Menu JTA Search

Factors Which Led to Nazism in Germany Present in U.s., Says Jewish Lawyer

A Jewish lawyer who fled Germany before World War II contended here that many of the same factors that led to the rise of the Nazis in the land of his birth are present in America today. According to Arno Herzberg, 65, of Union, N.J., who practices law and is an expert on revenue legislation, those factors include inflation, powerful industries and powerful labor unions.

Herzberg, who was manager of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Berlin office from 1934-38, addressed students at Hampshire College who have organized a course on the Holocaust. He was joined by two other former German Jews, Rudy Blatt, a fashion designer, and Kurt Enoch, a publishing consultant, who reflected on conditions in Germany during the ’20s and ’30s.

Herzberg said inflation was a destructive element that wiped out the German middle class in the decade before the war and may wipe out the middle class in America. “in the America of 1972, as in the Germany of those years, large corporations and unions are becoming so powerful that it may become impossible for a democracy to govern them,” he warned.

JEWS FAILED TO USE THEIR POWER

He explained that democracy was menaced in Germany because of the activities of big industry which sided with Hitler in an attempt to cripple the unions, and the activities of large unions which through repeated strikes disrupted the economy and inadvertently aided the Nazis.

Blatt said another factor leading to the holocaust was the complacency and timidity of German Jews while Hitler was gaining power. He noted that German Jews held positions of influence in publishing, business, science and the arts far out of proportion to their numbers but were afraid to exercise power against the Nazis. “Even as Hitler gained power, German Jews only watched. Rabbis were pious old men with whom it was out of taste to talk about anything in the real world,” he said.

But Enoch, 77, disagreed that Jews deliberately blinded themselves to events. “There were many like myself who did not believe the threats of the Nazis. We were hoping that the regime would not last. But the depression which had begun on Wall Street and spread around the globe had so damaged the German economy that the Nazis were entrenched.” Enoch and Herzberg contended that the Western democracies contributed to the suffering by their failure to issue visas and provide transport which could have saved many lives.

NEXT STORY