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German Jewry Today

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There is a Jewish saying that persecution befits Israel as a scarlet cord befits a camel. And it is certain that the outbreak of ruthless anti-Semitism in Germany has strengthened the solidarity and the Jewish consciousness of German Jewry. The report has just appeared of the first year’s work of the Central Committee which was set up in the Summer of 1933 for relief and reconstruction (Zentralausschuss fur Hilfe und Aufbau); and it is a document striking in its dignity, its absence of complaint, its lucidity, and best of all, in its record of work accomplished.

There has been a real revolution of Jewish economic life as well as thought in Germany; and the committee, which represents the whole of German Jewry, and which is active throughout Germany, has set itself to prepare the way for thousands who have been thrown out of the learned professions, tens of thousands who have been thrown out of business employment, tens of thousands more who have been forced to emigrate, and tens of thousands of children who have been excluded from the national schools.


The Central Committee for Relief and Reconstruction is the executive instrument of the representative body of German Jews, known as the Reichsvertretung der deautschen Juden. With characteristic German thoroughness its activities are divided among four main departments — emigration, charity, economic help, and cultural work. Each of these departments, again, is subdivided — the emigration into three sections, Palestine, migration to other lands, and remigration; economic help into credit facilities, economic advice, reorientation, etc.

The committee suffered two tragic lessons in the first months of its work. Its two principal artificers, Dr. Ludwig Tietz, scion of a well-known German house, was the acknowledged leader of German Jewish youth, and Dr. Carl Melchior, the economist and representative of Germany after many reparation conferences, died under the stress of work within a few months of each other last Winter. But their spirit has survived, and the work has gone on steadily and unremittingly.

Taking emigration first, the report records a migration of German Jews during the year of some 50,000. It has been the principal aim to replace a panic flight by a planned and prepared movement. The yearning for Palestine, the Jewish “Drang nach Osten,” is greater than can be satisfied. More than 30,000 in Berlin alone came for advice about life in the Jewish National Home. Actually, of the certificates for workers granted by the Palestine Administration, some 3,000 were allotted to the German Committee.


That migration does not take account of the large number who went out with capital, or as dependents of those already in the country, or as children whose maintenance was assured by philanthropic bodies. Of the 3,000 who went half were manual workers, twenty-three percent were land workers; the rest were business men, employees, academic and professional persons.

The migration to other lands is not less. The flight to European states, however, in which there is little chance of absorption, has been greatly reduced, and the organizations are directing the migrants to countries overseas, where there is a chance for genuine settlement. Since the Winter of 1933 the proportion of those going overseas has steadily increased, and the number now reaches about 400 a month.

The other aspect of migration is the assistance of Polish, Rumanian, Czechoslovakian, or other subjects who were living in Germany to return to their country of origin. Nearly 20,000 persons had been so assisted by April, 1934, and it is calculated that the total number of Jews of foreign nationality who have left is over 25,000.


The charitable organization of the Central Committee offers no dramatic feature. The principal effort has been so to rationalize the existing institutions of the Jewish communities that they may provide for the ever-increasing number of those needing public assistance with the steadily diminishing resources of the communities. The cultural activity, on the other hand, manifests a striking change of outlook. Before the revolution Jewish opinion in Germany was broadly opposed to the extension of Jewish schools. Today, the necessity for these schools is universally recognized, and the Central Committee has provided means for their erection.

Of 60,000 Jewish children of school age almost one-third are today attending Jewish schools. There are ten higher schools, half of them preparing the students for technical work, and eighty primary schools. The schools and the new circumstances of the community have combined to evoke a fresh enthusiasm for Jewish study. The Central Committee has had also to undertake the support of long-established and leading institutions of Hebraic learning in Germany which, till these last years, exercised the intellectual hegemony.


But the most remarkable activity of the Zentralausschuss is not the work of emigration, charity, or schools, but rather the economic replanning of Jewish life within Germany. The committee has established over fifty economic centers in the Reich.

It is their function to facilitate the reorientation of the lives of those thrown out of their previous employment, to provide manual and technical education, and to give advice to the vast number of men and women, young and old, who must by their own activity, reshape their lives. We know the problem among the refugees. It is far larger in extent within Germany, but there it can be dealt with in an orderly and scientific way.

The mere figures are illuminating: 2,000 academically-trained officials have lost their positions through the “Aryan” clause, 4,000 Jewish lawyers and jurists have been driven from their professions, 3,000 medical doctors have had to abandon the profession altogether, and a thousand more are restricted to private practice. Nearly 1,000 “non-Aryan” high-school teachers have been retired, 1,000 writers, editors, and journalists have been thrown out of employment, nearly 2,000 singers, actors, artists were deprived of their positions.

From the last class the committee has been able to establish a Jewish dramatic and artistic group which provides a livelihood for, at any rate, one-tenth, and which has already established a reputation by its artistic excellence.


It is an indication of the extent of the economic distress of German Jewry that nearly 100,000 persons have sought advice in the centers of the committee. The practical help is given partly by credit facilities, loan funds in the towns, and subventions to institutions of general utility. The total capital which has been applied to the loan funds is well over 1,000,000 marks. Another form of help is organized through Jewish employers and industrialists who find places for Jewish workers and apprentices. Another activity is the establishment of labor bureaus. In the last three months of 1933 35,000 persons passed through the Berlin bureau.

But the most important and constructive help is given through reorientation activities. The committee has set itself in Germany to prepare for a healthier and more normal economic distribution of the majority of German Jews who must remain in Germany, and at the same time to prepare that part of the young generation which will leave Germany for manual occupations in the countries of emigration. Actually over 6,000 young persons are now undergoing retraining. Of these forty-three per cent are learning agriculture; fifty-seven per cent other forms of manual and technical work.


The report emphasizes that retraining is the kernel of the whole work of reconstruction.

Its extension has been made possible in the straitened circumstances of German Jewry by the generous help granted by the Jewish communities of England and America.

In a tragic situation this record of a year’s earnest and constructive work is a heartening document. The report contains no statement of the money which has been expended on the work, but it is abundantly clear that German Jews are making a material sacrifice to their utmost capacity in order to equalize conditions and to give an opportunity for the 500,000 who remain in the country to have the basis of an economic, a social and a cultural life.

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