Race quotas: The terrible power of ‘demographic representivity'

James Myburgh examines the history of the principle underlying the ANC's programme of racial transformation


Over the past year or so the ANC government has passed a number of laws designed to allow for the more effective enforcement of ‘demographic representivity' in the economy and professions. This is the principle that all spheres of life in South Africa should be made to conform, at all levels, to the racial (and increasingly now gender) composition of the total economically active population of the country: 74.9% black, 11,3% white, 10.8% Coloured and 3% Indian.

This principle, the enforcement of which relies upon the perpetuation of apartheid-era racial categories, is seen to negate the right of any individual from a minority community to equal treatment before the law. It is also seen as justifying the extension of party and state control into all "centres of power" in society - most recently over the legal profession.

President Jacob Zuma stated earlier this year that his government's priority now is to ensure that the economy "reflects the demographics of the country" in both management and ownership. The Employment Equity Amendment Act, passed late last year, gives government massively increased leverage to enforce its will on this matter.

Among many South African intellectuals this principle is regarded as self-evidently natural and just. It is seen as compatible with "non-racialism", synonymous with "substantive equality" and a matter of "distributional" and "economic justice". Opponents of the EE Amendment Act were derided last year as "conservatives", "rank conservatives", "arch conservatives" and "dinosaurs".

In the Western media too the enforcement of this principle in South Africa seems to be regarded as wholly unobjectionable, which is why it is seldom reported on (and very rarely critically). It is safe to say too that one's chances of securing funding from an Anglo-American donor organisation - such as the Open Society Foundation or Reith Foundation - for a project aimed at contesting this racial goal is practically zero.

In a sense it is both surprising and not surprising that a large part of civil society would go along with the idea that a racial majority government is entitled to intervene to limit the share of minorities in all occupations and fields (and property ownership as well) to their percentage of the population. It is surprising as this principle has a deeply nasty history. It is not surprisingas if one traces this idea back to the moment it took fire in 1930s Europe it is clear that it exerts a truly terrible power over the modern democratic imagination.

The invention of demographic representivity

In his 1940 analysis of Germany under Adolph Hitler the exiled German dissident Sebastian Haffner noted the profound importance of a vindictive and violent anti-Semitism to the inner-core of the Nazi Party. It served, he wrote, as a "secret sign and binding mystery among Nazis", a means of "selection and trial" by which the most cruel and unscrupulous could be chosen.[1]

Yet, according to much of the literature, such anti-Semitism had played little role in the dramatic electoral rise of the Nazi Party several years before (from 1928 to 1933) - as, at the time, it had minimal popular appeal outside of party ranks. Claudia Koonz notes, "A comparison of anti-Semitic acts and attitudes towards Jews in the popular press of Germany and four European nations (France, Great Britain, Italy and Romania) from 1899 demonstrates that Germans, before 1933, were among the least anti-Semitic people."[2]

One indication of this was that Hitler apparently made few references to anti-Semitic themes in his 1932 election campaign. In a feature article for the New York Times, July 10 1932, Emil Lengyel observed that:

"It is beyond doubt that, as the [Nazi] party is moving toward power, the sharp edges of many of its views are becoming blunt. Even though Adolf Hitler refused to submit to cross-examination the other day on the ground that the lawyer of his opponent was a Jew his speeches no longer bristle with pointed references to the anti-Semitic cause. He lately went so far in his repudiation of racial exclusiveness as to assert in a public statement that ‘against honest Jews we have nothing to say'."

Yet, within a few months of Adolph Hitler's appointment as Chancellor of Germany in late January 1933 the Nazi's had succeeded in persuading much mainstream German and foreign opinion of the existence of a "Jewish Question" and the legitimacy of the legal (though not violent) measures it was employing to solve it.

The crucial turning point was, it seems, the campaign against the German Jews engineered by Paul Joseph Goebbels, newly appointed Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, in late March and early April 1933 - almost exactly eighty-one years ago.

The invention of the "Jewish Question"

In the early months of 1933 there had been a flood of low level violence and harassment of Jewish Germans by Nazi Brown-Shirts, running alongside the more general persecution of political opponents of the new regime. This, along with the Nazi Party's openly anti-Semitic programme, had led to calls by various Jewish organisations in the United States and elsewhere for a trade boycott of Nazi Germany.

The British Daily Express reported on this development on its front page on March 24 1933 under the heading: "Judea declares war on Germany". The newspaper stated that "a strange and unforeseen sequel has emerged from the stories of German Jew-baiting. The whole of Israel throughout the world is uniting to declare an economic and financial war on Germany."

This article was answered by Goebbels in an article pasted across the front page of the Sunday Express on March 26 1933. In this article Goebbels - according to one report - denied that any atrocities had been committed against the Jews and offered "a reward for the name of a single Jew whose death can be laid to the Nazi revolution." He further stated that the anti-Semitic movement in Germany was motivated by the fact "that German laws, though a small percentage of the general population, hold an enormously large number of influential public posts."

The same day Goebbels met with Hitler at his Berchtesgaden retreat to discuss how to respond to anti-Nazi agitation abroad. In his diary entry on the meeting Goebbels wrote:

"We shall only be able to combat the falsehoods abroad if we get at those who originated them or at those Jews living in Germany who have thus far remained unmolested. We must, therefore, proceed to a large-scale boycott of all Jewish business in Germany. Perhaps the foreign Jews will think better of the matter when their racial comrades in Germany begin to get it in the neck."[3]

The following evening, Monday March 27, the Nazi Party announced its intention, in a party bulletin, of holding a counter-boycott against Jewish-owned business concerns in Germany ostensibly in retaliation for the boycott and atrocity propaganda of the Jews in the US and England. This would be combined, the New York Times reported, with a nation-wide campaign for "a decree immediately restricting the admission of Jews to certain academic professions and public institutions." The bulletin declared that:

"There are more than 8,000,000 unemployed in Germany, among them hundreds of thousands of Intellectuals. Nevertheless, the German people have admitted hundreds of thousands of Jewish Intellectuals to the liberal professions. These same academic Jewish circles today thank Germany by lowering her in the estimation of the world. To check this, a demand will now be voiced to admit Jews to universities and to the professions of attorney and physician only in proportion to their numerical strength among the population of Germany."

As the newspaper's correspondent wryly noted, given that the Jewish proportion of the German population was less than 1 per cent, "the number of Jewish professional men would not be large under such a restriction."[4]

In a confidential dispatch to London on March 28 the British ambassador to Germany Sir Horace Rumbold wrote that the Jewish community in Germany "are faced with a much more serious danger than mere bodily maltreatment or petty persecution":

"Throughout the public services they are being systematically removed from their posts, nominally on the grounds they have Marxist sympathies. Doctors, lawyers, judges, professors and persons whose appointment rests in any way in official hands are being ruthlessly dismissed for no other reason than the accident of race."

Rumbold- otherwise a remarkably clear-eyed and hard-nosed critic of the new regime - described the source of the "Jewish Problem" in Germany as follows:

"Ever since the [1918] revolution Jews have been given fair play in every walk of life in this country, with the result that their racial superiority was asserting itself, at any rate in German eyes, to an almost alarming extent. It is obvious to any observer that the average German, while superior to the Jew in many respects, and while endowed with remarkable qualities of tenacity, industry and sobriety, is distinctly inferior in an artistic sense and even in a purely intellectual sense to the German Jew. Wherever imagination, financial acumen or even business flair comes into play, the Jew tends to outdistance his German rival, and in every domain of intellectual effort the achievements of the Jews are entirely out of proportion to their numbers. In a country where they hardly amount to 2 per cent of the population, they have practically monopolised some professions and have obtained the plums of a great many others.... It is only natural that the academic youth of this country should bitterly resent the success of the Jews, especially at a moment when the learned professions in Germany are hopelessly overcrowded. The dismissal of doctors, lawyers and teachers, which is now taking place on a wholesale scale, will reopen these professions to the National Socialist candidates, and the anti-Semitic Nazi party comprises in its ranks most of the academic youth of this country for that very reason."

The same day, Tuesday March 28, the Nazi Party issued its proclamation of the boycott, to be held on Saturday April 1, and which, it said, was "tolerated but not supported by the government."

The first of the eleven commands for the conduct of the boycott, laid down by the proclamation, stated that "in every local group and every organisation and department of the National Socialist party committees of action are to be formed immediately for the practical and systematic execution of a boycott against Jewish business establishments, goods physicians and lawyers."

The ninth command stated that these committees shall "initiate propaganda immediately in tens of thousands of mass meetings that must reach the smallest village for raising a demand that the number of Jews in all occupations shall be restricted to their percentage of the population in Germany. To heighten the driving force of this action the demands shall provisionally be restricted to three fields: admission to German secondary schools and universities and the legal and medical professions."[5]

Although this boycott tends to be described as a failure it was strikingly successful in one crucial respect. As Haffner later noted in his 1939 memoir:

"Apart from the terror, the unsettling and depressing aspect of this first murderous declaration of intent was that it triggered off a flood of argument and discussions all over Germany, not about anti-Semitism but about the ‘Jewish Question'.... Suddenly everyone felt justified, and indeed required, to have an opinion about the Jews, and to state it publicly. Distinctions were made between ‘decent' Jews and the others. If some pointed to the achievements of Jewish scientists, artists and doctors to justify the Jews (justify? what for? against what?), others would counter that they were a detrimental ‘foreign influence' in these spheres. Indeed, it soon become customary to count it against the Jews if they had a respectable or intellectually valuable profession. This was treated as a crime or, at the very least, a lack of tact. The defenders of the Jews were frowningly told it was reprehensible of the Jews to have such-and-such a percentage of doctors, lawyers, journalists, etc. Indeed, per cent calculations were a popular ingredient of the ‘Jewish Question'."[6]

New York Times report noted how popular opinion in Bavaria -formerly a redoubt of anti-Nazi sentiment - had successfully been turned against the Jews by this campaign. The newspaper's correspondent wrote of a "weakening on the Jewish question" among members of the Bavarian People's Party. "Although their party was formerly protector of the Jews, they now approve the new government's policy of reducing the proportion of Jewish doctors, judges and lawyers to 1 per cent of their non-Jewish colleagues, to correspond to the proportion of Jews to the total population of Germany."[7]

On April 6 Adolph Hitler met with a deputation of doctors in Berlin, in which the Chancellor game them his views on the racial problem and the "cleansing" of the intellectual classes from "foreign influences". Hitler was quoted, in one press report, as saying that the "admittance of Jewish domination out of all proportion to the size of the Jewish population in Germany would be regarded as an acknowledgment of the intellectual superiority of their race, and this must decisively rejected."[8]

The "April Laws" adopted that month sought to give effect to the demands of the April 1 boycott. On April 7 1933 the Hitler cabinet approved the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service which required the retirement of non-Aryan civil servants (with the exemption inter alia of those who had fought in World War One) and allowed for the dismissal of all those seen as opposed to the new regime.

It also approved the Law on the Admission to the Legal Profession which allowed for "non-Aryans" to be barred from admittance to the Bar in future, as well as for the cancellation of the admittance of practicing Jewish lawyers up until September 1933. Of around 19 500 admitted lawyers in Germany at the time 4 585 were of Jewish origin. As a result of the law about 1 500 lost their right to practice. (Jewish doctors were barred from clinics and hospitals falling under the national health insurance system - but were otherwise allowed to continue practicing, for the moment.)

In German Jewish circles this legalised expulsion of Jews from the public service, the professions and increasingly business (the Nazi's had instructed governmental agencies not to buy from Jewish concerns) was described, at the time, as the "cold pogrom." A New York Timesarticle on the plight of the German Jews commented that: "Worst of all is the lot of the new Jewish generation. The bars being erected against entry into the professions are insurmountable. The application of the numerus clausus to university admissions is already semi-officially predicted and even those students who are admitted will have to pass a special test designed to debar rather than admit." (April 16 1933)

On April 25 1933 the Law against overcrowding of German Schools and Higher Institutions was duly adopted. This required inter alia that "The number of non-Aryan Germans... who may be admitted to schools, colleges and universities, must not exceed a number proportionate to the Aryan students in each school, college or university compared to the percentage of non-Aryans within the entire German population [1.5%]. This proportion is fixed uniformly for the whole Reich." The children of Jews who had fought for Germany in World War One were exempted from this provision. According to the New York Times the "avowed purpose of the law is to prevent ‘members of alien races' from monopolising the greater part of the important and better-paid academic professions."

The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung commented on April 27, in its explanation of the need for such a law, that "A self-respecting nation cannot, on a scale accepted up to now, leave its higher activities in the hands of people of racially foreign origin... Allowing the presence of too high a percentage of people of foreign origin in relation to their percentage of the population could be interpreted as an acceptance of the superiority of other races, something decidedly to be rejected."[9]

At the end of the month Goebbels gave a statement to Sir Evelyn Wrench, the British chairman of the All Peoples Association, explaining Germany's actions against the Jews. Goebbels explained the "certain feeling of aversion on the part of the German nation towards Judaism" as due inter alia to "first the corruption scandals [involving Eastern Jews], secondly the increase in the number of Jews in the public life of the country, and thirdly the large number of public posts occupied by Jews, which in no way corresponds with the proportion of the Jewish element to the proportion of Germany as a whole."

This feeling is there, Goebbels continued, "and one cannot alter it. It has not been created by the government; it emerged of itself from the people as a whole. The government has approached the matter in a broadminded way, it has issued no anti-Jewish laws, but has sought to direct this feeling into legal and properly regulated channels, and has laid down the definite percentage of positions which shall be occupied by the Jews in the legal and medical professions."[10]

Through the 1930s complaints about racial imbalances in the economy, professions, and so on, remained central to Nazi efforts to legitimate the progressive exclusion of the Jews from one sphere of life after another.[11] In 1934 Goebbels' propaganda ministry established theInstitut zum Studium der Judenfrage (Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question / Jewish Problem.)

The publications of the Institute documented at great detail the over-representation of Jews in various fields relative to their percentage of the total population, before the "national revolution." The following table from the book, Die Juden in Deutschland, published by the Institute in 1936 - setting out the "very one sided distribution" of the Jews in the medical and legal professions in Berlin in early 1933 - is typical:

In 1939 the Institute published a pamphlet "Germany and the Jewish Question" by Dr Friedrich Karl Wiebe, which was also translated into French and English. Again, Wiebe made great play of the racial imbalances in pre-Nazi Germany in the medical and legal professions, the economic life of the country, and the press (as well as, allegedly, in corruption and acts of immorality.) For instance, he wrote:

"In 1932 there were approximately 50,000 German medical practitioners of which 6,488, - 13% -were Jews. That is to say, a figure ten times greater than that to which they were entitled on the basis of population ratio....An abnormal and disproportionate state of affairs also existed in the legal professions as compared with the population ratio. In 1933 there were 11,795 lawyers practising in Prussia of which 3,350 or nearly 30% were Jews; 2,051 or 33% of the total number of 6,236 public notaries were Jews."

In his conclusion he defended the early measures taken to reduce "Jewish influence" (JüdischenEinflusses), stating:

"When the National Socialists came into power in 1933, they endeavoured to solve the Jewish question by methods calculated to peacefully reduce the excessive influence of the Jews on public life to proportions compatible, firstly, with the position of the Jews as an alien race, and, secondly, with their number - which, as has already been said, was less than 1% of the total German population. When the amount of misfortune brought on Germany by the Jews prior to 1933 is recalled, the methods adopted to diminish their influence on German public life must be accounted remarkably moderate, and as evidencing extraordinary restraint and discipline among the leaders of the new Germany..."

The impact on foreign opinion

In his 1940 work Haffner wrote of the absence of "spiritual opposition" to Nazism in Western Europe in the years running up to 1939. Hitler, he noted, had "decreed anti-Semitism and world discovered the Jewish Question." Indeed, the effect of the Nazi's April campaign against the Jews - and Goebbels' framing of the Jewish Problem - seems to have had an immediate impact on foreign opinion.

The New York Times correspondent reported from Hamburg on April 18 1933 the Nazi's "cold pogrom" against the German Jews had, reportedly, "revived the Jewish problem in countries to the south and east of Germany" and threatened to undermine the restraints on the deep-rooted anti-Semitism in central Europe. In July the newspaper reported on demands by prominent backers of the pro-Fascist but anti-Nazi Dolfuss regime in Austria for the enforcement of a "strict limitation of the Jews in the medical, legal and other professions", apparently in an effort to steal Hitler's thunder on the issue.[12]

Goebbels' propaganda also seems to have resonated with the latent prejudices of the British and US elites. In his dispatch to the British Foreign Office explaining the "April Laws" in Germany Rumbold wrote: "Nobody could deny that the legal profession, the medical profession, and the teaching profession were swamped by Jews, that all the bank directorships were in their hands, that the press... was in their clutches, that entry into the theatres, the broadcasting corporation, not to mention the cinema, or such purely Jewish institutions as the Stock Exchange, was debarred to the blue-eyed Teutonic stock."[13]

Through 1933 Goebbels, and his ministry, would repeatedly counter foreign sympathy for the Jewish victims of Nazi abuses by invoking the principle that it was unfair and unjust for Jews to have taken up such a disproportionate share of the leading positions in Germany.

In a debate in the British House of Commons on July 5 1933 various MPs had spoken outagainst the mistreatment of the Jews of Germany in the budget debate for the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In his reply to the debate the Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, commented: "There have been very general indications of a feeling of distress and concern about the situation and more particularly the situation in which certain minorities find themselves in Germany-and I, by no means confine myself to the Jews. I will only say... that what has been said to-day is not said in any spirit of narrow criticism or sectionalism. It is the real expression of the reaction of the British people as a whole."

In reaction Goebbels' ministry issued a semi-official reply which it instructed the German press to publish together with excerpts from Simon's speech. This statement declared that Simon was neither properly informed nor did he see events in Germany from the proper perspective. It added: "That the Jewish question in Germany is not treated as a racial question should be known to him. It is merely intended to return the Jewish element to that participation in public life and other activities which is in proportion to its quota within the general population."[14]

In a speech to the foreign press in Geneva, on September 29 1933, Goebbels admitted that there had been some incidents of violence against the Jews earlier that year committed by "uncontrollable elements". The Jews had, he said, not been treated as inferior, but added:

"It must be remembered the Jews of Germany were exercising at that time a decisive influence on the whole intellectual life; that they were absolute and unlimited masters of the press, literature, the theatre and the motion pictures, and in large cities such as Berlin, 75 per cent of the members of the medical and legal professions were Jews; that they made public opinion, exercised a decisive influence on the Stock Exchange and were the rulers of Parliament and its parties."[15]

This fear of "Jewish domination" seems to have spread like a virus through world opinion. As aManchester Guardian book review of August 23 1938 noted, "The whole world is becoming Jew-conscious under the influence of Nazi persecution and Nazi propaganda." In terms of public policy this Jew-consciousness was manifested in two ways:

Among Western liberal governments there was a growing reluctance to admit German-speaking Jewish refugees for fear of importing the "Jewish Question" into their own countries, or exacerbating it. The hypocrisy of such governments, in criticising Nazi Germany's anti-Jewish measures but refusing to provide sanctuary to the victims, was mercilessly ridiculed by Nazi leaders. As Goebbels put it in his September 1933 Geneva speech: "What we do not understand is that while there were protests at Germany's defensive action in this field [in April], there was, on the other hand, no willingness to absorb the excess Jewish population emigrating from Germany." On November 14 1938, days after the violent Kristallnacht pogrom Goebbels's newspaper, Der Angriff, observed that while Germany would be delighted to see the Jews go "It is today practically true that not a single country in the world will admit more Jews within its borders without reservations."

Among a number of pro-German (and/or illiberal) parties and governments there was a push for measures to solve the "Jewish Question" in their own countries. These almost invariably aimed inter alia at limiting the percentage of Jews in various fields to their percentage of the total population. One of the standard rationales was that "Jewish influence" was currently too great, and urgently needed to be curtailed. Some examples include:

On April 3 1937 the Manchester Guardian reported that the Rumanian government was currently drafting a law requiring that Rumanian citizens of "Rumanian blood" shall "enjoy a privileged position in the general economic life of the country" while the employment of citizens from the country's racial minorities "in the professions, industry, and commerce will be allowed only up to a very small percentage, limited by law."

The impact of events in Germany were felt even in South Africa where Hendrik Verwoerd, then editor of Die Transvaler, published an extensive essay in October 1937 on the "The Jewish Question from the National Party standpoint." In this he argued that: "Legislation must gradually but purposefully ensure that each section of the population [Jews, Afrikaners and English] should, as far as practicable, enjoy a share of each of the major occupations, according to its proportion of the white population."

In May 1938 the pro-German government in Hungary passed the "first Jewish law" which required that:

"Industrial and commercial undertakings and banking houses employing more than ten persons are given five, or in certain cases ten, years in which to adjust the proportion of employees and of salaries, bonuses, and so on, to conform with the general rule that does not allow the Jewish share under any of these headings to exceed twenty percent of the total. In chambers of industry and in the legal, medical, and engineering professions, new Jewish members will be admitted at the rate of only five percent, until the Jewish proportion is reduced to the limit of twenty percent. New chambers in journalism and in the entertainment industry will be set up by the end of the year, and the twenty percent numerus clausus will come into force at once."[16]

In December that year the Manchester Guardian reported on the second Jewish Law, about to go before parliament, "for the restriction of Jewish influence in the economic and cultural life of the Hungarian nation." This legislation, which came into effect in May 1939, saw a considerable tightening of the limits on Jewish participation in the life of the country:

"In the professions of law, engineering, medicine, journalism, and the stage the Jews may not occupy more than 6 per cent of all the positions available. An additional 3 percent is granted for Jewish ex-servicemen. Chief editors and publishers of newspapers may in no case be Jewish. Not more than 6 percent of the staffs of individual newspapers may be Jewish. Jewish newspapers and publications are excepted. In all private enterprises Jewish employees must not be more than 12 percent, with an additional 3 percent for ex-servicemen. This regulation applies also to exclusively or partially Jewish-owned enterprises. Government contracts will be given to Jews only when there are no suitable non-Jewish applicants."[17]

(According to the historian CA Macartney these laws were mitigated somewhat by their enforcement in "the Hungarian way", namely lackadaisically: "...the business went on as before, all the real work being done by the Jews, while the requisite changes in the proportions of Jewish and non-Jewish employees, etc., were effected by simply taking on extra non-Jewish employees, many of whom did little more than draw their salaries."[18])

In Italy, a country with barely any history of anti-Semitism, the Mussolini regime issued various decrees in 1938 aimed at limiting "Jewish participation in ‘the full life of the nation' in proportion to their [minuscule] percentage of the total population."[19]

In Vichy France too a "statut de juifs" (Jewish Law) was passed in 1940 and another in 1941. The first expelled Jews from public positions, and the media, while the second sought to settle "the role it is appropriate to attribute henceforth to their private activity in the national economy." According to one history of Vichy France "The first statute had promised to impose a numerus clausus in the liberal professions; this project was now implemented by a veritable assembly-line production of decrees of application between June and December 1941." Decrees were issued limiting Jews to 2 percent of lawyers, surgeons-dentists (June), doctors (August), architects (September), midwives and pharmacists (December.) Jews were also "limited as students to 3 percent in institutions of higher education."[20]

These laws provoked little reaction from mainstream French opinion. One of the rare exceptions was Albert Camus, then working at the newspaper, Paris Soir. In a letter to one Jewish friend, Irène Djian, written after the adoption of the first law he denounced it "despicable and unjust" and promised he would always stand by her, adding: "This wind cannot last if each and every one of us calmly affirmed that the wind smells rotten."

Few did. Goebbels' propaganda against the Jews had a truly extraordinary reach, his definition of the "Jewish Problem" not only infected Nazi Germany's Axis allies, but its most resolute Allied opponents as well. The proof of this lies in a memorandum of a meeting, in Casablanca on January 17 1943, between United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (along with various US army officers) and General Charles Noguès - Vichy France's Resident General in Morocco who had crossed over to the Allied side, along with other officials, in November the previous year.

According to the official minutes of the meeting the question arose as to how to respond to the demand, by North African Jews, that they get their complete freedom back. In response to this Roosevelt commented that he "felt the whole Jewish problem should be studied very carefully and that progress should be definitely planned. In other words, the number of Jews engaged in the practice of the professions (law, medicine, etc.) should be definitely limited to the percentage that the Jewish population in North Africa bears to the whole of the North African population. Such a plan would therefore permit the Jews to engage in the professions, at the same time would not permit them to overcrowd the professions, and would present an unanswerable argument that they were being given their full rights."

To the foregoing, Noguès agreed, generally, "stating at the same time that it would be a sad thing for the French to win the war merely to open the way for the Jews to control the professions and the business world of North Africa."

Roosevelt then commented that "his plan would further eliminate the specific and understandable complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany, namely, that while they represented a. small part of the population, over fifty percent of the lawyers, doctors, school teachers, college professors, etc., in Germany, were Jews."


"Racism" is commonly understood as the doctrine of racial superiority of one race over the other. However, as documented above, some of the Nazi's most effective propaganda against the Jews appealed to the principle of "racial equality". (Equally, much anti-Semitic legislation adopted by European states in the 1930s and early 1940s was directed towards enforcing an "equality of outcomes" in the professions, economy, press and cultural life of their countries.)

This helped open the door to widespread, and ultimately open-ended, societal acceptance of severe and escalating discrimination against individuals of Jewish descent. For, if society (or world opinion) accepts the principle, upfront, that 6 out of 7 individuals should be ejected from their occupation, in pursuit of the goal of racial proportionality, it is difficult to see at what point it will recover its sense of right and wrong. By the time the 5th or 6th individual is pushed aside society will be so compromised by what it has already acceded to, and so habituated to injustice, that it is hardly likely to lift a finger in protest when, as invariably happens, the 7thgets thrown out as well, and so on and on.

The question is why this wind, which has brought with it to so much destruction and misery across Europe and Africa, is still not recognised by so much intellectual opinion as smelling deeply rotten?

One possible answer is that the ideal of racial proportionality - in all fields and at all levels - is almost hard-wired into the modern democratic consciousness. It connects, firstly, with the essential principle of democracy - namely that the will of the majority must prevail (and indeed, is irresistible.) And, secondly, it resonates with the dominant passion of democratic societies: the desire for equality. Yet as Alexis de Tocqueville observed:

"There is, in fact, a manly and lawful passion for equality which excites men to wish all to be powerful and honoured. This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom. Not that those nations whose social condition is democratic naturally despise liberty; on the contrary, they have an instinctive love of it. But liberty is not the chief and constant object of their desires; equality is their idol: they make rapid and sudden efforts to obtain liberty, and if they miss their aim resign themselves to their disappointment; but nothing can satisfy them except equality, and rather than lose it they resolve to perish."


[1] Sebastian Haffner, Germany Jekyll & Hyde: A contemporary account of Nazi Germany(1940), (Abacus: London, 2005), pp. 63-64

[2] Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience, (Belknap Press: London, 2005) pp. 9-10

[3] Quoted in Lucy S. Dawidowicz, The War against the Jews 1933-45, (Penguin Books: London, 1987) pg. 83

[4] New York Times, March 28 1933

[5] New York Times, March 29 1933

[6] Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler: a memoir (1939), (Phoenix: London, 2003), pp. 117 -118

[7] New York Times April 20 1933

[8] Manchester Guardian, April 7 1933

[9] Quoted in Saul Friedländer, Nazi Germany & the Jews: The Years of Persecution 1933-39, (Phoenix: London, 1997), pp 30-31

[10] New York Times April 30 1933

[11]On October 28 1935 the Manchester Guardian reported that "new drastic legislation against Jewish lawyers will soon be promulgated reducing the number to less than 1 per cent of the number of ‘Aryan' lawyers in the country."

[12] New York Times, July 23 1933

[13] Quoted in Koonz, pg. 43

[14] New York Times, July 7 1933

[15] New York Times, September 29 1933

[16] Ezra Mendelsohn, The Jews of East Central Europe between the World Wars, (Indiana University Press: Bloomington, 1987) pg. 116

[17] The Manchester Guardian, December 23 1938

[18] Quoted in Mendelsohn, pg 122

[19] New York Times, August 24 1938

[20] Michael Robert Marrus and Robert O. Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, (Stanford University Press: Stanford, 1995), pp. 98-99

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