A Look at Germany’s Jews as They Were in 1919
THE “Liberal Judaism” discussed below is what is called Reform Judaism in the USA. This was the affiliation of the majority of Jews in Germany during the first half of the 20th century.
Contemporary Jewish Questions
From Auf gut Deutsch, 23 October 1919
Translated by Hadding Scott, 2014
Although the essence of the Jewish spirit has remained unaltered through the centuries, at the same time various cultural currents among the peoples of Europe have exerted an influence upon the mode and manner of its expressions. Dr. Arthur Ruppin has made an entirely correct confession in his work Die Juden der Gegenwart, which lays bare the core of the whole controversy about the Jewish spirit’s manner of activity. He says: “Jewish Orthodoxy was from the beginning much less a religion than an organization of struggle for the maintenance of the Jewish people clothed in religious garb.” Every Jewish association is to be considered from this perspective.
If Talmudic Judaism was also an edifice so firm as hardly any other, nonetheless the course of the ages has forced some components from its structure. These separated parts have now founded struggle-organizations of another kind, or rather knew how to convert other collectives into assault-detachments of the World Jewish Power for their goals: the Alliance Israélite Universelle, the Freemasons, the [Communist] International, the Anglo-Jewish Association, Liberal Judaism, and Zionism.
The first associations have been discussed in many sections of this periodical; a few words now about Liberal Judaism. It formed in order to reunite those unfaithful to Talmudic Judaism under a religious banner of another kind. To give greater authority to the endeavors, it was presented as a revival of the ancient prophets’ attempts at reform. The initially small community now exists as an organization spread over all Germany. The emphasis of this association however now lies less in the concept Liberal than in the concept Judaism.
One of the present-day spiritual leaders of this movement is the rabbi Dr. Caesar Seligmann from Frankfurt am Main. On the occasion of a planned Panjewish-German congress he wrote in the newspaper Liberales Judentum (No.5 and 6): “As you however assemble at the congress, take care that you not seem to lack the pathos of a great religious faith. With a naked denial of Zionism with the declaration that you are not national Jews but Germans as a nation, one can make no Jewish congress. The commitment to the German nation at a Jewish congress smacks all to much of the sentiment of loyalty and is a parcel and relic of the old defensive Judaism. It seems to be a mistake similar to that pseudo-liberalism of past ages which Gabriel Riesser castigates with such bitter words, and which surrendered religious values for the sake of political victory, which reformed not from inner, religious necessities but for the sake of external position in the state. Against such ghetto-Judaism all the contumely and rage of Zionism is justified. It cannot and must not be the task of a Jewish congress to assure Germany of its loyalty. By the way – whoever assures too much seems least of all sure of his business.”*
These words are indeed thoroughly clear. Nothing worse for Dr. Seligmann than to affirm loyalty to Germany. At least it is honest, and therefore more agreeable to read than the pronouncements of the German Citizens of Jewish Faith**.
On the 13th of October the Verein der liberalen Juden of Munich held a closed meeting in order to deliberate about the measures to be taken for the coming “inevitable battle” against anti-Semitism. Reportedly Dr. Seligmann and State Attorney Stern, the General Secretary of Liberal Judaism, were featured.
Dr. Seligmann gave a very fine speech, compared Judaism with the castle from The Singer’s Curse, which watches so proud and noble over the land as far as the blue sea, and is surrounded by fragrant flowers and gardens. The castle of granite blocks is the house built by the fathers, as we see it before us embodied in the Talmud and Schulchan-Aruch with firm foundations, its “marvelous moral doctrine,” its “humanity, loyalty, and its consciousness of duty,” “sense of duty,” its precept of the “brotherhood of man and reconciliation of peoples.” But the stream at which the castle stood has altered its course and is flowing straight through under the foundations. Therefore the options now were to leave everyone in the old structure, in the worst case to be buried under rubble, to move out, or instead to dismantle and to erect a new house from the present material. The first, Orthodoxy wants; the second is the choice of the too-few-to-be-worth-despising assimilationists, who, according to Seligmann, have “crawled to the cross or to the crescent”; the last, the liberal Jews want, because is the most useful. After that followed some rhetorical flourishes about the revival of the “golden crown and purple mantle of the prophets.” One would like to concede all things good to the speaker, but there was an inevitable snag that made a mockery of the pretty words. For, the rabbi opined, if the Jews should find themselves together again, then the old word would come true, which says that the time would eventually come when the best men of all peoples would cling to the lap of the Jews and beg them: “You lead us!”
Thus the gist of the matter even here was fairly obvious. During the break a gentleman circulated inviting all to join the association for “cheap money.” In the declaration that followed the second speaker reported with pride that Liberal Judaism had led many inactive persons back into the fold of Judaism, explicated the idea of Jewish organizations, and finally asserted emphatically that Jewish liberalism was not a worldview among others, but the supreme worldview. What the board of directors had secretly resolved for conducting the battle against Anti-Semitism, however, they unfortunately did not reveal to the public.
Thus we see Liberal Judaism opposing Germanism, just as cohesive and organized throughout Germany as the other Jewish struggle-organizations, except in a different form.
Voltaire said that the Jews, filled with inexorable hatred against all nations, were “obsequious in misfortune and shameless in prosperity.” This statement, which is applicable to all of Jewish history, is entirely correct even today. “In the long term it cannot satisfy the national self-consciousness of the Jews to be only a minority everywhere,” says Cohen (Reuss), the otherwise undeviating internationalist, where it is a matter of German politics (Die politische Bedeutung des Zionismus). David Trietsch sees in the great participation of the Jews in the revolution an “unimpeded spiritual force that would come into manifestation even more strongly by far if the rooted prejudice of the masses did not block the Jew from free political activity.” Thus all Judaism so far is still much too little. The same gentleman is very proud about the situation in Russia: “Even if the evolution of post-czarist Russia is absurd so far, the observer will nonetheless be unable to avoid the recognition that without the Jewish heads that have placed themselves at the disposal of the revolution the chaos would be even worse by far. In Russia the Jewish leaders have taken the helm because of their superior power of thought and owing to their ability to see a path while the best of the others still for the longest time have not overcome the confusion of the collapse” (Palaestina und die Juden).
These few voices are still relatively mild, but they are authoritative insofar as they derive from the “German Committee for the Promotion of the Jewish Settlement of Palestine.” The paper Juedische Rundschau however chimes in with its tones, which ought not to be passed over without attention.
First it is asserted that Zionism was born “from the spirit of the idea” and has nothing in common with German nationalism, which sees its ideal in “U-boats, gas-projectiles, etc.” The vilification of the fallen government is recycled in No. 70 as a pamphlet against Germanness [das Deutsche] in general. Germany is said to have guilt for the circumstances of misfortune of the Jews in Poland. “The same German government that during its entry into Poland represented itself to the Jews as a liberator later politically abandoned them completely to the Poles, has done everything to prevent the national unification of the Jews, and through an entirely wicked meddling in their internal relations supported all efforts to disorganize Polish Jewry, and has economically exploited and ruined them in a manner unparalleled in history.” “The German officials have through their unscrupulous greed for booty so disrupted all moral concepts there that even the most extensive reparation would not suffice to restore the prestige of the German name among Polish Jews.” “In the Rhineland the most German of the Germans in every hour of every day are selling the future of Germany. For the police however it is easier of course to arrest the few Galician and Polish Jews who are so to speak forced, due not least to the Demobilization Bureau’s insane directives which are regarded by all social-policy experts as quite incredible, to seek their profit in the black market….” The Jews immigrating from the east, it says, would be applied with great success to agriculture, mining operations, etc. “What even the war, which did not arise from the Jewish spirit, would like to have made out of many from the poor agitated masses, one should thus permit us to say.” Thus the article concludes “that today more than ever Germany has cause for not barring its doors against the morality, the godliness, the communion with the eternal, that still live in this eastern Jewry.”
Thus the German has robbed the Jew, corrupted his moral sense. The most German is the greatest of all profiteers; the poor Jew is forced into dealing in contraband, regardless of whether he now does it by choice. From the Jew of the east the German has to await morality and a godly conception of life….
Let us hear more. In No. 72, on the occasion of the immigration-question, a vote is taken for a Pan-Jewish congress; then it says: “The people should be summoned, make a resolution about its migration, and prepare the relevant agencies, on which it bestows its trust. And the questions that determine Jewish emigration should be resolved exclusively according to the interests of the Jewish people. If the people stands behind the solution, the Jews also have the power and the influence to impose the sound solution….” “If all means are concentrated — our political possibilities, our financial influence, our intellectual, moral, and economic capacities — if everything is brought upon one denominator and everything is placed at the service of one goal, then we can not only open the gates to immigration that are today closed but also again close the doors to emigration, which are opened with all too inviting courtesy. It is not enough to seek countries that let in Jews. Care must also be taken that it not become a jeer that Jews are shown the door.”
In closing it is emphasized that there can only be a singular Jewish world policy because otherwise “the impact of the Jewish will” would be fragmented.
On the other hand we see cynical scorn come to light unconcealed: the Jews in Germany speak in such a way as if there were no longer a German Reich with which it would still be necessary in any way to reckon. “Exclusively” Jewish interests are to be decisive; should anyone wish to expedite the emigration of the Chosen People, the Jews would take care in advance that this shameless meddling in Jewish affairs cease immediately. For months already a continuous wailing about the pogroms of the Jews in Poland, the Ukraine, Galicia, and Hungary has been going through the Jewish newspapers. Tales of horror are told: innocent Jews are driven from house to courtyard, murdered in frightful martyrdoms; women and little girls were violated, killed, thrown into flush-toilets (!), and so on. The number of victims in the Ukraine is supposed to total 35,000.
The Polish newspapers and politicians now know quite other things to tell. Thus for example there was supposed to have taken place in Krakow a great pogrom of the Jews, on account of which a wailing coursed through all Jew newspapers. At the Polish national assembly however Representative Bruell now has narrated: “Had I not been a witness of the events in Krakow I would have indeed believed that a pogrom had happened there. Now however I must affirm that in Krakow indeed pogroms took place, not however against the Jewish but against the Polish population. All the wounded are Polish soldiers, because the Jewish Bolsheviks did not permit the gangs to be disarmed that instigated the unrest. A certain Goldberg has been arrested who had Czech and German passports; it was an organized gang that had the mission on the one hand to instigate Bolshevik uprisings in Poland and on the other hand to disgrace the name of Poland in Paris. In Mechow Jews murdered a Pole and defiled his corpse. Yet no one denounces this murder; in Krakow by contrast not a single Jew has perished and already it is cried that a pogrom has happened there.”
Thus accusation met with accusation. To clear up all these disputes, Hirsch Morgenthau was placed at the head of the commission of inquiry. The American Jew then traveled the whole country, yet was unable to contradict the witness for the Poles to the extent that the Jews had hoped, and thus his reports turned out fairly neutral. Thereupon came cries of indignation from the whole of Jewry, with the consequence that a harsher man, Mr. Samuel from London, would examine all complaints again.
An old phenomenon recurs again. If the Jewish vampirism on any people becomes too ostentatious and unrest results, then in all the newspapers of the world appear frightful reports about slaughters of Jews that are made up entirely out of thin air. A classic example of that is provided by the situation in Romania in the second half of the 19th century. Unhindered by any restriction on immigration the Jews had literally flooded that country. Through racketeering of the worst kind and through a roaring trade in brandy the unaware and innocent population became totally dependent. All attempts legally and vigorously to dam up Jewish unscrupulousness ran afoul of the objections of the great powers under the influence of the Alliance Israélite. In a letter to Carol of Romania his father calls the affairs of the Jews a noli me tangere; he complains about the Jewish money-power, but advises to give up, because one can do nothing against it.
As now some Romanian authorities have proceed more energetically against Jewish merchants, as the people have begun to become restless, the Jewish press emitted a cry of pain, and a flood of lying stories came to the uncomplaining paper [aufs geduldige Papier]. So it was said for example in a lamentation of a Jewish banker to the American consul (1876) that in one locale thousands of Jews were robbed of their belongings and had to leave the country. An inquiry determined that some deceitful Jews had been gathered, of whom three had been beaten. Jews from Basliu begged monetary assistance at all consulates because the entire local Jewish population, 740 persons, had been inhumanely chased out of their dwellings in the middle of winter by the Romanians. Another big uproar. The inquiry educed (under supervision of a Jewish representative) that 25 Jews had conducted illegal business and had operated unlicensed schnaps-dens, that their beverages had been confiscated and the 25 Jews expelled from the town. That was all. — On another occasion the residents of Jassy were very surprised to see in Monde Illustré a large drawing representing a pogrom of the Jews right there. The affair exposed, like many others, a Jewish attempt to stir the public opinion of France in favor of the poor Jews. Made up out of thin air in exactly the same way were the laments of the Neue Freie Presse (May 1877) about nefarious Jewish agitations and a great number of other deceptions. For years at a time there was wailing about persecution of Jews; during which only two Jews were killed, and even these were killed by two Turks as they were expelled from Turkey; religious motives, about which then as now a clamor has been raised, were never causes of any disturbances; in the 20 years (1859-1879) the Jew-badgering consisted in the.seizure of a series of clandestine brandy-dens and in the deportation of their proprietors. (See Verax: La Roumanie et les Juifs, Bucharest 1903, pp. 150-160.)
The Jewish newspapers now summon all “honorable men” to form a front against the “pogrom-agitation” that is supposedly being stoked by anti-Semites also in Germany. How does it stand now? — All leading anti-Semitic papers have affirmed unambiguously that they abhor every pogrom. They have however just as unambiguously demanded that, in this national hour of destiny of the German people, German men should lead. Instead of that, not a day goes by without a new Jewish personage being appointed to influential posts. All demands to refrain from barging to the front of the queue, to govern their lust for power, have rolled off the Jew like water on a rubber coat; all German distress-calls are on the verge of dying out. It is again as in earlier times. Then the Jews sat as finance-ministers and tax-collectors in the court; all cries for usury-laws on the part of the people and the estates were crippled by Jewish money.
If one approaches the whole complex of the historical occurrence affecting the Jews and their relationship to the other peoples without the tired dogma of a tear-soaked sensitivity, one of the following could be confirmed from the outset: if the outcomes in the relations of all peoples to the one Jewish people are the same, this can only, at least in the main, be caused by the character of that one Jewish people. That is because the individualities of the histories affecting the Jews are various; the personality of the Jew on the other hand is the singular and unchanging factor, which moreover is intensified through strict racial breeding.
Many writers of history, carried away from historical impartiality by inhumanities against the Jews that actually occurred, all too easily see a cause in purely human condemnation. This lopsided position, which earns all honor for the man but degrades the historian, one must take into account so as to be able to see past the sentimentalities to history in its deeper relationships. If one has done this, and one uses portrayals intended in a friendly way toward the Jews and not anti-Semitic from the outset, so that the eyeglasses of the other side do not become fogged, there comes into view a graph of Jewish life, of Jewish activity, and Jewish suffering that is indeed strikingly similar in all countries of the world: everywhere they are at first received without reservation; everywhere we see the Jews from the outset deliberately segregate themselves both physically and .mentally from the indigenous population; everywhere they are strenuously concerned to win for themselves the favor of the princes, and giving a share of the money acquired through strenuous commerce and usury to them for undertakings to guarantee their protection and thus to wheedle privileges of every kind for themselves.
Among all peoples then in response, at first flaring up in some locations, the anti-Jewish movements appear that sometimes grip an entire country, expending themselves in frightening rage. The occasions for these great persecutions of Jews have been of various kinds. But if anywhere historical treatment must pay attention to the social structure so as to reveal not occasions but foundations for incipient shocking events, it is most especially the case with the treatment of the Jewish Question in all lands. Of course political and cultural, but especially religious conditions, have been of importance; at times they came to the fore, as for example at the time of the Inquisition, but they constituted only the noticeable factors; hand in hand went always questions of an economic nature. As the Jewish Question is indeed in many regards of greater importance today, it nonetheless remains anchored in the social position of the Jews in the present-day world. Without the immense riches that stand at their disposal it would be impossible to steer the politics of the world and to have statesmen of all countries perform as marionettes of the Jewish will; it would be impossible to inject the poison of leveling, of division from their own essence, into the hearts of Europeans and to keep their spirits in a mood favorable for Jewry, if almighty gold, systematically applied, did not hire its accomplices in all countries. But thus, as it is today, where oppressive bank-capital binds all peoples with its interest, so was the situation, if also on a smaller scale, in Spain and in France, in Germany and in many other states. Everywhere the Jew was the interest-lord of the princes, of spirituality, of the people; and the persecutions of Jews, let this be anticipated here, are chiefly an ever-again renewed attempt to break the yoke of usury, all the more as it came from a racially alien, religiously and morally hostile interloper. The work of German anti-Semites should be to create a legal escape from this cruel necessity that absolutely will arrive if Jewish insatiability has reached a no longer surpassable highpoint in the domination of the German people, by demanding that the Jews, following enactment of a law, be removed from all positions in government. In the worst case a popular referendum must decide on it. If however this too is suppressed and prevented, then that must happen which has recurred with inevitable consistency throughout the centuries: a persecution of the Jews. If all warning voices are expended for protection of the Christian and German essence according to the best knowledge and ability, then an uprising against a foreign rule is no longer a hate-filled pogrom but an indication that the soul of a people still is not rotted. “What disturbs your interior, you should not endure,” says Goethe; Christ drove the money-changer Jews from the temple with the scourge. The German too will have to defend the best that he has — what his spirit and his history has passed down to him as a bounty to be husbanded — if necessary with the scourge. The German Reich must after a long, long time become Germany again, and not a playground of unfettered Jewish lust for power.
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* “So ihr aber auf dem Kongress euch zusammentut, huetet euch, ohne das Pathos eines grosses Bekenntnisses zu erscheinen. Mit einer blossen Verneinung des Zionismus mit der Erklaerung,dass ihre keine Nationaljuden sondern Deutsche als Nation seid, kann man keinen juedischen Kongress machen. Das Bekenntnis zur deutschen Nation auf einem juedischen Kongress schmeckt allzusehr nach Loyalitaetsgesinnung und ist ein Stueck und Ueberbleibsel des alten Schutzjudentums. Es sieht zum Verwechseln aehnlich jedem Pseudoliberalismus vergangener Zeiten, den Gabriel Riesser mit so bitteren Worten Geisselt, und der um politischen Gewinn religioese Werte hingab, der nicht aus inneren, religioesen Notwendigkeiten, sondern um der aeusseren Stellung im Staate willen reformierte. Gegen solches Ghettojudentum ist jeder Hohn und Ingrimm des Judentums berechtigt. Es kann und darf nicht die Aufgabe eines juedischen Kongresses sein, Deutschland seine Treue zu versichern. Nebenbein — wer zu viel versichert, scheint seiner Sache am allerwenigsten sicher zu sein.” (Rabbi Dr. Caesar Seligmann)
** Centralverein deutscher Staatsbuerger juedischen Glaubens. The position of this organization was that Jews were strictly a religious group (in total contradiction to the declarations of Arthur Ruppin and Caesar Seligmann). After the Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935 and Jews were no longer German citizens, this organization changed its name to Centralverein der Juden in Deutschland, and its focus shifted to vocational training and assisting emigration. After November 1938 it was subsumed under the Reichsverein der Juden in Deutschland.
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Source: National-Socialist Worldview