LONDON (Nov. 5)
More than 50,000 Jews have been conscripted into the German Labor Service, working in special units, isolated from the rest of the workers and distinguished by special Jewish badges, according to the report of a trustworthy observer who visited Germany. These laborers represent practically a complete muster of the able-bodied Jewish males of Germany, for today the total Jewish population of the Old Reich is only 160,000, of whom over half are above the age of 55.
The work of the Jewish labor units, this observer declared, is extremely hard. They are engaged in bridge building, rail work, hewing wood in the forests, iron transport and labor in chemical factories and other industries of national importance.
“The Jews are employed in close units and must have no contact with the rest of the laborers,” he reported. “They wear a yellow ribbon and the Shield of David. At first the pay was poor, the Jews receiving a wage even smaller than the Aryans. Today the Jewish authorities have secured for the Jews, at least those in the big cities, an equal rate, that is 72 pfennigs per hour.”
It is Germany’s labor shortage, this observer explained, which first led to the employ of able-bodied Jews and is now largely responsible for preventing their emigration. No permission is given to German Jews to emigrate unless their arrangements are in an advanced state. Prospective emigrants are compelled to do labor service until a week before their actual departure. All Jewish women up to the age of 45, men to the age of 55 and the destitute and those dependent on public assistance up to the age of 70 are subject to labor service.
The war has not brought about a deterioration in the position of the Jews in Germany, this observer declared. While Nazi officialdom and the party have, of course, not abated their hatred of the Jews, the outlook and demeanor of the common people has changed and they no longer believe that the Jews are the sole cause of the world’s misfortunes. Were it otherwise, he declared, the Jews in Germany would have ceased to exist. As it is, they live a strict ghetto existence deprived of all official and open contact with their non-Jewish neighbors.
Though the Jews have food cards they are deprived of the extra rations which frequently mean the most essential foodstuffs, such as milk, cheese and chocolate. But the Jews have received no clothing ration cards and it has not been possible for a Jew to obtain authorization to purchase even a small piece of cloth, the observer declared.
The Jewish authorities consequently opened clothing centers where needy Jews — and 55 per cent of the Jews in the Old Reich are dependent on Jewish communal charity –may obtain clothes for the winter at moderate prices or free. The stock consists mainly of old clothes given to the community in past years by emigrating Jews and also new clothes left behind by recent emigrants who literally were allowed to take nothing more than the clothes they wore.
So far, this informant said, the Jewish communal organizations have managed to bear the burden of caring for more than half their members because Jewish emigrants have to leave part of their fortunes at the disposal of the Inspector of Taxes and another part to the community as a so-called “emigrants’ levy.”
One result of the war has been serious interference, if not virtual stoppage, of Jewish emigration from the Reich. In the first place, after a protracted fight between the German High Command and the Nazi organs, emigration of “enemy alien” Jews, such as Poles, was forbidden, the Army authorities arguing that these people might be taken off ships by the British and join the ranks of those fighting against Germany.
A second compelling reason was Germany’s urgent need of labor which resulted in the formation of the Jewish labor units.
But the principal reason, according to information obtained from authoritative sources by this informant, was a change in outlook on the Jewish question by the Nazi authorities. From encouraging, and even forcing the emigration of Jews from the Reich by every conceivable means, the Nazi authorities last July began to operate on the assumption that they no longer had to deal only with the question of the Jews in Germany but with the millions of Jews in all the occupied countries and even all Europe, including England.
The Gestapo even let it be known that it had a plan all ready to deal with the European Jewish problem immediately after Hitler had won the war. The plan, which was given publicity in the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, at the time, calls for the deportation of the 4,500,000 Jews of Europe to the island of Madagascar, which is big enough, according to the Gestapo, to hold them all and is sufficiently remote from Europe to bar their escape. Here, according to information obtained by this informant, the Jews would be permitted to live their own lives under the direction and supervision of a German Governor General and the S.S. guards.
Meanwhile, a certain amount of emigration continues from Germany, mainly to the United States. Prospective emigrants encounter a great deal of difficulty, particularly if they are able-bodied men. The Jews remaining in Germany live the existence of outlaws cut off from the general stream of events and isolated from contact with the world around them.