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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 Three - 1 ~

The Weapon Hitler Feared

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

CORDELL HULL and the American Jewish Committee soon learned that their efforts to contain the anti-Nazi movement would be seriously challenged. Page-one headlines of the March 23, 1933, New York Times portrayed the new public mood.

"PROTEST ON HITLER GROWING IN NATION. Christian and Non-Sectarian Groups Voice Indignation Over Anti-Jewish Drive. URGE WASHINGTON TO ACT."(1)

"BOYCOTT MOVE SPREADS. Merchants Canceling Orders for German Goods."(2)

The movement was spreading spontaneously, along interreligious lines. Spurred on by the Jewish War Veterans, the nation's emotions were mobilized. Boycott was finally a word lifted out of the whispers and into the headlines. Under the direction of Col. Morris J. Mendelsohn, chairman of the JWV's Boycott Committee, a veterans' protest march was organized. In solidarity, W. W. Cohen, vice-president of the American Jewish Congress, accepted the position of parade marshal. He participated at his own initiative, since Stephen Wise was still reluctant to commit the Congress to a boycott per se, and Congress leaders didn't want to detract from their own upcoming Madison Square Garden protest.(3) Cohen's visibility nevertheless associated the powerful Congress with the JWV's banners and placards declaring economic war on Germany.

Without the active support of the Congress, Mendelsohn was uncertain how many marchers would participate and how many prominent figures would actually show up to endorse the boycott. The day before the parade, Mendelsohn tried to cheer up JWV leader J. George Fredman by telling him, "George, if we have nobody else, you and I will march the full line of the parade and call on the mayor." But in truth Mendelsohn doubted whether even Mayor John O'Brien would attend, since he was known to be saving his first anti-Nazi appearance for the Congress rally.(4)

Everyone was surprised, therefore, when the Jewish War veterans' boycott parade received an enthusiastic reception. Many thousands of cheering sympathetic watchers encouraged the thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish vets as the parade moved through the East Side to City Hall where Mayor O'Brien was waiting on the reviewing stand. With much fanfare and applause, resolutions were presented demanding diplomatic measures and an economic protest against the Reich. Dovetailing with the JWV protest parade was a variety of sympathetic conferences, petitions, and resolutions by interfaith and nonsectarian groups, including the American Federation of Labor, which pledged its 3 million members to fighting Nazism here and in Germany.(5)

March 23 was a success for the Jewish War Veterans. Their boycott kickoff generated maximum publicity. One radio station covered the day with updates every fifteen minutes. Extensive support was offered by those in prominence and power-as well as by the anonymous faces in the crowd, outraged and merely waiting for a raised hand to lead the protest against Adolf Hitler.

German legations around the United States reported the anti-Nazi developments to the fifty-one-day-old Reich. Jewish protest was not merely a nuisance, it preyed upon the minds of the Nazis as they braced for their first big fight against their avowed enemies, the Jews.(6) How effective any anti-German boycott and protest movement would be was the question. Could mere popular protest in Europe and America influence the Third Reich? Could a boycott-an economic war-topple the Hitler regime or force Germany to abandon its anti-Jewish program? At the time, some Jewish leaders either doubted the power of the anti-Nazi movement or were unwilling to participate. This failure to participate worked to Hitler's advantage, because the Jewish-led worldwide anti Nazi boycott was indeed the one weapon Hitler feared.

To understand why, one must examine Germany's economic precariousness in 1933, the Nazi mentality, and the historic power of Jewish-led boycotts. To do so requires a dual perspective: statistical and perceptual. Of equal weight in history is reality and the perception of reality, because the two ignite each other in a continual chain reaction that ultimately shapes events and destinies among men and nations.

The deterioration of the once powerful German economy really began in World War 1, when German military and political leaders simply did not calculate the economic effects of prolonged war. The Allied blockade cut off Germany's harbors and most of her land trade routes. Trade was decimated. Industry couldn't export. War materiel and civilian necessities, including food, could not be imported.

Before the blockade was lifted, 800,000 malnourished German civilians perished. Actually the blockade created less of a food shortage for Germany, which was 80 percent food self-sufficient before the war, than did the short-sighted policy of pulling Germans off the farms to fight without compensating for reduced food production. But the popular perception among Germans was that they had been starved into submission, defeated not on the battlefield but by political and economic warfare and connivance, by what became known as the "stab in the back."

The Treaty of Versailles' nonnegotiable terms demanded the forfeiture of German colonies as well as a number of conquered or traditionally German lands: the dismemberment of the German military machine; the arrest of hundreds of German militarists and leaders as war criminals, including the German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II; the granting of most-favored, nonreciprocal foreign commercial rights in Germany; and a certain amount of interim foreign occupation. The German leadership was to sign a hated statement of total war guilt. Additionally, Germany was to pay war reparations over the next two years of 5 billion gold marks and approximately 15 billion marks' worth in cattle, timber and other barterable items. The Allies allowed no negotiation of Versailles' oppressive terms and refused to lift the economic and material blockade until German leaders accepted what later German generations would call the Diktat.

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NOTES

1. "Protest on Hitler Growing in Nation," NYT, Mar. 23, 1933. RETURN TO TEXT

2. Ibid. RETURN TO TEXT

3. "Boycott Advocated to Curb Hitlerism," NYT, Mar. 21, 1933; see Morris Frommer, "The American Jewish Congress: A History, 1914-1950" (unpub. Ph.D. diss., history, Ohio State, 1978), 315-16, also see 314, n. 29. RETURN TO TEXT

4. Interview with Morris Mendelsohn by Moshe Gottlieb, July 20, 1965, author's transcript. RETURN TO TEXT

5. "O'Brien Reviews 4,000 Hitler Foes," NYT, Mar. 24, 1933; "Protest on Hitler Growing in Nation," NYT, Mar. 23, 1933. RETURN TO TEXT

6. See Dr. Joseph Goebbels, My Part in Germany's Fight, trans. Dr. Kurt Fiedler (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1935), 236-37, 269-70; see "Reich is Worried Over Our Reaction," NYT, Mar. 24, 1933; "Reich Warns Correspondents Not to Send Atrocity Reports," NYT, Mar. 24, 1933; see VB, Mar. 30, 1933 and Mar. 31, 1933; see Lucy S. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945 (Toronto: Bantam, 1976), 70-71. 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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