|©2000 - 2001 Edwin Black. Used by permission.
The Transfer Agreement:
The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine
by Edwin Black
Excerpts from Three Chapters
~ Chapter Two - 1 ~
The Ideological Struggle
REACTIONS to Nazi anti-Semitism were immediate,
especially in America, reflecting the cross-sectional anger of ordinary people. Naturally,
Jewish Americans were at the vanguard. That was a problem for many in Jewish leadership who
considered Jewish protest their private province.
On February 22, 1933, B'nai B'rith president Alfred
Cohen convened a special conference of fifteen Jewish leaders, five from each of the Big
Three. Meeting in New York, the leaders reviewed the situation.(1) Thus far, Hitler was
nothing more than an interim chancellor appointed until the next general elections scheduled
for March 5. By March 5, Hitler might be gone. But if the election increased Hitler's voter
support from a minority 33 percent to an actual majority, he would control the entire German
The conference was divided. Two of the American
Jewish Congress representatives had discussed a series of public protests, here and abroad,
to show the German people that the world was indeed watching and that Brownshirt violence
against Jews must stop. The men of B'nai B'rith didn't want to endanger its 13,000-member
German organization or its 103 fraternal lodges in Germany by publicly antagonizing Hitler and
the Nazis. The Committee leadership had close friends and relatives in Germany who had
advised that public protest would surely provoke a far stronger Nazi counteraction. Finally,
the leaders agreed to establish a "Joint Conference Committee" merely to "watch developments
in Germany very carefully" and hope for the best.(2)
But as the gathering broke up with an apparent
trilateral agreement to keep mum, the Congress people planned otherwise. They hadn't told the
B'nai B'rith or the Committee representatives, but two weeks earlier the Congress had secretly
decided to pursue the path of protest.(3)
On February 27, 1933, the Hitler takeover began.
Hitler himself was attending a party at Propaganda Minister Paul Joseph Goebbels' Berlin
apartment. A frantic telephone call to Goebbels relayed the news: "The Reichstag is burning!"
The Nazis snapped into action. During that night Hitler and Goebbels prepared a propaganda
campaign. By the next morning, the German public was convinced that the fire-which Hitler's
own people probably ignited-was in fact the beginning of a Jewish-backed Communist uprising.
Hitler demanded and received temporary powers suspending all constitutional liberties.
The Nazis were riding a wave of anti-Jewish,
anti-Communist hysteria. In the name of defending the nation from a Communist revolution,
Hitler's private militia-the storm Troopers, or SA, together with rank-and-file party
Brownshirts-destroyed editorial offices, brutalized political opponents, and increased
atrocities against Jews. Through it all, Nazi-dominated local police forces looked the other
way. The apparatus of law and order in Germany had been suddenly switched off.
One week before the Reichstag fire, Hitler had met
with over a dozen leading industrialists to assure them that nothing was as important to the
Nazis as rebuilding the German economy. This was to be the foundation of a strong, rearmed
Germany, which, under Hitler, would prepare for war and racial domination. All Hitler wanted
from the gathered industrialists was their financial support in the days preceding the
March 5 general election. Before the meeting was over roughly $1 million was pledged to
establish an unparalleled propaganda war chest, all to be spent over the next two weeks.
With that prodigious sum, the Nazis were able to saturate every newspaper and radio station,
dispatch pamphleteers to every city, and flood the streets of Germany with sound trucks
blaring election propaganda. Under Hitler's emergency powers, only Nazis were permitted to
rally voter support.
Yet when the March 5 votes were counted, the Nazis
were still unable to muster a majority. Despite the biggest campaign blitz in history,
Hitler polled only 43.9 percent of the vote. Only after sealing alliances with other
right-wing parties did Hitler achieve a slim majority. Nevertheless, he called it
a "mandate" and promised to quickly eradicate the enemies of Germany: Communism, democracy,
and the Jews.
As the polls were opening March 5, the largest
Jewish organization in Germany, the Central Verein in Berlin, issued a statement: "In
meetings and certain newspapers, violence against Jews is propagated... The spirit of
hatred now directed against the Jews will not halt there. It will spread and poison the
soul of the German people." When local Nazi party activists learned of the statement, Storm
Troopers vandalized the Central Verein office. Worried about the impact of such news among
anti-Nazi circles in New York, Nazi leader Hermann Goering summoned Central Verein leaders
to his office for a formal apology and assurances that the incident would be the last.
But within days, Germany's dark future became
clear. On March 8 and 9, Hitler's Storm Troopers smashed into the provinces and towns.
Within forty-eight hours, provincial authority was virtually disassembled and replaced with
Hitler's hand-chosen people. At the same time, the Nazis began attaching party observers or
kommissars to all major newspapers, companies, and organizations. Carefully orchestrated
anti-Jewish actions in Essen, Magdeburg, and Berlin accompanied the takeover. In some cases,
Nazi flags were merely raised over Jewish store entrances and owners "voluntarily" closed.
In other cases, windows were shattered, stench bombs rolled in, customers escorted out, and
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1. Letter Alfred M. Chen to Morris D.
Waldman, Feb, 16, 1933, AJCmA; Annual Report of the Executive Committee, 27th Annual Report
(New York, 1934), BBA, 36.
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2. See Stephen Wise, Challenging Years: The
Autobiography of Stephen Wise (New York: Putnam, 1949), 236-37; see Annual Report of the
Executive Committee, BBA, 36; Moshe Gottlieb, "The Anti-Nazi Boycott Movement in the United
States: An Ideological and Sociological Appreciation," Jewish Social Studies XXXV (July-Oct.,
1973): 199, 211, 225; Edward E. Grusd, B'nai B'rith: the Story of a Covenant (New York:
Appleton-Century, 1966), 201; Deborah Dash Moore, B'nai B'rith and the Challenge of Ethnic
Leadership (Albany: State Univ. of New York, 1981), 176).
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3. Gottlieb, "Anti-Nazi Boycott Movement,"
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4. "Victory for Hitler is Expected Today," NYT,
Mar. 5, 1933; "Offices of Jews Raided," NYT, Mar. 6, 1933.
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5. See F. Thelwell, "Memorandum on the German
Economic Situation, April 1933," Apr. 26, 1933, PRO-FO 371/16695-1527, pp. 1-3, 7-10; Dr.
Joseph Goebbels, My part in German's Fight, trans. Dr. Kurt Fiedler (London: Hurst and
Blackett, 1935), 227-29; see telegram, "The Counselor of Embassy in Germany (Gordon) to the
Secretary of State," Mar. 23, 1933, FRUS 1933 (Washington, D.C. United States Government
Printing Office, 1949), II: 328-29: "Reich Takes Over Rule of Hamburg," NYT, Mar. 5,
1933; "Nazi Bands Stir Up Strife in Germany," NYT, Mar 9, 1933; "3 More Americans Attacked
in Berlin as Raiding Goes On" NYT, Mar, 10 1933; "German Fugitives Tell of Atrocities," NYT,
Mar. 20, 1933; "Reports of German Atrocities Not Exaggerated, Declares Anglo-Jewish Doctor,"
JDB, Mar: 24, 1933.
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©2000 - 2001 Edwin Black Used by permission.
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