Memo from the Organization Of
Independent Orthodox Communities*
To the German Chancellor
...The position of German Jewry today, as it has been shaped by the German People, is wholly intolerable, both as regards their legal position and their economic existence, and also as regards their public standing and their freedom of religious action.
Following the passage of the Laws by the National Government the legal position of the German Jews is as follows. Jews have been excluded from national and local public service and have been removed from the spheres of culture, institutes of learning, and from science. Only a limited number of Jewish students and pupils will be admitted to universities and high schools, and even these will not be allowed to sit for certain examinations. Jewish lawyers are forbidden to represent public and local organizations in court. Jewish physicians have lost the right to work for the sick funds. They have been removed from the public hospitals. The remaining exceptions, which apply to special categories of soldiers who fought at the front and their kin, do not affect the hopelessness of the position of the next generation of doctors. The Jews are excluded everywhere from the occupational structure of the new Reich.
In addition to that, even where no law applies, economic activity has been made extraordinarily difficult. Even if Jewish activity in the economic field has not been limited directly by the law, there is in practice in all of Germany an anti-Jewish boycott. National, local and public enterprises have been forbidden to buy from Jews, while the Nazi Party has made a similar ruling for all members of the NSDAP. In many cases even low-level Jewish employees have been removed from economic enterprises, to say nothing of Jewish members of their management.
As a result of this legal and actual situation tens of thousands of German Jews have suddenly lost all means of livelihood. Many additional tens of thousands see their position threatened with destruction as an indirect result. Where the logical consequence of the limitation of Jewish work in administration, the professions and business should be encouragement of the Jewish share in skilled trades and agriculture, if the Jews are to be left any living-space at all, there is no sign of any such effort on the part of the State. On the contrary, the boycott against the Jews is applied very emphatically in the craftsmens organizations, and there is scarcely any opportunity for Jews to engage in agriculture.
This means, then, that the German Jew has been sentenced to a slow but certain death by starvation.
Added to this is the defamation of the Jews, whose good name is sullied, which prejudices the people even more sharply against the Jews and robs them of the air they need to breathe. In the official text of laws Jews are placed on a level with colored persons. School textbooks represent all Jews without distinction as the height of evil, so that young people are taught enmity towards the Jews from the outset. In the press, radio and in speeches every evil act of any Jew is represented as the general rule, as Jewish crime, and Judaism identified with it.
There is also obstruction of Jewish religious life, which could be a source of moral education and ennoblement....
The religious educational system is collapsing and the religious communities the framework for the only and last means of training their members as noble, deeply God-fearing people can no longer maintain it for lack of Government support, and owing to the destruction of the livelihood of their members.
In addition to everything else there is the most severe personal deprivation for the Orthodox Jew, the ban on ritual slaughter.
Thus the position of German Jewry must be perceived as altogether desperate by the most objective of observers the world over, and one must understand that the German National Government might all too easily be suspected of aiming deliberately at the destruction of German Jewry. This false concept must be disproved with concrete arguments if an information campaign is to have any effect.
Orthodox Jewry is unwilling to abandon the conviction that it is not the aim of the German Government to destroy the German Jews. Even if some individuals harbor such an intention, we do not believe that it has the approval of the Fuehrer and the Government of Germany.
But if we should be mistaken, if you, Mr. Reich Chancellor, and the National Government which you head, if the responsible members of the National Administration of the NSDAP have indeed set themselves the ultimate aim of the elimination of German Jewry from the German People, then we do not wish to cling to illusions any longer, and would prefer to know the bitter truth.
It is in your interest, and in that of the whole German People, to tell us the truth openly. We would then prefer to consider your intention as fact and make our arrangements accordingly.
We confess that this would be an unspeakable tragedy for us. We have learned to love the German soil. It contains the graves of our ancestors, of many great and holy Jewish men and women. Our link with this soil goes back through history for 2,000 years; we have learned to love the German sun; all through the centuries it has let our children grow and mature and has added special and good elements to their Jewish characteristics. And we have learned to love the German people. At times it hurt us, particularly in the Middle Ages. But we were also present at its rise. We feel closely linked to its culture. It has become a part of our intellectual being and has given us German Jews a stamp of our own.
And yet we would and could muster up the courage to bear our tragic fate and leave its reversal confidently to the God of History.
But if the German National Government does not seek the destruction of the forces of German Jewry; if it seeks to force us away from influence on the structure of public life, reserving this for those of German racial origin, but will give us a place in the process of the reconstruction of the German Nation, if it is willing to maintain moral Jewry, which is the sworn enemy of materialism, then let it tell us this openly, too.
In view of the atmosphere that has been created we shall not demand of the German Government the cancellation overnight of all the regulations affecting the Jews, although we consider them a great, historic error; we do not wish to create difficulties for the National Government.
We would today have to accept some of the restrictions, if with an aching heart. Orthodox Jewry never sought dominance in economic life, which is in any case not possible for those who observe the religious precept of the holy Sabbath, which saves the Jews from materialism. Jewish Orthodoxy has always opposed baptism and mixed marriage in the sharpest possible manner.
But we do aspire to living space within the living space of the German people, the possibility of practicing our religion and carrying out our occupations without threats and without abuse. In accordance with our religious duties we will always remain loyal to the Government of the State. Within the framework of the German people the German Jew will gladly take part in the task of reconstruction of the German Nation and do what is within his power to win friends beyond the German borders.
In presenting this statement for your just examination, Mr. Reich Chancellor, we request the opportunity of a personal interview shortly, as representatives of the undersigned organizations, which have for decades cared for the religious requirements of Orthodox German Jewry. We are convinced that such a discussion would benefit, at the very least, the internal and external policy interests of Germany, which urgently require clarification of the situation and a gradual reduction of the tensions that have developed from the present situation.
In expectation of the gracious acceptance of our request, we remain, with deep respect,
Reich Union of Orthodox Synagogue Communities (Reichsbund gesetzestreuer Synagogengemeinden), Halberstadt
signed Rabbi Dr. E. Schl, Halberstadt
Rabbi Dr. E. Munk, Berlin
Independent Association for the Interests of Orthodox Jewry
(Freie Vereinigung fuer die Interessen des Orthodoxen Judentums), Frankfurt on Main
signed Dr. S. Ehrmann Dr. J. Breuer
National Organization of Agudas Jisroel in Germany (Landes-organisation der Agudas Jisroel in Deutschland), Berlin
signed Rabbi Dr. M. Auerbach, Berlin
Jacob Rosenheim, Frankfurt on Main
Yad Vashem Archives, JM/2462.
* These organizations maintained a separate communal framework. They did not recognize the authority of the Reichsvertretung der deutschen Juden, but subsequently cooperated with them.
Source: Yad Vashem