(M. A. Tenenblatt, author of the following analysis of the following analysis of the Jewish position in Austria, was for sixteen years resident correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in Vienna. He was expelled from Austria during the Heimwehr suppression of the Social Democrats because his reports did not meet with the approval of the government. His many years of close study of the situation and his intimate knowledge of Jewish affairs in Austria and Central Europe in general, have given him a deep insight into the affairs of Austrian Jewry.-Editor’s Note.)
The political volcano in Austria attracted attention by one fire spitting eruption and then subsided again for a time. Whatever views one may hold on Socialism in general and on the Marxist centre in Austria in particular, one thing is certain: as long as Austrian Socialism existed legally and was able to organize its forces it was the only reliable front against Hitlerism in the country.
Austrian Socialism as an independent and powerful political factor had already died a year ago. It lost its power of attack the hour that Hitler came to power in Germany. On the day that Hitlerism started agitation in Austria as well, the Socialists in Vienna lost even the power to organize effectively the defense of their positions. They were just good enough to be used by the government and the Heimwehr in the common fight against Hitlerism and its attempts to seize power in Austria. Things had gone so far in Austrian Marxism that the Socialists were ready to make common cause even with the Fascists in order, together, to destroy Hitlerism in Austria.
And now the Austrian government itself destroyed this ally in its fight against Austrian Hitlerism. In this respect the Heimwehr carried out its full program against Marxism. The most important factor in the government, the Christian-Social party long stood out against this step of the Heimwehr. Dr. Dollfuss, the Chancellor, too, opposed it.
He wanted to allow Austrian Socialism to continue in its half-dead, half-alive state, in case it should be needed in the fight against Hitlerism. But the Vice-Chancellor, Major Fey, the Heimwehr representative in the government, took advantage of the Chancellor’s visit to Budapest, and carried out the complete destruction of Austrian Socialism. With this step, the strongest citadel against the Nazis in Austria was destroyed. The country is now entering an era of Fascism. The politics and the administration of the country are already being consistently led towards Fascism on the Italian model with a certain specifically Austrian coloring.
For Austrian Jewry, Fascism has become a fact. One question can be heard everywhere: can an Italian brand of Fascism last in German Austria? What is the Jewish situation in Austria today, what will happen tomorrow or the day after, and what can or should the Austrian Jews do in the situation today, or soon to come?
My opinion in regard to the first question is an extremely pessimistic one. I cannot believe that an Italian brand of Fascism can last long in German country, even if it should be supported not only by Italy and Hungary, but also by France and the Little Entente. An overwhelming section of the Austrian population is German-National in sympathy, including even groups of the Heimwehr and of the defeated Socialists. With the internal forces of the government, and with international help from interested states, the complete victory of the Austrian Nazis can be delayed for a time, but sooner or later some cooperation or coalition, some sharing of power with them is inevitable. Anyone who will not see this must be blind in matters of politics and deludes both himself and others. Neither the government nor the social or military forces that support it, either can or will remain long in the present state of open war with Germany. In Austria, more than anywhere else, no government could possibly keep in power in the long run in a state of permanent revolution on the part of its own subversive Hitlerist movement (which is now being strengthened by a large stream of workers from the defeated Marxist camp), and even of a considerable number of Marxist remnants who are now also going over to subversive and terroristic methods.
Apart from the political problems, even a stronger country than impoverished Austria could not stand a permanent state of unsettledness and disorder, if only for economic reasons. The economic depression will force every Austrian government to all possible compromises in order to achieve internal peace.
ALWAYS HITLER MENACE
This danger of peace and coalition with the Hitlerists is ever present. The destruction of the Social Democratic Party has brought it closer than ever. It is immaterial whether I am a Socialist of a Conservative. In principle and in fact I may even be a strong opponent of Socialism. But in the present political situation in Austria it is a fact that a powerful, perhaps the most powerful, offensive force against Hitlerism in Austria has ceased to exist, and the path has been cleared for new government combinations with the participation of the Nazis.
This situation, and the forces in the government which brought it about, must be looked at with open eyes. The Jews in particular must judge the political factors not as they would like to have them, but as they actually are. And here one must ask oneself: did the week of bloody battles in Austria lead to a strengthening or to a weakening of Hitlerism? Can the government lead a campaign of annihilation against the Nazis as it did against the Left, and is it willing to do so? Will the present government, together with the Heimwehr, remain in power alone, or is it willing, or even anxious, to take its stand on a common and friendly platform with Austrian Hitlerism, or even with Hitler himself?
To these questions recent events and the official manifestations of the last few days provide a clear answer.
NAZI PEACE LOOMS
All the leading factors of the government and the military and political organizations that support it now speak clearly and openly of the possibility of peace with Germany and even of a political understanding with the Austrian Nazis. The leading forces in the present Austrian government are at present making certain important conditions which are intended to draw the poisoned fangs of the Nazi snake in Austria. For Austria, those sections of the Nazi program which apply to Jews are to be left out, the “Aryan Paragraph” and the anti-Catholic and extreme racial anti-Semitism are not to be applied in Austria. That is all. The moment that Hitler’s plenipotentiary. Dr. Habicht, officially agrees to these concessions (as he will have to do, as was the case in Danzig and in parts of Upper Silesia, since there are international conventions to this effect at Geneva), Austria will be faced with Nazi ministers in the government.
This is not mere political speculation which may be right or may be not; it is the political reality of today or of tomorrow. Both governments want peace and both must have it, just as both cannot bring about the “Anschluss,” or openly tear up international agreements.
It is certain that almost the entire Jewish population is today ready to accept Fascism of the Italian brand, without racial hatred and without anti-Semitism. Just as certain and as justified was the sympathy of the majority of Austrian Jewry towards the Dollfuss-Fey government. In the first place, everyone knows that what ever government succeeds a Dollfuss egime, it will be an openly and actively anti-Semitic one, and no Jew wishes to speed this on. In the second place, it is a definite fact that Major Fey is an open opponent of anti-Semitism. He is a monarchist, with pre-War liberal ideas, on the Jewish question in particular. If the political situation in Austria did not necessitate peace with Germany and with National Socialism, Major Fey might be the best ruler of Austria. The anti-Semitism of the Heimwehr leader, prince von Stahremberg, the new vice-chancellor, has also cooled down it is to be noticed.
Were it possible to keep this regime in power for a long time, the Jews, in view of the dangerous alternatives, would certainly not be unsatisfied. But the Jews must beware of basing their policy on speculations that have not the slightest foundation in the actual political situation in the country.
WATCHFUL EYE NEEDED
It is therefore important to keep an open, watchful eye on further political developments in Austria. The Jewish world must know the whole truth about the day to day events and developments in Austria. It may be that some of these truths will not be pleasant and that their publication will not be desired by the Jews of Austria itself.
On many important points there is no uniform Jewish attitude in Austria, each Jewish party sees events with different eyes and draws different consequences. In such a situation, complicated and dangerous, because it has not yet crystalized, Jewish journalism in general, and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in particular, is in an extremely difficult position. It may at times stand alone, isolated from important Jewish communities in the country in question. A tragicomic situation may even ensue, as happened in Hungary twelve years ago, when practically the whole of Jewish public opinion in Hungary protested against the intervention of foreign Jews in favor of the then persecuted Hungarian Jewry. There are times and circumstances which may force some undecided leaders of a Jewish community in a certain country to reject Jewish support from abroad.
I am firmly convinced that the last pacifying declaration of the Austrian government with regard to the Jewish question did not suddenly fall from heaven; for more than a year no one succeeded in eliciting a public statement from the Austrian government on the subject of anti-Semitism and Jewish civil rights. Only three days before the defeat of Marxism, a very serious attempt in this direction failed. It must have been very weighty consideration that forced the government for a few days in succession to make one pro-Jewish declaration after another.
But it will soon be seen what practical value attaches to such declaration and what goodwill and what real force stand behind them.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.