"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.


Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:02 am

by Edwin Black
© 1983, 1999, 2001, 2009 by Edwin Black




To the six million ...
To my parents who survived ...
To my grandparents who didn't ...
To my mother who never saw this edition.

Table of Contents:

• Inside Cover
• Introduction to 2009 Edition
o Confronting the Transfer Agreement, by Edwin Black
• Acknowledgements for the 1984 Edition
• Introduction to the 1984 Edition
• PART 1: Approaching Day One
o I. The Powers That Were
o 2. The Ideological Struggle
o 3. The Weapon Hitler Feared
o 4. The Lonely Decision
o 5. Madison Square
o 6. April First
• PART 2: The Zionist Moment
o 7. The Zionist Solution
o 8. The Currency Exemption
o 9. Redemption or Relief
o 10. Arlosoroff's Secret Contacts
o 11. Stifling the Boycott
o 12. Fear of Preventive War
o 13. Message to Schacht
o 14. Mr. Sam Cohen's Deal
o 15. Judgment on the Sand
• PART 3: The Boycott Struggle
o 16. Sam Cohen Resumes Control
o 17. Jews, Zionists, Germans, Nazis
o 18. Jews Lead the World to Boycott
o 19. Germany Will Crack this Winter
o 20. July 13 at Wilhelmstrasse
o 21. The World Jewish Economic Conference
o 22. Reversals and Reprieves
• PART 4: The Pact
o 23. Druck von Unten
o 24. Landauer vs. Cohen
o 25. Race for Credibility
o 26. The Transfer Agreement
• PART 5: The Will of the Boycott
o 27. Now or Never
o 28. The Larger Threat
o 29. Near the Cracking Point
o 30. Untermyer Takes Command
• PART 6: The Battle for Prague
o 31. Pre-Congress Maneuvers
o 32. The Eighteenth Zionist Congress Opens
o 33. The First Leak
o 34. Showdown on Nazism
o 35. Interpellation
o 36. The Golden Orange
o 37. The Political Committee
o 38. Hatikva
• PART 7: Decision at Geneva
o 39. The Second World Jewish Conference
o 40. A "Central Jewish Committee"
o 41. The Final Moment
o 42. After Geneva
• Epilogue: The Transfer Years
• Afterword: The Transfer Moment, by Abraham H. Foxman
• Notes
• Index
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Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:03 am

Inside Cover

What reviewers have said about The Transfer Agreement

Black has authored an exhaustive, compelling, well-written and edited work. It is historical journalism at its best.

-- Alexander Zvielli, Jerusalem Post

Black has meticulously documented this obscure but important slice of world history, and makes an essential contribution to an understanding of Israeli politics and the strife in the Middle East today.

-- Gladwyn Hill, Los Angeles Times

Black reconstructs in depressing detail the strident debates and acrimonious struggles ... while pursuing the increasingly unrealistic goal of bringing the third Reich to its knees.

-- A.J. Sherman, The New York Times

A struggle to write a painful chapter in Jewish history. What Black began uncovering was a tangled account of an anguished moment in history, one that he at the center had to piece together from ... forgotten archives, newspapers from the pre-WWII era and government records.

-- Jan Cawley, Chicago Tribune Magazine

Edwin Black applied his established investigative journalism techniques to history. The result is an extraordinary book, The Transfer Agreement.

-- Bill Kurtis, CBS Morning News

Meticulously researched ... Black took five years to research and write this incredible volume ... Black poses the controversial question: 'Was it madness or was it genius?' The many fascinated readers will have to decide for themselves.

-- Booklist


America's Corporate Connections to Hitler's Holocaust

How to Rescue Society When the Oil Stops-or the Day Before

How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil
and Derailed the Alternatives

Inside Iraq's 7,000 Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict

Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race

The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and
America's Most Powerful Corporation

The Dramatic Story of the Pact between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine
1984, 1999, 2001, 2009

A Novel

Back Cover

Published to International Acclaim

Black has authored an exhaustive, compelling, well-written and edited work. It is historical journalism at its best.

-- Alexander Zvielli, Jerusalem Post

Black has meticulously documented this obscure but important slice of world history, and makes an essential contribution to an understanding of Israeli politics and the strife in the Middle East today.

-- Gladwyn Hill, Los Angeles Times

Edwin Black's research is striking in its dimension and scope. The vast uncovering of source material and its extensive use are almost overwhelming. He succeeds in crystallizing hte various aspects of an almost worldwide problem into fluid and cohesive analysis.

-- Yoav Gelber, Yad Vashem, Israel Holocaust Memorial

A struggle to write a painful chapter in Jewish history. What Black began uncovering was a tangled account of an anguished moment in history, one that he at the center had to piece together from ... forgotten archives, newspapers from the pre-WWII era and government records.

-- Jan Cawley, Chicago Tribune Magazine

Meticulously researched ... Black took five years to research and write this incredible volume ... Black poses the controversial question: 'Was it madness or was it genius?' The many fascinated readers will have to decide for themselves.

-- Booklist

A passionate book ... An incredible job.

-- Chicago Sun-Times


Edwin Black is the award-winning New York Times bestselling and international investigative author of 80 editions in 14 languages in 61 countries, as well as scores of newspaper and magazine articles in the leading publications of the United States, Europe and Israel. With more than a million books in print, his work focuses on genocide and hate, corporate criminality and corruption, governmental misconduct, academic fraud, philanthropy abuse, oil addiction, alternative energy and historical investigation. Editors have submitted Black's work ten times for Pulitzer Prime nomination, and in recent years, he has been the recipient of a series of top editorial awards. His best known book is IBM and the Holocaust.
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Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:07 am

Introduction to the 2009 Edition

Confronting the Transfer Agreement


During the first months of the Hitler regime, leaders of the Zionist movement concluded a controversial pact with the Third Reich which, in its various forms, transferred some 60,000 Jews and $100 million -- almost $1.7 billion in 2009 dollars -- to Jewish Palestine. In return, Zionists would halt the worldwide Jewish-led anti-Nazi boycott that threatened to topple the Hitler regime in its first year. Ultimately, the Transfer Agreement saved lives, rescued assets, and seeded the infrastructure of the Jewish State to be.

Fiery debates instantly ignited throughout the pre-War Jewish world as rumors of the pact leaked out.

The acrimony was rekindled in 1984 with the original publication of The Transfer Agreement -- and has never stopped. Why?

Understanding the painful process and the agonizing decisions taken by Jewish leadership requires a journey. This journey will not be a comfortable one for any reader. It offers few clear-cut concepts and landmarks. The facts, as they unfold, will challenge your sense of the period, break your heart, and try your ethics ... just as it did for those in 1933 who struggled to identify the correct path through a Fascist minefield and away from the conflagration that awaited European Jewry.

Why? Simply put, The Transfer Agreement came out a decade ahead of its time. When the book first appeared, in 1984, the world was still preoccupied with the enormity of Nazi genocide. The world's emphasis was on the murderous events of the war years. The Jewish community's rallying cry was "Never Forget." Organized remembrance was collectively fighting an anti-Semitic revisionist movement that was trying to deny or minimize the Holocaust with rabid pseudo-history.

For perspective, consider that the very first television attempt to treat the Holocaust was a TV series called "The Holocaust," which aired in 1978 -- the same year neo-Nazis marched through Skokie. That was the year, 1978, I began researching The Transfer Agreement. At the time, the Second Generation movement, of children of survivors, was just forming. The First World Gathering of Holocaust Survivors was only in the planning stage. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which received its charter in 1980, was several years and many controversies away from opening. Organized Holocaust education was essentially nonexistent. For society and for survivors, the dominant priority was coming to grips with the genocide.

Twenty-five years ago, the world was not ready to comprehend the notion of Zionists and Nazis negotiating in Reich economic offices over commercial pacts involving blocked Jewish bank accounts and German merchandise sales volume. The wounds of destruction were too fresh, too exposed, too unhealed. But I had to step into this world to recapture that history. I was not prepared.

Nor was the public prepared. When the book launched on Passover 1984 as an explosive volume kept under wraps, the media everywhere headlined the story. This included a nearly simultaneous cover story in the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine, a feature centerspread in the Chicago Sun-Times, cover stories in all the main Jewish newspapers and magazines, a special extended news special on the NBC affiliate, morning show appearances, radio interviews, excerpts and a multi-city book tour. This was a decade before the internet. One Jewish communal leader complained he had never seen such publicity for any book on the Holocaust in recent times.

Understandably, The Transfer Agreement battered readership and leadership alike who struggled to reconcile its implications. Despite my scores of speaking engagements and explanatory articles on the subject, too many were simply not prepared for the details. Years later, the Transfer Agreement is still continuously debated, every hour of every day, still the source of conflict and emotion. On the Web, in articles, in books, and in personal exchanges, few are neutral about this extraordinary pact.

In 1984, The Transfer Agreement won the prestigious Carl Sandburg Award for best nonfiction of the year. The work led to my syndicated investigative weekly column, "The Cutting Edge," which appeared for about two years in some 40 Jewish newspapers.

In 1998, I was honored in a special ceremony at Chicago's Spertus Institute for The Transfer Agreement's contribution to a better understanding of the Holocaust. The event commemorated my donation of the 30,000 documents I had acquired during the book research. At the event, a woman in the audience rose and tried to introduce herself, but was frozen in tears. I understood her emotions, emotions I have experienced every day since I began to write The Transfer Agreement, emotions I am experiencing this moment as I type these words.

On a recent anniversary of Kristallnacht, I was speaking on the subject at a synagogue in Roslyn, New York. Several in the congregation were survivors from Germany. One elderly survivor approached me after my remarks. She smiled. "I was there, just a girl -- but never understood," she began. Trembling slightly, she took a deep breath, ready to say something more -- much more -- ready to defend or condemn, as people always do when encountering this topic. However, she stopped herself, regained her smile and simply said, "Thank you for explaining it." As she walked way, she was shaking her head.

I know her anguish.

Back in 1978, as a brash, young journalist in Chicago from a Holocaust survivor family, the possibility of a Zionist-Nazi arrangement for the sake of Israel was inconceivable. Now, twenty-five years after the book's original publication, things have changed. The Jewish community has succeeded in spotlighting for the world the bloody horrors of the Holocaust. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is among America's most visited museums, annually attracting millions of American and foreign visitors. Stirring memorials have been erected in many other cities as well. Holocaust education has taken root throughout America. Holocaust Remembrance Day is solemnly observed. Movies such as Schindler's List -- and indeed dozens of others -- have made the ghastly nightmare of the Holocaust a dramatic imperative for people worldwide. Even Hitler's chief American anti-Jewish propagandist, the Ford Motor Company, felt constrained to sponsor Schindler's List on network television -- and without commercials.

Most importantly, beginning in the 1990s, Holocaust-era asset concerns leapt to the stage. Hard questions -- hard fiscal questions -- are now being asked about the confiscations, exploitations, and expropriations that victimized the Jews. Swiss banks stealing accounts, Italian insurance companies joining the plunder, German companies employing slave labor, Russian seizures of priceless religious collections, art dealers trafficking in stolen masterpieces -- all this has prompted governments and the giants of commerce to begin peering into their distant past, and to fess up to financial crimes committed against Jews. These crimes made the Holocaust so economically acceptable, so profitable, that it was easy to look away or even participate.

Now that the world has confronted the issue of pilfered Holocaust-era assets -- Jewish gold, Jewish art, Jewish insurance, and Jewish slave labor -- the Transfer Agreement stands out as the sole example of a Jewish asset rescue that occurred before the genocidal period. It was the sole success -- and daring in its scope. The terrible choices its negotiators undertook can now be viewed in a new light. And that is why this new edition has been released. It confronted the fiscal Holocaust decades before most thought to ask.

But the final leg of the journey I began when I first wrote The Transfer Agreement is not complete. Not yet. The pain of that project empowered me to pursue those special villains, not those of the physical Holocaust, but the fiscal Holocaust -- Ford and General Motors, Carnegie Institution and Rockefeller Foundation, and British Petroleum. These corporate icons all had their indispensible roles to play. IBM, which co-planned the Holocaust with the Third Reich, headed the list of collaborators and unindicted conspirators by virtue of its great weapon: information technology. From the painful pages of The Transfer Agreement emerged the determination to write IBM and the Holocaust, War Against the Weak, Banking on Baghdad, Internal Combustion, The Plan, and Nazi Nexus, as well as numberless articles touching on the topic. Nor am I done.

I assure the world that the bastions of commercial collusion with Hitler's Holocaust will be more fully exposed during the coming years. America's business giants wait across the final frontier of Holocaust accountability, hiring many prestigious historians and international lawyers, dreading history's knock at the door. They know their names, those that dwell on the list of American corporations that knowingly cooperated with the Hitler regime, helping it rearm, fortifying its anti-Semitic campaigns, catering to its lucrative plans of conquest and subjugation. It was these powerful corporations that joined the ranks of Nazism, frequently through overseas subsidiaries and special foreign partnerships. These American corporations were the grand economic and technologic wizards of Germany's meteoric recovery and her high-velocity, industrialized destruction of the Jews. Only supported by the underpinnings of America's economic might was Hitler able to squeeze the Jews, confronting the Zionists with the painful necessity of engineering heartbreaking trade mechanisms with the Devil.

The day of hiding behind corporate archivists, sponsored historians, highly-paid publicists, and the distant haze of Nazi-era global commerce will soon come to an end. Indeed, I am ending it. The world wants it ended. Humanity has now seen that the corporate alliances and subsidiary masquerades that enabled Hitler have been perfected by Yahoo and Google in China, by China National Petroleum Company and French Total in Sudan, by Nokia Siemens and thousands of other German firms in Iran.

People today -- even more so in this new century -- can understand what too many in the past found bewildering. Hate cannot function in a vacuum. Hate needs money to prevail.

We have all made a collective journey in confronting the Holocaust and its constellation of incomprehensible acts. Now, as you prepare for The Transfer Agreement, take one more personal journey, back beyond the extermination period, before the territorial expansion, to the first weeks of the twelve-year Hitler regime. I promise that your travels will bring tears and confusion. They may rewrite everything you know about the period. But at the end of the journey, you too will understand that while the boycott against Hitler did not succeed, it did not fail. For without the worldwide effort to topple the Third Reich, Hitler would have never agreed to the Transfer Agreement. And without the Transfer Agreement, a precious human and financial remnant would not have been saved -- a remnant indispensable to building the Jewish State.

Mr. 1%

The Original Semites were the fifth and most important of the seven Atlantean Races, because in them we find the first germ of the corrective quality of Thought. Therefore the Original Semitic Race become the "seed race" for the seven races of the present Aryan Epoch....

The Original Semites regulated their desires to some extent by the mind, and instead of mere desires, came cunning and craftiness -- the means by which those people sought to attain their selfish ends. Though they were a very turbulent people, they learned to curb their passions to a great extent and accomplish their purposes by the use of cunning, as being more subtle and potent than mere brute strength. They were the first to discover that "brain" is superior to "brawn."...

Under the guidance of a great Entity, the Original Semitic Race was led eastward from the continent of Atlantis, over Europe, to the great waste in Central Asia which is known as the Gobi Desert. There it prepared them to be the seed of the seven Races of the Aryan Epoch, imbuing them potentially with the qualities to be evolved by their his thoughts were to be turned from the visible Leaders, the Lords from Venus, whom he worshiped as messengers from the gods -- to the idea of the true God, the invisible Creator of the System. Man was to learn to worship and obey the commands of a God he could not see....

Fourfold also are the steps by which man climbs upward to God. First, through fear, he worships the God whom he begins to sense, sacrificing to propitiate Him, as do the fetish-worshipers. Next, he learns to look to God as the giver of all things, and hopes to receive from Him material benefits here and now. He sacrifices through avarice, expecting that the Lord will repay a hundredfold, or to escape swift punishment by plague, war, etc. Next, he is taught to worship God by prayer and the living of a good life; and that he must cultivate faith in a Heaven where he will be rewarded in the future; and to abstain from evil that he may escape a future punishment in Hell. At last he comes to a point where he can do right without any thought of reward, bribe, or punishment, but simply because "it is right to do right." He loves right for its own sake and seeks to govern his conduct thereby, regardless of present benefit or injury, or of painful results at some future time.

The Original Semites had reached the second of these steps. They were taught to worship an invisible God and to expect to be rewarded by material benefits, or punished by painful afflictions. Popular Christianity is at the third step. Esoteric Christians, and the pupils of all occult schools are trying to reach the highest step, which will be generally achieved in the Sixth Epoch, the new Galilee, when the unifying Christian religion will open the hearts of men, as their understanding is being opened now....

To transmute Cunning into Reason proved no easy task. The earlier changes in man's nature had been easily brought about. He could then be led without difficulty because he had no conscious desire, nor mind to guide him, but by the time of the Original Semites he had become cunning enough to resent limitations of his liberty and to circumvent repeatedly the measures taken to hold him in line. The task of guiding him was all the more difficult because it was necessary he should have some liberty of choice, that he might in time learn self-government. Therefore a law was enacted which decreed immediate rewards for obedience and instant punishment for disregard of its provisions. Thus was man taught, coaxed and coerced into reasoning in a limited manner that "the way of the transgressor is hard," and that he must "fear God," or the Leader who guided him.

Out of all who were chosen as "seed" for the new Race, few remained faithful. Most of them were rebellious and, so far as they were concerned, entirely frustrated the purpose of the Leader by intermarrying with the other Atlantean Races, thus bringing inferior blood into their descendants. That is what is meant in the Bible where the fact is recorded that the sons of God married the daughters of men. For that act of disobedience were they abandoned and "lost." Even the faithful died, according to the body, in the Desert of Gobi (the "Wilderness") in Central Asia, the cradle of our present Race. They reincarnated, as their own descendants of course, and thus inherited the "Promised Land," the Earth as it is now. They are the Aryan Races, in whom Reason is being evolved to perfection.

The rebellious ones who were abandoned are the Jews, of whom the great majority are still governed more by the Atlantean faculty of Cunning than by Reason. In them the race-feeling is so strong that they distinguish only two classes of people: Jews and Gentiles. They despise the other nations and are in turn despised by them for their cunning, selfishness and avarice....

Races are but an evanescent feature of evolution. Before the end of the Lemurian Epoch there was a "chosen people," different from the ordinary humanity of that time, who became the ancestors of the Atlantean Races. From the fifth race of those, another "chosen people" was drawn, from which the Aryan Races descended, of which there have been five and will be two more. Before a new Epoch is ushered in, however, there must be "a new Heaven and a new earth"; the physical features of the Earth will be changed and its density decreased. There will be one Race at the beginning of the next Epoch, but after that every thought and feeling of Race will disappear....

[E]xtra care must be taken that as few of the spirits as possible become enmeshed in the fetters of Race. This is exactly what happened to the spirits reborn in the Jewish Race-bodies. They attached themselves so firmly to the Race that they are drawn back into it in successive births. "Once a Jew, always a Jew" is their slogan. They have entirely forgotten their spiritual nature and glory in the material fact of being "Abraham's seed." Therefore they are neither "fish nor flesh." They have no part in the advancing Aryan Race and yet they are beyond those remnants of the Lemurian and Atlantean peoples which are still with us. They have become a people without a country, an anomaly among mankind.

Because of their bondage to the Race-idea, their one-time Leader was forced to abandon them, and they became "lost." That they might cease to regard themselves as separate from other peoples, other nations were stirred up against them at various times by the Leaders of humanity, and they were led captive from the country where they had settled, but in vain. They stubbornly refused to amalgamate with others. Again and again they returned in a body to their arid land. Prophets of their own Race were raised up who mercilessly rebuked them and predicted dire disaster, but without avail.

As a final effort to persuade them to cast off the fetters of Race, we have the seeming anomaly that the Leader of the coming Race, the Great Teacher Christ, appeared among the Jews. This still further shows the compassion and Wisdom of the great Beings who guide evolution. Among all the Races of the Earth, none other was "lost" in the same sense as the Jews; none other so sorely needed help. To send them a stranger, not one of their own Race, would have been manifestly useless. It was a foregone conclusion that they would have rejected him. As the great spirit known as Booker T. Washington incarnated among the Negroes, to be received by them as one of themselves, and thus enabled to enlighten them as no white man could, so the great Leaders hoped that the appearance of Christ among the Jews as one of their own might bring them to accept Him and His teachings and thus draw them out of the meshes of the Race-bodies. But sad it is to see how human prejudice can prevail. "He came unto His own and" they chose Barabbas.

The rejection of Christ by the Jews was the supreme proof of their thralldom to Race. Thenceforth all efforts to save them as a whole by giving them special prophets and teachers, were abandoned and, as the futility of exiling them in a body had been proven, they were, as a last expedient, scattered among all the nations of the earth. Despite all, however, the extreme tenacity of this people has prevailed even to the present day, the majority being yet orthodox. In America, however, there is now a slight falling away. The younger generation is commencing to marry outside the Race. In time, an increasing number of bodies, with fewer and fewer of the Race characteristics, will thus be provided for the incarnating spirits of the Jews of the past. In this manner will they be saved in spite of themselves. They become "lost" by marrying into inferior Races; they will be saved by amalgamating with those more advanced.

As the present Aryan Races are reasoning human beings, capable of profiting by past experience, the logical means of helping them is by telling them of past stages of growth and the fate that overtook the disobedient Jews. Those rebels had a written record of how their Leaders had dealt with them. It set forth how they had been chosen and rebelled; were punished; but were yet hopeful of ultimate redemption. That record may be profitably used by us, that we may learn how not to act....

The Original Semites were set apart and forbidden to marry into other tribes or peoples, but they were a stiff-necked and hard people, being yet led almost exclusively by desire and cunning, therefore they disobeyed the command. Their Bible records that the sons of God married the daughters of man -- the lower grades of their Atlantean compatriots. They thus frustrated the designs of Jehovah and were cast off, the fruit of such cross-breeding being useless as seed for the coming Race.

These cross-breeds were the progenitors of the present Jews, who now speak of "lost tribes." They know that some of the original number left them and went another way, but they do not know that those were the few who remained true. The story of the ten tribes being lost is a fable. Most of them perished, but the faithful ones survived, and from that faithful remnant have descended the present Aryan Races.

-- The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, by Max Heindel

It is better to support generously an individual, where possible the best individual you can find, than to try to take care of many with a few pennies each. Those who should be supported are strictly the old, and those of good Germanic descent, and for Jews, those of true Israeli descent.

-- Theozoology, or the Science of the Sodomite Apelings and the Divine Electron

In contrast to the new, growing, Anglo-Saxon race, look, for instance, at the Sephardim, the so-called "Spanish Jews"; here we find how a genuine race can by purity keep itself noble for centuries and tens of centuries, but at the same time how very necessary it is to distinguish between the nobly reared portions of a nation and the rest. In England, Holland and Italy there are still genuine Sephardim but very few, since they can scarcely any longer avoid crossing with the Ashkenazim (the so-called "German Jews"). Thus, for example, the Montefiores of the present generation have all without exception married German Jewesses. But every one who has travelled in the East of Europe, where the genuine Sephardim still as far as possible avoid all intercourse with German Jews, for whom they have an almost comical repugnance, will agree with me when I say that it is only when one sees these men and has intercourse with them that one begins to comprehend the significance of Judaism in the history of the word. This is nobility in the fullest sense of the word, genuine nobility of race! Beautiful figures, noble heads, dignity in speech and bearing. The type is Semitic in the same sense as that of certain noble Syrians and Arabs. That out of the midst of such people Prophets and Psalmists could arise -- that I understood at the first glance, which I honestly confess that I had never succeeded in doing when I gazed, however carefully, on the many hundred young Jews -- "Bochers " -- of the Friedrichstrasse in Berlin.

-- The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston Stewart Chamberlain

Gobineau's [unlike Chamberlain's] was an honest Antisemitism, it was, like Nietzsche's, an historical Antisemitism: it had nothing whatever to do with modern Antisemitism, that movement born from fear, envy, and impotence ... [i]t is an upright, a genuine, a gentlemanly Antisemitism, it is the Antisemitism of the aristocrat, who sees his very blood threatened by revolutionary religions. Both Nietzsche's and Gobineau's Antisemitism, therefore, included of course Christianity.

-- Oscar Levy, from Breeding Superman: Nietzsche, Race and Eugenics in Edwardian and Interwar Britain, by Dan Stone

The message of The Transfer Agreement was in fact the chronicle of the anguish of choice -- itself the quintessential notion of Zionism's historical imperative. This book and its documentation posit one question: when will the Jewish people not be compelled to make such choices? Indeed, when will all people similarly confronted be freed from the desperation of such choices?

The answer extends beyond the inherent evil of men. It confronts the complicit greed of corporations. Only when the last nickel and pfennig of confession and accountability has been recorded -- from the smokestacks of Germany to the stately boardrooms of the United States -- will powerful global enterprises realize that the worst instincts of humanity cannot be the best investment for mankind. Only then will the mission of The Transfer Agreement be complete. Then I can stop.

Today, in 2009, as the 25th anniversary edition of The Transfer Agreement goes to press, I am hardly the same author I was in 1984 or even in 2001 when prior editions came out. Despite million books in print, after all the sound and fury of my many high-profile corporate investigations, the Transfer Agreement remains my most painful undertaking. An hour does not go by when the book and the topic is not debated, misused, and misquoted by the enemies of Israel and deniers of the Holocaust. A day does not go by when the staunchest defenders of Israel and the history of the Holocaust still find themselves unable to confront the realities confronted during the Hitler years by the victims and their struggling leaders. Rarely does a lecture or autographing occur where a lifelong reader of my works does not wave their original, green-covered, 1984 Macmillan edition as a badge of solidarity. They do so to demonstrate that for twenty-five years, they have understood a truth and a dilemma that many still cannot approach: The Transfer Agreement.

Those who know my works know that in all my books I insist that readers only pick up the book if they read it from front to back without skipping around. If that is not possible, do not read the book at all. I insist on this for every edition. That mandate assumes its strongest imperative on The Transfer Agreement. However, for this volume, I add another request. Among my Holocaust works, read it last. This book was my first fiery volume and ignited the drive for my subsequent works. But I suggest to my readers, delve into my subsequent work first and only then approach my initial molten project, The Transfer Agreement. Why? Because twenty-five years later, few have been able to reliably answer the final question originally posited at the end of the 1984 edition: "Was it madness or was it genius?" It took me twenty-five years to discover the answer.

Edwin Black
Washington D. C.
July 04, 2009
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Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:07 am

Acknowledgments to the 1984 Edition

Great projects are dependent upon two factors: money and people. I didn't have money, but I was blessed with wonderful, giving people. And so many of them became dear friends.

First, my translators and researchers; Gerald Bichunsky, who labored at my side in New York, Chicago, and Jerusalem, working Hebrew, Yiddish and English; George Zinnemann, who worked in French, German and English in Washington, Boston, New York, Miami and London, and who accompanied me to Munich, Bonn, Koblenz, and Berlin; Danuta Dombroska, who handled German, English, and Polish documents in Jerusalem; Gali Gur, who assisted in interviews, pored over the Hebrew and German documents and newspapers, and managed a team of twelve in Israel; Dan Niederland in Munich and Manfred Seyfried in Frankfurt, who worked with German materials; and Nathan Snyder of Austin, Texas, who translated hundreds of pages of Hebrew and German books.

Special thanks to my research assistants; Kathy Maass and Bradley Kliewer in Chicago.

A most vital part of the project was tracing back sources and checking details. That monumental task fell to Beryl Satter and others, who singlehandedly triple-checked the accuracy of thousands of sources. This took fourteen grueling months of working full time for little pay.

In addition to those whom I recruited, there were many others who acted above and beyond, and without whose generous and sensitive cooperation the project would have been an impossible task. I speak now of archivists and librarians: Fannie Zelcer and Abraham Peck of the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati; Richard Marcus of the Asher Library at Spertus College in Chicago; Robert Wolfe and George Wagner of the National Archives in Washington; Sybil Milton of the Leo Baeck Institute in New York; Sylvia Landress of the Zionist Archives in New York, Feiga Zilberminc of the Library of Congress in Washington; Helen Ritter and Ruth Rauch of the American Jewish Committee Archives in New York; Martha Katz-Hyman of the American Historical Society in Waltham; David Massel of the Board of Deputies Archives in London; Klaus Weinandy of the German Foreign Office and the Politische Archiv in Bonn; Shmuel Krakovsky at Yad Vashem Archives in Jerusalem; and Michael Heymann at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem. These people reached out to assist me, and many of them gave me personal inspiration and understanding.

Of course, there were many other generous archivists too numerous to list here, but they as well have my special thanks. Libraries were also vital to my work because each library is distinguished by its own special collections and its own unique selection of publications from the period. Moreover, without the interlibrary loan program, I could not have worked with forgotten volumes suddenly discovered in distant cities but needed urgently. And so I give sincere thanks to the library staffs of Spertus College; Northwestern, Harvard, Columbia, and Roosevelt Universities; Hebrew Union College; the University of Bonn; the University of Frankfurt; the Israel National Library at Hebrew University; the University of Texas at Austin; the public libraries of Chicago, Boston, and New York; the American Jewish Periodical Center in Cincinnati; the Center for Library Research in Chicago; and the British Library in London.

Doors throughout the world were opened for me through the gracious help of many people. At the top of the list of those who helped is Rosemary Krensky, followed by Byron Sherwin, Sybil Milton, Robert Wolfe, Fannie Zelcer, David Kahn, Maynard Wishner, Carol Voss, and friends in the Israeli government. Once inside the doors, I needed guidance, and it was granted by many who gave me their time and expertise, including those mentioned above as well as Shaul Arlosoroff, Yehuda Bauer, Jack Boas, Ehud Evriel, Werner Feilchenfeld, Morris Frommer, Yoav Gelber, Moshe Gottleib, Ben Halpern, John L. Heineman, Yehiel Kudaschai, Abraham Margoliot, Dolf Michaelis, Justine Wise Polier, Arthur Schweitzer, David Yisraeli, and many others.

The monumental challenge of this book would have been impossible to face without the support of my friends, including Robert Tamarkin, Max Pastin, Richard Kimmel, members of my research team, my loving parents Harry and Ethel Black, and Elizabeth Black, plus the one man who pressed me endlessly but without whom this book would never have come to pass: Edward T. Chase.
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Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:07 am

Introduction to the 1984 Edition

On August 7, 1933, leaders of the Zionist movement concluded a controversial pact with the Third Reich which, in its various forms, transferred some 60,000 Jews and $100 million -- almost $800 million in 1984 dollars -- to Jewish Palestine. In return, Zionists would halt the worldwide Jewish-led anti-Nazi boycott that threatened to topple the Hitler regime in its first year. Ultimately, the Transfer Agreement saved lives, rescued assets, and seeded the infrastructure of the Jewish State.

Fiery debates instantly ignited throughout the pre-War Jewish world as rumors of the pact leaked out. The acrimony was rekindled in 1984 with the original publication of The Transfer Agreement and has never stopped. Understanding the painful process and the agonizing decisions taken by Jewish leadership requires a journey. This journey will not be a comfortable one with clear-cut concepts and landmarks. The facts, as they unfold, will challenge your sense of the period, break your heart, and try your ethics ... just as it did for those in 1933 who struggled to identify the correct path through a Fascist minefield and away from the conflagration that awaited European Jewry.

To discover The Transfer Agreement, I took that journey.

My journey began in 1978 when a small bank of misfits preaching Nazism and waving swastikas decided to march through the predominantly Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie. Suddenly an unimportant group of bigots provoked an important controversy. The outraged community was determined either to prevent the march or to confront the neo-Nazis on the parade route. Many Skokie residents were Holocaust survivors and remembered well that only fifty years before, Hitler's circle had also started as a small band of social misfits. The Jewish community would not ignore an attempt to reintroduce the Nazi concept -- no matter how feeble the source.

But establishment Jewish leaders counseled Jews to shutter their windows and pay no attention. And a Jewish attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union rose reluctantly to champion the neo-Nazis' right to freedom of expression -- over the survivors' right to be left alone. In covering the issue as a young journalist, and reacting to the crisis as a Jew and the son of Holocaust survivors, I was confused by the response of Jewish leaders.

To prepare for a Chicago Reader interview with the Jewish ACLU attorney representing the neo-Nazis, I spoke with Jewish scholar Rabbi Byron Sherwin. He told me there were many enigmas about the Jewish response to Nazism, one of which was a long-rumored arrangement between the Third Reich and the Zionist Organization involving the transfer of German Jewish assets to Palestine. He added that little was known about the arrangement, if it indeed existed.

I couldn't believe what I had heard. The possibility of a Zionist-Nazi arrangement for the sake of Israel was inconceivable for a person of my background. My mother, as a girl, had been pushed by her mother through the vent of a boxcar on the way to the Treblinka death camp. She was shot by Nazi soldiers and buried in a shallow mass grave. My father had stepped out of line during a long march to a destiny with death. While hiding in the woods, he came upon a leg protruding from the snow. This was my mother. Together, by night and by courage, these two Polish teenagers survived in the forest for two years. When the war was over, they cautiously emerged from the woods believing that nearly all Jews may have been exterminated -- except them. The question for them was whether there was still any use being "Jewish." And yet -- believing themselves to be among the last of their people -- they decided to live on, as Jews, and never forget.

Quickly, my parents learned that others had survived, although almost none from their families. They resettled in the United States. I was born in Chicago, raised in Jewish neighborhoods, and my parents tried never to speak of their experience. Like the other children of Holocaust survivors, my life was overshadowed by my family's tragedy. And, like other Jews, I saw the State of Israel as the salvation and redemption of the remnant of the Jewish people. I had spent time on a kibbutz and returned to Israel several times after that. For years, I considered emigrating to Israel. The very meaning of Israel was a deep motivation in my life.

Yet there were incongruities I could never understand. Everywhere I looked in Israel, I saw German equipment. The icons of Nazi commerce -- Mercedes, Grundig, Siemens, Krupp -- were thriving in the Jewish State, even as the ban on Wagner's music was strictly enforced. And so many families were German Jews who had come to Israel during the Hitler era.

For a year, I filed Rabbi Sherwin's rumor in a mental box of imponderables. He had said many times that the most important rule in approaching the Holocaust is that nothing makes sense. And yet I needed to make sense out of it. If I could, then perhaps there was a reason my mother and father had lived, while six million had died.

Working through the staff and resources of Spertus College of Judaica, I was able to obtain some rare Hebrew and German materials that documented in skeletal form that the arrangement indeed existed. After a great deal of personal anguish, I made my decision.

When I told my parents, my mother threatened to disown me and my father threatened to personally strangle me if I dared lend any credence to the notion of Nazi-Zionist cooperation. This was done against a background of rising anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli attempts to somehow link the Nazi regime with Zionists.

When I later showed my parents a hundred-page summary of my proposed book, my mother cried and said, "Now I understand what I could never understand. Write the book." My father, who fought in the war as a Zionist Betar partisan, also gave me his blessing with the simple words: "Go write the book."

My agent said he thought there was only one editor with the stamina to take on this book. That man was Edward T. Chase, editor-in-chief of New York Times Books, a man with preeminent credentials in WWII and Holocaust books. Chase read the proposal and said yes.

I spent the next several years traveling through Germany, Israel, England, and the United States, locating forgotten files in archives, scouring newspapers of the era, interviewing principals, and surveying government papers. Millions of microfilm frames of captured Nazi documents had never been analyzed. Boxes of boycott papers had never been organized. Worse, I found that little had been written about Hitler's first year -- 1933. For months, the information confounded me. Nothing made sense. There were so many contradictions. Nazis promoting Jewish nationalism. American Jewish leaders refusing even to criticize the Third Reich. Principal players who said one thing in public and did the opposite in private. Everything was upside down. And historians of the period told me they were equally confused about what had really occurred.

Finally I was able to piece the information together and reconstruct events. To do so, I had to clear my mind of preconceived notions and stare at the situation through the eyes of those who lived through it. And yet, after all the researching and reading and writing, my intense inner attachment to the Zionist concept and Jewish nationalism and the State of Israel only deepened. That's because I had finally made sense of it. And anyone who does will understand Zionism for what it is: a national movement, with the rights and wrongs, the ethics and expediencies, found in any other national movement.

The Jews were the first to recognize the Hitler threat, and the first to react to that threat. The fact they were foiled by their own disunity merely puts them in the company of all mankind. Who did not confront the Hitler menace with indecision? Who did not seal pacts of expediency with the Third Reich? The Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Supreme Moslem Council all endorsed the Hitler regime. The United States, England, France, Italy, Russia, Argentina, Japan, Ireland, Poland, and dozens of other nations all signed friendship and trade treaties and knowingly contributed to German economic and military recovery. The international banking and commercial community -- no less than the Zionists -- saw Germany as indispensable to its salvation. The Zionists were indeed in the company of all mankind -- with this exception: The Jews were the only ones with a gun to their heads.

Hitler was not unique; he was organized. But among Hitler's enemies, none were organized -- except the Zionists. The world recognized the Hitler threat and hoped it would not arrive. The Zionists recognized the Hitler threat and always expected it. The events of the Hitler era and the Transfer Agreement were ultimately determined by those factors.

My belief in the Jewish people, in American Jewish organizations, in Zionism, and in the State of Israel and its founding mothers and fathers was never shaken. Those who sense outrage or anger in my words are hearing but the echo of their agony.

Edwin Black
February 27, 1984
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Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:08 am


PART 1: Approaching Day One

1. The Powers That Were

SHOCK WAVES rumbled through the world on January 30, 1933. The leader of a band of political hooligans had suddenly become chief of a European state. Before January 30, 1933, the repressive ideology of the National Socialist German Workers Party -- NSDAP -- had been resisted by the German government. That would all change now.

Hitler had become chancellor of Germany -- a shock, but no surprise. The November 1932 general elections were held amid public hysteria over Germany's economic depression. Despite expensive emergency makework programs, more than 5 million people were still unemployed on election eve. In some areas the jobless rate was 75 percent. More than 17 million persons -- about a third of the entire population -- were dependent upon a welfare stipend equivalent to a few dollars per family per month. Such families knew hungry nights once or twice weekly. Destitute people slept in the streets. The memory of closed or defaulted banks was fresh. The Nazis blamed the Jews and sought voter support through street violence against Jewish members of Germany's urban middle class.

But the November 1932 election was indecisive. Hitler's party received only a third of the vote, about 12 million ballots. Then a coalition government was blocked by Hitler's refusal to share power with the Socialists, who controlled 20 percent of the vote, and the Communists, who controlled 17 percent. Finally, in exasperation, on January 30, 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg exercised his emergency powers, appointing Herr Adolf Hitler interim chancellor.

The Nazis had promised that upon assuming power they would rebuild Germany's economy, dismantle its democracy, destroy German Jewry, and establish Aryans as the master race -- in that order. Yet many Western leaders saw only the economic value of Nazism. Hitler seemed the only alternative to a Communist state, a man who might rebuild the German economy and pay Germany's debts. That would be good for all Western economies. As for the threat to Germany's Jews, that was a domestic German affair. [1]

Therefore, if the world's governments would not act, it would fall to the influential Jews of America to save their brethren in Germany. With the ability to be heard, the Jews of America, especially in New York, could mobilize economic and political pressure against Germany that would make war against the Jews a campaign of national suicide.

American Jewish muscle was not a sudden imagined power. For nearly a century, American Jews had been using economic pressure and protest to beat back anti-Semitic outrages throughout the world. But this time the American Jewish community would fail. That failure was tied to the so-called Big Three defense groups: the American Jewish Committee, B'nai B'rith, and the American Jewish Congress.

Both the American Jewish Committee and B'nai B'rith were founded by well-to-do German Jews with a special outlook. Like other European Jews, the Germans immigrated en masse following the political upheavals of the mid-nineteenth century. But unlike their East European counterparts, the Germans clung to their original national identity, and were economically more established. Moreover, many German Jews believed they were so-called Hofjuden, or courtly Jews, and that coreligionists from Poland and Russia were "uncivilized" and embarrassing. The bias was best summarized in a June 1894 German-American Jewish newspaper, the Hebrew Standard, which declared that the totally acclimated American Jew is closer to "Christian sentiment around him than to the Judaism of these miserable darkened Hebrews." [2]

Having achieved a secure standing in America, the German Jews organized essentially to protect their position from any "Jewish problems" that might appear. In 1843, in a small cafe on New York's Lower East Side, twelve German Jewish leaders founded B'nai B'rith as a benevolent fraternal organization. By aiding the Jewish poor, they hoped to remove any Jewish welfare burden that could arouse Christian anti-Semitism. In the 1880s, after hordes of impoverished East European Jews flooded America, B'nai B'rith accepted these newcomers as lodge members, but largely to "manage" the East European Jewish presence in the United States. [3]

In 1906, as Czar Nicholas continued his anti-Semitic pogroms, men like Jacob Schiff, Louis Marshall, and Cyrus Adler went beyond philanthropy and constituted the American Jewish Committee. These powerful men would now function as a special lobby concerned with political problems important to Jews. The Committee initially limited its membership to roughly sixty prominent men, led by about a dozen central personalities from the realms of publishing, finance, diplomacy, and the law. [4] As individuals, they had already proven themselves combating hotels and other institutions that discriminated against Jews. Once united as the American Jewish Committee, they waged effective private economic war against the Russian monarchy. Their motives were not based on concern for East European Jews, but rather on a solid opposition to organized Jew hatred anywhere in the world.

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.

As Adolf Hitler's Nazi party was taking over Germany, as the German Jews of New York were dominating the American Jewish political scene, so too, would Germans and Germany now determine the realities in a small, undeveloped stretch of desert by the sea known as Palestine. For hundreds of years, the area had been the kingdom of the Jews. After the Israelites' dispersion in the second century A.D., the Romans changed the region's name to Syria Palaestina to wipe away the Jewish nation forever. Small groups of Jews had remained through the centuries in what became known simply as Palestine, but not until the late nineteenth century, following waves of European anti-Semitism. did large numbers of Jews begin an experimental return to their ancestral home. Agricultural settlements repeatedly failed in Palestine as Jewish idealists and dreamers tried to force the sandy and swampy wasteland to bloom. But with the steady help of European and American Jewish philanthropists, the Jewish agricultural revival finally began to triumph over the neglected Palestinian terrain. [11]

By the time airplanes were flying over the Mideast, the future of Jews in Palestine could be seen as green patches against a bleached beige backdrop. The green patches marked orange groves, the economic basis for Jewish survival in the Holy Land. When the young workers came from Russia, Poland, and even the United States, they were frequently settled on groves to grow oranges and other citrus for export. [12] Orange crates became the building blocks of Zionism.

Promising as those orange groves were, Jewish Palestine in 1933 was still little more than a collection of unconnected enclaves between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The nearly 200,000 Jews living in Palestine accounted for only 19 percent of the population. If the enclaves were to grow into an actual homeland and fulfill the promise of God, Abraham, and Balfour, the orange groves would have to prosper. For that, more hands and more lands were needed.

Lebensraum (German for "habitat" or literally "living space") was an important component of Nazi ideology in Germany. The Nazis supported territorial expansionism to gain Lebensraum as being a law of nature for all healthy and vigorous peoples of superior races to displace people of inferior races; especially if the people of a superior race were facing overpopulation in their given territories.[1] The German Nazi Party claimed that Germany inevitably needed to territorially expand because it was facing an overpopulation crisis within its Treaty of Versailles-designed boundaries that Adolf Hitler described: "We are overpopulated and cannot feed ourselves from our own resources".[1] Thus expansion was justified as an inevitable necessity for Germany to pursue in order to end the country's overpopulation within existing confined territory, and provide resources necessary to its people's well-being.[1] The idea of a Germanic people without sufficient space dates back to long before Adolf Hitler brought it to prominence.

-- Lebensraum, by Wikipedia

But in 1933, Jewish prosperity in Palestine was in danger of shutting down. In a tense world, the British were once again making strategic plans for the Middle East. These plans were dependent upon the Arab potentates England had been stringing along for a decade with conflicting promises of Arab nationalism in Palestine. So Palestinian immigration regulations had been pointedly revised a few years earlier. Severe quotas now applied to all Jewish immigrant categories, except the so-called capitalist settler with proof of £1,000 (about $5,000) in hand. [13]

Few Palestine-bound Jews possessed that much money. Most were poor European workers. Moreover, the "worker immigrant" quota itself was limited by "absorptive capacity" or the ability of the Palestinian economy to expand and provide new jobs. In this way, existing Arab jobs theoretically would no longer be threatened by new Jewish arrivals. The British didn't really expect the Palestinian economy to grow, because quotas restricted immigration for all but the wealthier Jews, and the great majority of wealthy Jews were uninterested in emigrating to Palestine. With little or no new capital, the Jewish economy in Palestine would stagnate.

At the same time, the message to the world was clear. What began as a private campaign of violence against Jews was now, under Hitler, the unofficial policy of the day. Jews were murdered in their homes, daughters were raped before parents' eyes, rabbis were humiliated in the street, prominent leaders were found floating in the canals and rivers. As early as the first days after Hitler's surprise appointment as interim chancellor, the message was indeed clear to those who would pay attention: The Jews of Germany were facing an hourglass, and time was slipping away.
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Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:09 am

2. 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 government.

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 and the American Jewish Committee rejected this. 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 counterreaction. 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 rightwing 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. [4]

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 as owners "voluntarily" closed. In other cases, windows were shattered, stench bombs rolled in, customers escorted out, and proprietors manhandled. [5]

The Nazis now controlled not only the federal government, but state and local governments as well. Virtually every institution was now subject to Nazi party dicta and brought into readiness for the achievement of Nazi social, political, and economic aspirations -- including the elimination of German Jewry. On March 9, Central Verein leaders returned to Goering's Berlin office. He again used reassuring words to downplay the anti-Jewish incidents. [6] And the Central Verein wanted to believe.

In New York City, however, the Jews were more realistic. On March 12, the American Jewish Congress leadership convened a three-hour session and voted to commence a national program of highly visible protests, parades, and demonstrations. The centerpiece of the protest would be a giant anti-Nazi rally March 27, at Madison Square Garden. An emergency meeting of regional and national Jewish organizations was set for March 19 to work out the details. [7]

Before the group adjourned, Dr. Joseph Tenenbaum, a Congress vice-president, spoke a few words of warning to Germany for the newsmen present. Threatening a bitter boycott, Tenenbaum said, "Germany is not a speck on Mars. It is a civilized country, located in the heart of Europe, relying on friendly cooperation and commercial intercourse with the nations of the world .... A bellum judaicum -- war against the Jews -- means boycott, ruin, disaster, the end of German resources, and the end of all hope for the rehabilitation of Germany, whose friends we have not ceased to be." Measuring his final words carefully, Tenenbaum spoke sternly, "May God save Germany from such a national calamity." [8] The protest would begin -- American Jewish Committee or no American Jewish Committee.

The next day, March 13, American Jewish Committee leaders were startled to learn of the Congress' protest decision. The Committee called an urgent meeting of the Big Three for the following day under the aegis of the "Joint Conference Committee." The top leadership of the Congress attended, led by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, the Congress' founder, currently serving as its honorary president. The hierarchy of the Committee and B'nai B'rith were at the meeting as well. The Committee's intent was to abort any Congress protest and forestall Congress attempts to contact "Washington circles." [9]

As the conference began, the Congress people defended their decision to rally at Madison Square Garden. They saw Hitler's bold provincial takeover and the accompanying violence against Jews as a threat that could no longer be ignored. Nazi rhetoric was turning into action at a frightening rate. And the Congress' national affiliates were demanding an immediate response, including a comprehensive boycott of all German goods and services. [10]

Wise added that he had been in touch with Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, a leading American Zionist and one of Wise's close personal friends. The advice was to delay a direct appeal to newly sworn-in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was preoccupied with America's Depression and a calamitous banking crisis. But Brandeis did feel that ultimately the matter should be brought to the ear of FDR personally. [11]

Those Congress leaders most favoring the path of protest and even boycott pleaded that only economic retaliation frightened the Nazis. Even Nazi party leaders had admitted Hitler's strength rested on the German public's expectation of economic improvement. [12]

Committee leader David Bressler scorned all protest ideas, insisting that any such moves would only instigate more harm than help for the German Jews. The Committee's reluctance was based upon urgent communications from prominent Jewish families to kill any anti-German protest or boycott. German Jewish leaders were convinced that the German public would abandon the Nazis once the economy improved. And even if Hitler remained in power, German Jewish leaders felt some compromise would be struck to provide Jewish cooperation for economic convalescence. Hitler might then quietly modify, or set aside, his anti-Semitic campaign. [13]

Wise was also reluctant to move on a boycott, but insisted that a joint protest statement be issued and efforts commence with the new administration in Washington. There could be no more delay. Bressler rejected this and castigated the Congress for even releasing its March 12 protest decision to the press. A conservative Congress leader, Nathan Perlman, tried to assure the Committee people that the protest policy would be overruled or delayed at a meeting of the Congress' Administrative Committee later that night. But Wise advised against second-guessing the Administrative Committee, suggesting instead that for now, the three major organizations agree on a joint statement and a Washington plan. American Jewish Committee Secretary Morris Waldman interrupted and declared that any trilateral action would hinge on the Congress's protest decision. Wise accepted that proviso. [14]

The Committee delegates were cautiously reassured. Immediately following the meeting they dispatched a telegram to B'nai B'rith president Alfred Cohen, in Cincinnati: "CONFERENCE THREE ORGANIZATIONS GERMAN SITUATION ... DISCOURAGING INDEPENDENT ACTION JEWISH GROUPS THROUGHOUT COUNTRY." [15]

But within hours, the Committee learned that its efforts had failed. The Congress' Administrative Committee had rejected the conservative position and by a vast majority opted for visible, vocal protest highlighted by the March 27 Madison Square Garden rally. The next morning, March 15, American Jewish Committee secretary Morris Waldman telephoned Congress vice-president W. W. Cohen to inform him that the Committee-B'nai B'rith binary would disassociate itself from the Congress -- indeed from any anti-Nazi protest. Waldman then sent a telegram to Alfred Cohen in Cincinnati telling him to fly to New York to help plan countermoves to any organized Jewish protest against Hitler. [16] In that moment, the "Joint Conference Committee" was dissolved.

While the Big Three were arguing over whether to protest Hitlerism, smaller Jewish organizations were already committed to action. For these smaller organizations, closer to the Jewish masses, the debate was whether or not the Jews should unleash a comprehensive boycott against Germany as the best means of protest. In pursuit of that answer, the militant Jewish War Veterans held a fiery session in New York the evening of March 18. [17]

Shouts for and against a boycott bounced back and forth as the delegates debated how far the protest against Hitler should actually go. Speeches, interruptions, calls to order, and sporadic applause stretched the meeting well past midnight with no decision. Unable to make their deadlines, the press went home. Finally, to break the deadlock, Benjamin Sperling of Brooklyn, formally moved that the Jewish War Veterans organize a vigorous national boycott of all German goods, services, and shipping lines. The yells in favor were abundant, but the presiding officer insisted on a formal vote, and with a flurry of excitement the boycott was unanimously adopted. [18] It was done so in accordance with the JWV's charter: "To combat the sources of bigotry and darkness; wherever originating and whatever their target; to uphold the fair name of the Jew and fight his battle wherever unjustly assailed."

History thus records that in an era distinguished by appeasement, the Jewish War Veterans were the very first, anywhere in the world, to declare openly their organized resistance to the Nazi regime.

Appeasement in a political context is a diplomatic policy of making political or material concessions to an enemy power in order to avoid conflict.[1] The term is most often applied to the foreign policy of the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain towards Nazi Germany between 1937 and 1939. His policies of avoiding war with Germany have been the subject of intense debate for seventy years among academics, politicians and diplomats. The historians' assessments have ranged from condemnation for allowing Adolf Hitler's Germany to grow too strong, to the judgment that he had no alternative and acted in Britain's best interests. At the time, these concessions were widely seen as positive, and the Munich Pact concluded on 30 September 1938 among Germany, Britain, France, and Italy prompted Chamberlain to announce that he had secured "peace for our time."[2]

-- Appeasement, by Wikipedia

They had fought Germany once and would fight again. This small association of ex-warriors, mostly men of little finesse and even less pretense, would no longer be bound by the Jewish hierarchy.

The gentlemen of the JWV felt especially obligated to persevere that night. They wanted to present their boycott movement as a "fact" that would inspire the other 1,500 representatives of Jewish organizations meeting the following day to consider the dimensions of the American Jewish Congress' call to protest. Indeed, a JWV protest march was already planned, as was a boycott office, a publicity campaign, and a fund-raising effort. [19] The Veterans wanted to be sure that when the March 19 emergency conference convened, the word boycott would be an established term in the language of confrontation with the Nazis.

But that same day, Nazi, Jewish, and Zionist interests were anxious to stillbirth the protest movement before it could breathe life. A Paris conference, called by a group of European Jewish organizations analogous to the American Jewish Committee and B'nai B'rith, tried to stifle the growing protest movement on the Continent inspired by the American Jewish Congress. The Committee was unable to attend the sudden conference, but did telephone their concerns to the meeting. The Parisian conference unanimously decided that public protest by Jews was "not only premature but likely to be useless and even harmful." [20] Committee people in New York could now tell the Congress that Jewish organizations closest to the trouble in Europe agreed that there should be no public agitation against Hitler.

March 19, 1933, was also the day that the swastika was unfurled over German consulates in Jerusalem and Jaffa. Germany maintained the two consulates in Palestine as part of its normal diplomatic relations with Great Britain. Angry Tel Aviv Jews prepared to storm the consulates and burn the new German flag. But Zionist leaders were afraid to provoke the Nazis, lest Berlin suddenly clamp down on Zionist organizing and fund-raising activities in Germany. In Jerusalem, Jewish Agency Executive Committee member Dr. Werner Senator dispatched a letter about the flag-raising to the Zionist Organization in London. Senator explained that Zionist leaders were working with British Mandatory authorities to defuse the problem "to avoid hostile encounters, which would cause unpleasant repercussions for our people in Germany." [21]

In Berlin, the Hitler regime was clearly worried. Atrocity reports covered the front pages of newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic. Der Forverts correspondent Jacob Leschinsky's report from Berlin was typical: "One can find no words to describe the fear and despair, the tragedy that envelops the German Jews. They are being beaten, terrorized, murdered, and ... compelled to keep quiet. The Hitler regime flames up with anger because it has been forced through fear of foreign public opinion to forego a mass slaughter. . . . It threatens, however, to execute big pogroms if Jews in other countries make too much fuss about the pogroms it has hitherto indulged in." The dispatch was carried by The New York Times and many other newspapers. Leschinsky, immediately after the dispatch, was arrested and expelled. [22]

Atrocity scandals were complicating almost every attempt at the German economic and diplomatic recovery Hitler desperately needed to stay in power. The Jews of New York would have to be stopped. Within a few days, the reconvened Reichstag was scheduled to approve sweeping dictatorial powers enabling Hitler to circumvent the legislature and rule by decree. But this talk of an international Jewish-led boycott was frightening Germany's legislators. Such a boycott could disable German export industries, affecting every German family. Goebbels expressed the Nazi fear in his diary: "The horrors propaganda abroad gives us much trouble. The many Jews who have left Germany have set all foreign countries against us.... We are defenselessly exposed to the attacks of our adversaries." [23] But as Nazi newspapers castigated German Jewry for the protests of their landsmen overseas, German Jews themselves responded with letters, transatlantic calls, and cables to stifle American Jewish objections to Hitler.

When the Congress' emergency protest planning conference convened on March 19 at New York's Astor Hotel, Committee representatives arrived with a prepared statement. It read: "It is only natural for decent and liberal-minded men and women to feel outraged at these occurrences and ... to give public expression to their indignation and abhorrence, [but] the American Jewish Committee and the B'nai B'rith are convinced that the wisest and the most effective policy for the Jews of America to pursue is to exercise the same fine patience, fortitude and exemplary conduct that have been shown by the Jews of Germany. This is not a time further to inflame already overwrought feelings, but to act wisely, judiciously and deliberately." [24]

These words of caution were emphatically rejected by the delegates who well knew that the Committee had become a megaphone -- via friends and family relations -- for Nazi pressure on the American anti-German protest movement. Bernard S. Deutsch, Congress president, set the meeting's defiant tone: "The offices of the American Jewish Congress are being flooded with messages from all over the country demanding protest. ... We are met here to translate this popular mandate into responsible, vigorous, orderly and effective action." Cries of approval bellowed from the crowd. The protest motion was formally introduced: "This tragic hour in Jewish history calls imperatively for the solidarity of the Jewish people. And we American Jews are resolved to stand shoulder to shoulder with our brother Jews in Germany in defense of their rights, which are being grievously violated, and of their lives, which are imperiled." [25]

The audience cheered. But from among the cheering delegates stood up J. George Fredman, commander in chief of the Jewish War Veterans, who proudly announced his organization had already -- on its own initiative -- commenced the national anti-Nazi boycott. He urged fellow Jewish organizations to join and formally called for a boycott amendment to the protest resolution. [26]

Judge Joseph M. Proskauer, the American Jewish Committee's representative at the rally, became livid. He stood up and insisted that marches and meetings were improper and unproductive. He advised quiet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy -- as the Committee had always done. The crowd booed and hissed. Undaunted, Proskauer turned toward Fredman and condemned his boycott amendment as "causing more trouble for the Jews in Germany by unintelligent action." Over waving hands and hostile jeering, he insisted on placing into the record a message from another Committee stalwart, Judge Irving Lehman, the brother of the governor of New York. In a voice struggling to be heard, Proskauer read Lehman's letter: "I feel that the [Madison Square Garden protest] meeting may add to the dangers of the Jews in Germany .... I implore you in the name of humanity, don't let anger pass a resolution which will kill Jews in Germany." At this the crowd stormed their disapproval in English, Yiddish, and Russian. The hotel meeting room became so unruly that police had to be called to restore order. [27]

Stephen Wise stepped in to avoid total humiliation for the Committee, which he still hoped would use its influence in Washington. He offered to redraft the protest resolution, but the final wording was virtually the same and still anathema to the Committee. The date March 27 was approved, and Madison Square Garden was ratified as the epicenter of a day of global anti- German protest that would signal the beginning of mass Jewish resistance to Hitler. But through Wise's counsel, the Congress did not declare a boycott. He felt the big inter-organizational boycott the Congress could mount would be indeed the final nonviolent weapon. The time had not yet come. [28]

Fredman and his Veterans had other plans. Even if they could not persuade a single other group to join them, the JWV would organize the national boycott. Many in the Congress leadership supported the Veterans' decision, but in deference to the Committee, withheld official endorsement. They were waiting for the influential German Jewish families of New York to use their connections, waiting for Committee "methods" to deliver. And waiting for proof that the German Jewish leaders of the Committee were not merely unwitting tools of the Third Reich.

But official Congress hesitation did not rule out outspoken unofficial support for the boycott movement. The very next day, March 20, Congress vice-president W. W. Cohen became inspired while lunching at a fine German restaurant. When the waiter came by and offered Cohen an imported Bavarian beer, Cohen suddenly became enraged, and shouted "No!" The entire restaurant turned to Cohen, who then pointedly asked for the check. [29]

Cohen left the restaurant and went directly to a Jewish War Veterans' boycott rally, where he proclaimed to an excited crowd, "Any Jew buying one penny's worth of merchandise made in Germany is a traitor to his people. I doubt that the American government can officially take any notice of what the German government is doing to its own citizens. So our only line of resistance is to touch German pocketbooks." [30]

As W. W. Cohen was exhorting his fellow Americans to fight back economically, the Jews of Vilna, Poland, were proposing the identical tactic. Poland contained Europe's most concentrated Jewish population, nearly 3.5 million, mainly residing in closely knit urban communities. They were economically and politically cohesive, often militant. Bordering Hitler's Germany, Polish Jewry could organize an anti-Nazi boycott that would not only be financially irritating to the Reich, but highly visible in central Europe. The Jews of Vilna held a boycott rally on March 20, 1933. To recruit added interpolitical and interfaith support, they incorporated their boycott movement into the larger national furor over the Polish Corridor. Hitler, in his first days as chancellor, had hinted strongly that Germany might occupy the Corridor to ensure the Reich's access to the free city of Danzig. German access via a corridor traversing Poland and controlled by Poland was part of the Versailles Treaty. Poland, unwilling to relinquish its Versailles territorial rights, reacted defensively, and rumors of a preemptive Polish invasion of Germany were rampant. [31]

By identifying their anti-Nazi boycott as national rather than sectarian retaliation, the Vilna Jews sought to construct the model for other worried Europeans. Vilna's March 20 mass anti-Hitler rally urged all Polish patriots and Jews throughout the world to battle for Polish territorial defense by not buying or selling German goods. The Jewish War Veterans were no longer alone. [32]

As the former governor of New York, President Roosevelt was attuned to the pulse of the Jewish constituency. The legends of FDR's strong friendship with Stephen Wise of the American Jewish Congress were feared in Berlin. In truth, however, the Wise-Roosevelt relationship by 1933 was strained. Two years earlier, in his last face-to-face meeting with FDR, Rabbi Wise had presented Governor Roosevelt with written charges against then New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker. Roosevelt objected to Wise's pejorative manner that day and then lectured the rabbi about an earlier protest on an unrelated issue. That was to be their last private conversation for five years. Wise openly broke with Roosevelt in 1932 by backing Democratic primary loser Alfred E. Smith for the presidential nomination. [33] Berlin did not know it, but in March 1933, Wise was reluctant to test his access to the White House.

Roosevelt himself had shown little official concern for the plight of Germany's Jews. Shortly before the inauguration in the first week of March, one of Wise's friends, Lewis Strauss, tried to convince outgoing President Hoover and President-elect Roosevelt to send a joint message of alarm to the German government. Although Hoover sent word of his concern through the American ambassador in Berlin, FDR refused to get involved. [34]

Yet Nazi atrocities intensified, as bannered each day in the press: Midnight home invasions by Brownshirts forcing Jewish landlords and employers at gunpoint to sign papers relenting in tenant or employee disputes. Leading Jewish physicians kidnapped from their hospitals, driven to the outskirts of town and threatened with death if they did not resign and leave Germany. Dignified Jewish businessmen dragged from their favorite cafes, savagely beaten and sometimes forced to wash the streets.

Wise felt he could wait no longer and on March 21, 1933, he led a delegation of American Jewish Congress leaders to Washington. To set the tone of his Washington efforts, Rabbi Wise released a statement that effectively burned the last thread of hoped-for cooperation with the Committee-B'nai B'rith binary. "The time for caution and prudence is past," Wise said. "We must speak up like men. How can we ask our Christian friends to lift their voices in protest against the wrongs suffered by Jews if we keep silent?" [35]

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 national 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]

Their argument to the secretary probably added little to the joint Committee-B'nai B'rith communique issued after the Congress' March 19 emergency protest organizing meeting. To salve the angry demands of rank-and-file B'nai B'rith members, and to show quotable concern in the light of the Congress' public rallying, that joint communique declared: "The American Jewish Committee and the B'nai B'rith express their horror at anti-Jewish action in Germany, which is denying to German Jews the fundamental rights of every human being .... The events of the past few weeks in Germany have filled with indignation not only American Jews, but also Americans of every other faith.... We shall take every possible measure to discharge the solemn responsibility which rests on our organization to marshall the forces of public opinion among Americans of every faith to right the wrongs against the Jews of Germany and for the vindication of the fundamental principles of human liberty." [45]

From Hull's point of view, listening to a distinguished Committee and B'nai B'rith delegation was an obligation to fulfill, not an inspiration to action. The March 23 visit therefore did not accomplish any amelioration for the Jews in Germany. Worse, the visit confused the State Department. One Jewish group was bent on loud and vigorous protest. Another was calling for quiet, discreet diplomacy. But the Committee-B'nai B'rith people were the influential and prominent leaders of the Jewish community. So Hull concluded that their voice was representative of Jewish sentiment. [46]

In one sense, then, the Committee's "methods" had worked. Despite a tiny constituency that numbered about 300, the Committee's pronouncements were still more potent than those of the half-million-strong American Jewish Congress. [47] The delegation had effectively discredited the Congress as naive rabblerousers.

Shortly after the Committee-B'nai B'rith mission left Washington, Hull dispatched a cable to George A. Gordon, America's charge d'affaires in Germany: "Public opinion in this country continues alarmed at the persistent press reports of mistreatment of Jews in Germany .... I am of the opinion that outside intercession has rarely produced the results desired and has frequently aggravated the situation. Nevertheless, if you perceive any way in which this government could usefully be of assistance, I should appreciate your frank and confidential advice. On Monday next [March 27] there is to be held in New York a monster mass meeting. If prior to that date an amelioration in the situation has taken place, which you could report [for] ... release to the press, together with public assurances by Hitler and other leaders, it would have a calming effect." [48] In essence, Hull was asking for an encouraging report -- justified or not -- to soothe angry Jewish groups. Thus, he could cooperate with the Committee request as well.

Within twenty-four hours, Gordon composed a response to Hull: "I entirely agree with your view ... [of] the present situation of outside intercession. ... There is ... one suggestion I venture to make in case you have already not thought of it. . . . [T]he general tenor of communications between foreigners and the ... government here has necessarily been one of complaint and protest, and it is possible that if ... confidence [were expressed] in Hitler's determination to restore peaceful and normal conditions, emphasizing what a great place he will achieve in the estimation of the world if he is able to bring it about, it might have a helpful effect.... Hitler now represents the element of moderation in the Nazi Party and I believe that if in any way you can strengthen his hand, even indirectly, he would welcome it." [49]

Gordon then held meetings with several of his counterparts in the Berlin diplomatic community, obtaining a consensus against any efforts in their countries to use diplomatic channels as a medium of protest against Adolf Hitler. He wired news of his achievement to Hull. [50]

An unwitting alliance of groups now saw their mission as obstructing anti-Nazi protest in America and Europe, especially an economic boycott. The members of this alliance included B'nai B'rith, the American Jewish Committee, and even the Jewish Agency for Palestine, each preoccupied with its own vested interests, each driven by its own ideological imperatives, and each wishing that conditions for German Jews would improve in the quieter climate they hoped to establish.

A fourth member of this alliance was now the United States government, which was pursuing what it thought was America's vital interests. As for the fate of Germany's Jews? Officially, the U.S. government simply wasn't concerned.
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3. The Weapon Hitler Feared

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 Cancelling 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- -- opple 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 I, when German military and political leaders simply did not calculate the economic effects of a 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 shortsighted 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 seizure of key German waterways; 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.

Two years later, the Allied Reparations Commission levied additional reparations of 132 billion gold marks. Such a monumental sum, payable in cash and goods, would be a garnishment for generations, a commercial enslavement that would hold Germany captive for fifty to a hundred years.

Germany's population, and indeed world leaders and historians, would later brand the Versailles Treaty as merciless and intolerable. But the Allies were following in the tradition of previous German victories, which vanquished losers. For example, in February 1918, when Russia, beset by revolution, tried to disengage from the war, German generals issued an ultimatum to surrender within five days or suffer unlimited destruction. At the same time, a renewed German offensive began. Lenin was forced to submit his new nation to the humiliating Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Its terms defrocked Russia of a third of her farmland, 56 million people -- or a third of her population -- a third of her railroads, more than 5,000 factories comprising half her industrial capability, almost 90 percent of her coal, and beyond that a cash indemnity of 6 billion gold marks. The treaty was nullified after the Allied victory.

So Germany in 1919 was forced to recover from war under conditions similar to those she had previously imposed on her own enemies. However, the German people did not blame the precedents they themselves had established, but rather the political and economic weapons wielded against them at the Peace Conference. They blamed the blockade and their own civilian leaders for acceding to Allied demands and forfeiting German glory.

And, some Germans, such as the Nazis, blamed a Jewish conspiracy. In their minds it was Jewish bankers who would prosper from Germany's economic tragedy, since massive loans would be necessary both to recover from the war and to pay war indemnity. In Nazi minds, it was Jewish Bolshevism that would gain by undermining the German Empire and replacing it with a Weimar Republic where Marxism could flourish. In their minds it was Jews who at the Treaty of Versailles gained rights of minority citizenship throughout war-reconstructed Europe. [7]

Hitler's own words expressed the scapegoat rationale. Preaching to frantic, impoverished Germans, the Nazi leader cried: "Not so long ago, Germany was prosperous, strong, and respected by all. It is not your fault Germany was defeated in the war and has suffered so much since. You were betrayed in 1918 by Marxists, international Jewish bankers, and corrupt politicians." [8]

Hitler attributed the stories of Germany's wartime atrocities to an international Jewish conspiracy, using newspapers Jews secretly controlled. And so the Nazis held a special fear of what they called Greuelpropaganda, or atrocity tales. In Nazi thought, it was Greuelpropaganda that distorted German valor into Hun-like savagery. Greuelpropaganda was a mighty weapon the Jews knew how to use to harness the German nation into bondage.

The lasting economic agonies of Versailles were soon apparent. Inflation wracked postwar Germany, as the Weimar Republic struggled to keep pace with Allied reparation demands and domestic recovery. German currency was printed -- so fast that it was inked on one side only. In 1919, the value of the mark was around 9 to a U.S. dollar; in 1921,75 marks to a dollar; in 1922, 400 to a dollar; and in early January 1923, 7,000 marks equaled a dollar.

For reparations, France of course preferred commodities, such as timber, and coal, to valueless German currency. But German production was unable and unwilling to satisfy the payment schedule. When the Weimar Republic defaulted on the delivery of 100,000 telephone poles, France exercised her treaty option and in mid-January 1923 invaded Germany's industrial heartland, the Ruhr. Thousands of French troops took charge of mines, mills, and manufacturing plants. Germans were outraged that so petty an infraction could warrant a full-fledged French occupation. Workers throughout the Ruhr went on general strike with the full backing of the Weimar government. To support the strikers, the government cranked out millions upon millions of worthless marks as special welfare assistance. By late January 1923, the mark had jumped to 18,000 to the dollar and began inflating astronomically, until by 1924, it was about 5 trillion to the dollar.

In 1924, German currency could be used for virtually nothing except lighting stoves. People's savings were wiped away, their livelihood ruined. An international commission intervened and the Dawes Plan emerged, whereby France would withdraw from the Ruhr and scheduled reparations -- mostly in goods -- would be resumed. The goods would be manufactured after a national retooling financed by large foreign loans, mostly from America.

Within a few years, billions of U.S. dollars and other foreign currencies flowed into Germany, reequipping and overindustrializing that nation on an unparalleled basis in order to produce merchandise and other barterable items to repay the Dawes loans and war reparations. By the late 1920s, America owned and controlled billions of dollars of German industry. And the entire German economy -- which was becoming somewhat stable and prosperous -- was now also dependent upon export. Millions of jobs were wholly tied to the foreign market. Export was the oxygen, the bread, and the salt of the German work force. Without it, there would be economic death. [9]

Just before the decade closed, on October 24, 1929, Wall Street crashed. America's economy toppled and foreign economies fell with it. For Germany, intricately tied to all the economies of the Allied powers, the fall was brutal. Thousands of businesses failed. Millions were left jobless. Violence over food was commonplace. Germany was taught the painful lesson that economic survival was tied to international trading partners and exports.

During each economic crisis the Nazis scored electoral triumphs among the disadvantaged. In the boomlike year 1928, the Nazis could poll no more than 810,000 votes nationally. But two years later, well into the Depression, the Nazis' support leaped to about 6.5 million. In July of 1932, at the height of the crisis, oppressed by 6 million unemployed, the nation delivered 13.5 million votes for Hitler, most of it from the young, unemployed middle class. [10]

Shortly after the July 1932 election, the economy improved somewhat, due more to psychological than true financial factors. A bumper wheat and potato harvest made Germany temporarily independent of imported grain and starch related foodstuffs. Public makework gave short-term relief to the most severely hardshipped in big cities. More than 74,000 gardens and 26,000 settlement houses were erected to help feed and shelter the jobless in small towns. Seasonal unemployment came a bit later and less severely that autumn than in previous years. Total acknowledged unemployment was under these circumstances down to just more than 5 million. In certain segments of German society, confidence began to take hold. [11]

As the bankrupt Nazis approached the November 1932 contest, they were unable to pay for a last-minute voter drive. In the aura of stability and with reduced Nazi campaigning, the electorate backed away from the radical program of National Socialism, casting 2 million fewer votes for the NSDAP. But after the November election, with the Nazis nevertheless assured of a leading role in the government, the brief improvement in the economy vanished. [12] The moderate moment had been lost.

Commercial recovery was Adolf Hitler's prime mission when he came to power in January 1933. But Hitler and his circle's conception of their problem and the twisted explanations they ascribed to real and perceived trends became the new determining economic factors. The greatest obstacles to recovery now were, in fact, political instability and bizarre economic policies, including import restrictions that provoked retaliatory bans on German exports.

Economic policies and the worldwide economic depression combined to deprive Germany of her place among the world's trading nations. Without exports, Germany was denied foreign currency -- the essential ingredient to her survival. Without foreign exchange, she could not pay for the imported raw materials she needed to continue manufacturing nor for imported foodstuffs to compensate for recurring shortages. Worse, Germany couldn't even borrow money to pay for raw materials and food because without foreign exchange to pay her war reparations and other foreign obligations, her credit was once again unreliable. [13]

In late 1932, the president of the Reichsbank warned the cabinet that further deterioration in foreign exchange would force Germany into another fiscal default. What's more, if there was a sudden run on Germany's banks, it would trigger another total crash of the economy. [14]

But when Hitler and his circle saw Germany deadlocked in depression, they did not blame the world depression and the failures of German economic policy. They blamed Bolshevik, Communist, and Marxist conspiracies, all entangled somehow in the awesome imaginary international Jewish conspiracy. The Jews were not just a handy scapegoat. The paranoid Nazis believed in the legendary, almost supernatural economic power of the Jews. When they promulgated the motto "The Jews are our bad luck," they meant it. [15]

Complicating the Reich's response to economic developments was Hitler's impatience for economic details. A British embassy report compiled in early 1933 explained: "Hitler is a pure visionary who probably does not understand the practical problems he is up against." In fact, Hitler saw only the superficial aspects of any economic problem. He was well known for exhorting his followers: "If economic experts say this or that is impossible, then to hell with economics .... if our will is strong enough we can do anything! [16] Therefore, when problems persisted, the Nazi response was to scream "conspiracy" and make snap decisions to plug holes rather than rebuild the dike.

In the Nazi mind, the Jewish-led, anti-Nazi boycott would reduce exports and foreign currency below the viable threshold. By Nazi thinking, a second prong of the Jewish offensive would be publicizing German atrocities to undermine confidence in the new regime and turn the non-Jewish world against Germany. In this instance, Nazi fears approximated the reality. As an overindustrialized nation dependent upon exports, Germany was especially prone to boycott. Therefore, as the American Jewish War Veterans escalated their anti-Reich agitation in late March 1933, a primary order of Nazi business would now be to end the atrocity claims and stop the boycott. [17]

Nazi preoccupation with the anti-German boycott was not merely a fear of Jewish power. The Nazis dogmatically believed in the power of boycotts in general. Boycott had long been a prime tactic of the German anti-Semitic movement. When in 1873 an economic depression followed a stock market fall, the German Conservative party falsely blamed Jewish speculators and organized anti-Semitic campaigns, including boycotts. A few years later, the Catholic party joined the movement, coining the motto "Don't buy from Jews." By 1880, Berlin women's organizations had formed housewife boycott committees. [18]

During the years prior to 1933, Hitler, Goebbels, Goering, and other Nazi leaders regularly struggled to attract public support by advocating the anti-Jewish boycott. Brownshirt pickets around a store with signs reading DON'T BUY FROM JEWS served to remind Germans of the Jews' secure economic status and warn Jews of what was in store should National Socialism come to power. The Nazis were convinced that an official countrywide boycott would totally destroy the commercial viability of the Jews in Germany. [19]

But during the first years of the Nazi party, German anti-Semites also became painfully aware of the Jewish power of boycott and backlash. The lesson came in a confrontation waged not in Germany but in the United States, pitting the Jewish community against the American anti-Semite most revered by the Nazis: Henry Ford.

The richest man in America, whose name was stamped on every Model T, quickly catapulted to the forefront of political anti-Semitism after he became convinced of the Jewish conspiracy cliche. Henry Ford's nineteenth-century rural mentality didn't adapt well to the complexities of the twentieth-century world. He did things in his own peculiar way, regardless of the cost. Shortly after the Great War began in Europe, Ford claimed he had discovered "proof" that Jews were behind the world's troubles. In 1918, Ford purchased the weekly Dearborn Independent and soon thereafter changed its editorial thrust to virulent anti-Semitism. [20]

Ford also employed agents to seek out more anti-Jewish "evidence." One such agent acquired a typescript entitled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the fabricated secret minutes of an imaginary Jewish conspiracy to topple governments, dominate economies, pervert morals, and defeat noble bloodlines by intermarriage. The fake Protocols were laughed off by many. But a few, including Henry Ford, took them to be a veracious revelation of the most sinister plot of modern times. In May 1920, a series of Dearborn Independent articles and editorials publicized the Protocols and a host of slanders and accusations under the general heading "The International Jew." Ford's articles accused American Jewish leaders such as Louis Marshall and Louis Brandeis of using Presidents Taft and Wilson as their puppets. Other prominent Jews were accused of perpetrating World War I for the benefit of Jewish bankers and fomenting the Russian Revolution for racial imperialism. The defamations continued weekly, as Ford's paper denounced the Jewish conspiracy for corruption on Wall Street, in labor, and on the ball field -- Jews were even behind the Black Sox baseball gambling scandal. Jews were also allegedly responsible for Benedict Arnold, the Civil War, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. What Jews could not achieve by money, media, or manipulation, they would achieve by pandering to the sexual perversions of the powerful and prominent. [21]

These accusations were not just the ramblings of The Dearborn Independent. They were in fact a product of the Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford listed his name at the top of every front page. Ford motorcar dealers were compelled to buy and sell subscriptions. Dealers who filled their subscription quotas received Ford cars as prizes. Those falling short were assured that The Dearborn Independent was "just as much of a Ford product as the car or tractor." Many reluctant dealers received threatening legalistic letters insisting they sell the tabloid. Reprints were bound into booklets and distributed to libraries and YMCAs throughout the nation. [22]

Devoting the national sales force and the assets of Ford Motor Company to spreading Jew hatred made Henry Ford the first to organize anti-Semitism in America. Indeed, he was the hero of anti-Semites the world over. In Germany, thousands of copies of Ford's teachings were published under the title The Eternal Jew, by Heinrich Ford. [23]

Ford's book quickly became the bible of the German anti-Semites, including Adolf Hitler -- this at least two years before Mein Kampf was written. Hitler was so entranced with Ford's struggle against Jewish economic power that he hung a large portrait of Ford beside his desk and spoke of him incessantly. [34] When Hitler was interviewed by a Chicago Tribune reporter in 1923 about Ford's chances of winning the U.S. presidency, del' Fuhrer enthusiastically declared, "I wish that I could send some of my shock troops to Chicago and other big American cities to help in the elections. We look on Heinrich Ford as the leader of the growing Fascist Party in America." [24]

A year later, in 1924, Hitler wrote his own anti-Jewish epistle, Mein Kampf, his blueprint for the destruction of the Jewish people. Many of the ramblings in Mein Kampf were identical to passages in "The International Jew." Hitler lionized Ford even after the Nazis became a leading factor on the German political scene. Just before Christmas 1931, der Fuhrer admitted to a Detroit News reporter, "I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration." Once the Third Reich came to power, millions of Ford's books were circulated to every school and party office in the nation, many featuring the names Hitler and Ford side by side on the cover. [25]

American Jewish reaction to the Henry Ford threat was swift. Within a few months of the Dearborn Independent's inaugural anti-Semitic issue, a spontaneous Jewish boycott movement erupted. Libel suits were launched against Ford personally. A Jewish-led campaign to legally ban the sale or distribution of the publication began in Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, and other cities. Where legislated bans were overturned by court action, angry mobs often greeted Dearborn Independent street vendors. [26]

The backlash campaign started hurting Ford in late 1920, when Jews began refusing en masse to purchase any vehicle bearing a Ford emblem. Typical was a Connecticut Jewish community's 4oo-car parade in early 1921 honoring Albert Einstein and Chaim Weizmann -- parade rules included the proviso "Positively no Ford machines permitted in line." Ford himself couldn't even give one away to his Jewish neighbor, Rabbi Leo M. Franklin of Detroit. Each year Ford gave the rabbi a custom-built car as a gift. But the rabbi emphatically refused Ford's gift after the Dearborn Independent's articles began. [27]

Even the American Jewish Committee encouraged the boycott. The Committee opposed proclaiming an "official" boycott, reluctant to openly answer Ford's charges of an economic conspiracy with a coordinated economic weapon. But Committee leader Louis Marshall felt a "silent boycott" would be equally effective, maintaining that any self-respecting Jew would know what to do without being told when purchasing an automobile. [28]

Ford's steepest sales declines first appeared in the Northeast, where Jews comprised a substantial segment of the car-buying market. Within five years, a leading dealer in the Southwest was painfully aware that wealthy Jews in Texas and neighboring states hadn't purchased a Lincoln in years. And company inquiries about low sales in Missouri revealed that Jews wouldn't take a Ford if it was handed to them free. [29]

In reality, the Jewish boycott of Ford products was probably not statistically effective. While Ford's sales in urban centers did decrease significantly, equally important sales in small towns and rural areas either remained constant or increased. And the recorded urban sales slumps were only partially due to the Jewish-led boycott. General economic conditions and the declining popularity of the Model T were equally potent factors. But in the early and mid-1920S, Ford people were convinced that the Jewish-led boycott was in large part responsible. [30]

The precise figures were guarded by Ford's corporate sales hierarchy even as dealers and regional sales managers continually pleaded for Ford's campaign to cease. For example, New York sales manager Gaston Plaintiff, a personal friend of Ford, wrote numerous letters bemoaning the boycott. Ford would typically reply, "If they want our product, they'll buy it." [31]

In 1927, the advent of a competitive Chevrolet made the Jewish boycott an unacceptable liability for Ford Motor Company. Any lost product loyalty would now be lost forever to the competition. The Model T was obsolete, and the company's future was precariously stacked on a new Model A. At the same time, Ford desperately sought to avoid humiliating public trials with libeled Jews who had sued. [32]

In the summer of 1927, Ford's representatives approached Nathan Perlman, a vice-president of the American Jewish Congress, seeking a truce. Stephen Wise was in Europe, so Perlman referred Ford's people to the Committee. Louis Marshall prepared an embarrassing retraction cum apology for Ford to sign and publish. Close advisers cautioned the car maker that the humiliating apology might be too much for Ford's pride. But the global leader of anti-Semites had endured boycotts, legal actions, and political abrasions long enough. [33] It was time to make money, secure the future, and fight Chevrolet.

On July 7, 1927, in the last year of the outmoded Model T, as Ford acknowledged a decline of about a half million fewer cars sold, and as he prepared for a major financial effort to introduce his new Model A, the proud gladiator of anti-Semites released to the press his contrite plea for forgiveness for wronging the Jews and misleading mankind. [34]

I have given consideration to the series of articles concerning Jews which have since 1920 appeared in The Dearborn Independent ... and in pamphlet form under the title "The International Jew." ... To my great regret I have learned that Jews generally, and particularly those of this country, not only resent these publications as promoting anti-Semitism, but regard me as their enemy.... I am deeply mortified. . . . I deem it to be my duty as an honorable man to make amends for the wrong done to the Jews as fellowmen and brothers, by asking their forgiveness for the harm that I have unintentionally committed, by retracting so far as lies within my power the offensive charges laid at their door by these publications, and by giving them the unqualified assurance that henceforth they may look to me for friendship and goodwill. [35]

Within weeks the retraction appeared in The Dearborn Independent itself. Shortly thereafter, Ford's advertising agencies were instructed to spend about 12 percent of the Model A's $1.3 million introductory advertising in Yiddish and Anglo-Jewish newspapers -- the only minority press included in the campaign. Ford also directed that five truckloads of "The International Jew" be burned, and ordered overseas publishers to cease publication as well. [36]

Ford's capitulation was taken hardest in Germany among Nazi circles. Nazi boycotter Theodor Fritsch wrote to Ford lamenting the loss of both book sales and "the inestimable mental goods" Ford had bestowed upon civilization. "The publication of this book remains the most important action of your life." Yet now, as Fritsch put it, Ford was capitulating to the financial might of the Jews. [37]

Adolf Hitler, when informed of the retraction, tried to avoid comment. Henry Ford was the man the Nazi party and der Fuhrer himself had lionized as the quintessential fighter of the so-called Jewish economic conspiracy. Hitler had once told reporters in Germany that "the struggle of international Jewish finance against Ford ... has only strengthened [Nazi] sympathies ... for Ford." In Mein Kampf, Hitler had declared that "only a single great man, Ford," was able to stand up to Jewish economic power. [38]

Ford's unexpected surrender was so powerful a loss to Hitler's movement that the Nazis preferred to ignore the retraction as a mere expediency. Fritsch continued printing "The International Jew." Nonetheless, the tribute to Ford in Mein Kampf was changed in its second edition. The words "only a single great man, Ford," were replaced with the phrase "only a very few." [39]

A lesson had been learned by Hitler and the Nazis. Jewish boycotts and economic influence, in the Nazi view, held the power not only to subvert governments, but to silence the most indomitable challengers.

Presidential candidate Norman Thomas declared, "Ford's backdown was good evidence of what a consumers' boycott and a lawyer's million-dollar libel suit can do in the way of educating a man who has heretofore been impervious to history." The New York 'Telegram editorialized, "If one of the richest men in the world cannot get away with an anti-Semitic movement in this country, nobody else will have the nerve to try it, and of that we can all be thankful, gentiles as well as Jews." But perhaps the most poignant summing up was uttered by Will Rogers: "Ford used to have it in for Jewish people -- until he saw them in Chevrolets." [40]

Jews also believed in the power of Jewish boycotts. It mattered little whether the real might of the boycott was the statistical business harm or simply the perception of it. Boycott was a weapon the Jews were ready and willing to use in emergencies to dissuade the forces of anti-Semitism.

The anti-Ford boycott was but a commercial skirmish compared to the international financial war waged against Russian Czar Nicholas II by Jewish banker Jacob Schiff and the American Jewish Committee. The war began when Jews were blamed for Russia's social and economic chaos in the 1880s. The classic scapegoat scenario developed. Quotas for Jews were decreed in academia and commerce. Jews were physically restricted to the smallest hamlets. Bloody pogroms followed as mounted Cossacks swept through the hamlets pillaging and ravaging defenseless Jews. [41]

Although America's German Jews detested the unkempt Russian Jews, they were nevertheless infuriated by the barbarism of the czar's persecution. Among the Hofjuden who considered themselves the custodians of Jewish defense, Jacob Schiff stood out as a central figure. A major factor in international finance, Schiff's greatest weapon was money: giving it, denying it. After the notorious Kishinev pogrom of Passover 1903, Schiff decided to personally lead a crusade to force Czar Nicholas to abandon his anti-Semitic campaign. [42]

Schiff used his influence with friends and family in Europe to commit major Jewish and even non-Jewish financial houses to a banking boycott of Russia. [43] And before long, Russia's loan requests were in fact systematically denied in most French, English, and U.S. money markets. In 1904, after war broke out between Russia and Japan, Schiff lobbied tirelessly among commercial adversaries and cohorts alike to grant high-risk war loans to the Japanese. About $ 100 million, suddenly infused, quickly armed the underequipped Japanese, allowing them to score a series of humiliating victories. [44] Schiff's loans were officially recognized as the pivotal factor in Japan's victory, and the Jewish leader was commemorated in Japanese newspapers and history books as a new national hero. [45]

The banking boycott and the financing of Japan's victory were only the first rounds. In 1906, Schiff and other influential Hofjuden formed the American Jewish Committee. Their first major objective was abrogation of the Russo-American commercial treaty, the legal basis of all friendly relations with Russia. The Committee asserted that the czar's denial of Russian visas to Jewish American citizens was an affront not just to America's Jewish citizens but to the United States itself. [46]

Although William Taft had issued a presidential campaign promise of abrogation, he refused to honor his pledge once elected. During a February 1911 White House luncheon for Committee leaders, when Taft rendered his final refusal to abrogate, Schiff warned, "We had hoped you would see that justice be done us. You have decided otherwise. We shall now go to the American people." Schiff then stalked from the room, refusing to even shake the president's hand. On the way out, Schiff whispered to fellow Committee leaders, "This means war!" [47]

Calling upon all friends and resources, the Committee began a widespread public appeal to have Congress force the president to end commercial relations with Russia. Within weeks, House and Senate abrogation resolutions -- each personally approved by the Committee -- were prepared. On December 13, 1911, after the House voted 300 to 1 to abrogate, Taft capitulated, and two days later issued instructions to terminate the treaty. [48]

Despite abrogation, the czar would not yield. Massacres continued, and the Jewish death toll rose. So the banking boycott was tightened. Its effects became most destructive, however, during World War I, when the czar needed multimillion-dollar military loans. Committee members were widely criticized for the stubborn continuation of their boycott even as it threatened the Allied war effort. But the boycott remained in effect until the monarchy was toppled in 1917. [49]

Throughout the nearly fifteen years of anti-czar boycott and backlash, threats of retaliation against Russian Jewry never deterred the men of the Committee. And in fact, during the anti-czar crusade, thousands of Russian lives were lost and hundreds of thousands more were devastated in pogroms. But the Committee held that the anti-Semitic outrages of one regime could spread infectiously if not quarantined.

Jacob Schiff addressed the issue in a 1905 cable to Russian premier Count Sergei Witte: "No doubt ... your local authorities, seeing the coming of the end of the old regime, . . . have in their rage . . . instigated the populace against the Jews .... Jewry in general will have at least this consolation; that the present awful sufferings of their co-religionists will not have been for naught, nor their blood spilled in vain." A year later, President Theodore Roosevelt warned Schiff that U.S. protests against pogroms might only provoke more harm from an indignant czar. Schiff ignored the warning, determined that such genocidal actions could not go unprotested. [50]

And in early 1911, Schiff acknowledged in a letter to Taft that as a result of "action on our part, pogroms and massacres of Russian Jews, such as shocked the world in 1905, might be repeated." But he assured the president that the world Jewish community and even the Russian Jews themselves knew such risks were unavoidable. The responsibility for bloody reprisals would be taken "upon our own shoulders," said Schiff. He added, "it was recognized by our co-religionists that in such a situation, as in war, each and every man, wherever placed, must be ready to suffer, and if need be to sacrifice his life." [51]

The art of economic and political confrontation -- public and private -- was thus a tested and endorsed tradition of the American Jewish Committee. In 1929, Committee president Cyrus Adler wrote an authorized biography of the great economic warrior of the Jews, entitled Jacob H. Schiff, His Life and Letters. The book detailed Schiff's and the Committee's tradition of unrelenting economic and political retaliation -- regardless of the short-term risks -- against those who would threaten Jewish rights. The book's foreword hoped its accounts of staunch Jewish defense would "prove of some value in guiding and inspiring others. [52]

For the three and a half decades before Hitler's rise to power in 1933, the Jews of America were actively engaged in international and domestic boycotts to fight anti-Semitism. They used the backlash weapon to fill newspapers and congressional hearing rooms with the gruesome truths of Jewish oppression. The Jews of America could lead public opinion and marshal government action. They had this power and they used it continuously.

Wielding this power inspired the conspiracy stories. And so Jewish leaders were often reluctant. But what choices did they have? After its expulsion from Israel in the second century, Judaism became a religion without a state and thus without an army.

Papal legions could crush rebellions. Crusaders could invade lands. Islamic armies could conquer and convert. To survive, Jews could only use what they had. And what they had was what they were allowed to have. For centuries, denied lands, denied access to the professions, denied military rank, Jews were forced to deal with money, with trade, with middlemanship, with bargains, with influence, with the portable professions. And so Jews fought fire not with fire but with money, with the media, with access to high position, not in some imaginary conspiracy to dominate the world but in an ongoing effort to stay one step ahead of the blade, the noose, and the burning stake.

Yet the Jewish leaders most skilled in wielding the boycott and backlash weapon would in 1933 refuse, in part because the enemy was now Germany, Fatherland of the Committee. It was now German Jewish blood that would be spilled -- not Russian Jewish. It was now their own uncles and lifetime friends whose lives would be subject to reprisal in any war for Jewish rights.

Those skilled in using Jewish weapons would also refuse because a wholly new tactic would now be used to shape Jewish destiny. Palestine would be the new solution. Hence, the question was now whether to use or not to use the one weapon Jews had, the one weapon they knew how to use: boycott and protest.

Yet the one weapon Jews had was the one weapon Hitler feared.
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4. The Lonely Decision

By NAZI DOCTRINE and their facade of self-confidence, National Socialism should have been un bothered by the Jews of New York parading up and down, waving resolutions and condemnatory posters on March 23. Adolf Hitler had declared long ago that the Nazis would never negotiate with the Jews -- their opinions, their demands, their fury was meaningless in his program of destiny for Germany. [1] On March 23, the Reichstag granted Hitler legal dictatorial powers. It was a moment of long-awaited triumph for the Nazis. But in fact, March 23, 1933, was a day that frightened the Reich.

A boycott was being organized by the Jewish War Veterans to enthusiastic approval from a gamut of political and social groups. Dr. Stephen Wise would lead an international day of anti-German protest on March 27. Thousands were scheduled to rally at Madison Square Garden. Supportive rallies would be held simultaneously in eighty other American cities. And the New York rally would be broadcast throughout the United States. [2]

European Jewish circles would broadcast the New York rally into Germany itself from stations in neighboring Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. English was widely spoken among the commercially oriented German families owning Germany's more than 5 million radios -- approximately one in every four German households.

In Warsaw, a coalition of political, commercial, and religious organizations was debating whether all Poland should follow the lead of the Vilna Jews and the American Jewish War Veterans. Poland's final deliberations on the boycott question were timed to coincide with the Madison Square Garden rally. Boycott movements were also fast developing in Lithuania, France, Holland, Great Britain, and Egypt. [3]

Early results were beginning to show. German steamship lines in New York, which were valuable foreign-currency earners, reported a rash of canceled bookings. One German vessel, the Europa, lost twenty-five passengers just before sailing; all of them transferred to the U.S.-owned Manhattan, citing their displeasure with the Hitler regime. British trade unionists and Labour party leaders began posting BOYCOTT GERMAN GOODS notices throughout London, especially the East End. One Jewish-owned firm immediately cancelled orders for £14,000 of German goods, and publicly resubmitted the orders to American suppliers. [4]

As the first anti-Nazi boycott rumblings were heard in Germany, Adolf Hitler was trying to emphasize Germany's desire for unhampered trade relations. In a major speech to the Reichstag that March 23, upon receiving his dictatorial powers, der Fuhrer declared: "We need contact with the outside world, and our foreign markets furnish a livelihood for millions of our fellow citizens." The German government followed up Hitler's speech with an immediate appeal to foreign correspondents whose newspapers were publicizing boycott activities. If the economic boycott against Germany is executed, "as is agitated by certain American circles," the Reich statement asked, how "is the question of private debts to be regulated properly?" [5]

By the next day, March 24, Reich leaders realized that boycott agitation was accelerating, especially in Great Britain. Placards proclaiming BOYCOTT GERMAN GOODS spread infectiously throughout London, and were now in the windows of the most exclusive West End shops. Automobiles bannering boycott placards slowly cruised through the retail districts alerting shoppers. Everywhere store signs warned German salesmen not to enter. British Catholics had been urged by the Archbishop of Liverpool to join the protest. London's Daily Herald carried an interview with a prominent Jewish leader who admitted, "The [Jewish] leaders are hanging back," but the Jewish people are "forcing its leaders on." Already the boycott had damaged "hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of German trade." [6]

The volume of German goods sold abroad was already dangerously low. Germany simply could not stand further export reductions. [7] By March 24, enough consular dispatches had been received in Berlin to paint a clear picture. The rudimentary boycott was indeed snowballing, apparently building to a climax when it would be globally proclaimed by Dr. Stephen Wise. Nazi leadership reacted with paranoia and militancy. Hermann Goering, Prussian minister of the interior and president of the Reichstag, summoned the heads of Germany's three major Jewish organizations: Julius Brodnitz, chairman of the Central Verein; Dr. Max Naumann of the fiercely patriotic Union of National German Jews; and Heinrich Stahl, president of the Berlin Jewish Community. They were to appear in Goering's office at noon the next day, Saturday, March 25. [8]

The Zionists had not been invited. Goering despised the Zionists, as did most Nazis. True, the National Socialists hoped to use Zionism to rid Germany -- indeed Europe -- of its Jews. But they also distrusted it as one of the three serpentine heads of international Jewry. According to Nazi philosophers, capitalism and Bolshevism were both creations of the so-called Jewish conspiracy. The twisted rationale accused Jews of using either method to topple governments in their quest for world domination. Zionism, in the Nazi view, was the ultimate goal of Jewish international efforts. [9] Moreover, the Nazis knew that the German Zionist movement did not really represent German Jewry. Zionist groups themselves estimated their own strength at only 1 or 2 percent of the country's Jews. [10]The Zionist concept was anathema to the overwhelming majority, who considered themselves assimilated, loyal Germans. Zionism was equally repugnant to orthodox German Jews, who spurned Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land on religious grounds (e.g., that only the Jewish Messiah could reinstate the Kingdom of the Jews). In 1933, then, Zionism in Germany Was a mere Jewish fringe movement.

Though not invited, the German Zionist Federation (ZVID) did learn of the summit just a few hours before the meeting. ZVID official Martin Rosenbluth and Federation president Kurt Blumenfeld were mystified about the purpose of the conference, but both men concluded that German Zionism must be present. After frantic telephoning, a Reich contact succeeded in adding Blumenfeld's name to the invitation list. [11]

At about noon, the two Zionists entered the anteroom outside Goering's private office. The three other Jewish leaders were surprised to see them. Brodnitz, of the Central Verein, tried to be cordial and make small talk. But staunchly anti-Zionist Naumann, of the Union of National German Jews, angrily lashed out at Rosenbluth. Why, demanded Naumann, should Zionists have any right to attend a meeting between the government and "the legitimate representatives ofthe German Jews"? Rosenbluth reacted with his own barbed rhetoric, and within moments the two leaders were trading denigrations. The verbal fight ended only when a uniformed Goering aide entered the room. [12]

Hermann Goering was ready to see them, announced the aide, if they would follow him. All five Jewish leaders began walking into the inner office, but the aide stopped Rosenbluth, asserting that Blumenfeld was the only Zionist on the official list. [13]

As Naumann, Brodnitz, Stahl, and Blumenfeld entered the minister's office, they saw Goering standing in the middle of the room dressed in his Storm Trooper's uniform, thus making clear his dual capacity as government minister and Nazi party leader. In the beginning, decorum was observed. The uniformed aide formally introduced each Jewish leader by name and organization. But the formalities ended there. The men were not invited to be seated.14 It was plain that, unlike the two previous Jewish conferences in which Goering had politely apologized for transgressions of Nazi zealots, this would not be a friendly encounter.

Goering immediately ripped into the Jewish leaders, accusing them of responsibility for the malicious and treasonable atrocity headlines in the English and American press. The Jewish leaders, trying to hold their ground, denied any knowledge of the newspaper articles. [15] Goering snapped his fingers. The uniformed aide appeared. He was instructed to fetch the clippings. Once Goering had them in hand, he began reading them aloud, growing angrier with each paragraph. In a frenzied shout he warned, "Unless you put a stop to these libelous accusations immediately, I shall no longer be able to vouch for the safety of the German Jews!" [16]

The Jewish leaders attempted to downplay the newspaper accounts. But Goering would not hear any explanations. He ordered them to go to London immediately to convince the British Jews, and from there the American Jews, that Jews in Germany were not experiencing physical mistreatment, that the newspaper stories were despicable lies. [17]

Goering then turned to his main worry, the upcoming day of protest and the giant Madison Square Garden rally. Goering cited the dangers of such a rally to Germany's position. With deadly seriousness, he gave the Jewish leaders his prime directive: "The most important thing is for you to make sure that the protest meeting called in New York by Dr. Stephen S. Wise is canceled. That assembly must not take place. Dr. Wise is one of our most dangerous and unscrupulous enemies." [18]

The three Jewish leaders, desperate to disown any supposed influence over Jewish actions in Great Britain or America, denied there would be any usefulness to their visiting London. Brodnitz assured Goering that the Central Verein maintained absolutely no connections with overseas Jewish organizations. [19] Brodnitz dared not mention that Central Verein vice-president Ernest Wallach was already in America trying to dissuade the Congress. It was important for the Jewish leaders to explicitly deny any relationship with Jews in other countries -- if only to refute the Nazi accusation of an international Jewish conspiracy.

But then Blumenfeld stepped forward on behalf of the Zionists, declaring that the German Zionist Federation was uniquely capable of conferring with Jewish leaders in other countries, since German Zionists were affiliated with a worldwide organization. [20] Once uttered, the words forever changed the relationship between the Nazis and the Zionists. It was suddenly clear that the Jewish group the Reich had been ignoring was, in fact, the one it should be negotiating with in its efforts to combat the Jewish presence in Germany. After all, both Nazis and Zionists agreed that Jews did not belong in Germany.

Blumenfeld quickly added that even if a Zionist representative did journey to London, there was no chance of exerting any influence over American or British Jewry unless the Zionists had permission to tell "the full truth." [21] Goering exploded, shouting "What is there to tell? You know perfectly well there has been no change in the situation of the Jews, and that nothing untoward has happened to them." Naumann bravely contradicted the shouting Goering, declaring that Goering "must not be well informed" if he was unaware of the radical change in the physical safety of Jews in Germany. Naumann boldly recited case after case of violence against Jews, ranging from manhandling to vicious beatings and death. He then produced a clipping of his own from a Nazi newspaper including a photograph of Jews being forced to wash the streets in Chemnitz. Goering's tirade was abruptly halted by the clip. He passed over the Jewish evidence almost in embarrassment. Then, in a complete about-face, Goering declared he did not object to the facts being told to American and British Jewish organizations, as long as those foreign Jewish organizations would immediately call a halt to the "vicious atrocity propaganda." [22] Tiring of the meeting, Goering demanded that whichever of them went to London was unimportant to him -- so long as a delegation left Berlin by the next day.

Each of the four Jewish organizations immediately set about fulfilling its obligation as best it could. Brodnitz, Naumann, and Stahl beseeched their friends and associates to flood U.S. and British government offices and Jewish organizations with every form of denial and disclaimer. Doctors, lawyers, professors, bankers, prominent journalists and their newspapers, professional and civic organizations of every category -- they all tried by cable, phone, and letter to convince Jewish organizations to call off the Madison Square Garden rally. [23]



Central Verein vice-president Ernest Wallach was already traveling through America (ostensibly on business) to help restrain Jewish American protest fervor. Upon hearing of the Goering order, he also wired Stephen Wise, pleading that if the rally could not be canceled, at least would Wise direct the speakers to "refrain from stirring the emotions of the audience against Germany." [26]

The German Jewish protests were transparent attempts to mollify the threatening Nazis, who believed that German Jewry was orchestrating the international anti-Hitler movement. Typical was the official denial of the Central Verein, directed principally at American Jews. Claiming that media stories of Germany's anti-Semitism were "inexcusable distortions," the Central Verein demanded that the foreign press and foreign Jewish groups leave the Reich's internal politics to the Reich. [27]

Yet hundreds of word-of-mouth reports, courageous letters -- some mere scraps of paper smuggled out of Germany -- argued forcibly for the truth. One eloquent message delivered to Rabbi Wise said simply, "Do not believe the denials. Nor the Jewish denials." [28]

"Pitifully unconvincing," declared American Jewish Congress president Bernard Deutsch in a public reaction to the Central Verein's statement. "The denial does not deny, as indeed it would be futile to deny in the teeth of overwhelming evidence ... the tales of persecution and horror which thousands are telling." [29]

Rabbi Wise was equally undeterred by the German Jewish protests under duress. "We have no quarrel with our Jewish brothers in Germany and their leaders," Wise declared, "but their policy of uncomplaining assent and of supercautious silence has borne evil fruit." [30]

When in 1932 the Nazi ascent to power became a distinct possibility, Stephen Wise summoned Jewish leaders from many nations to Geneva, Switzerland, for a World Jewish Conference -- the first of its kind. The conference was intended as the first step in forming a World Jewish Congress to deal with the welfare of Jews outside Palestine. As such it would be a counterbalance to the Zionist Organization, which was strictly concerned with Jews emigrating to and prospering in Palestine. But German Jewish leaders in Germany and America refused to cooperate with Wise's warning to Germany against installing Adolf Hitler. The Central Verein leadership, seconded by the American Jewish Committee, insisted Hitler was no real threat to German Jewry, and demanded that foreign Jewish groups keep out of Germany's domestic affairs. [31]

Now as the hour of protest approached, only one man had the power to stop the rally -- Rabbi Stephen S. Wise. But he was holding fast. When the Committee realized they couldn't actually stop the rally, they tried to convince eminent scheduled speakers to cancel their appearances. New York Governor Herbert Lehman, whose older brother was a Committee vice-president, was persuaded to honor another commitment in Albany. New York City Mayor John O'Brien, a visible supporter of the Jewish War Veteran boycott, was almost talked out of appearing at Madison Square Garden. [32]

When simple arguments failed, the Committee resorted to personal attacks against Wise himself. Distinguished Baltimore Rabbi William Rosenau, a lifelong and cherished friend of Rabbi Wise, forfeited his relationship with Wise when he tried to keep people from the rally by saying, "Dr. Wise will kill the Jews of Germany." Wise wrote his friend, "You have borne false witness against a man, a colleague, and a friend. I can nevermore have any word with you or see you again. Men like you are responsible in part for what is happening in Germany. If counsels of expediency and timidity such as your own had not prevailed in Jewish life in Germany during the last ten years, this great disaster might have been averted." [33]

Last-minute pressure on Rabbi Wise continued that Sunday. Secretary of State Cordell Hull tried to lull Wise into procrastination with false reports of amelioration. On March 26, Hull sent a telegram to the presidents of the Big Three pretending to show State Department action. Hull's telegram, which he released to the press, began, "You will remember ... I informed you that, in view of numerous press statements indicating widespread mistreatment of the Jews in Germany, I would request the American Embassy at Berlin ... to investigate the situation and submit a report. A reply indicates "that whereas there was for a short time considerable physical mistreatment of Jews, this phase may be considered virtually terminated." [34]

In truth, no investigation took place. No real report was submitted. After Wise moved the State Department to announce an investigation on March 21, Hull had cabled U.S. charge d'affaires George Gordon in Berlin, saying, "We are under heavy pressure to make representations on their [the Jew's] behalf to the German government." Hull had added that he didn't want to make any such protests, but if some assuasive statement could be issued to the press, it might help cancel the "monster mass meeting" Wise had scheduled for March 27. [35]

Within a few hours of receiving the cable on March 25, Gordon dictated a response to Hull, suggesting that a few out-of-context sentences from an earlier telegram be used as the "backbone" of Hull's so-called report. The sentence to be excerpted referred to official Reich assurances that the violence against Jews would soon end. Later in his March 25 cable, Gordon reported the true situation to Hull: that Jewish expulsions from professional life were imminent, that Nazi denials of anti-Semitic violence were "absurd," and that Jewish German groups issuing public denials of anti-Semitic violence were probably doing so under duress. Still, Gordon suggested that Hull use the coerced Jewish denials along with hollow German reassurances to paint a false picture of amelioration. [36]

But upon receipt of Hull's telegram, Wise and Bernard Deutsch sent off a diplomatic rejection of its unbelievable assurances. "In the name of the American Jewish Congress, we wish to thank you for your prompt report on the situation in Germany, which confirms our fears." [37]

That weekend, the German embassy in Washington telephoned Dr. Wise several times, assuring him that if only the rally were called off, the Jewish situation in Germany would improve. But Wise still would not back down. [38]

Finally, after the American Jewish Committee, the State Department, and the government of Germany had failed to dissuade Wise, the Zionists tried. Stephen Wise was a cornerstone activist in the American Zionist movement. So when the German Zionists whom Goering had ordered to London telephoned Wise as instructed, it was hard for him to deny their request. [39] But the very fact that Zionist officials were asking him to abandon his protest shook Wise deeply.

Public pressures and protests were commonplace to Rabbi Wise, He had lived in controversy for decades. Born in Budapest in 1874, but immediately brought to America, Wise grew up in New York City, where his father, Aaron, served as rabbi of a local synagogue. As a teenager, Stephen committed himself to rabbinical study. At age nineteen, with postgraduate studies in Oxford, he was ordained by Vienna's chief rabbi. Shortly thereafter, Wise accepted his first congregation in New York. In 1897, Wise and other leading Jews established the Federation of American Zionists. The next year, Wise was appointed the American secretary of the world Zionist movement. At the time, Zionism was but a flicker in the imagination of a few determined Jews. It outraged the bulk of world Jewry and was viewed with suspicion by Christians. Defending the movement became a daily chore. [40]

In 1900, Wise became rabbi of a Portland congregation. He was soon involved in turn-of-the-century reform movements, including child labor, women's suffrage, and Negro rights. The governor of Oregon had even appointed him commissioner of Child Labor. [41]

In 1906, Rabbi Wise returned to New York, where scores of thousands of Jewish refugees from Russia, Poland, and Rumania were seeking shelter. He spurned an opportunity to serve at Temple Emanu-El, the fashionable synagogue of the elitist German Jews. Instead he founded the Free Synagogue, operating out of the Hudson Theatre, and later a branch on the Lower East Side. The Free Synagogue established a Social Service Division to aid the deprived and dispossessed -- regardless of religion -- as they struggled to remain warm, stay fed, and acquire an education. The Jewish masses saw this work as a social crusade. Later Wise joined with Christian counterparts -- minister John Haynes Holmes, Jane Addams, and other reformers- -- o create the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which fought for Negro rights and opportunity. [42]

Stephen Wise was an eloquent, feisty, determined, and often self-righteous fighter for the people, a man who found his inner strength and outer support most vitalized when struggling for the underdog against powerful adversaries. In his late twenties, his handsome roughhewn face became familiar on the national political scene. President Woodrow Wilson counted him as a key supporter, and friendships with several Supreme Court justices provided him access to virtually any portal in Washington. Wise's closeness to Woodrow Wilson and his advisers made the rabbi a factor in America's endorsement of Britain's Balfour Declaration. Just after the Great War, Wise was a leading advocate for guaranteed Jewish minority rights, a prime supporter of America's most important labor unions, and a cofounder of the American Civil Liberties Union. [43]

Wise took on the Jewish establishment as well, when in the early 1920S he organized the Jewish masses into the permanent American Jewish Congress. [44]

During the mid-1920s, he supported unions in bitter labor disputes, undeterred by ax-handles and private armies. He fought the Ku Klux Klan throughout the North and the South and was a leader in the protest over the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. Wise even shook off the wrath of almost every American Jew as press reports distorted his 1925 sermon affirming that Jesus was a Jew whom "Christians deny in fact and Jews deny in name ... a man not myth, human not God, Jew not Christian." [45]

Wise thrived on controversy and the painful pursuit of his beliefs, no matter how bitter the consequences. He was a man who would sever a lifelong friendship because of a loose comment or cut himself off from his own people rather than retract a statement he believed to be true. And he was accustomed to rallying thousands in bitter, frequently violent battles to achieve a lasting principle.

And yet, as the hour pulled closer for the Madison Square rally, Stephen Wise experienced indecision. He weighed the moral imperative of standing up to Hitler against the risk of provoking the Nazis to unleash an organized pogrom that would leave Jews bloodied across Germany. Would the rally make a difference? Had the protest gone far enough, or was it only starting? Would delay merely provide the Third Reich with the breathing time it needed to organize its destruction of the Jews? Stephen S. Wise, who had stood alone on any issue, fought alone on any battle, could not alone make this decision.

On March 27, Rabbi Wise telephoned the one man in America whose judgment he valued perhaps more than his own -- his dearest friend, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. They spoke briefly and Wise put it to his friend simply. Do it or not? Brandeis answered, "Go ahead and make the protest as good as you can." Wise hung up. His decision was now final. [46]
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Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:10 am

5. Madison Square

THE RALLY didn't start until after 8:00 P.M., but by 2:30 P.M. on March 27, 1933, people were waiting outside Madison Square Garden. Once the doors were unlocked, a flow of people began that continued for hours. By 5:30, traffic snarled as thousands more jammed the streets around Madison Square. People were backed all the way down the subway stairs. Six hundred policemen formed a blue-coat chain along the crosswalks just to allow pedestrians to pass. [1]

Suddenly, in the midst of the many, came distant sounds of drums and fifes that added distinctly American excitement to the scene. Those people nearest the Garden probably could not see the approaching formation, even as the marching staccato became louder and closer. But then, off on a side street, a drum and bugle corps appeared, all war veterans stepping proudly, with banners denouncing the Third Reich. By plan they were to enter the Garden in a dramatic flourish, but as the streets became thicker the marchers could not move. Up against barriers of mounted policemen, the veterans marched in place, waiting for an opening, their skirls and drumbeats continuing a cadence for the crowd. [2]

Inevitably the streets became chaotic as protesters tried to force through the doors of the Garden. But the aisles and balconies and lobbies of Madison Square Garden were already filled. [3]

Orders went out. The doors were closed with 20,000 inside. But the crowds outside demanded entry and the police started to react. Superior officers rushed in to calm the frenzy. Public loudspeakers were hastily mounted to control an estimated 35,000 anxious citizens crammed into the streets around the Garden. Pleas by police and protest marshals diverted some of the thousands to a second ad hoc rally at nearby Columbus Circle. It wasn't enough. More overflow rallies were frantically set up along the nearby intersections. New York had never seen anything like it. [4] Americans of all persuasions and descents were united against Adolf Hitler, and they wanted their country to do something about it. Decades later they would be accused of apathy and inaction. But on March 27, 1933, the citizens of the United States were anything but apathetic.

Fifty-five thousand were gathered in and around Madison Square Garden. Supportive rallies were at that moment waiting in Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, Houston, and about seventy other American cities. At each supportive rally, thousands huddled around loudspeakers waiting for the Garden event, which would be broadcast live via radio relay to 200 additional cities across the country. At least I million Jews were participating nationwide. Perhaps another million Americans of non-Jewish heritage stood with them. [5]

Hundreds of thousands more were waiting in Europe. Congress president Bernard Deutsch had sent out last minute cables to Jewish protest leaders in Latvia, Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere throughout the Continent. Anti-Reich activists across the Atlantic had agreed to hold their protests in abeyance until signaled from New York. When the go-ahead was received, plans were put into effect. Poland was typical. A national day of fasting was authorized by rabbinical bodies. The Warsaw Stock Exchange shut down early. Poland's government even released an order dissolving a large portion of the Polish Hitlerites. Anti-Hitler parades and meetings were granted approval, while police banned counterdemonstrations by Nazi sympathizers. [6]

Inside the Garden itself, the guest speakers were delayed. People were shouting, feet were stamping, chairs were banging. The din was equaled outside, where loudspeakers pleaded for order as the program organizers tried to start. Abruptly in the midst of the tumult, when it seemed the crowd would wait no longer, an eighty-year-old orthodox rabbi, M.S. Margolies, approached the lectern and touched the microphone. The audience came to a sudden silence. The hush spread outside as people strained to hear. Rabbi Margolies chanted a plaintive Hebraic prayer of chilling power, his voice beseeching God in the name of humanity that the persecutions in Germany stop. The chant was heard around the world. [7]

Among the first to speak was Alfred E. Smith, former New York governor and popular Catholic figure. Smith, in his plain-folks style, declared that of all the times he had addressed the public in Madison Square Garden, no rally could give him greater satisfaction because the opportunity to stand up against bigotry was both a duty and a right. He admitted there had been great pressures to keep him from speaking: "I got all kinds of telegrams ... telling me there wasn't any reason for a meeting, that nothing had taken place [in Germany], that we wanted to avoid the possibility of hysteria at a time like this. Well, all 1can say about that is ... drag it out into the open sunlight and give it the same treatment that we gave the Ku Klux Klan .... it don't make any difference to me whether it is a brown shirt or a night shirt." The crowd cheered its approval repeatedly as Smith used down-home lingo, puns, and sarcasm to ridicule der Fuhrer and his Storm Troopers. But before Smith finished, he became stern and in sober tones warned the German nation not to descend into a barbaric war against the Jews. [8]

Bishop John J. Dunn of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, because of State Department and American Jewish Committee assurances, had reneged on his promise to appear. But other clergymen, including Bishop Francis L McConnell, refused to back down. Bishop McConnell warned, "People say, 'Why not let Germany run things to suit herself?' My friends, that is just the quickest way to plunge the world into war again. If there is no protest at all against so completely out-of-date a thing as the anti-Semitic movement ... [then] after a while ... the situation becomes intolerable and then we resort to force." He added that anti-Nazi rallies and protest actions must continue, even if persecutions in Germany temporarily ceased, until the Nazis were out of power. [9]

The applause and cheers for Bishop McConnell's words were followed by a procession of politicians and clergymen, each likewise committing his supporters to the struggle against Hitlerism. And then the crowd heard from the most experienced economic battle group in America -- organized labor.

William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, pledged the active involvement of 3 million American unionists. "I come tonight in the name of Labor," Green declared, "protesting in its sacred name against the atrocities perpetrated upon the Jewish population of Germany. I transmit to the German trade unions, the masses of the people, the hosts of labor in Germany, and to the Jewish people an expression of sympathy.... We pledge to them our moral and economic support ... [to] do all that lies within our power" to end "the campaign of persecution against the Jewish people in Germany." [10]

Labor's involvement could make any boycott almost totally effective, especially if longshoremen refused to off-load German merchandise at the docks. So Green's words were powerful threats. "We will not remain passive and unconcerned when the relatives, families, and brethren of the Jewish members of our great organization are being persecuted and oppressed," Green promised. [11]

Other eminent figures continued to enthrall the rally, including crusading minister John Haynes Holmes, New York Senator Robert Wagner, Der Tog editor Samuel Margoshes, Joseph Tenenbaum of the American Jewish Congress, and Chaim Greenberg of the Labor Zionists. Many more wishing to address the meeting could not, and sent telegrams instead: the Speaker of the House, the governor of Illinois, a senator from California, the governor of Iowa, the Senate majority leader, the governor of Oregon, scores of civic, social, commercial, labor, fraternal, and religious organizations. All condemned the Third Reich in explicit language and expressed solidarity with the movement to overturn Hitler. [12]

The protest rally received such vocal support that the thousands ignored the nonappearance of the American Jewish Committee and B'nai B'rith. Nor did they notice the absence of any message from the one man the nation expected to sympathize -- President Roosevelt.

Then, with the audience primed and anxious, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise stepped forward to the most thunderous ovation he had ever received. After many attempts, the crowd finally quieted, and Dr. Wise began. He surprised many by discarding some of the dramatic techniques he often employed. At first he spoke in conciliatory tones, in the hopes of communicating with the people in Germany, "Not out of the bitterness of anger, but out of the ... spirit of compassion do we speak tonight. ... We are not against Germany . . . . We are the friends of and believers in Germany-Germany at its highest, Germany at its truest, the German nation at its noblest." [13]

The other speakers had threatened and ridiculed the Nazis. Wise was showing the route away from conflict: cessation of anti-Semitism. He made it clear that even that demand was not an attempt to interfere with Germany's domestic affairs, but simply an insistence upon fundamental human rights or, as he called them, "axioms of civilizations." His manner was calm, steady. [14]

But then he began to build. "To those leaders of Germany who declare that the present situation in Germany is a local German question, we call attention to the words of Abraham Lincoln. Defenders of slavery urged and excused slavery on the ground that it was local. Lincoln's answer was slavery is local but freedom is national!" The crowd burst into excited approval. Wise kept building, as he demanded "the immediate cessation of anti-Semitic activities and propaganda in Germany, including an end to the racial discrimination against and economic exclusion of Jews from the life of Germany . . . . the human rights of Jews must be safeguarded .... Whatever be the threat of reprisal, none of these [demands] can be withdrawn or altered or moderated." [15]

Turning to Jewish leaders in Germany and their advocates in America, Wise disqualified their pleas for an end to the protest as "panic and terror" from those who had failed to fight Nazism before the NSDAP came to power. He vowed the anti-Hitler protest would escalate, even if pseudoameliorations appeared: "Even if life and human rights are to be safeguarded, there must not be a substitution of the status of helotry [serfdom] for violence. Such substitution will not satisfy us" -- the throng interrupted with cheers of encouragement -- "nor satisfy the aroused conscience of humankind." The crowd offered their own punctuation as Wise declared, "Every form of economic discrimination is a form of violence. Every racial exclusion is violence. To say that there will be no pogroms is not enough. A dry and bloodless economic pogrom remains violence and force." [16] Above the cheering he warned the Third Reich, '~nd if things are to be worse because of our protest, if there are to be new penalties and new reprisals in Germany ... then humbly and sorrowfully we bow our heads in the presence of the tragic fate that threatens." But, "Hear the word of a great English statesman: 'Providence would deal good or ill fortune to nations according as they dealt well or ill by the Jews.' This is not a warning, but a prophecy!" [17]

Rabbi Stephen Wise paused to speak the final words of his oration. The crowd hushed. "To this mighty protest Germany cannot fail to give heed and to answer." Then he pointed dramatically to the members of the audience and in a firm voice said, "I ask you by rising to signify to us and to all the world that you agree with us in our stand to bring about justice ... from Germany to the Jew." [18]

In a thunderous motion, 20,000 Americans rose as one to their feet. The immense noise of the act and the rising voices created a sound that must have seemed like a massive sleeping animal suddenly awakening. That moment of solidarity was shared by the 20,000 in Madison Square Garden, the 35,000 more standing outside the Garden, a million others in supportive rallies in other cities, and millions more in their homes hearing the protest live on radio throughout America and in thirteen nations. [19] The world was warned. Germany was on notice.

Rabbi Wise stood down, ready to accept whatever was Germany's response to his plea, challenge, and warning. Without question, the struggle against Hitler was now in the open.
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