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An Open Letter to the President of the Reichsbank

December 31, 1933
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Mr. Bernstein, outstanding American journalist and former Minister to Albania, addressed the following letter to the Reichsbank president, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht. No reply was forthcoming.

Dr. Hjalmar Schacht,

President of the Reichsbank,

Berlin, Germany.

Dear Dr. Schacht:

I am addressing this letter to you, the only statesman I know in the Hitlerist regime. On several occasions in the past I had the pleasure of interviewing you and of presenting your opinions on Germany and world affairs to the American reading public in the press and in my book, “The Road to Peace.” I recall your interesting proposals for a United States of Europe. I remember how you ridiculed the idea of artificial frontiers which divided nations and peoples from one another. I also remember how passionately you pleaded for justice to Germany. I published your statements gladly.

While I unmasked the militaristic designs of the former Kaiser, in the now historic correspondence between the Kaiser and the Tsar, “The Willy-Nicky Telegrams” which I made public in 1917, I also published the sane views of the German people during the war as interpreted to me by Professor Hans Delbrueck, the famous German historian, and Maximilian Harden, the fearless German publicist, and after the war by Germany’s most gifted statesman, the martyred Walter Rathenau.

During the war there were fools who mistook my criticism of Tsarist Russia as evidence of my pro-Germanism, and my denunciation of German militarism as an attack on the German people. Tsarist Russia and militaristic Prussia were overthrown by the war. Unfortunately, the Peace Treaties were dictated by a spirit of vengeance, which carried within it the seeds of future discontent, unrest and war. It may perhaps interest you to know that I was the only American correspondent who, while witnessing the signing of the Peace Treaties at Versailles, interviewed the representatives of the leading German newspapers in the Hall of Mirrors and published in the American press what the Germans thought then of the treaties that had been imposed upon them.

I am mentioning these facts merely to remind you that, though I denounced Prussian militarism, I never failed to draw the line between the Government and the people of Germany.


In 1927 you were kind enough to send me, with your compliments, a copy of your remarkable book, “The Stabilization of the Mark,” a record of your own extraordinary achievement, and an attempt to “help strerighten the growth of mutual confidence between nations and the determination in future to avoid political catastrophes by the establishment of a community of intellectual and economic interests and reciprocal good will.”

The concluding chapter of your book, entitled “International Co-operation”, contained the following striking passages:

“Everywhere the war has brought recognition of the fact that the nations must understand one another better, and that above all a process of moral education must be inaugurated if wars are to be avoided in the future. . . .

“No doubt each people has a right to its own cultural existence. But just as individuals differ from one another in value, so do individual peoples. Each of them is to be valued according to its achievements for the general culture of mankind. The road to civilization for the less developed peoples should not be thrown open by artificially keeping down the more developed races. National feeling is not a right, but a duty. Only those nations are entitled to make a show of national pride who feel and act upon the obligation to lead them in friendly competition with the other peoples to increase and enrich the cultural assets of mankind. . . .

“The Reichsbank, to all appearances an institution serving material interests only, has taken its place in the ranks of those who are engaged in common international work. It has sought to establish and develop friendly understanding with sister institutions in other civilized countries; and indications are already accumulating, now here, now there, of the potentialities of such common work when inspired by the sense of responsibility. In this manner we shall pass by way of the seemingly material effort to the ethical progress of mankind. . . .”


And you conclude your volume by quoting what you had written twenty years before:

“We do not know the purpose of man; but since we feel ourselves a part of that power under whose iron laws, mighty and eternal, the cycles of existence fulfil themselves, we feel and see that all life proceeds in perpetual struggle against the forces of destruction, but yet with steady progress from that which is imperfect to that which is more perfect. We feel and see that our existence too aspires to a rational and more perfect end. Out of this consciousness is born the ethical sense of duty which we have, the dictates of which impell us to bring our own actions into harmony with the mighty laws of existence, making reason, order and love the measure of our activities.”

How can you reconcile your conception of the dutes as President of the Reichsbank with the regime of horrors prevailing in Germany today, since the Reichsbank was intended to pass “from the seemingly material effort to the ethical progress of mankind”, since it was your conviction “that above all a process of moral education must be inaugurated if wars are to be avoided in future”, that “each people has a right to its own cultural existence”, that “the road to civilization for the less developed peoples should not be thrown open by artificially keeping down the more developed races”, that “only those nations are entitled to make a show of national pride who feel and act upon the obligation to lead the way in friendly competition with other peoples to increase and enrich the cultural assets of mankind”, and finally your earlier views, according to which “the ethical sense of duty which we have, the dictates of which impell us to bring our own actions into harmony with the mighty laws of existence, making reason, order and love the measures of our activities”?


The atrocities that have been committed in Germany since April and that are still being committed by the Hitler government have long ago been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt not only by impartial, dependable and fearless newspaper correspondents, but also by your own Government’s published decrees, by its propaganda and acts of violence and inhuman cruelty which have dwarfed into insignificance the tortures of the Dark Ages and the pogroms of Blackest Russia.

I know that when Adolf Hitler visited Mussolini some time before he had become Chancellor, the Duce advised him that if he would become a dictator he must do so by force, but Mussolini never advised Hitler to resort to savage cruelty on racial or religious grounds.

When the Black Hundreds, encouraged by Tsar Nicholas, made pogroms in Russia, the Russian intellectuals, the conscience of Russia, felt ashamed and protested, even though it required great courage to protest. Where is the voice of German conscience? Where is the indignation of the Kulturtraeger of Germany? Germany has gone off the Golden Rule standard, and you, as head of the “ethical” Reichsbank, are apparently worrying mainly about the gold standard.

When the Russian Communists commenced their offensive against Church and Synagogue, the world was shocked. But the Russian Communists made no discriminations. They tried to combat all forms of religion, declaring it to be opium for the people. Hitlerism is striking at the very root of civilization. Under the guise of Christianity and the mask of Aryanism, the Hitler system is making the Jew the scapegoat for Germany’s desperate plight, but it is also recrucifying Christ and mocking his teachings. Hitlerism has become a challenge to all civilized states, to religious liberty, to the laws of God and civilized man. Its spread is a menace to all that man has labored for centuries to attain in his efforts to rise from his former stage of hairy ape.

Hitlerism is Fascism, without the genius of Mussolini—a sort of machine-made Ersatz Fascism. Hitler is a Nero without his fiddle and without his poetry—a zero Nero, who believes that he can keep on diverting the minds of the hungry Germans from the futility of his program, by torturing the Jews and persecuting Catholics, liberals, radicals and pacifists.


Is this the place in the sun that Germany has been seeking? Is this “the road to civilization”? Is this the way in which Germany is hoping to secure treatment as an equal among the nations? Since the end of the World War, Germany regained much of the world’s sympathy and some of the world’s confidence. The Hitler regime of horrors has infuriated Germany’s enemies and alienated Germany’s friends.

The war declared by Hitler against “non-Aryans” in Germany cannot be regarded merely as an internal problem. By hounding, degrading, torturing and murdering a portion of your own population, on false religious and racial grounds, by depriving them of their livelihood, by crushing them economically and spiritually, although this portion of your population has for centuries helped in the economic and cultural upbuilding of Germany, the Hitler regime has created an international problem which must be solved internationally. Victims of Hitlerist persecution are forced to seek shelter in other lands, while the majority of the persecuted are retained as hostages at home, and the problem is thus removed from the domain of internal affairs and placed squarely before the world as an international problem, as a threat to all civilized states. And at the time the Hitler government is endeavoring to hoodwink the world from behind a smoke-screen of sinister propaganda made in Germany and exported to other lands, including the United States. What has become of your ### of “the ethical progress of mankind”, of “moral education” of “the right to cultural existence”, and of “reason, order and love” as the measure of your activities?


I know you cannot believe that the spurious and absurd race theories of the Hitler regime, the tortures and degradations of the Jews, the persecutions of Catholics and pacifists and intellectuals, the burnings of the books which have helped to make your country spiritually great, the inoculation of the youth of Germany with the germs of hate and war, will lead Germany to economic and moral recovery. How can Germany expect treatment as an equal among nations today since its Government’s hands are steeped in innocent blood and since the martial spirit is being reawakened? Is there a sane person in the world who believes that Hitlerist Germany is working for peace today? Even those who have passionately advocated disarmament as the first essential for the restoration of confidence among nations, have come to the conclusion that it is futile to urge general disarmament so long as the mobilized war spirit and race hatred prevail in Germany. Neither France, nor Soviet Russia, nor Poland, nor Italy, nor the Little Entente and other nations, would indeed be justified in disarming as long as the poisonous gasses of hate and vengeance are employed so brazenly in Germany today. Hitlerism is crossing the frontiers of civilization, violating human rights, undermining the world’s economic structure and the frail foundations of peace.


I recall what Col. Edward M. House, that far-sighted American statesman, said to the representative of one of the allied nations at the peace conference. He pointed out to him, in connection with the proposed treaties for the protection of the rights of minorities, that any nation which divided its citizenry in categories and which discriminated against a portion of its population on religious or racial grounds, was doomed to imminent ruin. I recall the powerful warning given by former President Hoover, during the Paris peace conference, to another Prime Minister whose country had indulged in religious discriminations and persecutions. I also remember the inspired statement of the late President Wilson at the Crillon in Paris, the day after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, in the course of which he said to a small group of American journalists:

“Wherever injustice is done, whether it be done to a large group or to a small group, the moral force of America must be there to defend those who are wronged or oppressed.”

Those who are tortured most in Germany today belong to the nation that gave to the world both the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. The Man of Sorrows sprang from the Nation of Sorrows. Those who know the Bible remember the end of Haman. Those who know their history remember what happened to Spain of the Inquisition and to Tsarist Russia of the pogroms. There is such a thing as historic justice, after all.

If unchecked now by the saner elements within Germany and by the aroused conscience of mankind. Hitlerism will plunge the world into the most awful catastrophe. Is it not high time for German patriots like you at least to make an earnest effort to redeem yourselves by trying to halt and curb the mad, devastating spirit of hate and bigotry let loose by those who now rule and ruin your Germany?

Quo Vadis, Germania?


Herman Bernstein.

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