JUDEA DECLARED WAR

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“We being Jews ourselves are astonished and disgusted with this propaganda against Germany, being based on absolutely untrue statements. The news of cruelties, murdering of Jews, men and women, etc., are perfect lies from beginning to end.

This news comes from and is spread abroad by certain traitors, literary men, who fled from Germany when the National Government was formed, and is supplied by communistic circles.

“The German nation fails to understand how the foreign countries allow themselves to be driven into an opposition against Germany by such people, while according to our opinion Europe should be grateful for Germany’s endeavour to do away, most energetically, with all the decomposing tendencies of communism in her own country, and her attempt to make Germany a firm bulwark of order.”

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This rare Jewish defense of Nazi Germany was in a letter sent by Hermann Wachtel, the owner of a German fabric company, on April 3, 1933, two months after Adolf Hitler was named German chancellor. In his letter, Wachtel called on officials in the Jewish community in Palestine, as well as Jewish organizations abroad, to drop their efforts to organize an economic boycott of Nazi Germany following Hitler’s rise to power and reports of persecution of German Jews.

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Poster calling on Palestinian Jews to boycott Germany.

“We would be grateful if you would do everything you can to stop the defamatory assault on Germany, to help to prevent the boycott of German products, and to see to it that the press in your country does not publish distorted reports on events in Germany,” implored Wachtel in his defense of Hitler.

False propaganda

The German firms contacted Ney following a boycott of German-Jewish businesses that the Nazis organized for April 1, 1933, which in turn spurred greater efforts by Jewish communities not only in Palestine but also in the United States, Poland, and even Egypt and Morocco, to boycott German products. Dozens of letters sent to Ney contained denials that Jews were being harassed, calling the allegations false propaganda being spread by Jews outside of Germany. The German business people also assured Ney they were not anti-Semitic and were determined to maintain good relations with Jews.

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They had a State.

In 1938, Eichmann was posted to Vienna to help organise Jewish emigration from Austria, which had just been integrated into the Reich through the Anschluss. Jewish community organisations were placed under supervision of the SD and tasked with encouraging and facilitating Jewish emigration. Funding came from money seized from other Jewish people and organisations, as well as donations from overseas, which were placed under SD control. Eichmann was promoted to SS-Obersturmführer (first lieutenant) in July 1938, and appointed to the Central Agency for Jewish Emigration in Vienna, created in August. By the time he left Vienna in May 1939, nearly 150,000 Jews had left Austria legally, and many more had been smuggled out to Palestine and elsewhere.

In Palestine, the calls for an economic boycott of Germany began a few days after Hitler was sworn in as chancellor on January 30, 1933. The first discussion of the issue by the Jewish community leadership in Palestine took place the following month, says historian Yoav Gelber, emeritus professor at the University of Haifa and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, and head of the Herzl Institute for the Study of Zionism and History.

Posters began to appear in the Yishuv opposing the purchase of German products. The effort here pushed the heads of Jewish communities in other countries to follow suit, including the wealthiest and most influential of them all – the American-Jewish community.

In March 1933 representatives of the U.S.-Jewish Congress met in New York for an emergency meeting and decided to launch a protest campaign, including demonstrations in 70 cities and a main rally at Madison Square Garden.

In addition to support for a boycott, there were those who expressed opposition to such a move, among them Judge Irving Lehman. He voiced concern that the campaign would escalate the situation, resulting in additional harm to German Jews. He cautioned that advocates of a boycott not let their anger at the Nazis lead to the death of German Jews.

The boycott directed against Nazi Germany fizzled for a number of reasons – including the obstacles placed in the way by the Zionist establishment due to controversial transfer agreements that the Jewish Agency signed in May 1933 with the Nazi government. The agreements were designed to salvage the property of German Jews and transfer it to Palestine, along with the immigration of the Jews themselves.

Ideological divide

Although the Jews had difficulty getting their money out of Nazi Germany, under this arrangement they were permitted to deposit funds in German banks. The funds were used by importers in Palestine to buy German goods that were then sold to others. When the German Jews arrived in Palestine, they got most of their money back, but the arrangement also spurred demand for German products here.

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