Dr. Doeblin, noted German-Jewish novelist whose “Alexanderplatz” is well known in America as well as in Europe, made the following remarks at a meeting of the Jewish Art Society Ben Uri in London recently. Since the advent of Hitler to power in Germany, Dr. Doeblin has made his home in Paris. He is one of the leading advocates of the revived Territorialist movement.
I am not going to give you a report of events in Germany. You know them just as well ah I do. I am not going to criticize, I am not going to make any accusations. I only want to say that it had to come, and that it must everywhere sporadically come to the same result unless we change ourselves.
I have seen the emigres in Paris, broken in the refugee camps. People who had accepted their fate with a kind of apathy and indifference. I will not speak of this, because it hurts too much. It had to come, because it is our own fault. I know the Germans, and I have known the German Jews all my life. And I am not the only one who has felt that this thing had to come. Why?
Since the emancipation of the Jews in Germany, since the Jews obtained their citizen rights in the Napoleonic period in 1812, assimilation of the German Jews has been unceasing. The Jews insisted on being Germans. Mendelssohn, Heine, Boerne and many others up to our own day enriched German culture, not Jewish culture. Thousands fell for Germany in the liberation wars. They wanted to be absorbed in Germanism.
The worst of it was when the Mecklenburg Rabbinical Conference in 1848 brought about the religious suicide of the Jews, abandoned the Messianic faith. Sabbath services were replaced by Sunday services. The Hebrew prayers were replaced by German. There was a constant effort to assume the appearance of Christians. The rabbis who should have been the pastors, abandoned their flock. In 1870, Kaiser Wilhelm and Bicmarck gave the Jews full emancipation, and they were admitted to State service.
It was a pact concluded with the Jews to which the Jews adhered absolutely. But the State did not and could not adhere to it. It was not the German Jews who were a disruptive element. They were much more German than many “Aryan” Germans.
It was not Bismarck, or the Hohenzollerns, or the German nobility that expelled the Jews. The cause lies deeper in history. The same thing would have happened if they were Turks, or any other nation that had wandered into Germany and had settled there.
The Hohenzollern regime created a drilled army out of the middle class. The middle class was enslaved to the military caste and to the bureauocracy. This middle class created the entire literature, music and art of Germany. That middle class was the anti-Semitic class. The dynastic system kept the Jews over their heads, provided them with places, because it was convenient for the government to have them as a scapegoat in case of need. It was when the middle class finally rose, that the Jews were expelled. That is how the situation looks from the German side.
How does it look from the Jewish aspect?
I have studied Jewish history, and if you take any Jewish historian, Graetz, or Dubnow, you will see that we Jews have no historic aim. In the history of every nation you will find a continuous line. In our history you will find only a tragic swinging backward and forward of the pendulum. We lack a land, the soil under our feet upon which we can build anew.
The movement, the impetus, was always there, the Messianic belief that one day the Messiah would come and lead us into the Promised Land. There have been many Messiahs in Jewish history, and in modern days. Since Herzl proclaimed the Jewish State, we have a tremendous urge to build our own land and to create our own State. We do not seek to have skyscrapers and an imitation of the disrupted and diseased West. We want to have a free, healthy people in a modern State, and only a real Jewish Messianic leader can show us the road. Spinoza was a Jew, but he created not for Jews. We must create our for ourselves, and we have enough spirit, strength and initiative to be able to build a State.
I bow before the pioneers in Palestine. But Palestine may have been enough for the Israelites of old, a pastoral people. It will not suffice for the Jewish people of the Diaspora, for 17,000,000 souls. The time must come when Jehovah will appear to us, when our spirit cries out enough, when we are inwardly ripe for the Messiah. The will must be stronger than the desire, and the land must not be placed higher than the people. It is not the soil that is sacred, but the people that live upon it and work on it.
Is there really no land to which we could go? There are many. But we Jews had not grown sufficiently to unite and demand and obtain. What I want is that the Jews should feel with heart, that they should realize that they must not disperse their forces, and then will come the day when Jehovah will manifest himself and say: “Hear O Israel!”
I was welcomed (in Poland in Poland in 1924) by a gathering of Jewish writers, and I must say that for the first time in my life I felt that I was among my own. I heard them speak and sing and saw them dance, and I felt: ‘This is mine! These are the people to whom I belong, though both their language and their customs were strange to me.’ It was the language of my mother in which she spoke and wrote, and I knew nothing, neither the words nor the script.
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.