nazis’New Year’s greetings to German Jewry are a series of decrees which plunge this people into economic annihilation and social outlawry. Under the impact of these and scores of previous measures in the past year at least 100,000 German Jews– nearly one in five — became automatically paupers.
At the same time, the earning power of virtually all the remaining 80 per cent of the Jews practically disappears, leaving Germany’s half-million Jews no other course but to live on their remaining capital, which has more book value than real value — with the Nazis keeping the books.
The measures ground out one by one in recent months at high speed from the anti-Semitic mill go into effect on Jan. 1. The most far-reaching decree, issued after Herschel Grynszpan, Polish Jewish youth, had slain a German Embassy official in Paris in November, makes a clean sweep of the Jews in the commercial and industrial life of the nation. Under this decree a Jew may no longer conduct a retail or wholesale shop, export or mail order business or handicrafts shop, nor may he hold a position of responsibility in any type of business. Even a simple employee becomes subject to dismissal without cause and without pension.
Where does this leave the Jew as a breadwinner? Technically he may still own a factory, furniture removal business or coal mine, but under the decree he must first give up the management of this enterprise. In any case, these businesses are shortly taken away by forced “Aryanization.”
The Jew may also find a subordinate job with an “Aryan” firm, at least theoretically, but the German Labor Front, one of the most ferociously anti-Semitic organizations of the anti-Semitic Reich, will not permit employers to give him a job. Unless new decrees change the situation, all but an insignificant fraction of the thousands of Jewish workers who lose their jobs with the formal closing down of Jewish enterprises on Jan. 1, do not have the slightest chance of finding other work.
There is no law yet preventing a Jewess from taking in washing or hiring out as a maid in a Jewish home. There is also limited opportunity for young, strong Jews to obtain work as common laborers — a type of manpower which is lacking. Beyond these meager possibilities the future of the German Jews lies in the breadline. But another of the Nazis’ New Year gifts threatens even the breadline.
On New Year’s Day a new welfare law thrusting all responsibility for care of indigent Jews on the Jewish communities goes into effect. Under this law thousands of poor Jews will no longer receive monthly relief from the municipal welfare depots, nor will the Jewish communities any longer receive municipal contributions for the upkeep of charitable institutions. Thus the last return which the Jews were receiving from the millions of marks they have paid in taxes is cut off. Hereafter, the Nazis only contribute when the Jewish communities are no longer in a position to help the doomed Jewry.
Two other measures effective on Jan. 1 represent progress toward the radical Nazis’ ideal of a Jewry stigmatized and outlawed as in the medieval ages and the days of the Russian Pale of Settlement. The first forces every Jew over three years of age to carry a special identity card bearing his fingerprints and photographs. The second renames every Jew who does not already bear one of the list of typically Jewish pre-names.
Under this decree thousands of German Jewish “Hanses,” “Ottos” and “Fritzes” automatically become “Israel,” while the “Hildes” and “Gretchens” become “Sarah.” Under the law the Jew’s original first name may be retained as a middle name, after israel or Sarah, which must be used in all communications to the authorities. In itself unimportant and often characterized as ludicrous by the few Germans who have not lost their senses of humor, the measure nevertheless carries serious implications. It helps to destroy the anonymity in ordinary routine activities which until now alone has made life still bearable for the German Jews.
As far as possible, German Jewry has complied with the law in advance. Thousands have already applied for identification. The few physicians and lawyers permitted to continue practicing are having their nameplates changed.
This first day of 1939 carries tragic significance for the German Jews. It marks the end of Reich Jewry’s bleakest year.