Letter from Jacob H. Schiff (New York) to Max Warburg (Hamburg), January 28, 1915

English Translation
    A digital facsimile of the source is available at www.americanjewisharchives.org/german-jewish-history/. |1 : [1]|
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    Thank you also for the kind personal words
    you wrote to me about my “Times” interview of November, even if
    I know quite well that I have been bitterly attacked for what I said honestly and frankly,
    not just in England and France, but even more so in
    Germany while my statements
    have earned me much approval here, and even
    Dernburg came over right away in order to tell me how much he
    understood and appreciated my position and that he almost
    completely agreed with what I said, even if he was only able to say so as a private
    person and not in his capacity as a representative of Germany.


    My intention was and must continue to be to
    try to make both sides aware of where their respective
    positions are wrong and how essential it is for the nations or governments at war
    to learn to realize that a war
    à outrance excessive would be the most terrible outcome
    possible; that a lasting peace can never be won
    in this way and that both sides have to revisit those
    conditions existing prior to the outbreak of the war which
    caused it with an irresistible force in order to
    make a joint attempt at permanently eliminating
    these causes by means of mutual concessions.


    I know quite well that he who tries to take on the role of peacemaker
    where fervor has been unleashed as terribly as is the case in Europe
    today must necessarily be
    misjudged and exposes himself to the worst
    attacks, nevertheless I and others will unflinchingly
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    continue to work in this direction, because I am convinced
    that it is my duty.


    Just as all my correspondents in Germany write with
    the greatest bitterness about the enemies opposing Germany
    and tell me that Germany must be victorious and
    would never agree to a peace which
    would not grant it everything it went to war for –
    my friends on the other side write to me no less harshly and unbendingly,
    believing just as the Germans do to be fighting only for
    their legitimate rights, as do the English
    and the French. This means that a decision could only
    be reached through brute force and superiority, which
    creates conditions like those existing in Mexico, which
    have civilized countries and people outraged.
    For this is what is so terrible, that the war and current
    circumstances are already beginning to become the order of the day and
    people become accustomed to them, and in this way the moral value of nations and their
    civilization are pushed down to a lower level.


    I considered it appropriate to write to you in detail
    about how I feel the same way as many others in this country, and I honestly hope
    that you, despite your martial sentiment, as you called it,
    will receive what I said as the frank words of a friend;
    of this I am sure, by the way!


    With cordial greetings to you, your good mother [Charlotte Esther Warburg born Oppenheim], your
    dear wife and with kisses to the children, all of the above from my
    wife as well, I remain yours faithfully
    signed Jacob H. Schiff

    Source Description

    This letter by Jacob H. Schiff of New York, who was born in Frankfurt in 1847 and had emigrated to the United States in 1865, to Max M. Warburg in Hamburg was written with the events and political constellations in mind which had formed since the outbreak of the First World War in Europe in the summer of 1914. Schiff discusses both the American perspective of neutrality in the European conflict and the different positions and options growing out of it. At the same time, the letter illustrates the divided loyalties resulting from the outbreak of the war. The machine-typed letter is dated January 28, 1915; it is part of a more extensive correspondence conducted in German between the two protagonists. This document is part of the personal papers of Jacob Schiff held at the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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    Recommended Citation

    Letter from Jacob H. Schiff (New York) to Max Warburg (Hamburg), January 28, 1915 (translated by Insa Kummer), edited in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:source-84.en.v1> [November 19, 2017].