According to the statistics, there lived in Germany in 1933 503,000 Jews, constituting 0.76 percent of the total population. Thirty-one per cent of all German Jews lived in the capital, Berlin, where they made up 4.3 percent of the city's population. German statistics also indicate that the population of the Jews in Germany decreased in the years between 1871 and 1933 from 1.05 percent to 0.76 percent. These German Jews were overwhelmingly non or anti-Zionist, and prior to 1937, the Zionist Union for Germany (Zionistische Vereinigung fur Deutschland (henceforth ZVFD) experienced great difficulty in gaining a hearing. Amongst the Jews of Germany counted in the year
1925, there were, for example, only 8739 persons (not even 2 percent) eligible to vote in the Zionist Conventions (that is, as members of Zionist organizations). At the regional elections of the Jewish community in Prussia that were held in February 1925, only 26 members out of 124 elected belonged to Zionist groups.
A report by the Keren Hayesod submitted to the twenty-fourth session of the ZVFD in July, 1932, said: "In the course of evaluating the Keren Hayesod work in Germany, it should never be forgotten that we in Germany have to reckon not only with the indifference of extensive Jewish circles but also with their hostility."
Thus at the time of the Hitler takeover the Zionists were a fundamentally small and insignificant minority with little influence and it was the non-Zionist organizations that played the dominant role amongst the Jews. At their head was the Centralverein deutscher Staatsburger judischen Glaubens (CV, or Central Union of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith), founded in 1893, which, as its name implies, considered German Jews as Germans and regarded its chief duty as being to combat anti- Semitism.
Corresponding to this fundamental position, the CV also declared its sharp rejection of Zionism. Thus a resolution passed by the main council of the CV on April 10, 1921, concluded with the words: "If the work for settlement in Palestine were nothing more than a task of aid and assistance, then from the point of view of the Centralverein nothing would be said against the promotion of this work. However, the settlement in Palestine is in the first place an object of national Jewish policy and hence its pro- motion and support should be rejected. " Consequently, it was the CV above all which, in the years prior to Hitler's assumption of power, stood in the forefront of the progressive parties and organizations in their fight against anti-Semitism.
Regarding this attitude, the Jewish author Werner E. Mosse remarked: "While the leaders of the CV saw it as their special duty to represent the interests of the German Jews in the active political struggle, Zionism stood for... systematic Jewish non-participation in German public life. It rejected as a matter of principle any participation in the struggle led by the CV."
The attitude of the Zionists towards the encroaching menace of fascist
domination in Germany was determined by some common ideological
assumptions: the fascists as well as the Zionists believed in unscientific
racial theories, and both met on the same ground in their beliefs in such
mystical generalizations as "national character (Volkstum) and "race",
both were chauvinistic and inclined towards "racial exclusive-
ness." Thus the Zionist official Gerhart Holdheim wrote in 1930 in an
edition of' the Suddeutsche Monatshefte, dedicated to the Jewish question
(a publication in which, amongst others, leading anti-Semites aired
their views): "The Zionist programme encompasses the conception of
a homogeneous, indivisible Jewry on a national basis. The criterion for
Jewry is hence not a confession of religion, but the all-embracing sense
of belonging to a racial community that is bound together by ties of
blood and history and which is determined to keep its national indivi-
duality." That was the same language, the same phraseology, as the
No wonder then that the German fascists welcomed the
conceptions of the Zionists, with Alfred Rosenberg, the chief ideologue
of the Nazi party, writing: "Zionism must be vigorously supported so
that a certain number of German Jews is transported annually to Pales-
tine or at least made to leave the country." With an eye on such state-
ments, Hans Lamm later wrote: "..it is indisputable that during the
first stages of their Jewish policy, the National Socialists thought it
proper to adopt a pro-Zionist attitude."
With considerable perspicacity the CV remarked that the recognition by the Zionists of "certain postulates of the German nationalists" provided the anti-Semites with ammunition, and in a declaration of policy made by the CV, there was even talk of Zionism having dealt
the movement a "stab in the back" in the struggle against fascism.
But the Zionists saw that only the anti-Semitic Hitler was likely to push
the anti-Zionist German Jews into the arms of Zionism. Robert Weltsch,
who was then editor-in-chief of the German Zionist paper, Juedische Rund-
schau, declared on January 8, 1933 (three weeks after Hitler's assumption
of power) during the meeting of the local ZVFD Council "The anti-
liberal character of German nationalism [i.e., the reactionary tendencies
of the German bourgeoisie K.P.] meet with the anti-liberal position of
Zionism and here we are faced with the chance of finding, not a basis for
understanding but one for discussion. "
The call to Hitler on January 30, 1933 to become the head of govern-
ment was followed by the take-over of all positions of authority by the
National Socialist Party, which meant that sworn anti-Semites were
now in power. The German Jews contemplated these happenings with
deep misgivings, for the programme of the Nazi party included the
demand to strip the Jews of citizenship (Point 5) and the removal of
all Jews from public offices (Point 6), as well as the expulsion of all
the Jews who had emigrated to Germany after August 2, 1914 (Point 8).
Only the Zionists saw some benefit in this turn of events. (The British
historian Christopher Sykes, certainly no anti-Zionist, gives as his
opinion "that the Zionist leaders were determined at the very out-
set of the Nazi disaster to reap political advantage from the tragedy."
The first public expression of this came from the Berlin Rabbi, Dr.
Joachim Prinz, who was a committed Zionist and who directly after
January 30, 1933, described the Hitler takeover as the "beginning
of the Jew's return to his Judaism." In reference to the mounting
fascist terror against the German Jews, Prinz wrote: "No hiding place
hides us any longer. Instead of assimilation, we wish for the recognition
of the Jewish nation and the Jewish race."' This was definitely not the
view of an isolated individual. The Juedische Rundschau, the official organ
of the ZVFD, wrote on June 13, 1933:
Zionism recognizes the existence of the Jewish question and wants
to solve it in a generous and constructive manner. For this purpose,
it wants to enlist the aid of all peoples; those who are friendly to the
Jews as well as those who are hostile to them, since according to its
conception, this is not a question of sentimentality, but one dealing
with a real problem in whose solution all peoples are interested.
By employing this argument, Zionism was adopting the same political
line as the fascists.
On June 21,1933, there was finally an official Zionist declaration of
policy regarding the fascist takeover of power: "The Declaration of
the Zionist Union for Germany in Reference to the Position of the Jews
in the New Germany." In one section of this extensive document, it was
emphasized that "In our opinion one of the principles of the new German
state of national exaltation would make a suitable solution possible."
The ZVFD, in its document, then cast a historic glance back at the
position of the Jews in Germany, using such fascist terms as "ties of blood
and race" and exactly like Hitler, postulating a "special soul" for the Jews. Then the Zionists stated: "For the Jew, too, origin, religion, common destiny and self-consciousness must be of crucial significance in shaping his life. This calls for the surmounting of the egoistical individualism that arose in the liberal age, and this should be achieved through the acquisition of a sense of common unity and a joyful assumption of responsibility."
After this avowal and reiteration of fascist theses there followed open
recognition of the fascist state: "On the soil of the new state [i.e., fascist
Germany], which drew up the race principle, we want to arrange the
whole structure of our community in such a way, that for us, too, a fruit-
ful application for the fatherland can be made possible in the sphere
allotted to us." In conclusion, the Zionists condemned the struggle
against the Hitler regime of the anti-fascist forces, which in the spring
of 1933 had called for an economic boycott against Nazi Germany. "The
boycott propaganda which they are making against Germany is in its
very nature un-Zionist, since Zionism does not want to fight, but to persuade and to build."
After 1933, the fascists permitted the Zionists to continue with their
propaganda. While all the newspapers in Germany were placed directly
under the supervision of the Ministry of Propaganda (the newspapers
published by the Communists or the Social Democratic Party or the
trade unions and other progressive organizations were banned) the
Zionist Juedische Rundschau was allowed to appear unhindered.
Winfried Martini, the then correspondent in Jerusalem of the Deutsche
Allgemeine Zeitung who, according to his own testimony, had "close personal ties with Zionism" remarked later on the "paradoxical fact" that "'of all papers, it was the Jewish [i.e., Zionist] press that for years retained a certain degree of freedom which was completely withheld from the non-Jewish press." He added that in the Juedische Rundschau there was
very frequently to be found a critical view of the Nazis without this in
any way leading to the banning of the paper. Only with the end of the
year 1933 onwards did it lead to a ban on selling this paper to non-Jews.
The Jews should, according to the wish of the fascists, be converted to
Zionism, even if this were done with arguments directed against the
fascists. In this fashion, the circulation of this Zionist paper, which had
until then been small, underwent a rapid swing upwards.
The fascists rewarded the Zionists for their "restraint" and allowed the ZVFD to go on with its work unhindered. (This was at a time when all democratic and anti-fascist parties and organizations in Germany were subject to the most rigorous persecution, with their officials and members behind bars in prisons and concentration camps.) At the same time, the fascists placed all kinds of obstacles in the path of the non- Zionist organizations. These hindrances struck at the CV above all, for prior to 1933, the fascists had already seen the CV as "their chief Jewish opponents," as is indicated by numerous examples from the Nazi press. The CV had always charged the Zionists with showing little interest in the "struggle [against fascism] ... and that [Zionism] followed a policy of indifference [in the face of the encroaching fascist danger] because it did not feel itself involved." 25 On March 1, 1933 the SA fascist terror troops occupied the central office of the CV and closed it. On March 5, 1933, the CV in Thuringia was banned because of "high treasonous intrigues."
At the same time, the Nazi state turned against other non-Zionist Jewish organizations,
which, like the "Reich League of.Jewish Veterans," for instance, represented a Jewish German nationalist position. Also banned was the "Union of National German Jews."
…With this fascist support, the leaders of the Zionist Union for Germany
were able to obtain a leading position amongst the German Jews for
the first time. In the autumn of 1933, the "Reich Deputation of German
Jews" was founded and all large Jewish organizations including the CV
and the ZVFD participated in it. The leader of the Reich Deputation
was Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck in whose person the divided attitude of the
Reich Deputation towards Zionism was mirrored; Baeck was at one and
the same time a member of the main council of the CV as well as the
president of the Zionist settlement fund "Keren Hayesod" in Germany.
The newly-created Reich Deputation offered the Zionist leaders a
broader platform for their activity.
The Reich Deputation was not, as is sometimes claimed, founded at
the behest of the fascist authorities. Ball-Kaduri writes: "So it came
about that the establishment of the Reich Union took place without
any interference from the state; with the establishment process completed,
this was simply reported to the Reich Ministry of the Interior- the Gestapo did not show any interest at all." It was only on July 4, 1939 that
the ordinance regarding the compulsory establishment of the Reich
Union of Jews in Germany was issued, changing the organization's
name from Deputation to Union. This ordinance made it obligatory
for all Jews to become members of the Reich Union. Paragraph 2 of
this ordinance also fulfilled the Zionist aims by saying: "The Reich
Union has as its goal the promotion of the emigration of all Jews."
The freedom of activity for the Zionists included the publishing of
books as well as the newspaper. Until 1938, many publishing houses
(among others, the Juedische Verlag in Berlin-Charlottenburg and the
Schochen-Verlag, Berlin) could publish Zionist literature unhindered.
Thus there appeared with complete legality in fascist Germany works by
Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion and Arthur Ruppin.
In the words of Ball-Kaduri, the Haavara agreement was concluded "in the form of a letter addressed to Herr Hoofien by the Reich Ministry of the Economy. The negotiations were carried out in a smooth way, as the Nazis were at that time still 'Zionist' inclined."
As a result of the agreement reached in Berlin, two companies were established: the Haavara company in Tel Aviv, and a sister company named Paltreu in Berlin. The procedure was carried out in the following manner: the Jewish emigrant paid his money (the minimum sum was around a thousand pounds sterling) into the German account of the Haavara (at the Wassermann Bank in Berlin or at the Warburg Bank
in Hamburg). With this money, the Jewish importers could purchase
German goods for export to Palestine, while paying the equivalent value
in Palestinian pounds into the Haavara account at the Anglo-Palestine
Bank in Palestine. When the emigrant arrived in Palestine, he received
from this account the equivalent value of the sum he had paid in Germany
(at which point Ball-Kaduri remarks: "after remitting the rather high
In connection with the emigration to Palestine that had been caused
by the Haavara agreement, the Zionists established their own Palestine
Shipping Company, which bought the German passenger ship "Hohenstein" and renamed it "Tel Aviv." This ship embarked on its first trip
from the German port of Bremerhaven to Haifa at the beginning of
1935. On this trip, the ship bore on its stem the Hebrew letters of the
new name "Tel Aviv," while from the mast fluttered the swastika; "a
combination of metaphysical absurdity" wrote one of the passengers
later.37 The captain of the ship, Leidig, was a registered member of the
Indeed, prior to the founding of Israel, the Haavara transfer was a huge booster for the Zionist economy in Palestine. Zionist sources speak of a sum of 139.6 million Reichmarks -- an enormous sum for that time being transferred from Germany to Palestine.
Another source gives the amount transferred as eight million pounds sterling The capitalist Zionist economy thus grew. It was not a coincidence that the most important projects in Israel were founded or directed by emigrants from Germany. The largest Palestinian foundry and the cement industry were founded by the onetime director of the Berlin electricity and water company, Dr. Karl Landau. Dr. Arnold Barth of Berlin, Dr. Siegfried Sahlheine of Hamburg and Herbert Forder of Breslau were the first organizers of the Bank Leumi. Fritz Naphtals of Berlin and George Josephthal of Nuremberg made a giant enterprise out of the insignificant "Arbeiterbank." Some of the most important of Israeli firms were founded by Yekutiel and Sarn Federmannof Chemnitz (now called Karl- Marx-Stadt); Yekutiel's entry in Who's Who in Israel (1 962) describes him as "founder, the 'Israel Miami Group' (Dan Hotel); Israel partner of 'Isasbest'; founder and partner 'Israel Oil Prospectors Corp., Ltd.'; started the first oil drilling 'Mazal I'; president of numerous other companies."
The economic agreements between the Zionists and German fascism were approved by all institutions of the Nazi Reich. The Foreign Office had already taken up a pro-Zionist attitude on many occasions before 1933. (There were meetings between Chaim Weizmann and State Secretaries von Schubert and von Bulow.)
Only after the outbreak of the Palestinian Arab rebellion of 1936 did the first difference of opinion set in amongst the various fascist institutions about the usefulness of continuing the Haavara transfers. The Foreign Office now realized that the de facto support for Zionist policy would alienate Arabs against Hitler's Germany--a prospect that was not in the interest of the Nazi Reich. Dohle, the German Consul-General in Jerusalem, was spokesman for this point of view, and in an extensive memorandum dated March 22, 1937, he declared that "through our promotion of Jewish immigration... the position that was again captured by the Germans... would come to grief."
The Haavara agreement doomed the attempt at an economic boycott of the Nazi state to failure and assured the fascist economy an extensive and unbroken export market in a situation where world trade still suffered from the traces of the international economic crisis of 1929.
This was emphasized in a memorandum by Stuckart, the Nazi State
Secretary of the Reich Ministry of the Interior. In this memorandum
dated December 1 7, 1937, it was stated: "The main advantages [of the
Haavara agreement] are the following: the influence of the Haavara
group in Palestine has led to the unusual but hoped-for contingency
wherein of all places, Palestine is the country in which German goods
are not boycotted by the Jewish side..."
At the same time, the Haavara procedure made possible a broadening of the Jewish emigration movement from Germany to Palestine, leading to the strengthening of the
Zionist position in Palestine. The immigrants from Germany brought
with them a higher degree of economic know-how, among other things.
Dohle feared "that the Arab mood might turn around, and that we
might be accused of actively participating in the fight against them."
Dohle's fears were shared by other fascist authorities. Thus the Of-
fice for Foreign Trade at the Auslandsorganisation of the Nazi party
(the party office in charge of foreign affairs) stated in all frankness:
"Politically, it [the Haavara transfer] means giving valuable support to
the establishment of a Jewish national home with the help of German
On December 17, 1937 it was stated in the already quoted memoran-
dum of State Secretary Stuckart of the Reich Ministry of the Interior
that since the beginning of the Arab rebellion in Palestine "the advan-
tages of the [Haavara] procedure have grown smaller while the dis-
advantages are becoming larger."
Stuckart was of the opinion that if the establishment of a Jewish state
was unavoidable, then "everything that would promote the growth of
such a state should be refrained from." Then Stuckart declared clearly:
"There is no doubt that the Haavara procedure has made the greatest
contribution to the tremendously rapid building of Palestine [i.e., the
Zionist colonies K.P.1. The procedure did not only come up with the
largest sums of money (from Germany!) it also provided the most intel-
ligent men amongst the immigrants, and finally, provided the necessary
machines and industrial equipment also from Germany."
The fears of these officials (which, as we shall see, contradicted the
views of the SS and the Gestapo) were finally brought before Hitler.
Hitler, as is seen in a memorandum of the Political Trade Department
of the Foreign Office, dated January 27, 1938, decided that the Haavara
procedure should be continued. This positive stand taken by Hitler
vis-a-vis the strengthening of the Zionist colonization of Palestine stayed
unchanged in the face of complaints emanating from the Foreign Of-
fice and the Auslandorganisation of the Nazi Party about the rising hosti-
lity of the Palestinians to Germany. Thus the office of the Auslandsorgani-
sation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded anew in a memoran-
dum dated November 12, 1938 that "an initiative should be undertaken
for the overdue cancellation of the Haavara agreement." Jon and
David Kimche confirm the fact that Hitler, "with unambiguous determi-
nation, ordered the promotion of mass immigration to Palestine," and
that Hitler laid down the fundamental decision that the "Jewish emi-
gration should be further promoted by all available means. There can
thus be no question about the Fuhrer's opinion that such emigrationshould be above all channelled towards Palestine. "
From: The Secret Contacts: Zionism and Nazi Germany, 1933-1941
Author(s): Klaus Polkehn
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 5, No. 3/4 (Spring - Summer, 1976), pp. 54-82
Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the Institute for Palestine Studies