In their memorandum the ZVfD wrote:
The realisation of Zionism could only be hurt by resentment of Jews abroad against
the German development. Boycott propaganda —such as is currently being carried
on against Germany in many ways– is in essence un-Zionist, because Zionism
wants not to do battle but to convince and to build… Our observations,
presented herewith, rest on the conviction that, in solving the Jewish problem
according to its own lights, the German Government will have full understanding
for a candid and clear Jewish posture that harmonizes with the interests of the
The full memo can be found in Lucy Dawidowicz’s Holocaust Reader pp. 150-153.
Rabbi Prinz, one of the leaders of the German Zionists, wrote a book Wir Juden in 1934 when he explained their
attitude when Hitler came to power. At the time the vast majority of Jews reacted wit horror
to the rise to power of the Nazis. Almost immediately an international Jewish boycott
of Nazi Germany took hold and began to be organised. The main element in the Jewish community
opposed to this boycott, apart from the bourgeois Jewish leaders, were the Zionists.
They wanted to make deals with Nazi Germany not
fight it which is why at the Zionist Congress of 1933 in Prague there was no
resolution condemning the Nazis. Prinz wrote:
‘(The Jews) have been drawn
out of the last recesses of christening and mixed marriages. We are not unhappy
about it… The theory of assimilation has collapsed. We are no longer hidden
in secret recesses. We want to replace assimilation by something new: the
declaration of belonging to the Jewish nation and the Jewish race. A state,
built according to the principles of purity of the nation and race can only be
honoured and respected by a Jew who declares his belonging to his own kind.’
Prinz admitted that: “It was morally disturbing
to seem to be considered as the favoured children of the Nazi Government,
particularly when it dissolved the anti-Zionist youth groups, and seemed in
other ways to prefer the Zionists. The Nazis asked for a ‘more Zionist
behaviour.” [Joachim Prinz, Zionism under the Nazi Government, Young Zionist
(London, November 1937), p.18]
Berl Katznelson, a founder of Mapai and editor of its paper Davar
second only to Ben Gurion, saw the rise of Hitler as “an opportunity
to build and flourish like none we have ever had or
ever will have”. [Francis Nicosia, Zionism and Anti-Semitism in
Nazi Germany, p.91. Tom Segev, The 7th Million p.18 attributes this
quote to a report by Moshe Beilinson, a cofounder of Davar, to Katznelson.
The attitude to the Nazis by the Zionists was businesslike
throughout the war. In particular the Zionists opposed any place
of safety for German Jews if that place was not Palestine.
Ben Gurion summed up this attitude after Krystalnacht, when
the British offered 10,000 places for German Jewish children
in what becamse known as the Kindertransport.
The Zionists were opposed to this.
Why can’t they be taken to Palestine was their cry, knowing full well
that the Arabs were opposed to the horrors in Germany being used as a pretext for
building up the Zionist settlement in Palestine.
In a speech to Mapai’s Central Committee on 9th December 1938, Ben Gurion said:
‘If I knew that it would be possible to save all the
children in Germany by bringing them over to England,
and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael, then I would opt
for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the life of these
children, but also the history of the People of Israel.’ [Yoav Gelber,
Zionist policy and the fate of European Jewry 1939-42,
Yad Vashem Studies, Vol. 12.]
Baron von Mildenstein was particularly favourable to Zionism, seeing it as the solution to the ‘Jewish
problem.’ The consequence of the visit and
the favourable impression he had gained of these nationalist Jews was that he
penned a series of 12 articles in Goebbel’s paper, Der Angriff in 1934. The
Nazis were so pleased by the visit that they struck a coin to commemorate the
visit with a Star of David on one side and a swastika on the other.
The unique, juxtaposing coin, sold in a recent Israeli auction, contains the remarkable story about an
unlikely friendship between two Germans—a Jew and a Nazi—and about the
forgotten moment in history when it might have still been possible to save the
Jews of Europe from extermination.
Itay Ilnai, 21 January 2018
The auction organized by Israeli collectors’ house CollecTodo
several days ago was unusual. On the occasion of
the 10th of Tevet fast day, which was selected by the Chief Rabbinate as the
general Kaddish day in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, a number of
historic relics from that period were offered for sale.
They included an oil painting
created at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, a prayer for the Jews of
Europe composed by then-Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, and documents related to the
murder of Rudolf Israel Kastner.
The most unique item, however,
was a small brass coin—just 3.5 centimeters in diameter. One side of the coin
features a Star of David surrounded by a caption in German. The other side is
engraved with a swastika, the Nazi party’s symbol.
At the end of a bidding battle,
the unique coin was sold for $850 to a Jewish American collector, whose
identity was kept secret.
“The people who competed for the medallion
collectors’ house, who organized the online auction. “But they did seem very
insistent, unwilling to give up, and kept raising the price. In my opinion,
it’s completely emotional. They wanted the medallion because they feel
connected to its story.”
The news about the coin with the
spine-tingling combination between a Star of David and a swastika stirred a row
in certain circles. Jewish American blogger Richard Silverstein, for example,
implied on Facebook that the coin was proof of the cooperation between Zionism
and Nazism, which he said was being silenced and denied. Others saw it as
The real story behind this
unbelievable collector’s item, however, seems to be a reflection of a forgotten
moment in history when it might have still been possible to save the Jews of
Europe from extermination. It’s also a story about a government mouthpiece,
which was backed by one of the most successful propagandists in history, Joseph
Goebbels. Above all, it’s a story about a brave friendship between two Germans—a
Jew and a Nazi.
In a car from Germany to Palestine
It may be slightly difficult to
understand today, but in the beginning of the Nazi rule in Germany, way before
anyone could have imagined the horrors of WWII, there were
some Zionist Jews who saw Hitler’s political doctrine as an
advantage. The Nazis didn’t conceal their desire to get rid of Germany’s Jews,
and some Zionists saw it as an opportunity to boost the rate of Jewish
immigration from Germany to the British Mandate of Palestine.
One of them was Dr. Kurt Tuchler, a German Jewish judge and an active member of
the Zionist Federation of Germany.
Even before Adolf Hitler was
named Chancellor, the Federation decided to contact Nazi Party officials who
they thought might support the Zionist goal. Tuchler turned to Leopold von
Mildenstein, who was in charge of the Jewish Desk at the in the security
service of the SS and was known for his journalistic writing.
“In those years, Mildenstein became famous for
his travel stories,” says filmmaker Arnon Goldfinger, Tuchler’s grandson.
Tuchler sought to join
Mildenstein on a trip to the Land of Israel, which was still under British rule
at the time, in a bid to suggest the place as an attractive destination for
Jews. “He wanted to keep him company and influence him to write his travel
story from a Zionist perspective,” Goldfinger explains. “He saw it as a
And so in the spring of 1933,
Tuchler and Mildenstein got in a car with their wives (who were both called
Gerda) and embarked on a journey from Germany to the Land of Israel.
Mildenstein returned from
Palestine excited by what he saw. In his writings, he described how Jews were
working the land, drying up swamps and fulfilling the Zionist idea, and praised
Zionism for benefiting both the Jews and the world.
The Reich’s minister of
propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, was also very keen about the narrative presented
by Mildenstein. As horrible and unbelievable as it may seem from our perspective,
the story Mildenstein brought from Palestine matched not only the Zionist
stance but also the Nazi one. The bottom line of his articles was clear:
Zionism is a way of solving Germany’s “Jewish problem.”
Goebbels used Nazi mouthpiece Der
Angriff (“The Attack” in English), which he had set up in 1927, to
convey this insight to the Germans. In 1934, the newspaper published a series
of 12 articles by Mildenstein titled “A Nazi travels to Palestine.” Goebbels
likely saw the series as his newspaper’s flagship project, using it as a means
As part of the project, the Nazi
Party produced a series of small brass coins. One side of the coins featured a
Star of David with the caption “A Nazi travels to Palestine,” and the other
side featured a swastika with the newspaper’s name, Angriff. These coins, used
to promote the “Zionist” articles from the Land of Israel, were given as a free
gift to anyone who purchased a subscription for the mouthpiece. “A sort of
sales promotion,” Goldfinger explains.
It’s unclear how many of these
coins were produced, but today we know that only few of them survived.
Goldfinger himself, who dealt with the Tuchler-Mildenstein story in his
award-winning feature documentary film “The Flat,” has one of the coins. The
film was born after Goldfinger’s grandmother, Greda Tuchler, died and her
family was surprised to find a Nazi newspaper in her apartment—the same
newspaper that had published Mildenstein’s articles. Gildfinger’s research
revealed that his grandparents had kept in touch with the Mildensteins, even
after the Holocaust.
A missed opportunity
“It’s very hard for us to
understand, because we know history,” Goldfinger explains. “But my grandfather
and Mildenstein were both Germans from a pretty close socioeconomic class, they
were both open minded, and after their journey together they became good
friends. They developed a shared language, largely thanks to their wives, and remained
Goldfinger is one of the few
people in the world who owns the “A Nazi travels to Palestine” coin. “I was
shocked by the existence of such a medallion, and then I ended up buying one
myself in an online auction,” he says, refusing to reveal how much he paid for it.
Another person who owns one of
these coins is Professor Shaul Ladany, a Holocaust survivor, racewalker and
two-time Olympian who survived the Munich massacre. Ladany, a passionate
collector of medallions related to the Land of Israel, says he searched for
years for the specific medallion combining a Star of David and a swastika.
Ladany believes the coin
represents a missed opportunity. “Mildenstein’s series of articles described
the Jewish Yishuv in bright colors. He wrote about the establishment of Jewish
life here, about the institutions being built, etc. The Nazis wanted to
encourage the Jews to leave Germany. In the beginning, they didn’t necessarily
want to get rid of the Jews through extermination, as they did later on. Today
we know that if more Jews had immigrated from Germany at the time, the majority
of German Jews may have survived.”
Zionism and the Third Reich
by Mark Weber
Early in 1935, a passenger ship bound for Haifa in Palestine left the German port of Bremerhaven. Its stern bore the Hebrew letters for its name, "Tel Aviv," while a swastika banner fluttered from the mast. And although the ship was Zionist-owned, its captain was a National Socialist Party member. Many years later a traveler aboard the ship recalled this symbolic combination as a "metaphysical absurdity."/1 Absurd or not, this is but one vignette from a little-known chapter of history: The wide-ranging collaboration between Zionism and Hitler's Third Reich.
Over the years, people in many different countries have wrestled with the "Jewish question": that is, what is the proper role of Jews in non-Jewish society? During the 1930s, Jewish Zionists and German National Socialists shared similar views on how to deal with this perplexing issue. They agreed that Jews and Germans were distinctly different nationalities, and that Jews did not belong in Germany. Jews living in the Reich were therefore to be regarded not as "Germans of the Jewish faith," but rather as members of a separate national community. Zionism (Jewish nationalism) also implied an obligation by Zionist Jews to resettle in Palestine, the "Jewish homeland." They could hardly regard themselves as sincere Zionists and simultaneously claim equal rights in Germany or any other "foreign" country.
Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), the founder of modern Zionism, maintained that anti-Semitism is not an aberration, but a natural and completely understandable response by non-Jews to alien Jewish behavior and attitudes. The only solution, he argued, is for Jews to recognize reality and live in a separate state of their own. "The Jewish question exists wherever Jews live in noticeable numbers," he wrote in his most influential work, The Jewish State. "Where it does not exist, it is brought in by arriving Jews ... I believe I understand anti-Semitism, which is a very complex phenomenon. I consider this development as a Jew, without hate or fear." The Jewish question, he maintained, is not social or religious. "It is a national question. To solve it we must, above all, make it an international political issue ..." Regardless of their citizenship, Herzl insisted, Jews constitute not merely a religious community, but a nationality, a people, a Volk. Zionism, wrote Herzl, offered the world a welcome "final solution of the Jewish question."
Six months after Hitler came to power, the Zionist Federation of Germany (by far the largest Zionist group in the country) submitted a detailed memorandum to the new government that reviewed German-Jewish relations and formally offered Zionist support in "solving" the vexing "Jewish question." The first step, it suggested, had to be a frank recognition of fundamental national differences:
The Federation's paper, the Jüdische Rundschau ("Jewish Review"), proclaimed the same message: "Zionism recognizes the existence of a Jewish problem and desires a far-reaching and constructive solution. For this purpose Zionism wishes to obtain the assistance of all peoples, whether pro- or anti-Jewish, because, in its view, we are dealing here with a concrete rather than a sentimental problem, the solution of which all peoples are interested."/5 A young Berlin rabbi, Joachim Prinz, who later settled in the United States and became head of the American Jewish Congress, wrote in his 1934 book, Wir Juden ("We Jews"), that the National Socialist revolution in Germany meant "Jewry for the Jews." He explained: "No subterfuge can save us now. In place of assimilation we desire a new concept: recognition of the Jewish nation and Jewish race."
On this basis of their similar ideologies about ethnicity and nationhood, National Socialists and Zionists worked together for what each group believed was in its own national interest. As a result, the Hitler government vigorously supported Zionism and Jewish emigration to Palestine from 1933 until 1940-1941, when the Second World War prevented extensive collaboration.
Even as the Third Reich became more entrenched, many German Jews, probably a majority, continued to regard themselves, often with considerable pride, as Germans first. Few were enthusiastic about pulling up roots to begin a new life in far-away Palestine. Nevertheless, more and more German Jews turned to Zionism during this period. Until late 1938, the Zionist movement flourished in Germany under Hitler. The circulation of the Zionist Federation's bi-weekly Jüdische Rundschau grew enormously. Numerous Zionist books were published. "Zionist work was in full swing" in Germany during those years, the Encyclopaedia Judaica notes. A Zionist convention held in Berlin in 1936 reflected "in its composition the vigorous party life of German Zionists."
The SS was particularly enthusiastic in its support for Zionism. An internal June 1934 SS position paper urged active and wide-ranging support for Zionism by the government and the Party as the best way to encourage emigration of Germany's Jews to Palestine. This would require increased Jewish self-awareness. Jewish schools, Jewish sports leagues, Jewish cultural organizations -- in short, everything that would encourage this new consciousness and self-awareness - should be promoted, the paper recommended.
SS officer Leopold von Mildenstein and Zionist Federation official Kurt Tuchler toured Palestine together for six months to assess Zionist development there. Based on his firsthand observations, von Mildenstein wrote a series of twelve illustrated articles for the important Berlin daily Der Angriff that appeared in late 1934 under the heading "A Nazi Travels to Palestine." The series expressed great admiration for the pioneering spirit and achievements of the Jewish settlers. Zionist self-development, von Mildenstein wrote, had produced a new kind of Jew. He praised Zionism as a great benefit for both the Jewish people and the entire world. A Jewish homeland in Palestine, he wrote in his concluding article, "pointed the way to curing a centuries-long wound on the body of the world: the Jewish question." Der Angriff issued a special medal, with a Swastika on one side and a Star of David on the other, to commemorate the joint SS-Zionist visit. A few months after the articles appeared, von Mildenstein was promoted to head the Jewish affairs department of the SS security service in order to support Zionist migration and development more effectively.
The official SS newspaper, Das Schwarze Korps, proclaimed its support for Zionism in a May 1935 front-page editorial: "The time may not be too far off when Palestine will again be able to receive its sons who have been lost to it for more than a thousand years. Our good wishes, together with official goodwill, go with them." Four months later, a similar article appeared in the SS paper:
A leading German shipping line began direct passenger liner service from Hamburg to Haifa, Palestine, in October 1933 providing "strictly kosher food on its ships, under the supervision of the Hamburg rabbinate."
With official backing, Zionists worked tirelessly to "reeducate" Germany's Jews. As American historian Francis Nicosia put it in his 1985 survey, The Third Reich and the Palestine Question: "Zionists were encouraged to take their message to the Jewish community, to collect money, to show films on Palestine and generally to educate German Jews about Palestine. There was considerable pressure to teach Jews in Germany to cease identifying themselves as Germans and to awaken a new Jewish national identity in them."
In an interview after the war, the former head of the Zionist Federation of Germany, Dr. Hans Friedenthal, summed up the situation: "The Gestapo did everything in those days to promote emigration, particularly to Palestine. We often received their help when we required anything from other authorities regarding preparations for emigration."
At the September 1935 National Socialist Party Congress, the Reichstag adopted the so-called "Nuremberg laws" that prohibited marriages and sexual relations between Jews and Germans and, in effect, proclaimed the Jews an alien minority nationality. A few days later the Zionist Jüdische Rundschau editorially welcomed the new measures:
Georg Kareski, the head of both the "Revisionist" Zionist State Organization and the Jewish Cultural League, and former head of the Berlin Jewish Community, declared in an interview with the Berlin daily Der Angriff at the end of 1935:
Zionist leaders in other countries echoed these views. Stephen S. Wise, president of the American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress, told a New York rally in June 1938: "I am not an American citizen of the Jewish faith, I am a Jew... Hitler was right in one thing. He calls the Jewish people a race and we are a race."
The Interior Ministry's Jewish affairs specialist, Dr. Bernhard Lösener, expressed support for Zionism in an article that appeared in a November 1935 issue of the official Reichsverwaltungsblatt:
In cooperation with the German authorities, Zionist groups organized a network of some forty camps and agricultural centers throughout Germany where prospective settlers were trained for their new lives in Palestine. Although the Nuremberg Laws forbid Jews from displaying the German flag, Jews were specifically guaranteed the right to display the blue and white Jewish national banner. The flag that would one day be adopted by Israel was flown at the Zionist camps and centers in Hitler's Germany.
Himmler's security service cooperated with the Haganah, the Zionist underground military organization in Palestine. The SS agency paid Haganah official Feivel Polkes for information about the situation in Palestine and for help in directing Jewish emigration to that country. Meanwhile, the Haganah was kept well informed about German plans by a spy it managed to plant in the Berlin headquarters of the SS. /20 Haganah-SS collaboration even included secret deliveries of German weapons to Jewish settlers for use in clashes with Palestinian Arabs.
In the aftermath of the November 1938 "Kristallnacht" outburst of violence and destruction, the SS quickly helped the Zionist organization to get back on its feet and continue its work in Germany, although now under more restricted supervision.
German support for Zionism was not unlimited. Government and Party officials were very mindful of the continuing campaign by powerful Jewish communities in the United States, Britain and other countries to mobilize "their" governments and fellow citizens against Germany. As long as world Jewry remained implacably hostile toward National Socialist Germany, and as long as the great majority of Jews around the world showed little eagerness to resettle in the Zionist "promised land," a sovereign Jewish state in Palestine would not really "solve" the international Jewish question. Instead, German officials reasoned, it would immeasurably strengthen this dangerous anti-German campaign. German backing for Zionism was therefore limited to support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine under British control, not a sovereign Jewish state.
A Jewish state in Palestine, the Foreign Minister informed diplomats in June 1937, would not be in Germany's interest because it would not be able to absorb all Jews around the world, but would only serve as an additional power base for international Jewry, in much the same way as Moscow served as a base for international Communism. /24 Reflecting something of a shift in official policy, the German press expressed much greater sympathy in 1937 for Palestinian Arab resistance to Zionist ambitions, at a time when tension and conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine was sharply increasing.
A Foreign Office circular bulletin of June 22, 1937, cautioned that in spite of support for Jewish settlement in Palestine, "it would nevertheless be a mistake to assume that Germany supports the formation of a state structure in Palestine under some form of Jewish control. In view of the anti-German agitation of international Jewry, Germany cannot agree that the formation of a Palestine Jewish state would help the peaceful development of the nations of the world."/26 "The proclamation of a Jewish state or a Jewish-administrated Palestine," warned an internal memorandum by the Jewish affairs section of the SS, "would create for Germany a new enemy, one that would have a deep influence on developments in the Near East." Another SS agency predicted that a Jewish state "would work to bring special minority protection to Jews in every country, therefore giving legal protection to the exploitation activity of world Jewry." In January 1939, Hitler's new Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, likewise warned in another circular bulletin that "Germany must regard the formation of a Jewish state as dangerous" because it "would bring an international increase in power to world Jewry."
Hitler himself personally reviewed this entire issue in early 1938 and, in spite of his long-standing skepticism of Zionist ambitions and misgivings that his policies might contribute to the formation of a Jewish state, decided to support Jewish migration to Palestine even more vigorously. The prospect of ridding Germany of its Jews, he concluded, outweighed the possible dangers.
Meanwhile, the British government imposed ever more drastic restrictions on Jewish immigration into Palestine in 1937, 1938 and 1939. In response, the SS security service concluded a secret alliance with the clandestine Zionist agency Mossad le-Aliya Bet to smuggle Jews illegally into Palestine. As a result of this intensive collaboration, several convoys of ships succeeded in reaching Palestine past British gunboats. Jewish migration, both legal and illegal, from Germany (including Austria) to Palestine increased dramatically in 1938 and 1939. Another 10,000 Jews were scheduled to depart in October 1939, but the outbreak of war in September brought the effort to an end. All the same, German authorities continued to promote indirect Jewish emigration to Palestine during 1940 and 1941. /30 Even as late as March 1942, at least one officially authorized Zionist "kibbutz" training camp for potential emigrants continued to operate in Hitler's Germany.
The Transfer Agreement
The centerpiece of German-Zionist cooperation during the Hitler era was the Transfer Agreement, a pact that enabled tens of thousands of German Jews to migrate to Palestine with their wealth. The Agreement, also known as the Haavara (Hebrew for "transfer"), was concluded in August 1933 following talks between German officials and Chaim Arlosoroff, Political Secretary of the Jewish Agency, the Palestine center of the World Zionist Organization.
Through this unusual arrangement, each Jew bound for Palestine deposited money in a special account in Germany. The money was used to purchase German-made agricultural tools, building materials, pumps, fertilizer, and so forth, which were exported to Palestine and sold there by the Jewish-owned Haavara company in Tel-Aviv. Money from the sales was given to the Jewish emigrant upon his arrival in Palestine in an amount corresponding to his deposit in Germany. German goods poured into Palestine through the Haavara, which was supplemented a short time later with a barter agreement by which Palestine oranges were exchanged for German timber, automobiles, agricultural machinery, and other goods. The Agreement thus served the Zionist aim of bringing Jewish settlers and development capital to Palestine, while simultaneously serving the German goal of freeing the country of an unwanted alien group.
Delegates at the 1933 Zionist Congress in Prague vigorously debated the merits of the Agreement. Some feared that the pact would undermine the international Jewish economic boycott against Germany. But Zionist officials reassured the Congress. Sam Cohen, a key figure behind the Haavara arrangement, stressed that the Agreement was not economically advantageous to Germany. Arthur Ruppin, a Zionist Organization emigration specialist who had helped negotiate the pact, pointed out that "the Transfer Agreement in no way interfered with the boycott movement, since no new currency will flow into Germany as a result of the agreement..." /33 The 1935 Zionist Congress, meeting in Switzerland, overwhelmingly endorsed the pact. In 1936, the Jewish Agency (the Zionist "shadow government" in Palestine) took over direct control of the Ha'avara, which remained in effect until the Second World War forced its abandonment.
Some German officials opposed the arrangement. Germany's Consul General in Jerusalem, Hans Döhle, for example, sharply criticized the Agreement on several occasions during 1937. He pointed out that it cost Germany the foreign exchange that the products exported to Palestine through the pact would bring if sold elsewhere. The Haavara monopoly sale of German goods to Palestine through a Jewish agency naturally angered German businessmen and Arabs there. Official German support for Zionism could lead to a loss of German markets throughout the Arab world. The British government also resented the arrangement. A June 1937 German Foreign Office internal bulletin referred to the "foreign exchange sacrifices" that resulted from the Haavara.
A December 1937 internal memorandum by the German Interior Ministry reviewed the impact of the Transfer Agreement: "There is no doubt that the Haavara arrangement has contributed most significantly to the very rapid development of Palestine since 1933. The Agreement provided not only the largest source of money (from Germany!), but also the most intelligent group of immigrants, and finally it brought to the country the machines and industrial products essential for development." The main advantage of the pact, the memo reported, was the emigration of large numbers of Jews to Palestine, the most desirable target country as far as Germany was concerned. But the paper also noted the important drawbacks pointed out by Consul Döhle and others. The Interior Minister, it went on, had concluded that the disadvantages of the agreement now outweighed the advantages and that, therefore, it should be terminated.
Only one man could resolve the controversy. Hitler personally reviewed the policy in July and September 1937, and again in January 1938, and each time decided to maintain the Haavara arrangement. The goal of removing Jews from Germany, he concluded, justified the drawbacks.
The Reich Economics Ministry helped to organize another transfer company, the International Trade and Investment Agency, or Intria, through which Jews in foreign countries could help German Jews emigrate to Palestine. Almost $900,000 was eventually channeled through the Intria to German Jews in Palestine. /38 Other European countries eager to encourage Jewish emigration concluded agreements with the Zionists modeled after the Ha'avara. In 1937 Poland authorized the Halifin (Hebrew for "exchange") transfer company. By late summer 1939, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary and Italy had signed similar arrangements. The outbreak of war in September 1939, however, prevented large-scale implementation of these agreements.
Achievements of Haavara
Between 1933 and 1941, some 60,000 German Jews emigrated to Palestine through the Ha'avara and other German-Zionist arrangements, or about ten percent of Germany's 1933 Jewish population. (These German Jews made up about 15 percent of Palestine's 1939 Jewish population.) Some Ha'avara emigrants transferred considerable personal wealth from Germany to Palestine. As Jewish historian Edwin Black has noted: "Many of these people, especially in the late 1930s, were allowed to transfer actual replicas of their homes and factories -- indeed rough replicas of their very existence."
The total amount transferred from Germany to Palestine through the Ha'avara between August 1933 and the end of 1939 was 8.1 million pounds or 139.57 million German marks (then equivalent to more than $40 million). This amount included 33.9 million German marks ($13.8 million) provided by the Reichsbank in connection with the Agreement.
Historian Black has estimated that an additional $70 million may have flowed into Palestine through corollary German commercial agreements and special international banking transactions. The German funds had a major impact on a country as underdeveloped as Palestine was in the 1930s, he pointed out. Several major industrial enterprises were built with the capital from Germany, including the Mekoroth waterworks and the Lodzia textile firm. The influx of Ha'avara goods and capital, concluded Black, "produced an economic explosion in Jewish Palestine" and was "an indispensable factor in the creation of the State of Israel."
The Ha'avara agreement greatly contributed to Jewish development in Palestine and thus, indirectly, to the foundation of the Israeli state. A January 1939 German Foreign Office circular bulletin reported, with some misgiving, that "the transfer of Jewish property out of Germany [through the Ha'avara agreement] contributed to no small extent to the building of a Jewish state in Palestine."
Former officials of the Ha'avara company in Palestine confirmed this view in a detailed study of the Transfer Agreement published in 1972: "The economic activity made possible by the influx German capital and the Haavara transfers to the private and public sectors were of greatest importance for the country's development. Many new industries and commercial enterprises were established in Jewish Palestine, and numerous companies that are enormously important even today in the economy of the State of Israel owe their existence to the Haavara." Dr. Ludwig Pinner, a Ha'avara company official in Tel Aviv during the 1930s, later commented that the exceptionally competent Ha'avara immigrants "decisively contributed" to the economic, social, cultural and educational development of Palestine's Jewish community.
The Transfer Agreement was the most far-reaching example of cooperation between Hitler's Germany and international Zionism. Through this pact, Hitler's Third Reich did more than any other government during the 1930s to support Jewish development in Palestine.
Zionists Offer a Military Alliance With Hitler
In early January 1941 a small but important Zionist organization submitted a formal proposal to German diplomats in Beirut for a military-political alliance with wartime Germany. The offer was made by the radical underground "Fighters for the Freedom of Israel," better known as the Lehi or Stern Gang. Its leader, Avraham Stern, had recently broken with the radical nationalist "National Military Organization" (Irgun Zvai Leumi) over the group's attitude toward Britain, which had effectively banned further Jewish settlement of Palestine. Stern regarded Britain as the main enemy of Zionism.
This remarkable Zionist proposal "for the solution of the Jewish question in Europe and the active participation of the NMO [Lehi] in the war on the side of Germany" is worth quoting at some length:
There is no record of any German response. Acceptance was very unlikely anyway because by this time German policy was decisively pro-Arab. Remarkably, Stern's group sought to conclude a pact with the Third Reich at a time when stories that Hitler was bent on exterminating Jews were already in wide circulation. Stern apparently either did not believe the stories or he was willing to collaborate with the mortal enemy of his people to help bring about a Jewish state.
An important Lehi member at the time the group made this offer was Yitzhak Shamir, who later served as Israel's Foreign Minister and then, during much of the 1980s and until June 1992, as Prime Minister. As Lehi operations chief following Stern's death in 1942, Shamir organized numerous acts of terror, including the November 1944 assassination of British Middle East Minister Lord Moyne and the September 1948 slaying of Swedish United Nations mediator Count Bernadotte. Years later, when Shamir was asked about the 1941 offer, he confirmed that he was aware of his organization's proposed alliance with wartime Germany.
In spite of the basic hostility between the Hitler regime and international Jewry, for several years Jewish Zionist and German National Socialist interests coincided. In collaborating with the Zionists for a mutually desirable and humane solution to a complex problem, the Third Reich was willing to make foreign exchange sacrifices, impair relations with Britain and anger the Arabs. Indeed, during the 1930s no nation did more to substantively further Jewish-Zionist goals than Hitler's Germany.
The Haavara (Transfer) Agreement, negotiated by Eliezer Hoofein, director of the Anglo-Palestine Bank, was agreed to by the Reich Economics Ministry in 1933, and continued, with declining German government support, until it was wound up in 1939. Under the agreement, Jews fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany could use some of their assets to purchase German manufactured goods for export, thus salvaging some part of their personal wealth during emigration. The agreement provided a substantial export market for German factories in British-ruled Palestine. Between November, 1933, and December 31, 1937, 77,800,000 Reichmarks, or $22,500,000, (values in 1938 currency) worth of goods were exported to Jewish businesses in Palestine under the program. By the time the program ended with the start of World War II, the total had risen to 105,000,000 marks (about $35,000,000, 1939 values).
Emigrants with capital of £1,000, (about $5,000 in 1930s currency value) could move to Palestine in spite of severe British restrictions on Jewish immigration under an Immigrant investor program similar to the contemporary EB-5 visa. Under the Transfer Agreement, about 39% of an emigrant's funds were given to Jewish communal economic development projects, leaving individuals with about 43% of the value of whatever assets they were able to transfer out of Germany after administrative and shipping costs.
The Haavara Agreement was thought among some Nazi circles to be a possible way to rid the country of its supposed "Jewish problem." The head of the Middle Eastern division of the foreign ministry, the anti-Nazi Werner Otto von Hentig, supported the policy of concentrating Jews in Palestine. Hentig believed that if the Jewish population was concentrated in a single foreign entity, then foreign diplomatic policy and containment of the Jews would become easier. Hitler's own support of the Haavara Agreement was unclear and varied throughout the 1930s. Initially, Hitler criticized the agreement, but reversed his opinion and supported it in the period 1937-1939.
After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, the "basis of its existence [was] removed", and the program was ended.
Censored History: Britain put Jews in Concentration Camp During WWII
The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was a letter from Britain’s Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Walter Rothschild to be read before the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.
It announced British support for Jewish immigration into the Palestinian Mandate. The Zionist Federation had promised the British government they could mobilize Hollywood and other assets to push America into WWI on the side of the Axis. America entered WWI on April 6, 1917. The Balfour Declaration was made on November 2, 1917. It was widely viewed in Europe as a thank you for American Jewish support for America’s entry into WWI.
The Balfour Declaration was considered a major step towards the creation of the Jewish state of Israel.
The fallout however, was not good for European Jews. Germany had been a safe haven for Jews for hundreds of years. Jews were thriving so much so, that the average Jewish income was significantly higher than that of the average German. Germans felt the Jewish community as a whole had betrayed them. German Jews quickly became stigmatized as disloyal, draft dodgers, war profiteers, and more.
If that wasn’t enough, European Jews soon felt the sting of betrayal from Britain. In the 1930′s the German government offered to move European Jews to the Palestinian Mandate. The National Socialist regime encouraged Jews to obtain Palestinian passports and argued that Jews would be much happier living in a country of their own in the Middle East. The German government promised the Arabs in the Palestinian Mandate free Volkwagon trucks and construction supplies to pacify them. Ideological Zionists living in the Mandate embraced the idea and some even openly supported the National Socialist regime.
Britain immediately capped the number of Jews who could move to the Palestinian Mandate to only 15,000 a year, so they would not change the balance of power.
In 1940, the National Socialist regime sent the first wave of Jews to the Palestinian Mandate. The first convoy was three ships full of Jews from Prague, Danzig, Vienna, and Tulcea, Romania. The British immediately blockaded the ports and declared that the Jews were illegal immigrants. The Jews were all arrested by the British army and placed in quickly erected concentration camps. Once WWII started many Jews tried to reach the territory to avoid being sent to Nazi run concentration camps. Britain captured tens of thousands and imprisoned them in concentration camps in the Palestinian Mandate, Cyprus, and Mauritius. The British concentration camps looked the same as the dreaded camps run by Germany, Croatia, and Romania. When inmates arrived at the British camps they were forced to strip naked and then sprayed with DDT.
In 1944, the government of Hungary collapsed. The arrow cross party seized control of Hungary to keep the Hungarian army fighting on the Eastern front. To pay for the Hungarian army, Jewish owned property in Hungary was seized. The National Socialist regime made another major attempt to send Jews to the Palestinian Mandate. They had Turkish cooperation to transport Jews to the territory by train. One train was even filled up with Hungarian Jews and ready to leave, but the British said the Hungarian Jews would be refused. The passengers were ordered to switch trains to be sent to concentration camps in Poland. At that time Britain knew full well that the IRC was the sole provider of food and supplies to the camps and it was only a matter of time until access would be cut off due to the advancing red army.
What is even more shocking is that after the Allies and the IRC began liberating the concentration camps, Britain continued to imprison Jewish refugees who tried to enter the Palestinian Mandate. Many survived WWII in concentration camps, only to be imprisoned by the British.
The main British concentration camp was in Atlit, north of Haifa. Many Jews were imprisoned in Atlit before being transported to Cyprus or Mauritius. Over 70,000 Jews were imprisoned there between 1940 and 1945. The camp was shut down when it was attacked by Zionist guerrillas in 1945. Yitzhak Rabin allegedly masterminded the operation, but he did not lead it.
It took a very violent guerrilla war and major acts of terrorism to convince the British to give up the Palestinian Mandate after WWII was over.
by Jason Swartz