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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)



Chapter 3. Germany: 1933-1938

[3.6. The discussion in the Joint about the strategy for the Jews in NS Germany: Stay and fight or emigration]

[JDC supports emigration - many German Jews don't want emigration]

Yet the problem of whether to support emigration from Germany, and to what extent, was to be an ongoing one for the Jewish organizations outside the country. JDC, as well as other organizations, had to come to grips with the emigration problem. The official position of JDC was to support an organized and orderly emigration and oppose a panicky and disorderly flow.

Yet its emigration work was not universally accepted by its lay leaders in America. These voices were echoing their German counterparts. Thus the Reform group in Berlin stated on May 1, 1933: "We have absolutely no intention of cutting ourselves off from our German national community and our national ties and of changing over to a Jewish national or folk community."

(End note 20: Mitteilungen an die jüdische Reformgemeinde zu Berlin, 5/1/33 [1 May 1933], 26-Gen & Emerg. Germany, "J")

[9 May 1935: CV-Zeitung reports over 50 % of German Jews look Germany as their home yet]
The liberal paper CV-Zeitung in Germany echoed this sentiment as late as May 9, 1935, when it asked why the Jews should help the German government to liquidate the Jewish problem by organizing their own exodus while more than half of the German Jews still looked upon Germany as their home and would remain there.

(End note 21:
-- CV-Zeitung, 5/9/35 [9 May 1935], and
-- Jewish Chronicle, 5/24/35 [24 May 1935])

Many Jews in Great Britain and America  held a similar view.

[11 Oct 1935: Jewish Chronicle says support Jews in their fight]

On October 11, 1935, the Jewish Chronicle in London asked whether (p.115)

we are to confess ourselves, as well as the cause of tolerance, beaten, and evacuate the German Jews, nearly half a million of them, to God knows what other country. ... Repulsive? Yes, indeed it is scuttling! ... Jews will fight on. There is no other cause. Better help them than beckon them to a surrender which would disgrace them in the eyes of history and be denounced by all lovers of progress - even, perhaps, by a future regenerate Germany - as a betrayal of humanity."

(End note 22: Jewish Chronicle, 10/11/35 [11 October 1935], p.11)

[JDC: Marshall and Rosenberg are against emigration - it would be a concession to Hitler - and economy in other countries can be worse than in Germany - and other groups suffer more than the Jews]

The chief proponents of such opinions in JDC councils were James Marshall and James N. Rosenberg. Marshall thought that emigration was "a concession to the Hitler theory that the Jews must get out." Emigration "helped only a few people, whereas the bulk of the problem has to be handled in Germany itself."

(End note 23: Memorandum, Hyman to Paul Baerwald, 4/23/35 [23 April 1935], 14-46)

In light of the economic difficulties that prevailed in other countries, JDC was only aggravating the Jewish situation there by encouraging emigration, without substantially alleviating the situation in Germany.

Moreover, there were other groups in Germany that have seriously suffered. Mr. Marshall felt that in trying to emigrate, German Jews tended to set themselves off from other groups who in the long run would be helpful to them.

These were issues of fundamental importance, and it was not worth the price of losing out on them to get a few thousand Jews out of Germany;

[JDC voices against Separatist philosophy of Zionism - JDC voices for emigration]

neither was it helpful to bring large numbers of Jews into Palestine at this time.

Rosenberg added that "he was not willing to accept the Nationalist Separatist philosophy of Zionism, for he valued his American citizenship too much for that."

To voices like these, Warburg had a simple answer: "The German Jews want to leave and have come to JDC with their problems. JDC contributors with to help reeducate and retrain German Jews and get them out."

(End note 24: Executive Committee, 5/4/36 [4 Mai 1936])

The general line of JDC on the emigration issue was that there had to be as much emigration as there were places that could be found for immigrants.

(End note 25:
-- J.C. Hyman in annual report, 1934; and
-- Executive Committee, 10/9/35 [9 October 1935], speech by Hyman)

[The Joint sees: NS anti-Semitism is a system, not a temporary uprising]

Warburg, Baerwald, Hyman, and the majority of the lay leaders accepted Kahn's view that German anti-Semitism was not "a passing violent action, (p.116)

that comes with all revolutionary movements, or temporary legal discrimination that may be abolished again, or may quiet down."

(End note 26: Executive Committee, 1/4/34 [4 January 1934], speech by Dr. Kahn)

Anti-Semitism was the fundamental basis of the new German state. There was no place there for German Jews. German policy was to get rid of the Jews. When this would be achieved was hard to say. It could take a generation or more if the present government stayed that long, or it could come about sooner.

[1934: Joint without strategy between help to emigrate and help in Germany]

There was no contradiction between that and the JDC view that "by the hundreds of thousands they must remain there, and we must lend them our sympathetic help", as Rosen stated. He added that it was very tragic to be a German Jewish refugee in Paris in 1934, a place where he was equally unwanted as in his German home and where he was not allowed to earn a living. In these circumstances it was sometimes even better to stay in Germany and to work out some salvation there.

(End note 27: J.A. Rosen at Board of Directors, 6/13/34 [13 June 1934])

[Rosen sees the problem of numbers of visas]

Rosen's opinion was based on some harsh facts: because of the difficulty of obtaining entry visas to various countries, not more than 15-20,000 Jews could hope to leave Germany yearly; over half the German Jews would have to remain there, at least for ten more years, whatever the conditions.

(End note 28:
-- Summary of Activities of JDC since 1933 (11/25/35 [25 November 1935]), pamphlet. Also
--  Jonah B. Wise: Report on the Situation of Jews in Germany; February 1934, pamphlet, where he says: "The half million Jews still in Germany realize that for the great mass of them, their fate and future lie within Germany.")

[Early 1934: Wise thesis: No future in Germany - not all can emigrate]
The consequences of this stand by JDC were sometimes rather confusing. Jonah B. Wise stated early in 1934

(End note 29: Executive Committee, 1/4/34 [4 January 1934])


(a) there was no decent future for the Jews in Germany;
(b) some would have to remain and adjust there; and
(c) Germany had been and would continue to be a center of Jewish and world culture. Palestine and emigration generally, were not the only answer.

[1934-1935: The new laws against Jews make clear: The strategy has to be emigration]

But slowly, inexorably, it became apparent that all other aspects of German work, while necessary and important in themselves, were secondary to the necessity of removing as many Jews as possible from Hitler's grasp. This was not altogether evident in 1934, when many saw a certain stabilization in the Nazi regime's attitude to the Jews; but by 1935, and especially after the promulgation of the Nuremberg laws in that year, the situation had become clear.

[May 1935: Kreutzberger announces the exodus of the young Jewish generation in Germany]

In May 1935 Max Kreutzberger, secretary of ZA, declared to (p.117)

the members of the JDC's Executive Committee that while in the beginning there might have been divergent views and opinions, by now all elements of German Jewry regarded their condition as hopeless. The younger generation had to be prepared for an exodus, and the only course for those who remained was to let them live out their old age and die in peace.

(End note 30: Executive Committee, 5/22/35 [22nd May 1935])

[Until 1935: JDC wants the fight of the Jews for equality like Jews have equal rights in the "USA"]

JDC's leaders had always taken a clear stand in opposition to a program like that. They had opposed mass emigration from countries where anti-Semitism was rampant. Their argument had been that any such emigration was a surrender to antiliberalism, and that Jews should fight and strive to become equal and loyal citizens of their countries of adoption, as they had in America.

[But Jews at these times are not equal in the "USA" in many aspects of private law, admission in clubs prohibited etc.
In: Encyclopaedia Judaica: United States]

[1937: JDC Hyman states anti-Semitism is only temporary]

This theoretical position was bravely defended as late as 1937 by Joseph C. Hyman, when he said, in a letter to Prof. Oscar I. Janowsky, that anti-Semitism was but as temporary setback to democracy and liberalism. "We still believe that a way can be found to integrate the Jew with his environment under a liberal and tolerant system of society. ... I am not so sure that it is impossible, in this vale of tears, to count on strengthening goodwill between the Jew and his neighbors."

(End note 31: J.C. Hyman to Oscar Janowsky, 11/24/37 [24 November 1937], R13)