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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]

[6.31. Last negotiations on the Coordinating Foundation for Schacht-Rublee emigration plan 02]

[British Jewish funds limited for Coordinating Foundation - steamer St. Louis Jews need support]

The negotiations in London made another fact clear: it was doubtful if any money at all would be forthcoming from British Jews. The reason was that British Jewry was contributing very large sums to refugee absorption in Britain and elsewhere; American Jewry was richer and larger, and so far had contributed proportionately less than had British Jewry. JDC at first thought that (p.281)

its preliminary contribution to the Coordinating Foundation would be $ 500,000; this was a reasonable sum, if one remembers that the total income in 1939 was $ 8.1 mio. But two weeks later half a million dollars was pledged to the support of the St. Louis refugees, so that one-eighth of JDC's money was now gone. Pressure by President Roosevelt  caused JDC to reconsider its contribution.

[It's president Roosevelt's industry which is rearming the NS army and supporting the Hitler regime: against Communism, and Communism is financed: by "American" banks. The world war is well organized by ... "USA". And the Jews and the peaceful have to look where they will stay...].

[6 June 1939: JDC gives 1 mio. $ for a Coordinating Foundation]

On June 6 it [JDC] decided on a risky step: it would provide $ 1 mio. and would set up the foundation whether the British participated or not - a complete reversal of JDC's position in March. The lack of realism in these negotiations is perhaps made clearer if one remembers that the foundation , with its $ 1 million in capital, was to serve as a counterpart to the trust fund in Germany with its $ 600 million.

(End note 152: Executive Committee, 6/5/39 [5 June 1939], 6/16/39 [16 June 1939])

At a meeting of the Administration Committee, Rosenberg stated the reason for accepting the additional burden: there should be no uncertainty "as to our readiness to carry through a commitment which in effect was desired by Mr. Taylor and the president."

(End note 153: AC [Administration Committee files], 6/26/39 [26 June 1939])

[17 June 1939: Some Jewish leaders are against participation at the Coordinating Foundation]

In the wake of the June 6 decision, another informal meeting of Jewish leaders was convened on June 17. At this meeting Wise voiced hesitation regarding the step taken by JDC; but only Joseph Tennenbaum of the American Federation of Polish Jews and the American Jewish Congress, a leading proponent of the boycott movement and later to be a historian of the holocaust, voted against the JDC action, on the grounds that the Coordinating Foundation would finance German exports and hinder the anti-German boycott.

(End note 154: Executive Committee, 7/17/39 [17 July 1939]; 9-30, 6/17/39 [17 June 1939] meeting)

In the meantime, Baerwald and later Linder were negotiating with British Jews and non-Jews in London and with Emerson of ICR [Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR) (set up at Evian 1938)]. It soon became apparent to them that they were, in fact, negotiating with the British government. Between June 5 and June 7 Baerwald met Wohlthat, who had come to London ostensibly to attend a conference on whaling.

(End note 155: 9-30, 6/7/39 [7 June 1939] memo (by J.C. Hyman)

Informed of the negotiations in London, Wohlthat expressed the German government's willingness to carry on negotiations with even a purely American foundation, in case the talks between American and British Jews broke (p.282)

down. In such a case, Wohlthat stated that "probably from 5 to 10 % of the Jewish assets in Germany would be turned over to the trust fund there."

(End note 156: Ibid. [9-30, 6/7/39 [7 June 1939] memo (by J.C. Hyman)])

Though we lack the documentary evidence to prove it, it seems that the talks with Wohlthat convinced JDC that this was a project that had to be pursued with the greatest energy. JDC had come full circle.

The basic difference of opinion with British Jews lay in the fact that JDC was unwilling to spend money on settlement schemes that were too expensive to be implemented without governmental help. Also, in New York a delegation from the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee met with JDC leaders on July 13 and demanded that the Coordinating Foundation charter clearly declare that no foreign currency would accrue to the Germans and no additional exports would result from the foundation's operations.

(End note 157:
-- 9-30, 7/15/39 [15 July 1939] cable by Jaretzki and Hyman to Linder. See also:
-- Adolph Held's letter to JDC, 7/12/39 [12 July 1939], in 9-30.
Held thought that "before giving our consent to the Rublee plan, which is but a modified version of the notorious Schacht plan, we should at least try to find an answer to the most burning question of the day: Where will the emigrants, supposedly helped by the Rublee plan, go?")

[19 July 1939: Britain announces to participate settlement projects when others also do - the published Charter on Coordinating Foundation (Schacht-Rublee plan) on 20 July 1939]

The British government, possibly at the suggestion of Sir Herbert Emerson, then went a step further. On July 19 the Foreign Office declared in a communique that, contrary to its previous policy, the British government would be prepared to participate in settlement projects, provided other governments were ready to do the same.

(End note 158: 9-30, text of communique by Lord Winterton after a meeting of ICR, 7/19/39 [19 July 1939])

The charter of the Coordinating Foundation made it clear that the new organization would be quite independent of anything that happened in Germany, that it would facilitate emigration and settlement and "provide land services" - whatever that meant - and facilities for emigrants. While it was not expressly stated that it would engage in colonization, this was hinted at broadly. A hesitant JDC signed the charter on July 19. The next day, July 20, it was published.

[1 September 1939: The Coordinating Foundation charter is worthless by war]
Six weeks later, on September 1, it was killed with the first shots fired in [European] World War II.

[Question: Why Roosevelt was that engaged in Jewish dislocation to Guiana?]

One of the perplexing questions that came out of the complicated negotiations in the spring and summer of 1939 is this: Why should the president of the United States have been so insistent that American Jews spend large sums of money to settle Jewish emigrants in as yet undefined and remote places? Why should he have been so concerned that an agreement be reached between American (p.284)

and British Jews? The president's humanitarianism, while not itself in doubt, was always tempered with political astuteness. The Coordinating Foundation, from Roosevelt's point of view, must have had a political purpose, possibly that of gaining international prestige by attempting a settlement of the refugee problem - outside of the U.S., of course.

[Question: Could the German side have been taken earnest for the Coordinating Foundation?]

The second problem is no less vexing, but relatively easier to answer: Did the Germans really intend to implement some such scheme as the [Schacht-]Rublee plan?

It seems quite clear that Hitler was informed in detail of the negotiations with Rublee. Schacht's dismissal in January does not seem to have had any connection with the Rublee plan. True, there was a rivalry between Ribbentrop on one hand and Schacht and Göring on the other. In January a circular letter from Ribbentrop declared that the Jewish emigration problem was for all practical purposes insoluble, and a more radical solution was hinted at.

(End note 159: Documents on German Foreign Policy, series D, 5:927)

But the negotiations proceeded despite Ribbentrop's objections.

(End note 160: Hilberg, loc. cit.)

In his famous instructions to Frick, Nazi minister of the interior, on January 24, Göring expressly included among the members of the planned central bureau of Jewish emigration Helmut Wohlthat, whom he designated as the man responsible for the Rublee plan negotiations.

It appears that the plan became a bone of contention between Göring and the SS. Heydrich, Himmler's chief deputy, declared on February 11 that the implementation of the Rublee plan was by no means certain, so that forced emigration should in the meantime be continued. Hitler himself - as opposed to his henchmen - may have already been thinking in terms of the destruction of the Jews, as evinced in his famous speech to the Reichstag on January 30, 1939, and even more clearly in a talk with the Czech foreign minister, Chvalkovsky, on January 21, where he threatened to eliminate the Jews of Europe. In the meantime, extermination was impractical, and any method of expulsion that produced results was good.

(End note 161: Broszat et alia, op. cit. [Broszat, Martin et alia: Die Anatomie des SS-Staates [Anatomy of the SS state]; Olten und Freiburg 1965], pp. 340-45)

On the whole, it seems that the Nazis took this plan seriously and were willing to consider it as a possible solution to the Jewish question. Meanwhile, this did not prevent them, as long (p.284)

as there was no agreement on emigration, from intensifying their persecutions and driving out people who had no money or visas. But it would be wrong to assume from this behavior that they had scrapped the Rublee plan.

One author expresses regret at the fact that the Coordinating Foundation was set up so late, that valuable time was lost, and "that so little was accomplished in the year before the war began."

(End note 162: Wyman, op. cit. [Wyman, David S.: Paper Walls; Amherst, Mass., 1968], p. 56)

The evidence does not seem to support this conclusion. Voluntary Jewish sources were quite unable to collect the vast sums of money necessary for the foundation's successful operation; areas of settlement were not, in fact, available, and to arrange for settlement in places like the U.S., Australia, South America, or even Palestine would have required time.

Time was certainly not available between January and September 1939. Had the foundation been set up in January, nothing much could have been done before the [European] outbreak of the war.

[End Sep 1939: Poland: "Close to 2 million Polish Jews in the hands of the Nazis"]

[Poland was split and big parts of Polish Jewry took the flight to the Russian part which was occupied only 2 weeks afterwards. By this about 1.8 mio. Polish Jews come unter NS law].

At the end of September, with close to two million Polish Jews in the hands of the Nazis, Hitler and the SS turned to other solutions for the Jewish question. The foundation passed into history.

[The anti-Semitic Catholic Polish population supported all measures against the Jews and was willing to help, and even made mass shootings without Nazi order. At the same time Jews also could hide themselves with Christian families etc.].

German Jewry, it must be added, was very bitter about the negotiations. It felt the whole weight of Heydrich's cold terror directed against itself. The "negotiations of the Evian committee", wrote the Hilfsverein to Lord Samuel on February 10, "have definitely done more harm than good."

(End note 163: 31-Germany, refugees 1939-42, letter to Lord Samuel, 2/10/39 [10 February 1939])

[May 1939: German Jewish representatives in London without result]

In May some representatives of German Jewry were allowed to go to London; they were expected to come back with some positive replies regarding places of settlement and the setting up of the Coordinating Foundation. They came back with empty hands, having been callously rebuffed by the heads of ICR [Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees]. Emerson, the ICR director, even refused to give them a letter stating that every effort was being made to help German Jewry."

(End note 164: Morse, op. cit. [Morse, Arthur D.: While Six Million Died; New York 1968], pp. 248-49)