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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
[F.] The "crystal night" [on 9/10 November 1938]

[6.16. JDC after Reichskristallnacht - disorder of Jewish organizations]

One has to know: The "US" government is not hindering the racist industry leaders of the "USA" to support the Hitler regime after Reichskristallnacht with industrial machinery and machinery components. At the end Henry Ford gets the highest order from the Hitler regime in 1943. It's absolutely not clear why the powerful Jewish organizations never have brought this destructive collaboration between "USA" and the Third Reich to the public].

[Since 10 Nov 1938: Fund raising effort for the Jews in the Reich - collaboration with United Palestine Appeal - Henry Ittleson]

Obviously, reliance on outside support became much more important after the November pogrom than before. And it was clear that JDC would have to take on a major share of the additional burden.

The need for a large-scale fund-raising efforts in the U.S. made itself felt throughout 1938 and reached a climax in November. From below, from the grass roots, there came a demand for the unification of the two main fund-raising efforts: that of JDC and the United Palestine Appeal. The person mainly responsible for bringing the two groups together was Henry Ittleson, a highly influential member of what has loosely been termed the German (p.254)

Jewish aristocracy of the American East Coast. Under Ittleson's energetic leadership, a meeting took place on November 23 of JDC, UPA, and the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds (CJFWF). A combined drive for $ 20 million was decided upon.

The reasons that prompted JDC to agree to a united drive were given by James N. Rosenberg: JDC, he said, "must recognize the powerful desire throughout the country to avoid competing campaigns"; in New York City, joint campaigns had already been adopted by a number of professional groups, and separate fund raising was harmful "from the American point of view" -

(End note 80: Executive Committee, 11/28/38 [28 November 1938])

he probably meant that separate efforts in the face of the German threat were somehow unpatriotic.

[Dec 1938: United Jewish Appeal set up - fund raising with UPA and National Coordinating Committee]

The United Jewish Appeal was finally set up in December, and JDC very definitely played the leading part in it. It was to get almost 50 % of the funds collected, the rest being shared mainly by UPA [United Palestine Appeal] and the National Coordinating Committee, the agency for absorbing and settling new immigrants in the U.S., which was very closely linked to JDC.

JDC was, in effect, pushed into the new agreement. Its experience with the UJA [UPA?] of 1934/5 had not been happy, and memories of it were still very fresh. Zionists had then been collecting only for Palestine, JDC Executive Committee members argued, but they still had expected JDC to contribute to Palestine directly or indirectly through the support of Palestine-centered organizations in Europe and the payment of the emigrées' transportation to Palestine.

In 1938/9, the increase in the level of Nazi persecutions and the growing misery in Eastern Europe could have absorbed JDC funds many times over. "At no time has the Budget and Scope Committee (of JDC) during these years of cumulative tragedy been authorized to adopt a budget bearing any close relation to the amounts deemed necessary even for the minimum requirements", complained Edwin I. Goldwasser, JDC's treasurer, in late October 1938.

(End note 81: Executive Committee file, Budget and Scope Committee 10/31/38 [31 October 1938])

The upbuilding of Palestine was all very well, but Jews in Europe were starving and persecuted - and they, JDC felt, had first claim on whatever funds were available. (p.256)

Jews in the United States, however, were beginning to think differently. They saw that the Jews of Europe were not the only ones endangered; their own position and that of the U.S. might well be in jeopardy. This obviously was no time for interorganizational rivalry. Also, it was much more convenient (and also more profitable from the fund raiser's point of view) - to campaign once yearly for all overseas needs. There was clear pressure from below, for which the CJFWF was the mouthpiece.

[Quarrel JDC - ORT]

There still remained the problem, minor but vexatious, of the separate fund-raising efforts of smaller groups that might compete with the larger campaign. The struggle over this question with ORT was becoming a ritual. In early 1938 a public statement was prepared attacking ORT for its separate fund-raising plans, and showing that 67 % of its budget in 1937 - $ 130,000 - had really come from JDC.

(End note 82: R12, draft of public statement, 3/3/38 [3 March 1938])

In the end, as always, more moderate counsels prevailed. The prepared statement was not issued, ORT received another allocation, and the threat of separate fund raising was removed.

[Release of internees with the condition of a fast emigration]

In the wake of the November pogroms, a wave of panic emigration swept Germany and Austria. Internees in concentration camps would be released if they undertook to leave Germany within a specified, and very short, time. If they did not, they were threatened with rearrest, which often meant death. The Austrian example was followed; "police and party authorities insist that the practices which worked successfully in Vienna in forcing Jews out of the country should likewise be applied in Berlin and throughout the country."

(End note 83: Hyman at Executive Committee, 3/22/39 [22 March 1939])

[Disorganized Jewish organizations - almost no emigration after Reichskristallnacht / crystal night]

The many thousands now leaving the Reich had to be supported, as well as those staying behind. During the first weeks after the pogrom, emigration was partly stalled as a result of the disorganization of Jewish institutions in Germany.

[Hilfsverein cannot pay his depths at steamship companies any more]

A case in point was the large debt that the Hilfsverein [Help corporation], which dealt with emigration to countries other than Palestine, had run up with steamship companies (about 55,000 marks); now it could not repay this money because of the large-scale confiscations of Jewish property and the billion-mark fine.

(End note 84: R11, report on a visit to Germany, William Bein, 12/6/38 [6 December 1938])

By the middle of December it was estimated that one-third of the Jewish male working population was still in the concentration camps; the process of release had only just begun.

(End note 85: R55, 12/14/38-12/15/38 [14 December 1938-15 December 1938], meeting in Paris)

[Support for Jewish schools and trainees in vocational retraining]

German government subsidies to Jewish welfare and schooling were stopped. Most of the 20,000 Jewish children of school age had to turn to the 140 Jewish schools. These were now dependent upon Jewish support only.

(End note 86: RV report for 1938. In May 1938 there were 68 public and 72 private Jewish schools. In these private schools there were 9,844 pupils. An additional 10,156 pupils went to German or Jewish public schools. In July 1939 there were still 16,350 Jewish children in the age group six to 14 in "old" Germany. I am indebted to my colleague Dr. Yosef Walk for these details).

Support was also required for 4,000 trainees in vocational retraining institutions in Germany and as many as 24,000 in Austria. Some of these groups especially the more serious ones that were preparing for agricultural pursuits in South America or Palestine, had been brutally hit by the pogrom.

Nevertheless, it was thought that vocational retraining increased the chances for emigration, and there were long waiting lists for these institutions.

Generally speaking, the German Jewish organizations and their Austrian counterparts were laboring under a terrific strain.

[Concentration process - small Jewish communities dissolve - financial help - public kitchens]

The process of concentration in large cities was proceeding apace, and the small communities were disbanding. In its 1939 report, the Reichsvereinigung (successor to RV) reported that in Prussia it had previously had 743 communities and that now 109 had disbanded, 572 were in the process of dissolution, and 62 were still operating.

(End note 87: 28-3, 1939 Arbeitsbericht).

This meant additional financial burdens, diminished incomes, and more suffering and heartbreak. The numbers of those requiring immediate help in Germany and Austria was constantly increasing, as can be seen from Table 17.

To deal with all these problems there was RV - the Reichsvertretung, founded, as we have seen, in 1933 as a result of Jewish initiative. It appears that the Germans were slowly working toward

Table 17: Persons Fed Daily in Public Kitchens in 1939 [in Germany and Austria]

(End note 88: Sources:
-- Executive Committee, 4/19/39 [19 April 1939]; 5/22/39 [22 May 1939];
-- 9-19
The Jewish population of Austria was about one-third of that in Germany. The figures above show how much further the pauperization had gone in Austria than in Germany.


the abolition of this last vestige of independence.