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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 5. Prelude of the Holocaust
[A. Destruction of the Jewish existence in Poland 1929-1939]

[5.6. Jewish voices say Palestine is no solution - Zionists are blocked since 1935 by British block of immigration into Palestine - unrealistic points of view]

[Left Jewish Bundists (anti-Zionists) say that emigration to Palestine is not the solution - 30,703 Polish Jews officially emigrate in 1935, 24,300 to Palestine in 1935 - no counting of the inofficial emigration]

Apart from the obvious difficulties in getting Jewish emigrants accepted anywhere in the world, there was an ideological tendency to see the Jews as loyal citizens, and ultimately integrated members, of their various host nationalities, paralleling what the leaders of JDC considered to be their own experience in America. As a result, those leaders rejected Palestine as even a partial solution to the Polish Jewish problem, though 24,300 Jews emigrated to Palestine in 1935 out of a total Polish Jewish emigration of 30,703.

[That's the official figure for the emigration. The non official emigration is not counted and can only be estimated. Graml estimates in his study about emigration that 100,000 Polish Jews have emigrated every year in the 1930s;

In: Herman Graml: Die Auswanderung der Juden aus Deutschland zwischen 1933 und 1939; Gutachten des Instituts für Zeitgeschichte; im Selbstverlag des Instituts für Zeitgeschichte. München 1958, S.79-84; Tel.: 0049-(0)89-12688-0].

[1936: George Backer also says that emigration to Palestine is not the solution]

In the 1930s one of the central figures in JDC in New York was George Backer, who was very active in anti-Nazi politics in the United States and was also fairly friendly toward Palestine causes. Even he declared in 1936 that there was no use in glorifying Palestine "until the structure of Jewish life in other countries has been saved."

(End note 37: R15-Backer report, 4/27/36 [27 April 1936])

[1935: Zionists are hampered by the British blockade of Jewish immigration to Palestine]

The Zionists argued that Jewish life in Poland simply could not be saved, but they were hampered by the fact that the British increasingly barred the doors of Palestine to Jewish entry after 1935, and thus removed Palestine as an immediate solution. When Simon Marks of England tried in 1937 to raise funds there for Polish Jewry and intended that these monies reach "the Hechalutz and Zionist groups", Kahn remarked that "these are just the people who have not been very prominent in our work".

(End note 38: 44-3-Kahn to Baerwald, 1/17/37 [17 January 1937])

[1935: Harsher measures of the anti-Semitic government in Poland]

After 1935 the attitude of JDC underwent a gradual change. The main reasons for this were that

(1) Polish Jews (actually, the Zionist leader Yitzhak Gruenbaum) themselves declared that one million Polish Jews should emigrate; and

(2) the Polish government exercised ever-increasing pressure both on Polish Jews and on international bodies to help large numbers of Jews to emigrate.

JDC resisted these demands; Hyman complained especially of the (p.191)

fact that the Jews themselves were expressing what amounted to "demands for the expulsion of millions".

(End note 39: R13, Hyman to Budget and Scope [committee], 6/27/37 [27 June 1937])

[Unrealistic point of view: Left Bundists state that Jews are foreigners]

Labor leaders close to the Bund were more explicit. In Poland the Bund declared itself opposed to the notion that Jews were an alien [foreign] people in their countries of settlement;

(End note 40: Jewish Chronicle, 5/15/36 [15 May 1936], p.19)

[The unrealistic element of this statement: To be Jewish is a religion and not a nation].

[Vladeck states that the problem has to be solved in Poland]

in the U.S., Vladeck wrote in the Yiddish socialist paper Forverts that "to make the existence of the Polish Jews possible in Poland, they must stop looking upon Palestine as the solution to their problem. ...

They must dedicate their activities to a healthy, free, and better Poland - and not Palestine."

[The unrealistic element of this statement: The anti-Semitic Polish government will not give in].

[Asch states, 3 mio. Jews cannot emigrate]

Sholem Asch was certain that once the Polish government realized that 3 million Jews could not emigrate and that economic betterment for all of Poland's citizens should be their aim, the Jews would succeed in maintaining their position as  citizens of Poland.

(End note 41:
-- Executive Committee, 5/18/37 [18 May 1937].
-- Hyman to Oscar Janowsky, 11/24/37 [24 November 1937],
-- R13)

[The unrealistic element of this statement: Poland needs a membership in an economic confederation for having a better economy because the former Russian and Hungarian Austrian sales markets are blocked since 1919].

[JDC Hyman states the need of a liberal and tolerant system of society]

This was echoed by Hyman, who hoped that the situation in Poland was "only a temporary setback to democracy and liberal ideals." He still believed in finding a way "to integrate the Jew with his environment under a liberal and tolerant system of society."

[The unrealistic element of this statement: The anti-Semitic Polish government will not give in and a liberal and tolerant system of society is not to have when economy is bad].

[Early 1936: Polish government wants the emigration of all Jews]

When the British delegation of Lord Samuel, Lord Bearsted, and Simon Marks came to the U.S. to discuss the emigration of German Jewry in early 1936, Polish government circles seized the opportunity to present their demand for the mass emigration of Polish Jews. Prince Radziwill voiced the demand in the Polish senate in early February [1936].

[Oct 1936: Polish delegate at League of Nations appeals for opening of other countries for Jews]
In October the Polish delegate at the sixth commission of the League of Nations demanded that countries other than Palestine be opened for the emigration of European Jews, so as to allow for an emigration of Polish Jews as well.

(End note 42:
-- 46-reports 1936/7, October 1936 (the name of the delegate was Tytus Komarinski);
-- and: ITA, 12/12/36 [12 December 1936])

[Kahn is against a unilateral emigration]

A scheme for the yearly emigration of 18,000 was discussed. Kahn reacted immediately and stated in a press release that the scheme was "ill advised", that on principle it was wrong to "single out Jews for such emigration", and that this was a "discrimination against the law-abiding Jewish citizens which (he) did not think possible in Poland."

(End note 43: R14, press release, 2/1/36 [1 February 1936])

This indeed was slowly becoming the second line of defense for JDC: objectively there might be a case for an ordered emigration (p.192)

from Poland, but Jews should not be singled out. Within an ordered program of emigration, the Jews would play their part in proportion to their numbers.