ZIONISM IN THE AGE OF DICTATORS
Hitler's view of the Jews and the Jewish problem is sharply expressed in Mein Kampf. He goes to great lengths to demonstrate that his Jew-hatred was quite reasonable, that it flowed from experience and the logical inferences to be drawn from clear evidence. He always insisted that his first thoughts towards the Jews were all benign. His father, 'the old gentleman', looked upon anti-Semitism as a left-over religious prejudice and so, we are told, did the enlightened young Adolf. It was only after his mother died, and he moved from provincial Linz to Vienna, that Hitler found occasion to question the glib assumptions of his youth. For there he wandered through the old inner city and encountered a Galician Hasid, 'an apparition in a black caftan and black hair locks. Is this a Jew? was my first thought.' But the more he thought about what he had seen, the more his question assumed a new form: 'Is this a German?'It is in the context of his earliest ruminations on what was, for him, the central question of existence that he introduced Zionism into his opus.
And whatever doubts I may still have nourished were finally dispelled by the attitude of a portion of the Jews themselves. Among them there was a great movement, quite extensive in Vienna, which came out sharply in confirmation of the national character of the Jews: this was the Zionists.
It looked, to be sure, as though only a part of the Jews approved this viewpoint, while the majority condemned and inwardly rejected such a formulation. But... the so-called liberal Jews did not reject the Zionists as non-Jews, but only as Jews with an impractical, perhaps even dangerous, way of publicly avowing their Jewishness.
There is no better proof of Zionism's classic role as an outrider to anti-Semitism than Hitler's own statement. What more, the reader was to ask, could any reasonable person need? However, before 1914 Hitler had no need to concern himself further with Zionism, as the prospects of a revived Jewish state seemed very remote. It was the Balfour Declaration, Germany's defeat and the Weimar revolution that made him think again about Zionism. Naturally he rolled all three events together. The treacherous Jews showed their true colours in the way in which they welcomed the Balfour Declaration, and it was the Social Democrats, those servants of the Jews, who brought down the Kaiser; but for them Germany would have won. In 1919 Hitler joined the tiny National Socialists and became their inspired beer-hall rabblerouser, but the dominant ideologist on the finer points of the Jewish question was the Baltic German refugee Alfred Rosenberg, who had developed his theories while still in his native Estonia. By 19l9 Rosenberg had already explained Zionism in his book, Die Spur des Juden im Wandel der Zeiten (The Trace of the Jews in the Wanderings of Time) It was just another Jewish hustle; the Zionists only wanted to create a hide-out for the international Jewish conspiracy. Jews were, by their racial nature, organically incapable of building a state of their own, but he felt that Zionist ideology served wonderfully as a justification for depriving Germany's Jews of their rights and that, perhaps, there was the possibility of future use of the movement for the promotion of Jewish emigration. Hitler soon began to touch on these themes in his talks, and on 6 July 1920 he proclaimed that Palestine was the proper place for the Jews and that only there could they hope to get their rights. Articles supporting emigration to Palestine began appearing in the party organ, the Volkischer Beobachter, after l920, and periodically party propagandists would return to the point, as did Julius Streicher in a speech given on 20 April 1996 before the Bavarian Landtag. But for Hitler the validity of Zionism only lay in its confirmation that the Jews could never be Germans. In Mein Kampf, he wrote:
For while the Zionists try to make the rest of the world believe that the national consciousness of the Jew finds its satisfaction in the creation of a Palestinian state, ther Jews again slyly dupe the dumb goyim. It doesn't even enter their heads to build up a Jewish state for the purpose of living there; all they want is a central organisation for their international world swindle, endowed with its own sovereign rights and removed from the intervention of other states: a haven for convicted scoundrels and a university for budding crooks.
Jews lacked the essential racial character to build a state of their own. They were essentially leeches, lacking in natural idealism, and they hated work. He explained:
For a state formation to have a definite spatial setting always presupposes an idealistic attitude on the part of the state-race, and especially a correct interpretation of the concept of work. In the exact measure in which this attitude is lacking, any attempt at forming, even of preserving, a spatially delimited state fails.
In spite of any early musings about Zionism's efficacy in eventually promoting emigration, the Nazis made no effort to establish any relationship with the local Zionists. On the contrary, when the Zionist Congress met in Vienna in 1925, the Nazis were among those who rioted against their presence.
Nazi Patronage of Zionism
Did Hitler always plan to murder the Jews? He set down some early thoughts in Mein Kampf:
If in 1914 the German working class in their innermost convictions had still consisted of Marxists, the War would have been over in three weeks. Germany would have collapsed even before the first soldier set foot across the border. No, the fact that the German people was then still fighting proved that the Marxist delusion had not yet been able to gnaw its way into the bottommost depths. But in exact proportion as, in the course of the War, the German worker and the German soldier fell back into the hands of the Marxist leaders, in exactly that proportion he was lost to the fatherland. If at the beginning of the War and during the War twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas, as happened to hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers in the field, the sacrifices of millions at the front would not have been in vain.
However, these thoughts were never the basis of the Nazis' popular agitation prior to the 1933 take-over. Instead, the Nazis primarily focused on denouncing the Jews, rather than explaining what they would do about them after they won. However, for decades 'Kikes to Palestine!' had been the slogan of European anti-Semitism, and the Nazi propagandists used it in their own agitation. In June 1932 the centrepiece for one of their largest anti-Jewish rallies, in Silesian Breslaw, was a huge banner telling the Jews to 'get ready for Palestine!' During the anti-Jewish boycott on 1 April 1933, pickets at the department stores handed out an imitation 'one-way ticket to Palestine' to Jewish-looking passers-by. The official Nazi manifesto proclaiming the anti-Jewish boycott declared that anti-Nazi feeling abroad was due to international Jewry's 'trying to act on the program announced in 1897 by the Zionist Leader Herzl' to stir up foreign states against any country that opposed the Jews.' However, none of this was very serious; it was just another expression of rabid anti-Semitism. Until he achieved power, Hitler had not given any serious thought to what he would do with the Jews. Beyond his statement in Mein Kampf, there is no evidence to prove that he told even his closest subordinates what he ultimately planned. After all, as he always privately complained, the average SS man was, at bottom, soft --and a blabbermouth. If you talked about killing all the Jews, he was sure to make excuses for his own 'good Jew' and then where were you? Besides, the capitalists had their Jewish business connections abroad, and there were the churches and their scruples about murder. Hitler solved his problem by just ignoring it, leaving every department in the party and government to feel its way to a suitable policy. There were inevitably conflicting schools. Straight terror always had its devotees, but these were more than countered by others who saw the Jews as deeply rooted in the domestic economy as well as having many contacts abroad. Immediate imposition of a ghetto had its partisans, but this was met with the same objections. Emigration was the obvious solution, but where to? Not only would wholesale Jewish emigration make Berlin unpopular among other capitals, but what would happen after the arrival of large numbers of Jews in any of the major cities of the world? They would incite others, and not just Jews, against the Reich and the effect they could have on Germany's trade might well be devastating. It was within this context that the Eionists, Sam Cohen of Ha Note'a and the ZVfD in Germany, first appeared with their proposals.
Ha'avara had several obvious advantages to the Nazis. If Jews went to Palestine, they would only be able to complain to other Jews. In fact, they would even be a moderating influence there, since the fear of worse consequences for their relatives in Germany, if anything were done to make the Nazis cancel the Transfer, would make them reluctant to agitate on a large scale. But the most important use of the Ha'avara agreement was for propaganda. The Nazis now had something to show their foreign detractors who said they were incapable of any policy toward the Jews other than physical brutality. In a speech on 24 October 1933, Hitler crowed that it was he, not his critics, who really was the Jews' benefactor:
In England people assert that their arms are open to welcome all the oppressed, especially the Jews who have left Germany... But it would be still finer if England did not make her great gesture dependent on the possession of £1,000 --England should say: 'Anyone may enter' --as we unfortunately have done for 30 years. If we too had declared that no one could enter Germany save under the condition of bringing with him £1,000 or paying more, then today we should have no Jewish question at all. So we wild folk have once more proved ourselves better humans --less perhaps in external protestations, but at least in our actions! And now we are still as generous and give to the Jewish people a far higher percentage as their share in possibility for living than we ourselves possess.
Nazi Germany regarded the will of the Fuhrer as having the force of law, and once Hitler had pronounced, an avowedly pro-Zionist policy developed. Also in October Hans Frank, then the Bavarian Minister of Justice, later the Governor-General of Poland, told the Nuremberg parteitag that the best solution to the Jewish question, for Jews and Gentiles, alike, was the Palestinian National Home. Still in October, the Hamburg-South American Shipping Company started a direct service to Haifa providing 'strictly Kosher food on its ships, under the supervision of the Hamburg rabbinate'. Jews could still leave for any country that would have them, but now Palestine became the propagandists' preferred solution to the Jewish question. However, Zionists were still just Jews, as Gustav Genther of the German Education School very carefully spelt out:
Just as we now have friendly relations with Soviet Russia, though Russia, as a Communist country, represents a danger to our National Socialist State, we shall take the same attitude toward the Jews, if they establish themselves as an independent nation, although we know they will always remain our enemies.
If this was not enough, a children,s game, Juden Raus! (Jews Out), left no illusions as to how the Nazis saw Zionism. The pieces were little pawns wearing pointed medieval Jewish hats; the players moved them by rolling dice; the child winning was the one whose Jew first scurried out, 'off to Palestine!' through the gates of a walled city. Zionism was despised in Nazi Germany, but the Zionists desperately needed Nazi patronage if they were to get the capital they required in Palestine and they allowed themselves to believe that the Ha'avara and all the Palestinian talk that followed it would lead to a statesmanlike pact.
'Our Official Good Will Go with Them'
By 1934 the SS had become the most pro-Zionist element in the Nazi Party. Other Nazis were even calling them 'soft' on the Jews. Baron von Mildenstein had returned from his six-month visit to Palestine as an ardent Zionist sympathiser. Now as the head of the Jewish Department of the SS's Security Service, he started studying Hebrew and collecting Hebrew records; when his former companion and guide, Kurt Tuchler, visited his office in 1934, he was greeted by the strains of familiar Jewish folk tunes.There were maps on the walls showing the rapidly increasing strength of Zionism inside Germany. Von Mildenstein was as good as his word: he not only wrote favourably about what he saw in the Zionist colonies in Palestine; he also persuaded Goebbels to run the report as a massive twelve-part series in his own Der Angriff (The Assault), the leading Nazi propaganda organ (26 September to 9 October 1934). His stay among the Zionists had shown the SS man 'the way to curing a centuries-long wound on the body of the world: the Jewish question'. It was really amazing how some good Jewish boden under his feet could enliven the Jew: 'The soil has reformed him and his kind in a decade. This new Jew will be a new people. To commemorate the Baron's expedition, Goebbels had a medal struck: on one side the swastika, on the other the Zionist star.
In May 1935 Reinhardt Heydrich, who was then the chief of the SS Security Service, later the infamous 'Protector' of the Czech lands incorporated into the Reich, wrote an article, 'The Visible Enemy', for Das Schwarze Korps, the official organ of the SS. In it Heydrich assessed the various tendencies among the Jews, comparing the assimilationists quite invidiously with the Zionists. His partiality towards Zionism could not have been expressed in more unmistakable terms:
After the Nazi seizure of power our racial laws did in fact curtail considerably the immediate influence of Jews. But... the question as he sees it is still: How can we win back our old position... We must separate Jewry into two categories... the Zionists and those who favor being assimilated. The Zionists adhere to a strict racial position and by emigrating to Palestine they are helping to build their own Jewish state.
Heydrich wished them a fond farewell: 'The time cannot be far distant when Palestine will again be able to accept its sons who have been lost to it for over a thousand years. Our good wishes together with our official good will go with them.'
'It was a Painful Distinction for Zionism to be Singled out for Favors'
The Nuremberg Laws of September 1935, the finishing touches of Germany's pre-Second World War anti-Jewish legislation, were defended by the Nazis as an expression of their pro-Zionism. They had at least the tacit approval of the wiser heads amongst the Jews themselves. As it happened --and naturally it was more than mere coincidence-- every nationwide Jewish organ in Germany was under temporary ban when the laws were promulgated --except the Rundschau. It published the codified restrictions with a commentary by Alfred Berndt, the editor-in-chief of the German News Bureau. Berndt recalled that, only two weeks before, all the speakers at the World Zionist Congress in Lucerne had reiterated that the Jews of the world were to be correctly seen as a separate people unto themselves regardless of where they lived. Well then, he explained, all Hitler had done was to meet 'the demands of the International Zionist Congress by making the Jews who live in Germany a national minority'.
One aspect of the laws, now long forgotten but which attracted considerable attention at the time, was the fact that from then on only two flags were to be permitted in the Third Reich, the swastika and the blue-and-white Zionist banner. This, of course, greatly excited the ZVfD, who hoped that this was a sign that Hitler was moving closer to an accommodation with them. But for many foreign Zionists this was a searing humiliation, well-expressed in the anguish of Stephen Wise's own organ, the Congress Bulletin:
Hitlerism is Satan's nationalism. The determination to rid the German national body of the Jewish element, however, led Hitlerism to discover its 'kinship' with Zionism, the Jewish nationalism of liberation. Therefore Zionism became the only other party legalized in the Reich, the Zionist flag the only other flag permitted to fly in Nazi-land. It was a painful distinction for Zionism to be singled out for favors and privileges by its Satanic counterpart.
The Nazis were as thorough in their philo-Zionism as in other matters. Now that the Jews were established as a separate people with a separate soil, should they not also have a separate language? In 1936 they added a new 'nach Palastina' ingredient to their repressive measures. Jewish Frontier had to inform its readers distressfully that:
The attempts to seclude the Jews in the cultural ghetto have reached a new height by the prohibition to rabbis to use the German language in their Chanukah [6 December] sermons. This is in line with the effort made by the Nazis to force the German Jews to use the Hebrew language as their cultural medium. Thus another 'proof' of Nazi-Zionist cooperation is seized eagerly by the Communist opponents of Zionism.
Nazi leniency towards Zionism
In spring 1934, Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuhrer of the SS, was presented with a 'Situation Report --Jewish Question' by his staff: the vast majority of Jews still considered themselves Germans and were determined to stay on. Since force could not be used, for fear of potential international repercussions, the way to break down their resistance was to instil a distinctive Jewish identity amongst them by systematically promoting Jewish schools, athletic teams, Hebrew, Jewish art and music, etc. Combined with Zionist occupational retraining centres, this would finally induce the recalcitrant Jews to abandon their homeland. However, this subtle formula was not enough, for whenever pressure against them began to subside the stubborn Jews would start to dig in again. The Nazi policy was therefore to increase support for the Zionists, so that the Jews would plainly see that the way to ward off worse troubles was to join the movement. All Jews, including Zionists, were still to be persecuted as Jews, but within that framework it was always possible to ease the pressure. Accordingly, on 28 January 1935, the Bavarian Gestapo circularised the regular police that henceforward: 'members of the Zionist organisations are, in view of their activities directed towards emigration to Palestine, not to be treated with the same strictness which is necessary towards the members of the German-Jewish organisations [assimilationists].
The Nazis created complications for themselves with their pro-Zionist line. The WZO needed Gerrnan-Jewish capital far more than it ever wanted German Jews. It also operated under the immigration quotas set by the British. Its largest following was in Poland, and if it gave out too many certificates to Germans, there would not be enough for its support base in Poland and elsewhere. Therefore the Zionists gave only 22 per cent of the certificates to Germans throughout the 1930s. Furthermore the WZO were not interested in the vast majority of Germany's Jews, since these were not Zionists, did not speak Hebrew, were too old and, of course, did not have the 'right' trades. Either Jewish emigration had to be organised to other countries as well, or Germany would be stuck with the Jews neither it nor the Zionists wanted. Nazi discrimination against anti-Zionists led to problems for those world-based bodies like the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which tried to provide havens for Jews in countries other than Palestine. Yehuda Bauer, one of Israel's most widely known Holocaust scholars, has written of a discussion of the ensuing difficulties between two leading officials of the Joint Distribution Committee:
[Joseph] Hyman thought that a statement should be made by the German Jews that Palestine was not the sole outlet which of course, frankly speaking, it wasn't. [Bernard] Kahn agreed, but explained that the Nazis supported Zionism because it promised the largest emigration of Jews from Germany; hence German Jewish leadership could not make any public statements about other outlets. Still less could they mention the decision to maintain Jewish institutions in Germany. The Nazis had dissolved one meeting in Germany simply because the speaker had said 'we have to provide for the people who go away and for the Jews who must stay in Germany'.
In practice, the Nazis' concern about where the Jews should go disappeared with the Austrian anschluss, which brought so many Jews with it that further attention to their destination would have crippled the expulsion programme. In October 1938 the Nazis discovered that the Poles were about to revoke the citizenship of thousands of their Jewish citizens resident in Germany. They therefore decided to deport the Jews to Poland immediately so that they would not be stuck with thousands of stateless Jews. It was this cold pogrom that led to the massive violence of Kristallnacht in November 1938.
The story was told, many years later, on 25 April 1961, at the trial of Adolf Eichmann. The witness, Zindel Grynszpan, then an old man, was the father of Herszl Grynszpan who, in despair at the deportation of his father back to Poland, had assassinated a German diplomat in Paris and provided the Nazis with the pretext for their terrible night of broken glass. Old Zindel told them of his deportation from his home in Hanover on the night of 27 October 1938: 'Then they took us in police trucks, in prisoners' lorries, about 20 men in each truck, and they took us to the railway station. The streets were full of people shouting: "Juden raus! Auf nach Palastina!" '
The significance of Zindel's testimony was utterly lost in the welter of detail in the Eichmann trial. But those Jews were not being sent to Palestine, as the Nazi mob cried; the prosecutor in that courtroom in Jerusalem never thought to ask the elderly Grynszpan a question that we would think to ask: 'What did you think, what did the other Jews think, when they heard that strange cry coming up from the savage mob?' Zindel Grynszpan is long dead, as are most if not all the others who suffered there that hellish night; we have no answer to our query. But what really matters was what was shouted, rather than what was thought about it in that police van. However, we can reasonably suggest that if the ZVfD had resisted Nazism's rise, if the WZO had mobilised Jewry against the New Order, if Palestine had been a bastion of Jewish resistance to Nazism, the Nazis would never have told the Jews, and that mob, that the place for a Jew was in Palestine. Perhaps, then, that Friday night in Hanover the cry would have been 'Jews to Poland', even a straight 'kill the Jews'. The sombre fact is that the mob screamed what had been screamed at them by Hitler's minions: 'Jews to Palestine !'
The Nazis asked for a "More Zionist Behaviour" '
That the Nazis preferred the Zionists to all other Jews is a settled point. Even though Joachim Prinz may have winced when he wrote his 1937 article, he was only being honest when he sorrowfully had to admit that:
It was very difficult for the Zionists to operate. It was morally disturbing to seem to be considered as the favoured children of the Nazi Government, particularly when it dissolved the anti-Zionist youth groups, and seemed in other ways to prefer the Zionists. The Nazis asked for a 'more Zionist behaviour'.
The Zionist movement was always under severe restriction in the 1930s in Germany. The Rundschau was banned on at least three occasions between 1933 and November 1938, when the regime finally closed down the ZVfD's headquarters after Kristallnacht. After 1935 the Labour Zionist emissaries were barred from the country, but even then Palestinian Zionist leaders were allowed to enter for specific meetings; for instance Arthur Ruppin was granted pemmission to enter Gemmany on 20 March 1938 in order to address a mass indoor rally in Berlin on the effects of the 1936 Arab revolt in Palestine. Certainly, the Zionists had far less trouble than their bourgeois assimilationist rivals at the CV, and it was nothing compared with what the Communists had to face in Dachau at the same time the Rundschau was being hawked in the streets of Berlin.
However, the fact that the Zionists became Adolf Hitler's 'favoured children' hardly qualified him as a Jewish nationalist. Even von Mildenstein, for all his Hebrew records, accepted the party line when it turned to outright murder. Throughout the period, the Nazis toyed with the Zionists as a cat would play with a mouse. Hitler never thought he was letting anyone get away from him because he was encouraging Jews to go to Palestine. If the Jews went to far-away America, he might never be able to get at them and they would always remain the foes of the German Empire in Europe. But if they went to Palestine instead? 'There,, as a Gestapo agent told a Jewish leader, 'we will catch up with you'.
The Zionists could not even claim that they were duped by Hitler; they conned themselves. Hitler's theories on Zionism, including the Jews' alleged inability to create a state, had all been there, in plain German, since 1926. The Zionists ignored the fact that Hitler hated all Jews, and that he specifically condemned their own ideology. The Zionists were simply reactionaries, who naively chose to emphasise the points of similarity between themselves and Hitler. They convinced themselves that because they, too, were racists, against mixed marriage, and believed that the Jews were aliens in Germany; because they, too, were opposed to the left, that these similarities would be enough to make Adolf Hitler see them as the only 'honest partners, for a diplomatic détente.