Jacob Billikopf The History, Life, and Writings of Jacob Billikopf

Anti-Semitism and Its Causes by Jacob Billikopf
By Jacob Billikopf

"ANTI-SEMITISM AND ITS CAUSES" was written by Jacob Billikopf when he was fifteen years old and published in four parts by The Jewish South, a weekly newspaper edited and published by Herbert T. Ezekial in Richmond, Virginia from 1893 until 1899.

Anti-Semitic feeling still runs high. That it is especially strong in those parts of Europe and Africa where the Israelites are most numerous in another is indubitable fact. It may be safely asserted that never even in the quietest times is this feeling wholly extinct. The popular outbreaks against the Jews are so evident, so frequent -- or to use a more homely but expressive word -- so "catching," and so uniform in character, that their horrors have baffled the power of brush and pencil.

Of bitterness and of persecution, of suffering beyond man's power to describe its depth, of all that is sad and sorrowful, the history of the Jewish nation bears tearful testimony. The student encounters two marvels as he turns the pages of that history. He wonders how the ferocity of man could ever enact this horrible tragedy, and then he wonders how his race survived.

It would be a vain and painful task to recite the thousandth part of what history tells us here. And it is certain that history does not in this case, as in many others, falsify the facts. These narratives were all written by the actors, who took a horrid pride in recounting their own infamy.

We are all more or less acquainted with the history of the Jews in Spain, the birthplace of the Inquisition. It was the very same year when Columbus discovered America, a queen, called "the gentle and virtuous Isabella," proposed a decree for the expulsion of all the Jews from Spain. The Jews were at that time rich, because they were thrifty, temperate, and industrious. They were a numerous people and were better educated than their persecutors. Yet such a kind woman and Christian queen proposed to destroy all this by a stroke of her pen. The eminent Jew, Ararbanel, who was treasurer, pleaded earnestly, and used all the weight of his influence and his character and his services against this suggested cruelty. He even condescended to bribe the king. But the mercenary monarch hesitated. At this instant the queen urged the relentless enforcement of the decree. It was published that either all the Jews -- men, women and children -- should leave Spain or they should take up the Christian religion. Statistics show that from 200,000 to 800,000 persons were banished by this fatal edict; that 2,000 people were burned in the province of Cadiz and from 280 to 400 in the city of Seville alone; that when the fierce monk, Torquemada, was appointed chief inquisitor, 10,000 persons were burned on the stake and 97,000 underwent various punishments. Think, if you can, of the thousands of mortal burnings against God's will! The sundering of old associations, the last visit to the grave. Contemplate the pilgrimage to the coasts, the transport to inhospitable shores, perhaps to a barbarous enemy, who seized helpless women and murdered women and children! O, it was a most horrible scene! Let us rather not think of it, for we can still hear the unheeded cry for mercy come down to us through the tranquil galleries of four centuries, and the prayer for pity is only answered by the murderer's derision.

Let us turn over this blood-bespattered, tear-marked page, and we will come to the horrible crusade against the Jews in France, where every Jew was burned in the provinces on account of the horrible plague which raged in France at that time and which was ascribed to the Hebrews, with horrible results. In Germany, too, their history for centuries is a hideous chronicle of human cruelty. Even their persecution in England, sketched in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, is nothing to the lurid picture which might have drawn, for the Jews, under the cowardly, dissolute, unprincipled and untrustworthy John, were forced to suffer all kinds of persecutions which men had sufficiently cruel to invent. Now, we come to the times of Edward III, when the wrongs and miseries of Jews in England reached their climax, when that king, pressed by the medieval Hamans, signed a decree which ordered every Jew in the kingdom, under penalty of being hanged, to leave England. Of the 15,000 or 16,000 Jews that were banished from England very many perished on their journey, either from illness of from cruelty inflicted upon them. It was a very deplorable condition of affairs.

And now, after all these centuries of persecutions which the Jews encountered, one might think that the nations became more humane to the Israelites; but we shudder at the brutal policy of Russia tday; for the inhuman and almost incredible outrages upon the Jews in that country have drawn forth a world-wide sympathy and a protest almost unprecedented in its swiftness.

Who does not recollec the terrible riot that occurred in 1882 against the Jews, when men were murdered, women outraged and children dashed to pieces and burned alive; whole streets of Hebrews were razed to the ground and desolated by fire; thousands of families reduced to beggary and banished from their homes; when one hundred towns and villages felt the scourge of this persecution; when three hundred houses and shops were plundered in Warsaw, while a garrison of soldiers was kept in the barracks and made no sign? Is there anyone who has not heard of the riot that occurred a few months ago in the city of Minsk, where many Jews were either killed or left penniless, and where afterwards, instead of arresting the rioters, the Jews who defended their brethren were arrested for breaking the law in interfering in this affair?

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But these are merely small performances in comparison with the volume of restrictions bestowed upon the Jews and their communities by this anti-Semitic government. So let us penetrate now into Germany and see with how much vaunted pride she is endeavoring to discriminate against the Jews, socially and politically. In fact, there is no capital in Europe where this down-trodden races is boycotted to such an extent by the highest classes of society as in Berlin, the Lutheran portion of the nobility manifesting against them more animosity than even the Catholics. This is not only the case in Germany, but in Hungary also, where the aristocracy is opposed to the Jews, but not so such an extent. One can form a slight idea of how great the prejudice of the Hungarian nobility is against the Hebrews that, when "some time ago," quotes a correspondent in the New York Tribune, "the Prince of Wales having accepted an invitation to stay at Kasthely with Count Jasselo Festelin, sent on in advance the list of the party whom he was bringing with him, and which included the name of a well-known Hebrew financial magnate, of whom the Prince was very fond. The Count at once wrote to the Prince to say that under no circumstances would he consent to receive the Hebrew financier beneath his roof, and that sooner than do so he would prefer to forego the honor of a visit from the British heir-apparent."

While the hatred that exists towards Jews in Germany is mostly with the nobility, in Austria it is the contrary. Here one may witness daily demonstrations against the Jew by the lower classes -- the nobility, on the contrary, being more liberal. This may be shown by the fact that such aristocrats as Prince Windischgratz, Count Badeni and Count Taaffe have been driven out of office mainly because they opposed anti-Jewish legislation while the destinies of Austria are now confided to a narrow-minded man, of plebian origin, who has succeeded in reaching the pinnacle of his career by exhibiting antipathy toward the Hebrew race, and also by obeying the orders of the Father of Austrian Anti-Semitism, Dr. Leuger, whose motto is: "Let us drive out all the Jews of Vienna and wrest from the Hebrew bankers and capitalists the money which they have acquired from us by improper means."

Now let us give our attention to Roumania, whose anti=Semitism is almost synonymous with that of her great rival, Russia. There is not a country at present, with the exception of the Czar's domain, that so maltreats the Jews. Here are some facts and statistics which will demonstrate to the reader how the race is treated in Roumania and Galicia. In the last named country there are 772,000 Jews. Of these seventy per cent live in towns and thirty per cent live in the villages. In the rural districts they are mostly large landed proprietors, of which number there are only a few hundred, while the rest of the Jewish rural population is made up of small traders -- owners of brandy booths. And it is a wonder that the majority of the people flock to such business as conducting brandy booths and other small shops; for in agricultural schools Jewish pupils are not accepted, and there are no subventions for Jewish pupils whatever, and no opportunities for them to take situations when they have passed examinations. By a Christian artificer a Jewish pupil is not accepted; the trades of farrier, carriage painter, cooper, type-founder, glover, wood-carver, etc., are carried on by the Christians and not a Jew is admitted to them, even after he has studied the trade in a foreign land, for he cannot practice it without obtaining a certificate showing he has worked for three years ion the workshop of a Galician master. What wonder that there are 320,000 Jewish beggars in Galicia! What wonder then that the anti-Semitic pressure on the Jew forces him to emigrate from the country to the towns, where he hopes to obtain, either by labor or otherwise, the barest means of existence. The result then is easily seen; the situation becomes worse and worse, and the piece of bread diminishes on the table.

In France anti-Semitism has assumed another aspect, and the recent demonstrations in the Dreyfus case were purely anti-Semitic. That Captain Alfred Dreyfus was innocent is an indisputable fact, for there was no motive for Dreyfus to commit the crime of which they made him guilty. It was well known that he was a wealthy, a highly educated and a good-hearted man. Though only 32 years of age, he was already a captain in the army. He was also known as a good citizen, considering his country's interests above his own, and therefore the torture he now undergoes on the Devil's Island will be recorded as one of the greatest stains on French jurisprudence. The fact thta this was an anti-Semitic act is very readily shown. The first intimation of his guilt was received three years ago through the pages of La Libre Parole (The Free Speech), an anti-Semitic organ, edited by the most virulent of Jew baiters, E. Drummond. The purposes of this paper consist exclusively in inventing various tales about the Jews in all parts of the world and in presenting these to the reader in the most disreputable way. In addition to this, an article on either a scientific or political question is molded in such a way that it leads to erroneous impressions toward the Jews. Drummond reminds one now of the great Roman general and patriot, Cato, who closed every speech he made in the Senate -- no matter on what subject -- with the words: "Carthago delnada est" (Carthage must be destroyed), for the above-mentioned anti-Semite, who only write the editorials, speaking even of private subjects, does not fail to mention the Jews and attack them. But Drummond, Ahlwardt of Germany, Dr. Luger of Austria, Pobedonostzier of Russia, with his aide-de-camp, consisting of such men as Estherhazy and military dignities, are not the only Jew baiters. As a rule most of them belong to the aristocratic faction.

In general, summing up all the evidence concerning anti-Semitism all over the world, we must come to the conclusion that the following motto -- "To rob them, to exile them, to torture them," have been and are the only badges of the Jewish race.

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And why has all this misery been and is yet inflicted upon the Jews? First, because they are said to have crucified Jesus; but, as a matter of fact, the Jews did not crucify Christ -- it was the Romans who scourged him and finally nailed him to the cross. If it be true that the Jews solicited his death, then how many of them? Only a priestly sect in Jerusalem. Is it fair, then, to condemn an entire nation for the sins of a few and to persecute innocent descendants after nineteen hundred years have passed by? That would be a very dangerous precedent to establish! According to that, we ought to persecute Greeks for causing Socrates to drink the fatal cup; the Italians because so many martyrs were thrown to the lions in the Roman Coliseum; the English for the flames at Smithfield; the French for the Eve of St. Bartholomew, and the dreadful and bloody Spaniards for the horrors of the Inquisition, and now for the destruction of the Maine, with its 256 innocent martyrs! The Jews are not the only people who have put to death some of their teachers; such conduct is as old as history. Take up that of the medieval ages and see with how much vaunted pride certain nations put to death some of their teachers, especially those who for the benefit of the world made certain inventions and discoveries. In any case I would like to know what right have certain nations to act as executioners? "Vengeance is mine; I will repay," said the Almighty.

Secondly, we are all aware of the fact that the Jews are often reproached with being merely financiers and not following industrial or pastoral pursuits. But why is this? Because they are in many contries ostracized from the society of the Christians. Even when they are not made the victims of actual barbarity, they are refused a voice in the administration of public affairs; denied the honor of military service, excommunicated at the same time from legal protection and Christian charity, it influenced them to form their own little communities, to perfect their own system of private beneficence, to administer to their own affairs with scrupulous exactness, to practice the art of peace and to keep their eyes constantly to the chance of gaining an inch of ground from the common and universal enemy. Accordingly they have been reduced to finance.

But let me assert right here without going any further, that although masses of thoughtless people raise the cry of capitalistic Jew, Hebrew millionaire, and so forth, Jews are not wealthy in comparison to Aryans. Let us take for instance our own country. Ever since we became a nation and a long time before that glorious event Jews have lived in our land. They have witnessed the golden days of prosperity, have lived under the bright rays of enormous wealth amassed by genius and enterprise of our people; yet there is not a single American Jew whose wealth can be compared with that of such modern Croesuses and Crasssuses as the Vanderbilts, the Astors, the Goulds, the Rockerfellers, the Morgans, the Pullmans and others. I may also safely say that the Jews of New York do not possess as much wealth as the fortunes of the Vanderbilts and Rockerfellers. This assertion is not only true as regards New York but is equally applicable to other parts of the United States.

In Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis and other cities of the country the commerce is not owned by the Jews, but the Aryans. Who controls the trusts, the railroads and the "soulless corporations," the very Sodom and Gomorrah of our nation, if not the Christians?

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Of course there are some wealthy Jews in Europe, but they have done magnificent work with their money. Mark the striking characteristics of the representative Jewish millionaire of Europe, Baron Rothschild, and one of the representative Christian millionaires of America like Gould, and you will easily find out that, while one distributes a yearly charity of 100,000 francs among the poor, no matter what nationality or creed they belong, the other lately caused the death of his own brother, who died in poverty and whose family now has to meet the fierce wolf at their door. This is not only the case with the Rothschilds alone, but with the remaining few millionaires also, for we are all more or less acquainted with the philanthropy of the grand benefactor of his race, Sir Moses Montefiore. He was so well known for his benevolence that on the hundredth anniversary of his birth (1884) he received the homage of the whole civilized world; and it was he who first suggested the scheme of rescuing his persecuted brethren and forming them in well managed colonies in various countries. His scheme was ably seconded by his successor in benevolence, the late Baron de Hirsch, whose charity was on a scale unprecedented in the annals of philanthropy, for he gave $15,000,000 for the relief of his outcast co-religionists, an even now the widow of the deceased Baron is distributing a great deal of charity all over the world.

The mere enumeration of the Jewish philanthropists and the grand tasks they have performed would require a volume in itself.

Again, Jews are often blamed for their fondness of jewels. But for centuries they were compelled to carry their wealth in that portable and easily secreted form, for the Jew was the ball that every Christian power could pitch and toss at the heart's will. Any bigoted priest, any stupid peasant, any impecunious robber baron and covetous and despotic king could stir up the Jewish nation. The order of an imbecile prince or some medieval Haman sufficed to drive the Jews from their homes. Is it a wonder then that they sought to invest their money in property that could be easily transported in case of emergency, to which Jews were often subjected.

But leaving the ancient and medieval times, let us turn to the present. Can any one of my readers form an idea as to how many millions of dollars were taken away from the poor Jews when the terrible ukase issued by Alexander III, with his assertion to the throne was published, that in twenty-four hours all of the Jews should be driven out from the large cities? O, it was a terrible time for the old Jewish inhabitants of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kieff, Riga, etc. How many families were ruined, while their property was taken away by the government. Those who succeeded even in selling some of their goods to the Christians during their stay of twenty-four hours received very meager prices. O, it is very sad to remember how the miserable and wretched Jewish merchants, lawyers, doctors and others, with their families, had to depend afterwards upon the mercy of their brethren from the Lithuanian States. Is it a wonder, then, after all this misery, that whenever you travel now in Russia, particularly in those parts where Jews are thickly settled, you will find that the Hebrew race has mostly invested its money in jewels. You will find very often in Russia that as soon as a couple gets married the bride's dowry is quickly converted into that easily portable shape. I repeat it again, that in comparison with the Aryans, Jews are not wealthy. Wealth has not been counted a mark of distinction among this people. Science scholarship -- these are honored and revered. The teacher, the thinker -- these are Zion's aristocracy.

If in some cases the Jews are more successful than their Aryan neighbors, the main cause thereof is not a miracle, nor a special interference of Providence, but their success is mainly due to their love of their families, their devotion to their elders, as well as to mercy and kindness and their habits of temperance.

I cannot end without uttering the famous divine command, "Let there be light!" For wherever light exists there it displaces the darkness of prejudice; and where there is no prejudice there can be no hatred, but only mutual esteem and forbearance, and the love of God's sweetest gift -- peace.

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Jacob Billikopf The History, Life, and Writings of Jacob Billikopf
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