The large Jewish communities of France and Yugoslavia as well as Jews throughout the world yesterday lost two sterling friends when an assassin’s bullets laid low Foreign Minister Louis Barthou and King Alexander in Marseilles.
Both M. Barthou and King Alexander on innumerable occasions had demonstrated their friendship for the Jews, at times when they were being bitterly attacked.
As recently as August 19, M. Barthou expressed his warm regard for the Jewish race in a special message addressed to the World Jewish Conference at Geneva.
The following report of the Barthou letter appeared in the Jewish Daily Bulletin of August 20:
“The French government today officially expressed its solidarity with the world-wide Jewish fight for the maintenance of political and economic rights in a special message sent by Foreign Minister Louis Barthou to the World Jewish Conference which opens here tomorrow….
“Emphasizing that the ‘world’s heart will hear the voice of the Jewish people, Minister Barthou’s message declared that ‘the Jewish world is gathering for the highly important task of proclaiming the human and legal equality of all religions and races.
” ‘It is deplorable to be compelled to reproclaim this when the French revolution carried out this emancipation a long time ago, the message continued, ‘However, new events necessitate the rescue of civilization from the dangers of reactionary movements.’ “
ALWAYS FIGURED PROMINENTLY
In every situation of international import, where the fate of Jews and other national minorities was intimately involved, the seventy-two-year-old diplomat figured prominently on the side of liberalism. When recently Poland repudiated supervision by the League of Nations on her minorities’ treaties, Mr. Barthou was in the forefront of the battle to force Poland to recant on her stand, a stand which boded no good to the large and already hard-pressed Jewish population of Poland.
In the matter of the Saar Basin, also, Mr. Barthou has been extremely active in trying to get the League of Nations to exact pledges from Germany that, if she succeeded in regaining possession of the Saar as a result of the January plebiscite, she will protect the rights of minorities in that territory. There are approximately 10,000 Jews in the Saar. Through M. Barthou, France already has pledged full rights to minorities peoples in the territory if she is returned the victor in the plebiscite.
As a result of these frequent professions of friendship for the Jews and his actions supporting these professions, the small robust, bearded Jean Louis Barthou, to give him his full name was easily one of the most popular French statesmen with the Jewish communities of France.
HELD IN HIGH ESTEEM
Similarly, the younger King Alexanderâ€”he was forty-five years old at the time of his assassinationâ€”was also held in high esteem and affection by the Jewish population of Yugoslavia.
One of his first acts after the young monarch in 1929 proclaimed himself absolute dictator of the land, abolishing all political parties, was to enact a law giving the Jews of his domain religious equality. In the law he promulgated in December of that year, it was specified that Judaism was to be placed on an equal footing with the Orthodox Greek Catholic Church, the predominating religion in Yugoslavia.
From the time he was crowned king in 1921 until the present day. Alexander I on frequent occasions indicated his high regard for the Jewish subjects of his kingdom. Recently, on an important occasion of state, he was quoted as deploring the fact that there are only 70,000 Jews in Yugoslavia. He said that the Jews make good, law-abiding citizens and expressed the wish that his kingdom could have more of them.
On a recent birthday celebration at Zagreb, capital city of Yugoslavia, Alexander strikingly illustrated his sympathy for Jews. The city was brilliantly illuminated for the occasion a report of the affair in the Jewish Daily Bulletin reads.
“But one incident marred the festivities,” the story relates, “an anti-Jewish demonstration which had to be quelled by the police. In the evening, the citizens of Zagreb came out to cheer their King. Standing near the King was a stranger who looked decidedly Jewish. Wishing to atone in some way for the disturbances which had taken place that day, the King turned to this man and said, “I have great sympathy with your fellow Jews. I would like to present 10,000 dinar to your synagogue in Zagreb.”
The above incident, however, had a rather humorous climax, for the stranger turned out to be not at all what he appeared. Blushing, he managed to stutter to the king: “Your Majesty, you are making an error. I-I-I happen to represent the German Embassy.”
AIDED JEWISH ACTIVITIES
It is not recorded whether or not Alexander ever made that particular donation to the Zagreb synagogue. He had, however, made financial contributions to Jewish undertakings on many occasions. In 1930, the king accepted patronage over the Jewish National Fund bazaar which the Jews of Zagreb had organized. In connection with this he made a personal donation to the King Peter Forest which the Jewish National Fund was planting in Palestine.
In the early part of the present year, there was a report that an anti-Semitic campaign was pending in Yugoslavia. This report proved to be unfounded. Shortly after it was circulated, Jacques Altarac, New York correspondent of the Jugoslovenska Posta of Sarajevo, returned to his post here and made the following statement:
“I left my country of birthâ€” Yugoslaviaâ€”only three weeks ago. I came to this country several days ago for the purpose of making a study of the economic situation here. Being a newspaperman and a Jew, I consider it my duty to correct the impression that might have been created here, as reports of this kind are liable to give an incorrect interpretation of the position of Jews in Yugoslavia.
“It is true that objections had been raised in the Yugoslav Senate to the immigration of great numbers of persecuted Jews from Germany, but the interpellation in question had nothing anti-Semitic about it; its purpose consisted only in controlling labor immigration which might be to the detriment of the Yugoslav labor market.
ENJOY EQUAL RIGHTS
“Jews in Yugoslavia, who are living up to all the legal requirements all Yugoslav citizens are subject to, represent an element of the population enjoying full rights and playing an important role in all branches of Yugoslav economic and political life. Furthermore, Yugoslav Jews are participating unimpeded in the Zionist movement, are promoting the welfare of Jewish communities and adhering strictly to the dictates of their faith.
“As an expression of his great love for Jews, a sentiment he has for all Yugoslav citizens of other denominations, King Alexander has granted full autonomy to Jewish religious communities as provided for in the Yugoslav Jewish Congregations Act, and has appointed the chief rabbi of all Yugoslav Jews, Dr. Alkalay, a member of the Yugoslav Senate. A great number of meritorious citizens of Jewish faith have been decorated by His Majesty.
“Yugoslav Jews are represented also in the provincial parliaments, for example, the Banovina Councils.”
In substantiation of this pleasing picture of Jewish life in Yugoslavia under King Alexander, a recent visitor from that country to the United States told the Jewish Daily Bulletin other interesting facts.
The visitor was Captain Manfred Sternberg, who came to New York on a commercial mission for his government. According to Captain Sternberg, the Jews of his country are in a favorable economic position, enjoying the widest political, economic and social freedom. He reported that indigency among members of his race is rare and that Jewish institutions in Yugoslavia are in a flourishing condition.
With respect to German Jewish exiles who came to Yugoslavia, Captain Sternberg reported that the refugees were made welcome, many of the professionals obtaining posts and many others being placed on farms throughout the country.
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.