Theses & Dissertations Press
PO Box 257768, Chicago, Illinois 60625
HOLOCAUST Handbooks Series, Vol. 12:
Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
Translated by Dr. Fredrick Toben
Chicago (Illinois): Theses & Dissertations Press,
Imprint of Castle Hill Publishers, December 2004
© by Ingrid Weckert
Distribution Australia/Asia: Peace Books, PO Box 3300,
Norwood, 5067, Australia
Distribution Rest of World: Castle Hill Publishers
UK: PO Box 118, Hastings TN34 3ZQ
USA: PO Box 257768, Chicago, IL
Set in Times New Roman.
Table of Contents
1. The Jewish “Declaration of War”…………………………… 9
2. Jews in Germany …………………………………………………. 11
3. Emigration ………………………………………………………….. 19
4. Haavara………………………………………………………………. 23
5. Emigration and the SS ………………………………………….35
6. The Rublee-Wohlthat Agreement………………………….39
7. The Mossad le Aliyah Bet …………………………………….. 47
8. Irgun Proposals …………………………………………………… 51
9. Conclusion…………………………………………………………… 55
Bibliography …………………………………………………………… 65
Index of Names ……………………………………………………….. 67
Current historical writings dealing with matters related
to the Third Reich paint a bleak picture. But such historiography
has nothing to do with the depiction of actual
historical events. This applies especially to writings that
deal with the Jewish ethnic group. The emigration of Jews
from Germany is an example of such historical distortion.
To this day there are still accounts of the Jewish emigration
that depict it as some kind of clandestine operation –
as if the Jews who wished to leave Germany had to sneak
over the borders in defiance of the German authorities, leaving
all their possessions and wealth behind. Or as if certain
routes out of Germany were ‘inside knowledge’ not available
to all Jews. In other accounts the emphasis is on Germany
offering exit visas for a high price. There is no limit
either to the inventive powers or to the stupidity of their authors.
The truth is that the emigration was welcomed by the
German authorities, and frequently occurred under a constantly
increasing pressure. The anti-Semitic legislation of
the Third Reich is an undisputed fact in this emigration
story. Likewise, the psychological pressure that Jews in
Germany came to experience after 1933 is not trivialized
here; it was often tragic for individuals and families. But
this tragedy has already entered the public consciousness
through countless publications, in radio and television programs.
We needn’t recapitulate it here.
8 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
However, counter to numerous eyewitness or autobiographical
accounts, the following needs to be insisted
on: Emigration was not some kind of wild flight, but rather
a lawfully determined and regulated matter.
The purpose of this work is to elucidate the emigration
process in law and policy, thereby augmenting the traditionally
received picture of Jewish emigration from Germany.
German and Jewish authorities worked closely together
on this emigration. Jews interested in emigrating received
detailed advice and offers of help from both sides.
The accounts of Jews fleeing Germany in secret by night
across some border are untenable. On the contrary, the
German government was interested in getting rid of its
Jews. It would have been senseless to prevent such an emigration.
1. The Jewish “Declaration of War”
After Adolf Hitler was elected Reich chancellor on
January 30, 1933, and the subsequent assumption of power
by the National Socialist party, the majority of Germany’s
500,000 Jews did not anticipate any significant change in
At most they expected temporary hindrances in one
area or the other, but not exclusion from public life, let
alone expulsion from Germany. Thus only politically motivated
individuals packed their bags and resettled in a foreign
country, most of them believing that sooner or later
they would return to Germany.
On March 24, 1933, two months after the National
Socialists took power, “World Jewry,” as it referred to itself,
declared war on Germany.1 As World Jewry did not
have its own state, it used the power at its disposal, namely
its influence on the world economy, to impose a world-wide
boycott of Germany.
After this spectacular declaration, which appeared in
the London Daily Express, it should have been obvious to
World Jewry, and also to Jews living in Germany, that there
would be consequences. No country in the world with any
self-respect – and Germany at that time regarded itself quite
1 There was actually a whole series of such declarations of war, c.f.
Hartmut Stern: Jüdische Kriegserklärungen an Deutschland.
10 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
favorably – can ignore such a challenge. And in fact the
boycott hit Germany at its weakest point.
The economic situation was catastrophic. Over 6 million
unemployed, countless bankrupt enterprises, a collapsed
economic system posed for the new German government
an almost insurmountable burden and seemingly
insoluble tasks. On top of all that, the foreign boycott of its
goods should have dealt Germany a death blow. That it did
not, that on the contrary Germany’s economy recovered
with astounding rapidity, thereby setting an example for
other countries, was due entirely to the genius of its leadership.
This is confirmed not only by contemporary reports,
but also by recent studies devoted to presenting the facts. Of
these, the two chapters devoted to Germany’s economic recovery
in Rainer Zitelmann’s Hitler are most instructive.2
2 Rainer Zitelmann: Hitler. Selbstverständnis eines Revolutionärs, in
particular Chapter IV and V.
2. Jews in Germany
One of the consequences that flowed from the antagonistic
attitude of so-called World Jewry was the German
government’s endeavor to remove Jewish citizens, to
encourage them to emigrate.
For the German Jews this was a tragic development:
Regardless of the fact that “World Jewry” had declared war
on Germany, for hundreds of thousands of them Germany
was home. Most of them had lived in Germany for generations.
At first emigration was not a feasible alternative, and
for a long time many could not take that decisive step.
Among the German Jews there were numerous groups
and sub-groups, representing a multitude of differing political
opinions. Besides purely religious organizations, there
flourished very diverse associations, often with opposing
viewpoints on various questions.
The four largest Jewish organizations were:
The Central Union of German Citizens of Jewish
Faith (CV), which was formed in 1893. Later the organization
was renamed the Central Union of Jews in Germany.
Membership numbered about 10,000. Its political voice was
The Zionist Union of Germany (ZVfD), founded in
1897, with up to 10,000 members. It published the Jüdische
Rundschau (Jewish Review).
In 1925 this Zionist union split and the New Zionist
Movement arose; they also called themselves the Revision12
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
ists or State Zionists. The name State Zionists indicated
their desire for a Jewish state. The founder and leader of the
Revisionists was Vladimir Jabotinsky. His deputy in Germany
was Georg Kareski.
The Reich Federation of Jewish Soldiers (RjF) was
founded in 1919 and had about 10,000 members. It published
a newspaper, Der Schild (The Shield).
The Union of National German Jews (VNJ) was
founded in 1921, and had about 10,000 members. Its newspaper
was the Nationaldeutsche Jude (National German
In order to represent Jewish interests more effectively
an umbrella organization was formed, the Reich Deputies of
German Jews (RV). In 1939 it changed its name to the
Reich Association of Jews in Germany. The VNJ, however,
refused to join this umbrella organization.
In spite of these differences, two basic directions
emerge: one in which Germanism was the top priority and
Judaism was a religious matter; the other in which a consciousness
of belonging to a separate, Jewish nation was
combined with the Jewish religion. The second of these two
groups comprised the Zionists, who were a minority among
German Jews but in time became the most influential force.
The majority of Germany’s Jews had been settled
there for over a century. The Jewish Edict of 1812 eliminated
all legal restrictions and gave Jews the same political
rights as other Germans. They thus saw themselves as Germans,
not aliens. In the first few years after 1933, this attachment
to Germany led not only to declarations of support
for their German fatherland and the National Socialist
movement, but also to open antagonism toward the Zionists,
who pressed for emigration with growing fervor.
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 13
At first even the Zionist Jüdische Rundschau of April
13, 1933, declared:
“The German people must know that the historical
ties of centuries cannot simply be severed.”
A little later, on August 29, 1933, the same newspaper
“We believe that the German Jews must find their
place and their integration in this state, and we hope that
it will occur in harmony with the basic principles of the
Even after the ‘Nuremberg Laws’, on September 9,
1935, the Jüdische Rundschau wrote that it was now the
task of Jews to develop their special status within the German
people in a positive way.
Several quotations that document how closely Jewish
citizens identified with Germany in those years follow below.
This is not to suggest that the majority of Jews did not
adopt an attitude of distrust or rejection of the National Socialist
government. But there were other points of view as
well, that are generally suppressed today.
The first article of the constitution of Union of National
German Jews (VNJ) states:3
“The VNJ is an organization of Germans of Jewish
ancestry who publicly declare that they feel their heritage
is the German spirit and German culture, so that
they can only feel and think as Germans.”
Dr. Max Naumann, the chairman of the VNJ, had
published numerous essays about the Jewish question a
decade earlier, in 1920 and 1924, i.e., long before the rise of
National Socialism. He took the following position in these
3 Ref. in Herrmann, p. 74.
14 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
writings: He differentiates between “German Jews” and
“foreign Jews”, stating:
“The German Jews belong to the German people,
the foreign Jews scattered to the winds are a people
without a country – even the English Palestine is not
their country and will never be their country.”
He defines the foreign Jews as a group marked by:
“the fanatical attachment to backwardness […]
through the madness of being a community of the chosen
and a problem for others.”
He considers the Zionists to be among “foreign
Jews”. Here again, he chooses between two groups. The
“honest and upright thinking Zionists” are those who recognize
their difference and are prepared to live in Germany
as foreigners, if need be under legal constraints as aliens.
But those who neither belong to the “German Jews” nor to
the conscious Zionists, are:4
“the remainder that deserves to perish. It is better
that a few rootless perish than that hundreds of thousands
of people who know where they belong, perish –
our German people must not perish.”
It is possible to claim that this was one man’s opinion,
but Dr. Naumann was re-elected chairman of the Union of
National German Jews year after year. That would not have
been possible had the Union sought to distance itself from
Dr. Naumann’s views. So it is fair to assume that there was
a group of Jews who shared this extreme view of their Jewishness.
As noted above, the Union of National German Jews
refused to join the organization that comprised the other
4 Ref. Hermann, p. 30.
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 15
major Jewish groups. Its members felt so German that they
saw no need to join a Jewish umbrella organization.
Even more radical was the attitude of a German national
youth group, the Black Banner. It dissolved itself in
1934 after a number of its members left Judaism in order, as
the official declaration states, to demonstrate “complete
separation from Judaism in every form.”5
These national German Jews expressed a number of
positive opinions on Germanism and National Socialism as
In 1931 the magazine Der Nationaldeutsche Jude
posed the question: “Can Jews Be National Socialists?,”
and the answer was a unanimous yes. In its January 1931 issue,
the magazine wrote:
“Did not we Jews shed our blood on the battlefields
for Germany? Was not a Jew the president of the
first German Parliament in the Paulskirche? Was not
the founder of the conservative party a Jew? Whom do
the parties thank for having adopted the rallying cry for
a united Fatherland, their creation and their organization?
The Jews! Who was the first precisely and clearly
to formulate the demands that today are the main points
of the National Socialist Program? A Jew – Walter
In May 1933, after Hitler assumed power, the same
magazine wrote in a special edition:
5 Herrmann, p. 41.
6 This is an error. The president of the first German parliament in the
Frankfurt Paulskirche was Heinrich Freiherr von Gaggern. He belonged
to an old aristocratic family from Rügen which goes back to
the 13th century. Most probably the writer of this article mixed up
Gaggern with Martin Eduard von Simson, a converted Jew, who in
1871 was the first president of the Reichstag.
16 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
“The Germany of the future is faced with completely
new tasks, which can only be solved by a nation
renewed at its foundation. To create this nation in the
form of a national community that has never before existed
in Germany’s history, is the major and, if properly
undertaken, truly liberating task of the national leader.”
In 1934 VNJ’s Dr. Max Naumann declared: 7
“We have placed the well-being of the German
peoples and the Fatherland, to which we feel inextricably
linked, above our own well-being. That is why we
welcomed the January 1933 national uprising, this in
spite of the hardships it brought for us, but we saw in it
the only means with which to overcome the damage
wrought by un-German elements during those 14 tragic
An orthodox rabbi from Ansbach wrote in the same
“I reject the teachings of Marxism from a Jewish
viewpoint and profess National Socialism, naturally
without its anti-Semitic components. Without this anti-
Semitism National Socialism would find its most devoted
adherents amongst the orthodox Jews.”
As stated earlier, these views were not that of the Jewish
majority, but they were expressed in the media – an attitude,
by the way, that the National Socialists did not appreciate.
They did not want any support for their ideas from
Jewish citizens; they wanted the Jews to disappear from
The National Socialist attitude corresponded in principle
to the Zionist position. They wished to establish a na-
7 Ref. Hermann, p. 22.
8 Ref. Hartmann, p. 3.
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 17
tional Judaism and thus opposed any inner Jewish attachment
to anything German. But they approved of National
Socialism because they shared its basic tenet: devotion to
one’s own people and state.
In December 1935 George Kareski, the chairman of
the German State Zionists, was interviewed on the Nuremberg
Laws by Goebbels’s magazine Der Angriff . His views
on how various questions arising from the legislation had
been dealt with were quite positive. Kareski said that the
Nuremberg Laws fulfilled old Jewish demands. For example,
the separation of German and Jewish nationality, the establishment
of schools for Jewish students only, nurturing
and supporting a specific Jewish culture, and above all the
state prohibition of mixed marriages, which in any case
Jewish law did not permit. 9
The Kareski interview aroused controversy in Jewish
circles, but Kareski received support from orthodox Jews
and more so from Zionist groups.
9 Der Angriff, December 23, 1935. The text is reproduced in Udo Walendy:
“Aspekte jüdischen Lebens im Dritten Reich” Part 1, Historische
Tatsachen, No. 61, Vlotho 1993, pp. 17f.
For the Zionists the only viable future was in their
own country, the former Palestine. But even for them it was
unimaginable that all Jews would leave Germany. They
wanted to win over the younger Jews for emigration so that
they could do the heavy work in Palestine. In order to bring
this about they realized that working together with the National
Socialists was the only alternative for their organizations.
And that is what happened. Over the following years
an ever closer positive relationship with the National Socialists
developed among those Jews who wished to immigrate
German institutions were desirous of concluding the
emigration as quickly as possible. As noted earlier, the Jewish
groups and organizations realized the necessity of emigration
There were three Jewish emigration agencies which
had in part operated in Berlin since the beginning of the
The Hilfsverein für deutsche Juden was responsible
for emigration to all parts of the world except Palestine. It
maintained agents in foreign countries who investigated the
possibilities of immigration and settlement, i.e., accommodating
German Jews and establishing contact with local
Jewish organizations, thereby making it easier for the immigrants
to settle down.
20 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
The Palestine Office (Palästinaamt) concerned itself
with the “Aliyah” – literally: ascending – meaning the ascent
to Jerusalem, synonymous for immigration to Palestine.
Its ‘clients’ were above all young Jews who were suitable
for the hard physical labor that settlement in Palestine
brought with it.
A third institution was the Main Office for Jewish
Migration Welfare (Hauptstelle für jüdische Wanderfürsorge).
Initially this agency concerned itself with Jews who
were traveling in Germany. Later this organization concerned
itself with caring for and resettling non-German
The National Socialist government attempted to promote
the emigration of its unwanted Jewish citizens. Two
principal agreements were used by the state to regulate emigration:
the “Haavara” and the “Rublee-Wohlthat.” The
Haavara Agreement was in force from 1933 until 1941 and
concerned emigration to Palestine. This agreement is now
regularly mentioned in the relevant literature. In 1972 the
former director of the Haavara Agreement, Werner Feilchenfeld,
self-published a brochure which has obviously not
been read by most people who write about the Haavara;
otherwise they might not write so much nonsense about it.
The Rublee-Wohlthat agreement, on the other hand,
generally falls under the historical blackout.11
10 This relief organization was founded in 1901, and in 1904 it established
its migration section. In 1917 the headquarters for Jewish
Travelers Aid was established; the Palästinaamt der Zionistischen
Vereinigung für Deutschland was established during the 1920s.
11 The original English text has been published only in: I. Weckert,
Flashpoint (Feuerzeichen), pp. 145–148. A German translation is
found in Feuerzeichen, pp. 275–281.
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 21
It covered the majority of emigrating Jews, all those
who did not go to Palestine, but to other European countries
or overseas countries. That was about two-thirds of all migrants.
Unfortunately this agreement operated for only eight
months; then war broke out and regulated emigration came
to a stop. We note this point here because it makes clear the
intentions of the German government, which were far removed
from the ‘extermination of the Jews’.
In February 1933 Palestinian representatives of the
citrus-growing company Hanotea Ltd. approached the German
government to explore ways of realizing their mutual
interests: for the Germans, the emigration of Jews; for the
Jewish Palestinians, the immigration of Jews. The Jewish
side attempted to get advantageous emigration conditions
that would benefit Palestine. The German authorities accepted
the Jewish proposals, and in May 1933 the first accords
on economic policy were signed. These formed the
basis of the Haavara Agreement. The word Haavara (Haavara,
with emphasis on the last syllable) is Hebrew for
‘transfer’, i.e., to transport/transfer, in this case the transfer
of wealth and goods. It is by this Hebrew name that the
agreement became known in German files. 12
The Haavara provided for the following arrangement:
Jews who wished to migrate to Palestine could deposit their
money into one or more accounts of Jewish banks in Germany.
They could make such deposits even if they remained
in Germany in the foreseeable future, i.e., even if
they had merely the intention of emigrating from Germany.
They could then use this money for the benefit of any Jew-
12 Circular 54/33 of the Reich Economic Ministry of August 28, 1933,
Political Archive of Foreign Affairs (PA/AA), special W, Financial
planning 16, vol 2. The text of the Haavara Agreement is reproduced
in: Weckert, I, Feuerzeichen, pp. 219 f.
24 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
ish settlers already in Palestine, or they could invest the
money in Palestine. They were also able to pay their medical
insurance out of this money, up to ten years in advance.
German Jews thereby received rights that German Reich
citizens did not enjoy. Feilchenfeld wrote:13
“Preparations for a home in Palestine for those
still in Germany were a breakthrough as regards the
currency controls prohibition that applied to Germans
A traveler’s credit agreement, in cooperation with a
travel agency in Tel Aviv, was built into the Haavara
Agreement; it enabled prospective German Jews to journey
to Palestine to find out what opportunities the country offered.
They paid their expenses in Reichsmarks, and in Palestine
received vouchers for all incurred costs. This as well
was an exceptional provision: Due to strict foreign currency
regulations, it was almost impossible for Germans to travel
outside of Germany. The tours organized by the KdF (Kraft
durch Freude) [Strength through Joy, an organization which
offered affordable cruises to German workers and their
families–ed.]) were settled by clearances.)
Once ready to emigrate, individuals received from
their German bank, according to the exchange value, the
minimum amount of foreign currency needed, 1000 Palestine
pounds (the value of the Palestine pound was equal to
that of the English pound sterling).
The Israeli historian Avraham Barkai has stressed
that, given the prevailing foreign currency regulations, this
allocation of foreign currency exclusively to emigrating
Jewish citizens was a marked exception.14
13 Feilchenfeld, p. 48.
14 Vom Boycott zur “Entjudung,” p. 63.
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 25
Upon entering Palestine, the Jews from Germany had
to show their money. A study of some years ago interpreted
the 1000 pounds required for entry as payment for an entry
visa.15 This is complete nonsense. The money was theirs,
and they were only required to present it in order to demonstrate
that they were able to support themselves and to create
a new life so as not to burden the Jewish community in
The rest of their money remained at their disposal in
their Haavara account. Upon migrating they could take their
complete household with them, including machines and instruments
needed for establishing themselves in their professions.
All German citizens who decided to emigrate from
Germany had to pay a “Reich flight tax” (Reichsfluchtsteuer),
something the Jews who left Germany under
Haavara did not.
The Haavara accounts also paid for goods imported
from Germany by Palestinian traders and merchants. In Palestine
the immigrants received the equivalent in homes,
land, citrus orchards, or the full amount in cash. A supplementary
agreement enabled merchants from Egypt, Syria
and Iraq to finance imports from Germany through Haavara.
Additional rules and loopholes benefited the immigrant
Jews from Germany in Palestine, among them that all
15 Kroh, David Kämpft, p. 24. This work is full of inaccuracies and distortions.
The entire treatment of emigration is full of false assertions;
e.g., p. 28: “The National Socialists made their expulsion pay,” or,
immigrants to Palestine had to pay the Reich flight tax and exchange
currency at a fantastic rate. Both are untrue.
16 Feilchenfeld, pp. 54f.
26 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
social security and pension payments could be transferred
Jews living in Palestine could also make payments to
friends in Germany through Haavara:18
“The sponsor paid the equivalent value in Palestinian
currency at a discount rate to the Haavara in favor
of the recipient in Germany. The recipient of such
support then received the equivalent in Reichsmarks
through the Paltreu19 in Berlin. This system of a clearing
house in private hands for payments of benefits to Germany
developed in 1937 into a world-wide organization.
Its task was to organize the relief payments from all over
the world, and to use the accumulated foreign currency
for the transfer of Jewish capital to Palestine.”
Another form of clearing is recounted by adviser to
the Reichsbank Walther Utermöhle, former director of the
center for currency control in the Reich Ministry of Economics:
“This enabled a clearing between emigrating Jews
and […] from overseas returning Germans. For example,
if a German could not sell his house or business [because
of the boycott in a foreign country] but found a
Jew in Germany who had similar assets, then permission
to exchange was given where neither side made an unfair
17 Ibidem, p. 49
18 Ibidem, pp. 61f.
19 The “Paltreu” was a kind of sister organization of the Haavara. Its
task was to enable the transfer of assets beyond the limits imposed
on the Haavara. Both Haavara and Paltreu were controlled by Jews.
20 Letter in Deutsche Wochen-Zeitung, December 16, 1977.
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 27
Besides the official regulations that applied to the
Jews, there was a number of cases that were regulated
through the Haavara to benefit of the emigrants.
The Haavara was beneficial to those Jews unable to
raise the one thousand pounds required in order to go to
Palestine. The Haavara enabled them to obtain loans repayable
years later.21 For these individuals the normal transfer
fees were reduced by 50 percent, thereby enabling every
Jew in Germany who desired to go to Palestine to emigrate.
Insofar as the basic tenor of the Haavara Agreement
reflected the German government’s encouragement for Jews
to emigrate, it also encouraged some Germans to actions
that verged on the illegal. Rolf Vogel, the former Jewish
journalist and publisher of the Deutschlandberichte, which
aimed at promoting German-Jewish understanding, reports
“Numerous individual actions of support were not
legal, especially in cases where Jews did not wish to go
to Palestine and could not be helped in any other way. It
so happened that Jews sold their businesses and then lost
their proceeds because they could not transfer them. To
prevent this loss, government officials offered Jewish
proprietors not emigration, but rather the opportunity to
represent their own business overseas. By receiving high
commissions and the proceeds from sales as representatives
of their own firms, Jewish businessmen got back
most of their lost money.
Another transfer trick, also conducted with the
knowledge and good will of the foreign currency bureaucrats,
was the transfer of money through the courts: A
21 Adler-Rudel, pp. 102f.
22 Vogel, Ein Stempel hat gefehlt, pp. 48f.
28 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
person left at the court an envelope marked ‘My last
will.’ The person then migrated, and after a few months
would make a request to the local judiciary to have his
envelope containing money and shares forwarded on to
him from Germany.
Money could be transferred just as smoothly by an
advertisement in the paper. For example, a Jew in Zurich
would place an advertisement in the Völkischer
Beobachter: ‘Representative required’. He would then
have someone in Germany send envelopes filled with
money or shares to the Völkischer Beobachter, which
then collected and forwarded them on to Zurich.”
In some respects the Haavara assisted in developing
German exports, though this was not a primary factor, despite
what one reads occasionally today.23
Altogether one should not exaggerate the consequences
of the agreement for the German economy. The consumption
of goods by a community of 200,000 to 300, 000
people – and the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine)
was no larger than that – which was also limited to
certain goods, was not in a position to lend a country of
sixty million any essential export help. Furthermore, there
was no foreign currency flow to be gained by selling to Palestine;
payment was in German money from the Haavara
accounts. Even Feilchenfeld stressed that the export activity
of the Haavara offered no significant advantage for Germany,
because “Haavara brought Germany no gains in foreign
exchange for.” (p. 29).
23 E.g. F. Nicosia, Hitler und der Zionismus, p. 83 writes:
“The fear of a German decline in goods on the international
market, and thus the Middle East market, influenced the German
government in its decision to sign the Haavara Transfer Agreement
with the Zionist representatives in summer 1933.”
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 29
For Palestine the Haavara brought untold advantages.
In the brochure published by Feilchenfeld, Dr. Ludwig Pinner,
a former member of Haavara Society, is tireless in singing
the praises of the agreement:24
“Until the beginning of the 1930s Palestine was an
agricultural country with a primitive level of development.”
It was only the immigrants from Germany that
“altered the economic structure and the social
composition of the ‘Yishuv’ and contributed significantly
to its development. Under their influence and participation
industrial output doubled, technology modernized,
and slowly the choice and quality of manufactured goods
reached a European standard.” (p. 107)
“The activity of the German Jews as industrialists
and investors was decisive for the development of the
‘Yishuv’ out of its pre-industrial and pre-capitalist
stage.” (p. 102)
“[Their influence] on the development of Jewish
Palestine was found not only in the economic and social
sphere; it was also marked in the cultural, scientific and
artistic spheres. The modernization of hospitals, made
possible by the Transfer, made Palestine one of the most
renowned medical centers.” (p. 106)
“The commitment of these people in research and
teaching institutions, in business and administration, in
public life and in the defense organizations was immeasurably
important for the preparation of the ‘Yishuv’ for
the fateful task that stood before them.” (p. 108)
The money of the ‘capitalists,’ who thanks to the
Haavara could practically migrate to Palestine unhindered,
24 Feilchenfeld, pages as indicated.
30 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
also made migration to Palestine possible for workers. Dr.
Georg Landauer, the director of the German section of the
Jewish Agency and a member of the board of directors of
the Haavara, stated in an interview with the Jüdische Rundschau
of February 18, 1936:
“Palestine as a developing country can absorb
new immigrants looking for work proportionate to the inflowing
capital and entrepreneurial spirit that creates
But there was the fear that wealthy Jews would go
elsewhere with their capital and that only poor Jews would
come to Palestine. Landauer warned:
“It is not possible to have worker immigrants
without the immigration of employers.”
4.1. Opposition to the Haavara
4.1.1. …on the Jewish side
Although the Haavara Agreement was advantageous
for both the Jews and for Palestine, opposition to it was significant.
The behind-the-scenes battles are described in detail
by Edwin Black in his book The Transfer Agreement.
The fact that there was an agreement between the Third
Reich and the Zionists to the advantage of Israel seems to
him incomprehensible and unpardonable, and he accuses
the Jewish agencies involved of “Nazi collaboration”.
Black’s attitude is all the more inexplicable because he is
convinced that all Jews who remained in Germany became
victims of the ‘Holocaust’.
Jewish organizations around the world complained of
their own people’s violation of the boycott against GerIngrid
Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 31
many. The welfare of the German Jews who migrated to
Palestine meant little to them; they regarded the betrayal of
general Jewish interests as far more important.
There were problems in Palestine as well. The Haavara’s
monopoly on importing German goods aroused envy
among Palestinian traders, who saw their own existence
threatened. This was especially the case with nascent Jewish
industries in Palestine, which strove to sell their own goods
and revolted against the cheaper and better quality products
from Germany. The Haavara finally had to yield to the demands
of the Jewish entrepreneurs in Palestine, and stopped
importing certain goods, thus guaranteeing the protection of
“Tozeret Haaretz” (products made in Israel). Enterprising
businessmen exploited this discrepancy to their own advantage.
There were cases in which an enterprise obtained a
factory through Haavara, then used the “Tozeret Haaretz”
protection for its own manufactured goods. As a result the
demand for imported goods and the transfer of money on
the Haavara accounts declined.25
On November 12, 1935 the Jüdische Rundschau bemoaned
this lack of solidarity with the immigrant Jews
“The transfer question is of financial importance
for the emigration of Jews from Germany to Palestine, as
well as for the transfer of money into the Jewish funds.
Without this capital transfer it is almost impossible to
emigrate in style […] That this matter regularly comes
up in public discussion in Palestine may be due partly to
a lack of knowledge of the real factors, and partly due to
those who wish to eliminate the competition that
Haavara generates out of economic or other motives.”
25 Feichenfeld, p. 54.
32 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
4.1.2. …on the German side
The Haavara Agreement was also not universally
welcomed by Germans. It was of course quite a burden on
the German foreign exchange market, and there were also
political disadvantages. The German consul general in Jerusalem,
Hans Döhle, emphasized in a March 22, 1937, study
that through the Haavara Agreement the German government
had “subordinated all considerations that are decisive
in advancing German interests in other countries” to the
“facilitation of Jewish emigration from Germany and the
settlement of immigrant Jews in Palestine.” The strengthening
of the Jewish economy “that we made possible through
facilitating the transplanting of German-Jewish industrial
firms to Palestine” necessarily worked against Germany on
the world market. Döhle stressed that “the opposition of the
Palestinian Jews to Germanism is manifested at every opportunity.”
Great Britain felt itself disadvantaged in its Palestinian
mandate by the import of German goods and began to
attack Germany in its press. According to Döhle’s study,
the negative balance of the Haavara Agreement was as follows:
1. Through export of goods with no foreign currency
2. Building up the Jewish economy builds anti-
German Jewish influence in Palestine.
3. Direction of German imports to Palestine through
the Jewish Agency without regard for German
26 In: Vogel, pp. 110f.
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 33
4. Anger among the local Arab and German businessmen,
who can only trade with Germany
through the Jewish Agency.
5. Anger of the British Mandatory administration,
threatened by the German competition.
If one recalls that Döhle witnessed anti-German incidents
and was aware how much the country owed to German
immigrants, his skeptical assessment was not unjustified.
Palestine was like the animal that bites the hand that
feeds it. The hostility of the Jews toward Germany expressed
itself on many different levels. For example, during
a Purim procession27 Germany was depicted as a poisonous
green fire-breathing dragon covered with swastikas, and a
27 Purim: The biblical book of Esther relates a historically unverifiable
tale. Esther, the Jewish wife of the Persian king, discovers a plan to
exterminate the Jews of Persia, to be carried out by Haman, a court
official. The Persian king, Artaxerxes, is not opposed to this plan.
Esther formulates a plan to save her people. On the occasion of a
banquet, Esther seduces Haman and is then found by the king in a
compromising situation. She informs the king that Haman has raped
her. Now the king’s anger turns against Haman, who is hanged.
Esther succeeds in convincing the king to give the Jews free rein
against their opponents.
“In all provinces of King Artaxerxes the Jews came together in
the cities and attacked all those who had planned the downfall of
the Jews. No one could stand against them; all peoples feared
them.” (Est. 9.2)
The Bible reports that in just two days 75,000 people were murdered
by the Jews. As already stated, history offers no foundation for this.
According to one theology textbook (Preuss/Berger, Bibelkunde, p.
“Judaism found in the book of Esther a narrative of wishfulfillment,
of things lacking in the Jews’ actual circumstances.”
In memory of this pogrom of revenge (Why revenge? Nothing had
happened to the Jews!), the Purim festival arose and is celebrated to
this day in February/March as a joyous occasion in a carnival atmosphere.
34 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
placard demanded “Tozeret Haaretz” protection and a boycott
of German goods.28
In spite of it all, Adolf Hitler decided repeatedly that
emigration of Jews was to be supported with all means and
that a suspension of the Haavara Agreement was out of the
The transfer of assets through the Haavara remained
possible even after the war began, through neutral countries.
These connections broke down only after December 1941,
following America’s entry into the war.
Winding up the Haavara in Germany was entrusted to
two Jewish banks, Warburg in Hamburg and Wassermann
in Berlin. At the end of the war there was still Haavara
money in the accounts, which had been frozen by the German
government as enemy funds; after 1945 the money
were paid out in full to the owners. 29
28 Mildenstein in: Der Angriff, November 1, 1934.
29 Feilchenfeld, p. 71.
5. Emigration and the SS
Besides the Reich Economic Ministry, it was paradoxically
the SS and its agencies that supported and encouraged
the emigration of the Jews.
The SS took it upon itself to influence German Jewish
policy from the very beginning. It suggested mass emigration
but warned against putting pressure on those Jews who
felt German first, then Jewish. In those Jews it was necessary
first to awaken a Jewish consciousness and a Jewish
self-image. This was to take place through Jewish cultural 30
organizations. Only a Jew who had become conscious of his
identity would be prepared to leave Germany and to immigrate
to a future Jewish homeland.31
It was under such auspices that the SS and Gestapo
conducted all supportive and protective measures involving
Jewish institutions. As strange as it may sound, it was to the
Gestapo to which many Jews turned whenever a German
bureaucracy disadvantaged them or if they needed some
other form of help.
For example, when during the so-called Kristallnacht
in November 1938 the Jewish Emigration Center on Ber-
30 It is surely a paradox for those who have derived their historical
knowledge from the media, wherein the SS is depicted as a murderous
Third Reich gang, with chief responsibility for the Jewish
31 Reichsführer SS, Chef des Sicherheitsamtes: Lagebericht Mai/Juni
1934, Die Judenfrage; quoted in: Nicosia, p. 106.
36 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
lin’s Meinekestrasse was damaged, it was the SS that sent a
team to clean up and to ensure that the office would be
functioning again as soon as possible.32
Leopold Edler von Mildenstein, who later headed the
Jewish section of the SS, published a kind of propaganda
tract for migration to Palestine as early as 1934. In that year
Mildenstein traveled to Palestine and remained there for
half a year. His travelogue titled “Ein Nazi fährt nach
Palästina” (A Nazi travels to Palestine) was serialized in
Goebbels’s magazine Der Angriff (Sept. 26 to Oct. 9, 1934).
The report is lively, vividly written, and offers an interesting
picture of conditions in the British mandate and of the
political currents that prevailed in Palestine in the early
1930s. It is still quite readable today. Mildenstein used the
pseudonym “Lim” – the first three letters of his name, read
from right to left as in Hebrew.
The SS and Gestapo participated in establishing and
financing the re-training camps which in the meantime had
been established by Zionist organizations all over Germany.
In these camps young Jews were to learn agricultural and
trade professions to prepare them for the completely different
life of Palestine. In part the SS even provided the land
on which such camps could be established. Nicosia reproduces
a map from August 1936 on which are marked 40
such establishments all across the Reich, from the farthest
north (Flensburg and Gut Lobitten, Königsberg/East Prussia)
to Gut Winkelhof in the south, near the Swiss border
32 Nicosia, p. 244.
33 Nicosia, Third Reich …, p. 217. Only in the original English edition.
In the German translation there is only a blank page. Nicosia cites as
his source a document from the National Archive, USA: NA T-
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 37
Such re-training camps were established even in Austria,
the former Ostmark, after its annexation. Adolf Eichmann,
the director of the Vienna “Hauptamt für jüdische
Auswanderung” (Main Office for Jewish Emigration) actively
supported this program. Later, in concert with the
Mossad, he vigorously supported illegal Jewish emigration.
Occasionally, SS units escorted Jewish emigration groups
across the border, and ensured that they crossed unhindered.
Hannah Arendt was of the opinion that Eichmann’s comment
before the Jerusalem Tribunal in 1960 – that he had
saved hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives by such meas-
Jewish Reeducation Camps of the Hechaluz
in Germany as of August 1936
38 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
ures – was factual, even though it was met with scornful
laughter in court.34
34 Arendt, p. 90; Kimche, pp. 17, 30. There is no evidence to support
Kimche’s contention that emigrating Jews had to pay to get out.
This appears to be the sort of imaginary assertion, without which it
is not possible for Jews to write books that deal honestly with contentious
6. The Rublee-Wohlthat Agreement
The Haavara Agreement specifically dealt with migration
to Palestine. The second state-regulated process was the
Rublee-Wohlthat agreement, which concerned itself with
immigration to other countries, the goal of the majority of
emigrating Jews. Just as did Palestine, other countries also
required proof of the immigrant’s financial independence,
which caused considerable problems for Germany. The
German Reichsbank was forced to provide large amounts of
already scarce foreign currency for this emigration. Many
countries refused to accept Jewish immigrants as well.
This topic was addressed at the international refugee
conference in the summer of 1938 at the French health resort
Evian-les-Bains at Lake Geneva. Representatives from
32 countries met there at the Hotel Royal from July 6–15 to
discuss how German Jews could be helped. All the conference
participants were united: They condemned the prevailing
anti-Semitism in Germany, they were most empathetic
toward the poor Jews who had been expelled from their
homes, they agreed with resolutions that places must be
found where the Jews could accommodated – but every single
speaker emphasized that unfortunately his country was
not in a position to help by taking in a larger number of
The only result to come out of the conference was the
establishment of an “Intergovernmental Committee” based
40 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
in London. Its president was a lawyer from New York,
From the outset Rublee tried to establish contact with
the German government. This endeavor, which was supported
by the German ambassador in London, Herbert von
Dirksen, and the director of the political section of the Foreign
Ministry, Ernst Woermann, was successfully sabotaged
for months on end by the state secretary in the Foreign Ministry,
Ernst von Weizsäcker, father of postwar German
President Richard von Weizsäcker.
Weizsäcker let Rublee be advised that he should not
hope for any kind of cooperation from the German side. He
repeatedly rejected any attempts from other diplomats to put
Rublee in contact with German authorities. He even forbade
the German embassy in London to respond in any way to
Rublee’s attempts to make contact, or so much as to mention
them in Berlin. He inquired of the British chargé
d’affaires in Berlin whether Rublee was Aryan. When Rublee
wanted to travel to Berlin of his own accord,
Weizsäcker bluntly rejected his request because to his mind
it was of no value.35
35 Compare with Weizsäcker’s own account: in ADAP, Serie D, Bd.
“27.7.1938: The American Ambassador spoke with me today
[…] on whether we might not in any way support the Evian
Committee […]. I said he need not be hopeful about it.” (Doc.
641, p. 754).
“18.10.1938: The British Ambassador delivered to me the attached
memorandum, which the intergovernmental committee
[…] is dealing with. In this memorandum – as during the past
two months – it is suggested that the London-based director of
the committee, the American Rublee, and his colleague Mr Pell,
come to Berlin and begin talks […]. I advised the Ambassador –
as I did last summer – that a trip by Mr. Rublee to Germany is,
according to my personal view, of no value.” (Doc. 645, p. 758.)
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 41
Finally Hitler learned of Weizsäcker’s unauthorized
conduct and immediately summoned Reichsbank president
von Schacht to his office. He authorized Schacht to work
out a financial plan that would enable Germany’s remaining
Jews to emigrate. Schacht developed a proposal, and in
mid-December 1938 Hitler dispatched him to London for a
discussion with Rublee and other individuals.
After the war Schacht described this so as to suggest
that the plan and the trip to England had been his idea,
which he had had to convince Hitler to adopt. Contemporary
documents prove otherwise. After his return from London,
an article written on his initiative appeared in the Berliner
Zeitung of December 19, 1938:
“Schacht Discussion in London, the Purpose of the
The Foreign Ministry was annoyed at this and
Weizsäcker was given the task of getting an explanation
from Schacht. This occurred in a telephone conversation on
December 20, 1938, about which Weizsäcker wrote a
memo.36 It states that Weizsäcker had asked Schacht
whether he had received an order from the Führer, and
whether he, Schacht, had initiated the newspaper report:
“President Schacht unhesitatingly admitted that
the article came from him. It concerned a command from
the Führer, which he, the president, had executed within
the prescribed framework in London. The Führer re-
“7.11.1938: The British chargé d’affaires asked me again today
in matters Rublee. I explained to him, […] ‘the matter needs
time. […] I asked in what percentage was Rublee Aryan […]”
(Doc. 648, p. 761)
C.f. with documents 646, 647, 662. Further rejections from
Weizsäcker and the AA are cited in Vogel, pp. 180–228.
36 ADAP Series D, Bd. V, pp. 768f, Doc. 655.
42 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
quests a report after return. He, Schacht, has now made
an appointment to report to the Führer within the next
two days, and then will also call upon the Reich minister
[Ribbentrop] to give a report. He will not comment further
on the matter until he has reported to the Führer .”
Schacht’s later recall of his activities at this stage of
his career was obviously influenced by subsequent historical
events. His version and what the documents reveal are
In any case, in 1938 the Schacht Plan was adopted by
the Intergovernmental Committee as a basis for discussion.
In January 1939 Rublee was invited to Berlin independently
of the Foreign Ministry. There he discussed matters first
with Schacht, then with Göring’s ministerial director
Helmut Wohlthat. Within four weeks the Rublee-Wohlthat
agreement had been reached.
The basic idea of the agreement was: By establishing
trust funds which would comprise 25 percent of the wealth
belonging to Jews in Germany, Jewish emigration would be
financed through foreign loans. Each emigrant would, in
addition to receiving the requisite amount of cash for entry
(“Vorzeigegeld”), receive a minimum amount of capital
necessary to establish oneself. About 150,000 able-bodied
Jews were marked for emigration, and their next of kin were
to follow later. The Intergovernmental Committee would
concern itself with which countries Jews could migrate to.
All Jews over 45 were to be able to remain in Germany and
be protected from discrimination. Residential and work restrictions
for these Jews were to be lifted.
The text of the memorandum on the Rublee-Wohlthat
Agreement was an official contract. Rublee wrote it up after
his return to London, and sent it to Wohlthat. Weizsäcker
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 43
hesitated to sign it,37 because the Foreign Ministry had not
been involved in the negotiations – something he himself
Therefore it was Hermann Göring who presented the
text to Adolf Hitler, who wholeheartedly assented to it. For
his part, Rublee passed the text to the Intergovernmental
Committee, made up of the representatives of 30 countries.
The committee gave Rublee the task of informing Wohlthat
that these countries had taken note of the agreement with interest,
and that they would do everything to facilitate the
emigration of Jews from Germany on its basis.
In practice this support proved less than promised, but
that was not the fault of the agreement or of its German initiators.
After successfully concluding the negotiations, the
72-year-old Rublee resigned from his post as director of the
In England a finance company was founded with
start-up capital of one million dollars. In the United States,
Jewish bankers pledged to raise enough capital to guarantee
the realization of every settlement project. The new director
of the Intergovernmental Committee, Sir Herbert Emerson,
was convinced that the emigration of Jews had been secured
and that it would be completed in three to five years time.38
In January 1939 the Reich Center for Jewish Emigration
was founded in Berlin. Its work was based on the Rublee-
Wohlthat agreement. It cooperated closely with the
Reich Jewish Association in order to simplify the emigration
37 “Signing of Agreement with Mr. Rublee is out of the question,”
ADAP Series D, Bd. 5, Doc.662.
38 Vogel, pp. 252f.
44 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
The process began slowly, because most countries refused
to take in Jewish immigrants. But at least the Rublee-
Wohlthat agreement had removed the financial barriers. Of
this period, Rublee later wrote:39
“The Germans fulfilled all their obligations […]
In the months between my departure from Germany and
the outbreak of war few, if any, Jewish persecutions occurred
in Germany. Some left, and the rest had it easier
in Germany. I received quite a number of letters from
Germany wherein […] Jews […] thanked me for what I
had done for them.”
With the outbreak of war hopes of finding countries to
which to emigrate diminished. The Royal Navy blocked the
previously used sea routes, and Palestine was practically
closed to immigration because the British had severely
tightened the requirements for entry.
Emigration routes then went overland, for example
through Greece and Turkey. On 18 and 21 June 1940 the
Jüdische Nachrichtenblatt revealed an adventurous route:
“Via Yokohama to America.” A map showed the new travel
routes: Berlin – Warsaw – Moscow – Chita – Shanghai –
Yokohama – San Francisco/Los Angeles. From there on either
in easterly direction to Chicago – New York, or south
to Mexico – Panama – Santiago de Chile. The German government
offered Jews with valid visas a route through occupied
France to Spain and Portugal, from where they could
then travel to their destination by ship.40
That Jewish emigration continued even after the war
began was principally due to, first, the international connections
of the Jews, and second, to the assistance of the Ger-
39 Cited in: Vogel, pp. 238f.
40 Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt, December 10, 1940.
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 45
man bureaucracies, and finally, to an organization that was
later to play a completely different role, the Mossad le Aliyah
7. The Mossad le Aliyah Bet
Mossad le Aliyah Bet literally means ‘Office for the
Second Immigration’, which referred to the illegal immigration
to Palestine. It was out of this organization that later the
Israeli secret service, Mossad, developed. Jews from Palestine
founded it in Paris in 1937 in response to Britain’s Palestine
policies. The British were then issuing only a limited
number of immigration certificates to Palestine – fewer, in
any case, than the number of Jews seeking entry.
The British classed prospective immigrants according
to wealth, profession, and class; the certificates were distributed
in these individual categories, in numbers that reflected
the desirability of immigration from each categories.
Anyone who did not fit into a category considered essential
by the mandatory administration would not be granted a
The following immigration categories were valid
from 1932 to 1945:
Category A: Persons with their own capital:
A1: Capitalists possessing £P1000 (Palestine
A2: Professionals with £P500, so long as the
economic situation warranted their immigration.
A3: Craftsmen with at least £P 250.
48 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
A4: Pensioners with a minimum income of
£P4 per month.41
A5: Persons with work skills scarce in Palestine,
with a minimum capital of £P500.
Category B: Persons with a secure income:
B1: Orphans under 16 years of age whose keep
was guaranteed by public bodies.
B3: Students and pupils whose keep was guaranteed
until their entry into the work force.
Category C: Work certificates for workers between 18 and
35 years. The number of these certificates was
audited by the Palestinian authority twice a
Category D: This category was reserved for wives, children
and parents of Jews living in Palestine, as long
as the residents could show that they were able
to support their relatives.
Finally, there was the category “Jugendalija” (Youth
Aliyah) for youths between the ages of 15 and 17 years.42
Jewish leaders were understandably furious at Jews
being categorized on the basis of their economic value. The
Palestinian Mandate entrusted to Britain on July 24, 1922,
called for the British to support and to simplify Jewish immigration,
while safeguarding the rights of other peoples in
the country. Hence from the inception of the restrictive
measures, the Zionists attempted to find ways around them,
41 This minimal sum indicates the purchasing power the £P had at that
42 From: Philo-Atlas, pp. 141–144, quoted in: Eckert, Emigration, p.
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 49
and to send Jewish transports to Palestine illegally, in the
eyes of the British.
On May 17, 1939, the British published a new White
Paper, which tightened the immigration regulations anew.
In reaction to these events, in 1937 the Mossad began
to establish offices in all the European countries, and sought
immediate contact with agencies in Berlin, in particular
with the SS and the Gestapo. Thus began a lively collaboration
between the Gestapo and the Mossad.
As befitted their attitude towards Jewish emigration,
the SS and the Gestapo were helpful towards the Mossad
agents in many ways. In December 1938 Himmler ordered
that Jewish prisoners in concentration camps who desired to
emigrate should be released.43 Additionally, Mossad agents
were permitted to enter the camps to recruit Jews willing to
go to Palestine in illegal migration ships. Nothing stood in
the way of the release of such inmates. Kimche writes:
“Since he [Pino, the Mossad delegate] guaranteed
the Gestapo that he would provide for their immediate
emigration, Pino was in a position to get a large number
of young Jews out of the concentration camps. A signed
form from him sufficed to effect their release.” (p. 30)
Since direct travel to Palestine was illegal, the emigrants
needed visas from other countries, for example, from
immigration authorities in ports that the ships would stop at
on the way to Palestine. The Gestapo became involved in
this as well as in the chartering of suitable ships, even covering
part of the costs. In 1939 a number of ships arrived in
43 “The Reichsführer SS and Chief of the German Police has lifted restrictions
on Jews who intend to emigrate.” Circular of December 8,
1938, Bundesarchiv Koblenz (BA), R58/276, Bl. 165. A number of
similar orders can be found in further volumes of documents as late
50 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
Palestine, bringing thousands of illegal immigrants to the
The cooperation between the Mossad and the Gestapo
did not end with the outbreak of the war; indeed, it grew
even stronger. Emigration papers were often made out for
other countries, and the emigrants instructed not to reveal
anything about their final destination. Without such help
from the SS and the Gestapo and without the silent acquiescence
of the German authorities, the Mossad could not have
done its work.
In the summer of 1939, an operation was planned that
would have to shipped 10,000 Jews from German ports in a
single convoy to Palestine. Before the ships could sail,
however, war broke out and the English blocked the Channel.
44 More details are offered in Kimche’s book, though it contains some
factual errors. Interesting details are also found in the essay by Ball-
Kaduri, who, like Kimche, is not always accurate.
8. Irgun Proposals
Two years later, in summer 1941, the 1939 plan was
revisited by Abraham Stern, one of the leaders of the Irgun,
the Jewish anti-British resistance and freedom organization.
45 He offered to help the Germans in their battle against
England, and suggested that Germany immediately begin to
ship out 10,000 Jews in return.46 He was of the opinion that
the German ships could break through the English blockade
and bring the Jews to Palestine. Once they had arrived
there, the English would not be able return them.
Whether this suggestion ever reached the right address
is questionable, because the agents sent out by Stern
were later imprisoned in Syria. In any case, Berlin had to
regard breaking the blockade hopeless. A convoy of ships
full of civilians, especially women and children, had little
chance of reaching Palestine unscathed. The German government
could not assume responsibility for such an enterprise.
45 The full name reads: “Irgun Zevai Leumi” = national military organization.
Since September 1940 Abraham Stern had dissociated
himself from the “Irgun” and established his own group, “Lechi”
(“Lochamei Cherut Israel” = fighters for Israel’s freedom). But in
the first few months after the separation, he continued to use the
former name because he saw himself as the legitimate representative
of the Irgun.
46 Katz, pp. 85f.
52 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
This was Stern’s second attempt at establishing contact
with the German government. Half a year earlier, in
January 1941, Irgun had offered in a letter to fight for Germany
against England,47 in particular through sabotage and
spying in Palestine. In return they demanded “that the […]
national aspirations of the Israeli freedom movement be
recognized by the German Reich,” and the establishment of
a Jewish brigade:48
“[…]military training and organization of Jewish
manpower in Europe, under the leadership and command
of the NMO, in military units that would play a
combat role in the conquest of Palestine, should that become
This letter was obviously sent at the same time that
two of Stern’s agents arrived to see Werner Otto von Hentig
in Beirut. Hentig was an advisor in the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs; at the beginning of 1941 he was on an official visit
to what was then the French mandate of Lebanon. The conversation
must have been similar in content to the letter, because
“In Beirut I took up residence in the ‘Hotel Monopol.’
[…] The most extraordinary delegation came
from Palestine itself. The leader, a handsome young officer
type, offered to work together with the National Socialists
against their own people, especially the orthodox
Zionists, if Hitler would agree to an independent Jewish
Palestine.” (p. 338f.)
“I could only respond to the Jewish delegation that
the offer of cooperation and the conditions stated could
47 According to Brenner, p. 267, it was Stern who authorized the communication.
48 For the full text of this historic document, see Appendix.
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 53
never be accepted out of consideration for our Arab
friends and our general principles.” (p. 399)
The Irgun letter, written in German, arrived safely in
Germany,49 but whether a German reaction followed cannot
be ascertained from the files.
49 A copy of this letter is found in the Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen
Amtes, Bonn (PA/AA), Nr. E 234152-234158.
The illegal immigration to Palestine continued even
after the war ended, until the founding of the State of Israel
in 1948, because the British kept Palestine’s borders closed
to Jews. In the decade from 1938 to 1948, over a hundred
thousand Jews migrated to Palestine illegally.50
The total number of Jews who left Germany (and
Austria) after 1933 cannot be ascertained statistically, because
there was no counting at the point of departure or at
the point of arrival. Estimates vary from 100,000 and 537,
000, a discrepancy that reflects the unreliability of those
In actual fact, all figures – with one exception – remain
guesswork, and refer to different groups and times.
There are no reliable figures that embrace Jewish emigration
as a whole. Some authors construe it as confined to
emigration from Germany within its pre-1938 borders. Others
add Austria to their calculations. Some wish to focus
exclusively on the years from 1933 to 1939, although it is
clear that emigration continued after outbreak of war, and
that illegal emigration to Palestine accelerated in 1938.
50 Nicosia, p. 245.
51 Rosenstock attempts to shed some light on this confusion by focusing
on the imponderables, to make clear that all figures must remain
56 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
There is only one figure that derives from an official
German source that, however, is rejected by all establishment
authors because it seems too high. Interestingly, this
figure appears in a document that is otherwise highly regarded,
thanks to its use in proving the German plan for
“Jewish extermination”: the “Wannsee Protocol.” All information
in this document is judged credible and convincing,
except for its emigration statistics.
On page 4 of the Protocol the following figures are
“from the assumption of power until the October
31, 1941, deadline, altogether around 537,000 Jews
“From January 30, 1933, from the old Reich,
From March 15, 1938, from the Ostmark (Austria),
about 147, 000
From March 15, 1939, from the Protectorate of
Bohemia and Moravia, about 30,000.”
We shall not question the authenticity of the Protocols
here, nor comment on the significance of the meeting at the
Wannsee villa, which has recently received a different interpretation.
What is important here is to point out once
again the tendency of establishment historiography arbitrarily
to designate certain parts of a document as authentic,
while rejecting other portions as inauthentic. As for our investigation,
we stand by our statement that exact emigration
figures are not available.
About a quarter to a third of the emigrants went to
Palestine, a third to European countries and the rest overseas,
especially to North and South America.
The Haavara, as stated at the beginning, is occasionally
mentioned in specialized publications, but seldom in
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 57
the public media. The Rublee-Wohlthat agreement is practically
unknown. Most Germans are certainly well informed
about the ‘Holocaust’, but have scarcely heard of the emigration
plan that enabled the large majority of German Jews
to depart unmolested. This is apparently one of the “truths
undesirable for national pedagogy,” as Walter Hofer once
The historian’s task will always be to swim against
the stream and to help discover truths with which to bring
the past into clear focus.
Irgun’s Offer to Cooperate
The main thrust of the National Military Organization
(NMO) in Palestine’s (Irgun Zevai Leumi) proposal for
solving the Jewish question in Europe, and for actively participating
on Germany’s side in the war.
“Germany’s leading National Socialist statesmen
have in comments and speeches more than once emphasized
that a New Order in Europe requires a radical solution
of the Jewish question through evacuation
The evacuation of the Jewish masses from Europe
is a prerequisite for solving the Jewish question, which is
possible only by resettling these masses in the homeland
of the Jewish people, Palestine, and by establishing the
Jewish State in its historic boundaries.
To solve the Jewish problem in this way and once
and for all to liberate the Jewish people is the aim of the
political activity and the ongoing struggle of the Israeli
freedom movement, the National Military Organization
in Palestine (Irgun Zevai Leumi).
The NMO, which knows full well the good will of
the Reich government and its authorities toward Zionist
60 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
activity in Germany and toward Zionist emigration
plans, is of the opinion that
1. a commonality of interest could exist between
the interests of a new order in Europe according to the
German concept, and the true national aspirations of the
Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO;
2. cooperation between the new Germany and a
renewed folkish-national Jewry would be possible; and
3. the establishment of the historic Jewish state on
a national and totalitarian basis, bound by treaty with
the German Reich, would be in the interest of maintaining
and strengthening the Germany’s future position as a
power in the Near East.
Proceeding from these considerations, the NMO in
Palestine, under the condition that the above-mentioned
national aspirations of the Israeli freedom movement be
recognized by the German Reich, offers to actively take
part in the war on Germany’s side.
This offer by the NMO, which could include activity
in the military, political and information fields in Palestine
and, after certain organizational preparations,
outside Palestine, would be linked with the military
training and organization of Jewish manpower in
Europe, under the leadership and command of the NMO,
in military units that would play a combat role in the
conquest of Palestine, should that become a front.
The indirect participation of the Israeli freedom
movement in the New Order in Europe, already in the
preparatory stage, in connection with a positive-radical
solution of the European Jewish problem in the sense of
the above-mentioned national aspirations of the Jewish
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 61
people, would extraordinarily strengthen the moral basis
of the New Order in the eyes of all humanity.
The cooperation of the Israeli Freedom Movement
would be in line with the last speech given by Chancellor
Mr Hitler, that he would employ any combination and
coalition in order to isolate and beat England.”
A Brief Overview of the Origins, Nature and
Activity of the NMO in Palestine
The NMO arose in part out of the Jewish self-defense
force in Palestine and the Revisionist movement (New Zionist
Organization), with which the NMO remained in a
loose union facilitated by Vladimir Jabotinsky until his
The pro-English attitude of the revisionist organization
in Palestine made a renewal of the union impossible,
and resulted in a split in the fall of that year.
The aim of the NMO is to establish the Jewish state
within its historic borders.
In contrast to all other Zionist movements, the NMO
rejects infiltration of the colony as the only means of
achieving occupation and gradual settlement of the Fatherland,
and proclaims as its motto that struggle and sacrifice
52 This rather complicated sentence, put in clearer language, states:
German Jewish politics, i.e., the expulsion of Jews from Germany, is
possibly immoral in the eyes of the world. It would gain moral justification
if through this expulsion a Jewish state came into being. The
results justify the means, or: What isn’t permitted for the Germans is
welcome support for Jewish nationalists in their battle, and so justified.
62 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
are the only true means by which to conquer and liberate
Through its militant character and its anti-English attitude,
and because of the constant persecution of the English
administration, the NMO was forced to conduct its political
activities and the military training of its members in secret.
The NMO, whose terrorist activity had already begun
in the fall of 1936, gained prominence in the summer of
1939, after the English White Book was published, through
its intensified terrorist attacks and sabotage of English
property. At that time virtually the press of virtually the entire
world reported and discussed this activity, as well as the
[NMO’s] daily clandestine radio broadcasts. Until the outbreak
of war, the NMO maintained independent political offices
in Warsaw, Paris, London, Geneva, and New York.
The Warsaw office was mainly concerned with the
military organization and training of the national Zionist
youth. It was in close contact with the Jewish masses,
which, especially in Poland, enthusiastically followed the
NMO’s struggle in Palestine and supported it in every way
possible. Two newspapers published by the NMO appeared
in Warsaw: Die Tat and Jerozalima wseljona.
The Warsaw office also maintained close contact with
the pre-war Polish government and with military circles that
regarded the aims of the NMO with interest and favor.
Hence, in 1939, groups of NMO members traveled from
Palestine to Poland, where they were quartered in barracks
and their military training perfected under Polish officers.
Negotiations between the NMO and the Polish government
in Warsaw aimed at actualizing and concretizing
their assistance were terminated due to the outbreak of the
war. Documentation of this will be easy to find in the archives
of the pre-war Polish government.
Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich 63
In its worldview and structure the NMO is closely related
to the European totalitarian movements.
The ruthless defense measures of the English administration,
the Arabs, and the Jewish socialists have at no time
sufficed to weaken or to paralyze the NMO’s fighting ability.
– Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik 1918–1945, ADAP, Serie D
(1937–1945), vol. 5: Polen, Südosteuropa, Lateinamerika, Klein- und
Mittelstaaten, Juni 1937-März 1939, Baden-Baden 1953
– Adler-Rudel, Schalom: Jüdische Selbsthilfe unter dem Naziregime
1933–1939. Im Spiegel der Berichte der Reichsvertretung der Juden
in Deutschland. With a foreword by Robert Weltsch. (Schriftenreihe
wissenschaftlicher Abhandlungen des Leo Baeck Instituts 29), Tübingen
– Arendt, Hannah: Eichmann in Jerusalem. Ein Bericht von der Banalität
des Bösen, Munich 1965
– Ball-Kaduri, Kurt Jakob: “Illegale Judenauswanderung aus Deutschland
nach Palästina 1939/1940 – Planung, Durchführung und internationale
Zusammenhänge,” in: Walter Grab (ed.), Jahrbuch des Instituts
für Deutsche Geschichte, vol. 4, Tel Aviv 1975, pp. 387–421
– Barkai, Avraham: Vom Boykott zur “Entjudung.” Der wirtschaftliche
Existenzkampf der Juden im Dritten Reich 1933–1943, Fischer 4368,
– Black, Edwin: The Transfer Agreement. The Untold Story of the Secret
Agreement between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine, New
– Brenner, Lenni: Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, Westport 1983
– Eckert, Brita (ed.): Die jüdische Emigration aus Deutschland 1933–
1941. Die Geschichte einer Austreibung. Eine Ausstellung der Deutschen
Bibliothek, Frankfurt am Main, in cooperation with the Leo
Baeck Instituts, New York, Frankfurt am Main 1985
– Feilchenfeld, Werner/Dolf Michaelis/Ludwig Pinner: Haavara-
Transfer nach Palästina und Einwanderung deutscher Juden 1933–
1939 (Schriftenreihe wissenschaftlicher Abhandlungen des Leo
Baeck Instituts 26), Tübingen 1972
– Hentig, Werner Otto v.: Mein Leben eine Dienstreise, Göttingen
66 Ingrid Weckert: Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich
– Herrmann, Klaus J.: Das Dritte Reich und die deutsch-jüdischen Organisationen
1933–1934 (Schriftenreihe der Hochschule für politische
Wissenschaften München, N.F. H. 4), Cologne 1969
– Katz, Samuel: Tage des Feuers. Das Geheimnis der Irgun,