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Yehuda Bauer: My Brother's Keeper

A History of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 1929-1939

[Holocaust preparations in Europe and resistance without solution of the situation]

The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia 1974

Transcription with subtitles by Michael Palomino (2007)

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Chapter 1. A Time of Crisis: 1929-1932

[1.1. Joint's structure and leading persons]

[JDC structure: 4 or 5 leading persons - ratification of decisions in every committee]

JDC has always prided itself on being a philanthropic organization run on business lines. Actual power in this organization rested not so much in its formal structure, its national council, its board of directors, or its Executive Committee, but rather in a small group of four or five individuals who actually made the necessary decisions and then had them ratified in the various committees, thus observing the rules of a kind of formal democracy and appeasing the traditional representatives of the religious as well as labor circles who had helped found the organization.

[JDC structure: Chairman Felix M. Warburg - married with daughter of Jacob H. Schiff]

The chairman, a founder and outstanding figure in JDC during these early years, was Felix M. Warburg. A member of a family of German Jewish banking aristocrats, he had come from Hamburg as a young man and had married the daughter of Jacob H. Schiff, who had taken him into the firm of Kuhn, Loeb & Co.

[Warburg respects all Jews as Jews]

Felix Warburg was a man of great sincerity and conviction, a fine, warm human being who was moved by a genuine feeling of compassion toward his fellowman, particularly toward his "coreligionists". Despite his parochial German Jewish background, he found no difficulty in dealing with and being sympathetic to the East European Jewish masses. As one of his associates put it many years later, to Warburg, "even Jews in Romania were human beings, a proposition which was not always accepted by everyone here." He had a very real concern for simply helping people, a (p.19)

concern that obviously was not based on any desire for status or social standing. His main motivation was an aristocratic yet somehow humble sense of noblesse oblige.

JDC was for Warburg "his" organization, and his rule was patriarchal and at times somewhat high-handed. As he and a few others tended to be responsible for the majority of funds raised for this organization, they saw no reason to be shy about implementing their own ideas without much parliamentary attention to the democratic structure.

[Warburg: Bank - Jewish affairs - and non-Jewish organizations]

He had many compartments to his life. One was the bank, which was an obligation but neither a dominant interest nor a great satisfaction. He once described this aspect of his life as having taught him how to "draw the honey from even the sour flowers".

His world of philanthropy was dominated by Jewish affairs, but did not prevent him from being a key figure in the nonsectarian settlement house programs, the Boy Scouts, the Red Cross, and so on, as well as one of the founders of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and the American Jewish Committee.

He was deeply involved with cultural activities in New York, particularly in music and the various museums which he helped generously. Above all, he was a joyous, warm man who was constantly stimulated by his friends and associates, in return for which he supported them in their manifold activities.

He was not a good public speaker, but his warmth and intimacy, his straightforwardness, and his obvious lack of guile were refreshing. He was politically naive, and was very much astounded that he could not win over the Jewish political leaders to his way of thinking as simply as he had won over his colleagues on the domestic scene.

[JDC structure: Paul Baerwald, a conservative, shy man]

Paul Baerwald, also a banker, worked in JDC with Warburg and was a faithful supporter and friend of Warburg's. Baerwald was a far cry from Warburg, with his warm and engaging personality. A serious, rather shy man, Baerwald tended to be cautious and conservative where Warburg was innovative. Baerwald always desired to do what the powers that be considered "right"; he certainly had the courage of his convictions - but his convictions usually happened (p.20)

to coincide with the most conservative interpretation of any given situation. Baerwald was most convincing in person-to-person contact, where his overwhelming desire to do good and his great sincerity would stand out. As a chairman of JDC in the 1930s and after Warburg's death, he was a rather pale reflection of his predecessor.

[JDC structure: James N. Rosenberg, a conservative lawyer with enthusiasm and drive - anti-Zionist]

Another individual of great importance in JDC was James N. Rosenberg, a lawyer whom Warburg had drawn into JDC. Rosenberg tended to be on the conservative side as well, but he was extreme and brash where Baerwald was cautious and shy. Rosenberg left an indelible mark on JDC. We shall have occasion to discuss his distaste of Zionism and its proponents; although he supported Warburg's attempts to come to terms with Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist leader, in the 1920s and the 1930s, he was in fact much more reserved and even hostile to Zionism than Warburg. On the other hand, Rosenberg's enthusiasm and tremendous drive were important factors in getting JDC involved with the great attempt to help with the economic and social problems of Russian Jews, which will be discussed later.

[JDC structure: Secretary Joseph C. Hyman, executive head]

Joseph C. Hyman, the secretary, occupied a definitely inferior role, but he was very important as the actual executive head of the organization.

[JDC structure: Plans in New York - real work in Europe - plans by Kahn and Rosen]

Plans for fund raising and the overall budget were decided on in New York, but the real work of JDC was done in Europe. There, almost all decisions were placed in the hands of two individuals of great intellectual stature, Dr. Bernhard Kahn, head of the European office of JDC in Berlin, and Dr. Joseph A. Rosen, head of JDC's Russian work.

[JDC structure: Dr. Bernhard Kahn, "Mr. Joint"]

We shall deal with Rosen in the discussion of the work done in Russia, but for the rest of Europe, Dr. Kahn was "Mr. Joint". The group of Jewish German-Americans, financiers and lawyers, who in fact ran JDC needed a man they could trust and who would interpret their ideas in the actual operations of JDC. Kahn was a German-educated Jew, a man Warburg could rely on.

Born in Sweden of Lithuanian Jewish parents, he was a brilliant man, well-versed in Jewish law and lore, with a good knowledge of Hebrew and Yiddish. He spoke all the (p.21)

great European languages, was deeply steeped in German culture, and was an expert in economics, with a long record of work not only with JDC, but prior to the JDC with the Hilfsverein, the great German Jewish philanthropic organization. An early adherent of the Zionist movement, Kahn had been a delegate to the 1903 Zionist Congress that had rejected the proposal to direct Zionist endeavors temporarily to Uganda.

He was a reserved man, outwardly rather cold and pedantic but deeply desirous of helping fellow Jews. He was the kind of man the JDC leadership was looking for. Utterly and absolutely reliable and responsible, extremely competent, he was sufficiently conservative and rigid to recommend him to the New York office of JDC, and at the same time a man of complete independence of mind, capable of a great deal of imaginative thinking, who happened to agree with the JDC group as to how the agency should be run.

There was never the slightest trace of subservience about Kahn, never a suspicion that he was not at all times honest with himself and his office in New York.

[JDC structure: "USA" group - Kahn group - Rosen group]

In fact, it even looked as though JDC was divided into three separate parts - the money-raising agency in America and two independent disbursing corporations: one under Kahn and the other under Rosen.

[JDC structure: Inner circle Warburg, Baerwald, Kahn, Rosen, Rosenberg, Hyman]

Warburg, Baerwald, Kahn, Rosen, Rosenberg, and Hyman - these men constituted the inner circle that determined JDC policy. Except for Hyman and Rosen, most of Warburg's lay associates in JDC work, members of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors, were of the German Jewish aristocracy in American Jewish life.

[JDC structure: Louis Marshall]

Up to his death in 1929, the towering personality of Louis Marshall provided a rallying point for these circles.

[JDC contacts to other organizations]

There were close personal ties between the lay leaders of all the major American Jewish philanthropic and social organizations and the American Jewish Committee, disagreements on Zionism notwithstanding.

[Warburg's position in the middle group around Marshall - without Zionism, without nationalism]

Warburg and his friends belonged to that middle group in the argument on Zionism that centered around Marshall. Warburg never subscribed to Julius Rosenwald's anti-Zionism, though Rosenwald was the most important financial supporter of JDC. (p.22)

Together with Marshall, Warburg lent his hand in the agreement with Weizmann that set up the Jewish Agency for Palestine in 1929. Warburg always remained basically faithful to this alliance with Weizmann, despite his non-Zionism and his very serious disagreements with the great Zionist leader. Palestine was not a matter of "only" to him, as it was with Weizmann, but of "also", and he and his circle did not adopt the Zionist attitude of "the judges" - Brandeis, Mack, Frankfurter - and their circle. Warburg never quite accepted the idea of Jewish nationalism, and he looked upon its representatives with a great deal of suspicion.

[1.2. Catstrophic situation in Eastern Europe with wars 1919-1922]

[Beginning 1920s: Victory against horrors of war, pestilence and famine - Economic Reconstruction Committee]

The 1920s was, generally speaking, a period of optimism - and not only in the United States. Distaste for war and, in America, a widespread feeling that the United States should never again get itself involved in European quarrels were accompanied by a fervent hope that the horrors of war, pestilence, and famine would now finally be conquered. It is therefore not surprising that JDC should have set up its Economic Reconstruction Committee under Herbert H. Lehman and endeavored to transform itself from a rescue and relief to a rehabilitation agency.

[JDC credits for Jewish masses mainly traders and artisans - cooperative loan kassas (banks) - low interests]

At first, these efforts at reconstruction were directed primarily at Jewish life in Eastern Europe. The Jewish masses there were mainly composed of small traders and artisans, and an effort was made to provide them with cheap credit so that they would be able to compete with their non-Jewish neighbors. Therefore, cooperative loan kassas (banks) were set up, which received credits from JDC and others, collected share capital, invited savings deposits, and handed out credits at an interest rate lower than that charged by the banks.

Healthy business principles demanded that short-term deposits not be accepted, that arrears in repayment of interest or capital of the loan be dealt with very strictly, and that credit be given only to credit-worthy people. Naturally, American credits granted to these kassas were to be repaid punctually and promptly.

[JDC tactics: Teaching business principles for self-help]

Generally speaking, the idea was that, with a few exceptions, East Europeans did not really understand business principles but they could be taught; this would enable them to rebuild their economy on a sound foundation.

There were certain principles which JDC carefully observed. (p.23)

First of all, JDC was not a political organization. This meant that it could not get involved in any political argument with Jews or non-Jews and that it tried to be impartial to all Jewish factions. With the complications of Jewish political life, this was an ideal that was not easily attained, and naturally JDC had its sympathies and antipathies - because, in fact, JDC was Kahn and three or four people in New York.

[JDC tactics: Free of any political involvement]

Nevertheless, despite these conditions JDC remained remarkably free of any political involvement and remarkably impartial in its operations, and it did manage to become recognized as probably the only really nonpartisan organization in Jewish life. This did not mean that JDC was nonpolitical in a European sense - that is, unconnected with the government. While there was no government intervention in its activities, JDC was careful to obtain Washington's consent for certain foreign programs. This was always given in a friendly but noncommittal form.

[JDC tactics no. 1: Coordination with US government - example Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg]

Thus, when JDC was about to embark on a drastic expansion of its Russian work in early 1928, Louis Marshall wrote to Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg, that "before we took any steps in this direction we communicated our plans to the Department of State and were assured that there was no reason why we should not carry on this work."

Kellogg replied on May 9. "I may say, however, that the Department sees no reason, from the point of view of national policy, to interpose any objection to your participation in the work of Jewish land settlement in Russia along the lines set forth in your letter."

He added, however, that whatever JDC did in Russia was done at its own risk.

(End note 1: AJ (Agro-Joint files) 36, 4/30/28)

[JDC tactics no. 2: Teaching business principles for self-help]

Another JDC principle was its determination to help Jews to help themselves. It had come into existence as a relief agency, and despite hopes to the contrary, rescue and relief were always part of its operation. But the aim was neither relief nor rescue by themselves; the aim was to help Jews rebuild their lives as self-respecting, upright, independent human beings, who would neither rely on humiliating doles nor have to seek them.

There was a definite feeling for the essential dignity of human existence, and (p.24)

this is perhaps one of the finest values upheld by JDC in its operations. Thus, Hyman wrote that "Dr. Kahn's policy has been to reconstruct, rehabilitate and make self-supporting those elements in the Jewish population which are physically and mentally capable of establishing themselves on a permanent self-supporting basis, in order that these people may eventually help their local social problem and bring assistance to the sick, deformed, defective, aged, etc."

(End note 2: File 1, 7/25/29 [25 July 1929])

At the same time, this was interpreted in a characteristic way: strict business principles had to be adhered to, and insistence on repayment of loans was emphasized in circumstances where at least an argument could have been made for a more lenient method of operation.

[JDC tactics no. 3: The right for all Jews to live in their home country - no emigration]

A third principle JDC always adhered to was "that Jews have a right to live in countries of their birth, or in a country of their adoption."

(End note 3: Nathan Reich, JDC Primer (1945), JDC Library)

This was thought of as representing the American point of view of providing opportunity for all. Though undoubtedly influenced by American ideological concepts, this was in fact an old idea in Reform Judaism, brought over in 1848 by German Jews.

This ideal was perhaps accepted at international conferences and talked about by statesmen all over the world, but it was strangely out of touch with the realities of Jewish existence. Admittedly, for a short period in the 1920s it seemed as though this concept might ultimately prevail, but later developments made it look completely unrealistic. In effect, it tended to cause JDC to view with some hesitation any movement tending to advance emigration projects as a solution to Jewish problems. Kahn "emphasized that the Jew must be helped where he is; the Russian Jewish question must be solved in Russia, the Palestine question in Palestine, the German-Jewish problem in Germany, etc."

(End note 4: File 39, 11/18/31 [18 November 1931])

[Since 1930s: JDC tactics no. 3 changes: Emigration is supported]

In practice, this attitude was untenable, and as the 1930s progressed and the rule of law and humanity regressed in Europe, JDC was forced to support emigration of Jews as the occasion demanded. The hope of the permanent settlement of the Jewish question in the various countries of residence, the basic dream of the permanence of Diaspora life in which Reform Judaism believed (p.25)

with fervor, had to be modified, in practice if not in principle. JDC showed a remarkable capacity to interpret its own tenets elastically, even to the point of negating them - a way of solving contradictions between theory and practice not unknown to Jewish tradition.

[JDC tactics no. 4: Supervise the administration of the help]

Finally, there was the assumption - not really clearly stated anywhere, but implied everywhere - that the help given by JDC entitled it to supervise closely the administration of such aid.

[JDC tactics no. 5: Support of other help organizations]

At the same time, JDC always worked through local agencies or supported quasi-independent organizations to do specific jobs.

[JDC critic Louis Berg: JDC gives money without vote]

A critic of JDC, Louis Berg, wrote in the Menorah Journal of June 1929 that "the leaders of JDC have never hidden their belief that the gigantic work of rehabilitating East European Jewry cannot be undertaken by the masses, but can best be performed by a few reliable and well-informed leaders, and a disciplined organization, within which there are no dissenting voices. Precisely as Mr. Louis Marshall said at this conference [in May 1929]: 'The work was so conducted that we would dispose of millions of dollars without a vote being taken.' "

(End note 5: File 42)

While JDC was not a democratic mass organization, it did of course operate within proper statutory requirements. But, as with many organizations, the formal structure was carried by informal ties such as friendships, personal contacts, and so on, and formal decisions often merely finalized arrangements that had been previously agreed to. Berg saw the negative side of this procedure;

[JDC structure: Aristocratic with "elasticity"]

but given the quasi-aristocratic character of JDC, there was an elasticity and an efficiency in its operations that was altogether admirable.

[JDC tactics no. 4: Supervise the administration of the help - depends on the mentality]

The desire to supervise the administration of aid efficiently without resorting to degrading methods of doles and relief seemed to contradict the policy of supporting and developing local agencies. In actual fact there was no hard-and-fast line. With a strong and independent community - German Jewry, for instance - supervision was minimal. In other places, JDC officials for all practical purposes administered not only the funds but the institutions supported by them, indirectly and sometimes even directly. This was (p.26)

bound to create bad feelings on occasion, and the cases had to be judged on their merits as they came up. However, JDC never ran a bureaucratic apparatus interfering with practically every aspect of Jewish life, such as other Jewish organizations (like the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) in Argentina) were sometimes wont to do. Whatever the deviation from stated principle, the idea of helping Jews to help themselves, of authentic Jewish communal independence, was always upheld in the end. This made JDC, despite a great deal of criticism, an organization popular with the Jews all over crumbling Jewish Europe.

[1.3. The resolution for a lasting existence of the Joint 1927-1931]

[1927: JDC tactics of temporary existence changes: JDC structure reform for longer existence]

For most of the 1920s, as we have seen, JDC thought of itself as a temporary organization - reflecting the prevalent illusion of the permanency of Jewish economic reconstruction after the war. But when the conclusion could no longer be escaped that JDC would be needed for an appreciably longer period of time than had been originally anticipated, a decision was made in 1927 to reorganize JDC on a more permanent basis.

[May 1929-17 March 1931: JDC structure: Foundation of a reorganization committee of 18 under Louis Marshall - registration in New York]

In May 1929 a reorganization committee of 18 was formed under Louis Marshall; this committee made its report on January 15, 1930, after his death. It was accepted and, after some minor modifications, resulted in the setting up of a new corporation registered in New York State on March 17, 1931, under the name of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc.

[Since 17 March 1931: New mood of stability in the JDC]

This new mood of stability was reflected in the fieldwork of JDC. In 1927-29 long-term reconstruction plans were considered, on the assumption that prosperity in the Western world would continue uninterrupted.

[1.4. Jewish Populations in Eastern Europe 1921-1929]

The need for these reconstruction plans was obvious as far as the Jewish population of Poland, Romania, and other countries in Eastern Europe was concerned. There were a considerable number of these Jews in 1929:

-- an estimated 2,850,000 in Poland (according to the 1921 census, or about 3,0900,000 by 1929);
-- some 260,000 in Lithuania and Latvia (according to censuses held in 1921 in Lithuania and 1925 in Latvia);
-- in Romania an estimated 760,000 for 1925;
-- in Czechoslovakia, between 350,000 and 400,000;
-- in Hungary, some 450,000.

In all, some 5,000,000 Jews were (p.27)

living in these countries, or about 30 percent of all the Jews of the world (estimated at 15,000,000 in 1929).

[1.5. Worsening situation for the Jews in Eastern Europe because of crop failures 1928/1929]

[1928/9: Eastern Europe: Crop failure - destabilization of Jewry economically and politically - government actions against Jews]

Masses of Jews were living under the most unsettled circumstances, economic and political. After the crises of 1924-26, another general crop failure in 1928/9 all over Eastern Europe affected the economies of those countries. The Jewish middle class was still largely dependent on small trading operations involving the village-town relationship, and as peasants all over Eastern Europe became economically weaker, the Jewish position became increasingly precarious.

This also affected the political position of the Jews. Since the peasants formed the majority of the population in all these countries, the various governments made efforts to assuage them. Their direct economic relations with the Jews and their inability to pay the Jewish traders and artisans turned the peasant-Jewish relationship into political antagonism, expressed in nationalism and anti-Semitism among large sections of the population. While these tendencies had been ingrained among the population for centuries, they were virulently expressed when economic crisis and increased nationalism coincided in the late 1920s.

[1.6. Reasons for the unsuccessful economies in Eastern Europe since 1919]

[Since 1919: Eastern Europe: Nationalism blocks the markets]

More deeply, this economic situation reflected the establishment of the nation-states in Eastern Europe after World War I. The Baltic states, Bessarabia, and most of Poland had been part of the prewar Russian market, with its tremendous possibilities for expansion. Galicia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Transylvania, and Bucovina had been part of another large political and economic entity, the Hapsburg Empire. Now, the huge market had been split up, and the successor states practiced economic nationalism and cutthroat competition.

[Since 1919: Eastern Europe: Dumping practices by Soviet Union and Czechs]

This was aggravated by Soviet dumping practices (selling goods in foreign markets below the cost of production, so as to obtain sorely needed foreign currency), which was also followed by other states (for example, the dumping of Czech shoes in the Baltic countries).

[Since 1919: Eastern Europe: Blocked Jewish companies by new frontiers]

Jews, as small and medium-sized traders, suffered badly from these developments. The Lodz textile industry, set up to supply the (p.28)

Russian market, now had to reorient itself to a small Polish market and tariff barriers in an economically divided Europe. The same thing happened with the wood industry.

[Since 1919: Eastern Europe: National economic measures and monopolism destruct Jewish companies]

Economic nationalism turned into an attempt by some of the governments to run their own industries - a system of etatism or state capitalism, which met with singularly little success. But in the process of these experiments, government monopolies were established in trades where many Jews had worked before as entrepreneurs or employees. The new monopolies, whatever else they did, got rid of the Jewish employees as quickly as possible. This was especially true in Poland.

[Since 1919: Eastern Europe: Disorganization - no stable currency - inefficiency]

Apart from this, sheer disorganization and lack of a stable currency, or, as in Romania, a corrupt and inefficient government bureaucracy, tended to lower standards of living and employment for the Jews.

[1.7. Economic policy against the Jews in Eastern Europe since 1919 - methods - especially Poland]

[Since 1919: Poland: Anti-Jewish tax system: 10 % population pay 40 % of the taxes - robbery]

In all these countries taxation was levied first on the traders and artisans - largely Jews. This was done because the government did not wish to antagonize the peasants on the one hand or the rich gentile landowning and merchant classes on the other. The Jews in Poland, though composing 10 percent of the population, paid 40 percent of the taxes. Having obtained these taxes, the government was reluctant to provide services to the Jews from whom such a large proportion of these monies had come. Subventions to Jewish institutions were ridiculously small,

[Since 1919: Eastern Europe: No economic help to Jews]

and no government plans were ever formulated to ease the Jewish economic problem in Poland, Romania, or the Baltic countries.

[Since 1919: Eastern Europe: Jews are an other nation - Jews are enemies]

The economic problem came on top of anti-Semitic feelings. Modern nationalism saw the Jew as a foreigner and therefore an enemy. There were constant reports of anti-Jewish excesses, caused by economic factors, religious prejudice, or nationalist agitation.

[Lodz October 1928: Strike against Jewish workers - propaganda for a boycott against Jews]

In October 1928 Polish factory workers went on strike at Lodz to protest the employment of Jews. A boycott against Jews was propagated by the National Democratic (Endek) opposition to the regime of Marshal Pilsudski, the Polish strong man.

Ritual murder stories were spread in Lublin and Vilna in 1929. Attacks on the Jewish population occurred at Bialoczow and Zaleszczyki.

[1929-1932: Eastern Europe: Riots against Jews]

A serious (p.29)

riot, involving the destruction of two synagogues, a Jewish editorial office, and some Jewish buildings, occurred in June 1929 at Lwów. riots occurred at Volkovysk, in Lithuania, in the autumn of 1929, in which 20 Jews were injured. In Romania, anti-Jewish riots occurred constantly. In late 1929 there were riots at Chisme, near Ismail, and students held anti-Jewish meetings in Cluj and other places. The same pattern repeated itself, tediously and dangerously, in 1930, 1931, and 1932, even before the Nazi type of anti-Semitism had gained its major victory.

[1919-1931: Poland: Discrimination by economic law against Jews is taken over from Russian law]

Discriminatory laws against Jews, a residue of czarist legislation, were in force in the formerly Russian part of Poland (Congress Poland) for 13 years after the establishment of Polish independence, despite the fact that Poland had signed the 1919 Versailles Convention for the protection of national minorities. Under the law,

-- Jewish patients were refused admittance to hospitals maintained by general taxes,
-- and Jews were forbidden to rent state lands,
-- punished for changing their names (from Jewish-sounding ones to Polish ones),
-- forbidden to participate in village administration,
-- liable to deportation to a certain distance from the borders "to prevent smuggling",
-- and forbidden to engage in mining.

These laws were not abolished until March 1931.

[1919-1931: Most of the Polish Jewish organizations boycott the Polish government - exception Agudah]

On the whole, the Polish government of Pilsudski's followers was not overtly or violently anti-Semitic, but since it did not enjoy the support of the majority of the population, it was afraid of antagonizing the anti-Jewish majority of peasant and town dwellers, and consequently did little to protect the Jews. Most of the Jewish parties - Zionists, Bundists,

(Footnote: The Bund (Allgemeiner Yiddischer Arbeter-Bund), founded in 1898, was an anti-Zionist Jewish socialist party with a very large following in Poland)

and Yiddish Autonomists

(Footnote: Yiddish Autonomists ("Folkists"), a middle- and lower-middle-class movement, aspired to the creation of Jewish national life on the basis of cultural autonomy in the Diaspora)

- refused to be drawn into the circle of Pilsudski's supporters, and (p.30)

only the Orthodox Agudah

(Footnote: Agudat Yisrael was an ultra-Orthodox movement, anti-Zionist at first, then slowly becoming non-Zionist. A working-class section (Poalei Agudat Yisrael) in time became supporters of a radical Orthodox Zionism).

broke Jewish solidarity by becoming part of the government bloc. In return, the Agudah were granted an election law for Jewish communities that allowed them to influence elections by excluding anyone who had "publicly" expressed his disapproval of Jewish religion. This provision enabled the Agudah to exclude many of their opponents from Jewish community administration.

[Since 1924: Poland in economic depression - discrimination of Jews in public services]

The Polish economic crisis of 1924-26 turned into a semipermanent depression, aggravated by the autarkic and nationalistic policies of the government. There was considerable administrative discrimination. Jews made up about one-third of the population in Warsaw, and they composed 27.3 percent of the Polish urban population generally. Yet their share in the municipal administration all over the country was only 3.4 percent in 1931. In Congress Poland only one Jew was employed in the postal services. Of the 4,342 employees of Warsaw's municipal trolley lines 2 were Jews, and among the 20,000 Warsaw city employees there were 50 Jews. In state administration and the courts the number of Jews came to 2 percent; in the police, customs, and prisons, to 0.18 percent.

(End note 6: R. Mahler: Jews in Public Service and the Liberal Professions in Poland, 1918-39; In: Jewish Social Studies 6, no. 4 (October 1944)

[Since 1924: Poland in economic depression - discrimination of Jewish schools and of Jewish students]

Jewish schools had to be maintained by Jews, and the government gave ridiculously small subsidies. Of the 300 million zloty budget of the Ministry of Education in 1930/1, Jewish schools got 242,000 zloty; later they got even less. Thus they had to support their own schools. At the same time, more and more Jewish students flocked to them, as the general schools tended to discriminate against Jews in every possible way. The number of Jewish students in Polish academic institutions between 1925 and 1931 decreased by 10 percent, while the number of students generally increased by 15 percent.

(End note 7: Ibid. [R. Mahler: Jews in Public Service and the Liberal Professions in Poland, 1918-39; In: Jewish Social Studies 6, no. 4 (October 1944)])

[Since 1927: Poland's new artisan laws against Jewish artisans and peddlers]

Artisans had been subjected to restrictive regulations since 1927. The government was supposedly trying to modernize production, (p.31)

but these regulations had to do less with modernization than with nationalism and anti-Semitism. By a decree of December 12, 1927, every artisan was forced to pass tests in Polish history, geography, and language, as if that was a vital prerequisite for a Polish Jew who had been a satisfactory shoemaker for 20 or 30 years. The older people, who did not know Polish beyond what was needed for everyday use, who had never studied or showed interest in Polish geography or history, were now forced to go to school and undergo examinations. Licenses ere introduced, both for artisans and for traders. For young people three years of apprenticeship with a master recognized by the authorities and another three years at a trade school were now required. For the 150,000 families of Jewish artisans this was a terrible calamity. The 345,000 smaller traders and peddlers now had to pay for licenses that they simply could not afford, and their position was no easier than that of the artisan.

[Since 1924 appr.: Tobacco industry and alcohol industry become state's monopolies in Poland - Jews dismissed]

The Jewish worker and employee in Poland did not fare any better. All but 440 of the 3,000 Jews who had formerly found a living in the tobacco industry were dismissed when tobacco became a government monopoly. The same thing occurred in the alcohol industry, where "in one of the largest distilleries, the administration categorically declared that it had received verbal instructions not to employ any Jews."

(End note 8: Landau reports, 1929-31, file 139)

[Late 1920s: Poland dismisses all Jews from railway]

6,000 Jews employed on the railways were dismissed in the late 1920s.

[1929: Poland's monopoly on wood industry without Jews]

The wood industry had employed 25,000 Jews, but by 1929 no Jews were working in the government-owned wood monopoly.

[1931: Poland: Wide spread poverty under Jewish population]

In 1931, according to Jacob Lestschinsky, the noted Jewish statistician,

-- 48.86 % of Polish Jews had an income of less than 50 zloty ($ 10) a week,
-- 29.06 % between 50 and 100 zloty,
-- and only 17.25 % over 100 zloty.

(End note 9: Cited by Faust; In: Book of American Federation of Polish Jews. 25th annual convention, June 11-12, 1933)

The result of all this was increasing misery. By 1929 between 25 and 30 % of Polish Jews were living on the subsistence level. Something had to be done quickly.

[Late 1920s: Jewish poverty in Romanian Bessarabia, Bucovina and northern Transylvania]

An equally terrible situation prevailed in Romanian Bessarabia, Bucovina, and parts of northern Transylvania, as well as in Subcarpathian (p.32)

Russia. There, a primitive Jewish rural population lived among even more primitive local peasants and shepherds. In the late 1920s, as a result of the economic developments already briefly outlined, the anti-Semitic propaganda of Romanian nationalist students, supported by some German colonists, found a ready response. This was aggravated by famine resulting from crop failures in Bessarabia in 1928/9. The government was no help at all, though the new "peasant" regime of Juliu Maniu, installed in December 1928, promised that a firm line would be taken against the anti-Semites. The Jewish community itself was split. The Union of Hebrew Congregations and the Bucharest community (headed by Dr. Wilhelm Filderman, a friend of JDC) supported the Liberal party, which was defeated in the elections. Others, such as the Zionists, wanted to be independent, whereas the Agudists supported Maniu. The new government also passed a community law which was, in a way, parallel to the Polish law mentioned above, and was also inspired by Agudist rabbis.
The grimmest situation of all confronted JDC in northern Transylvania, in the areas of Máramarossziget and Satu-Mare. Extreme poverty reigned there, and the slightest economical and political upheaval could and did cause calamity.

[Late 1920s: Eastern Europe: Not integrated Jewry, economical crises and nationalism provoke exclusion of the Jews]

This, then, was the situation confronting East European Jewry: newly developing nations engaged in the painful transition to a modern economy were determined to exclude the Jew from economic life. As the traditional middleman between town and country, the Jew no longer fitted into the economic picture. Excluded from the promise of economic advancement and from political influence, a stranger in language, religion, and cultural background, hated an despised, he was the first victim of every economic and social disturbance.

[1.8. The actions of the Joint against poverty of Jews in Eastern Europe]

[Late 1920s: Eastern Europe: JDC actions against Jewish poverty]

The activities of JDC in Eastern Europe were motivated by the desire to avoid relief work as much as possible; the relatively small sums could not, in any case, alleviate mass suffering. Work was therefore concentrated on reconstruction. This found expression in (p.33)

four aspects of JDC activities: medical work, education, child care, and the provision of cheap credits. (It was Dr. Kahn's principle not to engage in the latter work directly but to subsidize those organizations that were most effective at it).

[1921: Poland: Foundation of medical organization TOZ]

As far as the health program was concerned, JDC had founded TOZ in Poland in 1921. This group of medical workers and administrators ran their society on the basis of a dues-paying membership that controlled the organization, and they demanded certain minimal payment for a small part of their otherwise free services. Collections, government subsidies, and JDC subsidies made up the rest of their budget.

[1929: TOZ with 63 branches]
By 1929 TOZ had 63 branches in Poland, with 14,854 members.

[TOZ activities]
It provided health education in the form of lectures, films, and publications. It ran summer camps ("colonies"), anti-TB clinics, dental clinics, and milk stations for children, and various school programs. (p.34)

(End note 10: TOZ had a medical staff of 397 in 1929. It ran 31 hospitals, 21 anti-TB clinics, and 26 dental clinics. JDC contributed 337,000 zloty to its 2 million zloty budget. In its summer camps there were 7,820 children in 1927, 7,633 in 1928, and 6,427 in 1929. (p.308)

In the other areas of Eastern Europe, JDC assisted in reviving the Russian Jewish health organization known as OSE.

[1912: Russia: Foundation of medical organization OSE / OZE]

(Footnote: OSE (OZE) - Obshchestvo Zdravookhraneniya Yevreyev (Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jews), founded in 1912)

[Since 1919: OSE / OZE: Creation of a system of health centers in Ukraine, Baltic states, Danzig, Bessarabia, and Austria]
Despite the fact that this old and well-established group was now cut off from its former base of operations in Russia, it continued after the war and was active in the Ukraine, the Baltic states, Danzig, Bessarabia, and Austria. In those countries it set up a system of health centers.

However, it did not attain the singular importance there that TOZ had in Poland, and Kahn was apt to be rather critical of what he considered its conservatism. Nevertheless, OSE did very useful work in its own areas.

[1923: Poland: JDC founds child care federation CENTOS]
As far as the care of children was concerned, JDC was instrumental in setting up in 1923 a child care federation of Poland, known as CENTOS, which engaged in social work with orphans and poor children, and cooperated with TOZ in summer camp programs and similar activities.

[1923: Warsaw; JDC founds school for nurses under Amelia Grunwald - better economic position of the nurse in whole Poland]

One of the direct achievements of JDC work in Poland was the establishment of a modern school for nurses in Warsaw by Amelia Grunwald in 1923. Miss Grunwald was an expert nurse and an efficient administrator who left her post in the United States to take (p.34)

over this venture. JDC spent some $ 95,000 on the school up to 1929 and, as a result, the government and the Warsaw municipality participated to an ever-increasing extent in the institute's budget. The school, which was attached to a municipal hospital treating mainly Jewish patients, had effected a significant change in the nursing profession in Poland generally. The nurse had been looked upon as a somewhat specialized servant of the doctor, but the school, along with another institution established by the Rockefeller Foundation, helped to transform her into a respected member of the medical profession. This found its expression not merely in a somewhat better economic position, but mainly in the social standing the nurse could now hope for. This achievement was a guide to the kind of pilot project JDC should engage in in other spheres of activity as well.

[Poland?: JDC supporting Jewish schools]

Schooling was another area where JDC, in its efforts at reconstruction, tried to maintain certain institutions so as to help build a generation of Jewish people who would be well adapted to the world around them without forgoing the kind of Jewish education the elders wanted for them. Subsidies usually came through the three original constituent organizations of JDC: the Orthodox Central Committee for the Relief of Jews Suffering through the War, the socialist People's Relief, and JDC itself, acting as AJRC. JDC's Cultural Committee was composed of representatives of these organizations, and the monies they sent were supposed to be divided according to a "key" that gave

-- 55 % to the Orthodox,
-- 17.5 % to labor (actually Yiddishist Culture) and
-- 27.5 % to all the rest (Tarbuth Hebrew schools, assimilationist schools, and some religious schools not supported by the Central Committee).

This rather lopsided arrangement, which prevailed till the early 1930s, was a reflection of a European mentality rather than an American one, and superseded the arrangement of 1920 whereby each of the three groups supported, more or less independently, its own institutions. Government education was either inaccessible or anti-Jewish, or both; as a result, about half the Jewish pupils went to Jewish schools.

(End note 11:
There were 540 Orthodox schools for boys and 148 (Beth Yaacov) schools for girls, with over 81,000 pupils (the girls received only ten hours of schooling a week); Orthodox yeshivoth had 18,298 pupils, and evening classes were visited by another 6,700 - a total of over 106,000 pupils. The 471 Hebrew-oriented Tarbuth schools had 44,370 pupils, and 210 Yiddishist schools had 19,500 pupils; altogether some 170,000 pupils visited Jewish schools (see Executive Committee, 12/4/30 [4 December 1930]).

[Since 1924: Poland: JDC founds the American Jewish Reconstruction Foundation - the loan kassas]

However, the main effort of Dr. Kahn was directed toward (p.35)

economic reconstruction. To this end, the Reconstruction Committee of JDC had joined forces in 1924 with ICA to establish the American Jewish Reconstruction Foundation, which was run by the two organizations with Kahn (for JDC) and Dr. Louis Oungre (for ICA) as managing directors. The governing body of the foundation was composed of six members from each of the two founding organizations, and eight members who were supposed to be responsible Jewish leaders representing the Jews of Poland, Lithuania, and Bessarabia. The list included some labor representatives, some representatives of merchant circles, an Orthodox Jew, and a Palestine Zionist. But both the Orthodox member (Jacob Trockenheim) and the Zionist (Berl Locker) failed to put in appearances at the foundation council meetings.

The main task of the foundation was conceived to be the establishment of cooperative credit institutions known as "loan kassas". These kassas would call for the payment of share capital, accept savings and deposits (to a certain extent), and lend money at a reasonably low rate of interest, mainly to Jewish merchants and artisans. The idea behind this movement was that the merchants - actually petty traders - and artisans, who constituted the overwhelming majority of the Jewish population in Poland and East European countries, were suffering from a lack of cheap credit. If financed in a conservative and businesslike way, they would not only be able to compete with non-Jews, but would also regain their self-respect as useful members of their community. With the help of political bodies, including some of the Zionists and the Bundists, (p.36)

Table 1
Kassas of the Reconstruction Foundation
No. of kassas
No. of members
New foundation
investments (net)
$ 246,000
$ 865,000

[Foundation of the Verband to control individual kassas]

a central federation known as the Verband was set up to exercise control over individual kassas, and a bank was established to serve as the financial instrument. This economic movement was undoubtedly popular.

[1924-1926: Poland: The effect of the kassas: Help only for credit-worthy Jews]

Well over a third of the Jewish population in Poland were reached by the kassas. The loans were small, averaging about $ 50, and were usually repaid on time; cases of defaulting debtors were relatively few. However, these kassas only reached that portion of the Jewish population that was still credit-worthy, if only to a limited degree; it was quite clear that the poorer groups could not be included in this venture. Yet ICA did not see its way clear to supporting something akin to relief for these people.

[1926: Poland: Kahn establishes kassas with mercy and credit without interest rate: Free Loan kassas / Kassas Gemiluth chessed - popularity of the Joint]

Kahn, representing JDC, looked for some kind of solution, and in 1926 he established in Poland a series of institutions with the traditional name of Free Loan, or Gemiluth Chessed, kassas Gemiluth chessed (giving of mercy) was the traditional term for almsgiving. However, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the term was expanded to include interest-free loans. Kahn now enlarged on this notion and established credit societies that would grant very small loans in large numbers at a nominal rate of interest, or no interest at all. Here again share capital was invited, but the low-interest JDC credits covered a much greater part of the needs of these kassas than they did of the loan kassas.

The Free Loan kassas apparently filled a crying need. By 1930 there were 545 of them in Poland, with 100,000 members. The total resources came to $ 1.1 million, of which $ 665,000 had been invested by JDC. A traditional concept had successfully been adapted to a modern situation, and as a result the popularity of the Joint among Polish Jews increased considerably.

[Since 1926: JDC Kahn looks for definite solutions - plan for the industrialization of Polish Jewry]

All these ventures alleviated Jewish suffering to a considerable degree, and were vastly important in the lives of the millions of Jews in Poland. However, Kahn was too much of a realist not to see that he had not really touched the core of the Jewish economic problem. The kassas were really no more than an instrument to soften the economic blows from which the Jews were suffering to (p.37)

an ever-increasing degree. It was quite obvious that the poorest of the poor - a third of Polish Jewry - could not benefit even from the Free Loan kassas. To spend the precious dollars fro outright relief would not only be degrading but also futile. Could anything be done to change the situation and give Poland's Jews a real chance to rebuild their economic lives?

Kahn very clearly thought that with purposeful action on the part of American Jewry, Polish Jewry could be so changed as to adapt itself to the society now emerging in Poland. In the summer of 1929 he appeared before the leadership of JDC in Zurich, while the Jewish Agency discussions were being held there, to propose a plan for the industrialization of Polish Jewry.

[1929: Kahn's plan for industrialization of the Polish Jewry]

There were several aspects to Kahn's plan. He thought that Poland was going to be industrialized and that anti-Semitism would not be powerful enough to blind Polish statesmen to the interdependence of Polish Jewry and the Polish economy. Therefore, it might be possible to interest the government in a scheme that would integrate the Jews into the economy. He assumed that there would be a steady stream of American money at the rate of about $ 1.1 million yearly for five years; properly applied, this not very large sum could work wonders.

Also, Kahn considered emigration to be no solution and felt that the problems of Polish Jews would have to be solved in Poland.

Another assumption was that the program would be implemented by American Jewry acting through JDC - in fact, through Kahn. He does not seem to have considered the possibility of any participation in planning or direction by Polish Jews themselves. He also insisted with great clarity and conviction that no planning was possible except on a minimal five-year basis, with funds that would insure the fulfillment of that first stage. This is what had been done for Russia, and Kahn obviously relied on the experience gained there in his attempt to deal with Polish Jewry.

Given these assumptions, Kahn proceeded to outline his plan.

We must try to create a healthier economic structure of the Jewish masses and do away with the present competition among (p.38)

the various classes of Jews, create an economic situation which is so constructed that the various groups can rely on one another: the workman on the artisan, the tradesman on the industrialist, etc,. in which the individual parts supplement one another economically.

But a sudden radical change of the economic structure is not possible. The chief occupation of the Jews will be the same for many years to come. Industry, trade, commerce, crafts, professions, in which 70-80 % of the Jews are employed, will continue to be the basis of their earnings.

These professions must be regulated, competition decreased in the smaller industries, and production adjusted. Trade is not systematic, there is no order or calculation in business, the crafts are one-sided, some branches overcrowded, there is too little variety and not enough specialization, and lastly the artisans have not had sufficient training and are using old-fashioned methods.

When we talk about the "restratification of the masses" we must not only try to create new professions in which a large number of Jews can be employed, but also rearrange all professions. Great numbers will be excluded in industrial branches and trade, although we are going to do everything possible to maintain the Jewish economic position in trade and industry. Those who are thus excluded may find positions as employees.

A regeneration of Jewish trade and industry will bring about normal conditions for employees. Everywhere now employees are taking the place of the independent small tradesman and industrialist. The number of employees is increasing rapidly, much more rapidly in proportion than the number of laborers. ...

Another means of adjusting larger masses of Jews to the new economic order is to be found in industrialization. As yet, there are comparatively few Jewish factory workmen and industrial labor men, who did work at home for factories and workshops and worked in small workshops. They are not mechanics. The progress of the machine has left these workmen unemployed, prevents more Jewish workmen from obtaining employment. Artisans too must find employment in shops where machines are in use if they wish to secure any employment at all.

It is well known that the Jewish workman, especially the Jewish industrial worker and factory worker, is unemployed. It is further known that the masses of Jewish workers are not mechanics and that in "the shifting of the masses" it is absolutely necessary to place larger groups of Jewish workmen in industry and factories.

With our small means we have made a start in Lodz. Here together with Jewish manufacturers, we have taken over a small (p.39)

textile factory in which we employ workmen and are placing Jewish weavers at machine work, who, after a short period of training, go out into Jewish factories, so that there is a continual training of Jewish workmen going on. ...

If we are able to continue the organizing of this work, I believe that after a few years we will have strengthened the position of the Jews to such an extent that a gradual prosperity for them will set in.

(End note 12: File 42, 7/10/29 [10 July 1929])

The financial requirements were very modest; apart from Kahn's normal budget, which would go into very much the same type of work as before, he would require $ 625,000 annually to proceed with a minimum program embodying his proposals: mainly, the organization of factories operated by Jewish employers who would train Jewish youngsters to become factory workers.

Kahn's industrialization plan was an imaginative attempt to tackle the economic problem of the Jewish masses by modern means and in line with the developing economy of Eastern Europe. It was bold, it was based on a set of hard facts, and it would be in the hands of a first-class administrator and economic expert.

[November 1929: Stock market crash in New York destroys all plans - Polish anti-Semitism would have blocked the plan - question of a market for Jewish products]

But the plan never got  off the ground because at the end of 1929 the Great Depression set in. However, it is doubtful whether the plan had any real chance to succeed. It assumed too blandly that anti-Semitism was an economic phenomenon, that if Polish Jewry was helped, then the benefits accruing to Polish society would neutralize anti-Jewish feeling among the population and the government alike. Without the help - or at least the benevolent neutrality - of the Polish government, it was unthinkable that the project could succeed.

More important, the project assumed that one could remold the Jewish economy in Poland without at the same time remolding the Polish economy as well. This seems to have been a fallacy - and JDC was not really strong enough, even in a time of prosperity, to tackle the whole of Poland. Also, Kahn thought that by proper export arrangements Jewish production would find a market. This was an assumption based on the existence of boom conditions in the U.S. and elsewhere. But in Europe, 1929 was not a very good (p.40)

year, and we have already mentioned the crop failures in the East that had diminished the purchasing power of the peasantry. If the position of the peasantry was not improved, who would buy the Jewish products - or any other products for that matter?

[Russia: Absorption of Soviet Jewry - Kahn's plan for Jews in Poland would have functioned only with an expanding economy]

The success of the economic absorption of Soviet Jewry a couple of years later was a good guideline to the possibilities in other countries. In Soviet Russia the solution of the economic problem came when Jews were accepted as laborers in a swiftly expanding economy suffering from a labor shortage. Without an expanding economy, however, it is difficult to see how Kahn's industrialization plan could have worked in Poland. Yet this has to be remembered: of all those who made an effort to find a solution to the Polish Jewish problem, Kahn came nearest to a positive and practical approach. It was not his fault that his program never materialized.

[1.8. Stock market crash in New York in November 1929 - JDC funds are going down - Jewish disaster in Eastern Europe - new anti-Semitic wave]

[November 1929: Stock market crash: JDC funds are going down - Jewish disaster in Poland - reduced programs]

The Great Depression that started in America in 1929 was a major turning point in world history generally, and in Jewish history in particular. Just as JDC was about to become a permanent fund-raising organization, with serious financial commitments designed to contribute materially to a radical improvement in the conditions of the Jewish masses in Europe, it found itself swept off its feet by an economic disaster that threatened to cut off its financial basis in the United States; and this at a time when the conditions of European Jews were seriously deteriorating.

It must be borne in mind that Eastern Europe had been suffering from a local economic depression even prior to the major disaster emanating from America. The condition of the Jews there had prompted the regeneration and mobilization of JDC resources just described, but there was no comparison between the plight of Polish Jews in 1932 and in 1928. Bad as the situation in 1928 was, in 1932 it was incomparably worse. At the same time, the income from collections in the United States reduced the JDC budget to $ 340,000 in 1932.

(Footnote: See the Appendix for a table of JDC income and expenditure during this period).

At the end of 1929, owing no doubt, to the better relationships (p.41)

prevailing between Zionists and non-Zionists as a result of the establishment of the Jewish Agency, an Allied Jewish Appeal was launched for $ 6 million, $ 3.5 million of which was earmarked for JDC. In fact, however, the JDC share of the monies collected in 1930 was a mere $ 1,632,288. The strains of a campaign conducted in an atmosphere of gloom were too much for a united fund-raising effort, and in 1931 the Zionists and JDC conducted separate appeals. The $ 740,000 collected in 1931 and the $ 385,000 collected in 1932 were inadequate to the point of disaster.

Warburg was associated with the Jewish Agency, as well as with JDC, but not even he could improve the collections for either of the appeals. In the face of these developments, budgets had to be cut drastically -

-- no more industrialization plans,
-- no more expansion.

The contribution of JDC to Free Loan kassas, child care, and medical aid became minimal, and often only symbolic.

[1930 appr.: JDC strategical discussions]

At this juncture, opinions were divided into two camps. James N. Rosenberg thought that JDC was no more than a disbursing agency of American Jewry. If American Jewry could not or would not provide JDC with funds, JDC should close down and merely maintain a skeleton staff in New York against the possibility of reviving the organization whenever the funds collected justified it. He repeatedly expressed this opinion in 1931 and 1932.

The other point of view was expressed by Kahn, Warburg, and Baerwald. They maintained that a complete cessation of funds from America would not only destroy the Jewish institutions that had been built up at such tremendous expense after World War I, but that these institutions, once closed down, would never be rebuilt. These differences of opinion were resolved in favor of the stand taken by Warburg, and JDC continued to supply dollars in driblets to the starved Jewish institutions in Eastern Europe.

The crisis and its consequences did not, however, materially affect the Reconstruction Foundation work, as this was done with a fairly large amount of capital that was at least partly used as a revolving fund; credits were granted to the foundation loan kassas, and repayments on these loans and credits were coming in regularly. (p.42)

JDC itself was doing the same thing with the Free Loan kassas, but on a much smaller scale. Thus, the foundation's activities now assumed major proportions, and its relations with Eastern European Jewry became very important.

[1930-1932: Poland: Struggle about supervising the work of the kassas - reduction of the kassa bank in Poland - protests in the Jewish "US" press against Khan]

In 1930-32 a struggle developed between the Reconstruction Foundation and the leadership of the loan kassas' central institutions in Poland: their bank and the Verband. Ostensibly the disagreements were economic and financial: the Verband was not supervising the work of the kassas to Kahn's satisfaction and tried to free itself from the foundation's supervision as much as it could. As a result, its affairs were mismanaged. More important, the bank, (in effect run by the members of the Verband) had become an ordinary banking institution charging high rates of interest; it also tried to free itself from Kahn's meticulous control by rather doubtful procedures. In these it failed miserably. In addition, practices were uncovered that were dangerously close to being corrupt. The bank had loaned money to private individuals who could not pay it back and had practiced what amounted to a misappropriation of funds entrusted to it by the loan kassas. In the end, after many attempts at saving the situation, Kahn was forced to insist on the liquidation of the bank.

But this was a financial crisis on the surface only. In reality, it was a crisis of confidence between representatives of Polish Jewry and JDC. Kahn had managed only with difficulty to persuade his ICA friends to set up the bank, and its liquidation was accompanied by many "I told you so"s on the part of JDC's more conservative partners in the Reconstruction Foundation.

The Zionist and Bundist press attacked Kahn personally, and some of these attacks were printed in America. Kahn was accused of being a cold bureaucrat, of not having come to the aid of the bank when it still could have been saved, of refusing to consider the fate of the kassas themselves if the bank was liquidated, and of superciliousness toward the Jews of Poland. These accusations were factually quite incorrect, but, as the Warsaw paper Hajnt put it, Kahn would probably win a court action but might not do well (p.43)

in front of a jury - in other words, though Kahn was legally right, his policy could be questioned on moral grounds.

Should he have insisted on a strict attitude toward the Polish Jewish organizations (to which, of course, he was fully entitled), or should he have taken a softer line and thus saved the prestige and self-confidence of the people he was dealing with?

[Reasons for Khan to reduce the kassa banks in Poland]

On the whole, it seems that he was trying to do the best he could with a critical Dr. Louis Oungre at his side and a woefully inadequate supply of money. After the failure of his industrialization plan, he was determined to take drastic steps to avoid wasting the little money he had. Also, he was out to imbue the Polish Jews with a realization that only correct business methods and solid banking operations could help them. There had to be casualties on that road, and Kahn judged it to be in the best interests of Polish Jews themselves to pay the price. Right or wrong, he was convinced that it was not the crisis that had been the cause of the difficulties of the bank and of some of the kassas, but weak leadership and bad business methods.

As a result of Kahn's policies, the loan kassas of the Reconstruction Foundation and the Free Loan kassas of JDC maintained themselves on the whole, despite the withdrawal from them of one-half of the 60 million zloty in deposits in 1931.

The kassas saved the money of many Jews who lost their deposits when important banks in Poland collapsed during the depression. What could be saved of Poland's Jewish middle class - and (p.44)

Table 2
Development of Loan Kassas and Free Loan Kassas in Poland
Loan kassas

Free Loan kassas
No. of kassas
No. of members
Credits granted (in mio. of $)

No. of kassas
No. of members
Credits granted (in mio. of $)
No. of loans




not very much could be saved - was achieved largely through the kassas. This, of course, did not even begin to touch the core of the problem of Polish Jewry, but it was all the Reconstruction Foundation and JDC could do at the moment.

Another question must be asked at this point: What were the methods by which this relative stability was achieved? The answer is that the methods were occasionally rather grim.

[Kassa systems in Romania, Bessarabia and Bucovina]

As we have noted, there were kassas not only in Poland, but in other countries as well. In Romania for instance, in 1930 there were 86 loan kassas with 64,000 members; in 1933 the same number of kassas had 54,000 members. In Romania, and especially in Bessarabia and Bucovina, the conditions of Jewish life were as hard as in Poland. There, too, the Reconstruction Foundation opposed the acceptance of deposits by the kassas, especially of short-term withdrawable deposits. Any infringement of that rule brought an immediate breaking of relations with the foundation.

(End note 13: File 19, 6/22/32 [22 June 1932]; annual report by Aronovici)

[Kassas: Bundist Victor Alter wants to give all the collected money without any interest rate and obligations]

This general situation was clear, not only to Kahn and Oungre, but also to members of the Reconstruction Foundation's council, including the representatives of East European Jews. One of these was the famous Bundist leader Victor Alter. Alter led a rebellion against the foundation at about the same time (1931) that the difficulties with the Verband and the bank started. Alter objected to the high-handed methods of Kahn and Oungre. His attitude was very simple: the funds collected in America for the needy Jewish population in Eastern Europe undoubtedly belonged to that population. The foundation was considered to be an intermediary for the disbursement of funds, the administration of which properly belonged to representatives of East European Jews.

[12 March 1930:
-- Bundist Victor Alter claims that kassas would not help against the basic problems of Jewish poverty in Eastern Europe]

On March 12, 1930, Alter submitted a memorandum to Kahn in which he stated that the chief task of the Reconstruction Foundation was to prepare the ground in Poland for what he termed "healthy economic activity". However, he pointed out that the foundation's concentration on loan kassas did not produce the hoped-for results. "Were the lack of credits the main obstacle in (p.45)

the economic activity of the Jewish population or the principal cause of its depressed economic condition - then the credit kassas would be of permanent constructive importance. Unfortunately, this is not so, and the experience of the past years has proved that despite the growth of the credit kassas, the economic position of the Jewish population (including the petty traders and artisans) has become much worse."

-- Bundist Victor Alter claims Jewish traders competition is too much - some have to emigrate

He thought that since the Jewish small trade was in a very bad way, and since the situation moreover was being aggravated by cutthroat competition among the Jewish traders themselves, there was no possibility that this segment of the population would be able to establish itself on a sound business basis. On the contrary, he said, the only solution for this vast mass of people would be to reduce the number of small traders and shift some of them to other walks of life.

-- Bundist Victor Alter claims the right for work and to further education for all Jews

The situation of the artisans was, in his opinion, similar. The only solution for the Jewish problem in general terms, Alter thought, "is to have a part of them attempt to capture fields of industrial activity in which they are not represented as yet and to have the other part raise their technical standards, so that they may be able to meet the extreme competition."

The larger the number of workers who would enter industry, especially large-scale industry, the better. Since many Jewish employers refused to employ Jewish workers, the institutions connected with the Reconstruction Foundation should grant credit only to those persons or companies who employed Jewish workmen and employees. The credits were to be in proportion to the number of Jewish workers and employees occupied in the undertaking. The foundation should help create establishments that employed Jews, and assist in finding new markets for them.

[Bundist Victor Alter wants to change the JDC strategy of banking - "US" labor leaders insist on the banking system]

These proposals were submitted at a time when personal relations between Alter and Kahn had deteriorated considerably. Alter was a politician, an excellent speaker, and a very difficult man. In ICA and JDC he saw capitalist organizations that did not really understand the Jewish workingman, and he hoped to change their aims with the help of his labor friends in the United States, Bundist (p.46)

and even Zionist. But he met with a rebuff. Hyman and Baerwald did not have to work hard to convince the American labor leaders; Charney B. Vladeck, Alexander Kahn, Bernard Zuckerman, and Meyer Gillis agreed with JDC's view that Dr. Kahn's authority must be upheld, that JDC was responsible to the Jews of America for the way the money was used, and that it could not become a simple disbursing organization providing monies to Jewish political leaders in Poland for their economic programs. They expressed this view in a cable sent to Alter on June 11, 1931.

(End note 14: File 20)

[Kahn justifies the kassa system with steps of progress in the East European Jewry]

Also, many were convinced by Kahn's practical answers. Kahn's contention was that

the foundation was created in order to secure, strengthen, and extend what was already in existence. The foundation is the administrator of a fund that must always be so applied as to guarantee the maintenance of the institutions which we have created, or now support, but that can only be accomplished if the repayment of the monies advanced is made as certain as possible. The foundation cannot make investments that are essentially experimental and therefore do not offer great possibility of being returned. Mr. Alter's criticism of the credit cooperatives must be challenged by the fact that the extension and strengthening of the credit cooperatives' systems in Poland, just as in all other Eastern European countries, has accomplished a great deal in maintaining the economic positions of the Jewish masses.

(End note 15: File 31, foundation council meeting, 1/26/31 [26 January 1931])

Kahn also said that something had already been done to strengthen working-class institutions and producers' cooperatives, but that the result of these attempts left much to be desired. He considered the industrialization program advanced by Alter to be an experiment that could not be justified to the Reconstruction Foundation's council.

[August 1931: JDC: Final fight between Kahn and Alter]

Matters came to a head. In August 1931 Oungre and Kahn declared that if Alter remained on the foundation's council they would not carry on. Alter had urged, they said, that the foundation "limit itself virtually to labor cooperative work" (which was not true), and had introduced a vote of censure against them. Leonard L. Cohen, the ICA representative, who was president of the foundation (p.47),

declared himself to be reluctant to preside at meetings where Alter was present, and ICA members generally thought that the experiment of having representatives of East European Jewry participate in running the foundation had misfired. With difficulty they were convinced by JDC not to change the system of administration of the foundation, and to carry on "with one or two of the obstreperous 'C' members removed."

[16 December 1931: JDC: Alter interrupts all contacts to the Joint]

On December 16, 1931, Alter finally submitted a letter of resignation that was intended for publication. All contact was severed between himself and the foundation.

[JDC: Kahn's proposal 1929 and Alter's proposal 1931 have almost the same content - Kahn eliminates Alter for personal reasons]

Ironically, Alter's proposal was substantially the same as what Kahn had suggested in 1929; in fact, the two proposals are almost identical. And lest we think that by 1931 Kahn either was convinced that his own 1929 plan was premature or had changed his mind, here are his words to a JDC Executive Committee meeting on November 11, 1931 - just about when the Alter controversy was at its peak. He described his 1929 plan as an extensive program "of industrialization of the Jewish masses, a specialization, and thereby a vitalization of Jewish craftsmanship, an extensive induction into agricultural pursuits, a revival of ruined Jewish industries, the protection of deteriorating business enterprises, instruction of manual workers for the factories; in a word, a general resuscitation of all economic vocations that still have a means of livelihood, or the introduction of new and timely vocations for the Jewish masses."

Then, he said, "a frost fell on a night in spring. In the midst of our negotiations with the Polish authorities, I received a telegram from the Joint Distribution Committee warning me not to proceed further" because of the economic depression that hat set in. Now, in 1931, he was still in favor of starting something along the lines that he had suggested in 1929 and stated that he could get some kind of program started with half a million dollars yearly.

It seems quite clear that Kahn objected to Alter, rather than to his policy. This may have been because of a conviction that to succeed, an industrialization plan would have to be implemented (p.48)

not by the supposedly quarreling, hairsplitting theorists of Eastern Europe but by the seasoned businessmen of the West.

(End note 16: A similar proposal to Alter's was submitted by Moses Burgin of the Central Committee of Jewish Artisans in Warsaw in 1931).

[JDC: Kahn's further works: Support for children]

It must not be thought that, because of the crisis, Khan worked only with the kassas. Fully realizing how essential it was to make maximum use of every dollar, he decided to concentrate on work for children. Of the paltry sums he had at his disposal, in 1932 he gave 62 percent to the various schemes to feed children, establish summer camps for them, and pay for vocational training and trade schools. Of the total budget of the Polish child care organization centers, JDC contributed only 17.57 % of the money; but this was decisive. There were 8,386 children under constant care in 1932: 3,053 were trained in vocational schools; 20,050 were sent to 152 summer camps. In a situation where, for example, 73 % of the Jewish children in Lodz belonged to families living in only one room (83 % of these rooms had no plumbing), JDC gave money for feeding children in the schools. During the winter of 1931/2 an average of 32,000 children were fed monthly. In Subcarpathia 2,800 children were fed in a famine that broke out there in the spring of 1932; the same was done with 12,607 children in the Máramaros district.

At the same time, Kahn continued to subsidize ORT,

(Footnote: Organization for Rehabilitation through Training - the English rendering of the original Russian name)

TOZ, and OSE, all of which received small and inadequate sums. He continued to object to handing out money for relief, though he changed his policy at least as far as the children and some of the health institutions were concerned. He said, "I could spend less than 20 % on relief if I did not from time to time get admonitions from New York that I should do more relief work."

[Early 1930: JDC: Quarrel between Romanian Jews and Kahn about a soup kitchen in Czernowitz]

His policy came into sharp focus in a little incident that occurred in early 1930, when Hyman was pressed by Romanian Jews in New York to do something for a soup kitchen in Czernowitz at the Morgenroit Institute. After some rather angry correspondence, Kahn finally wrote: "I have promised $ 300 for the kitchen at the Morgenroit Institute, (p.49)

since you evidently place importance on this for campaign purposes. Of course, I must also give something to the Poalei Zion, which likewise has a kitchen. I only hope that these forced subventions will not spread to the whole of Bucovina."

(End note 17: File 127, 5/3/30 [3 May 1930]. The facts and figures about the social conditions of Polish Jews are based on Kahn's reports - the figures about Lodz, specifically, on his "condensed report", April 1935, 44-5, pp. 14-15)

[JDC: Hyman gives the money to help organizations which Kahn would never have given...]

While in this instance - and many others - pressure by contributors made Hyman urge a more lenient policy on Kahn, it was undoubtedly a matter of principle with Hyman to press for the allocation of a larger proportion of funds for relief. "In the case of the work of the OSE and the TOZ and the Child Care Federation of Poland, it was necessary, in view of the unusual suffering and very bad economic conditions, to go much more slowly in absolute and rigid insistence" on the non relief policy than Kahn was doing.

(End note 18: File 42, 1/20/30 [20 January 1930], Hyman to James A. Becker)

[1931: Fire in Saloniki - floods in Vilna - fire in Plungiany - anti-Semitic destruction of Borsa in Transylvania]

Even Kahn relented in 1931. Quite apart from the depression and anti-Semitic outbreaks, there were natural and man-made calamities. A fire destroyed much of Saloniki's Jewish quarter in June 1931. There were floods in Vilna and a fire at Plungiany. On July 4, 1931, anti-Semitic peasants set fire to the largely Jewish townlet of Borsa in Transylvania. This came on top of the most acute suffering in Poland and Romania.

[1931: Poland: 100,000 Jewish families in starvation]

Kahn reported that half or more of the employable Jews in Poland were out of work, and that 100,000 families (which included 75,000 children [??]) were "on the verge of starvation".

(End note 19: Executive Committee, 11/11/31 [11 November 1931])

70,000 Jewish merchants, and 11,000 industrialists were reported to have closed their doors.

(End note 20: 1931 report on Poland, JDC Library)

Jews were starving in Poland "as in periods of the worst famines."

(End note 21: File 36, work of the AJDC in 1932)

[1931: Romania: Jews in starvation - crop failures - no salaries - anarchy and anti-Semitic riots]

The situation in Romania was deteriorating rapidly. The government was actively encouraging Romanians to compete with Jews, and Maniu's government had an ax to grind against Filderman and the Zionists, who had not supported it politically. The crop failures already mentioned completely disorganized the administration; a JDC report on Romania declared that the country was "faced with complete collapse."

(End note 22: File 19, 5/22/32 [22 May 1932])

Government employees and the army received salaries for only one month between December 31, 1931, and June 1932. Agricultural prices were one-quarter of the 1929 level. Filderman, who had continued to carry his public burden (p.50)

with the active encouragement of Kahn, was near collapse himself. "The teachers", he wrote in December 5, 1932, "held a meeting and decided not to carry on teaching. Their salaries have not been paid for 4 1/2 months. ... The same applies to the rabbis. The milk vendors refused to supply milk to the (Jewish) hospitals."

The peasants, especially in Bessarabia and Bucovina, refused to pay their debts after 1930. They argued that they were selling to the Jews too cheaply and buying from them too dearly. Peasants unrest was thus turned against the Jews by anti-Semitic agitators, such as the notorious Professor Cuza and others. Anti-Jewish riots were the order of the day. The Old Romanian provinces, Moldavia and Walachia, which up to then had been relatively prosperous, now suffered as much as the others.

[1931: JDC: Kahn gives up his strikt banking policy]

In the face of all this, Kahn declared that "today I am a convert to relief work in some measure. We cannot silently and unmoved pass by the spectacle of suffering of the Jewish masses. At least we must give some help to the starving Jewish children; we must give some subventions to the Jewish institutions that, without our help, will never survive the crisis."

[Hyman supports Kahn's change - Baerwald not]

While Hyman agreed with this, there were others who pondered whether this was the right approach. James N. Rosenberg wrote to Paul Baerwald on July 27, 1932: "If I were the recipient of charity I would sooner starve to death and be done with it than starve slowly over six months." Similarly, Baerwald wrote that

we know that there are numbers of Jewish people in Poland who live in misery. It is doubtful if even large sums would be effective in bringing about a big change in their condition. Does everybody agree that a more liberal support for the Jews in Poland would definitely work for their ultimate benefit? Will not the Jewish people in Poland by sheer necessity be forced to a quicker recognition on their part that their own best policy is a greater attempt to become part of the political and social structure of Poland instead of keeping up their isolation?

(End note 23: File 26, 5/3/31 [3 May 1931])

Only an assimilated Western Jew could possibly have written these lines of utter incomprehension about the nature of Polish Jewry, words reflecting a mood that was dangerous for Kahn's (p.51)

work. He must have sensed the pessimistic atmosphere, which was amply augmented by his own gloomy reports. As David A. Brown wrote in the American Hebrew and Jewish Tribune: "We might just as well have tried to scoop out with a soup spoon the water rushing into a leaky boat as to attempt to solve the Jewish problem in Poland."

(End note 24: File 121, 9/30/32 [30 September 1932])

[1932: Eastern Europe: Kahn's report about suffering Jews]

Kahn himself reported that "the need in Eastern and Central Europe is acute, overwhelming, desperate, hope is dying."

(End note 25: Executive Committee, 12/4/1932 [4 December 1932])

[Ends 1931: JDC: Kahn appeals for new action for suffering Jews in Eastern Europe]

While it was true that Kahn felt that he should report the situation as it was, it was equally true that he had to encourage his own organization to carry on in its task. He praised JDC for its past work,

(End note 26: Executive Committee, 11/11/1931 [11 November 1931])

but he emphasized that it would take a long time, a generation and more, to accomplish a restratification of the lopsided Jewish economic structure. the Eastern Jews had been caught by the crisis in the midst of a process of economic rebuilding that JDC had inaugurated. If JDC now stopped work, long years of endeavor would be lost. On another occasion he said that if JDC were to cease work, the result would be calamitous in every sense of the word.

(End note 27: File 39, 11/18/1931 [18 November 1931])

Jews would be even more pauperized than before. The economic rehabilitation that had just begun would be endangered, and despair would engender radicalism and Communism among the younger Jewish generation if no help came from the outside. He cautioned that the fate of East European Jews would never be an isolated one, and a demoralized, despised Jewry in Europe would mean disaster for all Jews, including those in America.

[Kahn's postulate that Siberia would be a refuge for Polish Jewry - support by Waldman and the American Jewish Committee AJC]

Kahn believed that in time Eastern Europe would take on some shape that would enable the Jews to live under fairer conditions. Siberia (sic!) might ultimately become a haven of refuge for Polish Jewry, but in the meantime JDC's help had to continue.

Kahn was supported by, among others, Morris D. Waldman of the American Jewish Committee [AJC]. Despite everything Kahn's position was positive, even optimistic, in tone.

Of course, larger plans had to remain on paper in the meantime, and the economic restratification that Kahn talked about had never really gone beyond the planning stage.

[Late in 1930: AJC action: Interventions with the Polish government - no concessions of the PL government to the Jews]

Attention had to be concentrated (p.52)

on immediate ways of helping Polish Jews. One of these was intervention with the government of Poland. This was not really JDC's province, but that of the American Jewish Committee. In late 1930, following an interview given by Tytus Filipowicz, the Polish minister to Washington, protracted negotiations began with the American Jewish Committee, during which the committee tried to obtain some concessions from the Polish government.

These efforts were of no avail. Although the government had accumulated a reserve of 464 million zloty in gold, in accordance with the prevailing economic doctrine they refused to part with it.

Also, in April 1930 the Sejm, the Polish parliament controlled by the opposition, had been dissolved. Immediately afterward the peasants' groups organized in a powerful new political body, which was certainly not pro-Jewish. In this precarious situation the government could not be bothered about the unpopular Jews.

On the other hand, the attitude of JDC was a mixed one of respect for authority - any kind of authority - and distrust. As Warburg wrote to the Polish minister, Stojowski: "Whatever the government decides to do must be satisfactory to us and we are watching with a great deal of interest."

(End note 28: File 121, 2/24/31 [24 February 1931])

While appreciating the efforts of the Polish government in behalf of the Jews, he hoped that, practically at least, the government monopolies would be thrown open to Jewish employment. In fact, the government did just the opposite. Yielding (not quite unwillingly, it appears) to its anti-Semitic critics, it paid less to the Jews and extracted more from them.

(End note 29: Thus the Ministry of Education had a budget of 300 mio. zloty in 1930/1 [January 1930]. Out of that sum, the Jews got 242,593 zloty, or less than one-tenth of 1 percent.

-- In 1931/2 [February 1931], they got 189,011 zloty;
-- in 1932/3 [March 1932], 201,000,
-- and in 1933/4 [April 1933], 197,000).

On the political scene, by manipulations and rigging the Jews were deprived more and more of their representation in the Sejm, except for the Agudists, who cooperated with the government.

The other way of reacting to the crisis lay in a tightening of belts, as rigorous policy toward the kassas. In the last resort, what else could JDC and the Reconstruction Foundation do?

[ORT and OSE try to get funds from JDC]

In this crisis situation the various agencies supported by the JDC did not obtain what they thought they should. OSE and ORT tried at one time or another to get additional allocations from JDC by (p.53)

using friends or contacts in America who were in positions of influence. OSE was not really powerful enough to prevail, but ORT had an American Committee; some of the members of the JDC Executive, such as Alexander Kahn, one of the great American Jewish labor leaders, and Henry Moskowitz were also members of the ORT American Committee. ORT had received considerable subsidies from the JDC.

(End note 30: ORT received $ 46,000 in 1926, $ 154,000 in 1927, $ 80,200 in 1928, and $ 49,800 in 1929).

[1931: ORT get funds from JDC for their Machine Tool Supply Company]

ORT had also founded and now operated the Machine Tool Supply Company, to supply European branches of ORT with tools and machines. JDC also used these services for its operations in Russia. When the depression came, the company got into trouble and was faced with an ever-increasing accumulation of debts. Since ORT had very few reserves of its own, it asked JDC to grant it more money. After a great deal of pressure, they were allocated 7 % of the 1931 budget ($ 68,000), at a time when all JDC staff salaries were cut, part of the staff were dismissed, and JDC generally was cutting down on all activities.

This served to show that JDC was vulnerable to pressure from contributors and members of its own committees who might represent outside influences. Kahn and Hyman, especially the latter, were by no means happy with this state of affairs. On one occasion Hyman wrote to ORT that

-- "first, the obligations of JDC to you were embodied in a written agreement;
-- second, we have lived up to our agreement;
-- and third, we have no money."

(End note 31: File 13, 21 August 1931)

But for once he had no choice. ORT got ist appropriation and it was far lager than what it normally should have received.

1.9. Kahn's expectations from a possible Hitler Germany: New Jewish refugees

[14 Dec 1930: Kahn about the Hitler Nazism - Jewish emigration from Germany has just begun]

Bernhard Kahn was, as we have seen, a man of penetrating intelligence. It is therefore not in the least surprising that he should have commented on the rise of the Nazi movement with more than ordinary perspicacity. In a remarkable speech at the home of James N. Rosenberg on December 14, 1930, he analyzed the Nazi electoral victory of 1930, which made them the second largest party in the German Reichstag. Then he dealt with the hope of many Jews that the Hitlerian movement would not amount to much (p.54)

more than did the anti-Semitic movement in Germany in the 1890s. He warned against such a comparison: "The anti-Semitism in Germany today is more dangerous than the former outbreaks of this Jew-hatred."

This new movement fed on both the economic misery and the political unrest resulting from World War I. However, Kahn said, "there ist no possibility of disenfranchising German Jews if the Hitlerites should form part of the government. It may be that then some of the Jewish immigrants, or the foreign Jews, would suffer. There would be some expulsion of foreign Jews, of whom there are 100,000 in Germany", but even these would be "partly protected" by their governments, not because of a love of Jews but because these states had a "bone to pick with Germany".

If the anti-Semites came to power, Kahn surmised, "there may be no pogroms (although even these are possible)", but the Jews would be driven out of positions in the political and administrative apparatus. A number of Jews were already moving out of Germany, and the economic squeeze that the Jews could expect if the present trend continued would cause misery and the desire to leave. The great danger was that the Nazis might gain control of the provincial governments, especially in Prussia. Even today, Kahn said, "the atmosphere is almost intolerable. The situation of the German Jews is very critical" and JDC could soon expect calls for help from Germany. Kahn saw a clear connection between the anti-Semites in Germany and anti-Semitic outbreaks in Eastern Europe: "The teaching of anti-Semitism goes out from Germany."

[18 Nov 1931: Kahn expects from Nazi Germany discrimination - no "medieval persecution"]

As the Nazis gained in influence, Kahn became increasingly worried. In the course of an address to a group of rabbis a year after the Rosenberg meeting, he again returned to this theme.

(End note 32: File 39, 18 November 1931)

This time he expressed the fear that the danger in Germany was considerably greater than what he had feared a year previously. Nevertheless, he expected economic discrimination rather than "medieval persecutions."

The same opinion is found in his letter to Cyrus Adler and others on February 2, 1932.

(End note 33: File 70)

He assumed that if elections were held now, (p.55)

the Nazis would get 180 to 190 seats (actually, they got 230 in the July 1932 elections). They might come to power if they allied themselves with right-wing groups, such as Alfred Hugenberg's German National People's party or even the Catholic Center party, but these conservative allies would not allow Jew-baiting. "It would be a different matter if with a government of Nazis and others, the Nazis were to seize absolute power by a coup d'etat and maintain it. Then it would of course depend on who the president would be at that time" - surely an amazingly accurate description of what actually happened a year later.

[One year later did not happen much. The anti Jewish rights came in 1936, and systematic deportation began in 1940].

[Kahn expects the expulsion of the foreign Jews from Germany - Kahn suggests preparation for admitting foreign Jewish refugees from Germany]

There were 100,000 foreign and stateless Jews in Germany, Kahn said, 42,000 of whom were Polish and 40,000 were Austrian. The Nazis would probably turn first against these. But Kahn was no longer as sanguine as he had been previously regarding the possibility of foreign governments intervening in behalf of their Jewish citizens. Laws would be enacted, ostensibly against trades but actually directed against the Jews. There would probably be no pogroms unless the Nazis achieved power through an overthrow of the government. While "medieval persecution" was not envisaged, the Jews would nevertheless suffer a great deal. Therefore, refugees had to be expected from Germany. The point of this letter to Cyrus Adler was that quiet preparations should now be made (in April 1932!) to meet such an emergency.

The year 1932 began on this note, and this extremely discouraging situation continued throughout the year. East European Jewry was starving, unemployed, desperate. "The record of Jewish insolvency and even suicide is a tragic one", Hyman wrote.

(End note 34: Report by Bressler and Hyman on Europe, 1930, JDC Library)

German Jewry was faced with a frightening tide of rising Nazism, and American Jewry was struck by a depression that seemed to make any attempt to collect money illusory. Yet something had to be done to save European Jewry. "My big brother must be with me if his strength shall be of any use to me. His shouting from far away would not help much."

(End note 35: Executive Committee, Kahn, 11 Nov 1931)

Then in January 1933 Hitler came to power. (p.56)

[And the industrials in Germany protected Hitler, and many thought it would be only an interim government].

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