Although absurd in itself, the “antisemitism” row that has blown up in the British Labour party has been very revealing indeed, about the moral character, or lack thereof, of many of the individuals involved in it, including the historians who have been asked to offer comment. I am sorry to say that even historians I formerly respected to some degree have shown us their deficiencies, whether of judgement, knowledge or moral probity. One of their number is Niall Ferguson, who writes this in the Sunday Times:
I am a philo-semite. The disproportionate Jewish contribution to western civilisation— not least to science and the arts — is one of the most astonishing achievements of modern history. I am also an anti-anti-semite. The murder and mayhem perpetrated by anti- semites throughout history, and above all in the 20th century, deserves its special place in the annals of infamy.
I’d assumed anti-semitism had no place in British life, aside from the odious antics of skinheads on the fringes of the far right. There are therefore few things that depress me more than the resurfacing of anti-semitism on the British left, and not on its fringes. In an interview on BBC London last week, the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, claimed that “when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism — this before he went mad and ended up killing 6m Jews.”
It turns out that Livingstone’s source for this claim is a book entitled Zionism in the Age of the Dictators by the self-proclaimed American Trotskyist Lenni Brenner. This is not a book cited in scholarly works, not least because Brenner is not a scholar but a political activist. (At an anti-Israel meeting in Berlin, Connecticut, he said that Jews who made political donations were as “crooked as a dog’s hind leg”.) Far more reliable accounts exist of the contacts between the Nazi regime and certain Zionists that led to the 1933 Havaara Agreement, which allowed German Jews to transfer property from Germany to Palestine, then a British-controlled “mandate”.
Some Nazi officials did indeed favour emigration as the “solution to the Jewish question”. But Livingstone’s claim that this was Hitler’s preferred option is simply wrong. As early as 1919 Hitler stated that he saw the Jews as “the racial tuberculosis of peoples”. In a speech he gave in April 1920 he called for them “to be exterminated”. In Mein Kampf he wrote: “If at the beginning of the [First World] war and during the war 12 or 15,000 of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas . . . the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain.”
I replied to his in a comment on the website, but, as I expected, even though I had tried to tone it down for mainstream respectability, it did not meet with the censor’s approval. So here it is here. This was, after all, the reason I started blogging in the first place: to have somewhere to express the thoughts that were being censored on newspaper comment systems.
You claim that Jews have made a disproportionately positive contribution to civilisation. In doing so you abandon the usually unarticulated dogma that “people are all the same”. Once you have allowed that one people can differ from another in the disproportionality of its positive contributions, however, then you have implicitly conceded the possibilty that the opposite could also be true. Antisemites often acknowledge that Jews have had a disproportionate impact on our civilisation, in ways both positive and negative. But when they try to make their case they are silenced and persecuted, told that the mere expression of their opinion is somehow a disease that must be expunged. There is no question, for example, that Jews were massively disproportionately involved in the Communist movements in the early 20th century, movements which, after achieving power, led to the deaths of tens of millions of Europeans. It was this spectacle that inspired Hitler’s antisemitism. But somehow this fact is left out of most of the popular accounts of history from which the average person gains historical knowledge. It’s reasonable to question whether, had their been no Jews resident in these countries, the ravages of Communism would have been quite what they were.
As to the matter clumsily raised by Ken Livingstone, there is no question that Hitler favoured the Zionist Jews within Germany over other Jews. He shut down all of the anti-Zionist Jewish organisations but allowed the Zionists to go on unmolested. Their newspaper, the Judische Rundschau, was the only one allowed to operate in Germany free of Nazi control. It was even allowed to criticise the Nazi regime. Only one restriction was placed upon it: that it should be sold only to Jews. Tens of thousands of Jews were settled in Palestine under the Haavara agreement prior to WW2. It was not just a transfer of property as you imply. When Arabs began to realise the implications of the Jewish resettlement programme and rebelled against it in 1936, many figures in the German government wanted the Havaara agreement to be terminated lest Arab hostility to Germany be provoked. Hitler personally overruled their objections.
You probably know the facts I have just cited but you dishonestly obfuscate them the better to damage a political opponent. This Ken Livingstone drama has been an interesting character test for many historians. Unfortunately, you, like most others, have failed it.
Another Establishment historian who has pitched in is Timothy Snyder.
Hitler was not a supporter of Zionism.
He believed, on the contrary, that Zionism was one of many deliberately deceptive labels that Jews placed upon what he believed to be their endless striving for global power and the extermination of the human species.
From Hitler’s point of view, Jews were precisely not normal human beings because they did not care about territory, but cared only about global domination.
“He was supporting Zionism” is categorically false and reveals a total and fundamental misunderstanding of what Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all about.
Tens of thousands of German Jews did emigrate to Palestine before British policy made this all but impossible. And some German officials did take an interest in Zionism. But there was never a German policy to support Zionism or a future Israel. On the contrary, the German orientation in the Middle East was to support Arab nationalism.
The official German policy, enunciated clearly in 1937, was to oppose the creation of a State of Israel.
Almost all Establishment historians have contrived to find fault with what Livingstone said, namely that Hitler supported Zionism, even though it is undisputed that the Haavara [Transfer] Agreement existed and, under its auspices, tens of thousands of Jews emigrated from Germany to Palestine. How can they dispute something so clearly, objectively true? They have first of all avoided the issue, talking about other things, denigrating Hitler and doing everything but addressing the point Livingstone raised. When they do address it, they take their stand on the issue of statehood, claiming that though Hitler may have supported Jewish emigration to Palestine, he did not want a Jewish state and so doesn’t count as a Zionist. As the article I will cite below proves, however, Hitler did want a Jewish state. If he was sensitive about supporting it publicly, it was because he didn’t want a diplomatic row with Britain, which was still in control of Palestine as a mandate territory. But Hitler did indeed favour the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine in the hope that there would then be “only one centre of Jewish trouble in the world”.
I’ll avoid putting this extracts in quotes because they are wearying on the eye with long passages of text.
Nazi views on Palestine had their roots in Adolf Hitler’s pathological fear of ‘International Jewry’. In Mein Kampf he wrote: . .. while Zionism tries to make the other part of the world believe that the national self-consciousness of the Jew finds satisfaction in the creation of a Palestinian State, the Jews again most slyly dupe the stupid goiim. They have no thought of building up a Jewish State in Palestine, so that they might perhaps inhabit it, but they only want a central organization of their international world cheating, endowed with prerogatives, withdrawn from the seizure of others: a refuge for convicted rascals and a high school for future rogues.’
This passage, however, is the only reference to Palestine in page after turgid page denouncing the wickedness of German Jewry. It is not too surprising, therefore, to discover that the Nazi government which came to power in Germany a decade after Hitler had penned these words concentrated its attention on getting rid of German Jews, even if this involved co-operation with Zionism.
In 1933 the Reich Ministry of Economics and Zionist groups concluded the Haavara agreements, which permitted German Jews emigrating to Palestine to deposit their assets in a special account in Germany. This account would then be used to pay for German exports to Palestine, the Jewish emigrant being reimbursed by the importer. It was hoped that this arrangement would nullify the effects of an anticipated Jewish boycott of German goods in Palestine.
Ernst Marcus, a Zionist who dealt with German officials in connection with these agreements, believes that they received Hitler’s blessing.3 Marcus is probably referring to a speech of October 24, 1933, in which Hitler, without naming the Haavara Agreements, noted that Germany, in contrast to Britain, was aiding Jewish emigration.
Not until 1937 did the leadership of the Third Reich show any concern over Palestine. In January of that year Grobba, German Minister to Iraq, reported that a delegation of Palestine Arabs had told him that continued Jewish immigration would in five years create a Jewish majority and, eventually, a Jewish and therefore Germanophobe state. The Arabs sought German help against the Jews and the British. Grobba replied that although Germany understood the plight of the Arabs, she also desired good relations with Britain, and could therefore not intervene in Palestine.
The Arabs’ warning to Grobba was confirmed by a German source when in late March, Dohle, the German Consul in Jerusalem, told Berlin that if Germany persisted in the policy of supporting Jewish emigration by the Haavara agreements she would not only lose the good will which she had theretofore enjoyed among the Arabs, but might very well be confronted with a Jewish State which would become a centre of Germanophobia, would boycott German goods, and would seal the fate of German institutions and settlements in the Holy Land.
On June 1, 1937, in response to these and similar reports, Foreign Minister von Neurath formulated German policy on Palestine. He began by dutifully paraphrasing Mein Kampf: The formation of a Jewish State or a Jewish-led political structure under British mandate is not in Germany’s interest, since a Palestinian State would not absorb world Jewry but would create an additional position of power under international law for international Jewry, somewhat like the Vatican State for political Catholicism or Moscow for the Comintern. This being the case, Neurath continued, it was in Germany’s interest to strengthen the Arabs. For the moment, however, Grobba was simply to put more emphasis on German sympathy for the Arabs, without making any promises. Dohle was informed that his proposals for modifying the Haavara Agreements were ‘reserved for later decision’.
Neurath also instructed his ambassador in London to inform the British government that Germany’s support of Jewish emigration to Palestine was not to be construed as German approval of a Jewish State there. Germany, on the contrary, did not feel that such a development would help ‘tranquilize the international situation. . .. Three weeks later, the Foreign Ministry, having learned that the Peel Commission would propose partition of Palestine and the creation of a Jewish State which ‘might have fateful results for German foreign policy’, asked German diplomats to inform Berlin if Jewry was attempting to influence the governments to which they were accredited in favour of such a settlement.
Despite all this ominous talk of a ‘Jewish Vatican’ and its ‘fateful results’, the actions of the German government during the next few years indicate that such fears were not taken very seriously, even by those who first voiced them. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the question of the Haavara agreements, by which Germany herself was co-operating in the building of Zion. In January 1938 Dohle reminded Berlin that this matter was still pending, warning that Arab opinion, once overwhelmingly pro-German, was showing signs of souring, and might turn completely if Germany’s role in the Haavara system became known.
The Haavara agreements had in fact become a bone of contention within the German government, where in June 1937 the brash and meddling Auslandsorganisation,1′ the Nazi Party branch for Germans outside the Reich, told the Foreign Ministry of its long opposition to Haavara and its present support of ‘Party Comrade Dohle’ because: Haavara transfers amount economically to draining off goods without an economic quid pro quo either in foreign exchange or in the form of goods. Politically it means valuable support for the formation of a Jewish national State with the help of German capital.
In March 1938 Referat Deutschland, the Foreign Ministry office concerned with German internal affairs, added its warning that the Jewish State which the Haavara agreements were helping build in Palestine would, as Hitler and Neurath had said, become a centre of ‘International Jewry’, while at the same time it would not absorb even German Jewry, which in 1937 had contributed only 1,500 immigrants to Palestine.13 The Haavara agreements also had their champions in the German government. In December 1937 the Foreign Exchange Control Office presented a report showing that in terms of foreign exchange this system provided the least costly method of encouraging the emigration of the greatest number of Jews. This report claimed that of the approximately 120,000 Jews who had left Germany since 1933, 40,000 had gone to Palestine, and held out the hope that in the future the Haavara system might enable 20,000-25,000 Jews to emigrate to Palestine annually. These facts, the report concluded, ‘not only justify but demand the continuation of the activities of Haavara’.
In the Foreign Ministry the Haavara system was strongly supported by von Hentig, head of Political Department VII (Middle East affairs) and one of the ‘old school’ diplomats opposed, albeit not very actively, to much of Nazism’s programme.’ Hentig advanced an argument which affirmed Nazi fantasies about the malevolence of ‘International Jewry’, but turned them in a pro-Zionist direction. Dispersing Germanophobe Jews to many countries, he wrote in late 1937, was more harmful to Germany than concentrating them in Palestine, where the emergence of a Jewish State would enable Germany ‘when … attacked by Jewry, to deal with official representatives and not, as heretofore, with anonymous and therefore irresponsible elements’. What is more, Hentig claimed that the current rate of emigration to Palestine was 30,000-40,000 per annum, meaning that in ten years Germany would be rid of her Jews.
This conflict over Haavara meant that the question would have to be decided by Hitler himself, whose anti-Semitism was, after all, the root of the entire problem. Marcus says Hentig told him that at the time of the Peel Commission report, Hitler, seconded by Goebbels, had expressed his fears of a ‘second Vatican’ and criticized the policy of encouraging Jewish emigration to Palestine. Since the rumour of these remarks had interfered with emigration, Hentig had Marcus prepare a report for Hitler showing the relative unimportance of German Jews in Palestine. For whatever reasons, Hitler would seem to have changed his mind almost immediately and swung around to Hentig’s position. In July 1937 a representative of the Ministry of the Interior reported that Hitler had decided that Jewish emigration should be concentrated on Palestine, because this would create ‘. . . only one centre of Jewish trouble in the world’, a centre which would be weakened by internal strife, would be easier for Germany to influence, and which could be opposed by concerted German counter-measures. Six months later, in January 1938, an official of the Foreign Ministry’s Economic Policy Department reported that the Fuhrer had ‘recently decided again’ that Jewish emigration was to be ‘promoted by all available means’.
From: Nazi Germany and the Palestine Question
Author(s): R. Melka
Source: Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Oct., 1969), pp. 221-233
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
So Hitler did at first support the creation of a Jewish State, hoping it would concentrate “Jewish evil” in one place. The “Judenfrage” [Jewish Question] would then no longer be a matter of covert subversive influence but could be dealt with using the normal mechanisms through which different states regulate their disputes with one another. Later, it is true, as the British government blocked further Jewish immigration, and war drew closer and then arrived, the German government decided it needed Arab opinion on its side and publicly opposed the idea of a Jewish state being created in Palestine.