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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 4. Refugees: 1933-1938
[4.1. First emigration wave 1933 in general]

[Emigration 1932 and economic crisis worldwide]

The initial exodus of Jews from Germany in 1933 caught the Jewish philanthropic organizations with little money at their disposal. JDC had spent only $ 340,815 in 1932, and with the economic crisis in the United States reaching its height, the prospect for additional funds was bleak.

[1933: The first emigration wave without preparation partly fails]

As we have seen, estimates of the numbers of Jewish refugees were overstated at first: about 37,000 Jews left Germany in 1933, the discrepancy arising largely from the fact that a considerable number of German Jews returned to Germany before long.

(End note 1: R17, 10/19/34 [19 October 1934] - JDC memorandum from Paris to JDC Allocation Committee; this stated that in 1933, 59,300 persons had fled, of whom 51,000 were Jews. By April 1934 these figures were reported to have grown to 63,400 and 54,500 respectively. The JDC Report for 1933 (R19) says that 52,365 Jews fled Germany in 1933).

The reason for that was the inhospitable reception they got in the refugee countries, where unprepared and ill-financed ad hoc Jewish committees were incapable of coping with the flow of refugees. The refugees themselves were often taken aback by the hardships that freedom had in store for them, and for which their mostly middle-class backgrounds had not prepared them.

Tis was especially true in France, to which the bulk of the refugees (some 21,250) turned in 1933. It should be remembered that in that first year a high proportion of refugees (72-74 %) stayed in Europe because they had not prepared for emigration overseas.

(End note 2: See chapter 3, note 19).
[Werner Rosenstock: Exodus 1933-1939; In: Leo Baeck Yearbook; London 1956, 1:373-90. The author bases his article on one by Dr. Kurt Zielenzieger in the December 1937 issue of the London journal: Population)].

This picture was to change materially in subsequent years.

The Jewish organizations tried to come to the aid of the refugees. In the early spring of 1933 a conference of the leading Jewish (p.138)

Tabelle 7: Jewish Emigration from Germany, 1933-1937*
(*Based on Werner Rosenstock; see note 2)
No. of emigrants
** Of these [129,000], 85,490 were assisted through the Zentralausschuss (about 66 % of the total). Of those assisted, 44,311 were "repatriated", mostly to Poland and other East European countries; 17,130 went to Palestine, 10,196 to European countries, and 13,853 to overseas countries. The large proportion of repatriates among those assisted is due to the poverty of many East European Jews who had settled in Germany after 1918. The percentage of the total number of emigrants who went to overseas countries other than Palestine grew from 7-9 % in 1933 to 41-46 % in 1936, and 60 % in 1937 (see also JDC Primer (New York, 1945).

philanthropic groups was held in Paris, convened to all intents and purposes by Kahn. Three million francs ($ 160,000) was allocated on the spot - one million each by JDC, the Alliance Israélite Universelle, and ICA [Jewish Colonization Association]. A small steering committee, composed of Neville Laski of the British Board of (Jewish) Deputies, Dr. Louis Oungre for ICA, and Kahn, was to distribute the money. With these funds it was hoped to establish loan kassas in Germany, supply refugees in France and other countries with essential relief, and work for emigration and resettlement. The sums were soon found to be insufficient, especially the 250,000 francs that went to support refugees in France.

Apart from such well-established organizations as JDC, ICA, and the Alliance, British Jewry now organized itself for effective aid to refugees. In March 1933 an old aid committee to help Russian Jewish immigrants to Britain, the Jews' Temporary Shelter, was transformed into the Jewish Refugees Committee, headed by Otto M. Schiff, a cousin of Felix M. Warburg's wife. Quite contrary to the American practice, a delegation that included Schiff, Neville Laski, of the Board of Deputies, and Leonard Montefiore (p.139)

of the more conservative Anglo-Jewish Association went to see the officials of the Home Office in London and assured the British government that Jewish refugees arriving in Britain would not be allowed to become public charges. An Academic Assistance Council headed by Sir William Beveridge tried to help refugee intellectuals, and managed to support over two hundred such persons during the first two years of the Nazi persecutions. A separate Jewish Academic Committee helped professionals.