The practice of taking hostages is no longer sanctioned by civilized states. Only kidnapers now employ it as a means of exacting ransom. But Nazi Germany has in this regard, as in so many others, reverted to the discredited practices of the dark ages in the vain hope of averting the disasters which its own acts are bringing upon it. According to Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, the Jews of Germany are to be held as hostages to insure the good behavior of their fellow Jews throughout the world. In an effort to break the world-wide anti-German boycott which is demoralizing German exports, Goebbels, in a recent address in Berlin, threatened the Jews of Germany with pogroms unless they persuaded their foreign co-religionists to cease boycotting Germany. “If the boycott were carried to lengths actually endangering our economic situation, it would not mean we would let the Jews go free (sic). No! The hatred, rage and despair of the German people would first of all vent itself on those who could be grabbed in the homeland.”
In 1934, this wind-hero of the Nazi movement and his thrice-very-great leader, Hitler, are again resorting to terrorism in the hope of accomplishing now what they failed to accomplish in 1933-to bow the will of world Jewry and of the world generally to their purposes by threats of reprisals against innocent men, women and children.
In April, 1933, Goebbels and Hitler attempted to use the Jews of Germany as hostages to stop the world-wide criticism and denunciation of the Nazi atrocities. In his diary, recently published, “From Kaiserhoff to Chancellery,” abstracts of which have appeared in the American press, Goebbels tells the story of how the one-day boycott against the Jews of Germany was conceived by Hitler and how he, Goebbels, executed it, assisted by the equally notorious Julius Streicher. The idea back of this boycott as it took shape in the colossal brain of Hitler Trismegistus was this: “We will fight off foreign agitation only if we grab its originators or at least its beneficiaries, namely, the Jews living in Germany who up to now have remained untouched. We must therefore undertake an elaborate boycott against all Jewish businesses in Germany. Perhaps the foreign Jews will change their mind for the better if their racial comrades in Germany are collared.”…
Under date of March 31, Goebbels writes in his diary: “If the agitation abroad comes to an end it (the anti-Jewish boycott) will be stopped, otherwise a fight to the knife begins. It is now up to the Jews to work on their racial comrades of the world so that they can save their collar.”
On April 1, at the close of the one-day boycott, Goebbels writes in his diary: “We await the echo in the foreign press and propaganda.”
The expectant echo must have been terribly disappointing and disconcerting, for two days later the entries in Goebbels’ diary are, according to newspaper accounts, very tame and between the lines they express the hope that somehow the Jewish question will be forgotten altogether…
The 1933 attempt to intimidate the world and to compel it to cease criticism of the infamous acts of the new regime by means of proclaiming the Jews of Germany as hostages was a dismal failure. It merely intensified a hundred-fold the world’s horror of Hitlerism and it paved the way for the world-wide commercial boycott of Germany.
And now, in May, 1934, another attempt is being made-this time to break the powerful boycott which is strangling German trade, as well as to divert the minds of the German people from the failures of the Nazi regime which can no longer be hidden-by renewing reprisals against the Jews of Germany. All the well-known preliminaries of an old-fashioned Tzarist pogrom a la Kishinef are being arranged. The medieval ritual murder charge has been revived in the land which delights to be known as the land of “poets, philosophers and scientists.” A Jewish plot to assassinate Hitler has been conveniently uncovered. The German propaganda department has unloosed a new and virulent press and platform campaign to incite the masses against the Jews.
“So cowards fight when they can fly no further!”…
But it will not work! The boycott will not be lifted! Pogroms will only intensify the boycott agitation all over the world and will persuade the hitherto unconvinced concerning the true nature of the barbarians who are now in control of Germany. The world cannot be beaten into good will and friendship by rubber truncheons and steel rods which have proved so effective in Brown Houses and concentration camps. There is no way of forcibly making people buy your products if they do not choose to. Schimpfkunst-that gentle art of gutter-invective in which the German Nazis specialize-is not good salesmanship, and the threat of reprisals against innocent people makes no eager customers of self-respecting, decent men. The pogromizing of the Jews in Tzarist Russia did not make the people of the world any friendlier or more sympathetic toward the Russian regime.
As for the Jewish people-it will not be intimidated. It cannot yield to this sort of pressure. Once we begin to yield to intimidations of the great or small, we are hopelessly defeated all over the world. We become “fearful and degenerate,”-a pitiful horde of slaves, upon whom the words of the ancient curse will be fulfilled: “I will send a faintness into their heart in the lands of their enemies, and the sound of a driven leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee as one fleeth from the sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.”
Our hearts bleed for the misfortunes of our people who live in Germany and who now find themselves in a land whose responsible political leaders are not ashamed to confess expresses verbis, that they planned and organized an economic boycott against a group of their own peaceful and lawabiding citizens, and who now deliberately are fanning the fires of hatred and pogroms. But we know of no more effective way to help them than to join with all the other outraged free peoples of the earth in an effort to break the back of this regime which has thus placed them in the dark shadow of the sword of Damocles.
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.