When the Catholic-Fascist political course took power in Austria the Vienna Jewish parties lost their own political orientation. The February revolution and the great distance Austria moved away from a democratic constitution towards dictatorship hit the Jewish population like a sinister cloudburst.
None of the leading Jewish parties had a program, regarding the Jewish policies to be followed under the new distribution of power. Not one responsible Jewish political leader felt himself in a position to lead the way during the ensuing weeks or days. It was taken for granted that very bitter times were approaching for the Austrian Jews, if the Catholic-Fascist government front intended to push through only a small part of its anti-Semitic program which had been propounded for several years in the press and at mass-meetings.
In the meantime the Jews depended upon the statements made by several cabinet members, that, firstly, Austria with its old Catholic culture was not the barbarian Nazi-Germany; secondly, that the new Fascist Austria was confronted with so many difficult and pressing problems and sorrows that there was no possibility for the government to busy itself also with the Jewish problem. Dazed and frightened, the Jewish parties let themselves drift down a sinister stormy stream, organizations were made to side with the government, to support it here and and abroad, in order to prevent the Nazis from acquiring power.
Such are the explanations which have been given to me by competent Jewish circles about the attitude taken by the Jewish parties during that time. There was absolutely no choice of a different way. The country engulfed in open and secret civil war, hundreds of arrests dailyâ€”including many Jewsâ€”for the slightest connections with the Social-Democratic party or their communal institutions. The Nazis threw bombs and destroyed all safety and all possibilities of livelihood in Austria; they intended to gain power within the government by a widespread campaign of terrorism. They gained in power and number, being replenished nicely by the defeated, and forbidden socialistic parties.
On top of all this the Austrian Jews had their own internal dissensions. Suddenly a group of alleged Jews, whose names have never been revealed, attached themselves to certain cabinet members, intending to play the role of Austrian super-patriots, agreeing to all the government was doing and intended to do regarding the Austrian Jewish problem. The group, in a communique addressed to the government, demanded that all foreign Jews who came to Austria to watch the Jewish situation in order to publish reports in foreign papers, or to inform certain Jewish organizations, in America, England and France should be expelled or even be arrested at the frontier.
A very influential part of the government-front even had shown the intention to come to an agreement with a part of the orthodox Jews by which they would abandon emancipation of Jewry if the government would grant them legal leadership and the right to force Jews into a mediocre way of living.
The following calculation has been made by a part of the govern- ###. The whole anti-Jewish program would be executed speedily and this would be explained abroad by a pious Jewish group, which allegedly maintains Jewish and non-Jewish connections in foreign countries. But the government did not act, because it was afraid, with such a dangerous experiment at hand to depend solely upon so small a Jewish group. Other Jewish circles in foreign countries, moreover, made known to the government that such a policy would force the great majority of the Jewish world to an open campaign against Austria. Fortunately, one part of the orthodox Jews declined to participate in such a policy, as they felt that the government did not intend to do the Jews a favor but merely intended to introduce a special Austrian renewal of the mediaeval ghetto.
THIRD REVOLT NEAR
Tis was the situation of the Jews during the whole Summer, when one bloody revolution was followed by another and a third is to be expected within a few months. The government itself prepares the nation for such eventualities, as it reckons with a new insurrection within a short time. Among the people it is quite openly said that the next will be the bloodiest civil war of all, because a majority of the police and even of the army will support the rising against the government or may even start it all by themselves.
The leading Jewish parties in Austria did not fold their arms and watch passively how the anti-semitic program was executed piece by piece. The Jewish leaders have done everything within their limited powers, to include the government and the municipality of Vienna not to take away the livelihood from the Jews. The leaders of the Vienna Jewish community are doing everything in order to save the last stand the Jews are occupying in Austria’s commercial and industrial life. But all interventions and all bitter efforts have failed to avail.
Sometimes the government makes some trifling promise, or it puts on a pious face as if it were totally ignorant of this economic, social and political distinction of the whole Jewish population of Austria.
Everything is done quietly; none of the cabinet-members makes any inciting anti-Semitic speeches for foreign countries, official communications are issued, filled with phrases upholding fairness and equality of rights. Only a few annoying “ifs and buts” smacking of the old Austrian and Roman-Catholic diplomacy are inserted, and in all quietness the course of eliminating Jews from all professions in the country is steadily followed.
WORSE THAN REICH
The situation of the Austrian Jews is much more difficult than of the German Jews. The whole world has raised its voice against the maltreatment of the German Jews, because it fits very well into the policies of the great powers and of the whole world. But Austria plays such an important role in the international chess-game that the same powers easily close their eyes and ears, as long as Austria executes its anti-Semitic policy quietly, without proclamations by cabinet-members in Austria and without excited Jewish protest actions abroad.
Now, suddenly the mask has been taken off. When the government saw that everything it so far had done against the Jews had worked out well, and after the Chancellor Schuschnigg left Geneva, flattered by all members of the League of Nations and having had a “friendly” interview with the presidents of the international Jewish organizations it was decided to strike a collective and deciding blow against Austrian Jewry. Hitherto, individual Austrian Jews had been hit, but now all Jewish children have been flung into a school-ghetto by decree.
Now the world abroad must open its eyes, for this cannot be kept secret or be explained away. A public casting-back into the ghetto had not taken place even in Germany.
NOW ALL SEEK AID
Now all Austrian Jews are crying for help. They see already quite distinctly the road the government is following regarding the Jewish question. All Jewish pupils feel deeply hurt. Children attending primary schools and students of middle schools and colleges are coming home with head lowered low. All Jewish pupils have been placed back into the mediaeval “Jew school.” In order to aggravate the insult, baptized Jewish children and agnostic Jews have been placed in the same classes.
Austria acts more radically than Germany. It has invented a ghetto combined with the Aryan paragraph. If only Jewish teachers and professors had been installed in these new ghetto-schools! But no, not this. Christian teachers with Christian educational material will retain their functions as supervisors and pedagogues in the Jewish ghetto-school!
Soon a semi-official explanation was forthcoming: The organ of Dr. Schuschnigg’s storm-detachments (Sturmscharen) published an official article entitled “Better Anti-Semitism.” This article states clearly: “We Austrians do it better and more efficiently than the Nazis in Germany. They talk and flatter themselves, but we do the real work. We do not mean all Jews. The several thousands of pious, religious Jews will enjoy our religious protection. The others, the assimilated Jews, the impious and non-orthodox Jews will have to leave Austria with bag and baggage and go into a “national home” by means of international co-operation.”
Now the program of Catholic-Fascist Austria has been openly proclaimed: The 4 to 5,000 pious, orthodox Jews, we pious Catholics will leave in Austria and in some way protect their religion. The other 225,000 Austrian Jews shall go to Palestine or Madagaskar assisted by “international co-operation.” We ourselves will take care that they will not have to wait too long for it. We Austrians don’t shout and don’t kick up a row. We make “better anti-Semitism.”
Each foreign Jewish observer who stays in Austria for one week only will be able to confirm the efficient and quiet execution of the program regarding the Austrian Jewish problem.
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.