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Yehuda Bauer: My Brother's Keeper

A History of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 1929-1939

[Holocaust preparations in Europe and resistance without solution of the situation]

The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia 1974

Transcription with subtitles by Michael Palomino (2007)



Chapter 4. Refugees: 1933-1938
[4.11. 1933-1938: Legal German Jewish immigration to Palestine: 44,537 (official number)]

During the first three years, 1933-1935, the figures were most impressive. Of a total of about 81,000 Jews who left Germany 22,700 (28 %) left for Palestine. In 1935, when 62,000 Jews entered that country, it seemed as though this was the most practical solution to the problem of the refugees, politics and ideology aside.

[The Palestinians are not asked or mentioned, and the Arab protest seems to be simply repressed].

[Joint fights for priority to German Jews coming to Palestine]

Yet even in that heyday of optimism as regards the future of the Jewish settlement in Palestine, two problems arose to plague JDC. The first was the obvious fact that while the German emergency was getting grimmer year by year, the Jewish Agency allocated to German Jews well under a third of the entry permits into Palestine. JDC exerted considerable pressure on the Agency to change this policy and to give German Jews an absolute priority.

Table 8: Immigration (Legal) to Palestine of Jews from Germany and Austria
From Germany
From Austria
% of total (legal)
6,803             328             7,131             22.3
8,497             928             9,425             21.4
7,447             1,376             8,823             14.5
7,896             581             8,477             26.8
3,280             214             3,494             28.1
4,223             2,964             7,187             40.5
38,146             6,391             44,537             22.3
(End note 62: Sources: 15-2, Max Birnbaum; Rosenstock, op. cit, pp. 15-32, HOG report on immigration to Palestine. The figures included "tourists" who stayed on in Palestine and were later legalized by the government. If we combine the above figures with those in Table 7, we will see that Palestine absorbed approximately 18.4 percent of total Jewish emigration from Germany in 1933, 36.8 % in 1934, 35.4 % in 1935, 31.5 % in 1936, 14.2 % in 1937, and 12 % in 1938. The figures may have to be revised upwards very slightly to take into account illegal immigration to Palestine in those years. Between 1933 and the end of 1938 about 165,000 Jews left Germany, and of these about 45,000, or 27.2 %, entered Palestine).


However, the Central Bureau for the Settlement of German Jews in Palestine, an Agency office run by Dr. Weizmann, could not accede to the request. The Agency had to consider the claims of Jews in Poland, Lithuania, and Romania, because those were the main constituents of the Zionist organization and also because the situation of the Jews in Eastern Europe was, from the economic point of view certainly, even worse than that of the Jews in Germany. In desperation, the Zionists even looked to Syria and other Middle Eastern countries as temporary havens. Weizmann stated that "there was plenty of room in Syria for Jewish immigrants and that he understood  that Jews would be welcomed to that country."

(End note 63: 14-51, CBF Allocation Committee meeting, 5/7/34 [7 May 1934])

JDC's second problem was that the Zionists attempted to make it use its funds for transporting emigrants to Palestine. In this they succeeded in a large measure. JDC put the cost of transport to Palestine, including its expenditures for vocational training for Palestine, at about $ 993,000 between 1933 and the end of 1938.

(End note 64: 42-Palestine immigration, 1938-43)

Even if the computation was exaggerated, as it seems to have been, there is no doubt at all that JDC did in fact support immigration to Palestine to a marked degree. This was at a time when there was considerable competition for funds in the United States between JDC and the United Palestine Appeal. According to one JDC compilation, various Palestine-oriented appeals collected a total of $ 2,848,000 in the United States in 1933/4, whereas the JDC collections amounted to $ 2,553,000

(End note 65: 42-Palestine, general, 1933-38)

at the same time. Weizmann's Central Bureau in London received 936,000 pounds

(End note 66: 15-32)

between October 1933 and December 1938, or about $ 5 million. JDC income between 1934 and 1938 came to about $ 12.8 million;

[Reasons for the Joint Distribution Committee to support emigration for Palestine - connection with ZA (Zentral-Ausschuss)]

but JDC had to give aid to East European Jewry, apart from looking after refugees everywhere and supporting German Jewry as well. Why then should JDC also support Palestine ventures?

In April 1934 JDC issued a statement of policy, which said: "Were the CBF, the ICA, the Jewish Agency for Palestine to agree to a sharing of these responsibilities (for everything outside of Palestine), which no other agency in large measure has attempted to meet, the JDC (p.164)

could see its way clear to an understanding whereby important part of its resources can be applied toward the settlement of German Jews in Palestine."

(End note 67: 14-46, Statement of Policy, 4/20/34 [20 April 1934])

Despite the declaration, in practice JDC had no choice but to support the Palestine immigration office in Berlin, because it was part of the Zentral-Ausschuss, and JDC could not help supporting ZA in all its activities. Even apart from that, Kahn found it necessary to support Hechalutz in France and Poland, in Holland and Austria, because it was one of the agencies that made the most effective use of the money given them. On Palestine, JDC suffered from a split personality; while heated arguments might take place in its Executive Committee on how to avoid spending too much money there, Warburg would declare at the National Council that "the money spent there, which at one time might have worried us, is well founded and well spent."

(End note 68: JDC Library, National Council meeting, 4/13/35 [13 April 1935])