Commentary Magazine


On Washington Heights

To the Editor:

As one of Ernest Stock’s recent “immigrants,” I would like to say that in printing his astute analysis, “Washington Heights ‘Fourth Reich’” (June 1951), COMMENTARY again lived up to its practice of publishing the most interesting articles in the Jewish field. . . .

In the opinion of many, Washington Heights is considered at best a transitory “ghetto.” Immigrants came here to get roots, to be protected by other immigrants, to be able to withdraw whenever it should prove necessary. The fact is that a good many people now in the second phase of establishing themselves are moving away. Most of these people are in their middle twenties and are the people whom Mr. Stock described as the young veterans who “came back to Washington Heights, literally or figuratively.” These people find better employment opportunities outside our overcrowded metropolis and frequently take their parents with them to share a home in other parts of the country. . . .

Fred Stern
New York City

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To the Editor:

Scott Fitzgerald and George Washington, not to speak of those who live in Washington Heights, must have turned in their graves on reading Ernest Stock’s biased, inaccurate generalizations about the historically famous area. . . . The number of German immigrants in Washington Heights does not constitute 75. per cent of the population at the point he mentions. Nor does it at any other point anywhere in the Twenty-first Congressional District, which embraces the Heights. New census figures show that the percentage of German-born in the area is less than one-eighth of the total populace. The term refugee is taken with discomfort by the Germans; and rather strange it is, too, since its connotations are old and honorable. . . . None of the German papers are sold on all the stands; the bakeries do not devote their main efforts on Friday or any other day to hatches; the ladies have a far more extensive wardrobe than Mr. Stock admits; and a great number of the refugees didn’t emanate from those curiously ubiquitous middle-class homes. The Jew, in Germany, wasn’t as free from poverty as Stock claims.

But the greatest error of the article is one of omission: Washington Heights, more than any other region of New York, is full of all races, religions, and ethnic groups. And American and German Jews are only alongside, not ahead of, Irish, Negro, Puerto Rican, Spanish, and other groups. . . .

Jules Bergman
New York City

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To the Editor:

. . . Ernest Stock’s article grossly misrepresents the relationship between Eastern and Western Jewry and the author’s implications regarding the mass deportation of the Polish Jews from Germany are, even in the form of a joke, more than deplorable. . . .

In contrast to Ernest Stock’s portrayal, Leo Baeck, an authority on the character and life of German Jewry, in a speech recently delivered before the Association of Jewish Refugees in Great Britain, gives quite a different picture of the main features of the German Jew. He praises his orderliness and discipline, which make for his ability to build up well-organized communities. He attributes to him the gift of penetrating into the spiritual atmosphere of his own legacy and of his environment. Emancipation thus becomes a pedagogical, educational process. He finally outlines the sincerity with which the German Jew tries to translate his religious convictions into everyday practice.

In Mr. Stock’s essay nothing of this deeper insight into the personality of the German Jew can be found. Either Leo Baeck is wrong or Ernest Stock did not take the pains to discover

the soul of the Yeckes. The traits described by Leo Baeck are also incorporated in the personal and communal life of the Jews from Germany living now in Washington Heights. . . .

Rabbi Hugo Hahn
New York City

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To the Editor:

The haughtiness of the German Jew described by Mr. Stock is not confined only to refugees, but is a state of mind shared by those who came from Germany generations ago. I had heard of this attitude before but ran into it forcibly while in Baltimore after the war.

I heard that “long list of accusations not too much unlike the ideas about Jews generally harbored by anti-Semites” used by third-generation Americans of German Jewish origin about their neighbors whose parents and grandparents had come from the “wrong side of the river Order.”

Among other things, the separation of Jews of different origins has been perpetuated by the existence of two country clubs whose membership has been admittedly selected depending on whether your grandfather was or was not from Germany. . . .

B. Lowe Kingston
New London, Connecticut

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To the Editor:

Reading Mr. Stock’s article on Washington Heights in the June issue of COMMENTARY, I was both surprised and shocked at his description of the deportation of the Polish Jews from Germany. It is not clear to me whether Mr. Stock was a witness to this most tragic event. Since he places it in July when it actually occurred in October 1938, I am inclined to doubt it. . . .

I was only twelve years old, and yet there are few things which made as lasting an impression on me as that fateful Friday in October. Never was the feeling of identification and the awareness of a common fate between East and West greater than at that time. Mr. Stock does not seem to know that whole communities organized themselves to help their brethren. In our community of over five thousand Jews, caravans of trucks and cars were organized to take food, warm clothing, and other necessities from the Jewish homes and stores to the trains. Canteens were set up to feed the people who had been taken from their homes, and many German Jews risked their lives by hiding Polish Jews in their homes until they could escape to other countries. . . .

Mrs. Miriam H. Cohn
New York City

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