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Business and the Holocaust
Articles | Excerpts | Government Resources | Historical Media Reports | Media Reports | Organizations | Restitution | War Crimes Trials
©2000 - 2001 Edwin Black.   Used by permission.
Chapter One 1 |  2 |  3   Chapter Two 1 |  2 |  3 |  4 |  5 |  6 |  7   Chapter Three 1 |  2 |  3 |  4 |  5 |  6 |  7 |  8

The Transfer Agreement:
The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine
  by Edwin Black
Excerpts from Three Chapters

~ Chapter One - 1 ~

The Powers That Were

The Transfer Agreement: The Pact Between the Third Reich & Jewish Palestine

SHOCK WAVES rumbled through the world on January 30, 1933. The leader of a band of political hooligans had suddenly become chief of a European state. Before January 30, 1933, the repressive ideology of the National Socialist German Workers Party-NSDAP-had been resisted by the German government. That would all change now.

Hitler had become chancellor of Germany-a shock, but no surprise. The November 1932 general elections were held amid public hysteria over Germany's economic depression. Despite expensive emergency make-work programs, more than 5 million people were still unemployed on election eve. In some areas the jobless rate was 75 percent. More than 17 million persons-about a third of the entire population-were dependent upon a welfare stipend equivalent to a few dollars per family per month. Such families knew hungry nights once or twice weekly. Destitute people slept in the streets. The memory of closed or defaulted banks was fresh. The Nazis blamed the Jews and sought voter support through street violence against Jewish members of Germany's urban middle class.

But the November 1932 election was indecisive. Hitler's party received only a third of the vote, about 12 million ballots. Then a coalition government was blocked by Hitler's refusal to share power with the Socialists, who controlled 20 percent of the vote, and the Communists, who controlled 17 percent. Finally, in exasperation, on January 30, 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg exercised his emergency powers, appointing Herr Adolf Hitler interim chancellor.

The Nazis had promised that upon assuming power they would rebuild Germany's economy, dismantle its democracy, destroy German Jewry, and establish Aryans as the master race-in that order. Yet many Western leaders saw only the economic value of Nazism. Hitler seemed the only alternative to a Communist state, a man who might rebuild the German economy and pay Germany's debts. That would be good for all Western economies. As for the threat to Germany's Jews, that was a domestic German affair.(1)

Therefore, if the world's governments would not act, it would fall to the influential Jews of America to save their brethren in Germany. With the ability to be heard, the Jews of America, especially in New York, could mobilize economic and political pressure against Germany that would make war against the Jews a campaign of national suicide.

American Jewish muscle was not a sudden imagined power. For nearly a century, American Jews had been using economic pressure and protest to beat back anti-Semitic outrages throughout the world. But this time the American Jewish community would fail. That failure was tied to the so-called Big Three defense groups: the American Jewish Committee, B'nai B'rith, and the American Jewish Congress.

Both the American Jewish Committee and B'nai B'rith were founded by well-to-do German Jews with a special outlook. Like other European Jews, the Germans immigrated en masse following the political upheavals of the mid-nineteenth century. But unlike their East European counterparts, the Germans clung to their original national identity, and were economically more established. Moreover, many German Jews believed they were so called Hofjuden, or courtly Jews, and that coreligionists from Poland and Russia were "uncivilized" and embarrassing. The bias was best summarized in a June 1894 German-American Jewish newspaper, the Hebrew Standard, which declared that the totally acclimated American Jew is closer to "Christian sentiment around him than to the Judaism of these miserable darkened Hebrews".(2)

Having achieved a secure standing in America, the German Jews organized essentially to protect their position from any "Jewish problems" that might appear. In 1843, in a small cafe on New York's Lower East Side, twelve German Jewish leaders founded B'nai B'rith as a benevolent fraternal organization. By aiding the Jewish poor, they hoped to remove any Jewish welfare burden that could arouse Christian anti-Semitism. In the 1880s, after hordes of impoverished East European Jews flooded America, B'nai B'rith accepted these newcomers as lodge members, but largely to "manage" the East European Jewish presence in the United States.(3)

In 1906, as Czar Nicholas continued his anti-Semitic pogroms, men like Jacob Schiff, Louis Marshall, and Cyrus Adler went beyond philanthropy and constituted the American Jewish Committee. These powerful men would now function as a special lobby concerned with political problems important to Jews. The Committee initially limited its membership to roughly sixty prominent men, led by about a dozen central personalities from the realms of publishing, finance, diplomacy, and the law.(4) As individuals, they had already proven themselves combating hotels and other institutions that discriminated against Jews. Once united as the American Jewish Committee, they waged effective private economic war against the Russian monarchy. Their motives were not based on concern for East European Jews, but rather on a solid opposition to organized Jew hatred anywhere in the world.

Next


NOTES

1. Arthur D. Morse, While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy (New York: Ace, 1968), 101; John Fox, "Great Britain and the Jews, 1933," Wiener Library Bulletin XXVI (nos. 1-2 [1972], nos. 26-27): 40-46; telegram, "The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Germany (Gordon)," FRUS (1933) II: 337; "Joint Statement by President Roosevelt and the German Representative (Schacht)," FRUS (1933) I: 505; see Cordell Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull (New York: Macmillan, 1948), I: 231, 383; also see Hull, Memoirs, II: 978; see Naomi Cohen, Not Free to Desist: The American Jewish Committee, 1906-1966 (Philadelphia: JPSA, 1972), 162; "Hull Obtains Consul's Data on Jews," Chicago Sunday Tribune, Mar. 26, 1933. RETURN TO TEXT

2. Nathan Schachner, The Price of Liberty: A History of the American Jewish Committee (New York: AJC, 1948), Eric E. Hirshler, "Jews From Germany in the United States," Jews from Germany in the United States, ed. Eric E. Hirshler (New York: Farrar, Straus and Cuddahy, 1955), 72-75; Moses Rischin, The Promise City: New York's Jews 1870-1914 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1977), 95-98; HS, June 15, 1894, as quoted in Rischin, 97; Edward E. Grusb, B'nai B'rith: The Story of a Covenant (N.Y.: Appleton-Century, 1966), vii, 12-23, 89-90, 113, 125. RETURN TO TEXT

3. Edward E. Grusd, B'nai B'rith: The Story of a Covenant (New York: Appleton-Century, 1966), vii, 12-23, 89-90, 113, 125. RETURN TO TEXT

4. Cohen, Not Free, 15-17; Schachner, 25-26. RETURN TO TEXT

©2000 - 2001 Edwin Black   Used by permission.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyright hereon may be used in any form or by any means--graphic, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems--without the permission of the publisher.


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