• U.S.

National Affairs: Singular Attitude

5 minute read

When on any issue Alf Landon joins Al Smith. William Green joins John Lewis, Georgia Baptists and Tennessee Episcopalians join Manhattan rabbis, cafeteria workers join Chambers of Commerce, sportsmen join clubwomen. President Conant of Harvard joins Presidents Dykstra of Wisconsin and Wilbur of Stanford, something momentous has happened in U. S. public life. Last week such a thing had happened. All these and other signs indicated that the U. S. people were unitedly aroused.

U. S. feelings were outraged as U. S. feelings had not been outraged since the sinking of the Lusitania, and once again the outrager was the German Government. Long since had U. S. citizens become a little ashamed of having called Germans “Huns” and “Bodies” during the War, but last week, although the epithets were not revived, Adolf Hitler’s super-pogrom had succeeded in arousing similar feelings of horror and contempt.

The danger of war did not loom as it loomed in 1915, but press, pulpit and meeting house were the scenes of spontaneous outbursts. As Mary Pickford quaintly put it, “I don’t know what our dear Lord Jesus would think if he were to come back to earth today and see what his Christian babies are doing.” And citizens of White Plains, N. Y. called on Charles A. Lindbergh and Henry Ford to return medals they lately accepted from Germany.

Last week when his press conference assembled, Franklin Roosevelt brushing aside other subjects, picked up a typewritten sheet and, in cold accents so deliberate that reporters could take it down verbatim, he read: “The news of the past few days from Germany has deeply shocked public opinion in the United States. Such news from any part of the world would inevitably produce a similar profound reaction among American people in every part of the nation.

“I myself could scarcely believe that such things could occur in a twentieth century civilization.” He then explained that he had ordered Ambassador Hugh Wilson home from Berlin not by way of formal recall, but to gain “a first-hand picture.”* His statement of U. S. abhorrence of Hitler’s pogroms was one of the strongest ever directed by a U. S. President at a “friendly” power. Later, White House Secretary Steve Early explained that it was intended to apply to outrages upon Catholics as well as Jews.

Three days elapsed before Adolf Hitler & Co. replied to Franklin Roosevelt. They did so in the same idiom as Ambassador Wilson’s recall. Ambassador Hans Dieckhoff was ordered home from Washington to explain what the official Nazi news agency called the “eigenartig” (“singular”) attitude of the U. S.

Singular was the U. S. attitude in one respect: on a question of foreign affairs, concerning which it seldom has much feeling, the U. S. public had spontaneously expressed a strong national feeling. President Roosevelt had a mandate from the people which he was bound to translate into foreign policy.

How that translation should be effected, he himself did not know last week so long as Ambassador Wilson remained on the high seas. With the Ambassador’s landing this week, the President may make up his mind: 1) to construe the pogrom as a discrimination against U. S. trade and flex the tariff on German goods; 2) to neglect to send Ambassador Wilson back, a diplomatic slap; 3) to ask Congress temporarily to increase the immigration quota for German refugees. Germany’s and Austria’s combined quota of emigrants to the U. S.

(27,000 per year) is consumed by applications for 18 months to come. At the Department of Labor there was discussion last week of “mortgaging” the quota another 18 months ahead, letting in 81,000 refugees at once. President Roosevelt last week expressed himself against this course, but he did exercise his power to extend for six months the visitors’ permits of some 12,000 Germans (of all races and creeds) now in the U. S. The President also asked Myron Charles Taylor, now serving as U. S. representative on the Intergovernmental Committee of Political Refugees, to return at once to London, redouble the effort to find some place in the world for unwanted Jews to go.

In London, U. S. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy conferred with Prime Minister Chamberlain, came to the conclusion that in the present refugee crisis the Intergovernmental Committee needed practical assistance. Ambassador Kennedy and the British engaged in earnest efforts to find a colony or colonies where German Jews could find a haven—the British to supply the land, the U. S. to lend financial assistance. Already the new force of popular feeling was making a new and more active U. S. foreign policy.

In Manhattan, where it was deemed wise to provide protection for the German consulate, Mayor LaGuardia stole a leaf from the late, great Roosevelt I. While Police Commissioner of New York, T. R. once had to provide police protection for an anti-Semitic German preacher. He did so by delegating Jewish policemen to keep order. Last week Mayor LaGuardia appointed an all-Jewish detachment of police under command of Captain Max Finkelstein to guard the German consulate and escort distinguished Nazi visitors through the city.

*And the Commerce Department explained that the recall of Commercial Attache Douglas Miller simultaneously from the Berlin Embassy was routine, a coincidence.

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