Hitler’s Threat to Annihilate the Jews
January 30, 1939
“When anyone attacks the Jew as a Jew and not as an individual, he is merely shooting his arrows through him at the real target, the rights and liberties of individuals. The Jew is the barometer of civilization because he is the hostage of fortune…”
– Rabbi Nathaniel Share, Congregation Gates of Prayer, New Orleans, Louisiana, quoted in The Times-Picayune, February 1, 1939
In February 1939, our survivor Shep Zitler, born in Vilna, (then) Poland, was drafted into the Polish army. This was few weeks after Hitler’s speech to the Reichstag, when the German leader threatened to annihilate the Jewish people. In the winter of 1939, as the war clouds gathered, Shep wasn’t thinking about Hitler. His concern was the anti-Semitism he encountered as a recruit, with a thick Jewish-Lithuanian accent, in the Polish army, which, incidentally, had only 7 months left on earth.
On January 30, 1939, the 6th anniversary of his coming to power, Hitler addressed members of the Reichstag in the Kroll Opera House and issued his infamous threat:
“Today I will once more be a prophet: If the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will be not the Bolshevization of the earth and thus the victory of Jewry, but, on the contrary, the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe!”
The speech was broadcast on German radio and reached an audience far beyond Germany. Hitler repeated the threat (quoting this speech of January 30, 1939) many times during the war. By 1942, he left no doubt his promise of annihilation was being fulfilled.
What did the AP article in The Times-Picayune have to say about Hitler’s speech? Did the reporter mention Hitler’s threat to murder the Jews? He did not, but he twice referred to Hitler’s anti-Semitism.
The reporter wrote that Hitler “proclaimed Europe could not come to rest until the Jewish question was solved,” and “Hitler’s address was filled with anti-Semitism. He denied the existence of religious persecution in Germany.” The speech was published in its entirety on page 7 of the Picayune.
Key Pittman, a U. S. senator (Democrat) from Nevada, was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He thought Hitler’s speech was cause for optimism. If Hitler’s actions were “as tolerant as his Reichstag speech today there will be no fear of any immediate war.”
The Times-Picayune, January 31, 1939 – NAZIS SAVED EUROPE FROM RED PERIL, SAYS HITLER, Fuehrer Tells How Party Wrought ‘Miracle’ to Halt Germany’s 15-Year Decline, Collapse of Reich in 1933 Would Have Loosed Bolshevik Flood on West, He Reminds Hearers, (AP) p. 7
In New Orleans, the day after Hitler’s speech, Rabbi Nathaniel Share of Congregation Gates of Prayer addressed the Exchange Club at Maylie’s Restaurant. The following day an article about his talk could be found on page 8 of the Picayune: “When anyone attacks the Jew as a Jew and not as an individual, he is merely shooting his arrows through him at the real target, the rights and liberties of individuals. The Jew is the barometer of civilization because he is the hostage of fortune…”
On February 19, 1939, the Picayune published a United Press article on page 1 describing a second expulsion of Polish Jews who lived in Germany. They included “destitute” women and children whose husbands and fathers were violently expelled on October 28, 1938.
The American Nazi Party (the Bund) held a rally at Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1939. The reporter (and columnist) Dorothy Thompson, who had lived in Nazi Germany and was an unwavering advocate of refugees, shouted “Bunk” at the Bund speaker. A riot ensued.