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Increases in Measures to Expel the Jews
With its efforts in the latter half of 1936 to expel the Jews from the economic sphere, the National Socialist regime was pursuing two main goals: the financing of rearmament and the expulsion of the Jewish minority from Germany. Economic pressure was intended to increase the Jewish population’s willingness to emigrate and to improve the incoming flow of capital for the state. After the first wave of emigration in 1933, when some 37,000 people of Jewish origin left Germany, 1934 saw approximately 23,000 leave; in 1935 there were 21,000 and in 1936 some 25,000.79 In the latter half of 1937 it became more and more difficult for German Jews to find a place that would take them. On the one hand, after the announcement of British plans to divide Palestine and, after the Arab revolts of April 1936–8, the number of Jews leaving for the British Mandate went down; on the other, there were increasing signs that countries that had so far been willing to accept Jews who wished to emigrate were becoming more restrictive in their immigration policies, as South Africa and Brazil had already shown in 1937. Whilst it is true that some 23,000 Jews left Germany in 1937, the reports of the Jewish Reich National Association indicate that the numbers emigrating began to stagnate in the third quarter of 1937.80 During the whole of 1937, representatives of the National Socialist regime were occupied with the question of whether increased emigration to Palestine was desirable from a German perspective if this were to improve chances for the foundation of a Jewish state. The regime had to decide whether it wished to continue its policies intended to drive out the Jews without taking account of the international situation or of their consequences for German foreign policy. At the beginning of the year the Reich government’s policy on the Palestine question seemed clear: on 16 January 1937, the Reich Minister of the Interior informed the German Foreign Office that it was planning to continue to support the policy of Jewish emigration regardless of the destination countries.81 But after it began to emerge in early 1937 that Britain’s Peel Commission might opt for a Jewish state in Palestine, on 1 June the Foreign Minister, Neurath, sent guidelines to the embassies in London and Baghdad and to the Consul General in Jerusalem in which he made it crystal clear that he was against the formation of a Jewish state or ‘anything resembling a state’. Such a state would not be sufficient, he said, to receive all the Jews, and like the Vatican for the Catholic Church or Moscow for the Komintern, it would serve as an internationally recognized power base for world Jewry.82 As formulated in a general order sent to all German consulates by the Foreign Office on 22 June, in contrast to the expected recommendations of the Peel Commission, there was ‘significant German interest in making sure that the fragmented condition of the Jews was preserved’.83
Racial Persecution, 1933–1939
However, at an inter-ministerial meeting on 29 July the representative from the Reich Ministry of the Interior announced that Hitler was in favour of emigration to Palestine and thus of ‘concentrating’ the Jews in that area—in direct contradiction of the idea of ‘fragmenting’ Jewish emigration put forward in the Foreign Office order the previous month. On 21 September, however, this was modified by a representative from the Reich Ministry of the Interior to clarify that the ‘Führer’ was clearly in favour of the emigration of the Jews, but that he had not made any specific comments on Palestine.84 Another declaration of principle on Hitler’s part has been preserved from January 1938, and from that it is clear that he was positive about emigration to Palestine.85 This established that the continued expulsion of German Jews, using all available means, took priority over any foreign-policy reservations.
The Judenpolitik of the Security Service
In addition to the state administration, the Party, the Four-Year Plan, and the Gestapo, in spring 1937 the division of the Party’s Security Service (SD) responsible for Jewish affairs increased its involvement in anti-Semitic persecution. Previously this division—which, as a part of the Party organization, had no claim to any official state executive functions—had concentrated mainly on the collection and analysis of information, but this situation changed when Dieter Wisliceny took over its running in April 1937. At this point a group of relatively young, self-confident activists, including Herbert Hagen, Theodor Dannecker, and Adolf Eichmann, set about reforming the activities of the division. This group very quickly claimed to be a ‘brains trust’ endowed with exceptional expertise, and its first task was to develop a consistent conception for future ‘Jewish policy’. The self-appointed ‘intellectuals’ of the Division responsible for Jewish affairs designated the prime goal of ‘Jewish policy’ as the ‘removal’ (Entfernung) of the Jews from Germany and in this respect they were to all appearances working in line with the various official authorities working on ‘Jewish policy’. However, the SD specialists were unusually consistent in their stress on the priority of ‘Zionist emigration’ and all other main elements of future ‘Jewish policy’ were subordinated to this main aim, including the ‘crushing’ of German-Jewish organizations that promoted assimilation, the ‘exclusion’ of Jews from the economic life of the country, and limited support for (or rather manipulation of) Zionist activities.86 In order to assume the leading role they wanted to occupy in the area of ‘Jewish policy’, this Division’s tactics included muscling in on the executive functions of the Gestapo, via which, as Dannecker noted, ‘the struggle was being carried out on an exclusively administrative level and [which] for the most part lacked high-level understanding of the subject matter’.87 These tactics were very much in the spirit
Segregation and Discrimination, 1935–7
of Himmler’s ‘operational order’ of 1 July 1937: all ‘matters in principle concerned with the Jews’ were thenceforth to be dealt with by the SD, whereas all individual cases or implementation measures were to be the province of the Gestapo.88 By proceeding skilfully the SD could harness the state apparatus for its own measures concerned with ‘principle’. The Division made a first attempt to break into the direction of Jewish persecution in May 1937 at the point when the international Upper Silesia Accord signed in 1922 was due to expire and when, after a two-month transition period, the German anti-Jewish laws were due to come into force; this had previously been prevented by minority protection measures set out in the Accord. Eichmann, who had been sent to Breslau, now set about seizing all the Jewish civil servants, lawyers, doctors, artists, and others who were to be removed from their positions so that measures against them could be set in train as soon as the transition period had expired.89 In the last months of 1937, the position taken by the SD, according to which an increase in economic pressure on the German Jews and limited support for Zionists would force the pace of emigration, in particular to Palestine, underwent something of a crisis. Unrest in the Arab countries meant that emigration to Palestine was decreasing, and at the same time many countries were tightening up their immigration policies, not least because of the impression made abroad by the rigour of German activity in Upper Silesia and because of a widespread fear of mass exodus by German Jews that had been prompted by the intensification of anti-Jewish policy.90 The SD reacted to the developing crisis in its deportation policy by sending its specialists Hagen and Eichmann on a—not particularly successful—fact-finding mission to Egypt and Palestine,91 and by setting up a conference in Berlin in November 1937 for the Jewish specialists of the higher echelons of the SD.92 The essence of the papers given at this conference was that the persecution of the Jews needed to be intensified and that further measures were needed to enforce Jewish emigration. The SD felt it could resolve the dilemma that support for emigration to Palestine produced—the wholly undesirable emergence of a Jewish state—by calling a halt immediately after the conference to the limited support (or tolerance) it had hitherto shown for Zionist ambitions. This change of direction was not to be declared to Jewish organizations, since, in the words of a working directive issued by the Division, it was ‘wholly and exclusively’ a question of ‘convincing the Jewish population of Germany that its only way out is emigration’.93 They were to be driven out at all costs, even if it was not certain where they were to go.