The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Were there any noticeable demographic changes during the
period between the two World Wars? I refer all the time to
the Jewish community.

A. Yes, definitely. Here again, there is a striking element
- that is the great urbanization of the Jewish people during
the period of which we are speaking. Of course, this
movement began in the nineteenth century, but it reached its
peak during the period between the World Wars. In reality,
Jews moved from small towns (particularly from the stetl) to
the large towns and to cities of a million or more
inhabitants. For example,  in Poland before the First World
War where I think there were 86 towns with a Jewish
majority, and in the other large towns there was a rather
substantial minority, nevertheless at the time about a
quarter of the entire Jewish people, already in the
thirties, lived in cities with a population of a million or
more, and another quarter in large towns with a population
from one hundred thousand to a million inhabitants. That is
to say, half of the Jewish people lived in very large towns.
This naturally had several consequences. Firstly, as is
known, the main decisions about economic, political,
cultural and scientific problems were taken in these cities.
Since such large numbers of Jews lived in the intellectual
and political centres throughout the world, this endowed
them with special influence which we understand as resulting
from this concentration. On the other hand, it is also known
that these large cities generally were not populated in a
natural way, that is to say the mortality rate was higher
than the birth rate. This is a recognized historical fact.
In the case of Germany, already between the years 1550 to
1750, there were only eighty to ninety births for every
hundred who died. Therefore for the Jews also there was a
possibility that they would lose in numbers because of this
concentration in the large cities.

Presiding Judge: That is to say, their number would

Witness Baron: The number of Jews in the world would
decrease. In some countries this is what happened. We have
reliable statistics from Germany which show, for example,
that in Prussia in the years 1925-28, the Jewish population
decreased by approximately five thousand, while at the same
time the general population actually increased by more than
a million and one hundred thousand, and so forth. On the
other hand, it must be remembered that the majority of the
Jews did not live in those countries of Western Europe; in
Eastern Europe and in other countries their number still
increased, although not as much as in previous generations.
It is known that in recent centuries, the Jewish population
increased considerably, even more than the general European
population which entered into a new period of great
expansion. It should be sufficient to mention that from the
middle of the nineteenth century, until 1930, during these
80 years, the percentage of European Jewry increased from
1.5 per cent to more than 2 per cent. That is to say, the
number of Jews increased during the period that the entire
population of Europe increased. And at the same time that
the Jews migrated to other countries, to new countries,
their increase was greater than their proportionate size in
the general European population. And maybe here it should be
pointed out that during the last 24 years preceding the
first Great War, about 30 per cent of all the Jews of Europe
left Europe and went to another continent - especially to
America, but also to Palestine and so on. Thirty per cent,
in other words every third Jew, changed his place of
residence from the European continent to another continent.
And at the same time, I say, they increased their proportion
in the European population.

Therefore it can be said that even during the period between
the two World Wars, their natural increase continued.
According to the famous sociologist Jaakov Lestschinsky, the
increase of the world Jewish population during the twenties
was on the average 140,000 per annum. It was decreased by
the great crisis of the thirties to about 120,000. But it
was still on the increase. And there is reason to assume
that in the forties and the fifties, a period which in
English is called the "Population Explosion," when
throughout the world the population increased very rapidly,
the number of 120,000 annually would have grown, had it not
been for the terrible crisis that befell them.

Judge Raveh:  Is this for the whole world?

Witness Baron: In the whole world. With respect to Europe,
if I have to give specific figures, it would perhaps be
worthwhile, if you would allow me - I have such figures for
the thirties for the whole of Europe - about 9,800,000.

Attorney General: Jews?

Witness Baron: Among them, in Poland - and these are the
results of a census of the year 1931 - at that time,
together with Danzig, there were 3,040,000. This figure
apparently - during the eight years following - increased to
over 3,300,000. In Soviet Russia, in a census of the year
1926, the Jews were only counted according to their
adherence to the Jewish nation, not to religion. There too,
they totalled more than three million at the beginning of
the thirties. In Germany - we have an exact number for the
year 1933 - there were 499,682. This figure must be
increased by 3,117, when the Saar region was annexed to the
Reich. In Austria - 191,000; in Hungary - 444,000; in
Rumania - 728,000; in Czechoslovakia - 356,000, in France -
320,000; in Holland - 156,000; in Lithuania - (a census had
been carried out in 1923) - 155,000, etc.

A total, as I have said, 9,800,000. There were many other
countries where the number of Jews was less than 100,000,
but nevertheless they had an appreciable influence in all
aspects of the political, economic and cultural life. All
this, of course, was before the Holocaust, which very
substantially reduced the numbers.

Judge Halevi:  In Hungary, was this before the annexation of
the additional regions to Hungary?

Witness Baron: Correct.

Judge Halevi:  This somewhat changes the numbers.

Witness Baron: Yes, in the thirties.

Attorney General: We shall submit a map which will also show
the geographical changes.

Have you concluded your answer to this question?

Witness Baron: Not altogether. Perhaps it is also worthwhile
to point out that not only were there approximately ten
million Jews in Europe at that time, but also those same
European Jews were the origin of almost all the Jewish
communities of the countries outside Europe. After all, the
Jewish community in the United States, in its millions, was
virtually created by Eastern and Central European Jewry,
actually in the course of the fifty years before the
Holocaust. In the same period this community grew from a
very small population to being a community of approximately
five million in the thirties. And these were the products of
the Eastern European communities. The same thing applies to
South America, or to the countries of the British Empire, or
even to this country. Eretz Israel was nourished at that
time by European Jewry and the links between their
descendants and the centres in Europe remained in existence
and it was impossible to distinguish between them.
Everything that happened to the Jews of Europe, was
immediately felt in all the countries of the world.

Attorney General: How did the Jewish groupings adjust to the
economic changes which occurred in Europe between the two
World Wars?

Witness Baron: Again, I have to say that that period was one
of great crisis, an economic crisis and a Jewish crisis.
Generally speaking the Jews found for themselves a special
way of becoming adjusted to these new situations. We talk
generally of that period as the period of modern capitalism.
There are, of course, opposing views. There were differences
of views amongst Jews, as to whether capitalism was the most
important and the best course for the world or not. But
almost all the experts - even anti-capitalist experts - all
agreed that as a stage in  modern economic evolution,
capitalism was beneficial. And it was precisely the Jews who
had great influence. It is known that the outstanding German
authority in this field, Werner Sumbart, who was no friend
of capitalism, nor of the Jews, nevertheless described in a
book devoted to the subject, the  extent to which the Jews
had influenced the development of the great economic
process. There is even one sentence in which he says - if I
can remember it fully - "that Israel was like a sun: at the
point where it arose, new life sprang up from the ground;
where it was no longer, it was followed by desolation." He
obviously was referring to matters which had already been
stated in the eighteenth century, namely that in Holland,
for example, England and France, the Jews had a beneficial
influence on the progress of these countries, whereas the
expulsion of the Jews from Spain removed this important
element from the country. Even in the twentieth century this
process continued. The Jews were vital to the European
economy in the full sense of the term; not only as bankers
and money changers, and not only as merchants - and
especially as international merchants - but also in
industrial and agricultural pursuits, and so forth. In
industry, for instance, they did not have substantial
influence on the basic industries of coal,  oil and of iron,
although Jews were also active in Baku, in the oil wells, in
Germany and in Galicia; there were Jews in Moravia, and it
was there particularly, where the Rothschilds wielded a
great influence on coal production etc. But they were
especially outstanding in industry, such as the clothing
industry, the textile industry,the food industry; they were
extremely important in the gold and silver industry. In all
these areas, whether in Continental Europe or other
countries of the world, the Jewish influence was exceedingly
noticeable. Nevertheless there were Jews, and even non-Jews,
who had long felt that the economic structure of the Jewish
people was not what you could call normal; it was not
similar to that of the other citizens. Accordingly movements
arose among the Jews, as early as the eighteenth century,
but continued especially in the twentieth century, and in
the period between the two World Wars, to convert the Jews
from business and other forms of work which we call "white-
collar occupations" to work of "greater productivity"; as we
have said, we describe "productivity" as being in
agriculture, industry and so on.

It is really amazing that although the economic trend in the
world was the movement of farmers from country areas to the
town, taking people out of agriculture and  placing them in
factories - the Jews reversed the order, and precisely in
the twenties and the thirties, many of them found a way of
entering into basic agriculture, not only in Palestine, in
the land of Israel, concerning which it is known that they
renewed a desert land and converted it into a flourishing
country, especially in agriculture. But this also occurred
in Soviet Russia, in the Soviet Union. I have some
statistics on which it is worthwhile to dwell. Ten years
after the revolution there were counted amongst the Jewish
agricultural population in Russia no less than 33,357
families; that is to say approximately 165,000 souls, who
were already settled in special Jewish agricultural
villages, in addition to another approximately 33,000 Jewish
families spread over the remaining areas, that is to say, in
the Soviet Union 10 per cent of all the Jews living there
engaged in agriculture.

Presiding Judge: Are you saying that there was a movement
from the city to the village in the Soviet Union, apart from
the areas of Birobidjan?

Witness Baron: Apart from Birobidjan. This happened in
regions in the Crimea and the Ukraine and in other places as
well. With the aid of the American Agro-Joint they
established villages such as these,  completely Jewish
settlements, in addition to the individual farmers. It was
10 per cent and this was a high percentage. For at that time
the number of Jews occupied in business dropped to 10 per
cent. That is to say, the number engaged in agriculture was
the same as the number in business. This was a great
upheaval. But it took place in the course of ten years; a
period of time which is practically negligible in the
development of a people. The Jews showed an aptitude to
accustom themselves to new conditions; and obviously, as I
have mentioned, in Israel as well.

During that same  time there was also a change-over from
"white-collar" occupation to industry. The Jews, to a large
extent, became factory workers, particularly in Poland, but
also in the other countries. The change-over was even
greater in France, in England and in the United States, that
is to say those countries to which they emigrated. When the
Jews of Poland and Russia entered Western countries, they
could not be absorbed immediately without joining these
"productive occupations." And ultimately they even succeeded
in organizing several trade unions of their own, especially
in Eastern Europe; in Poland there were Jewish trade unions
in Warsaw, in Bialystok and in other places, despite
opposition, not only on the part of the authorities, but
also occasionally despite resistance on the part of the
workers of other faiths in the same town. Something
interesting even happened in one Polish town, where there
was a demonstration on May 1st. This was in Lodz. There was
a separate Polish trade union, a separate German trade union
and a separate Jewish trade union and when the police
attacked the Jewish trade union, the other two unions did
not do a thing.

Presiding Judge: They stood aside.

Witness Baron: Yes, with indifference. Despite all their
difficulties, the Jews managed to enter fields of the
economy which were not normally open to them until that
time. I am showing in this way only their exceptional
ability of economic adaptation. Naturally the greatest
degree of adaptation was the intellectual arts, what are
called today "the liberal professions." There were Jewish
doctors from olden times - throughout the ages. But they
were not allowed to be lawyers until the emancipation, the
liberation movement came along and opened the gates for them
in such a way as to be able to enter this important field.
They also became engineers and professional men of all
types. In medical science, in jurisprudence, not as judges
but as lawyers - they were so scattered that in many
European countries, the number of Jews in these professions
far exceeded their proportion of the population.

Attorney General: When you say "scattered," you mean "wide-
spread" I presume.

Witness Baron: Wide-spread. But in this respect I want to
say here that all this came about in spite of the fact that
Jewish students at the universities faced many difficulties,
both in Poland and Rumania and also in the other countries,
and, already in the period before the War, in Russia. A
numerus clausus was introduced, according to which only a
fixed number of Jews could enter the university, but after
the War, this was re-introduced in a number of countries,
and the Jews of Poland, for example, were obliged to go to
the West, and it may be said precisely at this point, that
Mussolini's Italy, like the Czechoslovakia of Masaryk and
Benes opened their doors especially to Jewish students from
Eastern Europe, where they were subject to legal
persecution. And, nevertheless, and this is quite an
interesting matter, despite all the legal pressure, despite
everything which the university and government authorities
did in Poland and the other countries, the number of Jewish
academic students was still larger, proportionately, than
the number of all other nationalities. In other, free
countries, Jews were obviously able to take part in this
development completely freely. It was calculated that in
1931, in Italy,  25 per cent of all the Jews resident in
that country were either students or had already completed
their studies in institutes of higher learning. A quarter of
the entire population. This was somewhat typical for a free
country. Of course, I am not the person to decide whether
this was a good thing or  not. At that time one often spoke
of a proletariat of the mind, actually of people who found
for themselves neither a source of living nor an interest in
these professions, in these arts. But, in fact, the presence
of so many Jews in the professions undoubtedly had a
beneficial effect not only on the Jews, but on the general
culture in the spiritual sense, in the cultural sense and in
the economic sense as well. Hence the percentage here is not
as important as the spiritual influence that the Jews
brought to bear in this way upon the Western world, on the
entire world, and especially on the Europe that we are
talking of now.

Q. Do you wish to add anything about the influence of the
political trends that developed between the two World Wars,
on the process of equal rights, Jewish emancipation?

A. Yes, of course, if the Court pleases, I wanted to say
that, in my opinion, the period between the Wars was, for
the first time, a record period, the peak of Jewish
emancipation, the liberation movement began with the
American Revolution, with the French Revolution, in the
eighteenth century, I wrote already long ago that there were
precedents for this, that is to say, in the economic sense
and in the spiritual sense the emancipation began a hundred
or two hundred years earlier. But the main point is that it
did not reach fruition until the period between the two
Wars. For as long as the Jews were not emancipated in one
country, they were not free in any country. There were
always movements through migration - to a substantial extent
there was such a firm mutual relationship between the Jewish
communities that if there was a lack of equal rights in one
place, they did not enjoy them elsewhere. It would suffice
for me to quote a simple example. If we recollect what
happened fifty years ago, half of World Jewry was living in
a Czarist Regime under most terrible conditions. There were
also Jews in Rumania and in the Ottoman Empire which only
afterwards underwent the revolution of the Young Turks.
There were Jews in North Africa. Two-thirds of the entire
Jewish people lived under conditions of non-emancipation, of
lack of freedom. And even in countries where there was
liberty, such as the United States or France, or England,
where the emancipation was long-established, if we
nevertheless were to look at the Jewish populations at the
beginning of the present century, we shall see that the
majority, if not all, were born, and many of them were
educated, in countries where they did not enjoy
emancipation. It was only in the year 1917 with the Russian
Revolution, in the year 1919 with the European Peace Treaty,
that emancipation, at least on paper, began in principle for
all countries. And one could have expected that this was
already the final stage, the last step in a development of
two or three hundred years.

If the Court will allow me, I should like to mention that by
chance I had the opportunity, about three years ago, to
lecture in this city at the Hebrew University, on new
approaches to the question of emancipation. In my lecture
which in the meantime appeared as an article in the UNESCO
publication Diogene in French, and in Diogenes in English, I
expressed the opinion that Jewish emancipation was even more
essential to the modern state than it was to the Jews. In
fact, among the Jews there were even a few who were opposed
to it, that is to say who valued their previous way of life
in the ghetto period above that of equal rights. Naturally,
most of the Jews, in an increasing majority, were in favour
of equal rights. In fact they fought, they strove with all
the means at their command to obtain equal rights. And in
the period after the First World War, it was seen for the
first time that Jews would actually enjoy equal rights in
the whole world, and if such a thing would come to pass,
then there would be full emancipation even in those
countries which had already enjoyed it for a hundred years
or more. And precisely in that period, the Nazi movement
began, precisely after the War, which had shown for the
first time that what had then been progress, not a swift
progress, but a steady progress throughout two hundred
years, could possibly be reversed. For beforehand, only - as
the world thought - only undeveloped countries, countries
such as these...

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