[Historical Background]  
[Eastern Jews' Mass Migration]  
[Parliamentary Debates - Western & eastern Jews]
[The Specter of Jewish World Rule]  
[Was Young hitler Anti-semite?]  
[Two examples]
[Transports (of Porges) from Vienna to KZ Camps]

Jews in Vienna

Hitler's Vienna
A dictator's apprencticeship
by Brigitte Hamann

Parliamentary Debates

The few Jewish delegates in Parliament fought for the realization of "the natural, inalienable right of every people to full, truly equal rights, and to absolute equality before the law" for the Jews. Yet considering what German Radical representative Eduard von Stransky shouted full of satisfaction in June 1908, they had hardly any chance: "Thank God, the majority of this House is anti-Semitic!"

Zionist representative Dr. Benno Straucher from Bukovina, an advocate and director of the Jewish community in Czernowitz, complained: "Of all the parties in this House, which are all brimming with freedom, liberty, progress, equal rights, and justice-for themselves: none offers any protection for the Jews; when it comes to Jews, all witnesses become silent, the open and the clandestine anti-Semites have done their job well and planned their tactics carefully. No one supports us out of a sense of liberty and justice, no one wants to be called a Jew lackey, a mercenary of the Jews." Tired of the Christian Socials' constant interjections, he said: "With you, one doesn't need to prove anything, know anything, have learned anything; it is enough simply to say 'Jew,' that's proof enough for anything."

In 1908, when young Hitler frequented Parliament, the Christian Socials proposed a law to limit the number of Jewish university and high school students. Only a number of Jewish students corresponding to the Jews' share of the population should be admitted.

In the course of the heated debate Straucher cautioned against such a step, which would ultimately be harmful to the German-Austrians. After all, German students had such a high percentage partly because "so far, a large part of Jewish students has made a pledge to Germandom and registered as Germans." For example, without the Jews, the Germans would not constitute 47.1 percent at Austria's technical universities, but only 31.05 percent, and at Realschulen, not 48.61 but only 37.07 per- cent-which would make them even weaker against the Slavs. Stransky interjected, "If we have to perish without the Jews, we'd rather perish than exist with the Jews!" Straucher replied, "Other Germans say that the German-speaking area should be increased, but you want to shrink the German-speaking area." He also reminded the representatives of the fact that the taxes the Jews paid were always counted as part of the Germans' taxes in order to derive claims against the Slavs. He said: "Only if we add the Jewish tax contribution do the Germans in Prague and Bohemia pay half of all taxes." "But did the Jews get anywhere a parliamentary seat from the Germans in return for that?" And: "I would particularly like to remind the German parties' anti-Semitic groups that we Jews have allied ourselves most faithfully with the German people for centuries; this earned us the other nations' hatred and animosity. ...The Germans' enmity and their incessant attempts to disenfranchise us has disappointed us most painfully and bitterly. We certainly haven't deserved this in regard to Germandom."

Christian Social Julius Prochazka argued: "Christians are not accepted into schools because Jews have taken their seats!" And: "We don't want any preference for the Jews!" (In comparison, Hitler wrote in 1929: Thousands, even tens of thousands of our people's sons who are blessed with talent, can no longer go to school. ...You are raising an alien people at our universities, at the expense of numerous Christian fellow citizens!)

Straucher: "In what respect are the Jews given preference? Do we keep anyone else from going to school? Enlighten your young people so that more of them attend school!"

Prochazka: "Build your own schools!"

Straucher: "Really ? And what do we pay our taxes for and assume all the other obligations just like all other citizens?"

Again someone said, "Jew!" Straucher replied: "You and the term 'Jew'-I am proud to be a Jew, just as you are proud to be a Christian. For Jews and Christians possess the same religious truths." Interjection by Polish provost Leo Pastor: "No, no, not that!" Another exclamation: "We pay the taxes and the Jews eat them up. Establish Jew schools!" The Christian Socials' proposal was voted down; but no less than 162 deputies voted for it - Christian Socials, German-Nationals, German-Radicals, Pan-Germans, and splinter groups.

The Zionist weekly Neue National-Zeitung's response to this debate was apointed editorial entitled "Away from Germandom!": "That's the thanks we get for the Jews in the Slavic countries having their heads beaten to pulp for Germandom. ...That's what we get for clinging to German culture and standing up for it. This German culture forms the intellectual life of those men who want to take away from the Jews any chance to get an education and thus deny them any part in the intellectual achievements of our time. A sad culture." The result: "It was high time for a large part of our people to have disowned Germandom and its culture."


Western and Eastern Jews

In the face of devastating anti-Semitism, which was spreading more and more and was clearly turning into ethnic anti-Semitism, the old- established, assimilated Viennese Jews felt insecure. They had done everything they could in order not to be conspicuously Jewish, to adapt and wholly belong. Many had long since been baptized and thought they could forget about their Jewish background. Now that they were suddenly put on the same level as their ragged brothers in faith from the East, they felt their entire hard-earned existence was threatened.

The Eastern Jews were conspicuous in the streets, for they had forelocks and wore traditional garb as signs of their Orthodox faith. They communicated in Yiddish, Russian, or Polish. They did not try to adapt to their environment, and their strange appearance made them look to some Viennese like a conspiratorial group.

The Jewish community tried very hard to assimilate the immigrants as quickly as possible. The "caftan Jews" were given inconspicuous clothes. Their children were supposed to learn German quickly in their own schools. The community provided for the immigrants as much as possible, not letting them become recipients of public welfare. The rich Jews donated more generously than ever to Wärmestuben, soup kitchens, and hospitals. There were conferences on the "evil" of "itinerary begging" to discuss strategies on advancing assimilation. Yet the more generous the Viennese Jews were, the more people in need came. And the more Eastern Jews arrived, the more the fear of even worse anti-Semitism grew.

Furthermore, it turned out that many poor Eastern Jews didn't appreciate at all the charitable acts of their rich brothers in the West. They insisted on their old ways and customs, their traditional clothing and language.

They were full of pride and self-confidence, and even displayed a sense of superiority toward the Western Jews: they were conscious of their "true Jewishness." They had faithfully preserved their old belief and rites, and adhered to their fathers’ customs - thus turning into a personified reproach for the Western Jews whose faith had lost its firmness, an who were assimilated or even baptized.

Despite all attempts at conciliation, Eastern and Western Jews remained strangers to each other. The German-Jewish writer Wassermann wrote: "If I saw a Jew from Poland or Galicia, if I talked to him and tried to probe into him to comprehend his way of thinking and living, he could definitely touch or surprise me, or move me to compassion and sadness, but I certainly didn't feel a sense of brotherhood or even relatedness. In everything he said and breathed, he was a total stranger to me, and when there was no human-individual symbiosis, I even found him repulsive."

Wassermann-and he is only one example, for Elias Canetti made similar remarks-sensed a gap between "Jewish Jews" and "German Jews": "Aren't they two kinds of people, two races almost, or at least [representatives of] two different ways of living?" He, the German Jew "on an outpost," wanted "merely to bring to expression myself and my world, and turn it into a bridge. "Doesn't that ultimately make me more useful than someone who has been sworn into following a certain direction?" Concerned, he lamented the assimilated Jews' "terribly uneasy situation": "German Jew; listen to these two words very carefully. Take them as the last stage in a long-drawn-out development. His double-love and his struggle on two fronts have pushed him close to the abyss of despair."

The Eastern Jew Joseph Roth naturally analyzed the assimilated Jews' way of thinking more critically: "It is an oft-ignored fact that Jews can have anti-Semitic inclinations too. One doesn't want to be reminded of one's grandfather, who was from Posen or Kattowitz, by some stranger who has just arrived from Lodz. That is the ignoble, but understandable attitude of an endangered petit bourgeois who is just about to climb the rather steep ladder to the terrace of the haute bourgeoisie with its free air and magnificent view. Looking at a cousin from Lodz, one can easily lose one's balance, and fall." The Western Jew, he said, had become "haughty. He had lost the God of his fathers and won an idol, civilizationary patriotism."

Ethnic anti-Semitism inextricably intertwined religious and orthodox Jews, no matter how different they might be. Max Nordau said: "No matter what we do, in the opinion of our enemies, the Jewry of the whole world is one. ...Our enemies forge an iron clasp of solidarity around all of us, which we can't break." And: "It will always be the Jew of low standing who will determine the measure. ...They cannot shake the caftan Jew off the coattails of their elegant tailcoats!" And: "While the itinerant anti-Semite who is spitting with impunity and without having to fear repercussions on the rags of our outlawed, unhappy brother in the East, he thinks of the Jewish baron, privy councilor, and professor at home."

Not conversion, nor baptism, nor their German identity, no matter how fervently they adopted it, saved the assimilants from being inveighed against as "Jews." All of a sudden all their efforts at assimilation had come to naught, and the way out of the Jewish community of fate was blocked. Many were thus led into existential crises and to desperate, even suicidal self-hatred. How thoroughly and with how much pleasure the anti-Semites observed this is detectable in Hitler's writings-for example, when he discusses Otro Weininger and Arthur Trebitsch.

Wassermann, who witnessed the hopeless situation of many assimilated, German-conscious Jews in Vienna, wrote, "I know and knew many who pined away, full of yearning for the blond and blue-eyed man. They were lying at his feet, they waved incense barrels in front of him, they believed his every word, every time he blinked it was an heroic act, and when he spoke of his soil, when he beat on his breast as an Aryan, they became hysterical and started to howl triumphantly. They didn't want to be themselves; they wanted to be the other; if they have chosen him, they are chosen along with him, it seems to them, or at least they are forgotten as the flawed and veiled as the inferior men they are."

Others, however, who had long since been assimilated, rediscovered their Jewishness. Arthur Schnitzler fought anti-Semitism in his novel The Road into the Open and the play Professor Bemhardi. His compassion for the Eastern Jews led the Neue Freie Presse's literary critic, Theodor Herzl, a former member of a German fraternity and an enthusiastic assimilationist, back to his Jewish roots. In his novel The Jewish State, published in 1896, he suggested a vision as a way out of the misery: the Promised Land, Palestine. The novel argues that Palestine could offer the poor Eastern Jews a haven from oppression that could contain the flood of immigrants to Western Europe, and thus, one could dare hope, from anti- Semitism as well. The rich Western Jews were supposed to finance the acquisition of land and settlement in Palestine, which was then under Turkish rule.

Zionism, the Jewish national movement, originated as an act of self- defense. Roth wrote about the Zionists: "They replaced the lack of their own 'turf' in Europe with their search for a home in Palestine. They had always been people in exile. Now they became a nation in exile." Consequently, Roth maintained: "Modern Zionism developed in Austria, in Vienna. It was founded by an Austrian journalist. No one else could have founded it."

Herzl's friend and combatant Max Nordau, also a former assimilationist, declared his commitment to the Eastern Jews: "Our brothers down there are suffering, yelling, 'Help!' We are rushing to their side. They area chaotic mass. We organize them. They stammer their complaints in a gibberish incomprehensible to educated people. We lend them our civilized tongues. They are pushing impetuously, without direction. We show them the way they have to go. They have an undefined longing. We put it into words."

Nordau was more aggressive than Herzl: "We don't have the ambition to disarm the anti-Semites through humility and obsequiousness." And: "Jewry cannot wait until anti-Semitism has dried up and a rich crop of altruism and justice starts sprouting in its dry bed." Zionism, he argued, was "the only way the Jews can be saved, without it they would perish."

Having a new national identity, the Zionists also strove for legal recognition. Yet the criterion for establishing a nation, one's colloquial language, was an obstacle to these plans. For the Jews spoke different languages and therefore were of different nationalities. In 1909 the advocate Max Diamant from Czernowitz submitted a complaint in federal court, requesting that the Jews from Bukovina be recognized as a tribe proper, with Yiddish as its native tongue. The president of the federal court, eighty-one-year-old baptized Jew Josef Unger, a liberal, rejected the complaint, citing the usual reason: that the Jews were a religious community and not an ethnic people. One could only speak of a native language if all members of a people mastered it. Yiddish, he ruled, was only "a sort of [German] dialect" but not a language.

During inscription in 1910, Zionist students listed "Jewish" as their native tongue, which was not on the list of the Dual Monarchy's languages. On an international level, however, the Zionists were already discussing the question of whether Hebrew wasn't preferable to Yiddish as their national language.

The language debate increased the rift between Western and Eastern Jews even more. Embittered, the assimilationists argued that with their goals, the Zionists precisely fulfilled the anti-Semites' wishes: by no longer regarding themselves as Germans, Czechs, or Hungarians of the Jewish faith, but as members of their own Jewish nation, and by striving toward emigration, they were setting themselves apart, trying to achieve exactly the same as the anti-Semites: a "Jew-free" Europe.

Nordau replied sharply that this attitude of the Western Jews expressed a "naive impertinent egotism": it ultimately implied "that a minority of approximately one fifth of smug Jews living in comfort is telling the majority of four fifths, consisting of desperate Jews who are ready to commit the most extreme acts of self-help, 'How dare you disturb our digestion with your savage appeal to Zion? Why don't you swallow your suffering? Why don't you starve quietly? "

Yet the Dual Monarchy's assimilated Jews did not consider themselves to be members of a foreign nation. Should they now learn their national language, Yiddish, that language that in "good houses" was rejected as a vulgar hodgepodge of antiquated German and Polish, and that did not allow one to climb the social ladder in Vienna? Should they renounce their German identity and existence, which they had worked so hard for, and move to Palestine as Jewish farmers? Should they now let themselves be robbed of their homeland not only by the anti-Semites but by the Zionists as well? Couldn't they decide for themselves what they wanted to be, Jewish or Protestant, or nondenominational-or Jewish, German, Polish, or Hungarian?

Karl Kraus made himself the spokesperson of Herzl's opponents, angrily declaring that he, a baptized Jew, wouldn't pay one "krone for Zion." The rift between Eastern and Western Jews threatened to divide the Jewish community in Vienna.

In this conflict, even Nordau displayed sympathy and even compassion with the Western Jews. He wrote: "To the German Jew, Germania is the mother he worships. He knows that he is the Cinderella among her children, but still, he is her child too; he is part of the family. ...They will be stabbed straight through their hearts and the secret wound will make them bleed to death." Even if they brought themselves to decide to go to Palestine, once there, they would "think of Germany, even their most distant grandchildren would, as if of a lost love of their youth."

Hitler the politician, however, was not prepared to differentiate in this matter, dismissing even the controversies he personally witnessed as mock fights: In a short time this apparent struggle between Zionistic and liberal Jews disgusted me. Whether "German" Jew or Eastern Jew, as far as he was concerned, all that counted was "race."

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