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Gandhi, the Jews & Zionism: "Withdrawn"

(May 27, 1939)

From Harijan

In Harijan of December 24 there is a long report of my talk with missionary friends from Tambaram on non-violence and the world crisis. When during the talk I took the illustration of the Jews, I am reported to have said:

“It is true that the Jews have not been actively violent in their own persons. But they called down upon the Germans the curses of mankind, and they wanted America and England to fight Germany on their behalf.”

On reading the last sentence a dear friend wrote to me a fiery letter and challenged me to produce my authority for my remark. He said that I had been hasty in making the statement. I did not realise the importance of the rebuke. I did, however, want to produce support for my statement. I put Pyarelal and later Mahadev on the search. It is not always an easy task to find support for impressions one carries when speaking or writing. Meanwhile I received a letter from Lord Samuel supporting the contradiction of the friend referred to above. Whilst I was having the search made I got the following letter from Sir Philip Hartog:

“May I take the opportunity of saying that I agree with what my friends Mr. Polak and Lord Samuel tell me they have written to you about the attitude of the German Jewish refugees, of whom I have myself seen hundreds since 1933? I have never heard one of them express publicly or privately the desire for a war of vengeance against Germany. Indeed such a war would bring further misery to the hundreds of thousands of Jews still in Germany as well as untold suffering to millions of other innocent men and women.”

I put greater diligence in my search. The searchers were not able to lay hands on any conclusive writing. The manager of Harijan put himself in correspondence with the Editor of the Jewish Tribune, Bombay, who sent the following characteristic reply:

“This is not the first time that I have come across the imputation made against Jews that they urge countries like England and America to go to war against Germany on account of its persecution of Jews. Jews have never urged the democracies to wage war against Germany on account of its persecution of the Jews. This is a mischievous lie that must be nailed to the counter. If there is a war, Jews will suffer more than the rest of the population. This is a fact gleaned from the pages of history. And the Jew is a great lover and advocate of peace. I hope you will refute any such allegation that is made against them.”

In the face of the foregoing weighty contradictions now enforced by the Editor of the Jewish Tribune and of the fact that I cannot lay my hands on anything on the strength of which I made the challenged observation, I must withdraw it without any reservation. I only hope that my observation has not harmed any single Jew. I know that I incurred the wrath of many German friends for what I said in all good faith.

Rajkot, May 22, 1939

Sources: GandhiServe Foundation - Mahatma Gandhi Research and Media Service (reprinted with permission)