Ring of Iron Hedges Austrian Jews; Fear, at Best, ‘rights’ of Minority
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Ring of Iron Hedges Austrian Jews; Fear, at Best, ‘rights’ of Minority

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As I write these lines, a real civil war is being waged on the streets of the city. Artillery is being fired, hand grenades are being thrown, “captives” are being led away. It is a front which is living down to all the laws of a war front.

But as I write these lines it can safely be prognosticated that the Social Democrats who dared enter into an open revolt against the Dollfuss government will suffer a heavy defeat. It is already evident that they have signed their own death sentence.

Austria is surrounded by Fascist countries! Italy on the one side, Germany on the other, Hungary on the third and Poland on the fourth. None of these countries has any interest in seeing a Social Democratic order in Austria. On the contrary – each of these countries is prepared at all times to crash in Socialist Austria.

The expectations which the Social Democrats entertained about getting a supporting supply of weapons from democratic Czechosovakia were therefore not very sober. The political state of affairs being what it is in Central Europe, Austria will not be able to remain a democratic country Austria will be reactionary, or Fascist, or even National Socialist. It is only a question of with whom the Heimwehr will enter into political combinations.

Now that the Social Democrats, who constituted forty per cent of the population of Vienna, have been removed, the Jews of Austria are compitely dependent upon the goodwill of the reactionary forces: of the Christian Socialist Party which put up Dollfuse, of the Fascist Heimwehr Which is supported by Mussolini, and of the Nazis, who get their support from Hitler.

There is not much to be said about what awaits the Jews in Austria if the Nazis gain control there. Everyone knows the Nazis platform with regard to the Jews. The difference in the fate of the Jews in Hitlerite Germany and that of the Jews under the Nazis in Austria will not be great.


But the fate of the Jews will be the same even if the Nazis do not, for the present, come into power, even if the government is to consist of a combination of Heimwehr leaders and leaders of the present government party, the Christian Socialists.

The Heimwehr is definitely anti-Semitic and makes no secret of the fact. The Heimwehr says quite openly that in a Fascist Austria the Jews cannot be treated with as much tolerance as is accorded them in Fascist Italy. Italy, they say, has quite another situation. The Italian Jews are quite another brand of Jew. But here in Austria, the Jews must be placed on a much lower level. In Austria they must, on no condition, be permitted to maintain equal citizenship rights.

The attitude of the Christian Socialist Party toward the Jew is very similar. There is in Austria already a whole literature, written by the leaders of the Christian Socialist Party, in which these leaders attempt to show by argument that the present status of equality of the Jews must be drawn and only limited rights granted them under a numerus clausus.


If it depended only upon the Christian Socialist Party-which is, so to speak, the “milder” one in its stand on the Wewish question-the Jews of Austria would lose all their citizenship righs today. This would be done by simpaly declaring Austria a “purely Christian” country and the Jews a national minority. With one stroke of the pen the present Austrian constitution would be changed, and the Jews would be deprived of all their constitutional rights.

But heretofre the Christian Socialist Pary did no hold all the power in Austria. Dollfuss, it is true, is a member of this party, but the population-forty per cent in Vienna-was, after all, Social Democratie. The governor of Vienna, Dr. Karl Setiz, was, after all, a Social Democrat. The municipality of Vienna was, after all, in the hands of the Social Democrats.

Now the Social Democrats have been prescribed and are climinated from the political arena. Now the field is clear for all reactionary parties, from the Nazis to the Christian Socialists. Now the Austrian constitution may be amended without any opposition or difficulty whatosever.


And it is in this point that the greatest danger lies for the Jews of Austria.

At the present moment there is still barricade fighting in the streets of Vienna. But I have no doubt that soon after my article reaches New York, Austria will have a new constitution-one that has been “reformed,” one based on the thesis that Austria is a Christian country and that the Jews must enjoy no constitutional rights in Austria.

Anyone who thinks that it will be possible, through the League of Nations, to force Austria to protect the rights of the Jews is mistaken. It would be wrong to assume that as much noise could be made at the League of Nations Germany’s violation of Jewish rights in Upper Silesia.

The Austrian government-the government of Dollfuss, of the Christian Socialist Party and of the Heimwehr, is prepared for such an attack. Austria knows that the only thing the Jews can do is complanin to the League. So Austria is prepared to deprive the Jews of their rights in such a fashion that even the League of Nations will not be able to say anything.


In intimate diplomatic cireles-where they know just what Dollfuss said to Suvitch, Under-Secrtary of foreign affars of Italy, when he was here recently-they also know that Suvitch tried to warn dollfuss not to play with the Jewish question, to follow Mussolini’s exmple and let the Jews alone.

Dollfuss’s reply to this advice was: we cannot help ourselves We shall not openly rob the Jews of Austria of their rights, as was done in Germany. Should we be obliged to change our constitution in a manner which would affect the Jews, no power in the worl will be able to keep us from doing so. !

That is the sentiment of Dollfuss. And Dollfuss really has no desire to harm the Jews. He knows that when the Jews declare a boycott agaist Austria, Austria will really be crushed. He knows that when the Jews stop supporting Austria financially Austria will be bankrupt. He knows that when the Jews arouse the press of the world against Austria, Austria will be in very much of a predicament.


He is very well aware of all these things. Nevertheless the Austrian constitution will now-after the defeat of the Social Democrats-certainly be changed. Nevertheless, too, Austria will be proclaimed a “purely Christian” country.

The Jews of Austria tremble in anticipation of the moment when Austria will officially be proclaimed a “Christian State.” They know what awaits them under such a state. There will then be no question of enjoying the citizenship rights which they have today. By means of the constitution they will automatically be made non-citiizens. They will be given the well-known “five per cent national minority rights.” They will be placed in the category of foreigners who need the protection of Austria.

This is what the Jews may expect under the best of the anti-Semitic parties, the Christian Cocialist. Under the Heimwehr the lot of the Jews will be much worse. Under the Nazis-and everyone believes that sooner or later the Nazis will come into power in Austria-they will certainly have no more rights.

The ring around the Jews in Austria is becoming smaller and smaller. Something must be done for the Austrian Jews. New. when Austria is not yet completely in the hands of the Nazis, something can still be done. Appeals can be made, and if these are unavailing, something could perhaps be accomplished by threactening. Later things will be much worse. Later is may even be too late.

Vienna, February 13, 1934.

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