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What is the Way Out? Asks Organ of Jewish Orthodoxy in Germany in Pessimistic Survey of Situation

March 21, 1931
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The economic distress of the Jews in Germany has been painted in very black colours by Dr. Guenther Stein, in the “C. V. Zeitung”, the official organ of the Union of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith, the “Israelit”, the organ of Jewish orthodoxy in Germany, writes in an editorial. He has certainly not exaggerated the position, it proceeds, and it is no consolation to have Martin Goetz explain to us in another issue that the Jewish distress is part and parcel of the general economic distress in Germany. Establishing the existence of this distress carries us no further towards its alleviation. What is to be done? Out comes the everlasting idea about helping the Jewish population to change their vocational status by settling on the land. The right of land settlement is conceded by the State, but the task of promoting Jewish land settlement in Germany must be assumed by the Jews themselves, the argument runs. The Jewish middle-class in the cities which is being uprooted will be transferred to the land, and given new opportunities there either as peasants, market gardeners or poultry-breeders. Goetz promises big benefits also from transferring Jews to handicraft. That sounds all very fine and very simple, the “Israelit” says, did we not know that German agriculture, too, is passing through a severe crisis at the present moment. Dr. Alfred Marcus asks with Justice in the same issue whether it is possible for us to assume responsibility to-day with a clear conscience for transferring any large number of German Jews to agricultural occupations. The cultivated and arable areas of land in Germany have diminished in spite of all the various protective measures taken by the State. Comparisons with Russia, which had endless tracts of unoccupied and uncultivated land, simply calling out for cultivators, and which, after all, has an entirely different kind of Jewish human material, are beside the point, and Russia, too, has had no lack of disappointments in this regard. Marcus also reminds us of the political aspect of the question. He recalls the sharp opposition of German agriculture at the moment to the industrial forces in Germany, It would hardly be in the interests of the Jews and in the interests of Germany as a whole if we were to join this agrarian opposition to industry. The risk of transferring Jews to agriculture seems on all counts to be very considerable. But these considerations are, after all, dogmatic and can be left over for discussion later on when they become more actual. The real point is, have we any opportunity in Germany to-day for transferring to agriculture all the Jews in the big towns and cities of Germany who are walking about now helpless, hopeless, and on the verge of starvation. Nor must we forget that the position of the Jews in the small towns and in the villages has also grown very much worse. The complaints of economic distress from the country are proportionately just as numerous as from the city. Cattle trading, which is the principal occupation of the village Jews, and which is very near to agriculture, has broken down. People have stopped their flight from the land, not because conditions on the land have improved, but because the conditions in the cities have become even worse. There is hardly an agricultural community which could afford to Keep a teacher if it did not receive aid from the Federations of communities.

The land-settlement movement says that its aim is something different. The Jews are not to live in the villages as traders, but we are to settle them as Jewish peasants, as if such a thing could happen suddenly overnight. Since Hitlerism has taken such a strong hold of the village populations, could we expect such a thing to be done without some very violent collisions?

Then what are we to do? the “Israelit” asks. Are we to establish purely Jewish villages, with all the land and equipment that this requires? Where and how can it be done? At the same time, it concludes, these considerations do not exclude the possibility of a small-scale transference of Jews to agriculture. That can and must be done. People who have some knowledge of agriculture, especially of dairy-farming and of poultry-breeding, and artisans as well, will find the villages not exactly gold-mines, but they will be able to work the land and earn their bread, and inasmuch as they will be ensuring their own economic existence, they will be introducing new blood into these small communities and maintaining their spiritual existence. To work for such an aim would be a very worth-while task for all who are concerned for the future of the Jews both in town and on the land.

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