Holocaust (Ha Shoah in Hebrew) The Holocaust (literally, a burnt offering consumed in whole by flame) - was the planned genocide of European, Soviet, Balkan and N. African Jewry, carried out by the Nazis under Adolf Hitler - before and during the Second World War. The term "holocaust" was first applied to the destruction of European Jews, apparently as early as 1942. It has since been applied as a description of mass murders of other minorities. "The Holocaust" refers specifically to murder of Jews by the Nazis and is capitalized.
The word "Shoah" in Hebrew means catastrophe, abyss, disaster or destruction and is used in many contexts such as "Shoah ecologit" - ecological disaster or "Shoah Svivatit" - environmental disaster. "HaShoah" with the definite article refers to "The Disaster" or "The Holocaust."
Extent of the Holocaust
The murder of the Jews was not due to any opposition the Jews offered to the German state, other than ghetto rebellions undertaken in desperation, but was rather the result of state policy.
Hitler had warned repeatedly of his antipathy to Jews, and had written about it in Mein Kampf. Persecution of Jews began shortly after the rise of the Nazis to power in 1933. A boycott of Jewish businesses was initiated in April 1933, and the first laws against the Jews were enacted April 7, 1933, in The Law for the Restoration of the Civil Service, which banned Jews from the service. Jews were progressively pushed out of German society, deprived of academic positions and lost their property. The Nuremberg Laws, passed in 1935, deprived Jews of German citizenship and forbade marriage or sexual contact between Jews and non-Jews. A person with 1-2 Jewish grandparents was classified as of "mixed race," while those with 3-4 Jewish grandparents were classified as Jews. The Nuremberg laws were passed by the Reichstag by majority vote, though Hitler could have passed them using the dictatorial powers granted him by the "Enabling Act. The Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) in November 1938, was a bloody pogrom. About 00 Jews were murdered and a "fine" was levied against the Jews in excess of 1 billion RM.
In a speech on January 30, 1939, Hitler warned.
In 1942, he referred to the destruction of European Jewry as an accomplished fact:
The Germans contemplated various solutions to the "Jewish Problem," including forced emigration and transfer to Madagascar. For a time, they allowed Jews to leave for Palestine and to take a limited amount of their property with them under the Hesder. However, the British closed Palestine to Jewish immigration in 1939 (see White Paper). The Germans also found that other countries did not want Jews. At the Evian les Bains conference held in July 1938, country after country declared that they could not accept Jewish immigrants. The Evian conference convinced the Germans that they would not be able to rid themselves of the Jews by forced emigration. To prove to the world that nobody wanted Jews, the Nazi government organized a boatload of such emigrants. In 1939, the German liner St. Louis, carrying a cargo of Jewish refugees, found it was unable to land them in Cuba, owing to extortionate demands of the Cuban government. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the U.S. Coast Guard to prevent the landing of the ship in the United States. The St. Louis ultimately disembarked its passengers in Europe, where most of them were subsequently killed in the Holocaust. Throughout the war, U.S. Consuls and those of other countries who were initially neutral played an active part in the massacre of European Jewry, by refusing emigration and transit visas to Jews. This policy continued even after it was known with certainty that the Jews were the victims of mass murder, and that refusal of visas meant certain death.
The Holocaust decision
The timing of the decision to murder the Jews of Europe is in question, and was most likely deliberately obscured by the Nazi regime. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Germany created special task forces, Einsatzgruppen, whose job was to round up Jews with the eventual aim, apparently of killing them. They were under the supervision of SS Gruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the Reich Main Security Office, who had previously been in charge of overseeing Jewish emigration from Germany: On September 21, 1939, a letter from Heydrich to the Chiefs of all Security Police Einsatzgruppen stated:
The above suggests that the Nazi regime had already decided on a "final aim" of murder, at least for the Jews of Eastern Europe, but was careful not to leave an incriminating paper trail. It was this order apparently, that was responsible for concentrating the Jews in ghettos.
The Holocaust Begins
By 1941, Germany had begun murdering Jews in earnest. In preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia, Einsatzgruppen and special police units were created whose task it was to deprive Jews of their property and kill them in the conquered areas, particularly the Ukraine and Baltic states, as the Wehrmacht advanced. About a million and a half Jews were killed in this way by shooting and other means in all. (see http://www.holocaust-history.org/intro-einsatz/#i ). These Einsatzgruppen were composed of SS, SD (SiecherheitsDienst - Security Service), Gestapo and police. In addition to the police and Einsatzgruppen, SS units were created from local Ukrainian and Latvian collaborators.
It is probable that the decision in principle to murder all the Jews of Europe was made in mid 1941, according to Gord Mcfee. In July 31, 1941, Hermann Goering issued the following order to SS Gruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich was Chief of the Reich Main Security Office and was therefore in charge of both the Security Police (Gestapo) and the Security Service (SD). The order stated:
Holocaust: The Final Solution
This is apparently the first known appearance of the phrase "Endlösung der Judenfrage," However, the "final solution" had in fact already begun. By the end of 1941, the Einsatzgruppen had killed about half a million Jews in conquered areas of the USSR. The "final solution" was possibly influenced by the entry of the US into the war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. An entry in the diary of Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, dated December 12, 1941 reads:
On January 20, 1942, a conference was held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee, presided over by Heydrich. The Wannsee Conference did not decide the fate of European Jewry, which had already been decided. It only established the supremacy of Heydrich and decided on a policy of transporting European Jews to the east for extermination, terminating the policy of forced emigration. This was apparently an outcome of the outbreak of the world war, which eliminated the possibility of extorting funds from American Jewish organizations to rescue Jews, and apparently also catalyzed Hitler's decision to implement the massacre of all of European Jews, which in July of 1941 had only been the "hoped for solution."
Though the Wannsee conference contemplated marching the Jews east on foot, it was eventually deemed more practical to load them on trains for transport. Jews in Holland were forced to buy round trip tickets from the German railway authorities, though they would never use the return tickets. In the east, primarily in Poland, concentration camps were built where Jews were worked to death, gassed or killed in various "experiments." Some survived the war, working for the Germans as slave laborers either in the camps or in in factories owned by Krupp, Siemens, Messerschmidt and other German industrial firms. Heydrich himself did not live to implement the final solution, as he was assassinated by Czech partisans who attacked his car in May of 1942. He died of his wounds in June. The massacre of European Jewry was codenamed Operation Reinhard.
Holocaust: Concentration and Death camps
Of the camps to which Jews were transported, seven were considered Todeslager (death camps) or vernichtungslagers (annihilation camps). These were expressly set up for rapid extermination, and included gas chambers or other killing apparatus and crematoria for killing people and disposing of the corpses. Other camps were variously concentration camps or labor camps, where prisoners generally died by attrition, from overwork, disease, starvation and in "experiments." Several of the death camps were built especially in the framework of operation Reinhard, while others included death camps, but were also concentration camps or labor camps.
Of the eight death camps, seven were intended for killing Jews. The eighth, Jasenovak, was a camp for killing Serbs, operated by the Croatian Ustase. At Sobibor, Russian prisoners of war were interned along with Jews. Revolts at Sobibor and Treblinka caused the Nazis to close the camps in 1943. were:
In addition to the death camps there were many hundreds of concentration camps and labor camps and transit camps. Each such camp could have thousands of victims. There was even a camp on British soil in Alderney, a channel isle. It was called Aurigny, the French name for Alderney. Among the more infamous of the concentration and labor camps:
Bergen-Belsen - A "Collection Point" in Germany, where about 70,000 people were killed.
Buchenwald - A labor camp in Germany, where about 56,000 died.
Dachau - Established in Germany as the first concentration camp in 1933. About 130,000 political prisoners and Jews died here.
Flossenbürg - A German labor camp where about 30,000 were killed.
Mauthausen - Austrian labor camp; about 100,000 casualties.
Ravensbrück - German labor camp; about 100,000 casualties.
Theresienstadt - Labor and transit camp where at least 35,000 died.
The fact of the extermination and the existence of the camps was known to allied governments, who concealed it from the public. Allied soldiers were shocked and incredulous when they discovered the first camps and liberate the emaciated surviving inmates.
In the Holocaust, about 6 million Jews were murdered in death camps, concentration camps, regional massacres and ghetto revolts, notably the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Vilna ghetto uprising. European and other countries were passive accomplices in that they did not offer refuge to Jews attempting to escape from Nazi occupied Europe. The Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin Al Husseini, lobbied neutral European countries to ensure that they would not grant visas to Jews attempting to leave German occupied areas.
The Zionist organization could really do very little to save the Jews of Europe. The gates of Palestine had been slammed shut by the British White Paper of 1939. The Jewish Agency organized an illegal aid network (see below) as well as parachutists to drop behind enemy lines and help Jews and partisan groups, and the illegal Aliya Bet immigration, and Palestinian Jews fought in the Jewish Brigade. After the war, Zionists organized the Beriha (escape) to bring survivors out of Europe.
The Holocaust and the Creation of Israel
Post-war survivors were not allowed to come to Israel in excess of the 15,000 allowed annually by the British Mandate, and were maintained in Displaced Persons camps. The United States and most European countries refused to admit these Jews. The Displaced Persons had no interest in returning to their native countries for the most part, as there was nothing left for them there. The Zionists in Europe, with help from Palestine and with the help of Zionist soldiers serving in the US and other allied armies, organized the Beriha - illegal escape of Jews from Europe to Palestine, despite the British ban on Jewish immigration.
Despite the Holocaust, the British continued to hunt down and turn away boatloads of illegal immigrants whenever they could. The existence of these 250,000 displaced persons, survivors of the Holocaust, living in camps in Europe, created political pressure on Britain to allow Jewish immigration to Palestine, but, in the face of Arab pressure, the British government did not change its policy. This precipitated the armed revolt of the Jewish underground, which led in turn to the British announcement that they would give up the Palestine mandate. In this sense, the Holocaust was the proximate cause of the creation of the state of Israel.
Contrary to Arab and anti-Zionist propaganda, Israel was not created "because of the Holocaust." This claim is often followed by the claim that the Holocaust is a myth invented by Jews to justify creation of the state of Israel. The right of the Jewish people to self- determination was recognized in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine of 1922. Had there been no Holocaust, the Jewish National Home would have been populated in large part by the Jews of Europe. The Holocaust did make it easier to demonstrate the historical and social necessity of a Jewish state.
Holocaust: Righteous and heroes
Though the Holocaust was in large part made possible by the passive or active cooperation of occupied peoples as well as Germans, over 20,000 persons have been recognized as "righteous gentiles" by the Yad Vashem memorial organization. Numerous individuals in occupied countries, including thousands of Poles, Danes, Dutch, French, Belgians, Ukrainians and hundreds of others risked their lives to hide and save Jews. Diplomats violated orders to save Jews by giving them visas. Among the most outstanding cases:
TheFrench village of Le-Chambon-Sur-Lignon hid 5,000 Jews in homes in the towns and farms in the surrounding countryside from Nazi occupation forces.
Oskar and Emilie Schindler saved hundreds of Jews, as documented in the film, Schindler's List.
Brazilian ambassador to France Luis Martins de Souza Dantas gave visas to hundreds of Jews against the express orders of his government.
British ambassador to Germany, Francis Foley, saved thousands of German Jews.
Dr. Jan Zabinsky, Director of the Warsaw Zoo, together with his wife Antonina, helped dozens of Jews escape from the Warsaw Ghetto.
Johan Benders of Holland took his life rather than reveal the whereabouts of Jews he had rescued.
The N.V. group in Holland rescued about 200 Jewish children.
Jan Schep forged identity cards that were instrumental in saving the lives of Jews and others. He was arrested and died in a concentration camp.
Joop Westerweel saved about 300 to 400 young Zionists and German Jewish children, forming a rescue group that hid people and arranged for transportation. He was eventually caught and executed by the Nazis in1944.
The massacre of European Jewry is attested to by masses of confirming evidence. The Nazis maintained meticulous documentation of the numbers of Jews and other transported and killed. Unfortunately, until recently a lot of this documentation was classified and was not released to the public by the German government, apparently to protect the identity of war criminals. Nonetheless, detailed lists of those liquidated by Einsatzgruppen (SS special task forces) and general liquidation reports for various towns, ghettos and camps provided sufficient documentation to satisfy the most demanding requests for proof.
Escapees and survivors and diaries of some who did not survive, like Anna Frank, tell the same story. The story is confirmed again by the massive evidence of the Nurenberg War Crimes tribunals and the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Allied soldiers who liberated the death camps in 1945 met the few survivors and heard detailed accounts of the murders from them. At least some of the concentration camps, gas chambers and crematoria have been preserved as museums. Families all can count their missing members. Nonetheless, out of wicked perversity and anti-Semitism, Holocaust deniers question the historical truth of the Holocaust. They claim that the Zionists or the Jews invented the "Holocaust Myth." (see Holocaust Myth)
In addition to captured military documents, the Nazis kept meticulous records of the murder rolls, recording the deaths of about 6 million Jews and 11 million others. These records have been kept at Bad Arolsen and have recently been released for public scrutiny. However, it will be years before the extraordinary mass of paper is available for use and scrutiny by investigators.
Nonetheless, Holocaust denial has become an intellectual fashion among sections of both right-wing and left-wing extremists and anti-"Zionists."
Zionism and the Holocaust
For most non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews who lived through the Holocaust, the Holocaust was the final historical lesson that proved, in the most horrible and tragic way, the correctness of the Zionist view of history: Jews could not assimilate into modern European society. The future of Jews could only lie in their own homeland. The transformation is epitomized in the tragedy of the great German chemist, Fritz Haber. Haber had been head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. Decorated and honored by the Kaiser for his services in World War I, he and other Jews were dismissed summarily from the institute in 1933. Haber fled to England and sought help and solace from Chaim Weizmann. Weizmann wrote:
Meeting Weizmann again in Basle in August, Haber said:
Haber's plans to start a new career in Palestine were cut short when he died in 1934.
Another faction of anti-Zionists, the Jewish Bund, had been particularly strong in Poland and the Baltic countries, where they had ridiculed Zionist immigration efforts. For the most part, they were physically liquidated, sometimes fighting side by side with Zionists in ghetto revolts. Reform Judaism, which had begun in Germany as a movement that asserted the negation of Jewish nationalism, was annihilated in its mother country. In the United States, Reform Jews adopted increasingly pro-Zionist platforms.
Attitude of the allies
None of the allied countries wanted Jewish immigrants. It is hard to know how much of this opposition was due to classical Anti-Semitism, how much was due to fears that immigrants would increase unemployment or take resources from the war effort, how much was due to British Palestine policy, to real fears that immigrant populations would include spies, or to other causes. In any case, the record of obstructionist actions is nearly perfect, and the result was the six million Jews were trapped in Europe and ruthlessly exterminated. The only great power that did anything to rescue Jews in World War II, even passively, was the Soviet Union, which allowed Polish Jews to migrate to the Ukraine after the Soviet annexation of Eastern Poland. Many of these Jews were trapped in the Ukraine when the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa, others were rescued an sent to Siberia,
The first remarkable allied failure to rescue Jews was the Evian Conference in 1938 at which no major power agreed to take in Jewish refugees. The second remarkable and illustrative incident was the voyage of the St. Louis. This was a shipload of Jewish refugees originally sent in 1939 from Hamburg to Havana, Cuba, by the Nazis. Local right wing groups stirred up anti-Semitism. The ship's captain tried to debark his passengers in Havana and later in the United States without success. The State Department, the immigration department and the President all foud reasons not to help Jewish immigrants.
Later, U.S. consular officials refused visas to Jews, and the State Department actively suppressed news of the extermination of Jews, The British and Americans were consistent in refusing to cooperate with any scheme that might rescue or aid Jews. Legal constraints were placed in the way of aid efforts, so that aid supplies could only be sent illegally. Again and again, when it became possible to rescue Jews, American and British officials expressed horror at the prospect of an inundation of refugees and did everything in their power to sabotage rescue efforts.
At least until 1944, attempts to contact, aid or rescue Jews, or even to tell the world about the Holocaust, that originated in the United States, Britain and Mandate Palestine had to be carried out in secret and against the active opposition of the British and American governments. Reports about the murder of European Jews appeared in 1941 and 1942. The British and Americans expended most of their efforts in suppressing the reports, and in preventing Jewish organizations from disseminating the information. After a great deal of public pressure was applied, especially in Britain, an after the most strenuous efforts by the Joint Distribution in the U.S.A. and the Jewish Agency in mandatory Palestine, the British and Americans convened the Bermuda Conference in April 1943. This low level conference did not result in the rescue of a single person.
The British were particularly anxious to prevent Jews from reaching Palestine,
Rescue Efforts of the Palestinian Yishuv and other Jewish communities
The efforts of Zionist Yishuv must be evaluated against the background of the most obstinate resistance of Britif\sh authorities and their American allies to any plan that might save Jewish lives. In the Palestinian Zionist Yishuv, reports of persecutions, and then of executions and then of systematic mass-murder of Jews in Europe reached the Jewish Agency Executive by dribs and drabs. At the outbreak of the war, the Jewish Agency appointed Yitzhak Greenbaum as the head of a committee of four in charge of communication with agency representatives in Geneva and later in Istanbul. The representatives were able to communicate with the European Jewish communities and to get intelligence reports from various sources, as well as the reports of refugees. Letters arriving to the Mapai Central Committee and others told of depredations of various kinds, disease and ghetto.
Refugees arriving in the still unconquered Baltic countries at the end of 1939 told of mass executions of Jews in Poland. These were thought to be punishment for Jewish participation in the defense of Poland. However, Richard Lichtheim, a Jewish Agency functionary appointed to communicate with Jews in occupied Poland from Geneva, was more pessimistic, and maintained that at least two million Jews would probably be murdered in the course of the war. In December of 1939, Lichtheim had sent a report based on an informant in the Swiss Red Cross, which painted a picture of separation of the Jewish population, hunger and rampant typhus. Refugees arriving in Geneva in that year likewise reported preparation for ghettos, robbery, hunger and kidnappings.
During 1940 and 1941, a steady stream of reports about separation of Jews, ghettos and executions flowed into the Jewish Agency and elsewhere and appeared in newspapers. These included the Iasi Pogrom that took place in Romania with the beginning of Operation Barbarosa and others. The word "Shoah," meaning "catastrophe," came into use, though in the beginning it was thought to refer to uprooting, humiliation loss of property and homelessness of the Jews of Europe. A booklet called "Shoat Yehudei Eyropa - the catastrophe of the Jews of Europe appeared in 1940, and summarized the situation as it was understood then. As the situation became clearer, the word "Shoah" took on a new and horrible significance.
Nonetheless, for a very long time, even as late as the 1942 Biltmore Conference, the leaders of the Yishuv were set on the idea that after the war, there would be a large population of displaced Jews who would form the core of the Jewish state, and that their work was to prepare the facilities for receiving these immigrants.
At the onset of the war, the British had imposed severe restrictions on communication between Palestine and Europe, especially occupied Europe. Repeated appeals to the British to lift the immigration ban and to help with the plight of the Jews in Europe fell on deaf ears. In the United States as is known, the government denied visas to those Jews who had reached neutral countries, and, for all practical purposes, had imposed a near-ban on Jewish immigration to the United States. The American Jewish community, for complex reasons, was unwilling and unable to mount an effective political campaign on behalf of the Jews of Europe, and did not make a very remarkable rescue effort during the war either. In the Yishuv, beset by poverty and British restrictions, the problems were more difficult.
The Jewish Yishuv, itself under threat, isolated in Palestine and far from Europe, had always thought of itself as a dependent of European Jewry and its institutions. The idea that rescue efforts should be led from Palestine was considered and was dismissed as impractical. The logical place to base those efforts was in London. Ben Gurion said that if the task of rescue was led from Palestine it could hardly be done at all. It was not fully comprehended that England, and the Jewish community would soon be under threat, and that lacking suitable organization and trained personnel, it would impossible for Jews in Britain to undertake serious rescue work. They did not have the means to overcome the allied regulations that would come into effect, forbidding the transfer of good to occupied Europe, and they were, for the most part, too caught up in the British war effort to devote time and effort to the rescue of Jews. The Yishuv saw itself as a passive and powerless observer for quite a long time.
Beginning late in 1941, there were more numerous reports of the systematic murder of Jews. Notably, Wilhelm Canaris, head of the German Abwehr (military intelligence) was unsympathetic to Hitler and created channels through the Abwehr to facilitate exchange of information. In January of 1942, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov noted the particular cruelty of the Nazi invaders toward the Jews, and reports, including photos, of mass murders, soon followed. Reports of mass murders in Poland and elsewhere reached the Jewish Agency and some were published as well in various newspapers. There was a tendency to discount the Soviet government reports as war propaganda, but there was too much corroborative evidence. The conclusion could not be avoided, but it was avoided for a long time. The reports gathered by the Jewish Agency were not released for publication, largely because the Agency did not feel that it was its job to serve as an information conduit.
Objective problems made travel hazardous because of the constant danger of Axis attacks on ships. The reports that arrived were fragmentary. The representatives sending the reports repeated consistently that they could not vouch for the veracity of the information. The reports of wholesale execution of Jews in Operation Barbarossa that began to arrive at the end of 1941, and the later reports of gassing and death camps, including the industrial processing of human remains, seemed to be totally unimaginable and unlikely. Greenbaum himself had a son in Europe, and was reluctant to accept the veracity of the reports.
During 1942, the Yishuv itself was in mortal danger and was preparing for the imminent arrival of Rommel's Afrika Korps. Most of the attention of the leaders was necessarily focused on these concerns. The Yishuv was seriously debating the course of action to be taken if Palestine was conquered, and considering whether to evacuate women and children or even to commit mass suicide, as the Zealots had done in Massada. There was little time or resources available to deal with reports of mass murders that began to emerge clearly in that year. In Palestine, the Jewish agency had to steer a course between following the letter of the law and circumventing it, in order not to incur the ire of the British and imperiling various clandestine Zionist activities in Palestine. Jewish emigration to mandatory Palestine beyond the quotas of the 1939 White Paper was forbidden, but as it was almost impossible to get people out of Europe, there was not much chance of illegal immigration in any case.
The end of the threat of Nazi invasion of Palestine, at the end of 1942, increasingly clear reports about the extent of the Holocaust, as well as the news of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 and the relative economic prosperity of Palestine helped to focus increasing attention and efforts on the plight of European Jews.
Several events in 1942 helped to change the attitude of the Palestinian Jewish leadership. In August of 1942, representatives in Geneva had gotten a report from a reliable and well connected German source, of the plan for the final solution: in one year, about 4 million Jews would be transported eastward from all areas of occupied Europe and then murdered. Still, the information was not believed, either in Palestine or in the United States. Stephen Weiss, head of the World Jewish Congress in New York, received the telegram, but did not publicize it at the special request of Secretary of State Sumner Welles. During September additional detailed and corroborative reports arrived from other sources, but still was not believed. It was not until November of 1942 that Sumner Welles finally gave Weiss permission to make the information public in the United States.
In November of 1942 a group of 69 Palestinian Jews who had been trapped in Europe arrived in Palestine, after being exchanged for German prisoners. They each felt it incumbent on themselves to tell the story of the horrors they had seen or heard about: whole towns exterminated, people shot or buried alive. They felt a debt to those who had been left behind. There was, finally, a wide-ranging discussion of the disaster of European Jewry in the Jewish agency, no doubt under pressure of public opinion. The Jewish Agency met on November 22, 1942 , the first meeting to deal with the disaster in Europe at length. On November 23, the Jewish Agency finally put out a press release, selectively conveying only some of the information. The bulletin did not mention the death camps, and it did not mention murder of Jews outside Poland. Nonetheless, it was sufficient to ignite a storm of public protest that the Jewish Agency had not informed the public previously of the situation. The fact is, however, that newspaper reports had appeared in several journals, including Davar of the Mapai party, in July and August of that year, but they were ignored by the public, which was preoccupied with the threat of Nazi invasion.
Newspaper coverage and public pressure caused the Vaad Leumi together with the Jewish Agency to declare, with some reluctance, three days of mourning to last from November 30 to December 2. The Jewish Agency had been reluctant to take such a step for fear of disrupting the war effort and of igniting clashes with the British. In 1939 a similar protest against the White Paper had led to violence. This time, the Jewish Agency and the Vaad Leumi made certain that the protest, though massive, was moderate. The protest. and similar pressure in the United States and Britain, perhaps inspired by the Palestinian one, had some effect. On December 17, 1942, Anthony Eden read a document in Parliament condemning the massacre of European Jewry and expressing sympathy with their plight on behalf of the seven allied powers. This gesture was futile, since the allies did not offer to do anything to rescue the Jews of Europe, and it evoked further protests, but to no avail. An additional 30 days of mourning decreed in Palestine evoked little interest in the public, in part because it was considered, futile, and was deemed a failure.
Beginning with the meeting of November 22, 1942, the Jewish Agency and the Vaad Leumi established, after much internal bickering, a rescue committee ("Va'ad Hatzalah") headed by Yitzhak Greenbaum. The committee was widened in January of 1943 to include representatives of the non-Zionist Agudath Yisrael and the Revisionists, as well as representatives of immigrants from different countries. However, the committee did not a clear scope of authority, as most of its potential functions were already in the hands of the Jewish Agency and it did not have a secure source of income for relief efforts.
Internal rivalry between the main body of the Jewish Agency executive in Palestine, especially those in charge of finances, on the one hand, and the Rescue Committee , the Histadrut and the leadership of the political parties on the other, was intense. The former insisted that funds for rescue must be collected in the framework of the general budget, and that other issues had priority, particularly as it did not seem that there were any practical ways to spend the funds collected for rescue. The latter demanded an increased and independent share of the budget for rescue efforts, and prioritization of the rescue of European Jews. Golda Meir and David Ben-Gurion were particularly adamant that not enough was being done in the way of rescue efforts.
Reports and efforts of the representatives abroad demonstrated that there were ways to reach people behind enemy lines, even in ghettos and concentration camps, and even the die-hard financial people of the Jewish Agency became convinced that money allocated to rescue work would not be wasted. Even so, there was very little that could be done by a community without an army living under increasingly hostile British police law, and with very scant economic resources. Sums ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 Palestine pounds a month and additional outlays, about a quarter of the Jewish Agency budget in all, were devoted to the rescue efforts. These amounts were clearly inadequate. Later in the war, as areas were liberated, larger sums were devoted to caring for survivors and to purchasing and manning illegal immigrant ships that could bring these people to Palestine.
An additional complication was created by the role and the attitude of the American Joint Distribution Committee. This Jewish meta-organization representing Zionists and non-Zionists in the United States, had been created in World War I to provide war relief. One of the people instrumental in its creation was the American Zionist, Justice Louis Brandeis, Though it supported the Palestine Yishuv financially, the leadership of the Joint was not particularly sympathetic to the Zionist cause. When Dr. Magnes, representative of the Joint in Israel was approached with a proposition for cooperation in rescue of European Jews, he initially turned it down. American law forbade the transfer of money or goods into occupied Europe, and the Joint was anxious to adhere to the letter of the law. When the war broke out, they stopped all rescue work in the occupied countries, and confined themselves to helping escapees through their office in Lisbon. The Jewish Agency proposed that the Joint would transfer funds to the Palestine Yishuv, and the Yishuv would be responsible for clandestine liaison, relief and rescue efforts. But the Joint complained that it was already using funds to support the Yishuv, and that it was ludicrous for the Zionist Yishuv to then use those funds to help European Jews. Essentially, the Joint was afraid of encroachment on its "territory," while at the same time it was unwilling itself to do anything worthwhile within that territory. Magnes later changed his mind, and for a time the Joint cooperated with the Jewish Agency . This arrangement, satisfactory to European Joint leaders, was not to the liking of the American Joint leadership however, and was terminated in 1944.
In all, the paltry sum of about 1.3 million Palestine Pounds was raised for rescue efforts, of which over half a million pounds were raised in Palestine and the rest was contributed by the American Joint Distribution Committee and Jewish communities in other countries. This sum did not include the outlays for immigrant absorption and development, and care and education of orphans once they had arrived in Palestine, which were considerable, and came from the regular Jewish agency budget, nor the considerable expenditure of the Joint and other groups on refugee immigrants once they had managed to escape to freedom.
The response of both the Zionist executive in Palestine, and the Zionist and non-Zionist Jewish community and organizations in the United States and Britain was inadequate. The Jewish Agency in Palestine did not fully understand, at first, that it would have to become the central address for rescue efforts, rather than just the object of charitable donations of Jews abroad. Nor did any Jewish organization, either in Palestine or abroad, with the possible exception of the Revisionists, realize the extent of the Nazi extermination plan, until very late in the war. This was true despite the steady stream of reports of increasing gravity, and remained true even after the leak regarding the German final solution plans in August of 1942. American Jews held their first big rally for European Jews in New York's Madison Square Garden on January 1, 1943.
The Revisionists constantly demanded more action, but their demands were largely political. They wanted to organize an uprising of the Yishuv against the British White Paper, and to perform acts that would have the effect of sabotaging the war effort, in the view of the Jewish agency and the Zionist organization. These acts would lead to violence and to the end of even the limited cooperation of the British with the Jewish Agency, such as the organization of the Palmach and the Zionist Parachutists.
The various Jewish communities outside Palestine were powerless to act on their own, but at the same time, they held up donations to the Jewish Agency which could have funded the rescue work. The Egyptian Jewish community raised a large sum, but decided that the money could only be used to actually transport immigrants, rather than to back resistance in occupied countries or send packages of aid. Therefore, most of the money they raised was never transferred. The South African Jews raised about 400,000 pounds, which were to be kept as an "emergency fund." This was certainly an emergency, but the money was not forthcoming for the most part, because South African Jews were suspicious that the money would be used only to save Zionists or diverted to non-rescue activities.
Numerous opportunities were lost for lack of funds or lack of organizational support or both. Beginning 1943 it became apparent that the question of the Jews living in Nazi satellite areas were urgent. As long as these areas, such as Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary were quasi independent countries, the Jews were relatively safe. But it was understood that the Nazis would soon invade and occupy these countries too and disaster was foreseen. Nonetheless, almost nothing was done either to find ways to evacuate those Jews or, at least, to provide them with the most primitive means of self-defense. There were several rescue routes that could have been exploited to rescue many more Jews had there been a timely investment of funds and allocation of personnel. From the Roumanian Black Sea port of Constanza, Jews could be brought in boats to Istanbul. A number of such boats made the voyage, but many more Jews could have been saved with a larger outlay and earlier exploitation of this route. From the south of France, even after the Nazi annexation of Vichy France, Jews could reach Spain and then Portugal. The Spanish government kept this border open to allow Free French soldiers to reach De Gaulle's army. The Spanish government also extended its protection over Jews of Spanish origin and could be persuaded, and eventually was persuaded, to protect even more such Jews. The Jews were transited to Portugal, as Spain did not allow the operation of any Jewish organizations within its borders. But inter-mural rivalry between the Joint and other American organizations prevented the exploitation of this opportunity in full until very late in the war, when there were few Jews to save. The British Zionist organization belatedly sent a representative to Lisbon in 1944. He was not authorized to rescue Jews, only to find solutions for refugees who had gotten to Lisbon. The Jewish Agency, despite repeated reports beginning in 1942, failed to realize the potentials of this route until late in 1944, on the eve of the allied invasion of Normandy.
As the end of the war approached, opportunities to help the Jews of Europe increased, but the number of Jews remaining was dwindling very quickly. By 1944, the Roosevelt government had relaxed some restrictions on rescue efforts and was even willing to cooperate to a limited extent in rescue ships. The British also cooperated in the project to send Zionist Parachutists behind enemy lines to bring aid and encourage resistance. However, it must be admitted that these valiant young men and women, while they performed acts of exemplary heroism and helped to redeem the honor of the Jewish people, did not, in fact, make a significant contribution either to rescuing Jews or to the allied war effort. Their importance was largely symbolic. Perhaps everything that could really be done was not more than symbolic.
(Based on Porat Dina, Hanhaga Bemilkud (Hebrew) - An Entangled Leadership, Am Oved, 2004)
Anti-Zionism and the Holocaust
Over half a century later, various anti-Zionist Jewish and non-Jewish ideologies are flourishing once again. For them, the Holocaust is an embarrassment. At best, they wish to present the thesis that the Holocaust is just another example of Man's inhumanity to his fellows, similar to other genocides that have taken place in the twentieth century as well as previously, such as the genocide committed against Armenians by the Turks in World War I, the Rwandan genocide and the Cambodian genocide. They also claim that Hitler did not single out the Jews in particular, pointing out that the Nazis also persecuted Gypsies, Communists, dissidents and homosexuals. However, objective non-Zionist historians have noted the massive evidence that Hitler and the Nazis were obsessed with the Jews. Moreover, of all segments of Europeans society, the Jews were the only ones for whom no political lobby was available to elicit sympathy. The euthanasia program was stopped by protests from Christian groups, and portions of the gypsies were spared as well. No nonpolitical group of loyal German citizens was singled out for hatred as consistently as the Jews, or persecuted as relentlessly. Anti-Zionists also claim that interest in preserving the memory of Holocaust victims and teaching of the history of the Holocaust is a Zionist "Holocaust Industry" that is promulgated to justify Zionism. However, in view of the increasing ignorance of large numbers of people regarding the Holocaust, as shown in surveys in Europe, and the alarming persistence of Holocaust denial, the educational effort appears, if anything, to be inadequate.
An especially perverse claim of anti-Zionists is that the Zionists aided in the Holocaust or were Nazis. This is based on the Zionist agreement with the Nazi government to rescue Jews in the Hesder scheme, on negotiations carried out in World War II by the Zionist organization for the rescue of Jews, and on a fantastic proposal that was made by the extremist LEHI group, which offered to set up a Nazi state in Palestine. All of these efforts, as well as those of American Jewish charity groups must be understood in the light of the stark reality of the Holocaust. The Zionist organization and other groups were confronted with the reality of the massacre of European Jewry. The gates of Palestine were shut. The Nazis held the entire Jewish population of Europe as hostages, and it was felt that any effort and any means at all were justified if they could rescue even a few Jews. About 60,000 were rescued in the Hesder. In Hungary, Rudolf Kastner, himself a hostage of the Nazis, negotiated the release of 1,685 Jews for a ransom of $1,000 apiece. Kastner later emigrated to Israel. It was alleged that he had specially chosen Zionists and friends to be included among those rescued. This claim would appear to be unlikely, as the group included the anti-Zionist Satmar rabbi Joel Teitelbaum and some of his followers. It was also alleged by an Israeli Zionist Holocaust survivor that Kastner had testified falsely on behalf of Nazi war criminal Kurt Becher. The charges were not proven, but Kastner was assassinated. Since the accused and the accusers were all Zionists, and the Zionist organization had little control over events inside Hungary, Kastner's real or alleged misdeeds did not necessarily reflect on the Zionist movement.
More recently, anti-Zionists like Rabbi David Weiss have been active in Holocaust denial along with ex-Klan Wizard David Duke and other reactionaries, sometimes lumped with "liberal" anti-"Zionists."
Holocaust: Detailed tally of deaths according to one estimate
Following the war, the Anglo-American committee on Palestine documented, in part, the destruction of European Jewry in the Holocaust as shown in the tables below, showing the prewar Jewish population and the number of surviving Jews. The tables probably considerably underestimate the numbers of Jews killed in the Holocaust. They do not take into account natural increase that should have occurred in the Holocaust years, or persons who were not counted as Jews in prewar years, but who were Jewish according to Nazi criteria because they had Jewish ancestry. The table gives the prewar Jewish population of USSR as "13,560,000." Since the overall total is only 9,946,200, we have to assume the intended figure was 3,560,000. This may be an underestimate of Soviet Jewish population. The Germans had estimated that there were 5 million Jews in the USSR.
Source: Anglo American Commission Report, Appendix III, , with additional notes marked "ZIIC."
|Country||Total||Total||Native||Refugee and displaced||Nationality of refugee & displaced|
|Albania||200||300||50||250||Mainly Austrian and Yugoslav|
|Austria||a 60, 000||15, 000||7, 000||8, 000||73% Polish; 11% Hungarian; 6% Czech and 6% Rumanian|
|Belgium||90,000||33,000||25,000||8,000||Mainly German, Austrian & Polish|
|Czechoslovakia||b 315,000||c 65, 000||c 60, 000||6, 600||Mainly Polish; some Hungarian|
|France||320,000||180,000||150,000||20,000||Mainly German, Austrian & Polish|
|Germany||d 215, 000||94,000||20,000||74,000||85% Polish; 5% Hungarian; 4% Lithuanian, 3% Rumanian|
|Holland||150,000||30,000||24,000||6,000||Over 80% German & Austrian|
|Hungary||e 400,000||f 200,000||f 200,000||----------||----------|
|Italy||50,000||46,000||30,000||16,000||75% Polish; 7% Rumanian; 5% Czech; 5% Hungarian|
|Poland||3,351,000||g 80,000||g 80,000||------||------|
|Rumania||h 850,000||i335,0000||j 320,000||15,000||Mainly Polish|
|Total (Table A:)||6,015,700||1,153,106||1,000,600||152,000||-----------|
|Country||Total||Total||Native||Refugee and displaced||Nationality of refugee & displaced|
|United Kingdom||340,000||350,000||300,000||50,000||90% German & Austrian|
|Soviet Union||13,560,000**||2,665,000||2,600,000||165,000||150,000 Polish; 15,000 Hungarian|
|Sweden||7,600||19,500||7,600||12,000||Mainly Polish, German & Austrian|
|Switzerland||26,000||28,600||18,000||10,500||Mainly Polish, German & Austrian|
|Total (Table B)||3,930,600||3,071,600||2,833,000||238,500||-------------|
|Total (Table A)||6,015,700||1,153,100||1,000,600||152,500||------------|
|Total for Europe||9,946,200||4,224,600||3,833,600||391,000||-------------|
*The figures in this column include refugee as well as native Jews.
** The figure is apparently supposed to be 3,560,000, judging from the total. It is a gross underestimate. Of course, many Soviet citizens were also killed in battle, including Jews, and many were also killed by the Soviet government apparently. Germans estimated the European Jewish population as 11 million, according to the Wannsee Conference Protocol. - ZIIC
a In 1937, the Jewish population of Austria was approximately 192,000. By the outbreak of the war, the emigration of over 100,000, together with persecution and deportations had reduced the number to some 60,000.
b The figure refers to the Jewish population within pre-Munich boundaries, when the Jews of Czechoslovakia numbered about 360,000. By September 1939, due mainly to emigration, the number had fallen to approximately 315,000.
c Does not include such Jewish survivors as have remained in the Carpatho-Ukraine, the territory now in the Soviet Union.
d According to the census of June 1933 the Jewish population of Germany totaled 499,682. By September 1939 the emigration of something over 200,000. Persecution and natural population decline [not clear what that means - ZIIC] had reduced the number to around 215,000.
e The figure refers to the Jewish population within pre- Munich boundaries.
f These figures do not include an estimated 15,000 prisoners of war now in the Soviet Union who are expected ultimately to be repatriated.
g These figures do not include an estimated 150,000 Polish Jews in the Soviet Union, to whom the option of repatriation has been made available.
h Inclusive of the Jewish population of Bessarabia and Bukovina, which are now in the Soviet Union.
i Does not Include an estimated 40-45,000 survivors of Bessarabia and Bukovina. The pre-war Jewish population within present Rumanian boundaries was approximately 520,000. Included in the 1916 figure of 335,000 are 40,000 formerly residing in the two ceded provinces.
jj Includes the 1939 Jewish population of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, estimated at about 250,000.
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
Further Information: http://www.holocaust-history.org/ http://www.yadvashem.org/ http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/ http://www.holocaustchronicle.org/ http://www.jewishgen.org/ForgottenCamps/ http://www.nizkor.org/ Abba Kovner, Mordechai Anielewicz Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Vilna ghetto uprising Wannsee Conference Protocol
Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions::
'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.
chh - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."
u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.
a- sounded like a in arm
ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.
'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.
o - close to the French o as in homme.
th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.
q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.
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