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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
[D.] The refugees

[6.13. Poland: Emigration committees for the Jews in 1938 - no places to emigrate - Madagascar plan]

[Nov 1938: Poland: Set up of the Jewish Emigration and Colonization Committee - and a committee of Friends to Promote Jewish Emigration to Madagascar]

However, the Poles had learned their lesson effectively. If Germany managed to get rid of her Jews by Gestapo methods, Poland could follow in her footsteps. In early November the government forced the acknowledged head of the Jewish community in Poland, Rabbi Moshe Schorr, to set up the Jewish Emigration and Colonization Committee. The Poles gave this organization the task of collecting 3 mio. zloty and convincing Jewish organizations abroad to do everything in their power to get large numbers of Polish Jews to emigrate. By and large the Zionists boycotted this (p.247)

committee; but their leaders, Henryk Rosmarin, Ansselm Reiss, and Moshe Kleinbaum, were told point-blank that the government no longer considered Palestine as the only emigration goal for Jews from Poland. "If the price paid to Germany for brutalities against the Jews will be taking out the Jews from that country, nothing remains for Poland but to use similar methods with regard to stimulating Jewish emigration from Poland."

(End note 67: R10, report by Troper and Smoler, 12/2/38 [2 December 1938])

In line with this approach, and in order to increase the pressure on the Jews, the Polish government also set up a non-Jewish committee of Friends to Promote Jewish Emigration to Madagascar.

The main task of the members of the Jewish committee, aside from collecting money, was to travel abroad and conduct negotiations about the emigration of as many Jews as possible. Within a month, by December 1938, one-third of the required sum of 3 mio. zloty had been collected from wealthy Jewish individuals in Poland.

[JDC can only watch the Polish action for emigration committees]

The new JDC European chairman, Morris C. Troper, saw no possibility of opposing the new Polish attitude. On December 20, 1938, he wrote to Hyman that if the Polish emigration pressure was inevitable, then the committee should at least be in the hands of people amenable to JDC.

(End note 68: 44-3).

[Competition in fund raising for Polish Jews between AFPJ, WJC and JDC]

Schorr and Rosmarin were connected with the American Federation of Polish Jews [AFPJ] and the World Jewish Congress. WJC's concept of the unity of the Jewish people all over the world and its endeavor to set up political machinery to represent world Jewry ran counter to JDC's rejection of Jewish nationalism. Also, WJC and AFPJ were trying to collect money in America for Europe's Jews, in competition with JDC. Schorr and Rosmarin were therefore unacceptable, and Troper suggested that three industrialists respected by JDC should be invited to the U.S., one of whom was Karol Sachs, a very wealthy Jewish industrialist from Lodz.

The New York office, as well as the Warsaw JDC office, were not eager to enter into the whole problem of emigration from Poland, at least not under such blatant Polish pressure. There was, it is true, a slow but decisive change of JDC opinion on emigration generally. Polish anti-Semitism seemed less marked in early 1939, (p.248)

and it was believed that the Poles had to "throw something to the wolves."

(End note 69: 44-21, Committee on Poland and East Europe, 2/8/39 [8 February 1939])

Adler thought it was very easy to tell people not to emigrate when one was a Jew in America. "But if they are legislated out of existence, our only chance is emigration."

(End note 70: 44-29; Adler to Hyman, 2/9/39 [9 February 1939])

[The emigration organizations cannot find countries for emigration of the 3 mio. Polish Jews - U.S. quota 6,000 per year]

The problem was, of course, where to go and how to prepare effectively for emigration. In Poland itself the stress on vocational retraining for occupations that might be useful in applying for entry in to overseas countries was nothing new. A report from Galicia in March 1939 stressed that "nowhere are we allowed to grow roots and we are forced to consider our children and youths as future export merchandise. We must try to deliver first quality."

(End note 71: 14-39; report from Galicia)

Yet in the 1939 world, not even first quality was sufficient. Palestine was almost closed. The Polish quota for the U.S. was about 6,000 annually. South American countries were reluctant to accept Jews. The world was unwilling to help the three million Polish Jews.

[1939: Idea of George Backer that Jews should buy a colony]
In this desperate situation desperate remedies were thought  of, even in such level-headed circles as those at the JDC offices in New York. George Backer, who was very active with both JDC and the American Jewish Committee, was suggesting to the Poles that they buy a colony, presumably in Africa, where the Jews might settle. The Polish ambassador, he reported, responded enthusiastically.

(End note 72: 44-21, Committee on Poland and East Europe, 2/8/39 [8 February 1939])

[Jan 1939: Schorr in London - JDC work in Poland should not put into danger - JDC does not want to see Schorr - Schorr warns in London from the absolute discrimination of the Jews]

In the meantime, at the end of January 1939, Rabbi Schorr and others left for London. If they were to come to the U.S., the situation might become difficult for JDC. JDC could not offer any places for emigration, nor could it pay for such a huge enterprise even if there were places to go to. A campaign for emigration might endanger the small-scale but vitally important work that JDC was doing in Poland. No emigration would ensue, and masses of Polish Jews who were now receiving some help through JDC would find themselves abandoned.

JDC therefore decided that a visit by the delegation from Poland had to be avoided.

In February 1939 Troper reported to Hyman that he had prevented the visit and that the delegation was discussing its problems in London instead. There, apparently, the delegation reported that the Poles had (p.249)

threatened anti-Jewish legislation if no emigration was forthcoming. This legislation would include "revision" of citizenship and the elimination of Jews from the economic and cultural life of Poland.

(End note 73: 44-29; Troper to Hyman, 2/14/39 [14 February 1939]; 44-4, memo on Poland, 5/1/39 [1 May 1939])

There was not much JDC could do to help.