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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]

[6.30. England wants to hand over Palestine in 1949 - Guinea project]

[17 May 1939: British announce to hand over Palestine to the Arabs on 17 May 1949 - 75,000 more Jews in 5 years allowed]

Another element that influenced the discussions regarding the establishment of the Coordinating Foundation was the situation in Palestine.

On May 17, 1939, the British published their White Paper on Palestine, which declared that Britain intended to hand over the Palestinian Jewish minority to the Arabs there within ten years. Another 75,000 Jews would be allowed to enter the country within five years; after that further Jewish immigration would be subject to Arab consent (that is, it would cease). With this, the Zionist experiment was to come to an end.

[17 May 1939: British Guiana project for the Jews]

To counteract this blow, the British government published, on the same day, the

Report of the British Guiana Refugee Commission to the Advisory Committee on Political Refugees Appointed by the President of the United States.

(End note 148: Command Paper 6014; London 1939)

The British had suggested British Guiana as a possible area of Jewish settlement in late 1938, after they had determined to their own satisfaction the course they would pursue in Palestine.

(End note 149: Yehuda Bauer: From Diplomacy to Resistance; Philadelphia 1970, pp. 11, 19-24)

[14 Feb-19 April 1939: Special commission makes trip to British Guiana]

JDC, desperately searching for areas of settlement, had sent Joseph A. Rosen to represent it on a special commission that investigated British Guiana between February 14 (p.280)

and April 19, 1939. Rosen fell ill immediately after his arrival, and his signature on the report does not have any real meaning. Two other members of the commission were British.

[17 May 1939: The commission report about Guiana: 3-5,000 young and sturdy Jews wanted]

The commission [British Guiana Refugee Commission] reported that small areas of settlement might possibly be developed in the more remote parts of the colony, and that a small group of 3-5,000 young and sturdy settlers should be chosen to start an experimental colony. It also said that British Guiana "is not an ideal place for refugees from middle European countries" and that no immediate large-scale settlement was possible; there did exist a potentiality for settlement. In short, the remote tropical colony might be a good dumping ground for European Jews, but a longer period of time and a trial settlement were needed to find out whether people could actually live there.

In light of the country's checkered history in later years, it seems highly doubtful that Jews would have been welcome there at all. Baerwald and others in JDC tried for some time afterward to defend the Guiana venture,

(End note 150: For example, Executive Committee, 5/22/39 [22 May 1939], when Baerwald "deplored the slighting reference to British Guiana" in a letter by Henry Montor to JDC. There were to be other comments of this kind).

until finally the project disappeared from view, as did so many others at the time.


The British, of course, vehemently denied all allegations that their policies in Palestine and Guiana were in any way connected.

[22 June 1939: Meeting on British Guiana: Money for the Coordinating Foundation for Guiana needed]

At a meeting on British Guiana held on June 22, 1939, Malcolm MacDonald, the British colonial secretary, clearly stated that any colonization would require investment of private Jewish money on a very large scale. From his statements it emerges that he thought of the Coordinating Foundation primarily as an organization to get the Guiana project going. He hinted that if no Jewish money was forthcoming, Britain might have to reconsider her whole refugee policy - a very thinly veiled threat of reprisals against refugees trying to enter Britain.

(End note 151: 30-Germany, proposals of settlement in other countries, British Guiana, 6/22/39 [22 June 1939], report of Robert Pell to the secretary of state).