The Minister in Austria (Stockton) to the Secretary of State

No. 499

Sir: With reference to my telegram No. 17, of January 30, 1932,4 I have the honor to enclose an excellent report, dated February 4, 1932,4 prepared by Mr. Ernest L. Harris, American Consul General in Vienna, concerning the anti-Jewish and anti-Social Democratic disturbances which took place at the University during the latter part of January.

The situation assumed a serious aspect on January 28, when the son of Social Democratic City Councilman Speiser was severely beaten. Following this incident, the authorities immediately closed the University indefinitely, and the Rector issued a clear-cut statement condemning [Page 121] the attacks upon Jewish students and threatening those guilty of such outrages with expulsion.

In my telegram referred to above I stated that no complaint of mistreatment of any American citizen had been received either at the Legation or the Consulate General. Nevertheless, I requested the Consul General, and the Commercial Attaché, Mr. Gardner Richardson, to attempt to find out whether or not any American student had been maltreated during the disturbances. On February 1, Mr. Richardson reported that no American citizen had been involved in the disorders, but that three Jewish students of other nationalities had been injured, one badly enough to require hospital treatment. A copy of Mr. Richardson’s memorandum is herewith enclosed.5

Upon receiving the Consul General’s report, which was contradictory to the Commercial Attaché’s, I sent Mr. Richardson a copy of Mr. Harris’ communication, with the request that he investigate the matter further. On February 8, Mr. Richardson wrote me a second memorandum, a copy of which is enclosed,5 confirming the Consul General’s statement that an American student, Mr. Nathan Susskind, had become involved in a clash between National Socialist students and Jewish students, and had been slightly hurt.

The Austrian authorities appeared to be more disturbed over this outbreak than over any previous one, and the Dean’s statement condemning the assaults on Jewish students was unanimously approved by the University Senate on February 1. The Minister of Education, Dr. Czermak, in a communication to the Dean, denounced in no uncertain terms the disorders at the University, stating that they would jeopardize the institution’s reputation and expressing the hope that the University authorities would take steps to punish those responsible for the outbreaks. In conclusion Dr. Czermak urged that the University authorities take the necessary measures to safeguard the right of every student to attend lectures without fear of molestation, regardless of race or nationality.

Upon Mr. Harris’ invitation, Mr. Clarence W. Efroymson, of Indianapolis, Indiana, a student at the University, called at the Consulate General on February 1. He stated that due to the National Socialistic propaganda against the Jews at the University, it was difficult for Jewish students to keep out of trouble. He went on to say that upon registering at the University a student had to give his “racial descent” as German, English, Jewish, etc.; that he had written “American”, which had not been acceptable; that an American student had to register as either English-American, German-American, [Page 122] Jewish-American, etc. Mr. Efroymson also informed the Consulate General confidentially that a Jewish Legion was being formed at the University and asked whether or not an American Jewish student should join it. Mr. Harris advised him emphatically not to do so and said that American students should make every effort to avoid trouble. I have requested the Consul General to find out whether it is true that the University authorities require citizens of the United States to register as hyphenated Americans.

Also upon the invitation of Mr. Harris, Mr. Nathan Susskind, of New York City, to whom I have already referred, called at the Consulate General on February 4. He stated that, so far as he knew, he was the only American student who had been injured during the disturbances at the University; that he was “being badly beaten” in June, 1931, until he was rescued by a policeman and that on January 28, 1932, he was again injured in the attack upon Jewish students. The following is quoted from the Consulate General’s stenographic report of Mr. Susskind’s statement:

“In spite of the efforts of the Professor, who is a German Nationalist, the disturbances continued and several students went up and down spotting the Jews. This lasted until 12 o’clock. During the ensuing pause the Professor left the room and the Nationalist students formed a mill. Several went up and down and asked us for membership cards of the Deutsche Studentenschaft. I said ‘I am an American citizen’ and showed my passport. My inquirer then asked the mob: ‘What shall we do with this one?’ But the others called: ‘Jew is Jew, he shall have no privilege’. My inquirer desired to take me out, but I wanted to fetch my clothes first from the garderobe. I told him that I wanted to call attention to the fact that I am an American-German exchange student and therefore some kind of a German guest here. My inquirer then took me by the hand and called out that nothing would happen to me. He called to the others: ‘Do not beat him, he is an American’. But he could not help it, for as I passed through the ranks of the German students they all kicked me.”

In my telegram of July 3, 1931,7 I informed the Department that I had called upon Dr. Schober, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, and had urged “that somebody with a sense of the realities of life and yet who has the confidence of the Nationalistic students talk common sense into them and that the police be alert to break up embryonic clashes in their incipiency, which is possible, as disturbances are generally localized around the University”, and that Dr. Schober had assured me the necessary steps would be taken.

Apparently my informal protest to Dr. Schober concerning conditions at the University was effective. Mr. Susskind volunteered that [Page 123] he had been rescued by the police when assaulted last June and that in January when he stated he was an American exchange student, one of the ringleaders of the National Socialistic mob had escorted him to safety, calling out to his comrades: “Don’t beat him, he is an American”, though, unfortunately, his self-appointed guardian was unable to protect him from cowardly kicks as he was being conducted from the lecture room. Mr. Susskind went on to say that he had not reported the assault to the Consulate General, as there was a rumor among the American students at the University that if they complained to the Consul General they would be advised to stay away from the University at such times to avoid trouble and that he “did not wish to receive such advice”. He added that two students who looked like Jews, but were not, acted as agents provocateurs and attempted to incite Jewish students to say or do something which would cause an outbreak, which, if true, is certainly despicable.

I agree with the Consul General that some of the American Jewish students are inclined at times to be provocative, relying upon their American citizenship to protect them from the consequences of their actions. I also agree with Mr. Harris that, due to the desperate financial and economic conditions in Austria and to bitter, deepseated, racial antagonisms in the country as a whole, stimulated by “Hitlerism”, an extraordinarily lawless and brutal spirit has developed among the students of the University.

Mr. Harris states that he has warned American Jewish students with whom he has come in contact to use discretion and to remain away from the lecture rooms when trouble is brewing. I have never gone so far in my advice to American students, but in my telegram of July 3, 1931, referred to above, I informed the Department I had requested the President of the American Medical Association of Vienna “to warn members of his Association that they must not become involved in local political or racial controversies and then expect the United States Government to rush to protect them when they got into trouble.”

I am not in accord with the Consul General that the problem is solely an internal Austrian affair and that nothing can be done to protect American Jewish students at the University except through informal and friendly representations to the University authorities or by closing the University. I am of the opinion that the Austrian Government and the University authorities owe a duty to foreign students to take all reasonable precautions to protect them as long as they conform with University regulations.

I shall continue to watch this situation closely, and if the University disturbances recur I propose to call on Dr. Buresch, the [Page 124] Federal Chancellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs, and to make a statement to him similar to the statement I made to Dr. Schober last June, which I outlined in my telegram of July 3, referred to above, and to leave with him an aide-mémoire of my remarks.

Respectfully yours,

G. B. Stockton
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