German and Jew
To the Editor:
I have just had the opportunity to read the controversy over “German anti-Semitism” in some of your recent issues, and I wish I knew how to tell you how distressing I found it. There is so much that is terribly right and terribly wrong about Samuel Gringauz, and so much that is nice and naive about J. Glenn Gray, that one scarcely knows how to take sides any more.
But perhaps a story would illustrate the only point I would care to make. It is as true and as compelling as Gringauz’s horrible tale of the anti-Semitic murder in Kleinmachnow.
Several months ago here in Berlin a huge political meeting had been called to protest the new Communist wave of terror in the Soviet sector. I imagine there must have been some seventy or eighty thousand people there. I was standing in the press box not very far from Ernst Reuter (Berlin’s Oberbürgermeister) when a small interruption from the far end of the stadium came to our attention. It was difficult to make out exactly what it was. Within the course of a few minutes the faint noises from the rear became a gigantic applause, and we saw the figure of Jeannette Wolfe coming forward to take her place on the speaker’s stand. The day before she had been caught in the Communist riot against the Berlin City Assembly and Soviet-inspired hoodlums on the street had beat her up to the cry of “alte miese Juedin.” It was a shocking incident, the ugly details of which had appeared in the morning papers. Frau Wolfe was an old anti-Nazi who had been in the underground and who had sat for years in concentration camps. How deeply some Germans felt about the matter came spontaneously to the fore in these moments. Franz Neumann interrupted Reuter and explained to the whole of the meeting what the bursts of applause were about. The tens and tens of thousands rose to their feet. The greeting was well-nigh deafening for several minutes. I must confess that I for one had tears in my eyes.
This might mean, according to Dr. Gringauz, that those devilishly clever German masses know how to fool sentimental American observers. It might mean, for Dr. Gray, that Germany is, after all, sound, that the people (or at least the Berliners) are good. I am not sure. For my own part I find both formulations rather boring, one in its naivety, the other in its bitter wrong-headedness. And if my story has a point at all it should help to suggest that the problem of Germans and Jews, especially in the pages of so honest and sophisticated a journal as COMMENTARY, should be approached more subtly, more tentatively, more originally.
Melvin J. Lasky