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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
[J. Further happenings in Europe 1938-1939]

[6.28.] The Rublee-Schacht episode and the coordinating foundation [01]

[August 1938: Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR) set up]

The Evian Conference took place in July 1938. In August, ICR [Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR), set up at Evian 1938)] held its first meeting, and George Rublee became its director. Then the Sudeten crisis of September 1938 had prevented further progress. The Germans were not eager to negotiate at that time. ICR and the Jewish organizations that placed their hopes in it, on the other hand, assumed that a breakthrough on the emigration front was possible only if negotiations with Germany led to an orderly emigration of Jews from that country, and if emigrants were allowed (p.273)

to take some capital with them and thus make themselves more welcome in the host countries.

[21 Nov 1938: Britain: 11,000 Jewish refugees bring work for 15,000 Britons]

In the debate on refugees in the British House of Commons on November 21, 1938, the home secretary pointedly referred to the fact that the 11,000 refugees from Hitler who had been admitted to Britain had already provided employment for 15,000 Britons.

Other countries had similar expectations. The proper way to go about emigration, argued Max M. Warburg, was "to find jobs for German Jews on (a) similar social standard and similar level of living as they had before."

(End note 134: 9-30, 6/26/39 [26 June 1939], Warburg to Hyman)

The problem was, who would pay for it?

[August 1938 approx.: JDC sees clear: Jewish emigrants need to bring some of their money with]

JDC became convinced soon after Evian that emigration "must in the final analysis be financed with funds from German Jews themselves, for which it will be necessary that an international agreement with Reich authorities be reached permitting emigrants to take out some of their money."

(End note 135: George Backer at Executive Committee, 9/29/38 [29 September 1938])

It was for this reason that JDC so wholeheartedly supported Rublee, and as late as December 1938 saw in Evian "some consolation".

(End note 136: James N. Rosenberg at JDC annual meeting, 12/20/38 [20 December 1938])

[August 1938 approx.: JDC sees clear: New settlements in new countries need state money]

The second point, to which JDC became converted as 1938 drew to an end and 1939 began, was even more important. Private means, voluntary organizations - these were well and good, but they would not be able to settle Jews in difficult new countries. Established countries of settlement were closing their doors. If there was to be mass resettlement, government funds would have to be forthcoming.

(End note 137: Executive Committee, 2/13/39 [13 February 1939])

[27 Oct 1938: Rublee plan for Jewish emigration - similar to the later Schacht plan]

In the autumn of 1938 Rublee was cooling his heels in London. In October 27 [1938] he presented his own ideas on how the emigration of German Jews should be organized. It appears that these ideas were influenced by the diplomatic contacts taking place in Berlin between members of the British and American embassies and German authorities, mainly those connected with Göring's office. At any rate, Rublee's proposals were almost identical with those known later as the Schacht plan. It is also likely that German Jews were involved in transmitting the German proposals.

[Rublee plan for Jewish emigration:

A. Trust fund in Germany to set up]

The content of these proposals was that 1.5 billion German marks [Reichsmark], or 25 % of the total assets of German Jewry (estimated (p.274)

at 6 billion marks, or $ 2.4 billion), would be set up as a trust fund in Germany. Jews abroad would raise an equivalent sum in foreign currency, which nominally would be a loan to the emigrants. The money abroad would pay for the actual emigration and settlement.

[B. German Jewish emigrants shall take German goods with them and sell abroad for German export]

German emigrants would repay the capital and the interest in the form of German goods that they would take with them and sell abroad, thus in effect increasing German exports. However, this would have to be over and above the "normal" level of German exports (whatever that meant). At any rate, Schacht spoke of "additional exports" in this connection.

[The Rublee plan comes from Fischböck, controlled by Göring, and brought to Schacht]

This plan was apparently conceived by a high Austrian Nazi economic official, Dr. Hans Fischböck, who suggested it to Göring. Göring in turn appears to have brought it to the attention of Hjalmar Schacht, Germany's economic wizard who was at that time the head of the Reichsbank.

[Nov 1938: Schacht in London presents the Schacht plan - Hitler agrees on 2 Jan 1939]

Schacht went to London in November and presented the plan to Winterton and Rublee. Further negotiations were to take place with Fischböck, but Schacht apparently wanted time to present the proposals to Hitler. He appears to have done this on January 2, 1939, and he received Hitler's approval.

(End note 138:
-- Wyman, op. cit. [Wyman, David S.: Paper Walls; Amherst, Mass., 1968], pp. 53-56;
-- Morse, op. cit. [Morse, Arthur D.: While Six Million Died; New York 1968], pp. 241-48;
-- Raul Hilberg: The Destruction of European Jews; Chicago 1961, p. 97.
All these authors rely mainly on official document publications such as:
-- Foreign Relations of the United States 1938, 1:871-74; 1939, 2:77-87, 102-24, 95-98;
-- Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939, 3rd series; London 1950, 3:675-77; and:
-- Documents on German Foreign Policy, series D, 5:753-767, 780.
Some unpublished State Department material is also quoted. See also: Mashberg, op. cit [Mashberg, Michael: America and the Refugee Crisis; M.A. thesis; City University of New York, 1970])

[Jews and many non-Jews reject the Schacht plan for emigration with exportation of German goods]

Jews almost unanimously rejected the Schacht plan, as did many non-Jews.

[Jan 1939: London: New negotiations about emigration of German Jews - new Schacht plan]

As a result of this opposition, new negotiations were started that January in Berlin. With the help of Montagu Norman of the Bank of England, contact was established with the Germans; then Rublee himself came and talked with Schacht. Ribbentrop objected to these talks, but the Schacht-Göring group overcame that opposition. Schacht's new proposal was much more favorable to the Jews:

[Second Schacht plan details:

A. No additional exports]
the idea of "additional exports" was dropped,

[B. The trust is for the Jews abroad starting a new life, for transportation and freight expenses]
and the money in the trust fund would simply be used to buy equipment for Jews with which they could hope to start new lives outside Germany. This might boost German exports incidentally, but no foreign currency would accrue to the Reich treasury. Transport and freight expenses would also be covered by these funds, insofar as German vessels or other means of transport were used.

[C. Other expenses are paid by Jewish corporation]
The Jewish corporation that would be set up abroad would pay for all (p.275)

the other expenses. There would be no necessary connection between that corporation and the trust fund, which was to be run by a directorate of three: two Germans and one non-German.

[D. 150,000 working Jews first, then 250,000 dependent Jews - 200,000 older Jews remain]

150,000 Jews of working age would settle abroad, to be followed by 250,000 dependents; 200,000 others would remain behind and be supported out of Jewish capital other than that in the trust fund. The Germans promised that these people would not be molested. For these 200,000, some Jewish businesses might be reopened, and "Jews outside of Germany would not be called upon to support their coreligionists in the Reich."

(End note 139: New York Times, 2/14/39 [14 February 1939])

As soon as the scheme was started, Jews would be released from the concentration camps.

[Negotiations about deported German Jews in Poland]

At the same time, negotiations were opened between Germany and Poland, and the Poles declared themselves willing to take back into Poland 4-5,000 Polish Jews from Germany, if they came with 70 % of their property.

(End note 140: R46, January 1939 reports)

[21 Jan 1939: Schacht dismissed - further negotiations with Helmut Wohlthat]

In the midst of the negotiations, on January 21,  Rublee was informed that Schacht had been dismissed from his post by Hitler, but that an official by the name of Helmut Wohlthat had been nominated by Göring - in his capacity as Germany's economic dictator - to continue the negotiations. In a personal interview on January 23,

(End note 141: Ibid. [R46, January 1939 reports])

Göring assured Rublee that the German government was serious in its intentions to see the negotiations through.

[Different opinions about the second Schacht emigration plan]

Public opinion in Britain and the U.S. was divided on the new plan; so were the Jews. Although the majority of the Zionists remained opposed to the plan despite the improved conditions, personalities like Stephen S. Wise and Louis Lipsky voiced approval. JDC hesitated. Its labor component was very definitely against what became to be known as the Rublee plan. The Jewish Labor Committee had joined with the American Jewish Congress in Supporting the boycott of German goods, and at the JDC leadership meetings, Adolph Held, a leading journalist of the labor wing, voiced opposition to the scheme. The counterpart organization that the Jews were supposed to set up would, Held thought, recognize the right of the German government to expropriate Jewish (p.276)

property and would destroy the boycott.

(End note 142: R55, 3/17/39, Baerwald statement and discussion).

However, it was quite clear that unless some Jewish counterpart to the trust fund was set up, the whole scheme was unworkable. This again raised the whole problem of private organizations arranging for the mass settlement of hundreds of thousands of people with voluntary contributions - and JDC was convinced that this was impossible.

[British Jewish leaders urge for a Coordinating Foundation for Jewish emigration]

At the same time, Jewish leaders in Britain were much less hesitant and were pressing for the establishment of a Coordinating Foundation that would fulfill two main tasks: it would serve as a secretariat in directing emigrants to various places of settlement and it would invest money in settlement projects.

["US" State Department supports the Schacht-Rublee plan]

The Rublee plan had the full support of the American State Department.

[At the same time the racist economy leaders of the "USA" are supporting Third Reich more and more. Thank you "USA"...]

[13 February 1939: Rublee resigns - Emerson new director of the ICR]
Rublee himself resigned on February 13, 1939, having - as he thought - accomplished his mission. The directorship of ICR [Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR) (set up at Evian 1938)] was taken over by Sir Herbert Emerson, the League of Nations high commissioner for refugees.

[March 1939: "US" government campaign for the Schacht-Rublee plan to set up the "US"-GB Coordinating Foundation]
Myron C. Taylor was again called to help the U.S. government, and beginning in March a most extraordinary campaign was waged by the president, the State Department, and Taylor, to press American Jewish organizations into accepting the Rublee plan and setting up the Coordinating Foundation together with British Jews.

[28 March and 15 April 1939: Informal meetings about a future Coordinating Foundation - danger that the plan is copied by other governments]

As a result of concerted pressure, a first meeting of Taylor with Lewis L. Strauss, Henry Ittleson, Albert D. Lasker, Harold Linder, and Joseph C. Hyman took place on March 28, 1939. A second "informal meeting of Jews" was held on April 15.

(End note 143: 9-27, 5/4/39 [4 May 1939] memo)

At this meeting in the chambers of Roosevelt's friend Judge Rosenman, the leadership of JDC and the American Jewish Committee, as well as prominent Zionists like Wise and Robert Szold, decided to negotiate with Taylor. An aide-mémoire drawn up as a result of the meeting stated that "we should take no steps that directly or by implication would give recognition by the Jewish community as such to the validity of any expropriation of private property or of the requirement that German citizens who are Jews (sic!) shall be driven into exile. We should particularly refrain from undertaking, as a Jewish group, any step which might tend to induce any other (p.277)

government to follow the German program."

The matter was not just Jewish, and if Taylor insisted on forming an organization to implement the Rublee plan, this should be done "under general and not Jewish auspices." Further, the problem was of such magnitude "as to place it beyond the power of individuals alone to solve, and to make it a subject for the concern and active aid of governments."

Meetings with Taylor followed. Taylor disregarded the Jewish reservations and chose to regard the Jewish attitude as favorable to the creation of the Coordinating Foundation. He agreed with their reservations, he said, and the foundation should be set up forthwith. But to the State Department he reported that there was great reluctance in Jewish circles because of the fear that the Jews with their own hands, might create that ogre of anti-Semitic propaganda called "international Jewry", against which Hitler was rampaging.

[29 April 1939: 41 Jewish leaders agree to the Schacht-Rublee plan]
But the Jews were already relenting. On April 29 41 Jewish leaders met and agreed to Taylor's demands. Nevertheless Roosevelt requested that a Jewish delegation meet with him.

[4 May 1939: Roosevelt urges the Jewish leaders to set up the Coordinating Foundation]

The meeting took place on May 4, with Baerwald, Ittleson, Strauss, Proskauer, Sol Stroock, and Samuel I. Rosenman representing the Jews, and Welles and Moffat representing the State Department. The president urged the Jewish leaders to set up the foundation as quickly as possible.

[30 May 1939: Two Jewish "US" representatives should be sent to London to establish the Coordinating Foundation]

In response, JDC - obviously the Jewish group most immediately concerned - decided on May 30 to send two representatives to London to negotiate with the British regarding the establishment of the foundation. Paul Baerwald and Harold Linder agreed to go on the delicate mission.

(End note 144: Executive Committee, 6/16/39 [16 June 1939])

[Supplement: Summary
-- the Jewish side makes it's worldwide boycott of the Third Reich by boykotting German goods and by a financial currency boycott
-- in responce the Third Reich is expropriating the German Jews more and more and making anti-Jewish propaganda
-- so, both sides don't want to recognize each other

->> by this both parts are blocking each other, and there will be no breakthrough solution].