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©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 - 2 ~

The Powers That Were

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

But in 1933 things would be different. Quick as they were to oppose anti-Semitism in foreign lands, Germany held a special place in the hearts of Committee leaders. A foreshadowing of just how emotionally paralyzed the Committee would become in a crisis involving their ancestral home was amply displayed during the early years of World War I. Committee stalwarts were torn between their loyalties to the German Fatherland and America's popular allegiance to France and Britain. In 1915, Committee cofounder Jacob Schiff articulated his conflict in a note to German banker Max Warburg: "I still cherish the feeling of filial devotion for the country in which my fathers and forefathers lived, and in which my own cradle stood-a devotion which imbues me with the hope that Germany shall not be defeated in this fearful struggle."(5) Committee members' open support for Germany against Russia did not alter until the United States actually entered the war.

Popular Jewish disenchantment over Committee policies and the known Hofjuden prejudice against the Jewish multitudes had long alienated America's East European Jewish community. Increasingly, the Jewish majority saw the gentlemen of the American Jewish Committee as benevolent despots, not entitled to speak for them.(6) In response a number of national and regional Jewish organizations gathered in Philadelphia in June 1917 and affiliated into the American Jewish Congress. Proving their democratic character, 335,000 Jewish ballots from across the nation were cast. Three hundred delegates were elected and an additional one hundred appointed, representing thirty national Jewish organizations.(7)

After the war, the question of who would represent Jewish interests at the Peace Conference was bitterly contested. A delegation cutting across Committee and Congress lines finally did assemble at Versailles. But the Committee split off from other American Jewish groups negotiating Jewish rights when-in the Committee view-the proposed rights went "too far." Specifically, when Versailles mapmakers were redrawing boundaries based on religious, linguistic, and other ethnic affinities, popular Jewish sentiment demanded to be counted among the minority groups targeted for self- determination. That meant a Jewish homeland in Palestine-Zionism.(8)

Committee leaders were repulsed by Zionism. In their view, a refuge in Palestine would promote Jewish expulsions from countries where Jews lived and enjoyed roots. Anti-Semitic regimes could point to Palestine and claim, "You belong there in your own nation."(9) However, majority Jewish sentiments won out at Versailles, assuring a Jewish homeland in Palestine, with stipulations preserving Jewish rights in other countries.

American Jewish Congress leaders returned from Versailles in triumph. They had helped create a Jewish homeland, as well as secure international guarantees for minorities in Europe. In the early 1920s, the Congress solidified its popular Jewish support, thereby becoming the third of the so-called Big Three.

By 1933, the Congress stood as the most representative and outspoken Jewish defense organization. In contrast, B'nai B'rith functioned as little more than a fraternal order (except for its autonomous Anti-Defamation League). And the Committee, in 1933, basically represented the interests of about three hundred and fifty prominent Jewish members. Nonetheless, the Committee and B'nai B'rith-which often acted as a binary lobby-were respected, influential, and adequately financed, with access to the most powerful circles of American government and business. By comparison, the Congress, despite its vast membership, constantly struggled for funds and for recognition. While the Committee and B'nai B'rith generally chose quiet, behind-the-scenes methods, Congress people-predominantly East Europeans-were accustomed to attention-getting protests.(10)

Yet, all were Jews, drawn from a common heritage. And as of January 30, 1933, there arose a clear need to unify to combat the greatest single anti-Jewish threat ever posed. Hitler promised not only to rid Germany of its Jews, but to cleanse the world as well. Action by America's Jews was required-fast action.

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5. Letter, Jacob Schiff to Max Warburg, Nov 5, 1915, cited in Cyrus Adler, Jacob H. Schiff: His Life and Letters (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1928), II: 190-91; see letter, Jacob Schiff to Alfred Zimmermann, Nov. 9, 1914, cited in Isaiah Friedman, Germany, Turkey and Zionism, 1897-1918 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977), 205; see Adler, Schiff, II: 181-82; Cyrus Adler, Jacob H. Schiff: His Life and Letters (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1928) II: 190-91 RETURN TO TEXT

6. Stephen Wise, Challenging Years: The Autobiography of Stephen Wise (New York: Putnam, 1949), 202-5; Rosenstock, 53-54; Frommer, 67, 528-529; Schachner, 28. RETURN TO TEXT

7. Ibid., 205-6. RETURN TO TEXT

8. Ibid., 207; Morton Rosenstock, Louis Marshall, Defender of Jewish Rights (Detroit: Wayne State, 1962), 52-53; see Cohen, Not Free, 102-19; also see letter, Jacob Schiff to Solomon Schechter, Sept. 22, 1907, and assorted writings of Jacob Schiff, 1915-1920, cited in Adler, Schiff, II: 166-69, 296-98, 307-20. RETURN TO TEXT

9. Rosenstock, 52-53; see Cohen, Not Free, 102-19; also see letter, Jacob Schiff to Solomon Schechter, Sept. 22, 1907, and assorted writing of Jacob Schiff, 1915-1920, cited in Adler, Schiff, II: 166-69, 296-98, 307-20. RETURN TO TEXT

10. Grusd, 185-86, 194-97; Schachner, 109-14; Morris Frommer, "The American Jewish Congress: A History, 1914-1950," (unpub. Ph.D. diss., Ohio State, 1978) 37, 58, 60, 322, 337-41; Cohen, Not Free, 5, 20-21, 155, 193; see Andre Manners, Poor Cousins (New York: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 1972), 275-77. 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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