by Herman Bernstein Contributing Editor
The brilliant editor and keen observer, Abraham Cahan, of The Forward, upon returning from a European trip of study and investigation, has made several interesting observations.
Of Hitlerism he said:
“My impression is that the fascination which Hitlerism exercised over the German people is gone, but the strength of the regime is not entirely gone. There are many elements outside the German working class now opposed to Hitlerism, but they hang on to the present regime. They are afraid of the futureâ€”of chaos, of revolution, of Communismâ€”so they support the regime.”
He paid this tribute to the young German Socialist workers:
“They are not visionaries, but practical people, and their work is concrete. The mass of the German people are absolutely without information save what their masters choose to give them. So the primary task of these young people is to bring information into Germany and to spread it among the people.”
With regard to the Jews, Mr. Cahan said:
“The noisy pogrom days are over, but a quiet, cold, relentless pogrom continues. There is no let-up. But even here the Nazis overreached themselves. The Germans did not know that there was a world-wide boycott against them, but Goebbels and his satellites yelled so much about the boycott that the German people began asking themselves who was responsible for such a boycott.”
Mr. Cahan added that the mass of the German people is not anti-Semitic and that even Nazi officials abroad do business with Jews because they personally trust them.
The subterranean work of the opposition elements in Naziland is even more difficult than that of the revolutionary organizations during the Tsarist regime. The Hitlerite system is more ruthless and more unscrupulous than was the despotism of the Tsar. The Tsarist autocracy was at least sensitive to foreign public opinion. It had a certain measure of fear and shame of what the outside world thought of its iniquities and occasional pogroms. The Nazis, on the contrary, are brazenly defying world public opinion, cynically speaking of peace while making preparations for new wholesale bloodshed, shamelessly claiming that the Reichsfuehrer is a democratic dictator, chosen by the vast majority of the German people, while mocking democracy and the attainments of civilization.
But the ruthlessness and terrorism of the Hitler regime are the chief factors that will lead to its destruction. The process of rapid disintegration is going on within Germany. The people are beginning to realize at last who their real enemies are. The Nazis’ judgment day is not so far off.
Elmer Rice’s melodrama, “Judgment Day,” is not his best play. He has written more artistic plays. But “Judgment Day” is nevertheless one of the most stirring and powerful dramatic works in years. Some of the dramatic critics have found fault with “Judgment Day” on the ground that it is too sensational, too complicated and too vehement in its portrayal of modern dictatorship and its evils. I find that Elmer Rice’s melodrama is not at all an overstatement of the crimes and intrigues and motives of the dictatorship of Hitler which is disguised in the play as a government in Southeastern Europe. The Reichstag fire trial, after which “Judgment Day” is patterned, was quite as tragifarcical as the trial enacted at the Belasco Theatre. Hitler and Goering and Goebbels and Rosenberg and Roehm and Reichbishop Mueller are no less melodramatic and theatrical than General Michael Rakovski and Grigori Vesnic in the play. Nor are they less unscrupulous. The falsehoods, the cruelty, the depravity and the stupidity upon which the dictatorship is supporting itself are delineated in the Rice play in bold and effective strokes.
“Judgment Day” is a most absorbing satirical melodrama of the tragi-farcical dictatorship which has imposed itself upon the German people and which is blasting the foundations of civilized society.
Elmer Rice deserves the highest praise for his courageous and useful work.
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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.