Because Tate Publishing placed a 115,000 word limit, THE WAR GUILT CLAUSE was published without several chapters that author Max Blue now wonders how he agreed to eliminate. The Jewish Question is one of those chapters.
THE JEWISH QUESTION
Ed Frederick was back on Paris’ Champs-Elysées with Wickham Steed, sitting at a favorite sidewalk table watching the girls go by, and relaxing as best he could with a carafe of the superb red wine that took the place of water in this consummate French city; a late October sun was setting in the west, firing the high clouds to a crimson color that seemed to reflect the blood-drenched ground of northern France.
The fight in the Argonne ground on, but when Eddie Grant went down, Ed Frederick, by his side to the end, had seen enough.
“I would like to drink a toast to Captain Eddie Grant,” he said.
Steed raised his glass, drank deeply, and said, “Tell me about him.”
“He did not understand the war,” Ed began. “Why men were required to kill other men – he saw it as a pagan and barbarian practice, entirely inconsistent with the Christian message of ‘Love thy neighbor.’ Honor, duty, and comradeship he understood very well.
He died trying to rescue his friend.” Ed choked up at the thought of the fearless Eddie Grant standing tall in the teeth of death. He wiped a tear from his eye.
Steed patted Ed’s arm in a gesture of sympathy. “You have written his story well,” he said. “Your forum at the New York Times, has allowed you to tell people about courage – about sacrifice – dedication to duty and love of country. Why men fight.” He paused, very much aware of Ed’s eye patch, then added, “It remains to be told why young journalists pursue them.”
Ed Frederick, not quite 19 years old, had experienced a lifetime of strife, bloody conflict, agonizing death, unspeakable destruction; he wore a black eye patch to cover the scar tissue in his head where his left eye should be. An eye for a life was a trade a few hundred thousand men would have happily made in the killing fields of France and Belgium during the Great War. Ed, in pursuit of a story, had made the trade a year earlier in the assault by Haig’s 5th British Army near Pilckem Ridge on the left center of the Ypres salient. Ed looked at his boss, Wickham Steed, processing the man’s words; he had a great respect for Steed; respect for his position as editor, for his help in teaching him how to write, for his willingness to give a raw youth the opportunity to become a working journalist; maybe it was time he learned more about Steed.
“What about you?” Ed asked. “What are your thoughts on these subjects? Why do men fight?”
Wickham Steed was 47 years old, too old to fight but highly respected for his work as a correspondent and editor. After serving for 11 years as correspondent for the Times of London in Vienna, he was seen as a leading expert on Eastern Europe; his views and opinions were much sought after by high level bureaucrats and Cabinet politicians. He was a man of strong opinions – he had developed a deep contempt for the Austria-Hungary government, and an abiding dislike for British Prime Minister David Lloyd George.
Steed smiled in a condescending manner at his young protégé. “I think you have answered that question well, my young friend – sacrifice, dedication to duty, love of country – to those worthy ideals might be added comradeship; the urge to protect and aid your fellow soldier, men fight for that reason.”
“They do,” Ed agreed, “I have seen it often; Eddie Grant died for that reason, he was on a mission to rescue his Harvard classmate, Major Whittlesey.”
Steed then offered some thoughts that had been germinating in the incubator of his mind for longer than Ed Frederick had lived. Steed spoke with firsthand knowledge of Ed’s forum; he had enjoyed that privilege for more than 20 years following publication of his first book in 1894 – The Socialist and Labour Movement in England, Germany, and France. The book had been written with Ed Frederick’s type of youthful enthusiasm gained from Steed’s education at Oxford, and European universities in Paris, Berlin, and most particularly the 350 year-old east German University of Jena.
“Men fight because they have little or no choice; a more pertinent question is, why do Nations make war?”
It was a question that Ed had never considered, as young as he was, but one that had occupied Wickham Steed for as long as he could remember.
Steed drank more wine as he organized his thoughts on the question; he looked at the wide-eyed Ed Frederick, who had taken out a notebook and pencil. The learned Steed had often lectured before audiences of students, scholars, and diplomats, but never for a single listener until now; very well; he cleared his throat and began.
“The answer involves money, race, religion, ambition, politics, militarism, and a litany of complaints, some petty, some not. In short, this question has no simple answer.”
He paused as he noticed Ed taking furious notes.
“It would be difficult to sort out, or identify a single factor that could be called the most important of all the possibilities, but a case could be made that ethnic differences might be placed at, or most certainly near, the top of the list. Take the Magyars of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; their history goes back more than a thousand years, giving them ample time to develop attitudes toward neighboring cultural groups such as the Slavs, the Czechs, the Germans, the Turks, and the Russians; all of these groups view the others with suspicion, dislike, even hatred. Among other things, these groups are divided by language and religion – largely Christian except for the Muslim Turks.
“And ah, the Christians; they are violently split between Eastern Orthodox and traditional western Catholics and Protestants who in turn are violently divided among a thicket of sects, cults, and denominations. The quarreling and bickering of the various groups, however, stops cold before the so-called “Jewish Question.”
Ed was only marginally aware of anything Jewish. It was never a topic of conversation at the B&B in Brooklyn. When he asked his mother or father about the Jews he had seen in their odd costumes on the streets and neighborhoods near his home, they had simply replied that the Jews were different. He did, however, in his recent adventures with Eddie Grant’s 307th Infantry , have two relevant encounters. Should he interrupt Steed’s narrative to speak of them?
Steed had paused before the Jewish Question, attempting to organize his thoughts about a subject that he had often reflected on, and indeed had published some scholarly works about. He became aware of Ed’s desire to speak. “Do you have a question?” he asked.
Ed nodded, and said, “Gefreiter Grossman, a German prisoner captured by Captain Grant’s Company, talked about being Jewish in the modern Germany, and Private Krotoshinsky, a survivor of the lost battalion in the Argonne, told of leaving Polish Russia and coming to the United States because of the cruel treatment of Jews; he calls himself a Zionist – he looks forward to living in a Jewish homeland – he spoke of Palestine.”
Steed nodded. “Yes,” he said, “this is what it has come to – you have seen in these examples, precisely where the Jewish Question stands today. The story begins in the mist of ancient history – the Jewish calendar dates from almost four thousand years before the birth of Jesus.”
Ed made a note of it, then looked up in astonishment. “Is it possible?” He asked.
Steed answered, “The history is recorded in ancient documents recovered by scholars in the biblical lands of the Middle East. It seems incredible but it is certainly possible. Let me continue – those ancient Arabian lands were populated by tribes that moved often and competed for food and water in ways that we can only imagine. The Jews were one of those tribes; over thousands of years they had developed a culture with rituals and customs centered around the belief that life and their destiny were influenced, if not controlled, by a supreme being of unknowable power. It should also be mentioned that the Jewish tribes represent a prime example of Darwin’s thesis that survival favors those most fit – over the centuries the weak die out. Modern Jews as a group are universally recognized for their intelligence.
“Now, Ed,” Steed continued, “Imagine, if you can, that you are a Jew, striving to survive in the chaotic and violent world around the city of Jerusalem some six hundred years before the birth of Jesus. You and your tribe are threatened on all sides by hostile forces, most especially a rich and powerful tribe called the Babylonians, so strong they were described as an Empire. The Babylonians do not like the Jews, they overwhelm them with cruel and unmerciful destruction of their people, their lands, and their temples. The Jews are forced to flee the onslaught and embark on a historic journey that came to be called the Diaspora, a term now used to describe the scattering of a people from their ancestral homeland. The Jews are but one example, there has also been a Chinese diaspora.”
Ed was a rapt student. Steed was just getting started, and reveled in the young boy’s interest, and eagerness.
He continued, “The Jews moved north into Europe, some, called the Ashkenazi, to central and eastern Europe, some, called the Sephardic, to southeastern Europe, specifically the Iberian peninsula. Modern Scholars have trouble making distinctions between the two. As they settled into their new regions, the Jews remained in tight-knit groups, typically living close together in what came to be called ghettos, a term generally thought of in a negative way, except to the Jews who were comfortable near their friends and co-religionists. As the years passed, and generations succeeded generations, a question arose that to this day has never been answered to everyone’s satisfaction: are the Jews a race or a religion?”
Steed paused, seeing Ed’s questioning glance. “Don’t think I have the answer, my friend, there have been endless debates making the case for one side or the other, mostly because the answer might affect practical matters related to laws, taxation, politics, and related matters.”
“The Jews became known as traders, money lenders, and financial wizards, though in truth, a substantial majority remained tied to the soil. The Jews are generally thought to have been a primary influence in Western countries over the centuries in the change of societies from economic systems based on trading value for value to those calculated on the premise of profit and loss. Some put it simply: the Jews invented Capitalism.”
Steed smiled and paused for a chuckle. “The ironic truth is that the Jews also invented Socialism, and to this day, the battle between the two economic systems continues to rage, both inside and outside of Jewish communities throughout the world.”
Ed raised a finger. “Excuse me, Wick, but you’re getting into sticky ground for me. Do you have a simple explanation for Socialism? Back in Brooklyn my father’s group talked a lot about it, but I never was sure I understood it.”
Steed smiled again, he had this one nailed down. “Socialism is an economic system based on government ownership and administration of the means of production and administration of goods. Capitalism takes government out of the system and relies on competition in the free market to set values for goods and services. Small wars and big wars result when forces from the two opposing views bang up against each other. See what the Jews have wrought? – but the simple truth is that the Jews are divided on the two extremes just as the whole of Western Society is divided.”
Steed paused for a thought, then added, “I can’t speak for Eastern Societies, but I daresay the Chinese would have something to say about the development of economic systems, since from what I have read, they happily lay claim to all manner of societal firsts ranging from gunpowder to noodles.”
Ed scribbled more notes, then stood up and asked, “Wick, can we take a small break here? My head seems to be swelling with all this information.”
Steed nodded, “Of course – forgive me, my friend, when I get started on the Jewish question I seem to have a hard time stopping.” He signaled a waiter to bring more wine.
After stretching his legs with a few turns around the dozen or so busily occupied tables, with their spreading umbrellas, placed on the wide sidewalk edging the famous Paris boulevard, Ed returned to his seat next to Wickham Steed and once again opened his notebook preparing for the next lesson.
Steed plunged ahead as if he had not stopped. “You told of the German prisoner and the American private, and their Jewish connections. These are examples of the next point I want to make about the Jewish Question. There is a clear cut distinction regarding Jewish thinking among the millions who over the centuries have lived in the countries of Europe and the British Isles, and more recently, America where more than two million Jews have immigrated, mostly from Russia, in recent years. A large majority of these Jews have become what I call assimilationists – those Jews who want to be thought of as nothing more than citizens of the countries they live in. Gefreiter Grossman is one of those – he wants to be treated as a German citizen, not as a German Jew.”
Ed interrupted to acknowledge this point. “He told us that he had a good life in Germany, that his father was a shoemaker in Dachau, a village near Munich, and that he was proud to serve his country in the war against the imperialist English and French.”
Steed beamed. “Precisely; a shining example of an assimilated Jew. And then there are the Zionists, a vanishingly small minority compared to the assimilationists – those Jews who long for an independent Jewish State. Your Private Krotoshinsky seems to be a good example of this type of Jew, and who can blame him? Treated badly in Russia and not living long enough in America to become assimilated – young and tough – just what the Zionists need for their new country. The Zionist movement is in its infancy; a congress was held in Vienna in 1897 where it was proposed to purchase the African country of Uganda from the British and establish a Jewish state there. That idea went nowhere mostly because of the prevailing view that the only suitable place for such a state was the ancient Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Zionist movement promises to grow if recent developments are an indication. A year ago, almost to the day, the British Cabinet announced what is called the Balfour Declaration – in its simplest form it states that the British Government will support a Jewish settlement in Palestine once the war is ended,” he paused, then added, “as long as it is administered by the British.”
Steed paused for another question from his student. “What is your thinking about Zionism, Wick?” Ed asked
Steed nodded; as with almost everything, he had a strong and well-thought-out opinion. “I view it as the only long-term solution to the Jewish question, but I also understand that the Palestinian Arabs will resist it with all the power they can muster. There will be violence, even wars – it will take many years for the movement to succeed, if it ever will. I expect that if a Jewish state is ever established, many of the assimilated Jews will ultimately settle there. I say this because the desire of the assimilated Jews to be treated as just another citizen, in my opinion, can never be satisfied – they will always be seen as an alien force in Christian societies – the idea that “the Jews killed Jesus” will never go away. Then there is the firmly embedded view of conservative Christians that Jewish bankers can be blamed for many, if not all, of societies’ problems. In many minds, Jewish bankers and financiers are to blame for this war we are trying to end, as well as the Bolshevik Revolution that has engulfed Russia. It is all part of the Jewish question.”
Ed made a notation, then looked up and asked, “Are you a Christian, Wick?”
Steed lifted his glass, took a long draft, then replaced the glass on the table before he answered. He placed his hands, palm to palm touching his chin, looked at Ed and answered, “No. I am a Jew.” He raised his glass and said, “Next year, in Jerusalem.”
The two men sat quietly, drinking their wine; at length, Ed asked, “what about the war? When will it end?”
“Soon,” said Steed, “the American presence has proved decisive, the Germans are exhausted. Much depends on Herr Ludendorff – at the end of September, about the time you were heading into the Argonne with Captain Grant, Ludendorff informed the Kaiser that the military situation facing Germany was hopeless and appealed directly to President Wilson for a cease fire and a negotiated armistice based on Wilson’s fourteen points. But Wilson veered away from his points, and his conditions proved to be more than Ludendorff could endure; Wilson dismissed the call for an armistice and demanded unconditional German surrender. Ludendorff could not stomach it, so the fight continues.”