german jews wanted to negotiate with the nazis -- 9/18/18

Today's selection -- from The Warburgs by Ron Chernow. In 1933, with Hitler and the Nazis boycotting Jewish businesses, many powerful Jews in Germany and the powerful American Jewish charities opposed retaliation, advocating negotiation instead. Some viewed Hitler as a "weak man" and wanted to "strengthen his hand":

"Once the Nazis had cleansed Germany of opposition parties and ended parliamentary government, they turned their attention to the Jews. By mid-­March, the rank-and-file were storming department stores and demanding a boycott of Jewish businesses. As much to guide as to incite these volatile emotions. Hitler and Goebbels championed the idea of a boycott. In a March 27 radio broadcast, the government announced that on the morning of April 1st, at the stroke of ten, SA and SS members would take up positions outside Jewish stores and warn the public not to enter. This offense was portrayed as a defensive measure against 'Jewish atrocity propaganda abroad.' To add further terror, Göring told Jewish community leaders that they would be held responsible for any anti-German propaganda appearing abroad. Eager to create jobs through exports, Hitler wanted to minimize adverse publicity overseas.

"In reacting to the boycott, a split was immediately apparent between foreign Jewish groups who wished to fight and German Jews who wished to negotiate. The latter feared that foreign protest would only seem to confirm the notion of a world Jewish conspiracy inimical to Germany. They also knew that they and not their vocal brethern abroad would feel the stinging lash of reprisals. As a result of their tenuous absorption into German life, the jewish community had always preferred diplomacy and negotiation to public confrontation.

"Overseas Jews labored under no such need to appease the Nazis. The day that the boycott was announced, twenty thousand people crowded into a Madison Square Garden rally in New York to condemn the treatment of German Jews, while another thirty-five thousand milled about the outside. When a counterboycott of German exports was launched, it posed an excruciating dilemma for the American Jewish Committee [charity]. Started by the Jews of German ancestry, the committee feared exposing relatives to reprisals. At the same time, they had to respond to the spontaneous anguish of American Jewry. In the end, the committee opposed the boycott of German goods and tried to halt the Madison Square Garden rally, urging speakers to cancel their appear­ances. A fatal division sapped 'International Jewry' even as the Nazi press claimed that it operated with a single, implacable will.

Jews being deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland during World War II 

"[German bankers] Max and Eric [Warburg] typified those Germans Jews who thought the foreign boycott of German products would backfire. On March 29, Eric sent a breathless cable to [his U.S. relative Felix Warburg] that the April 1 boycott would be carried out against Jewish firms 'If atrocities news and unfriendly propaganda in foreign press mass meetings etc. does not stop immediately.' After Felix read this cable to the president of the American Jewish Committee, Cyrus Adler, the group issued a statement that repudiated any boycott of German goods and branded advocates of such a position 'irresponsible.'

"Felix was trapped in a quandary. At heart, he sided with the boycott, telling one friend how German youth were becoming so imbued with hatred that the masses would only turn against Hitler if they felt 'that their pocketbooks are attacked by their own foolishness ...'  Yet family loyalty tugged the other way. Instead of an outright boycott of German products, he compromised and favored voluntary refusal to buy them. He told Eric that the real problem lay with the German government and not with American Jews. 'Resentment so widespread no individual efforts to stem it likely available unless government changes attitude,' he cabled. 'Will continue to discourage mass meetings and unfounded atrocity stories.'

"In hindsight, it is easy enough to see through the false promises and bluffs of Nazi leaders. Yet at the time, German Jews were lost In a mad tangle of speculation that obscured the uniform malevolence of their opponents. 'Hit­ler is a very weak man,' Dr. Bernhard Kahn, European director of the Joint Distribution Committee, said the day before the boycott. 'He is in the hands of Görlng and Goebbels .... We must strengthen his hand ...' Within days, Kahn was chased from Berlin because of his ties to American Jews and he relocated in Paris. In July, the Joint would spearhead a one-million-dollar fund-raising campaign for German Jews, with Felix as honorary chairman."



Ron Chernow


The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family


Second Vinatge Books Ed


Copyright 1993 by Ron Chernow


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