Before It's Too Late

An eyewitness account from The Manchester Guardian, March 1, 1921.


Disorders of some kind were evidently expected today, for pickets of security police were stationed at frequent intervals around the Reichstag and along the several main thoroughfares this morning. Towards noon a number of young men collected in small groups along the Kurfürstendamm. Most of them were students and wore the antisemitic swastika and German nationalist colours -- black, white and red -- in their buttonholes. There was a fairly big Sunday crowd strolling along the fashionable thoroughfare, and here, as elsewhere, the green uniforms of the security police were to be seen.

There are always a great many Jews among the crowd on the Kurfürstendamm, and suddenly the students attacked individuals whose features were unmistakably Jewish, hustling them and striking them with their sticks. The security police immediately intervened, but were hampered by crowds gathering densely round each fighting group. I saw two policemen liberate a Jew from his assailants. He was led into an open cab, but just as it drove off a student came up from behind and brutally struck him across the head with his cane. The Jew turned round quickly and hit back with two canes he had snatched in the struggle a short while before. One of the policemen got off the cab and walked behind, keeping off the crowd.

I only saw one policeman draw his revolver and that was to drive away some men who tried to liberate an accomplice, but no shots were fired. Several Jews were led away into safety by the police. The crowd was not at all excited, and did very little to interfere with the students, although a few who had struck Jews were pointed out to the police.

This is the first time that Jews have been victimised to any serious extent since the revolution. As far as I was able to observe no one was badly hurt, but the incident is an ominous one. It is also symptomatic of the present temper of German nationalists, and although anything such as a putsch would be sheer madness, the warnings that have recently been uttered by moderate and responsible people cannot be dismissed as mere alarmist talk.

I visited the Jewish Museum in Berlin this past fall. The horror of the Holocaust was in full display, but what struck me as powerfully was the history of anti-Semitism in Germany, largely ignored and mostly tolerated, that preceded Hitler and the Holocaust. It is the responsibility of all Americans -- Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike -- to not ignore or simply look askance at Donald's Trump's most recent hateful and bigoted statements. His views and opinions, on immigrants and Muslims, are frightfully dangerous and the fact that millions of our fellow citizens are drawn to his demagoguery is even more frightful. We all ought to feel compelled to speak out and speak out now, before it is too late. Because if he and his views are tolerated, they will find eventually their way into the mainstream and it will become too late. I fear that has already happened.