The Recent Case of Jakob Frommer, the septuagenarian Jewish historian and exile from Germany, who was, at a moment’s notice, ordered to quit France, and whose deportation order was executed despite the fact that he had neither the means nor place of refuge, has again focussed the attention of the Jewish world on the unenviable position of Jewish refugees from Germany who had found a temporary asylum in France.
Received at first with open arms, the hospitality of the French Republic cooled off perceptibly when the economic position of the country made it necessary to restrict the inroads on the labor market by people whose needs were urgent, but whose status of outcasts made them an easy prey to the political propagandist who regards the alien as his legitimate scapegoat and who is all too ready to raise a clamor against the supposed danger of refugees who are ready to accept any job at any wage.
There are, at present, from 10,000 to 12,000 Germans in France, eighty-five per cent of whom are Jews. Few have sufficient capital to set up in business. Large numbers have already emigrated to Palestine and elsewhere.
As an example of the callous attitude of French official circles towards them, the saying of a prominent senator may be quoted. He declared that the German refugees must regard France as a gateway and not as a garage.
It Is only an enlightened and humble guidance at the top that is able to withstand the nationalistic demagogue’s demands for the instant sacrifice of those who are at the mercy of everybody. That such guidance can now be expected from no less a person than M. Frossard, the new French Minister of Labor, brings a ray of hope into the lives of scores of helpless victims of the race-crazed terror of Adolf Hitler.
There is evidence that, under M. Frossard’s guidance, the difficult double problem of foreign labor and political refugees in France is going to be handled with both common sense and humanity, and that an end is going to be put to the thoughtless and incoherent administrative methods which caused vexation to thousands, and actual suffering to hundreds, of foreigners living in France.
In the first place, M. Frossard proposes to humanize the process of repatriation, in the case of foreign workers and foreign unemployed no longer wanted in France, by paying their fares home and by helping them in other ways. M. Frossard is even reported to have told a delegation of deputies that, until the question of the repatriation of foreign unemployed in the Paris suburbs was decided, the latter would be entitled to unemployment relief on the same basis as the French unemployed.
In the second place, M. Frossard proposes to treat political refugees as a separate problem. M. Frossard will not only put an end to the inhuman practice of expelling political refugees who have nowhere to go and, as in the case of Jakob Frommer, of imprisoning them soon afterwards for having “ignored” the expulsion order. He apparently also takes the view that as political refugees have a right to live they also have a right to work.
This is a view that in certain circumstances might become very dangerous to him who acts upon it, for there can be no question that so liberal a policy would provoke violent opposition. M. Frossard must, therefore, proceed very cautiously, all the more so because certain foreigners might play into the hands of the enemies of such a plan by merely posing as political refugees.
No objection could thus be raised to the minister’s reported intention of issuing workers’ permits only to accredited political refugees whose status has been confirmed by the competent authorities recognized by the government, such as the Socialist Trade Union Federation, the League for the Rights of Man and the central organizations representing the Russian, German and other emigres. The French authorities will, of course, check the “recommendations,” and there may also be an inquiry into the means of the applicants for labor permits.
No Definite steps have yet been taken by the Minister of Labor to put into operation his liberal-minded scheme for refugees. There can be no doubt, however, that M. Frossard is genuinely anxious to do something for them. The only danger that he is likely to encounter is the opposition of the present Minister of Finance, M. Regnier, whose regime as Minister of Labor was responsible for the heartless treatment of the political refugees as undesirable aliens who have to be subjected to the constant fear of deportation and imprisonment.