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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
[4.7. McDonalds quits his job - his call for "collective action"]

[Early 1935: France refuses work permits to Jewish refugees [also] because of economic crisis]

McDonald's main problem was France. There, in early 1935, French Jewish committees defending French government policy explained why no work permits could be given without increasing anti-Semitism in an economic crisis situation. JDC, McDonald's main ally, was represented by Kahn, who stated his strong disapproval of the French Jews and argued that many people, including 1,200 children, were literally starving in Paris - a situation that was completely unjustifiable.

(End note 33: R16)

The partial or complete failure of his efforts finally led McDonald to consider resigning his post. By the autumn of 1935 the French were treating McDonald "like a small office boy whose services are no longer needed and who should be dismissed on the spot", as Kahn put it.

(End note 34: WAC, Box 323 (c), Kahn to Warburg, 10/30/35 [30 October 1935])

[Sep 1935: McDonalds gives up his post and suggests Norman Bentwich]

McDonald was too independent, too demanding, and too energetic. He was moving to radical positions. In a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt he prophesied a further great exodus of German Jews and asked how long these matters were to be regarded as purely of German domestic concern."

(End note 35: WAC, Box 324 (a), McDonald to Mrs. Roosevelt, 7/24/35 [24 July 1935])

Finally in September he decided to resign, and suggested Norman Bentwich as his successor.

(End note 36: WAC, Box 324 (a), McDonald to Warburg, 9/9/35 [9 September 1935])

[On 15 September 1935 the Third Reich is issuing the Nuremberg Laws].

[McDonald's demission letter: McDonalds calls for "collective action"]

His resignation was a political act. It took the form of a letter to the secretary-general of the League of Nations and was published in the world press either verbatim or in fairly extensive (p.149)


(End note 37: Dated 12/27/35 [27 December 1935]; see Jewish Chronicle, 1/3/35 [3 January 1936])

Norman Bentwich, James N. Rosenberg, and Felix M. Warburg had been fully consulted, and the letter was really something of a collective effort. Specifically, McDonald condemned Nazi policy toward Jews and called for "collective action" by the League of Nations, denying that this was an internal German problem. Practically speaking, his demand for "friendly but firm intercession with the German Government, by all pacific means on the part of the League of Nations, of its Member States and other members of the community of nations" was hardly likely to move the Germans, even had it been accepted. But the value of the document lay mainly in the unequivocal condemnation of German policies emanating from the international official charged with dealing with the refugee problem.

[British voices mean, Hitler would give in]

McDonald's resignation had no immediate positive effect. Some papers in Britain that published extracts from the letter showed in their comments how far removed they were from a realistic appreciation of the situation.

On December 10, 1935, for example, the London Times wrote that Germany would not be able to withstand the pressure of public opinion, and the News Chronicle added that Mr. Hitler would ignore world opinion at his peril.

[14 February 1936: New high commissioner is Sir Neil Malcolm]
On February 14, 1936, the League of Nations designated a retired British general, Sir Neil Malcolm, as the new high commissioner. When asked what his policy would be, he replied clearly and succinctly: "I have no policy, but the policy of the League is to deal with the political and legal status of the refugees. It has nothing to do with the domestic policy of Germany."

(End note 38: Quoted in Morse, op. cit [While Six Million Died; New York 1968], p. 191)

[Joint sees that the High Commission cannot help - Joint has to help directly]
The attempt to deal with the Jewish refugee problem on an international and humanitarian level had met with its first failure; it constituted a severe check to JDC's efforts of rescue and aid to German Jewry. These efforts centered mainly. (p.150)