From Breslau’s Communal Life
by Dr. Reich, Privy Medical Counselor, Breslau
Among the important tasks that this paper will have to fulfill belongs the candid reporting on the matters of our Breslau community and the activities of its various bodies. Our community members who helped the liberal cause gain an especially brilliant and decisive victory in the last representatives’ election are to be continuously kept up-to-date with what the men in whom they placed their trust are doing as they exercise the mandate they’ve been given. The electorate is to be given some means of auditing that the administration is indeed being conducted in a liberal—of course!—spirit and not in a partisan, religious sense, but in the spirit of an objective equanimity that incorporates these concepts.
But also beyond Breslau, the interest in the conditions of the significant large communities in the German East will also be active and lively.
In order to establish the connection between what has happened until now and the objects of future regular reports, I want to briefly consider the most important events that have occurred since the close of the elections within our community administration.
In the first meeting of the newly elected representatives on March 21 of this year, after the introductory speeches which all voiced the wish for peaceful cooperation among all parties (to the blessing of the community and Judaism), we moved onto the election of a new rabbi to replace our departed, highly respected Professor Dr. Guttmann. Unanimously, which attested to the spirit that ruled in our body, Dr. VogelsteinRabbi Dr. Vogelstein from Königsberg was elected as rabbi of the new synagogue. His reputation from his previous position as a truly liberal minister [sic] preceded him as when he emphasized his point of view, and precisely because of this perspective demonstrates understanding and goodwill toward other beliefs. That is why the liberals, conservatives, and Zionists came together to speak of their trust and to lift him to the position that was once graced by Geiger, Joel, Guttmann. And the first months of his engagement have taught us that we have every reason to look forward to his abilities as preacher, as educator of youth and as a pastor [sic] with the highest expectations and hopes.
With the rabbi’s election in a given internal context we had a model administration which must have been generally appreciated by the congregation. It dealt with the payment of fees charged by our rabbis for weddings and funerals. Until now the fees for these pastoral activities were settled between the members of the congregation directly with the rabbis, and according to what they thought was suitable. That will now stop. In the future the fees will be paid to the congregation according to income and the rabbis’ salaries increased according to the loss of these fees. These new rules, which the rabbis also desire, will avoid the appearance that ministers see a difference between poor and rich.
A further, especially important proposal dealt with the new fee schedule for burials. Until now the administration’s cost for a burial was 75 Marks. Now the expenses for the coffin, shroud, coach, salaries of the employees, etc. have increased to 560 Marks. Before, the congregation had to set aside 75,000 Marks for burials; this now increases to 180,000 Marks.
A new fee schedule that accounted for these conditions was therefore a bitter necessity. The two congregation’s administrators were led by concerns about social justice when setting the new fee schedule. The weak shoulders were to be spared as much as possible; the wealthier ones had to pull the greater share.
While before the income range from 1050—3000 Marks was charged a fee of 60 Marks, in the future they are freed from paying anything. But whoever doesn’t want to take advantage of this can pay the moderate fee of 20 Marks. However, if someone in this income range wants to guarantee his deceased relatives a grave in the first row or wants to guarantee a family grave, he has to pay the still quite reasonable sum of 100 Marks. Even for the other income ranges a healthy sense of social justice caused the fees for the higher income ranges increase gradually and only the wealthiest circles are charged more heavily. The fee increases slowly to 80 Marks for an income from 3000—4500 Marks to 2400 Marks for incomes greater than 200,000 Marks.
These increases in revenue from burial fees made it easier for the congregations’ governing bodies to decide to increase moderately the service fees paid to the funeral director, coachmen, and the attending women, who had been forgotten when the fees of other employees were raised. This proposal was also accepted unanimously.
The attitude of our community’s administration toward the employees is illustrated by the emergency proposal made at the leadership meeting on March 21st to extend the 50% increase in wages for our employees and their dependents by another 100%. This proposal was accepted unanimously by the representatives, which gave happy evidence that all parties care that our employees have enough wages to live on, thereby ensuring a satisfied corps of employees who take pleasure in their work.
This agreement also showed itself on another point of a completely different nature whose content was of little significance, but whose principle was of the greatest importance. It concerned the leadership’s proposal to grant a donation of 1000 Marks to the Jubilee fund for the deceased Dr. Israel Hildesheimer, whose 100th birthday was on May 15th. Hildesheimer’s significance as a researcher, as one learned in the worldly sciences as well as of the Talmud, as a donor to the poor and opressed is well known. As well known, however, is that he was the pillar und support of orthodox Jewry. His main creation that lay closest to his heart was the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary, the main fortress of orthodoxy, in which young generations of rabbis were educated in the strictest Orthodox spirit. In spite of this, the liberal majority of the representatives voted with the other representatives to approve the grant and thereby proved that they were liberal in the true sense, because being liberal means being equitable.
For the tax year 1920/21 congregation taxes have not yet been collected, not even been set. Here and there someone wonders, some even feel a certain displeasure over the fact that soon they’ll have to pay all at once for several quarters. According to what we know, that will indeed be unavoidable. We can assure our readers that this is not the fault of our community administration. The issue is much more a result of Reich tax law which has withdrawn the current forms for collecting taxes from state, cities, and towns without making arrangements for plugging the holes that would occur. Almost every organization that has the right to tax suffers the same plight as our community whose executives, leadership, and representatives have been pulling every string they can to bring about to have the taxes collected. Just days ago they finally succeeded, so that the collection can begin. After announcing the collection weeks ago, it can now begin.
Associations and Assemblies.
The local chapter of the Central Organization of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith held an unusually well-attended gathering in the Chamber Music Hall on Sunday at which the vice-chairman of the association, Dr. Wiener, Berlin, presented on the topic “Boycott and Pogrom.” He pointed out that two directions out of the large wave of anti-Semitism have recently become clear, namely the organized boycott of Jewish citizens in all areas and the toying with the idea of unrest and even pogroms. With regards to the boycott, it is mostly the same old agenda but being pursued with renewed energy. It is aimed primarily at the press and publishing. Especially dangerous, however, are the movements forming at universities which don’t hold back from the ugliest agitation against highly regarded intellectuals. And in the schools, where especially the Deutschnationale Jugendbund sows hatred and conflict in young hearts. Recently there has also appeared a systematic current of anti-Semitism in business and industry, which has to be fought against all the more pointedly because it deals with questions of [the right to] exist. In this context, the speaker’s announcement that even in Breslau a German nationalist bank has opened as a cooperative.
Concerning the pogrom-movement the speaker rightly emphasized that it would definitely turn to action if the shameless anti-Semitic vilification continues and confuses the people and inflames them, a fact which would endanger the German name abroad. After his closing remarks, in which the speaker referred to the active pursuit of the difficult struggle, which was met with loud applause a member of the association, Chief Director Arnfeld entertained the audience with an incomparable recitation of poetry from the works of Beer-Hoffmann, Feibel, and Zuckermann.
To My Boy.
My boy plays alone for the first time
Today in front of the door in bright sunlight.
I am the man! as he looks proudly around.
If only the world weren’t so terribly big!
And as he boldly starts to explore his realm,
He hears a mocking call: “Hep, Hep, hold still!”
He doesn’t know the word yet, but in the tone
Shocked, he senses the voice of hatred.
He draws himself tall, he curls his small fist
And looks around. I see it, he trembles, he’s afraid.
Come here, my child, let me look into your eyes.
There’s still boundless trust,
A holy faith and a joyful bravery:
How lovely and good is everything around me!
These eyes are a sea in which the sky paints itself,
That brightly reflects all the stars.
A pain seizes me, a bitter fury, wild,
How quickly the world destroys this pure picture! (image?)
The word, that today first misled him
Is the kind of stone which will shatter it,
With which they’ll destroy him in his sanctuary–
Be strong, my child, don’t lose yourself.
Only the scars that you give yourself
Will never be wiped away.
And if men fall because of you,
Mankind will all the more gloriously rise again.
You have so much more than one steals from you,
Even if you keep only what you once believed so purely.
And should one tear all the flowers from your garden,
We are from an old root, we can wait.
Summer comes again, a fall day gleams,
That brings you both blossoms and fruit at once.
Be strong, be proud, and let yourself be taught one more thing:
Defend yourself, boy, defend yourself!
(“Meinem Jungen,” from the anthology of poetry: Aus jüdischer Seele, by J. Loewenberg. Verlag M. Glogau jun., Hamburg.)
given at the memorial ceremony honoring fallen comrades on September 16, 1920 at the cemetery in Cosel near Breslau by Dr. Ernst Fraenkel*
“And when we move homeward,
We wear no crown of roses,
No green of oak crowns our helmets:
When we move homeward,
We hear no sounds of jubilation.”
You, dear dead camerades, on whose breast flaunt no roses at the homecoming, you whose helmets are not crowned with living oak, you who did not have the good fortune to hear cries of joy from wife and children at your homecoming, to see the great, calm light on the face of your mother, you we greet at this hour heavy with memories. We greet you who lie buried in the earth of your home, and our thoughts travel far over mountain and valley to the small, perhaps already worn down hills in France’s bloody earth, to the far, lonely steppes of Russia and Poland, and to the mountain heights of the Alps and the Balkans. We greet you, and from mournful hearts come to our lips three short but meaningful words: “We thank you.”
Honored attendees of this memorial gathering!
How often when we move through the surging, restless city life do we give people strange and apathetic, yes even hostile, looks when we rush by each other–as if they had never had that terrible, common experience of the World War, as if they, or at least most of them, year after year and day after day as friends and comrades in the trenches and in attacks had not looked in the face of the same death? How often, when we see, how the troubles and struggle of the day have torn people apart, who for years had always belonged together tied by the strong bond of a shared life, bitter questions rise? Is it not really truthful what the ancient philosopher Marcus Aurelius once spoke in tired resignation: “Just wait a short time and you will have forgotten everything; wait just a short time and everything will have forgotten you.”
It seems we have forgotten that a common heartbeat was in all of us; forgotten that a common will enlivened us, forgotten that a common trembling fear held mothers and fathers in chains. Forgotten in the need of the hour and of the present seem to be those who sealed their love of fatherland, their loyalty to home with death. And still, as much as appearances justify that tired philosophical saying: It is not true and it cannot be true. Because in that hour when it actually becomes true, in that hour when they would be forgotten, those who die believing in the great idea of Volk and fatherland, in that hour would not only German history, but all of world history have lost its meaning. And to doubt the meaning of the history of the world means doubting the very meaning of life.
And so we would have come in this plight and with this doubt in our souls to the fateful question as though from inner compulsion: What is the meaning of the death of all of these who rest in this place and far from here in enemy country, whose “sun set in the full brightness of midday”?
“What is mankind’s aim? Our eyes never see it between not yet being and no longer being!”
This aim does not seem to us to be so unfounded, so undiscoverable, because all of the priceless blood of the best of our people has flowed for nothing, because we see that despite the great and greatest sacrifices Germany still received the death blow? And yet we will not waver. We will wake and tend to the strong and quiet faith that lies in all of us, that behind all of these apparent contradictions there are the rule and action of a higher power. The blood that has streamed from your hearts, from your dear comrades, cannot have flowed in vain, and no tears that a mother shed for her child, shall have been shed in vain. We will continue to strengthen our belief that someday, when the differences of political and religious opinions no longer clash as roughly, that then the memory of our shared sorrow in these four long years, that the shared pain and shared loss of the beloved dead, will bring people closer together again, that in commemorating all that we have in common, one person will no longer see the enemy in the other, but instead see his comrade and friend. We want that each person in their own place work toward one great goal that the divisiveness some day disappear in the face of commonality. This should be for us the deepest and ultimate meaning of your sacrifice. But we shan’t commemorate you, our dead, in this hour, but in reverence and deeply honoring we bow before you as something holy, you mothers, who have sacrificed your sons to the great idea of the fatherland and the eternal idea of Versoehnung. A great pain has made your hearts tremble, regardless of your religion or your class. All of you were draped with a band, a band that no power will tear as long as the love of a single mother still exists in this world.
We however, who have fought and suffered with you, we will not and cannot ever forget you, our comrades. We will bring our children and children’s children to this place of peace, to this stone sign of how Germany’s Jewish sons fought and died for their fatherland with the same sense of duty and the same love as their Christian comrades, and we will recount for them your suffering and your heroism. And when we come to speak of those hours when we in the trenches lay nights under the pounding of mortars, when we stormed forwards with a hooray on our lips and faith in the one God in our hearts, then we will sing for them a song, the song that we all once sang as boys, the song that we sang so often when one of you would be laid to rest, the song that will sound as long as loyalty is loyalty and camaraderie is camaraderie: “I once had a comrade, a better one you’ll never find.”
*Ernst Fraenkel, historian, was born in Brelsau, volunteered to fight in WWI, was decorated with the Iron Cross, First Class, and earned his Ph.D. in 1919.
Page 4 has sschedules for services and events in addition to local advertisements.
The source for these translations is the digitized version of the “Juedisch-Liberale Zeitung” available at Compact Memory. Find the digitized version of Issue 1 here.