Commissioner McDonalds without big success - no
countries for the Jewish refugees]
[1st meeting of the High
Commission: No representatives of Argentina and Brazil]
At its first meeting in London, the government
representatives to the High Commission announced that
their respective governments were under no obligation to
pay any part of the commission's expenses. Two of the
invited states (Argentina and Brazil) did not bother to
send their representatives.
Expenses were in fact covered by the Jewish organizations,
which meant that JDC, CBF, and ICA footed the bill.
The governing body was therefore more of a hindrance than
[Rivalries in the High
Commission: English want an English man Lord Cecil as
head of the High Commission]
On top of that, rivalries, both among the governments and
the voluntary organizations, made things difficult. The
British, a JDC report from London said,
(End note 11: 14-46, 1/17/34 [17 January 1934], memo of
had resented McDonald's appointment in the first place,
having hoped that Lord Cecil would get the post. Among the
voluntary agencies, ICA insisted on the exclusion of
"democratic and mass organizations", whereas Weizmann and
Goldman, representatives of essentially just such groups,
wanted the commission to have the widest popular appeal.
(End note 12: WAC, Box 316 (b); Norman Bentwich, British
Zionist and McDonald's deputy, was said to have stated
that the power to control Jewish affairs must not be
vested in a small group of American Jews).
[McDonald knows Dachau cc
and is persona non grata in the Third Reich]
Under the circumstances it was surprising that McDonald
achieved anything at all. He had visited the Dachau
concentration camp in September 1933, before his
nomination, and had easily seen through the propaganda
effort of the Germans. Hence he was, to a large degree,
persona non grata in Germany. Schacht, the Nazi minister
of finance, with whom McDonald had hoped to conduct
negotiations concerning the easing of emigration
procedures for Jews, refused to see the new high
commissioner or to arrange for an interview between him
[Late 1934: McDonald in
Berlin without success]
After protracted preparations McDonald finally managed to
visit Berlin in late 1934.
(End note 13: WAC, Box 316 (e), 11/17/34 [17 November
1934], McDonald to Cecil)
There he negotiated with a vice-president of the
Reichsbank (German State Bank), and finally arranged for
the educational transfer.
(End note 14: See above, p.126).
In fact, the mission and the negotiations ended in
[7,500 refugee academics
taken out of Germany by McDonalds intermediation]
McDonald was not much more successful in his other
endeavors. He did intercede with governments and persuade
them to accept refugee academics, and thereby helped
voluntary organizations (most of them supported by JDC and
CBF) to take out some (p.144)
7,500 such persons from Germany by the middle of 1934.
(End note 15: WAC, Box 316 (a), 7/7/34 [7 July 1934],
report by McDonald. Of the 7,500 persons, 600-700 were
academic teachers, 5,200-5,500 were professionals
(engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc.), and the rest were
[On McDonalds ideas:
Foundation of Émigré Charitable Fund - foundation of
Refugee Economic Corporation (originally called Refugee
McDonald also thought that the Jews should set up a
corporation that would deal with settlement and
exploration. This was accepted by Warburg, who set up two
organizations to implement McDonald's suggestion. One was
the Émigré Charitable
, which was to advance emigration by
supporting vocational training, resettlement loans, and
transportation. By 1936 ECF had called upon $ 275,000 of
the subscriptions to its fund, but had managed to spend no
more than $ 66,186, most of it for retraining emigrants in
Another body set up by Warburg was the Refugee Economic Corporation
(originally called Refugee Rehabilitation Committee)
which was incorporated in 1934. The success of this
venture, in which Charles J. Liebman was the moving
spirit, was not much greater. By the end of 1936 REC had
appropriated $ 550,000, over half of it to the Huleh and
other development projects in Palestine.
(End note 16: On ECF and REC, see 28-1; Executive
Committee, 9/20/34; R52 (current reports). By the end of
1938 ECF had spent a total of $ 136,072, and REC, $
463,297. REC's ventures included the purchase of 45,000
acres of land in Costa Rica, at the instance of Samuel
Zamurray, president of the United Fruit Company. This land
had to be sold again after it was discovered that it was
not suitable for settlement. REC also supported the
International Student Service in Geneva and gave some
small sums of money to HICEM for the transportation of
refugees to Latin America).
The distinct impression is gained that these were cases of
dissipation of efforts at a time when it was extremely
difficult to find essential funds to support the
emigration of refugees. JDC was involved in all this,
although not formally: the boards of the two bodies
mentioned above were manned by JDC and American Jewish
Committee stalwarts, friends of the Warburgs. The same
circle of persons was again called upon to help, and the
results were mediocre, to say the least.
[Latin America: Brazil
and Argentina with money conditions - only Paraguay and
Uruguay with easy access]
McDonald tried very hard to obtain entrance for Jewish
refugees into Latin America. His quiet negotiations with
the respective governments met with some, but by no means
spectacular, success. Brazil closed her gates to
immigrants in June 1934, except for those who had a
minimum of $ 200 in cash. In Argentina at that time 25
pounds were needed, and the immigrant had to arrive as a
first-class passenger. Later in the year Argentina became
closed to all but agricultural laborers, and of the major
countries of immigration in South America only Paraguay
and Uruguay remained relatively easy of access to
(End note 17: 14-46, 8/31/34 [31 August 1934], Goldsmid to
Schiff; also Executive Committee file, meeting at the
Harmonie Club, 6/14/35 [14 June 1935])
[Expensive emigration to
Latin America - 4,000 German Jews April 1933-October
Immigration to Latin American countries was very
Except in cases where refugees had relatives there who
could pay for their passage and produce the "landing
money", and except for a relatively few families of means,
HICEM and other emigration and resettlement agencies had
to pay the bill. JDC participated in HICEM's efforts to
the tune of over one-third of HICEM's budget.
(End note 18: R16; HICEM's budget in 1934 was $ 428,500,
of which ICA covered $ 179,500, and JDC $ 165,000).
All these efforts brought 4,000 German Jews to Latin
America between April 1933 and October 1935, of whom over
one-third were assisted by HICEM and ICA.
(End note 19: Jewish Chronicle, 4/10/36, article by Dr.
Arthur Ruppin, in the special supplement, p.v. The period
covered by Ruppin's statistics was April 1933 to October
[Russian plans for
Russian and German Jews on Crimea - only German doctors
In the meantime, negotiations were being conducted between
Joseph A. Rosen and the Soviet government. In a memorandum
of February 3, 1934, Rosen reported to Warburg that the
Russians might allocate 5,000 acres in the Crimea for the
settlement of Jewish families, 3,000 of whom would be
Russian refugees and 5-600 German Jewish refugees.
(End note 20: WAC, Box 321 (b), 2/3/34 [3 February 1934])
After one year of acclimatization, the refugees would be
given the choice of either Soviet citizenship or exit from
Russia. Negotiations in this vein continued throughout
1934 and 1935, but the only Jewish refugees accepted by
the Soviets were a number of doctors. (Their fate was
briefly dealt with in chapter 2).
As time went on, McDonald became more and more pessimistic
regarding the efficacy of quiet diplomacy in convincing
the governments to act in favor of refugees. Yet the
problem generally did not seem to him to be insoluble.
True, German Jews had to leave their country of origin,
but only half a million people were involved.
[With 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 Jews there are 760,000 Jews in
Germany, see p.114, chapter 3.4].
JDC saw the problem in a similar light.
[Jewish emigrants are not
welcome because of lack of unemployment in Europe]
In 1935 there were no more than 40,000 Jewish refugees in
European countries awaiting settlement. "Considering their
number, the problem of these refugees would not ordinarily
have been insoluble. But severe economic depression forced
nations to limit the number of immigrants and to debar
foreigners from employment because many of their nationals
were without work."
(End note 21: R14, 1935 JDC report)
[McDonald's plan: 1/2 in
Palestine, 1/4 in "USA", 1/4 in the whole world]
McDonald had a simple solution for the problem: one-half
of German Jewry should be absorbed in Palestine,
one-quarter in the United States, and the rest dispersed
throughout the rest of the world.
[Obstacles for Jewish
emigration: Unemployment, political naivety, prejudices]
And yet it seemed that there was no way to implement this
simple formula. Economic crisis, political (p.146)
obstacles, prejudices - all these vitiated a perfectly
sensible and straightforward approach.
dream for the German Jews - the Joint gives in]
McDonald had always been a friend of Zionism. Now, with
the doors of the West increasingly closed to Jewish
refugees, he was led to state that the more he heard of
"vague and always indefinite talks about possibilities of
immigration to other parts of the world, the more I
appreciate the value of Palestine."
(End note 22: WAC, Box 316 (c), McDonald to Warburg,
5/5/34 [5 May 1934])
[And nobody asks the Palestinians].
This attitude differed materially from that of JDC; even
Warburg, whose connections with the Jewish Agency were
quite close, expressed his essentially non-Zionist views
fairly strongly. As early as October 1933 he had written
to Goldsmid, chairman of ICA, that "we cannot trumpet
Palestine too loudly without raising false hopes in the
people who cannot get in."
(End note 23: WAC, Box 304 (c), Warburg to Goldsmid,
10/26/33 [26 October 1933])
Indeed, JDC's main objection to the policies of CBF was
that it was under Zionist influence and that a large
proportion of its funds - too large, JDC thought - were
destined for Palestine.
But in 1934 JDC slowly began veering around to McDonald's
point of view. Warburg himself was arranging for money to
be paid to McDonald, who was by no means a rich man, in
order that McDonald could remain independent of his small
salary as a high commissioner. But McDonald was in no
sense a blind follower of anyone, certainly not of
Warburg. Relations were cordial, opinions were allowed to
differ, and in the end Warburg tended to see McDonald's
point. Hyman seems to have expressed his chief's views
when he states that "no other single place has been able
to receive thus far as many refugees as has Palestine. To
that extent, without indulging in questions of Zionist or
non-Zionist philosophy, we must all recognize the great
utility of Palestine as a place of refuge."
(End note 24: 14-46, Hyman to Rosenberg, 4/13/34 [13 April
[McDonalds efforts to
open the "USA" for German Jews - the law against "public
charge" in 8 Sep 1930]
In the course of his attempts to open up the doors of
America to refugees, McDonald tried to break the
administrative blocking of Jewish emigration from Germany
to the United States by the so-called Hoover executive
order of September 8, 1930. That order had instructed
consular officers to refuse visas to applicants who could
not prove that at no time in the future would they become
(End note 25: Arthur D. Morse: While Six Million Died; New
York 1968, p.135)
The result had been a drastic reduction in visas to the
United States. Consequently, in October 1935 McDonald
approached Warburg and asked him to use his influence with
the Roosevelt administration to ease these regulations.
(End note 26: WAC, Box 324 (a), McDonald to Warburg,
10/29/34 [29 October 1934])
[1 Nov 1935: Only 10 % of
the German immigration quota for the "USA" are utilized
- Roosevelt estimates 80 % of the immigrants are Jews -
the "US" government is not helping McDonald's]
Warburg turned to Herbert H. Lehman, and on November 1,
1935, Lehman wrote to Roosevelt. Only 10 % of the yearly
immigration quota from Germany - about 26,000 persons
[would be allowed yearly] - was being utilized, he argued.
The people who wanted to come were of the same ilk as "my
father, Carl Schurz, and other Germans who came over here
in the days of 1848."
(End note 27: WAC, Box 336 (c), 11/1/35 [1 November 1935])
An increase up to 5,000 visas for refugees was asked for.
On November 13 Roosevelt sent his answer.
(End note 28: Ibid. [WAC, Box 336 (c), 11/1/35 [1 November
In fact, the administration argued, while the German quota
was 16.9 % of the total allowed immigration, Germans
comprised 26.9 % of all those actually coming in, because
the total number of immigrants allowed into the United
States was small. In 1933 1,798 Germans were allowed in;
in 1934, 4,715; and in 1935, 5,117. This of course,
included non-Jews as well, but about 80 % were estimated
to be Jews. However, the letter went on, the State
Department had issued instructions, "now in effect", that
refugees should receive "the most considerate attention
and the most generous and favorable treatment possible
under the laws of this country".
It appeared that McDonald's initiative had brought
positive results but the facts were different. It has been
proven quite conclusively that both at the State
Department and at lower levels, obstruction continued and
even intensified as far as the issue of visas to Jewish
refugees was concerned.
[The "American" McDonald is abandoned by his own
(End note 29: There is no mention of Roosevelt's letter in
[Late 1935: McDonald's
proposal at the British government for intervention in
McDonald was no more successful in his attempts to have
the great Western powers intervene diplomatically. Late in
1935 he tried to obtain British support for an
intervention with the Germans, but failed.
[Oct 1936 and Feb 1936:
McDonald's proposals at the "US" government for
intervention in Berlin fail]
In October 1935 and again in February 1936 he failed
similarly to get the United States government to intervene
on behalf of German Jewry.
(End note 30: Morse, op. cit [While Six Million Died; New
York 1968], pp. 189-90; also: WAC, Box 324 (a), exchange
of letters between McDonald and Warburg, 10/10/35 [10
October 1935], 10/21/35 [21 October 1935])