September 25, 2009

Zionazi agreement

It's that word again, zionazi. What's all this about? Well it's nothing new actually. It's an article in the Jerusalem Post by Edwin Black (more in a bit) about the first known instance of zionist collaboration with the nazis, the transfer or ha'avara agreement. See this intro to the article:
On the afternoon of August 7, 1933, at 76 Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin, on a day when well-dressed Jews in Germany could not step into the street without fear, when laboring kibbutzniks in Palestine proudly swept the midday perspiration from their foreheads, when anxious German businessmen worried the next telegram would cancel yet another order for increasingly unsellable Reich goods, when Nazi organizers throughout Europe gleefully reviewed statistics on Jewish populations and Jewish assets within their midst, when Polish blackshirts viciously beat Jews in town squares, when ordinary jobless Germans wondered where they could find enough money for the next meal, when young Jewish boys in German schools were forced to stand painfully before their classmates as examples of detestable vermin, when defiant Jews across America and England raised their fists in anger proliferating their punishing anti-German boycott, when Jewish Palestinian exporters wondered nervously whether their biggest customer, Germany, would retaliate, when thousands of homeless German Jews existed as refugees and some in concentration camps, when the prospects for Jewry in Europe seemed over, on this fateful day in the first summer of the Hitler regime, an official delegation of four German and Palestinian Zionists and one independent Palestinian businessman were ushered into an Economics Ministry conference room. The Jews had been authorized by a combine of Jewish and Zionist bodies to negotiate with the Third Reich.
Ok so they negotiated. Then what?
And so it was done. The Transfer Agreement was created. There was no hard-copy contract with names penned at the bottom. The agreement was actually an official Reich decree, 54/33, issued three days later, on August 10, by the Reich Economics Ministry. The decree authorized the Zionists to create two transfer clearinghouses, one under the supervision of the German Zionist Federation in Berlin, one under the supervision of Anglo-Palestine's trust company in Palestine. The office in Tel Aviv was called Haavara Trust and Transfer Office Ltd. Often called Haavara Ltd. for short, this corporation was organized under the Palestinian commercial code and operated by business managers. Its stock was wholly owned by the Anglo-Palestine Bank, which was later renamed Bank Leumi.

Haavara, the Hebrew word for transfer, quickly became a synonym for transfer.

The bargain was this: Jews could leave Germany before being pauperized, and take some of their assets with them in the form of new German goods which the Zionist movement would then sell in Palestine and eventually throughout much of the world market.
I don't think that was all there was to the deal. I think in order to maximise their take, Jews had to go to Palestine. If this is the case then many Jews may have been trapped in Germany because they couldn't make a life in Palestine and they couldn't go elsewhere because of their asset situation.

Here's Lenni Brenner in Zionism in the Age of the Dictators:
The debate over the Zionist-Nazi pact continued angrily until 1935. The Ha’avara rapidly grew to become a substantial banking and trading house with 137 specialists in its Jerusalem office at the height of its activities. The regulations were always changing in response to Nazi pressure, but in essence the agreement was always the same: German Jews could put money into a bank inside Germany, which was then used to buy exports which were sold outside Germany, usually but not exclusively in Palestine. When the émigrés finally arrived in Palestine, they would receive payment for the goods that they had previously purchased after they had finally been sold. Fiscal ingenuity extended Ha’avara’s operations in many directions, but throughout its operation its attraction to German Jews remained the same: it was the least painful way of shipping Jewish wealth out of Germany. However, the Nazis determined the rules, and they naturally got worse with time; by 1938 the average user was losing at least 30 per cent and even 50 per cent of his money. Nevertheless, this was still three times, and eventually five times, better than the losses endured by Jews whose money went to any other destination.
Here's a supposedly neutral position from Wikipedia:
The Haavara Agreement was highly controversial. While it helped persecuted Jews emigrate from Germany, it provided a major market for German goods in Palestine. This helped Germany's weak economy at a time when many Jews were boycotting the country's goods. The following is a passage from an anti-Haavara circulated pamphlet in Palestine.

Until When Will the Yishuv Support Hitler? BOYCOTT Hitler's Products! BOYCOTT German Movies! Ivri! Remember What the German Did to Your Brother
There are two issues here really. One is to consider how much harm the boycott would have done to the Hitler regime and did the agreement help or hinder an optimal number of Jews fleeing Hitler?

Oh yes, here's that more on Edwin Black that I promised earlier. Here's the final paragraph of his article:
A few coldly realistic Zionist leaders in an office on Wilhelmstrasse were willing to make those decisions. It helped save a people. It helped create a state. Nonetheless, 25 years after the book was published and more than 75 years after the deal was negotiated, the nagging questions still haunts all those who confront the Transfer Agreement. Was it madness? Or was it genius?

And here's the blurb about the writer at the foot of the article:

The writer is the award-winning best-selling author of IBM and the Holocaust, and his first book, The Transfer Agreement, has now been rereleased in a 25th anniversary edition (Dialog Press), with an afterword by Abraham Foxman. www.edwinblack.com

And the last word goes to Abe Foxman. Now there's a plot spoiler if ever there was one.

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