Jewish Immigrants Found Aiding Belgian Economy
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Jewish Immigrants Found Aiding Belgian Economy

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Belgium, as an industrial and exporting country, has not escaped the consequences of the world economic depression. As a neighbor of the Third Reich, she has had a wave of German refugees and has been a target for Nazi propaganda. The consequences have been that there has been a campaign conducted here to place the blame on the Jewish immigration since the war for the country’s present economic situation. To combat this campaign, the Council of the Jewish Associations of Belgium has undertaken a series of expert studies on the role of the Jews in Belgian economy.

A survey of Jewish activities in each branch of industry is being undertaken. The first, on the leather-goods and associated industries, has been completed by the economist, Dr. Kopel Liberman. The report discloses that the growth of production in the leather-goods industry since the World War has been mainly due to the activities of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. It quotes the Bulletin d’Information et de Documentation, published by the Belgian National Bank in January, 1934, which declared: “Refugees from Eastern European countries introduced after the Armistice the fine leather industry and the fur industry. Brussels has thus become an important center for the fine-leather industry.”

The report analyzes production and export figures and describes how the development of the leather-goods industry has been responsible for the establishment of new associated industries employing comparatively large numbers of Belgian workers, Jewish and non-Jewish. Now, under the influence of Jewish leather manufacturers and, frequently, also on their initiative new industries have sprung up in Belgium. The manufacture of clasps, preparation of artificial silk and different kinds of fine leather have thus been introduced. Some of these industries have now themselves become exporting.

While in the fancy leather goods industry itself Jewish labor is predominant work is provided for exclusively non-Jewish labor by the different auxiliary industries.

To supply the demand for clasps for the pocket-book industry, the report points out, new enterprises have been established employing around 700 non-Jewish workers and four large and six smaller factories have been established for the preparation of artificial silk to supply the same industry. All the artificial silk workers are non-Jewish.

The report also notes that as a result of the development of the leather-goods industry here, Belgium is not only to supply a large part of its own market but has profited from vastly increased exports of the products of the leather-goods and associated industries. Exports of fancy leather-goods increased from 19,644 kilograms in 1913 to 372,900 kilograms in 1928 when eighty-five percent of the enterprises in this industry were owned by Jews. The industry’s exports were hard hit by the world economic depression, but have succeeded in reaching a figure of 61,4 per cent of the 1925-1929 export average.

Clasp manufacturing, which followed the development of the hand-bag industry, has also become an exporting industry of growing importance.

“By their initiative, their labor and their capital,” the report concludes, “the Jewish immigrants have transformed in a period of some five years, the fancy leather-goods industry which was almost non-existent before the war, into a relatively important industry which has had favorable repercussions on the country’s commercial balance. Further, in a relatively short period of time, the Jewish leather-goods manufacturers have caused new industries to rise in the country which work not only for the local market but also for the export trade and which furnish work to a large number of Belgian non-Jewish workers.”

A study on the effect of the immigration of German Jews on Belgian economic life is now in preparation under the auspices of the Council.


Due to an error in typing, an item in the April 7 issue of the JTA NEWS, reporting a press conference by the World Federation of Polish Jews, was made to read “……was outlined today by Zelig Tygel, executive secretary, at a press conference to be held in New York next September 6.” The sentence should have read “……at a press conference called to discuss plans for the federation’s third world conference to be held in New York next September 6.”

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