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©2000 - 2001 Edwin Black.   Used by permission.
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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 - 6 ~

The Ideological Struggle

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

Seeking an audience with the president, Rabbi Wise telephoned the White House and spoke with FDR's executive assistant, Col. Louis Howe. Howe remembered Wise unfavorably from the 1932 primary campaign, but was nonetheless cordial. Wise mentioned that he had delayed his visit for several weeks on the advice of Supreme Court Justice Brandeis, whom he had checked with again that very day. Howe answered that with Roosevelt preoccupied with the nation's catastrophic banking crisis, the time still wasn't right. Howe did promise, however, to have the president telephone the U.S. delegate to the Geneva Disarmament Conference, who would raise the subject with the Germans there.(36)

Wise and his group also testified before the House Immigration Committee, urging a halt to restrictive procedures at U.S. visa offices in Germany. German relatives of American Jews might then be granted refuge in the United States. Obstructing that succor was a so-called Executive Order issued by Herbert Hoover in 1930 at the height of Depression woes. Actually, the order itself was only a press release circulated to consular officials. Quite reasonably, the presidential memo directed visa sections to stringently enforce a paragraph of the 1924 Immigration Act barring indigent immigrants who might become "public charges." The paragraph was intended to be waived for political refugees. However, consular officials, some of them openly anti-Semitic, used the Hoover order to deny visas to those legitimately entitled. In the past, the wrong enforcement of the order had been of no grave consequence because Germany's immigration quota had been grossly underfilled.(37) But now the need was urgent, especially for German Jewish leaders targeted by Nazi activists. For them, procuring a visa was in fact a matter of life or death.

Chairing the House Immigration Committee was New York Representative Samuel Dickstein, a close friend of Rabbi Wise. Dickstein responded to Wise's testimony by introducing a House resolution to nullify Hoover's Executive Order. Dickstein also set about the longer process of introducing a Congressional bill revising immigration procedures in view of the new emergency.(38)

Rabbi Wise also met with Undersecretary of State William Phillips. Wise and the Congress people vividly described the brutalities suffered by German Jews-many of them relatives of American citizens, some of them actual U.S. citizens residing in Germany. Wise made it clear that the Congress was leading a national anti-Nazi movement to be launched by a countrywide day of protest, March 27, focusing on a mass rally at Madison Square Garden. But then Wise assured the State Department that he would not demand American diplomatic countermeasures until the department could verify the atrocity reports. Phillips felt this was reasonable. In his press announcement, Phillips said, "Following the visit of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, the Department has informed the American Embassy at Berlin of the press report of mistreatment of Jews in Germany...[and] the deep concern these reports are causing in this country. The Department has instructed the Embassy to make....a complete report of the situation."(39)

Rabbi Wise's maneuver won him a triple achievement: First, he appeared reasonable to the State Department; second, he instigated an on-the-spot State Department investigation putting the Reich on notice that the American government was studying her anti-Semitic campaign; third, the State Department's investigation would provide independent, official confirmation that could not be ignored. This would obligate the U.S. government to follow up diplomatically. The U.S. Government was now involved in a conflict it had sought to avoid.

Across the Atlantic, the Reich took notice of Wise's visit to Washington. Goebbels and other party leaders were convinced that Rabbi Wise was the archetypal powerbrokering Jew who could manipulate the U.S. Congress, the State Department, and even the president.(40) Even as Wise was finishing his round of Washington meetings, the Reich Foreign Office in Berlin dispatched a cable to its consulate in New York denying "exaggerated (press) reports" about "brutal mistreatments." The cable denounced "opponents of the present nation government" who are hoping that "well-organized atrocity propaganda may undermine the reputation and authority of the national government." The statement added Hitler's personal assurance that future violence would be averted by tough new police efforts.(41)

By 11:30 A.M. the next day, March 22, German Ambassador Friedrich von Prittwitz called on the State Department. Offering a Goering press statement as evidence, von Prittwitz declared that there would be law and order in Hitler's Germany, that Jews would be protected, and that crimes would be punished.(42) The State Department was becoming aware of the escalating Nazi-Jewish conflict. Within twenty-four hours of the German ambassador's visit, an American Jewish Committee-B'nai B'rith delegation called on Secretary of State Cordell Hull. The Committee knew that Hull deplored public protests such as the American Jewish Congress was organizing. Even more importantly, they knew he would oppose any boycott of the Reich. Hull's expressed view was that "the friendly and willing cooperation of Germany is necessary to the program of world [economic] recovery."(43)

Hull received the Committee-B'nai B'rith representatives cordially in his office. The delegation did their best to impugn the methods and the organization of Rabbi Stephen Wise. They wanted no misunderstanding. Their anxiety over the German situation was just as great as that of the Congress but their tactics differed. The Committee-B'nai B'rith group made clear to Hull that they favored quiet, behind-the-scenes action.(44)

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36. Letter, S. Wise to L. D. Brandeis, Mar. 23, 1933, in Voss, ed., Servant, 180-81; Wise, 218. RETURN TO TEXT

37. Morris Frommer, "The American Jewish Congress: A History, 1914-1950," (unpub. Ph.D. diss., history, Ohio State, 1978), 376-77; letter, Max J. Kohler to Cordell Hull, Aug. 28, 1933, AJCmA. RETURN TO TEXT

38. Gottlieb, "Anti-Nazi Boycott Movement," (dissertation), 453, n. 5. RETURN TO TEXT

39. Ibid., 49; see telegram, "The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Germany (Gordon)," Mar. 24, 1933, FRUS, 330-31. RETURN TO TEXT

40. Martin Rosenbluth, Go Forth and Serve: Early Years and Public Life (New York: Herzl, 1961), 253; see VB, Apr. 1, 1933; "Roosevelt Under Jewish Influence, Nazis Chargé," JDDB, May 19, 1933; "Nazis Get Pick of Jobs," NYT, July 20, 1933. RETURN TO TEXT

41. "Reich is Worried Over Our Reaction," NYT, Mar. 23, 1933. RETURN TO TEXT

42. Ibid.; see "Memorandum of Press Conference of the Secretary of State," Mar. 22, 1933, FRUS, 327-28. RETURN TO TEXT

43. Nathan Schachner, The Price of Liberty: A History of the American Jewish Committee (New York: AJC, 1948), 113. Naomi W. Cohen, Not Free to Desist: The American Jewish Committee, 1906-1966 (Philadelphia: JPSA, 1972), 162; see "Hull Obtains Consul's Data on Jews' Cases," Chicago Sunday Tribune, Mar. 26, 1933; see telegram "The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Germany (Gordon)," Mar. 24, 1933, FRUS,330-31. RETURN TO TEXT

44. See "Jews Here Demand Washington Action," NYT, Mar. 21, 1933.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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