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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
[4.15. Jewish haven Holland was not only a good haven 1933-1938]

[The first refugee wave - Mrs. Gertrude van Tijn - partly return to the Third Reich in 1936]

One of the major havens for refugees in Europe was Holland, with Belgium not far behind in importance. Holland had no visa requirements for entrants from Germany, and it was therefore quite easy to escape to the friendly republic to the west.

In March 1933 an ad hoc refugee committee was first created there under the auspices of David Cohen, a professor at the University of Amsterdam, who was active in Jewish causes. After the April 1 boycott in Germany, the stream of refugees increased considerably, and Professor Cohen and his collaborators asked Mrs. Gertrude van Tijn, a social worker of independent means who was herself of German Jewish birth, to take over the refugee work.

[1933: Committee for Jewish Refugees set up - economic crisis and unemployment - the committee advises the Jews back to the Third Reich]

A Committee for Jewish Refugees was set up, and fund-raising machinery was created. In 1933 some 3,682 refugees arrived in Holland,

(End note 76:
-- R19. For statistical material on Holland, see also:
-- JDC report for 1934, and:
-- JDC report for 1933 and the first months of 1934,
both in the JDC Library. Also: R16, monthly bulletin nos. 1 & 2, 3/6/35 [6 March 1935])

and they were helped to either integrate into the Dutch economy or emigrate. For this latter undertaking another committee was set up, in which Mrs. van Tijn also occupied a central role. As in France, there was never enough money, and when there was little chance of either emigration or absorption into the Dutch economy - there were 451,000 unemployed in Holland in 1936 out of a population of 8,000,000 - the committee could only advise the refugees to return to Germany.

[because in Hitler Germany the unemployment was going down massively and chances for work were better there].

In 1933, 615 are said to have returned; by 1934 the total number of returnees was between 1,200 and 1,500. This was about a fourth of the total number. The rest were either absorbed in Holland or emigrated (5,500 in 1933 and 1934).

[1934: Mrs. van Tijn announces the liquidation of the Dutch Jewish Relief Committees]

With the relative abatement of anti-Semitic persecution in Germany in 1934, it seemed that the emergency might soon be over. Mrs. van Tijn, in a memorandum entitled "Liquidation of Dutch Jewish Relief Committees", wrote that soon the whole problem would be solved. She was not expecting much more help from JDC, and consequently did not know what to do with the refugees that still remained. "As we have from the beginning always repatriated as many people as possible (in all nearly 900), it will not be an easy matter to send back many people now. In some cases the alternative (p.170)

of stopping relief money is being adopted."

(End note 77: 30-Germany, refugees 1934/5, van Tijn memo, 7/22/34 [22 July 1934])

[Removal of German Jewish refugees - and of "old" non-German Jewish immigrants from before 1933, too]

The Dutch government was also anxious to remove these refugees from the Dutch cities, and Kahn reported in August 1934 that even non-German Jewish refugees who had come to Holland and Belgium prior to 1933 were being repatriated. 2,000 such "old" immigrants were being threatened with expulsion by the Dutch.

(End note 78: Ibid. [30-Germany, refugees 1934/5, van Tijn memo, 7/22/34 [22 July 1934]; Kahn report, 8/22/34 [22 August 1934])

The relations between the Dutch committee and Kahn in Paris were excellent; in retrospect it appears that Mrs. van Tijn thought they were more rosy than they actually were.

(End note 79: Oral testimony (H) of Mrs. van Tijn (1968). Cf. also Mrs. van Tijn's memoirs (manuscript), p.8; thanks are hereby expressed for permission to use this valuable source).

[JDC pays for Dutch committees]

The committee repeatedly threatened to close its doors because the means put at its disposal by local Dutch Jewry and by JDC and other bodies simply were not in proportion to the needs. At the last moment it was always JDC that provided the needed sums; Kahn was very partial to Mrs. van Tijn's powerful personality, accurate bookkeeping, and German Jewish background, and in New York these sentiments were echoed as well.

(End note 80: Germany, organizations and institutions, "C"-Holland, letter to Kahn, 1/7/34 [7 January 1934]. Executive Committee, 3/26/35 [26 March 1935], where Jonah B. Wise declared that the Dutch Committee "needs assistance and should get it. They work efficiently and constructively." See also: R14, Kahn's report for 1935, in January 1936; and sources in note 79 above).

[Rising number of Jewish refugees after Nuremberg laws 1935 and after occupation of Austria and CSR - Holland makes border crossing difficult]

By the end of 1934 some 9,000 Jewish refugees had arrived in Holland. There seems to have been a marked decrease in 1935, but after the Nuremberg laws in the autumn the movement increased again. In 1936, especially toward the end of the year, an estimated 600 people were coming in monthly. Of these, many found a solution to their problems by themselves; but over 1,000 people were dependent on the committee, and 361 had to be supported by it.

In 1937 another decrease in the flow of refugees made the local committee believe that its task might soon be over. But 1938, with its multiple disasters in Austria and Czechoslovakia, caused the flow of refugees to increase again. Dutch restrictions on the entry of Jews from Germany grew, and border-crossing became very

Table 10
JDC Expenditures in Holland 1933-1939
$ spent
(End note 81: Sources:
-- 34-Germany, refugees in Holland, 1941/2;
-- Holland-report 1936.
It appears that these figures included a part of HICEM expenditures in Holland, because JDC contributed to HICEM expenses. Between 1933 and 1936 the total expenditure of the Dutch Committee came to 1,690,537 Dutch guilders, of which JDC's direct contribution came to 334,677, or 20 %. HICEM's expenses came to 189,608, and CBF [Central British Fund for German Jewry] contributed 57,040; the rest was covered by money raised from Dutch Jewry).

(p. 171)

difficult. All told, probably at least 30,000 Jewish refugees entered Holland from Germany between 1933 and 1940.

(End note 82: 31-Refugees, 1939/42; for other figures quoted in the text, see: Executive Committee, 11/24/36, and sources for Table 10).