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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 6. The Beginning of the End
[A.] Austria

[6.2. Accession (Anschluss) 12 March 1938: Anti-Semitic riots - Palestine office and Zentralstelle (Central office)]

[1938: Accession (Anschluss) and anti-Semitism under the German NS administration]

Cardinal Innitzer's advice to all Catholics in this Catholic country to vote for the Anschluss in the plebiscite arranged by the Nazis to legalize their seizure of the country, the Nazi promise to ex-socialists that they would be given the positions that Jews held, and the further Nazi promise to end unemployment - all this helped cement Austro-German unity.

From the very start, Nazi anti-Jewish policies in Austria were much more radical than those in Germany

[because of the frustration of the crash in 1873 and the feeling to be German but not to belong to Germany, and in some months should be done what in Germany had been done in 5 years].

Within a matter of a (p.224)

few months Austria developed a process of Jewish humiliation, discrimination, and expropriation that had taken five years to develop in Germany

[by the new NS administration which was imported from Germany and implemented over the Austrians].

[1938: NS Robbery of Jewish property]

However, in many areas the Austrian Nazis went far beyond what had been inflicted upon German Jews up to then. Immediately following the Anschluss, "spontaneous" anti-Semitic outrages by the population were encouraged by Nazi stormtroopers. Jews were beaten in public, forced to clean streets under especially humiliating circumstances, and driven out of their apartments.

The expropriation of the property of the owners of 26,236 Jewish establishments in Austria started in May and June 1938. By November, 20 to 30 % of Jewish capital, valued at about 100 million German marks, was in Nazi hands.

[Also the Swiss banks as "neutral" banks were collaborating within the process of aryanization and did not protect the Jewish bank accounts, as French and "American" banks not did either].

[Incompetent Nazi bosses bring down the companies]

Old-time Nazis became the new Nazi-nominated managers of the Jewish shops; most of them were uneducated people, and many were members of the Austrian underworld. They had no notion of business methods and speedily brought the firms to ruin.

[18 March 1938: Installation of Gestapo in Vienna - IKG dissolved]

On March 18 [1938] the Gestapo opened a branch in Vienna (Staatspolizeistelle, [State police office]). On that day IKG was officially closed and its leaders arrested. A fine of 300,000 shillings ($ 40,000) was levied upon the Jews - an amount equivalent to the sum donated to the Schuschnigg government to support it against Germany prior to the Anschluss.

[March 1938: Eichmann and Palestine office under Rothenberg set up in Vienna]

In March too Adolf Eichmann arrived on the scene; he was responsible to the SD (SS security police [Sicherheitsdienst]) leader of the Danube area on matters pertaining to Jews. He nominated the head of the Palestine office (the Vienna branch of the immigration department of the Jewish Agency), Dr. Alois Rothenberg, to be in charge of Palestine emigration affairs. His main aim was the emigration of Jews, by any and all means, with the greatest possible speed.

[10 Feb 1938: SS propaganda for emigration of Austrian Jews]

The policy of forced emigration had been openly advocated by the SS prior to the Anschluss; this seems to have been in line with Hitler's own thinking.

On February 10, 1938, the SS journal, Das Schwarze Korps [The black corps], published an article entitled "Where Should We Put the Jews?" (Wohin mit den Juden?). The present rate of emigration, argued the Nazi paper, was not enough.

[Jews in Germany are not protesting against expulsion of Jews in Austria - perspective Madagascar]

The Jews who remained in Germany were not anxious to have their brethren, (p.225)

"the parasites",

(End note 5: For the significance of the term "parasite" as applied to the Jews by the Nazis, see: Alexander Bein: The Jewish Parasite; In: Leo Baeck Yearbook; London 1964, 9:3-40)

leave their present homes. Only the forced settlement of the Jews in a country to which they would be directed could solve the question - a hint at the Madagascar plans then being publicized by the Polish government.

(End note 6: Julius Streicher, the notorious anti-Semite, published a lead article entitled "Madagaskar" in the January 1938 (no. 1) issue of his Der Stürmer, together with a cartoon of a Jew being driven from the world under the caption "DAS ENDE" (The End)

[26 April 1938: Völkischer Beobachter states all Jews have to leave Germany by 1942]

After the Anschluss, the leading Nazi daily in Germany, Der Völkische Beobachter [The folkish observer], wrote on April 26, 1938, that all Jews must be eliminated from Germany by 1942.

[Austria now also is Germany, and Austrians are Germans. It was projected later to settle all the rest of the Middle European Jews in Eastern Europe after a successful Russia campaign, but this never was successful.
In: Chiari: Alltag hinter der Front, Droste 1998].

[1937: Inner German deportation of 100s of Jews to Allenstein and Schneidemühl and torture]

According to one source, a small experiment in forced emigration was carried out in eastern and western Prussia in 1937, in the areas of Allenstein (Olsztyn) and Schneidemühl (Pil). The victims, a few 100 people in all, were harassed constantly supervised, robbed of their possessions, and driven to despair. The result was a panic exodus.

(End note 7: 38-Germany, reports, 1937-1944, report for October 1937)

[3 May 1938: Reopening of IKG - 20,000 applications for emigration permits]
After the period of partly organized bestiality, Eichmann allowed the reopening of IKG on May 3, 1938. In a very short time, 20,000 heads of families applied for emigration permits. This must have represented at least 40-50,000 individuals.

[Gestapo puts 1,600 Jews into concentration camps]

To further the desire for emigration, the Gestapo arrested about 1,600 Jews and sent them to the concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald during the first three months of Nazi rule. Many of these were wealthy Jews.

(End note 8:
-- Ibid. [38-Germany, reports, 1937-1944, report for October 1937)]
-- Nathan Katz report of 8/25/38, where he says that there were 1,700-1,800 such victims. Rosenkranz (op. cit., [The Anschluss; In: Josef Frankel (editor): The Jews of Austria], p.488) says the victims mentioned were prominent Jews who had been blacklisted and arrested within two days; they were sent to Dachau on May 30. It seems that Katz was referring to the same group. As to the figure of 20,000 emigration applications, a report of 8/31/45 [31 August 1945] (Saly Mayer files 16), apparently written by Löwenherz, puts them at 40,000 by 5/20/38 [20 May 1938];
-- Rosenkranz [Rosenkranz, Herbert: The Anschluss and the Tragedy of Austrian Jewry, 1938-1945; In: Josef Frankel: The Jews of Austria; London 1967], p.491)

[26 August 1938: Installation of a Central Bureau for Jewish Emigration (Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung)]

Finally, in August, Löwenherz himself suggested to Eichmann that a central institution be established where the Jews could get all the necessary papers to enable them to leave the country. This was the genesis of Eichmann's famous Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung, the Central Bureau for Jewish Emigration, which made  him a paradigm of German efficiency in Jewish matters.

Set up on August 26, the Zentralstelle henceforth took care of emigration procedures. Its method of operation was simple: by the time the Jew had gone through its procedures, he was left with no property except his ticket out of the country. All his possessions had been "taken care of" with German thoroughness (part of them, incidentally, went to IKG so that the many poor people who had no property could leave Austria). Also, IKG paid for its many activities, mainly relief and vocational retraining, from the emigrants' money). (p.226)

[In Eastern Europe for the Yiddish Jews there is NO such a Zentralstelle. The German Jews should emigrate to Palestine, the Yiddish not. There must be a big manipulation of all this].

[Paralyzed "American" Jewry in New York - JDC money for soup Jewish kitchens in Austria]

The immediate reaction of the JDC central office in New York to the Austrian disaster was consternation and paralysis. Baerwald wrote to Jonah B. Wise a few days after the Anschluss that at a meeting with leaders of the American Jewish Committee "everybody reluctantly agreed that nothing much can be done (in) connection (with the) Austrian situation."

(End note 9: 8-21, Baerwald to Wise, 3/16/38 [16 March 1938])

Kahn, on the other hand, had no hesitation regarding the need for action. Rosen volunteered to go to Vienna, and when he came back to Paris on March 23 he reported having spent several 1,000 dollars for soup kitchens through friendly officials at the American mission. Of course much more was needed. In the absence, at first, of an officially active IKG, he demanded American government intervention. Baerwald was not so sure; he thought that "the best way for us to proceed is to cool down and to wait for any new developments which may come out of Washington."

(End note 10: Ibid. [8-21], Baerwald letters, 4/6/38 [6 April 1938] and 4/19/38 [19 April 1938])

However, nothing much materialized from that quarter.

In the meantime, Jews were starving and desperate.

[Jews in Burgenland driven out of their homes]

What aroused public opinion, non-Jewish as well as Jewish, was the plight of the Jews from six small towns in the Austrian province of Burgenland, who were evicted from their homes; some of them found temporary refuge on a boat on the Danube [eventually with emigration by Istanbul to Palestine]. Neither of the neighboring countries was willing to receive these unfortunates; action was taken against them "as though against the Black Plague".

(End note 11:
-- Executive Committee, file, Budget and Scope Committee, 8/18/38 [18. August 1938];
-- Morse, op. cit. [Morse, Arthur D.: While Six Million Died; New York 1968], p.205)

[Visits from JDC representatives in Vienna]

Meanwhile, JDC's New York office was hoping that a nonsectarian committee could be formed to deal with the situation.

(End note 12: 8-21, Baerwald to Wise,  3/16/38 [16 March 1938])

When nothing came of it, the decision was taken to step in with as much money as JDC had on hand. Apart from this decision in principle, JDC tried very hard to find an American Jew of some standing who would represent it in Vienna. Further, it did not intend to send dollars into Austria if that could possibly be avoided.

A number of prominent personalities were sent to Vienna during the first months of the Anschluss: Joseph A. Rosen, Alexander A. Landesco, Alfred Jaretzki, Jr., David J. Schweitzer of the Paris (p.227)

office and others. Through them, JDC not only kept in touch with the situation, but was able to contact Nazi agents and try to influence their actions. The driblets of aid that these American Jews were able to bring with them and distribute, largely through the friendliness of Leland Morris, the U.S. consul general, were quite inadequate.

(End note 13: R11, C.M. Levy, report on a trip to Vienna, 12/1/38-12/8/38 [1-8 December 1938])

[11 June 1938: Council for German Jewry asks for order in emigration proceedings in Austria]

On June 11 the Council for German Jewry in London (theoretically representing JDC as well) intervened with the German Embassy in Britain to ask for the introduction of order into emigration proceedings.

(End note 14:

[June 1938: JDC money for Austrian Jews]

IKG, reopened on May 3, was desperately trying to cope with the disastrous situation. By that time JDC was clear about its obligation to support Kahn's policy of maximum aid. In June JDC appropriated a sum of $ 250,000 for Austria. The sum of $ 431,438 was actually expended in Austria by the end of the year, however, or 10 % of the total JDC spending for that year.

(End not 15: JDC's total expenditure in 1938 came to $ 4,112,979)