Books of the Month

SWP in 1938: Open US doors to victims of Hitler’s Nazi terror!

October 30, 2023
Members of Socialist Workers Party helped initiate picket at German Consulate in New York in November 1938 demanding Washington open its doors to Jewish and other victims of Nazi terror. Party resolution said road to end Jew-hatred was fight for workers power, socialism.
Members of Socialist Workers Party helped initiate picket at German Consulate in New York in November 1938 demanding Washington open its doors to Jewish and other victims of Nazi terror. Party resolution said road to end Jew-hatred was fight for workers power, socialism.

The deadly Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom against Jews in Israel highlighted the danger of Jew-hating violence worldwide as the crisis of capitalism grows. Below are excerpts from “Theses on the Jewish question” and “Open the doors to victims of Hitler’s Nazi terror!” from The Founding of the Socialist Workers Party: Minutes and Resolutions 1938-39. They were adopted by the SWP as fascist rule consolidated in Germany, ultra-rightist, Jew-hating groups grew in the U.S. and the second imperialist world war loomed. The SWP brought a class-struggle course against Jew-hatred into the unions. It organized a demonstration of 50,000 outside New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1939 against the pro-Hitler German American Bund rallying inside. Copyright © 1982 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission. 

Our approach to the Jewish question can be none other than that of the international class struggle. In its death agony the capitalist class maintains itself in power by resorting to unmitigated brutality and violence aimed at the working class, particularly at its vanguard. It utilizes every element of hatred and prejudice which it can fan into flame to bring about division among the masses and to establish a social basis for its fascist, gangster rule. The Jews, by virtue of the fact that everywhere they form only a small minority of the population, and because anti-Semitism has always been fostered, sometimes openly, sometimes in masked form, constitute an easy scapegoat upon whom the big bourgeoisie can divert the pent-up, dangerous wrath of the backward elements among the masses, and particularly of the desperate middle classes. The fascist hirelings of the big bourgeoisie use the most vicious, lying propaganda to inflame to pogrom temperature the dormant antagonism to the Jews. Precisely because the fomenting of anti-Semitism has become an inseparable part of the technique of fascist reaction, the revolutionary party has a double duty to perform in combating it. It has the duty of exposing the real aims of the capitalists, hidden behind the smokescreen of anti-Semitism and thereby inoculating the masses against the poison; it has also the special task of mobilizing the real defense of the persecuted Jews, a defense of necessity based on the might of the organized working class. …

Many Jews — and not only Jews — delude themselves with the soothing thought that America is different, that these same phenomena cannot happen here. They continue to picture the United States as a great melting pot with a democracy far more securely founded than was European democracy. But the Jews and the entire working class must be forewarned — the same causes leading to decay are visibly at work here, and the same results are not merely possible but absolutely inevitable unless the working class learns, and learns quickly, to defend its hard-earned rights and to take the road to power. The second crisis piled on top of the first one leaves the capitalist ruling class in a serious predicament and in a quandary concerning the way out. That it is fearful of its continued domination and considers the advisability of strong measures — fascist measures — cannot be doubted. The symptoms of increased discrimination against the Jews, of anti-Semitism, are already present. We must immediately sound the alarm to put the working class on guard against all the reactionary conspiracies of the big bourgeoisie; more particularly we must awaken the Jewish masses to a sense of realization of the danger and above all we must propose the proper measures to be taken against the growing danger. …

The solution of the Jewish question and that of the working class is a common one: the overthrow of capitalism. The Jews have reached an utter impasse because capitalism has reached an impasse. Only through the class struggle will the Jews find a road to the future.

* * *

The entire world has been shocked to the depths by the outburst of a new campaign of brutal violence against the Jews in Germany.

The hideous terror of Hitlerism has never struck with such cruel and merciless force.

Throughout Germany, bands of Nazi gangsters organized and commanded by their leaders, have wrecked and looted stores owned by Jews. Jewish churches — synagogues — have been burned and destroyed by the instructed fascist mobs. The workers of Germany, who hate and despise Hitlerism with all their strength, were unable to come to the aid of the brutalized Jews because they are themselves still in the straitjacket of the Nazi terror.

The brown-shirted monsters do not even bother to conceal their aim: the physical extermination of every Jew in Great Germany. …

They hope to take the minds of the German workers and peasants off the misery from which they suffer, to make them think that the Jews — traditional scapegoats for reaction — are responsible for all their ills.

They hope to blackmail the international protest movement against fascism into cowardly silence. …

To let the fascist massacres go unanswered is only to prepare for our own defeat and enslavement at the hands of fascist reaction in this country. …

The right of asylum is an old, a traditional, a respected right in this country.

Let us join in demanding that this right be extended now to those who are most urgently in need of it, to those for whom it makes the difference between life and death.


Solidarity with those who suffer at the hands of fascism is one of the best ways of establishing, in this country, an unbreakable wall against the advance of American fascism.

Unite! Join hands!

Show the Hitlerite assassins and pogromists the real position of American labor by your protest meetings!

Show them that the American working class means it seriously when it says that it detests anti-Semitism and the anti-Semites like the plague!

Show the victims of the fascist terror that you mean it seriously, by stretching out to them the hand of fraternal solidarity, by demanding of the American government the free and unrestricted right of asylum for the Jewish scapegoats of fascist barbarism!