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AS I write this article the news from Europe is distressing in the extreme. Hitler is in Vienna. Central Europe is in turmoil, as every small state of the Danubian Basin feels the increasing pressure of Nazidom. Great Britain, and, following her leadership, France, are considering whether -- and if so how -- to protect Czechoslovakia, and whether -- and if so how -- to save even a modified League of Nations. The Soviet system seems in a state of serious disintegration. The war in Spain continues, to what final dénouement we cannot yet foresee. But one thing is certain: these chaotic situations cannot fail to add to a problem which is already a world headache -- the problem of dispossessed racial and political minorities.
If one side or the other wins the Spanish civil war there will immediately be a forced emigration of political refugees. Every indication from Spain, too, is that both sides are beginning to wish to rid themselves of foreigners, and not all of them can return to the places from which they came. In Germany, more and more Jews are being deprived of the means to continue living in the homes they have had for centuries, while the situation of many Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, is, to say the least, precarious. Austria has lost her struggle for independence. The victory of the Nazis there creates a vast new problem of refugees -- of Jews, of partisans of Dollfuss and Schuschnigg, of still surviving liberals, of proponents of a Hapsburg restoration, and probably also of Catholics. Rumania is experimenting with anti-Semitic laws; the Jewish question in Poland has been acute for some years.
In the Danubian Basin alone -- in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary and Jugoslavia -- live some two million Jews. There are over three million more in Poland. And these figures do not include Christian converts, or men, women and children of part Jewish blood who under the German Nuremberg laws are assigned to the Jewish community. Austria has many such. There also are many in Czechoslovakia and Hungary. If any more countries fall under Nazi domination, or come under Nazi influence, a further growth of anti-Semitism will hardly be avoided. Even if they sheer away from an "Aryan program" because it is German-Aryanism -- and most of these peoples are not Germans at all, but Slavs, or Magyars, or of mixed races other than Jewish; even if King Carol of Rumania proceeds more slowly with his anti-Semitic program than his unfortunate late prime minister, Mr. Goga; even if a Nazified Austria or a partly-Nazified Czechoslovakia should adopt only an attenuated form of anti-Semitism, millions of Jews nevertheless are in danger of becoming pariahs. And at least a part of them will make every effort to leave their homes to escape starvation.
Already there are some four million people in the world who are "men without a country." The list is by no means exclusively Jewish, although the Jews have suffered most, suffered on two counts: because of their race, and the rise of nationalism and racialism; and because, by and large, they have been political liberals. The twentieth century revolutions have set loose an unprecedented migration which includes people of every race and every social class, every trade and every profession: Russian aristocrats and, more lately, Russian technicians; Italian liberal professors and Austrian Socialist workmen; German individualists of any and every stripe; monarchists in republics and republicans in monarchies; priests and radicals; artists and laborers; capitalists and anti-capitalists; the flower of the prosperous Jewish bourgeoisie and the inhabitants of East European half-ghettos; non-conformists of every race and every social, religious and political viewpoint.
The possibility that this number is to be augmented within the immediate future is undeniable. To close one's eyes to it would be "ostrichism" in an acute form. And realism demands that one must contemplate the fact with more than a horrified humanitarianism. This twentieth century migration of peoples occurs in a world where there is a new, even if temporary, downward swing in the business cycle; in which many countries have serious unemployment problems which private enterprise alone has been unable to solve; in which every country has erected strong barriers against immigration, whether in the form of quotas or the requirement of work permits which foreigners are in practice unable to obtain; in which the government policy of exclusion is supported or even made more rigorous by trade union demands.
This chaotic migration has added prodigiously to world unrest, and not least in those countries which are trying to work out the problems of the modern state along democratic and constitutional lines. The fear of a wave of unselective immigration leads such states to accept a more extreme nationalism than they would otherwise consider desirable. This in turn increases internal tensions. So it is that we must record the growth of anti-Semitism in countries which never before were conscious of having a "Jewish problem," and where, prior to the past five years, the Jews were satisfactorily assimilated to the whole society. The growth must be regarded with alarm, not only for humanitarian reasons but because it contains in itself a germ destructive of the essential principles of democratic society, of any society based on principles other than those of primitive racialism. There is, for instance, no possible ethnic or racial basis on which the American idea can ever be realized. To introduce any such factor is to assault the very foundations of American democracy.
If the present strong currents of migration continue to push anarchically upon those states still open to immigrants; if it is now further to be horribly augmented; if it is not consciously directed; if assistance is not furnished to immigrants so that they are sure not to become a burden upon their hosts, and instead can be turned into definite economic assets -- then there is a catastrophe ahead for more than the immigrants and the wouldbe immigrants. Until now the problem has been largely regarded as one of international charity. It must now be regarded as a problem of international politics. The immigrants need a diplomatic service, and the world situation requires that they be given one. What is required is the establishment of a body of such outstanding leadership, such expert personnel, and such strong financial support that it will command universal respect and be beyond all question competent to deal with the problem in all its phases -- diplomatic, financial, economic, legal -- and to act as a clearing house or "holding company" for the existing voluntary organizations which are already handling -- in many cases admirably -- certain parts of the problem. Inasmuch as Jews are and will be in the largest degree the victims of enforced emigration, the existing Jewish organizations must in particular continue and increase their work. But that is not enough. Their contribution ought to be made inside the framework of a more comprehensive body devoted to studying all aspects of the general question of mass migrations, and to seeking, by every diplomatic means, ways of alleviating the present problem and of preventing it from being augmented.
There is at present no agency in the world which is handling the problem of political exiles in a comprehensive way. There are, however, three institutions which might be developed into such an agency. One is the International Labor Office, which has the advantage of American membership. Another is the Nansen Office, an agency of the League of Nations. And the third is the office of the "High Commissioner for Refugees Coming from Germany," which is only loosely attached to the League. Neither of the latter has ever been authorized to consider or deal with the whole question of political and racial exiles. The situation is made immediately acute by the fact that both these agencies expire on December 31 of the present year, and that suggestions for the continuation or extension of their activities must be submitted to the League of Nations before May 15. Thus if any step is to be taken to deal with the refugee problem on the scale required it should be done at once.
The moment is not politically inopportune. The very urgency of the European crisis provides arguments for such an agency. An attempt is about to be made to settle the most acute differences between the dictatorial and the democratic Powers. That attempt implies some sort of compromise on all sides if it is to have any chances of success.
I have said that there is no agency competent to deal with the whole refugee problem in a comprehensive way, and that the agencies that do exist are threatened with extinction.
The office of the "High Commissioner for Refugees Coming from Germany" (now Sir Neill Malcolm) was set up as an autonomous organization loosely attached to the League of Nations. The High Commissioner is authorized to try to safeguard the German refugees who have already emigrated but have not yet found permanent homes. A useful step was taken under his auspices in the international convention concerning the status of refugees coming from Germany, signed at Geneva on February 10 last by the representatives of 11 states, and now awaiting ratification. But the categories of émigrés covered in this convention are very limited; and of course neither the High Commissioner nor any other existing agency is competent to study the case of Jews who are still living in Germany but may sooner or later be compelled to emigrate.
The Nansen Office, firmly integrated with the League, has great experience and has acquired great prestige in solving problems created by racial intolerance. Between 1921 and 1928, the man whose name the office bears was instrumental in helping more than two million people -- White Russians, Rumanians, Bulgarians and Greeks--to find new homes. But as it is now constituted the Nansen Office is competent to protect the interests only of Russian, Armenian, Assyrian, Assyro-Chaldean, Turkish and Saar refugees. It was advocated by Countess Waldeck in the April 1937 issue of this magazine that the League extend the competence of the Nansen Office to include all who have been or may be compelled by racial and political intolerance to emigrate from their homelands.
On several scores the development of the Nansen Office into a world-wide refugee organization would seem the ideal solution of the problem. First, because it has such experience and prestige and because its present head, Judge Hansson, a Norwegian, is a worthy successor of Dr. Nansen. Second, because an organization with jurisdiction over all refugees would be non-sectarian; and circles interested in the problem of Jewish refugees are very much in favor of an agency with a non-sectarian basis. Third, because the political prestige of the League of Nations, now so badly damaged, would be strengthened if it could promote such a piece of work with new energy and vision. But there may be insurmountable obstacles. In order to enlarge the jurisdiction of the Nansen Office a unanimous resolution of the League Council would be required. Prolongation of the life of the Nansen Office is already being fought by Soviet Russia because of the fact that it looks after the interests of White Russians, who are considered enemies of the Soviet state. The idea of broadening the jurisdiction of the Nansen Office would in all probability meet with additional opposition from the Rumanian and Polish Governments, due to their fear that such action might involve greater interference by the League in their domestic affairs. In view of these antagonisms, it is questionable whether favorable action to prolong the Nansen Office could be secured from the League within a reasonable time. Moreover, it is doubtful whether countries not members of the League, such as Germany, would have any dealings with an organization belonging directly to it.
Therefore it would seem more expedient to concentrate the handling of the Jewish problem in some new organ not a part of the League, though perhaps brought into being as a result of its efforts or the efforts of the International Labor Office. The new organization should be put on a non-sectarian basis, as it would handle the affairs not of Jews only but of persecuted non-Aryans who are Christians as well, as also of all other groups of refugees -- for example those who for political or religious reasons may be compelled to leave Spain at the end of the civil war.
The direction of the proposed work should be placed in the hands of personages of international reputation. The necessary financial support would have to be found for the new organization, and the various private bodies now attempting to alleviate the lot of the refugees should subordinate their activities to it. Headquarters should be established in Geneva or some other convenient center, and, as rapidly as possible, offices of representatives should be opened, in accordance with a prearranged plan, in such capitals as Berlin, Warsaw and Bucharest. Scientific studies would have to be made of opportunities for land settlement in various regions still not greatly developed (e.g. in Latin America, Africa, the Soviet Far East, etc.).[i] The machinery developed would have to be sufficiently elastic to secure the coöperation of all countries which are now receptive or might be persuaded to become receptive to Jewish immigration. Quite understandably, Jewish circles in America and elsewhere would not be enthusiastic about any plan which would seem to present the anti-Semitic governments with an easy opportunity of getting rid of their Jews, or which would give other governments the notion that they too could follow suit. But the present emergency does not offer the possibility of choosing between one entirely satisfactory path and another entirely unsatisfactory one. Diplomacy and realism must be given a chance. The best that can be hoped is that if this is done the fate of the persecuted can be softened by compromise.
Obviously the essential condition to any progress with the major aspect of the problem would be to set up some bridge between the anti-Semitic countries containing considerable Jewish populations and the countries that may be ready to receive them. Therefore the new organization must be able to submit to the anti-Semitic governments practical plans for the removal of such Jews as must emigrate, and to the receptive countries plans for using the newcomers in constructive economic work. Capital would of course be necessary. The successful experiment with financing the tremendous forced migration of Greeks from Anatolia and settling them in Macedonia and Thrace in the years 1922-24 shows that the human mind, given international good will and political support, can accomplish seeming miracles.[ii] One of Dr. Nansen's co-workers, a man of immense experience in handling problems of mass settlement, has indicated that it is perfectly possible today to raise the capital required, especially that needed for dealing with the German Jews. It is not within the scope of this article, or the knowledge of its author, to discuss the details of this scheme. But in general it seems feasible. There is a great deal of Jewish money in Germany itself. Jews inside and outside of the country have many hundreds of millions of marks frozen there. At present this money cannot be transferred abroad, or can be transferred only at the cost of enormous losses. Possibly, however, it could be used to finance the emigration and re-settlement abroad of many German Jews, and especially of those who are still young enough to be trained for different forms of economic activity in a new world. The money in question would be used to pay for the emigrant's transportation to his new home and for the purchase of machinery, tools, waterworks, etc., for the development of the new Jewish communities. Jews who would turn over their frozen marks to the authorized agency would at the least receive as much as they could get by any other method of liquidation; and on the other hand, the plan would give opportunities for profit to German transportation companies and industries, while the country receiving the immigrants would acquire vast new resources.
We ought not to view the problem, complicated as it is, in a spirit of defeatism. Even the anti-Semitic governments are conscious that their anti-Semitism creates internal problems for them. The recent extension in Germany of the anti-Jewish regulations carries its own boomerang. One Jew out of five in Germany was already on relief, but there were still a sufficient number of Jews in business life, possessed of a sufficient spirit of humanity toward their own race, to support an impressive charity. But the new regulations will strangle the Jewish business community, cut off more Jews from the possibility of making a living, and dry up the fount of German-Jewish charity. A great number of people starving in the midst of any community is neither economically nor politically attractive. Only through some such organization as the one here proposed can the anti-Semitic governments hope to work out or compromise the problems they have themselves created.
On the other hand, the governments controlling relatively empty territories which now do not welcome miscellaneous immigrants might well change their attitude if the immigrants are carefully selected and equipped in advance to become self-supporting and productive citizens. There are many countries and colonial regions which will need -- if they are to make the most of their potentialities -- to augment their populations gradually for many decades to come. They do not object to immigrants as such, but fear lest they may become public charges or turn out to be politically troublesome. A responsible organization would see to it that the settlers sent out were reliable and were physically and financially prepared to aid in the industrial and agricultural development of their new homelands.
Jews and Christians alike are forced to contemplate the fact that when, with one sweeping gesture, the Nazi leader of Germany outlawed the relatively small Jewish population of his country he declared a war in which the Jews of the whole world became potential victims of aggression. Both Jews and Christians must face the fact that the stand he took is unacceptable to those who profess western principles of democratic law and order. Both Jews and Christians therefore must collaborate to prevent the problem which Hitler created from gathering force as it rolls along.
There have been anti-Semitic movements in the world before. Polish and Russian pogroms under the Tsar are alive in the memories of many. But the Jewish persecution of our era is peculiar. It is not directed against the ghetto Jew alone, but against the Jewish race as such -- against the Jew who has retained his religion and against the Jew who has discarded it.
Throughout the Middle Ages and until the Russian pogroms of the nineteenth century, the Jews, when persecution overtook them, were in the ghetto. There they lived wrapped up in themselves, firmly entrenched in a civilization of their own -- a religious civilization. When an acquisitive prince, a fanatic priest, a malcontent mob decided to take the money of the Jews, to punish them as heretics, to ransack their homes, they still had a refuge in their very Jewishness. Even when wandering the world they still enjoyed their own civilization -- the worship of their God. Wherever ten male Jews gathered, there was the temple.
The assimilated German Jews outlawed by Hitler had no separate civilization of their own to fall back on. The doors of the ghetto had been opened one hundred and twenty-five years ago. Religion, if these assimilated Jews practised it at all, played in their lives the subdued rôle it plays in the lives of most of their Christian contemporaries. Religion was no longer their civilization. They felt so little Jewish that they had lost all sense of danger. To be sure, Dr. Adolf Stoecker in Berlin and Georg von Schoenerer in Vienna did their level best to stir up anti-Semitism in the eighties. The Affaire Dreyfus brought along a wave of anti-Semitism in the nineties. But these movements were limited. While they did not die down altogether, they were neither officially adopted by governments nor backed up by feeling in the broad masses. Still less were they backed by the upper classes. While Jews could not become officers in the German Army and rarely could hold government posts under the monarchy, the Kaiser himself had personal friends among Jewish industrialists and bankers and favored marriages between German aristocrats and the daughters of wealthy Jews.
The German Jews were Germans. The only civilization they knew was the civilization they shared with the German nation. When Hitler's laws denied them this civilization they found themselves in a moral and cultural void. And there was no way out. The aristocrat of the French Revolution could save himself by becoming a citoyen. The Russian bourgeois could save himself by becoming a tovaritch. The German Jew can never become an Aryan.
So far there has been no census of non-Aryans in Germany. The 1933 figure of 550,000 German Jews, of whom 150,000 have so far emigrated, covers only the 100-percent Jews of the Jewish community. It does not even cover the 100-percent Jews who are baptized, nor, it goes without saying, Christians who have 75-percent, 50-percent, 25-percent or 12½-percent Jewish blood. These non-Aryans are estimated at between one and a half million and three millions. Among them are many German aristocrats and the flower of the German bourgeoisie. The reason for this gap between minimum and maximum estimates is largely that the exact point where Aryanism ends and non-Aryanism begins has not yet been established. Up to now Aryanism has been determined not so much by law as by party decisions and by circumstances. Thus a publisher must prove his Aryan descent way back to the year 1800 -- that is, to his great-grandparents -- whereas a journalist has to prove only that his grandparents were Aryans. In other words, the Aryan laws are still fluid. The radical wing of the Nazi Party is all for a general extension of the Ahnenbeweis back to 1800; and it now seems that this will be done.
According to the present Aryan laws, the 50-percent Jews enjoy certain advantages compared to 100-percent Jews. But these advantages are merely on paper. For instance, the law does not forbid marriages between 50-percent Jews and Aryans provided the government gives the permission; but no case is known where such permission has been granted. Both full-blooded and half-blooded Jews are excluded from schools and universities, from the Labor Front, and from the Reichsorganisation, membership in which is obligatory for all who wish to practise a trade. In education and professional life the half-Jew is almost as badly off as the full-blooded Jew. It is different with the 25-percent Jew. Theoretically he has the choice between "passing," by marrying an Aryan, or becoming Jewish by marrying a Jew. But actually either is very difficult. The writer knows of a case of two 25-percent Jewish daughters of a great scientist; the government withheld permission from one to marry her Nazi fiancé, from the other to marry her Jewish fiancé. The 25-percent Jew cannot hold government posts nor become an officer; on the other hand, in economic life he is as good as an Aryan. But even this can be changed from one day to the next by a party decision.
In the first years after the promulgation of Hitler's anti-Semitic policies in Germany, most of the efforts of world Jewry to direct the flood of Jewish emigration from Germany centered on Palestine. Even the Jews who had been skeptical about the success of the "Jewish Homeland," and who had with some justification been afraid that the existence of a Jewish national state might be made a pretext for casting suspicion upon the loyalty of Jews everywhere toward the nations in which they were the citizens, were happy that here some of the persecuted German Jews could find a refuge. Between 1933 and 1937, 40,000 German Jews emigrated to Palestine, which brought the total of the Jewish population there up to 400,000 as against an Arab population of 942,000. But a coincident growth in Arab hostility, culminating in a guerrilla war, made it evident that the abrupt rise of Jewish immigration since 1933 had produced a crisis in which the whole question of the Jewish Homeland would have to be reconsidered.
In the summer of 1937 a British Royal Commission decided that the Arab claim to self-government and the secure establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine were incompatible. It reported that the mandate was unworkable, and that the only solution was the partition of Palestine, by which the Jews would be left merely a tiny country of their own. The pros and cons of this plan of partition have already been discussed in recent issues of this magazine. No decision has yet been made. But the British Government has announced that in view of the ending of the present mandate and the substitution of a new one, Jewish immigration would be allowed to continue at a rate not in any circumstances exceeding the annual figure of 12,000 suggested by the Royal Commission. Whatever the final outcome -- whether the partition plan goes through and a diminutive Jewish state is founded, or Jews are allowed to settle in an undivided Palestine until they constitute a minority of 35 or even 40 percent of the total population -- one thing is sure: all hopes of anything like Jewish mass emigration to Palestine have to be buried. And while the Arabs may not succeed in stopping Jewish immigration altogether, we must assume that it will not exceed the present 12,000 a year, a figure which of course is utterly inadequate to solve the Jewish problem of Germany and Eastern Europe in the present emergency. The fiery nationalism of the Arabs is meanwhile growing more and more aggressive. We must face the fact that Palestine has become more of a danger-spot than a homeland for the Jews -- even for those who have already settled there.
Since Palestine has ceased to exist as an outlet for Jewish emigration, and since National Socialism is deluging Eastern Europe with anti-Semitic propaganda, Jewish persecution must be considered a major question of international politics. The challenge is one which the Jews of the whole world must face -- and above all the Jews of America, who constitute one-fourth of world Jewry. It is a challenge, moreover, to the prescience and common sense of any minority or racial or religious group which has ever known persecution or discrimination anywhere in the past; for if these do not protest the abuse of other minorities now, what moral grounds will they have for protesting if once again their own rights are threatened? But it is, even more importantly, a challenge to all responsible political circles, not only to those who condemn persecution for humanitarian reasons but also to those who, taking a purely practical view, fear that starving minorities within the anti-Semitic countries and an uncontrolled flow of wandering Jews outside will add further elements of unrest to an already restless world. Nor can the anti-Semitic governments themselves be indifferent: for in the long run -- though they may find it gratifying to have the Jews "liquidated" -- it is uncomfortable to have in one's midst a body of desperate pariahs.
Up to now none of these categories has made an attempt to achieve a constructive solution. The German Government looks on while a problem is growing up for which mass starvation seems hardly a solution. The responsible political circles in the world find it too ticklish a problem to tackle because it may imply interference in the internal affairs of the various countries and also because they are afraid that to raise the question of emigration might produce anti-Semitism in their own respective countries. As for the Jews of the world, they made a few gestures of understandable but ineffective protest against Nazi Germany -- the boycott the strongest. But the boycott did not substantially weaken the Nazis economically and in any case did not soften their anti-Semitic policy. Instead, the boycott acted as a boomerang against the boycotting Jews in the democratic countries, by awakening anti-Semitism among non-Jews who wanted to do business with Germany, Nazi or not. In addition, the Jews practised a magnificently generous philanthropy. They placed huge sums at the disposal of the Jewish organizations which were helping German Jews -- 150,000 of them -- to get out of Germany and to find a refuge elsewhere, temporary or permanent. They now must help plan a broader program -- securing, incidentally, the collaboration of distinguished Jews who so far have stood aloof from problems immediately connected with their race.
As anti-Semitic policies spread through Europe it becomes clearer and clearer that charity is not enough. The problem, it should be repeated, must be regarded and treated as one of international politics. The only approach to a solution must be a political approach. And, as things are at present, it can be made only by an organization headed by outstanding personalities of the democratic world, with the full collaboration of Jewish organizations everywhere, and enjoying the sympathetic collaboration and support of the democratic governments. Such an organization would be listened to both by the anti-Semitic governments and by governments that need well-equipped and politically reliable settlers to develop their empty lands.
To find by this, or any other method, a "solution" for the problems which have been created by revolution, civil war, political and racial persecutions, arbitrary decrees repealing guaranteed civil rights, and propaganda subsidized and carried on by powerful governments, is neither our expectation nor even our hope. In particular, the historic Jewish problem will not suddenly be solved. In the long run it will never be solved by emigration. What can be hoped now is that it will be mitigated, by helping some Jews to emigrate from the anti-Semitic countries and by improving the lot of those who stay. The attempt must be made, if only as a testimony to the vitality of our faith in the democratic principles which we profess to live by. On those principles our institutions are founded, and with them are integrated the fundamental concepts of our civilization. Therefore, the attempt must be made not out of pity for the exiles, actual and potential, but as a reaffirmation of our own beliefs, lest they become hollow dogmas to which, eventually, not even lip service will be given anywhere.
[i] Cf. "Limits of Land Settlement," prepared under the direction of Isaiah Bowman. New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1937.
[ii] For details regarding the Protocol setting up the Refugee Settlement Commission, and for an account of the Commission's work, see Charles P. Howland: "Greece and Her Refugees," FOREIGN AFFAIRS, v. 4, no. 4.