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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
[3.11. Joint's reconstruction work in NS Germany since 1933 - Jewish press fights]


Reconstruction was, of course, another sphere of activity which JDC took a very special interest. Much was said about the need for reconstruction in the German situation, though the emphasis on this decreased as the Nazi intent to evict the Jews became obvious. In the early 1930s, however, this was not quite so clear,

Table 6: Loan Kassas of the Reconstruction Foundation in Germany
No. of kassas
Capital (in marks)
No. of loans
Amount loaned (in marks)




and JDC tried, through the Reconstruction Foundation, to create loan kassas in Germany on the well-tried East European model.

After 1937 a swift decline set in as the German government made the kassas operations practically impossible, and at the end of 1938 they were terminated.

JDC also tried to create Free Loan kassas outside the Reconstruction Foundation system, as in Poland, and invested over 400,000 marks in them between 1933 and 1937. But before they could take root, the Nazis made their operations impossible too, and they were liquidated along with the rest of the kassas in December 1938.

(End note 57:
-- Printer, p. 97;
-- 24-Gen. & Emerg. Germany, Foundation, 1933-39
-- 26-Gen & Emerg. Germany, Lists, etc. 1935/6
-- 28-30-ZA report, 1936)

[1934: Less anti-Semitism in NS Germany - discussions about the Jewish future 1935]

The situation in Germany itself fluctuated from year to year. It cannot even be said that there was always a distinct trend for the worse. For instance, in 1934 - the year of the great purge in the Nazi party (June 30) - it seemed that the anti-Semitic wave had abated slightly, and there was no new wave of terror or boycott directed against the Jews. "Superficially regarded", said Kahn, "it would appear that a certain halt has been called in Germany to the measures adopted against the Jewish population."

(End note 58: Kahn report, 3/28/34 [28 March 1934]; In: WAC, Box 321 (b)

Hitler himself had reportedly said as much at a meeting with the German Statthälter (state governors). In other words, there was still room for a certain measure of self-delusion.

Against that background a great controversy between the nationalist and liberal wings of Jewry continued in Germany. Zionists demanded the recognition of Jewish separateness on the basis of Jewish national identification. The liberal CV rejected this point of view with "determined unanimity", because they saw in Germany the center of their endeavors "now, just as in the past".

(End note 59: CV-Blaetter für Deutschtum und Judentum, 1/10/35 [10 January 1935], by Dr. Emil Herzfeld. (Fate played a trick on Dr. Herzfeld: ultimately he had to settle in Palestine, where he lived out his days in national Jewish Tel Aviv). The declaration in support of Hitler's foreign policy was made in November 1933; see: Grunewald, op. cit. [The Beginning of the Reichsvertretung; In: Leo Baeck Yearbook; London 1956], pp., 57 ff.)

The liberal Jews of Germany obviously thought that they would outlast the Hitler regime, and in 1934 and early 1935 it was still possible to believe that. In early 1935 Dr. Jonah B. Wise, one of the leaders of JDC, who had just come back from Europe, agreed with this position mainly from a pragmatic point of view. The question was "to meet the onslaught of Hitler and survive it. They (the German Jews) feel they have possibilities of surviving for some years. If conditions do not radically change, many affluent persons will (p.131)

remain in Germany. Most of them will remain because there is no place for them to go and no country wants people over forty unless they have the highest specialization for some work." However, Wise added a remark that reflected a growing conviction among German Jews in the spring of 1935: "That the young people will leave is almost certain. It is said that Germany will be an old folds' home and a graveyard."

(End note 60: Executive Committee, 3/26/35 [26 March 1935]; Hyman said in his contribution to a summary for 1934 (R53): "The hope of Jewish leaders to find an orderly, constructive transformation of a segment of Jewish life, especially for the youth, within the borders of Germany itself, to be supplemented by a carefully nurtured preparation of waves of annual emigration, has been disappointed, since training is permitted only for emigration, immediate or ultimate." B.C. Vladeck, a Labor member of the JDC Executive Committee, put a socialist interpretation on the same ideas when, in a discussion with the Zionist Berl Locker (12/23/35-WAC, Box 323 (d), he said that "there is a vast underground movement in Germany of 'Aryans', socialists, etc., who are fighting the Fascist regime and that the Jew must fight along with them." Therefore, the task of progressive Jews in Germany was to stay where they were).

[End 1933: RV supports Hitler's foreign policy]

RV [Reichsvertretung] was largely under the control of liberals like Hirsch, Seligsohn, and Brodnitz. At the end of 1933 it came out with a declaration supporting Hitler's foreign policy; this was done not because of Nazi pressure but because of the German-centered convictions of its leading members.

[Jan 1935: Jewish Saar Germans included]

In January 1935 it "heartily welcomed home" the 4,800 "Jewish Saar Germans" after the Saar plebiscite had resulted in the annexation of that area by Germany. (Saarlander Jews even came from abroad to vote for the inclusion of the region in Germany!)

(End note 61: Jewish Chronicle, 1/13/35 [13th January 1935]. On the 18, the Chronicle reported that a man named Herr Fischel had come all the way from Buenos Aires, his fare paid by the German consulate, to vote for Germany).

[Naumann's National German Jews section]

There was an even more extremist Germanic section of Jewry, led by Dr. Max Naumann, whose organization tried to create a category called the National German Jews (Nationaldeutsche Juden). "We would regard it as a national calamity for Germany and for us National Jews, who are among the best Germans, if Hitler did not take the fate of the German people in his hands. The members of our league, more than 5,000 people, voted as one man for Hitler as Reich president. Hitler is our future. No one but he can solve the Jewish question."

(End note 62: Ibid., 1/11/35 [11 January 1935]. Interview of La Croix with Naumann)

This, of course, was the opinion of but a small lunatic fringe, but it is significant that these opinions should have been stated as late as the end of 1934 and early 1935.

RV [Reichsvertretung], however, was far from a supine servant of the Nazi dictatorship.

[Jewish press in NS Germany: RV fighting the regime: Streicher's Stürmer (Stormer)]

Throughout 1935 Baeck and Hirsch and their friends tried to fight back, supported by the foreign organizations, and took their case to the still-legal Jewish press in Germany. For instance, on February 8, 1935, the CV-Zeitung published a frontal attack by Rabbi Eschelbacher on Der Stürmer, Julius Streicher's obscenely anti-Semitic paper.

(End note 63: P. 11, in an article called: Eine Nummer des Stuermer [A number of the Stuermer])

In the same issue there was a direct attack against Streicher himself, for "accusing" an opposition leader - (p.132)

wrongly - of being Jewish. One argument used by RV [Reichsvertretung] was that since the Nazi rule was totalitarian, the Nazis could have done more against the Jews than they actually did. Since "only" certain restrictions were in force, the conclusion was that German Jewry had the right to fight back on the basis of the actual laws on the books, that they could prevent a worsening of the situation by appealing to the law.

(End note 64: CV-Zeitung, 1/31/35 [31 January 1935])

[Jewish press in NS Germany: Public protest against Streicher]

In the January 31, 1935, issue there was even a public protest by RV, signed by Baeck and Hirsch, against Streicher. Entitled "The Honor of German Jews", it culminated in the statement that "for the guarding of our honor nothing remains to us but a solemn public protest."

(End note 65: Ibid. [CV-Zeitung, 1/31/35 [31 January 1935]: "Zur Wahrung unserer Ehre bleibt uns nichts als feierlicher Protest.")

A possibility of appealing to the courts under the laws of libel was hinted at.

[Jewish press in NS Germany: Attack against Nazi minister Schemm]

This point was made in even more explicit terms on February 14, when a direct attack was printed on the Nazi minister Schemm, the "leader" of the Nazi Teacher's Association, who had abused the Jewish religion. Schemm was told that he had thereby maligned the Christian God and had "harshly insulted, not only the religious feelings of German Jews, but those of Jews all over the world as well."

(End note 66: Ibid. [CV-Zeitung], 2/14/35 [14 February 1935], p.11)

[Jewish press in NS Germany: Rundschau demands]

The Zionist Jüdische Rundschau published an article demanding that the government cease to defame Jews, that it guarantee decent material conditions under prevailing legislation, and that it establish orderly emigration procedures and autonomous cultural institutions.

(End note 67: Quoted in Jewish Chronicle, 3/15/35 [15 March 1935])

It must be remembered that this took place in Nazi Germany almost two years after the abolition of all parties and the independent press. The courage displayed by RV was wholly admirable, but of course no results were achieved.