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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

[3.10. The Haavarah agreement for emigration from Germany to Palestine]
[August 1933: Haavarah agreement for Jewish capital transfer from NS Germany to Palestine - connected with exports of German goods]

In August 1933 the Haavarah agreement was arrived at between Palestinian Jewish interests supported by the Jewish Agency and the Germans; under this agreement Jews could transfer capital to Palestine - by promoting German exports to that country. The procedure was as follows:

a Jewish immigrant deposited his money (usually the equivalent of the 1,000 pounds that entitled him to a "capitalist" immigration certificate to Palestine) in a German bank; then a German exporter shipped goods to Palestine for which he was paid with the immigrant's money; in Palestine the goods were sold to customers who paid the price to an authorized bank, which in turn paid it out to the immigrant.

The Jewish Agency justified this arrangement by saying that it was essential to save Jews and their money, and that importing capital into Palestine enabled that country to absorb many others who came there without means. According to one calculation, the total transferred by Haavarah between 1933 and the end of 1937 amounted to about 4,400,000 pounds.

(End note 53: 15-32)

JDC had no part in this particular transfer scheme, but the program aroused its interest because it shared the view of the Jewish Agency that no stone should be left unturned in the effort to bring Jewish capital out of Germany, and thereby improve the prospects of emigration for those who had to leave.

In Germany it was mainly Max M. Warburg who displayed great interest in that sort of plan.

[Money transfer within the Haavarah agreement]

The Germans at first allowed Jewish men of means to buy free foreign currency at tremendously inflated prices through a special office (Golddiskontstelle); then in 1936 another office, the Reichsstelle für Devisenbeschaffung, allowed the transfers of sums up to 4,000 gold marks, for which 8,000 (p.128)

marks were paid in Germany - although people actually had to pay in considerably more than that under various pretenses. In early 1937 a Jewish bank called Altreu was established to receive these payments, which then went partly to finance ZA. Whereas the Haavarah bank - the Paltreu - dealt with transfers to Palestine or to the Middle East only, Altreu transferred monies to other countries.

Warburg was connected with all these ventures. He was also behind the establishment, in March 1936, of a bank in London called the International Trade and Investment Agency (INTRIA), whose managing director was Siegfried Moses, a German Zionist. This bank placed orders for German goods in Germany; Altreu then paid for them out of the funds paid into it by emigrants. the goods were then sold outside Germany, and the emigrant received his money back in foreign currency from INTRIA when he arrived in his country of destination. The principle was the same as with Haavarah, and really amounted to saving Jewish capital at the price of promoting German exports, albeit with no foreign currency accruing to the Germans.

(End note 54:
-- 15-3 (10/26/36 [26 October 1936])
-- 25-Gen. & Emerg. Germany, INTRIA, esp. Kahn's letter to Hyman, 8/25/36 [25 August 1936])

[1936: Modification of the money transfer]

In the summer of 1936 the Germans suggested to JDC a somewhat different arrangement for the transfer of funds: the emigrants would pay the German marks into a JDC account in Germany; the Germans would give to JDC Polish zloty for their marks (Germany had a superabundance of zloty at the time), and this would finance JDC programs in Poland; JDC would then pay the emigrant back in foreign currency once he had left Germany. Kahn's answer was negative, because the Polish program was too small to satisfy the capital transfer needs of German Jewish emigrants; in any case, Zionist funds in Poland were used to effect a similar arrangement between JDC and the Jewish Agency (the Jewish Agency getting pounds in Palestine from JDC in return for its Polish zloty, which were used by JDC in Poland). Obviously, the Jewish Agency arrangement was preferred.

(End note 55: Ibid.)

[Money transfer by "benevolent" marks]

By 1937 another plan for the transfer of funds was arranged - the "benevolent" marks. A benefactor outside Germany who (p.129)

wished to help an individual in Germany would pay a sum of money into a bank in his own country. The bank would transfer the money to INTRIA. The equivalent of that sum in marks would then be paid by Altreu to the recipient in Germany out of funds deposited by an emigrant. When that emigrant left Germany, the money would be repaid to him by INTRIA. There was no export involved in this kind of transaction, and JDC, which was of two minds about the various export arrangements, had no hesitation in supporting this scheme. It was estimated that in 1937 some $ 400,000 was transferred to Germany in this way.

(End note 56: Ibid.)

The Germans, for reasons of their own, liberalized these arrangements in late 1937 and early 1938; people could pay up to 50,000 marks to Altreu, and sometimes received up to 50 % of this sum in foreign currency. RV [Reichsvertretung] received a certain percentage of these monies for its operations. However, on the whole JDC tried to avoid any direct connection with these banks and agencies, children of Max M. Warburg's resourceful brain - many Jews were opposed to any kind of transaction with Nazi Germany, and JDC was intent on remaining as independent as possible, and not exposing itself to attack by any side.

[At the end Palestine was in danger to be occupied by NS armies, but Rommel's army could be stopped before entering Egypt. But basically Hitler's plan was to destroy Jewry also in Palestine, so first should be the emigration, and then enslavement and destruction as a second step].