The Gathering Storm

13th December 1923

The Flat Land

On Sunday, 2 December, an unusually large number of representatives of the Bavarian branch of our Centralverein[1] met in the Nuremberg Community Hall under the chairmanship of Dr Fritz Baron (Munich) and Justitzrat Gallinger (Nuremberg). The latest serious events in Bavaria[2] were to be discussed in a special meeting. The incoming reports of the Bavarian Syndikus[3], lawyer Levinger, and Dr Ludwig Wasserman[4] (Munich) were received attentively and sympathetically. The words and suggestions of Rabbi Dr Freudenthal[5] and Dr W. Berlin (Nuremberg) did not fail to make an impression. General tensions and then warm expressions of gratitude were evoked by the extremely important communications about the expulsions in Munich by the Oberlandesgerichtrat[6] Dr. Neumayer (Munich), who represented the Verband Bayerischer Kulturgemeinden. But the state assembly was deeply shocked and outraged when Rabbi Dr. Stein (Schweinfurt), himself very agitated, listed the threats and acts of violence that the Franconian Jews in particular had to endure in recent weeks due to the lack of effective state protection.

There were heroic scenes that would do credit to a Rinaldo-Rinaldini[7] and a Schinderhannes[8]. At midnight, uniformed men enter a house, ostensibly to look for weapons. The master of the house is held at bay with a revolver. No weapons are found. Instead, the bandits take clothes, cigars and a bicycle. On the day of Hitler’s Putsch, the Jews of another village are prevented from leaving their homes by armed men. Elsewhere, death threats are issued, which are followed through at night by pounding of the window shutters and shots, so that the frightened villagers do not dare to go to bed for nights on end. A gang of twenty men in Antenhausen, not far from Koburg, went crazy. They broke the windows and doors by shooting them and dragged two Jewish businessmen, respected for their honesty, into the open field. There they discussed how to kill the Jews. Shoot them? Hang them? No. Finally the murderers agreed to beat them to death. And rubber truncheons and sidearms rained down on the poor men until, apparently dead, they no longer moved.

If such crude and cowardly crimes of the German people have so far been confined to Franconia, the uninterrupted, uncontrolled agitation in many rural and small-town districts of the Reich must not be underestimated. It is one step from the incendiary speech to the smashing in of windows, then to murder, then to manslaughter. One need not have been prompted to this thirst for revenge by the “Elders of Zion”[9] to murder a Rathenau[10]. How adroitly the Landbund[11] in Pomerania, in Mecklenburg, in Brandenburg, in Silesia, harangues for renewed lusty Jew-baiting! In every newsletter of the organisation, Juda is wiped out. And from Pomeranian Greifenhagen[12] and from Märkish Neuruppin[13], rye cheques[14] are now fluttering into the countryside – always from on high – which, according to the expression, “are not valid if they get into the hands of Jews”. Looting and disturbances of the peace are not uncommon. If the windows are broken – often the high synagogue windows have to bear the brunt of it – there is not much fuss.

It is therefore a dubious pleasure to have to earn one’s bread as a Jewish businessman in small towns in certain districts of the dear fatherland; an even more dubious pleasure for the Jewish families living individually in villages. There is no rabbi, no teacher, no lawyer from whom advice and help can be obtained. The nearest Jewish community may only be reached by a train journey of several hours. The authorities are sometimes quite inaccessible and conspicuously slow when it comes to taking immediate remedial action. Justice, however, one realises is sometimes not so easy to come by in rural areas. Here and there, good Christian neighbours will gladly intervene, but they fear revenge and terror.

The Board of Directors of the Centralverein has always considered it a duty of honour to give priority to the abandoned in the countryside and to our bretheren in the small towns. If our work has often not yielded the results that could reasonably be expected, this is due to various reasons. Some do not want any support and training[15] while things are quiet; otherwise things could get worse. Others are happy with every letter from their regional office and forget to reply because they are so happy. Still others believe that the employees in the regional offices and in the head office can manage without salaries and therefore they studiously refrain from making contributions and donations. However, it is regrettable and dangerous when, through complacency or lack of courage, incidents are not reported, or even deliberately hushed up. Conditions in Germany no longer support a head-in-the-sand policy. Prevention, timely clarification, contacting the neighbouring local group, the responsible regional association or, if necessary, the head office, is a matter of prudence and self-preservation.

The Executive Committee and the Regional groups have recently been working on new plans for educational work in the countryside and in small towns. It will and must succeed. This important work must not suffer from narrow-mindedness, stinginess, or indolence. We want to, we will, all of us commit ourselves to our lonely brothers throughout the land with all our strength!

Dr Alfred Wiener

Translated and edited by Howard Falksohn, Head Archivist.

[1] Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens, the largest Jewish organisation in Germany for which Alfred Wiener played a leading role.

[2] The Nazi Party’s attempt at a coup which became known as the Beer Hall Putsch, 8-9 November 1923

[3] Legal counsel ie member of the management team of the Centralverein

[4] Chairman of Centralverein branch, Munich

[5] Possibly Dr Max Freudenthal (1868-1937) Rabbi and historian

[6] Regional High Court counsellor

[7] The title character in a novel by Christian August Vulpius (1762-1827), based on a Robin Hood ‘type’

[8] The nickname of a historical figure, the German outlaw, Johannes Buckler (1778-1803)

[9] Reference to the fabricated antisemitic text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion purporting to be evidence of a world Jewish conspiracy.

[10] Walther Rathenau, Germany’s foreign minister and the first Jew to hold a cabinet post in Germany, was assassinated by a members of a paramilitary rightwing group on 24 June 1922.

[11] Reich Agricultural League was the most influential Protestant German farmers’ association during the Weimar Republic. Particular focus of the association were Pomerania, Brandenburg, Silesia, Thuringia, East Hanover and Hesse. Politically they were opposed to the liberal democracy of the Weimar Republic and aligned themselves with the DNVP later the NSDAP.

[12] Greifenhagen is a town in Western Pomeranian now Gryfino, Poland

[13] Neuruppin is a town in Brandenburg.

[14] Roggenschecks possible reference to either payments in kind or promissory notes during this period of hyper inflation when currency was devaluing at a rapid rate.

[15] ie self-help security training exercises and advice

Heritage Fund The Association of Jewish Refugees Federal Foreign Office
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