The economic position of Lithuanian Jews was adversely affected by the disorganization of Poland, Germany and Russia, Dr. S. Rosenbaum, Lithuanian Minister for Foreign Affairs told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on arriving here to obtain support for Jewish institutions in Lithuania.
Never a paradise economically Lithuania after the armistice enjoyed a period of comparative prosperity, Dr. Rosenbaum declared. But there has been a steady decline since owing to the economic collapse of the neighboring countries. He expressed the hope that the recent Lithuanian-British trade agreement may improve the position of the Jews who are the majority of the Lithuanian traders. Dr. Rosenbaum showed that the Jewish Central Bank extends credit to the Jewish cooperatives at 8 per cent. whereas the general banking rate is from 72 to 100 per cent.
The political position of the Jews, he said, was “not so bad” as in all of the East-European states. It cannot, however, be compared to the position of the Jews of England and America, because the whole social structure and the political conditions make the Jewish problem in East-European countries different.
Jews in Lithuania suffer no discriminations and although Jews constitute 50 per cent, of the students at Kowno University, there is no agitation in favor of the numerus clausus. On the other hand there are many Jewish professors and numerous Jewish officers. Jewish schools where Hebrew and Yiddish are languages of instruction are supported by the State, the instruction there being on the same footing as the Lithuanian schools.
Dr. Rosenbaum stated that internally the Jews of Lithuania are well-organized. There is the Jewish Ministry and the Jewish communal councils in every town, the Jewish Assembly and the Jewish Council. He indicated that a bill is shortly to be introduced in the Sejm recognizing the Assembly as the supreme body of Jewish autonomy.
There were some drawbacks unfavorably affecting legislation because the Jewish deputies are numerically weak and are thus place between the other parties and often are attacked by all.
The fact that there are hardly any Jews in the civil service Dr. Rosenbaum asdribes to their failure to enter service when the State was first established. Vew vacancies have occurred since.
“There is undoubtedly considerable anti-Semitism since it is impossible that of the whole world Lithuania alone should escape”, Dr. Rosenbaum said. “Besides, many Lithuanian officials previously held offices in the Russian regime, and it is too much to expect that they all had had a change of heart.”
Dr. Rosenbaum, however, dismisses most of the reports of anti-Semitism as exaggerated. He minimizes the importance of obliteration of Jewish signs, saying that the authorities everywhere arrested the perpetrators who were always found to be the same small group of secondary school students.