Page 8, 19th August 1938

19th August 1938
Page 8
Page 8, 19th August 1938 — " THE JEW PROBLEM"

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Organisations: United Nations, Freemasonry
Locations: Rome


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Jewish And Anti-Jewish Racial Doctrines

By Father John Murray, S.J.

HE continued ill-treatment of the Jews in Germany the latest measures, particularly in Austria, which make it even more difficult for them to gain their livelihood or follow a professional career —the further plan for their wholesale emigration that was discussed at the recent conference at Evian, have all focussed a bright spot-light of publicity upon their misfortunes. And yet, grave as their plight may be, and disgraceful as it undoubtedly is to those responsible for it, we should remember that they are not the only refugees at large, nor arc they the sole victims of persecution.

There are far larger numbers of Russians and Armenians, for example, who arc exiled from their former homes and are still dependent to some extent upon the assistance and charity of other peoples. And there has been in so-called governmental Spain a persecution of Catholics of a far more violent and ruthless kind which has all too often been ignored or even justified by those who are the loudest protestors against ill-treatment of the Jews. This does not, however, imply any sympathy on our part with those who persecute the Jews but merely a certain suspicion of their defenders,


What, we might ask. is the real cause of this latest outbreak of ill-feeling against the Jews? That such a feeling (give it its technical name of " anti-Semitism," if you like) exists in most European countries. in the popular mind at least if not in any political programme, is obvious enough.

If the non-Jews are the " goim " to the Jew, the latter is in his turn a puzzle and a mystery to his neighbour, and in times of crisis, national or economic, may easily be made the scapegoat. Today in Germany there is discrimination against him in the name of a new gospel of race and blood. Now here the Catholic attitude is perfectly clear. The Holy Father has recently protested in no uncertain manner against the introduction of such racialism into Italy. As a doctrine, it is more or less absurd; and it leads further to an exaggerated nationalism which is not compatible with Christian ideas.

These ideas are inter-national in the sense that the Gospel message and the grace of God are not the prerogative of supposedly superior peoples but are intended for the whole of mankind; they are supra-national in that they point to a spiritual community of all men within the Church in union with the Redeeming Christ. Christ is the Saviour of the world; in His kingdom there is " neither Jew nor Greek," that is all national distinctions are transcended.

It is true that, when Europe was more Christian than it is today, the Jews were placed in a special class apart; they were the heirs of the once-chosen people that had rejected the Messiah; they were, in a manner, outside the pale but this was not the pale of salvation. There remained the belief, based upon the text of St. Paul (Romans xi. 25-6) that they would finally be converted. " I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery," wrote the apostle, that it is but a partial hardening that hath befallen Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles be entered in, and thus all Israel also shall be saved." " In view of the gospel," he continues, " they are God's enemies for your sake (i.e., that you may take their places), but in view of the divine selection they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the call of God are beyond repentance."

The position is clear. If the Jew remains the enemy of the Church, it is not because she regards him as such. I Ier teaching is offered to him as much as to any one else outside her fold; in fact, because of the intimate connection of the two Testaments, Old and New, and of the special role Israel was once called upon to fulfil, one might say that her message is held out to him almost in preference to any other.


The new racial doctrines do not, however, discriminateagainst the Jew on the grounds that he is anti-Christian. Far from it. They even object to Christianity itself with the plea that it is far too JewiSh.

As I have said, Catholics will have no sympathy with these racial theories and, as far as Germany is coocerned, they find themselves attacked by the same elements that are ill-treating the Jews. To go further, therefore, and ask whether it is correct to speak of a Jewish problem implies not the slightest approval of such ill-treatment, already unconditionally condemned. The mere suggestion that such a problem exists may raise an outcry. But then the Jews are notoriously divided upon this question.

At the Evian conference no small confusion was introduced (c.f. the account of an eye-witness in the Month for August, 1938) by such divisions. Some demanded wholesale immigration into Palestine, others showed this to be impracticable; some urged the transference of Jews from the whole of Central and Eastern Europe to other continents, while others held that it was prudent to confine their attention to those whose lives had been made impossible in the Reich. A correspondent writing to The Times (July 12) insists that there will be a Jewish problem " as long as Jews are regarded as other than ordinary citizens, except in matters of faith," and adds that " there is no hope for any solution of this terrible problem as long as certain countries are encouraged to regard the Jew as on a different footing from his nonJewish fellow-citizens."

On the other hand the aspirations of the Zionists for the establishment of a National Home in Palestine show clearly that many among them do regard their own nationality as something more important by far than any chance membership of another country.


These remarks are partly occasioned by the re-appearance in a second edition of Fr. Fahey's book on The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World. It professes to deal with the various attacks upon " the divine plan for the organisation of human society," that is upon the Church and her position. Among the chief adversaries, together with Lutheran Reformers and eighteenth-century revolutionaries, are listed Jews, working through Freemasonry and Socialism.

To many Fr. Fahey's interpretation will appear far-fetched; and on some points, it must be confessed, there is considerable

obscurity. But—and this is the point— his is the kind of accusation that is being continually made; it is the sort of charge that lies at the root of that vaguer antiSemitism which is widespread and everywhere on the increase.

Leaving aside the assertions of attacks upon the Church, of corruption of Christian morality and of revolutionary activity (the prominence of Jews in Cornmunism, both within and without the Soviet States, is generally admitted), the various statements can be reduced to one, namely that the Jews, strongly conscious of their own race and history (this racial tenacity is shown in the persistence of certain physical traits after centuries of dispersion) and sensitive of the links which attach them to one another, can never

identify themselves completely with the people among whom they live but remain, to a greater or less extent, strangers within the gate. The new racial theories abuse this position and regard as enemies those

whom they should treat as guests. But the fact remains that they are almost universally considered to be " different."

Coupled with this sentiment are two further assertions. First, they are rarely to be found on the land or in more positive or productive industry; they are neither peasants nor artisans, they are middle-men more frequently than producers, traders and financiers rather than makers. They have thus, their enemies would assert, less stake in any particular country and their manner of existence is pilloried as " parasitic." Secondly, they are remarkably successful in certain professions, the medical and legal for example, and have in addition an uncanny knack of controlling just those interests, press, advertisement and cinema to quote but a few of them by which public opinion is influenced and

formed. This, it is maintained, is contrary to the true welfare of the country where they happen to be.


This is the general impression of the nonJew, coupled with an instinctive feeling that the Jews are somehow different. To what extent this difference is the result of a ghetto-like existence throughout centuries and how far it reflects an innate sense of superiority and special mission, is not easy to assess. The Evian conference evidently considered the possibility of large-scale settlement overseas which might correspond to the Zionist idea of a national home, though broken up into several centres.

The project appears too vast to be capable of realisation though it would bring relief to those who are suffering most in Germany.

But this apart, what can be said? In the Palestine pavilion at the Paris Exhibition there was the motto: " When the plough shall be in the Jewish peasant's hand, there will be the solution of the Jewish question." Pere Bonsirven, who, I understand, is accepted as a sympathetic authority by the Jews themselves, suggests that the solution lies in the transformation of the social structure of the Jews, at present the cause of constant friction and the reason why they are regarded as a special caste, a transfoi illation which would give them their fair share of peasant and artisan occupation. This would, he thinks, assimilate them with greater rapidity and identify them far more really with the people among whom they live, and that people's destiny.

" C'EST UN MYSTERE" In a recent collection of essays by Jews, Protestants and Catholics on this question, M. Maritain concludes that " Israel est tin mysterc." M. Barres had given the same answer years before to an anti-Semitic Jew: " Vous etes un peuple secret, secret meme pour vous." It is therefore hardly to be expected that an answer can be given in a few lines.

Sympathy, where such is needed, there should be; and we have much need of this today; mutual understanding but here we need considerable assistance from the Jews themselves: an emphatic denial and rejection of those sentiments with which they are often credited, rightly or wrongly sentiments that arc anti-Christian and antiGod; and, for the rest, we can but echo the words of a distinguished Monsignore speaking at Rome: "La question juive, soulevee depuis des srecles, n'a pas encore reeu de solution. le suis un hornme qui peut-etre sinzplifie trop, mais il me senible que, malgri tout. on peut proposer cette solution; la charite du Christ."

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