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Schoenberg’s Warning

To the Editors:

Apropos Brian Urquhart’s April 25, 2002, review of Samantha Power’s ‘A Problem from Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide, as well as the frequent articles on the Israeli conflict and the June 2002 conference “Schoenberg and His God” at the Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna, I have long wondered whether there were any earlier or more accurate predictions of the Holocaust than the one at the beginning of Schoenberg’s essay “A Four Point Program for Jewry,” written in Los Angeles in October 1938, which began:

500,000 Jews from Germany, 300,000 from Austria, 400,000 from Czechoslovakia, 500,000 from Hungary, 60,000 from Italy—more than one million and eight hundred thousand Jews will have to migrate in how short a time, one does not know. May God provide there will not be an additional 3,500,000 from Poland, 900,000 from Rumania, 240,000 from Lithuania and 160,000 from Latvia—almost 5,000,000; and Yugoslavia with 64,000, Bulgaria with 40,000 and Greece with 80,000 might follow at once, not to speak of other countries, which are at present less active.

Is there room in the world for almost 7,000,000 people?

Are they condemned to doom? Will they become extinct? Famished? Butchered?

Every keen and realistic observer should have known this beforehand, as I knew it almost twenty years ago. Even one who does not overrate Jewish intelligence in political affairs will admit that every Jew should have known at least that the fate of the Austrian and Hungarian Jews were sealed years ago. And can a man with foresight deny that the Jews of Rumania and Poland are in danger of a similar fate?

What have our Jewish leaders, our Jewish men with foresight, done to avert this disaster? What have they done to alleviate the sufferings of the people already stricken by this mishap? What have they done to find a place for the first 500,000 people who must migrate or die?

The lengthy essay that followed this introduction suggested (à la Herzl’s Uganda project) that Jews should find an alternative to Palestine in order to rescue the Jews of Europe. The essay was rejected for publication at the time it was written (by Thomas Mann, among others), and was first published only in 1979 in the Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute and reprinted at the end of Alexander L. Ringer’s Arnold Schoenberg: The Composer as Jew (Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press, 1990). Among Schoenberg scholars (mostly musicologists) these writings are by now quite well known, but I have not yet seen any analysis by Holocaust scholars. Were there others who warned of the destruction of European Jewry so early and so accurately?

E. Randol Schoenber
Los Angeles

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