Refugees Slowly Recovering Crumbs of Happiness in New French Homes
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Refugees Slowly Recovering Crumbs of Happiness in New French Homes

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Herzl’s observation that no people can be helped unless it helps itself, applies, with certain reservations, to the individual as well. There is no doubt that the Jewish refugeés from Germany who have found their way to France and were, in the first flush, very enthusiastically received, both by government circles and the population, are now willing to work at anything to make a living so as not to become a burden to the community. But, under the present circumstances, where there is a will there is not necessarily a way. At any rate, not a simple smoothly paved way. The attitude of the French as a whole is still sympathetic and friendly, but reality is reality. The present world wide depression has a great deal to do with it.


The situation is recognized and squarely met by every one concernd. Counselor Walter Schwarz, formerly of Berlin, read the other day a very enlightening paper on “Readjustment and the Educational Problem” before the Zionist “East and West” group in Paris. He gratefully acknowledged the readiness with which all classes of French society, non-Jews included, have been cooperating in helping the refugees readjust themselves. At the same time, he stated, owing to unemployment which has beset France, the authorities have not seen it possible to issue working cards to the refugees, without which almost all avenues to obtaining a gainful occupation are barred. It is doubtful, he added, that in view of the prevailing crisis, there would be a change for the better in the near future. The trades are overcrowded, and the percentage of skilled workers out of jobs is appallingly high, so that apprenticeships for the newcomers, former students, clerks and professionals, are out of the question.

Agriculture presents a happy exception, and farming is in a position to absorb a number of hands. But here, too, it is a matter of individual luck, and each case has to be disposed of separately. Generally speaking, the French farmer gets along without hired help. Whenever actuated by humanitarian motives, he hires one of the refugees and is pleased with his efforts-and this is the rule rather than the exception-his neighbors follow his example. It has thus happened that as many as thirty of the younger Jews have been placed in one single village as farm hands. Some attempts have not been quite so successful. In certain localities the refugees have been objected to as being of “German” descent; in Alsace, they were not wanted because of their-Jewish origin.


Nevertheless, the Relief organizations have succeeded in helping the immigrants, including a great many of the older generation, to readjust themselves in new callings, mostly as manual workers. Of course, caution has to be exercised on account of the glutted labor market, so as not to cause any dangerous friction owing to the new influx. Doctor Weiz. mann, in a public speech delivered here last Novermber, thanked the French government for its courage in braving the risk of creating discontent by its liberal atitude toward the refugees. It is a remarkable and cheering occurrence that non-Jewish factory and shop owners have responded very generously to the German Jews’ quest for employment The leaders of the relief organizations cannot find enough words to praise the non-Jewish Frenchmen who have been so helpful in offering the wanderers an opportunity to readjust themselves in gainful occupations. Alas, the French-Jewish employers have been rather backward in this respect, bringing to mind Achad Ha’am’s famous adage of “Free men in appearance, but slaves at heart.”


Another interesting fact has just become known here. It turns out that no less than two hundred young Jewish refugces from Germany were matriculated for the present semester at the Sorbonne as law students. Involuntarily, the quesiton arises: What will bccome of all these lawyers, attorneys and jurists after graduation? A great and complicated task presents itself here to bring about, before it is too late, a radical change of attitude of this “spiritual proletariat” toward their actual opportunities for making a living. The few sporadic efforts in this direction made so far have been crowned with anything but success.


To sum up, it is highly advisable that all the young Jews, still in Germany, who intend to come to France, remain at home and undergo the process of readjustment on their native soil. Ways and means will have to be, and will be, found by the various relief organizations aiding German Jews abroad, to take care of those remaining in Germany as well. For, after all is said and done, notwithstanding the great difficulties to be encountered, it should be much easier to expedite the process of readjustment of German Jews in Germany proper than elsewhere. At any rate, insofar as France is concerned, it must be kept in mind that this country is far from adapted for serving as perfect readjustment grounds for German Jews.

The reasons for this are many, and one of paramount importance is that the absorptive capacity of the French Republic has been severely tried during the past sixteen years by four successive waves of political immigration: first, immediately after the War, came the Russians; a few years later the Italians arrived; after that, the Spanish, and now-the Jews from Germany. And, trite as it may sound, first come, first served.

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