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Ambiguous
Relations
The American Jewish
Community and
Germany Since 1945


AMBIGUOUS
RELATIONS



AMB1GUOU S
RELATIONS
The American
Jewish Community
and Germany
Since 1945
Shi omo Shafir
Wayne State University Press
Detroit
Published in cooperation with the
Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the
American Jewish Archives,
Cincinnati, Ohio


Copyright © 1999 by Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Michigan 48201.
All material in this work, except as identified below, is licensed under a Creative
Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of
this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/.
All material not licensed under a Creative Commons license is all rights reserved.
Permission must be obtained from the copyright owner to use this material.
Humanities
MELLON
FOUNDATION
The publication of this volume in a freely accessible digital format has been made
possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the
Mellon Foundation through their Humanities Open Book Program.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Shafir, Shlomo.
Ambiguous relations : the American Jewish community and Germany since
1945 / Shlomo Shafir.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index.
ISBN 978-0-8143-4508-5 (paperback); ISBN 978-0-8143-4507-8 (ebook)
1. Jews—United States—Politics and government. 2. Public opinion—Jews.
3. Germany (West)—Foreign public opinion, American. 4. Holocaust, Jewish
(1939-1945)—Germany (West)—Reparations. 5. Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)—
Germany (West)—Influence. I. Title.
E184.355.S53 1999
973/04924—dc21 98-34526
Wayne State University Press gratefully acknowledges The Jacob Rader Marcus
Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA) for their contributions to this volume,
including the use and publication of a selection of photographs. To access these
photographs and many other collections preserved at the AJA, please visit the AJA
website at www.AmericanJewishArchives.org.
The Press also thanks the following individuals and institutions for their generous
permission to reprint material in this book: American Jewish Committee; Bundesar-
chiv, Germany; and Bundesbildstelle, Presse, Germany.
Exhaustive efforts were made to obtain permission for use of material in this text.
Any missed permissions resulted from a lack of information about the material,
copyright holder, or both. If you are a copyright holder of such material, please
contact WSUP at wsupressrights@wayne.edu.
http:/ / wsupress.wayne.edu/


To Mina, Estee, and Ofra



7
CONTENTS
Preface 9
Acknowledgments 15
Part I. Early Postwar Concerns
1. American Jews and the German Problem Until
the End of the War 21
2. Morgenthau’s Plan, Supporters, and Opponents 37
3. Safeguarding the Survivors and Refugees 53
4. Denazification and the Major War Crimes Trials 71
Part II. Getting Involved or Staying Aloof
5. Advocates of Moderation 87
6. Critics and Opponents 105
7. Anti-German Protests at Home 123
8. Waiting in Vain for a German Change of Heart 139
Part III. Reparations: Their Impact and Limits
9. The Twisted Road Toward Shilumim 159
10. German Diplomats: The Initial Efforts to Soften
American Jewish Hostility 179
11. Antisemitic Manifestations and Their Abatement 199
Part IV. Holocaust Consciousness and the Role of Israel
12. The Eichmann Trial and the Quest for
Punishment of Nazi Criminals 219


8
CONTENTS
13. Changing Circumstances and Futile Dialogues
239
14. Disappointment with the Social Democrats
261
15. The Growth of Holocaust Consciousness and Its
Impact on American Jewish-German Relations
281
16. Bitburg and Its Repercussions
299
Part V.
American Jews and East Germany
17. From Grotewohl to de Maiziere
319
Part VI.
Unification and Beyond
18. Expectations and Question Marks
341
19. An Ambiguous Balance
359
Abbreviations
369
Notes
373
Bibliogra
iphy
459
Index
483


9
PREFACE
Fifty years after the end of World War II and the destruction of the
major part of European Jewry, many American Jews still distinguish
themselves from other Americans in their ambiguous and largely
negative attitude toward the German state and its people. The half
century that passed since 1945, however, has brought far-reaching
changes in the status of Germany. From unconditional surrender
and occupation of its territory, and a partition that lasted for forty
years, it has reemerged as a first-rate economic power and a united
country of close to eighty million inhabitants. Since the breakdown
of the Soviet Union, Germany is now considered the strongest na
tion in Europe. Despite the remaining uncertainties about German
national consciousness, the Federal Republic has proved to be the
German people’s most—or perhaps only—successful experiment in
democracy and in sustaining a stable liberal parliamentary system.
It has also evolved as one of the closest and most important allies
of the United States.
Nonetheless, the trauma of the Holocaust became an impor
tant component of Jewish identity and continues to leave its mark
on American Jewry’s relationship with postwar Germany, despite
the sociological and generational changes within the community.
American Jews found themselves in a quandary soon after the
war, having helplessly watched the murder of close to six million


10
PREFACE
fellow Jews, among whom were many of their own relatives. It
was therefore not surprising that they favored a “hard” peace with
the vanquished nation, in the internal American discussion about
the postwar German settlement. Yet, because of the Cold War
between the victorious allies, the larger part of Germany held by
the United States, Britain, and France soon came to be regarded as
a vital factor in the economic reconstruction of Western Europe,
and subsequently in the political and military consolidation of the
Western bloc. These political and strategic considerations coupled
with the domestic anti-Communist hysteria contributed to a rapidly
changing American posture toward Germany that clashed with Jew
ish demands, at first also shared by other liberals, for a far-reaching
denazification of German society and a clean sweep of the German
elites who had loyally served the Nazi regime. Furthermore, these
demands spelled heavy punishment of all Germans involved in the
warfare against the Jewish people.
American governmental records in the late 1940s and early
1950s clearly demonstrate the limits of direct and indirect Jew
ish pressure regarded as adverse to American national interest on
Washington’s German policy. Likewise, that pressure proved inef
fective, more than thirty years later, during the Bitburg imbroglio,
when President Ronald Reagan rebuffed strong Jewish protests
against his visit to the military cemetery where a number of SS
soldiers were interred.
However, the pluralistic character of American public opinion
and its continuing impact provided American Jewry an opportunity
to play a larger role vis-a-vis postwar Germany than on the level of
policy formulation, where it was surpassed by much more powerful
forces. Germany’s concern with the hostile or at least critical atti
tude of a number of American Jewish organizations and influential
individuals led it to attempt to soften this hostility. Conversely,
constant Jewish reminders and criticism, though sometimes exag
gerating the dangers of antisemitism and the revival of Nazism,
may have contributed to German soul-searching about their past,
and their historical responsibility as heirs of the perpetrators of the
Holocaust. At the same time, Jewish discontent enabled American
Jews to intervene in favor of legitimate Jewish demands such as
the postponement and eventual abolition of the German statute of
limitations in cases of murder. This resulted in the trial of more
Nazi criminals who had been involved in Hitler’s Final Solution.


11
Preface
The ambiguous relationship between the American Jewish
community and Germany over the last fifty years cannot be scru
tinized without taking into account the impact of Israel. The Six
Day War and the Yom Kippur War further served to strengthen the
identification of American Jewry with the Jewish state. Within the
triangular relationship, the American Jewish community’s skeptical
approach toward Germany, based on memory and moral consider
ations, often bowed to Israel’s pragmatic political and economic
needs as a sovereign nation in hostile surroundings. The first
example was the active role that the American Jewish community
played in the common effort to secure reparations for Israel and
its leading part in the Claims Conference. That partnership also
affected subsequent dealings between organized American Jewry
and the Germans.
In the first years after the war, American Jewish concern mainly
centered on the rehabilitation and well-being of the Jewish sur
vivors in Germany and the much larger number of East European
refugees who assembled in the American occupied zone awaiting
their immigration to Israel, the United States, and other countries
overseas. Subsequently, American Jewry displayed its interest in the
rights and safety of the surviving Jewish communities in Germany.
However, until recently, the Jews there and their institutions played
only a marginal role in the American Jewish-German relationship.
In contrast, the German government and establishment, keen to
present a demonstrative philosemitic stance, paid growing attention
to the remaining Jews as compensation for the exterminationist
antisemitism of the “Third Reich.”
The above is a broad outline of the subjects, interactions, and
developments to be discussed in this book, which has been arranged
mostly in a chronological order. The monograph does not pretend
to present a full overview of perceptions and reactions of Ameri
can Jews in different walks of life. It mainly deals with organized
Jewry, its major communal and religious groups, a few committed
legislators and intellectuals, as well as a few outstanding individuals
who were nevertheless connected to the community. The elements
of both continuity and change in the major agencies have been
elaborated, as have the different rationales of the agencies’ attitudes
toward Germany, the role of the survivors, and even the special
case of professed pro-German lobbyists. A caveat must, however, be
added: despite the traumatic and emotional effect of the Holocaust,


12
PREFACE
the postwar American Jewish relationship with Germany was not a
central issue. Israel, the fate of Soviet Jewry, and the domestic fight
for civil rights were the lead items on the community’s agenda.
A review of American Jewish attitudes toward the Federal Re
public also requires a scrutiny of the handling of that complex rela
tionship by both German conservative and Social Democratic-led
governments, their different emphases and preferences, political
aims and moral convictions. In this context, the recurrent efforts
from the early 1950s of German diplomats in the United States
to assuage American Jewish hostility are being explored. Again, a
distinction must be made here between the responses of Jewish
organizations, mainly voluntary elite groups and their leaders, as
well as public figures, and the attitudes of Jews in general, most of
whom seem to have remained more suspicious and negative.
Except for one chapter dedicated to American Jewry’s attitude
toward former Communist East Germany, this book deals mainly
with the Federal Republic, which until 1990 comprised only West
ern Germany. American Jewish contacts with the East German
Democratic Republic (GDR) were almost nonexistent for thirty
years following the end of World War II for a number of reasons: the
Cold War; the lack of American-East German diplomatic relations
until 1974; the East Berlin government’s refusal to refer directly
to the Jewish angle of the Nazi crimes and to share the special
historical responsibility of the German people for the Holocaust;
its unreadiness to enter talks on restitution and compensation; and
its hostility toward Zionism and Israel. Only in the last decade of
its existence did a gradual change in East Germany’s attitude take
place, as an attempt was made to use Jewish influence to improve
GDR relations with Washington and prepare the way for a state visit
by Communist leader Erich Honecker. The fall of the Berlin Wall
and the subsequent collapse of the East German regime prevented
those aims from being achieved.
One of the conspicuous historiographic inadequacies of this
study derives from the fact that American, German, and Israeli
governmental records, which I used extensively, were open for
research only until 1965, because of the customary thirty-year
limit. Nonetheless, the records of major American Jewish orga
nizations, a few important collections in Germany and Jerusalem,
as well as available printed sources and memoirs, have enabled me
to extend the monograph until the 1990s. Thus, such significant


13
Preface
events are included as the impact of Israel’s wars of 1967 and 1973,
Bitburg, the U.S. Holocaust Museum controversy, the exchange
programs between American Jewish organizations and German
political foundations since the 1980s, and the momentous year of
Germany’s unification.
Some of the topics dealt with in various chapters of this mono
graph have been discussed in a number of studies that appeared in
the last decades, some of which are listed in the select bibliography.
These topics include the role of Henry Morgenthau Jr., Jewish
concerns in occupied Germany in the first years after the war, resti
tution and reparations, the Eichmann Trial and its repercussions,
Holocaust consciousness among American Jews, Bitburg, and the
separate problems of East Germany. Since I began my research
in the late 1980s, I have published several articles in English,
German, and Hebrew on relevant subjects. In the first part of the
introductory chapter, I mainly relied on the writings of historians
such as Henry L. Feingold and David S. Wyman, who dealt with
American Jewry and the Roosevelt administration. My own unpub
lished Ph.D. dissertation on the persecution of the Jews in Germany
and American-German relations during the 1930s (Georgetown
University, 1971) was also of help. Chapter 10 on the initial efforts
of German diplomats in the United States to soften American
Jewish hostility is based in great part on my essay published in
the Y1VO Annual 22 (1995) by Northwestern University Press.
Most of the main theses of this study were outlined in my
expanded lecture, American Jews and Germany: Points of Connec
tion and Points of Departure, American Jewish Archives Brochure
Series #14 (Cincinnati, 1993). Sylke Tempel’s Munich doctoral
dissertation, which has since appeared in print, is an honest treat
ment of organized American Jewry’s postwar relationship with
Germany from a German viewpoint: Legenden von der Allmacht:
Die Beziehungen zwischen amerikanisch-judischen Organisationen und
der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Frankfurt, 1995). The Israeli-born
German Jewish historian Michael Wolffsohn also referred to the
subject in his Eternal Guilt? Forty Years of German-Jewish-Israeli
Relations (New York, 1993) and other publications, although I do
not share his interpretation of the impact of the German-Israeli-
American Jewish triangle and its repercussions.
This study was essentially completed in 1995, after the fifti
eth anniversaries of the liberation of Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen,


14
PREFACE
Buchenwald, and Dachau, as well as many slave labor camps; the
Allied bombing of Dresden; Hitler’s suicide; Nazi Germany’s sur
render; and the salvation of the surviving camp inmates by the
advancing victorious armies in the East and the West. Despite the
fear that the crimes of the Third Reich would be overshadowed after
Germany’s reunification by the confrontation over the Communist
past of the GDR, the murder of the Jewish people in the 1940s still
continues to occupy an important place in the mind and conscious
ness of the German public opinion-molding elites as evidenced by
the many publications and public discussions in the media.
At the anniversaries mentioned above, almost all German lead
ers struck the right tone. Both in NATO and in the European
Union, the Federal Republic continues to be a solid and reliable
partner. In the long run, the recent emergence of a substantial
conservative and right-wing trend in the nation’s intellectual scene
could, of course, have negative repercussions on Jewish-German
relations. At this point, however, its impact on both the foreign
policy of Germany and its political culture has been limited.
While it is not a historical study’s task—or within its ability—to
predict the future, the lessons of the developments since the end of
World War II do depict the limits that will continue to affect the
attitudes of American Jewry toward Germany and the Germans for
years to come.


15
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
After living in the United States from the mid-1960s to the early
1970s, I began work on this monograph during a two-month re
search period as fellow of the American Jewish Archives in Cincin
nati in 1987-1988. In its initial stage, my research in the United
States and Germany was facilitated by a three-month research grant
of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Bonn. The Harry S. Truman
Library Institute enabled me to spend a week of research at the
Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. I am sincerely grateful
to these three institutions for their financial assistance.
Since 1987—unfortunately with many breaks—I have carried
out research in many archival collections, record centers, and li
braries in the United States, Germany, and Israel, and I owe many
thanks for assistance and advice to the directors and staff of the
following institutions:
United States
American Jewish Archives and Klau Library, Hebrew Union Col
lege, Cincinnati; American Jewish Committee Record Center and
the Blaustein Library, New York; YIVO Archives, New York; Anti-
Defamation League Archives and Resource Center, New York;
Special Collections, New York Public Library, New York; Leo
Baeck Institute Archives and Library, New York; American Jewish


16
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Joint Distribution Committee Archives, New York; Columbia Uni
versity Oral History Collection, New York; Herbert H. Lehman
Papers, Columbia University, New York; Jewish Labor Committee
Collection, Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, Tamiment Insti
tute Library, New York University, New York; American Jewish
Historical Society Archives, Waltham, Massachusetts; Goldfarb
Library, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts; John Fitz
gerald Kennedy Library, Boston; Harvard University Archives,
Cambridge, Massachusetts; Archives and Special Collections, Am
herst College Library, Amherst, Massachusetts; U.S. National
Archives, Diplomatic Branch, Washington, D.C.; Washington Na
tional Records Center, Suitland, Maryland; Manuscript Division,
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; B’nai B’rith Archives,
Washington, D.C.; Jewish War Veterans Archives, Washington,
D.C.; Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York;
Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri; Manuscripts
and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University, New
Haven, Connecticut; Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Prince
ton University, Princeton, New Jersey; Wilson Library, University
of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
Germany
Bundesarchiv Koblenz; Politisches Archiv, Auswartiges Amt, Bonn;
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Archiv der sozialen Demokratie und
Bibliothek, Bonn; Ludwig-Erhard-Stiftung, Bonn; Konrad- Aden-
auer-Stiftung, Archiv fur Christlich-Demokratische Politik und
Bibliothek, St. Augustin; Archiv des Deutschen Liberalismus,
Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung, Gummersbach; Deutsche Biblio
thek und Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933-1945, Frankfurt/Main; Max
Horkheimer Archiv, Stadt-und Universitatsbibliothek, Frankfurt/
Main; Institut fiir Zeitgeschichte, Archiv und Bibliothek, Munich;
Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach a.N.; Hessisches Hauptstaat-
sarchiv, Wiesbaden; Baden-Wurttembergisches Hauptstaatsarchiv,
Stuttgart; Landesarchiv Berlin, Berlin; Stiftung Archiv der Parteien
und Massenorganisationen der DDR im Bundesarchiv, Berlin;
Archiv Stiftung Bundeskanzler-Adenauer-Haus, Rhondorf.
Israel
Israel State Archives, Jerusalem; Zionist Central Archives and
Library, Jerusalem; Hebrew University Oral History Collection,


17
Acknowledgments
Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Ben-Gurion Archive, Kiryat Sdeh
Boker; Israel Labor Party Archive, Beit Berl; National and Uni
versity Library, Jerusalem; Ayala and Zalman Abramov Library,
Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem; Wiener Library, Tel Aviv Uni
versity, Tel Aviv; Bar-Ilan University Library, Ramat Gan.
England
Board of Deputies of British Jews, Archives, London; Institute of
Jewish Affairs (now defunct), London.
I owe special thanks to Dr. David Singer of the American
Jewish Committee for granting me access to recent records of that
organization. Thanks are also due to Mr. Alan Schwartz of the Anti-
Defamation League of B’nai B’rith for enabling me to make use of
the ADL foreign correspondence files.
Last but not least, I am particularly indebted to Professor
Jonathan D. Sarna and Dr. Abraham J. Peck, who read the manu
script before it was submitted to Wayne State University Press and
made a number of important suggestions regarding its structure and
content. I appreciate the comments and advice given by Professor
Alfred Gottschalk, chancellor of the Hebrew Union College, who
has served for many years as a member of the U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Council. Dr. Ofer Stuff, my son-in-law, made fruitful
suggestions on the chapters dealing with the impact of the Holo
caust on American Jewry.
Both Mrs. Dena Matmon in Israel and Mrs. Eleanor M.
Lawhorn in Cincinnati did an excellent job in typing the final draft
to which Mrs. Jean Peck supplied editorial help. The copyeditor,
Ms. Tammy O. Rastoder, meticulously prepared the manuscript for
publication. I owe many thanks to all of them.
The book is dedicated to my wife, my beloved lifelong com
panion, and to both my daughters and their families in the United
States and Israel.



PART 1
Early
Postwar
Concern s



1
21
American Jews and
the German Problem
Until the End of the War
From the inception of the German Nazi regime in January 1933,
Adolf Hitler’s persecution of the Jews became a permanent and per
vading issue on the American Jewish agenda, causing a fundamental
change in the attitude of American Jews toward Germany.
Many of the German Jewish elite in America still maintained
an attachment to the cultural heritage of their former homeland
at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth cen
tury, although these links began to weaken as rapid assimilation in
America and the impact of antisemitism in Germany took hold.
However, quite a number of American Jews of German origin
continued to visit the old home; a few studied at German high
schools, earned degrees at German universities, and intermarried
with German Jewish sons and daughters. Before World War I,
despite the semiautocratdc traits of the Wilhelmian Empire and
the antisemitism of its society and establishment, Germany was
regarded as the lesser evil as compared to czarist Russia. Thus, in
response to the discrimination against Jews in Russia, German-
born Jacob Schiff, one of the most prominent figures in the Jewish
community, played a leading role in the campaign for the abroga
tion of the eighty-year-old American-Russian treaty of commerce.
After the outbreak of the war in Europe, Schiff at first refused to
float Anglo-French loans because of the partnership of the Western


22
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
nations with Russia. The masses of recent Eastern European immi
grants loathed the czarist oppressor of their fellow Jews; whereas
some of the socialists opposed both sides in the conflict because
of their pacifist convictions, others cherished the strength of the
German Social Democratic party, the strongest in Europe. 1
Nonetheless, this partly emotional preference of some Ameri
can Jews for Germany and the Central Powers came to an end with
the Russian revolution and the breakdown of the czarist regime in
March 1917. From the moment of President Woodrow Wilson’s
declaration of war in April 1917, the community fully endorsed the
United States’ active partnership in the anti-German alliance. In
addition, the hostility of the Turkish empire to the small Jewish
settlement in Palestine and Zionist expectations of British support
for their aims reinforced the pro-Allied trend among American
Jewry. After the end of World War I, American Jews took notice
of the social and cultural achievements of German Jewry under the
short-lived parliamentary democratic government; both individual
and organizational contacts between the two communities were
fostered. Beginning with the late twenties, however, the major
American Jewish organizations watched with growing concern the
increasing antisemitic agitation of the Nazis and the implications
for Germany’s Jews during the tottering Weimar Republic. 2
After Weimar’s collapse in 1933, the American Jewish com
munity became a consistent anti-German factor on the American
political scene. Admittedly, serious tactical and ideological differ
ences existed among American Jews on how to confront the Nazi
danger abroad, as well as the rise of antisemitism at home. On
the one hand, activists of the American Jewish Congress and the
Joint Boycott Council, which included the Jewish Labor Com
mittee (JLC), as well as the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to
Champion Human Rights, favored public appearances and boy
cotting German products. On the other hand, the prestigious,
moderate American Jewish Committee (AJC) and in part B’nai
B’rith preferred quiet backstage efforts and concentrated on in
formation and on educational activities. Beside the rise of Nazism
and fascism in Europe, the depression and the increase of anti
semitism at home also enhanced pro-Communist influence among
the Jewish population. Altogether, Jews of liberal, democratic,
and leftist convictions and different political orientations tried to
present national socialism as a threat not only to themselves but


1. American Jews and the German Problem
23
to all Americans and to world peace. However, ethnic feelings
and fear of the Jewish masses, of first- and second-generation
citizens, persisted. Many of these Jews had family in the “old
countries” of the European continent who could not be brought
over because of the economic crisis and the nation’s restrictionist
immigration policy. 3
To most American Jews, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
represented the great antagonist to Hitler, even during the early
years when he still refrained from challenging the nonintervention
ist policy of his predecessors. Quite naturally, with few exceptions,
they supported President Roosevelt’s shift toward confrontational
policies aimed at “quarantining” the aggressors before the United
States’ entry into the war against Nazi Germany and its allies. Sub
sequently, they unconditionally endorsed FDR’s leadership during
the war years and the priority he attached to victory over Hitler,
the arch-enemy of the Jewish people. In their great majority, they
remained an anti-German element after the end of the war, when,
because of the East-West conflict, Washington’s attitude toward
the former enemy nation was reversed and the United States began
to regard West Germany as a potential ally against the Soviet-led
Eastern bloc. However, in contrast to the direct and indirect con
tribution of American Jewry to shifting American public opinion
from isolationism to facing the Nazi threat, the Jewish community
did not influence the making of wartime policy, and its impact on
the handling of Germany was rather marginal.
The main exception in that context was the role of Henry
Morgenthau Jr., secretary of the Treasury Department since 1934.
But the secretary acted as a member of the administration and not
as a spokesman for the Jewish community. 4
The continuous support of American Jews for Roosevelt origi
nated from his domestic, social, and economic policies that ben
efited many of them, and in which a number of Jewish brain
trusters were involved. FDR’s anti-Nazi stand increased his popu
larity among Jews at a time when most European leaders preferred
appeasing the anti-Communist dictators of Germany and Italy and
the majority of the American people were afraid of new entan
glements overseas. Yet, the balance sheet of his administration’s
handling of the two main special Jewish concerns with regard to
the German problem was not a positive one. Admission of larger
numbers of refugees until the war and rescue of Jews from Hitler’s


24
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
Europe thereafter were not high on the administration’s agenda,
at least until the belated establishment of the War Refugee Board
(WRB) early in 1944. 5 In comparison to what the majority in pre-
pluralistic America and the administration regarded as the national
interest, the Jewish case proved the limits of ethnic influence. In a
way, these limits remained valid also in various cases in the era of
postwar pluralism, with the important exception of the successful
Jewish campaign in persuading the U.S. government to recognize
and support the new State of Israel.
In the 1930s the large majority of the depression-ridden isola
tionist-minded public opposed any enlargement of immigration. A
strong restrictionist attitude prevailed in both houses of Congress,
and the president and his advisers took these factors into account.
Only in 1938-39 was the full German and Austrian quota used up
for the admission of refugees. At the Evian conference in summer
1938, Roosevelt’s main prorefugee initiative after Germany’s an
nexation of Austria, that increase was presented as the American
contribution to the refugee problem. The conference concluded
with the setting up of the Intergovernmental Committee on Po
litical Refugees (ICR), under a British chairman and an American
executive director. However, even though different views prevail
about the German motives in launching the Schacht-Wohlthat
proposal—financing the emigration of Jews by increasing German
exports to the United States and other Western nations—no feasi
ble emergency programs existed to cope with the rapidly growing
number of Jewish refugees. 6
A few months after Evian, in response to the so-called Kristall-
nacht (Night of the Broken Glass) pogrom against German Jews on
November 9-10,1938, FDR recalled from Berlin the last American
prewar ambassador, Hugh R. Wilson, who himself happened to be
an outspoken supporter of appeasement of Nazi Germany. Yet, in
spite of the Jewish community’s hearty welcome of the president’s
action, the recall did not come about because of Jewish pressure, but
reflected Roosevelt’s desire to use the pogrom’s impact on American
public opinion to advance a tougher policy against the expansion
ist Greater German Reich. 7 Contrary to the German propaganda
about American and world Jewish power, the Jews’ unsuccessful
prewar efforts to prevent persecution in Germany and enlarge
somewhat the numbers of immigrants from there demonstrated
their weakness.


1. American Jews and the German Problem
25
In part, American Jewish capability to come to the assistance
of German or other European Jews and to pressure the adminis
tration in that direction was inhibited by the substantial increase of
domestic antisemitism in the late 1930s. 8 Whereas in the early and
mid-1930s nativist and pro-Nazi antisemitism had been marginal,
the renewed recession and the Coughlinite hate campaign had a
major impact in the great cities, where Jews were confronted with
hostile Catholic masses, many of them first- and second-generation
Americans. In addition to the Christian Fronters, there were the
militants and sympathizers of the Nazi German-American Bund,
twenty thousand of whom packed New York’s Madison Square Gar
den at a so-called “patriotic” George Washington rally in February
1939. Even when employment and business conditions improved,
antisemitism continued to rise, persisting during the war years. At
least indirectly, the successes of Nazi Germany before the U.S.
entry into the war, too, fostered the anti-Jewish sentiments.
Because of the impact of antisemitism, which did not subside
until the end of World War II, Roosevelt preferred to play down
the common ground between his policies and the desires of the
overwhelming majority of American Jews in the two critical years
between the beginning of the war in Europe and Pearl Harbor.
Thus, in spite of strongjewish support for turning the United States
into an “arsenal for democracy,” the role of Jews in interventionist
organizations was usually muffled in order not to complicate the
president’s task of convincing the American people of the national
interest in confronting and defeating Hitler’s Reich. After all, a
great part of them did not want to go to war against Germany.
At one point Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, the leading representative of
the American Jewish Congress and the Zionist camp and a loyal
FDR supporter, complained to Clark Eichelberger, head of the
Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, about the trend
of ghettoization, asserting that Jews should not be shut out even at
the risk of incurring the charge of warmongering. That exchange
took place a few weeks before Pearl Harbor. 9
Quite naturally, the U.S. entry into the war in December 1941
enjoyed the full support of American Jews, who had long awaited
the day when their nation would take the lead to rid the world of
the Hiderite enemy. Subsequendy 550,000 Jewish soldiers fought
in the armed forces against the German Reich and its Japanese and
(until 1943) Italian allies in Europe, the Far East, and North Africa.


26
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
In the government’s view, the fateful battle against the Axis
powers required that all American citizens subordinate any special
group interest to the goal of a rapid and full military victory,
which would also put an end to the Jewish torment in German-
occupied Europe. Even though the Jews were Hitler’s chosen vic
tims, the administration wanted to ensure that the war undertaken
for America’s national interest would in no way be regarded as
a “Jewish war,” as German propaganda tried to put it. American
Jews, whose opposition against the Nazis had now become an all-
American endeavor, unequivocally endorsed the nation’s war aims,
including the demand for unconditional surrender. But as Hitler’s
Final Solution was revealed, Jewish community leaders desperately
searched for some American and Allied intercession to stop the
murder and to rescue at least some of their fellow Jews. However,
neither the appeal to the president, with whom a high-ranking
Jewish delegation met for half an hour in December 1942, nor
the efforts to make the American public conscious of the slaughter
of European Jewry bore any concrete results. Mass meetings by
Jewish organizations to protest Nazi massacres started in July 1942
and continued with a Day of Mourning in December but had no
major impact on the non-Jewish majority. 10
The accumulating news about the murder of hundreds of thou
sands in the East seldom made headlines in the American press;
radio coverage was sparse, and the Hollywood film industry avoided
the subject. Because of the exaggerated German atrocity stories of
World War I, in January 1943 30 percent of the American pop
ulation still dismissed the news that two million Jews had already
been killed by the Nazis. In March 1943, both the AJ Congress
rally “Stop Hitler Now” as well as the pageant “We Never Die,”
presented by the anti-establishment Committee for a Jewish Army
(the predecessor of the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish
People of Europe), gained more publicity than earlier protests. Still,
the issue of saving Jews drew support mainly from the liberal section
of the public and from a few liberal and left-wing publications.
In October 1943, the only Jewish demonstration in the capital,
the “Rabbis Pilgrimage for Rescue,” was coldshouldered by the
president who found no time to see them. 11 The one-sided Jewish
love affair with FDR had its shortcomings, but because of the
Republicans’ policies and preferences in the 1930s and 1940s, that
party could not be considered a more promising alternative.


1. American Jews and the German Problem
27
On different occasions, the United States and Great Britain
took into consideration the hostile reaction to their rescue of Jews
that they expected from Arab Moslem nations from Casablanca to
the Persian Gulf region, through which vital supplies were being
shipped to the Soviet Union. The British especially were afraid that
any large-scale rescue effort might flood Palestine with more Jews
and thus undermine the May 1939 White Paper aimed at a per
manent Arab majority there, and America’s policy was influenced
by the growing importance of its Middle Eastern oil interests. No
wonder that the Anglo-American conference in Bermuda, which
convened in April 1943 as the murder of European Jews reached
its climax, was nothing but a diversionary exercise designed to
pacify the few who had criticized the indifference of the American
and British governments. 12 Most prominent Jewish insiders close
to the president, such as Supreme Court Associate Justice Felix
Frankfurter, presidential counsel Samuel Rosenman, and Governor
Herbert H. Lehman, who after his defeat by Republican Thomas
Dewey became executive head of the United Nations Relief and Re
habilitation Administration (UNRRA)—not to mention influential
outsiders such as Bernard Baruch—did not attempt to challenge the
administration’s attitude on what was mainly regarded as a sectarian
ethnic concern, just as they had refrained from questioning it before
the war.
Henry Feingold, the foremost analyst of the Roosevelt admin
istration’s policies and relations with American Jewry during the
Holocaust years, was the first to point out that Henry Morgenthau
Jr- was the only member of FDR’s inner circle who finally dared to
confront the State Department with its hostile indifference to the
annihilation of the Jews in Europe. Morgenthau was overwhelmed
by the Jewish catastrophe and its dimensions; and after the Bermuda
conference and the revelation of further procrastination on oppor
tunities of rescue, he challenged the government’s policy. Since the
beginning of 1943, one of the objectives of the AJ Congress and of
the Joint Emergency Committee on European Jewish Affairs had
been to gain congressional support for rescue. Stephen Wise and
AJC president Joseph M. Proskauer served as co-chairmen of that
committee. Subsequently, the effective public relations campaign
of the separate Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of
Europe made its impact. The American Jewish Conference, for its
part, espoused the importance of a Zionist solution for Palestine.


28
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
With the personal involvement of Randolph Paul, John Pehle, and
Josiah DuBois, three committed senior members of the Treasury
staff, and the support of an aware portion of the American public,
Morgenthau eventually brought about the creation of the War
Refugee Board. It was established as a special government agency
that became engaged in rescue work early in 1944. Unfortunately,
a major part of European Jewry had already been murdered by
that time. 13
In the context of the American Jewish response to the German
Final Solution for European Jewry during World War II, two
questions that have often been asked still dominate the discussion:
Would a more unified Jewish community have been able to achieve
better results from the administration in Washington, and would a
more articulate emphasis on rescue instead of on the Zionist aim
of establishing a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine have resulted
in saving many more Jews during the Holocaust? 14 While these
questions are legitimate, the answer in both cases is no. Even though
the internal divisions and the lack of a powerful American Jewish
leadership sometimes made it easier for the Roosevelt administra
tion to evade the refugee and rescue issue until the creation of the
WRB at a rather late date, it is not certain that a united community
would have been much more successful in the circumstances that
prevailed at least until 1944. As for the American Jewish Confer
ence’s resolutions in summer 1943, a stronger emphasis on rescue
might have been preferable, at least for the record. But it is doubtful
whether that actually mattered very much, since no shelters were
in sight.
However, postponing the Zionist demand for a Jewish state
might have prevented the subsequent mobilization of a major part
of American Jewry after the war for achieving the movement’s
political goal and a safe haven for the survivors. The growing
support for the Zionist Biltmore program, its endorsement by a
large majority of the American Jewish Conference, as well as the
ascendancy of the militant Cleveland Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver
over the moderate and accommodating Rabbi Stephen S. Wise,
were in part reactions to the helplessness of American Jews who
watched the murder of millions of fellow Jews in Europe. The
more radical direction caused the withdrawal of the influential AJC
from the Conference and brought forth strong opposition from
the American Council for Judaism (ACJ), a group of anti-Zionist


29
1. American Jews and the German Problem
Reform rabbis and lay leaders. But despite its negative impact,
that split did not substantially change the general trend. Together
with the wartime experiences, the massive pro-Zionist drive that
peaked a few years later also contributed to a stronger and more
self-conscious Jewish community at home. After the end of the
war in Europe, this drive would, together with the Jewish Agency
for Palestine and later the government of Israel, play a central
role in the successful fulfillment of Jewish demands from postwar
Germany, contrary to the failure of its efforts in favor of refuge and
rescue until the collapse of Nazi Germany.
* * *
With the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in 1939, the major
Jewish organizations in America began preparing drafts for the
postwar era, after the expected victory over Nazi Germany. The AJ
Congress and the World Jewish Congress (WJC), which had been
founded upon Stephen Wise’s initiative in 1936 to confront the
growing Nazi and fascist threat, sponsored the Institute of Jewish
Affairs (IJA). With headquarters in New York, established in 1940,
the Institute was directed by two eminent lawyers, the brothers
Dr. Jacob and Dr. Nehemiah Robinson, both recent immigrants
from Lithuania. Initially, the two organizations invited several other
major Jewish groups, such as the AJC, the Alliance Israelite Uni-
verselle, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews in London, to
set up a common institute with the task of preparing a Jewish peace
program that would secure international protection of Jewish rights
at a future peace conference after the successful conclusion of the
war. But the attempt to provide for unified Jewish action failed
because of the substantial ideological differences between the pro-
Zionist Congress movement supporting Jewish peoplehood and the
integrationist AJC opposing Jewish nationalism. 15
During the war, the WJC diverted much of its energy to im
mediate rescue activities. However, the IJA, with its staff of trained
scholars, continued its research program and published a number
of important studies, such as Starvation Over Europe (1943), Hitler’s
Ten Year War on the Jews (1943), The Racial State (1944), and The
Jewish Catastrophe (1944). Among other issues, it began to deal
with the problems of postwar restitution of Jewish property and
compensation for Jewish suffering. The idea that the Jewish people
as a whole were entitled to reparations was first raised by Dr. Nahum


30
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
Goldmann, who, besides Stephen Wise, was the leading figure
of the WJC. Goldmann raised that demand at the organization’s
Western Hemisphere conference in Baltimore in November 1941,
a few weeks before Pearl Harbor.
The IJA and the WJC, its parent body, also became involved
in another major topic pertaining to postwar Germany: the pun
ishment of Nazi criminals who had committed crimes against the
Jewish people.
In January 1942, the London St. James conference of nine
governments-in-exile strongly denounced German crimes and acts
of brutality but evaded the special Jewish aspects of the mass killings
in the East. The argument was that identifying the suffering of the
Jews “might be equivalent to an implicit recognition of the racial
theories.” In response to that declaration, the WJC appealed to the
Allies for an explicit condemnation of German atrocities against the
Jews. Roosevelt and Churchill referred to this subject in July 1942;
more explicitly it was included in the United Nations declaration
of December 1942. However, to the disappointment of American
Jewish leaders, it was not mentioned at Allied conferences in Que
bec and in Moscow in 1943. Thanks to a demand from the WRB,
the topic reappeared in a statement by FDR in March 1944, in spite
of adversary advice by counsel Samuel Rosenman that it might stir
antisemitic reactions and hurt the “Chief” in an election year. 16
In 1943 and 1944 the WJC and subsequently the newly estab
lished American Jewish Conference continued to call for punitive
action against Nazi German criminals and also tried to obtain the
help of the exile governments in that aim. Still, Jewish sensitivity
prevailed in the advice of Abba Hillel Silver, the stalwart Zionist
leader who was not afraid of challenging the White House and
the State and War Departments on Palestine, that the American
Jewish Conference change the original name of its Statement on
Retribution to “Statement on the Punishment of the Nazi Crim
inals.” He warned that the average non-Jewish American would
react negatively if the Jews were first to talk about retribution.
Although the Jewish tragedy was the greatest of all, Silver thought
it preferable that the Jewish statement come second or third after
the Czechs or the Poles and suggested that a joint statement might
be better. 17
Eventually, after Washington and London had agreed to the
establishment of the United Nations War Crimes Commission


31
1. American Jews and the German Problem
(UNWCC), the WJC demanded that the notion of war crimes
be extended both in space (to cover crimes committed against
Jews not only in occupied territories but also in Germany and
Austria) and in time (to extend them back to Hitler’s accession
to power in January 1933). This was finally agreed upon only in
early 1945, after the administration’s long procrastination and the
State Department bureaucracy’s objections to Herbert Pell, the
U.S. representative to UNWCC, an outspoken supporter of Jewish
demands. 18 Usually the WJC and the American Jewish Conference,
which encompassed the great majority of American Jewish orga
nizations and a large number of local communities, maintained
close ties in preparing for the postwar era. The Conference was
granted priority in contacts with the administration in Washing
ton, whereas the WJC was the first to make representations to
foreign governments and intergovernmental bodies. On such issues
the WJC, at that time and for years to come, also spoke for the
AJ Congress. 19
The WJC postwar demands were drafted at its Atlantic City
War Emergency Conference in November 1944 when victory in
Europe was already in sight. In addition to the Americans, delegates
from Europe, Palestine, Latin America, and other nations attended.
The conference called for abrogation of all discriminatory measures
against Jews, the full restoration of their rights, the granting of
international relief for the rehabilitation of the remnants of the
Jewish population in Europe, and the establishment of a Jewish
commonwealth in Palestine. It endorsed the idea of setting up
international and national tribunals to try war criminals, discussed
at that time by the Allies, and demanded that all forms of persecu
tion of racial, religious, and political minorities committed since
January 30, 1933, be prosecuted. The gathering also requested
that in the list of crimes made punishable, the annihilation of the
Jewish people in Europe and all acts of violence against Jews in the
occupied territories and within the territory of the enemy nations
should find their explicit and proper place. The delegates refrained
from proclaiming a total all-Jewish boycott of Germany. But the
representatives of German Jewish emigres affiliated with the WJC
insisted that no Jew who had escaped from Germany would be
compelled to return and that no former Jewish citizen of Germany
would ever again have to acquire German citizenship except at his
or her own request.


32
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
In his keynote address, Nahum Goldmann reiterated the de
mand that “the Jewish people as a whole should be regarded as the
heirs to those of its children who have been murdered.” However,
difficulties arose in devising a common approach with regard to
restitution and indemnification, especially the future use of heirless
property outside its original country of location. The resolutions
drafted by Jacob Robinson, the IJA’s founding director, on which
agreement was reached by the delegations, distinguished between
restitution of property and compensation for losses suffered by J ew-
ish communities and the claims of individual Jewish victims. The
conference suggested that heirless property and rights belonging
to organizations and institutions that had ceased to exist be turned
over to an international Jewish Reconstruction Commission. That
body would use the funds for the rehabilitation of European Jews
and their communities, as well as for the development of Palestine
through the Jewish Agency. According to Nehemiah Robinson’s
study Indemnification and Reparations: Jewish Aspects, which reflected
the views of the WJC, the extent of Nazi Germany’s spoliation of
Jewish assets amounted to $8 billion, excluding Soviet territory.
Robinson’s pioneering proposal for a “Jewish Agency for Recon
struction” subsequently served as a basis for the international Jewish
successor organizations. 20
As a matter of fact, comparable proposals—regarding restitu
tion of individual as well as of heirless property and some kind
of collective recompense—had been drawn up in Palestine by Dr.
Georg Landauer of the Jewish Agency and in detail by Dr. Siegfried
Moses, the chairman of the Association of Central European Immi
grants there. 21 Moses himself attended the Atlantic City conference
as a delegate of the Yishuv (the Jewish community of Palestine). The
resolutions passed at the WJC’s War Emergency Conference were
included in the American Jewish Conference’s postwar program
and comprised the main Jewish demands from Germany and the
victorious Allies: restitution payments for individual claims and
claims of Jewish communities and organizations, as well as collec
tive reparations linked with Palestine, which had absorbed a great
number of refugees and survivors. These demands were the subject
of continuing Jewish efforts until the signing in September 1952 of
the Luxembourg Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany
and Israel, as well as the additional protocols with the Conference
of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference).


1. American Jews and the German Problem
33
Because of ideological and organizational differences, the elitist
American Jewish Committee refused to cooperate with the WJC in
a joint body dealing with postwar reconstruction. Despite its small
numbers, at that time and for the next decade or more the AJC was
the most prestigious of American Jewish organizations, thanks to
the socioeconomic standing of its members and their political con
nections. Instead, it preferred to set up its own Research Institute
on Peace and Postwar Problems as an independent venture. The
institute, headed by Dr. Max Gottschalk, brought together a num
ber of prominent Jewish scholars and experts in international law
and the social sciences, and was designed to investigate and publish
data pertaining to the rehabilitation of European Jewry after the
victory over Nazi Germany. In line with AJC’s tradition and stan
dards, it cooperated with governmental and nonsectarian peace
planning groups and published a great number of memoranda
and pamphlets on the future abolition of discriminatory legislation
in Germany and other Axis countries, human rights in general,
migration, war crimes, Palestine, restitution, and indemnification.
But as Naomi W. Cohen observed in her history of the Committee’s
first sixty years, the underwriting of the Research Institute’s pro
grams already reflected its revised views about Jewish survival and
the tempering of its traditional emancipatory philosophy by mid-
twentieth-century realities. Its postwar guidelines stressed calling
Jewish needs to the attention of statesmen and international coun
cils and, above all, making certain that the catastrophe that befell
the Jewish people would never be forgotten. 22
After the end of the war in Europe, the AJC, which in the past
could not overcome its basic disagreements with the pro-Zionist
elements in the community, joined forces with the American Jewish
Conference, the WJC, the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and the
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (hereafter JDC or
Joint) in the framework of the Five Cooperating Organizations
(after the demise of the American Jewish Conference in 1948, only
four). That ad hoc group dealt primarily with issues concerning the
survivors and other Jewish displaced persons (DPs) in the American
occupation zone of Germany and with demands for restitution
and compensation. The AJC’s new cooperative trend also found
expression in the communal field. For a number of years it was
an active member of the newly established National Community
Relations Advisory Council (NCRAC), in contrast to its withdrawal


34
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
in 1943 from the American Jewish Conference because of the
Conference’s endorsement of the Zionist Biltmore program. After
a break of more than thirteen years, it rejoined NCRAC in 1966.
In its 1945 statement “To the Counsellors of Peace” that was
published before the founding conference of the United Nations
in San Francisco, the AJC did not go as far as the WJC, the
American Jewish Conference, or the Jewish Agency in demanding
collective reparations for the Jewish people, a concept it still did
not recognize. It called for the return of individual Jewish property
and the use of heirless property for the reconstruction of religious,
welfare, educational, and cultural institutions as well as for the
rehabilitation of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. Yet, these
differences did not prevent the AJC’s future cooperation with other
major Jewish organizations on restitution and recompense. In the
most critical postwar period the majority of its leadership joined in
support of the creation of a Jewish state in a part of Palestine. The
AJC also shared the American Jewish consensus with regard to trial
and punishment of Nazi criminals. It cited statements issued by the
Allies and the governments-in-exile that spoke of vengeance against
the guilty. Especially it referred to Acting Secretary of State Joseph
Grew promising to punish German leaders and their associates “for
the whole broad criminal enterprise, devised and executed with
ruthless disregard of the very foundations of law and morality.” 23
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee was the
main philanthropic agency of American Jewry. With its lay lead
ership of upper-class German American background, it resembled
the AJC in its general outlook. However, during the war and there
after, the growing influence of the professionals, mainly second-
generation East Europeans, contributed to a change of the agency’s
policy toward more support for the Jewish national home in Pales
tine and afterwards the State of Israel. Since 1939itwasapartofthe
United Jewish Appeal, financed together with the United Palestine
Appeal by the local Jewish communities, and received 60 percent
of the sums allocated for overseas needs. During the war years its
professionals and contacts in Europe engaged in desperate efforts
to assist persecuted Jews in the Nazi-occupied continent. As soon
as victory was in sight, teams were trained in the United States to
help the survivors and refugees in the liberated areas. According to
its tradition, the JDC refrained from making political statements
on Germany. But in addition to its immediate most urgent task of


35
1. American Jews and the German Problem
rehabilitating the “Saving Remnant,” it came to play an important
role in the fight for restitution of Jewish property and afterwards
for reparations from Germany, in the framework of the Claims
Conference. 24
Altogether, the impact of statements and demands by Amer
ican and international Jewish organizations on policymakers in
Washington and other Allied capitals in regard to postwar Ger
many was in the best case short-lived. Even before the final stages
of the war, the future of Germany and its interrelationship with
the reconstruction of Europe had emerged as the most important
problem of American postwar planning, to be decided according
to U.S. national interest. The limits of Jewish ethnic pleading
became clear after the rapid breakup of the anti-Nazi alliance and
the beginning of the Cold War. The initially harsh treatment of
occupied Germany, the attempted clean sweep of German elites,
and the planned punishment of all Nazi activists, which more or less
corresponded with Jewish demands, gave way to more moderate
and accommodating policies.
On the other hand, with the wartime changes in American
society and the replacement of the former ideal of the melting pot by
cultural pluralism, Jews became more self-conscious and influential
and they carried more weight in American public opinion than
in the 1930s and before 1945. As a keen observer of the postwar
American Jewish scene stated in retrospect, never would American
Jews feel more physically and psychologically secure than after
World War II: “for perhaps the first time in their history” they came
to believe “that they had at last become full Americans and that the
relationship between the Jewish and American identity was to be
one of symbiosis and not of conflict.” 25 The future government of
the non-Communist part of Germany would take this development
into account for many years to come, and it was to play an important
role in satisfying at least the other focal Jewish demands with regard
to restitution, indemnification, and collective recompense.



2
37
Morgenthau’s Plan,
Supporters,
and Opponents
As mentioned in the preceding chapter, American Jewish spokes
men called for stern punishment of Nazi war criminals and mur
derers, and the major organizations drafted proposals for future
restitution of Jewish property, individual indemnification, and even
collective reparations. However, their impact on postwar American
policy with regard to Germany—except the constant reminders
of retribution for Nazi crimes—was very limited. The most far-
reaching plan to punish Germany and prevent any further recur
rence of German aggression did not emerge from any group of the
organized community but evolved in the mind of Secretary of the
Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr., the only Jew in Roosevelt’s cab
inet. Morgenthau’s most important adviser, Harry Dexter White,
a left-wing economist of East European Jewish origin, played the
key role in formulating these proposals. Other high-ranking non-
Jewish members of the Treasury staff were involved in preparing
the drafts, among them John Pehle and Josiah DuBois. All those
who took part resolved to recommend the necessary measures to
put an end to the German threat for the next generations. 1
Nevertheless, many Americans and many more Germans came
to regard Morgenthau’s recommendations as the clear-cut expres
sion of Jewish vindictiveness. From the beginning, Morgenthau’s
opponents in the administration decried Jewish vengeance as his


38
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
motive, and such references reverberated in the 1944 election cam
paign and thereafter. As for the German side, Morgenthau was
the most detested Jew, not only in Nazi propaganda chief Joseph
Goebbels’s hate campaign during the last months of the war, but also
for years to come. The American Jewish attitude toward postwar
Germany, especially in the first stages, was linked to the secretary’s
legacy, although his “plan” soon faded away. 2 Early in 1949 Konrad
Adenauer, the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
and soon to be elected as West Germany’s first chancellor, con
demned the “Morgenthau plan” as a crime against humanity that
could be compared to Nazi wrongdoing and might have caused the
death of thirty to forty million people. 3
Early in his life Henry Morgenthau Jr., whose grandfather
Lazarus had immigrated from Mannheim in 1866, inherited anti-
German feelings. Henry Morgenthau Sr., his father, served in
World War I as American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire,
then a German ally, and had been one of the first to alert the world
to the deportation and mass killings of the Armenian people by
the Turks, with the connivance of German advisers. Hitler’s rise to
power reaffirmed Morgenthau’s dislike of Germany. Even though
Morgenthau may have somewhat exaggerated his own part in the
1930s, in his talks with historian John Morton Blum, the compiler of
the Morgenthau Diaries, he considered the elimination of Nazism
“the first requisite for a peaceful and democratic world.” In his
capacity as secretary of the Treasury, he invoked countervailing
duties on the most important German export commodities as early
as 1936. After Munich he participated in the review of American
aircraft production, promoted aid to China against Japan, and was
in charge of negotiations with France regarding American planes
for the French air force.
Afterwards, Morgenthau was prominently involved in promot
ing military aid to Britain and preparing the U.S. economy for the
war. He also tried to interrupt Nazi Germany’s continuing eco
nomic links with a number of states in Latin America and blocked
the American assets of companies such as General Aniline and Film
(GAF), a subsidiary of IG Farben. This rather complex operation
was to strengthen his resolve to settle, after the war, the account
with the German industrial corporations that helped Hitler’s ascent
to power and supported him loyally during the twelve years of
his rule.


39
2. Morgenthau’s Plan
Contrary to Morgenthau’s dislike of Germany even before the
Nazi takeover, he, like many other liberals in the post-World War
I era, watched with sympathy the Soviet experience, without tak
ing into account the authoritarian and oppressive nature of their
dictatorship. In 1933 he was among the strong supporters of the
Roosevelt administration’s decision to establish diplomatic rela
tions with Soviet Russia and contributed to achieving that goal. 4 His
persistent fight against the German threat he regarded as serving
the interests of all liberal peace-loving Americans striving for a
better world.
Morgenthau, who resented the Nazi racial doctrines from the
first, came from an assimilationist background and, despite gener
ous contributions to Jewish philanthropies, had not been actively
involved in Jewish communal activities. 5 However, as a result of
the persecution and extermination of the Jews in Europe, he was
from time to time contacted by leading spokesmen of the Jewish
Agency for Palestine, the World Jewish Congress, the American
Jewish Conference, and even the anti-establishment Emergency
Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe concerning rescue
and issues related to Palestine. From Rabbi Stephen Wise, who
officiated at Morgenthau’s wedding in 1916 at New York’s Free Syn
agogue, he learned in September 1942 about the Final Solution. In
1943 the secretary was helpful in foiling the British-American draft
statement on the Middle East that denounced Zionist activities as
endangering the Allied war effort and called for their suspension
until the end of the hostilities when the issue would be dealt with,
only with the consent of all sides. Some of these Zionist contacts,
as well as increased public criticism and congressional initiatives
after the dismal failure of the Bermuda conference, contributed to
Morgenthau’s decisive role in establishing the War Refugee Board
early in 1944. At the same time, his growing involvement in the
fate of European Jewry seems also to have radicalized his approach
toward the German people and their state, after their expected
unconditional surrender. The WRB’s insistence upon a tough war
crimes policy, in an attempt to deter the Nazis and their allies from
murdering the remaining Jews, may have added another dimension
to Morgenthau’s anti-German stand. 6
In August 1944, at the time of the successful Allied postinvasion
drive into northern France, Morgenthau challenged the concept
of a “stern peace with reconciliation” with a defeated postwar


40
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
Germany, which was supported by the Departments of State and
War. Their reasoning was affected by both the need for quick
economic reconstruction of Europe and the growing mistrust of
the Soviet Union. This contradicted suggestions about dividing
Germany that had been raised at the Moscow foreign ministers
conference and the Teheran summit in 1943. In the American
public debate, the most important statement in favor of partition
had been made by Sumner Welles, a confidant of FDR and un
dersecretary of state until 1943. In his nonfiction best-seller, The
Time for Decision, Welles recommended breaking up a demilitarized
Germany into three states, but such notions did not sway policy
makers in the State Department. Former Treasury officials, such as
Colonel Bernard Bernstein at SHAEF’s (Supreme Headquarters,
Allied Expeditionary Force) Civil Affairs Division and Colonel
L. C. Aarons at the European Advisory Committee in London,
provided Morgenthau with information about the Department of
War’s directives for the occupation of Germany and the State De
partment’s blueprint regarding the economic future of Germany.
The blueprint aimed at preventing Germany’s renewed industrial
hegemony of the continent and endorsed reparations from the
current German production. Morgenthau objected to that course
because of the post-World War I experience and the generous
participation of American financial interests in the relatively quick
German recovery after the last war. His response was the Program
to Prevent Germany from Starting a World War III, drafted by his
staff, mainly by Harry Dexter White. 7 In early September 1944,
before the Second Quebec Conference between the United States
and Great Britain, the program underwent several adjustments but
retained its basic points.
The main elements of the memorandum, which became famous
as the “Morgenthau plan,” were the complete demilitarization of a
partitioned Germany, its industrial disarmament, and the prompt
and severe punishment of the main Nazi leaders and criminals.
Because of Morgenthau’s strong views about the link between Ger
man militarism and Nazism, on the one hand, and the German
industry, on the other, deindustrialization became the major item
in the Treasury’s draft. Poland was to receive the main part of
Eastern Prussia, except the north, which the Soviet Union would
incorporate, and also southern Silesia. France was to annex the Saar
region and adjacent areas between the Rhine and the Moselle rivers.


41
2. Morgenthau’s Plan
A special international zone would encompass the Ruhr area and its
surrounding industrial centers. The remaining German territories
were to be divided into two independent states—a northern and
a southern. According to the draft, the Ruhr and Rhineland were
to be stripped of all industrial equipment and plants. Instead of
reparations by cash payments or deliveries of goods from current
industrial production, the defeated Germans were to be punished
by loss of territories and resources, forced labor, and the confis
cation of foreign assets outside Germany. German schools and
universities were to close until an Allied commission of educators
had completed an effective reorganization program; until then all
radio stations and newspapers would be discontinued.
According to the memorandum, the responsibility for sustain
ing the economy and feeding the population would rest with the
German people and not with the occupation troops. For at least
twenty years after the unconditional surrender, the United Nations
(which meant the Allies, not the future international organization)
were to retain control over foreign trade and capital imports, pre
vent the establishment of industries linked to the German mili
tary potential, and guarantee the breakup of all large estates and
their distribution among the peasants. Finally, while the United
States would retain full military and civilian representation on an
international commission, American troops would be withdrawn as
soon as possible. The primary responsibility for policing Germany
and its civil administration would be conferred upon Germany’s
continental neighbors in Western and Eastern Europe, who, as
Morgenthau assumed, would take a much sterner line with the
Germans under occupation than would the GIs. In addition to the
immediate supreme punishment to be meted out to the top Nazi
leadership, Morgenthau insisted on the permanent elimination of
the industrial and economic elites, who had supported the aggres
sive war and the crimes against humanity. 8
Morgenthau’s partial success at the Quebec Conference in
September 1944, which he attended together with the president,
did not last. The objective of turning Germany into “a country pri
marily agricultural and pastoral in its character” mentioned in the
conference’s communique was soon dropped. As a matter of fact, it
had never been explicitly mentioned in Treasury drafts. Suggestions
about partitioning Germany, which at first were broached at the
Teheran summit of the Big Three in December 1943, did not come


42
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
up at Yalta in February 1945 or at Potsdam half a year later. Despite
Morgenthau’s personal friendship with Roosevelt, it was Henry
Stimson, the secretary of war, whose attitude finally prevailed. The
State Department, whose chief and his assistants had been upset by
Morgenthau’s meddling in their affairs and his accusations about
the department’s handling of rescue, were also victors in this battle.
The department favored control of Germany’s industry and not its
destruction. Edward Stettinius, Welles’s successor as undersecre
tary who replaced Cordell Hull in November 1944, was even more
critical of Morgenthau than his ailing predecessor had been.
Stimson, the Republican upper-class Waspish corporation law
yer, dismissed Morgenthau’s ideas as an expression of “Jewish
vengeance.” Having witnessed the dislocation of world and Eu
ropean economy as President Herbert Hoover’s secretary of state
in the early depression years, Stimson objected to the destruction of
Germany’s industrial capacity, which he regarded as most important
for Europe’s postwar recovery. This was basically the approach
of the powerful “Eastern establishment” of industrialists, bankers,
lawyers, and diplomats whose impact on American foreign policy
was much larger than that of the liberal New Dealers and supporters
of continuing coexistence with the Soviet Union, among them
Morgenthau and his staff. Together with his influential assistant
secretary John J. McCloy, Stimson favored as much autonomy as
possible for the Army and the military government in the zone to
be occupied by American troops but disapproved of Morgenthau’s
insistence on a permanent partition of Germany. Secretary of the
Navy James Forrestal, an early advocate of military preparedness
against Russia, shared the same view. Stimson and McCloy also
rejected Morgenthau’s proposal of immediately putting to death
the top Nazi leadership, preferring to try them by an international
tribunal. 9
The secretary of the Treasury, for his part, did not concede
defeat and, to a degree, influenced the formulation of JCS 1067,
the War Department’s punitive directive for the American military
government. The directive provided that no steps were to be taken
“leading toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany” or de
signed to maintain or strengthen the German economy. However,
it left some room for modifications and improvement of the lot of
the German population even before it was superseded in 1947.
In this context, Morgenthau was suspicious of appointments of


43
2. Morgenthau’s Plan
conservative officials regarded as soft on Germany to serve there.
In his last talk with Roosevelt, Morgenthau complained about the
choice of Robert Murphy as political adviser to the American
military governor in Germany. Murphy, a conservative Catholic
diplomat, had antagonized American Jewish groups because of his
prevarications regarding Jewish rights as U.S. representative in
French North Africa before and after its occupation by the Allies.
He was known to favor the preservation of a united Germany. 10
After Roosevelt’s death and Truman’s accession to the presi
dency, as well as the growing impact of Allied disunity and the
impending Cold War, the demise of the Morgenthau plan became
unavoidable. Truman endorsed the views of Morgenthau’s oppo
nents in the government and soon made him submit his resigna
tion. 11 Because of deteriorating East-West relations, support for his
concept gradually crumbled even in the liberal camp. However, the
repercussions of Morgenthau’s proposals would continue to affect
postwar German attitudes to American and world Jewry.
Influential Jewish insiders in government or close to it were
not at all of one mind with regard to Morgenthau’s proposals on
Germany; there were supporters and critics. Oscar Cox, of the Lend
Lease administration and subsequently general counsel at the For
eign Economic Administration (FEA) and its deputy administrator,
had been involved with Morgenthau and his staff in promoting the
creation of a separate rescue agency in 1943-44. In response to Ger
many’s murderous war, he demanded unequivocally the breakup of
Germany’s military and industrial power after victory. 12
At first Morgenthau’s ideas drew support from Bernard Baruch,
the conservative financier whose views still carried some weight
in public opinion. Baruch had no official position in Roosevelt’s
administration, and personally, he and Morgenthau did not like
each other. Baruch, who had most of his public papers drafted by
Sam Lubell, a political and economic analyst, shared Morgenthau’s
views on crushing Germany’s industrial power and removing a
part of its key plants to other nations. In June 1945 he aroused
President Truman’s wrath because, at an appearance before the
Senate Committee on Military Affairs, he recommended a punitive
German settlement when Morgenthau’s proposals were already
being shunted aside. Yet, in the early 1950s, after the international
situation had substantially changed, Baruch resigned himself to
accept West Germany as an ally, 13 whereas Morgenthau never


44
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
changed his mind. Up to the end of his life he regarded Germany as
“the single greatest threat to peace in Europe.” 14 Similarly, Isador
Lubin, a veteran New Dealer who served as assistant American
representative on the Allied Reparations Commission in Moscow,
in 1945 emotionally favored the “agriculturization” of Germany, as
he confessed in an oral history interview thirty years later. However,
he felt that one “could not impose such a system in Germany for
very long.” 15
Others, like Felix Frankfurter, who had been appointed by
Roosevelt in 1939 as a Supreme Court associate justice, privately
supported Stimson’s approach and encouraged him to oppose Mor
genthau’s “preposterous idea” of shooting the main Nazi leaders
without trial. Unlike Morgenthau and Baruch, cautious Frankfurter
preferred not to publicize his advice on what to do with defeated
Germany after the war. In an exchange of letters with his old friend
Benjamin V. Cohen in August 1945, he expressed his satisfaction
that Germany was not being dismembered at the Potsdam summit.
Besides, he wondered whether “a true trusteeship of the Rhineland
and the Ruhr, for a Europe regarded as an economic organism
of which Germany is a part,” might not hold more promise for
the world than a plan to turn Germany into a pastoral people.
In 1946 Frankfurter complained that in the application of the
Potsdam agreement Germany was treated as an organic whole and
not as a part of Europe. Cohen, who attended the Potsdam confer
ence as an adviser to the American delegation, regarded “the term
dismemberment [of Germany] fraught with more emotion than
wisdom.” During his service with the State Department, he himself
contributed his share to the Truman administration’s postwar policy
on Germany and Europe. 16
One of the most outspoken opponents of the Morgenthau plan
was James P. Warburg, a member of the renowned Jewish family,
even though he himself often shunned his Jewish identity. At one
point, in 1959, he was to condemn the “chauvinistic nationalism”
created by Israel among American Jews and the United Jewish
Appeal (UJA) serving Israel’s goals. After the war had broken out in
Europe, Warburg turned into an active interventionist, worked with
both the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies and
the Fight for Freedom group, and became the target of intensely
xenophobic antisemitic attacks. Nevertheless, when he was for a
brief time involved at the Office of War Information in shaping


45
2. Morgenthau’s Plan
America’s postsurrender plans for Germany, he strongly opposed
the concept “of a peace based upon the vengeful application of
retributive justice” and all suggestions for partitioning Germany.
Having brought home the reality of military defeat to every Ger
man, he recommended giving them the chance to reeducate and
rehabilitate themselves. After victory in Europe, Warburg soon
parted ways with the Truman administration’s postwar policies. He
disapproved of the trend leading to the establishment of a West
German state and to West German rearmament, and repeatedly
spoke up in favor of a united neutralized Germany. 17
Morgenthau’s proposals regarding Germany had almost no
backing in Congress. However, one of the most consistent support
ers of his views was Senator Harley M. Kilgore, a Democratic New
Dealer from West Virginia. Upon his return from Europe in 1945,
Kilgore chaired the hearings of the Senate Military Preparedness
Subcommittee aimed at preventing the German economy from
again developing a war potential. Kilgore was to play an important
role in the uphill struggle for denazification, decartelization, and
control of German heavy industry. He was deeply disturbed by a
possible revival of German nationalism. As long as he served on
Capitol Hill, the senator was one of the main supporters of Israel,
spoke up in the defense of postwar Jewish DPs, and fought the
Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other antisemitic propaganda.
Following President Truman’s reelection, he was instrumental in
bringing about the liberalization of the 1948 Displaced Persons Act,
which enabled the admission of a larger number of Jewish DPs. 18
After his departure from the Treasury, Morgenthau stuck to his
position portraying Germany as a major threat to peace, contrary to
those who hoped to rebuild it as a “bulwark against Bolshevism.” In
addition to his book, Germany Is Our Problem, which was published
after he left office, he continued to publicize his views in magazine
articles and in the daily press. 19 Inthel 948 presidential campaign he
abstained from endorsing President Truman’s reelection; his rap
prochement with the Democratic administration took place later.
In 1946 the former secretary, who was held in high esteem
by the Jewish community, accepted the nomination as general
chairman of the United Jewish Appeal (1947-50) and raised more
money than ever before during these critical years. In 1950 he was
appointed chairman of the Board of Governors of the State of Israel
Bonds Organization. Morgenthau became an outspoken supporter


46
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
of the Jewish state and paid several visits to Israel. At one time the
former opponent of an East-West confrontation aroused the ire of
the Israeli Left by calling for an anti-Communist regional pact to
include Israel and the Arab nations. After returning from Israel,
he told Secretary of State Dean Acheson that Israel “is definitely
on our side in the present East-West conflict” and only refrained
from taking a public pro-Western position because of immigra
tion from Eastern Europe. Yet, after resigning from Israel Bonds’
chairmanship in 195 3, Morgenthau did not understand how Israel’s
minister of finance, Levi Eshkol, could suggest that he might be
helpful to Israel on reparations from Germany, a country where he
would never go in his life. Even a senior Israeli minister like Eshkol
seemed not to have been aware of Morgenthau’s role regarding
Germany despite his “German extraction.” At their meeting in New
York, Morgenthau remarked that “the seeds Goebbels sowed about
Roosevelt and [him] are still fresh in the minds of the Germans.” He
would offer his services to Israel by going anywhere in Europe and
perhaps to any Arab country, a suggestion that Eshkol rebuffed. 20
The change of the political climate and the postwar Red Scare
soon brought about the purge—or resignation—of a number of
Morgenthau’s former close advisers and assistants. The most fa
mous case was that of Harry Dexter White, regarded as Mor
genthau’s right-hand man. The brilliant economist had joined the
Treasury after not having been able to get a teaching job at an elite
university and was never involved in Jewish communal life. After
the war he was accused of having been a Communist or at least a
fellow traveler. He died in 1948 of a heart attack after he resigned
from his post as director general of the International Monetary
Fund, which he had helped to establish. Despite warnings from FBI
director J. Edgar Hoover, Fred Vinson—Morgenthau’s successor as
secretary of the Treasury—had recommended him to that post. In
1946 White, who opposed the growing anti-Soviet trend, advised
Secretary of Commerce and Industry Henry Wallace to withdraw
from the administration before he was fired. During the last months
before his death White was summoned to testify before the House
Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the case of former
staff members who were accused of having been members of the
Communist party.
In retrospect, Henry Morgenthau III thought that it was Harry
Dexter White’s anti-German passion that made him particularly


47
2. Morgenthau’s Plan
attractive to his father, “blinding him to the more complex, some
times contradictory facets of White’s persona.” But although the
former secretary praised White’s contribution in a letter of con
dolence to his widow after his death, Mrs. White was very bitter
that Morgenthau had not spoken out in her husband’s defense and
did not attend the funeral in Boston. Morgenthau for his part
“was never able to resolve the question of White’s Communist
affiliations” in his own mind. 21
Bernard Bernstein, another Jewish former high Treasury offi
cial, served with the rank of lieutenant-colonel as General Eisen
hower’s financial adviser at first in Italy, then at SHAEF headquar
ters in London, and finally in Germany. He was never summoned
before HUAC but chose to resign from his post with the military
government as early as October 1945. In 1945, Bernstein, like
Harry Dexter White of East European parentage, was the most
important of the former Treasury people in occupied Germany
and distinguished himself in presenting a detailed report on the
black record of Germany’s giant chemical corporation, IG Farben.
Yet, after the reorganization of the military government, he was
demoted from the Finance Branch to the Division for Investiga
tion of Cartels and External Assets, with reduced responsibilities.
General Lucius D. Clay, General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s deputy
and head of OMGUS (Office of Military Government for Ger
many, United States) in Berlin and from 1947 himself commander-
in-chief, later recalled in his reminiscences that he never shared
Bernstein’s philosophy—he must have meant his Morgenthau-like
anti-German stand—but did not regard him as being “as doctri
naire, maybe that’s the right word, as a number of his associates.”
Upon Bernstein’s return home he served for several years as legal
adviser to the American Jewish Conference, and in this capacity he
represented it at the Paris peace conference with Germany’s allies
in 1946. After belated insinuations by Republican Congressman
George A. Dondero, both Secretary of War Robert Patterson and
John McCloy, at that time president of the World Bank, reaffirmed
Bernstein’s loyalty. 22
In the nascent Cold War and Red Scare atmosphere, anti-
German liberal Jews were easily suspected by right-wing politicians
of serving, directly or indirectly, the Communist cause. They would
never forgive or understand that opposition to Hitler in the 1930s
before the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact of August 1939 and after the


48
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
German invasion in June 1941 fostered sympathy among many
American Jews for the Soviet Union, despite the blatant faults of
the Communist dictatorship.
The Communist infiltration of the Treasury during Morgen
thau’s term of office and its probable impact on America’s foreign
relations was a matter of continuous accusations and revelations
by the FBI, right-wing senators, and conservative anti-Communist
historians. Communist party membership and pro-Communist ac
tivities of several staff members were substantiated, although most
of Morgenthau’s outspoken critics did not question his own loyalty.
A right-wing-dominated special subcommittee of the Senate Judi
ciary Committee still busied itself with that subject as late as the
mid-1960s. 23
American Jewish organizations, while demanding severe pun
ishment of German Nazi criminals responsible for the murder
of millions of Jews, made no formal pronouncements regarding
the Morgenthau proposals in 1944-45. At least emotionally, the
secretary’s ideas about Germany enjoyed much support on the
part of the Jewish masses and different groups in the community,
from pro-Soviet leftists to the Orthodox. They all had watched
from afar the extermination of their coreligionists, without being
able to help them. In the words of Ben Halpern, American Jews
wanted “all the Germans, as individuals, to atone for the past acts of
their rulers.” Without discriminating between Nazi and anti-Nazi,
“because all of them share some guilt, greater or less in degree,
for the past decade,” American Jews wished “them to feel respon
sible for permitting themselves to be ruled by criminals and for
becoming accomplices in the slaughter of peoples and despoiling
of nations.” 24
Zionist and pro-Zionist organizations, united under the roof of
the American Jewish Conference, were perhaps the most sympa
thetic to Morgenthau because of his support for Zionist positions
and requests, as well as for his involvement in rescue and in the
WRB. However, neither the American Jewish Conference nor the
WJC took a stand on his German plan. Some may have had doubts
about the feasibility of his radical recommendations. Others must
have taken into account the antisemitic overtones of the 1944
election campaign, during which Republicans pointed out that the
Morgenthau plan could damage a quick victorious conclusion of
the war in Europe and alluded to left-liberal Lithuanian-born CIO


49
2. Morgenthau’s Plan
labor leader Sidney Hillman’s strong influence with the Roosevelt
administration. 25
On the other hand, groups like the socialist leadership of the
Jewish Labor Committee never subscribed to the collective guilt
concept relating to all Germans and unequivocally disagreed with
Morgenthau’s deindustrialization program for both ideological and
practical reasons. During the peak of the so-called Final Solution,
the JLC reaffirmed that American labor sought no “mass reprisals
against the enslaved people of Germany” but appealed to the Amer
ican administration to warn the Germans “to refuse openly to be
identified with the cruelties perpetrated by their leaders.” 26 Socialist
ideology and solidarity inspired that attitude of most of the JLC
leaders, almost all of whom had been first-generation Americans of
Eastern European origin.
The non-Zionist AJC, for its part, insisted on strict punishment
of war criminals and those involved in crimes against the Jewish
people, on denazification and controls by the military government.
Yet, whereas different views were voiced among its staff members
and its lay leadership in the early postwar years, in the words of
Naomi Cohen, the AJC did not find it “feasible or desirable to create
a slum country in the heart of Europe.” Subsequently it preferred
to try and work together with liberal forces in American society for
a reformed democratic Germany. 27
The non-Orthodox religious denominations, for their part,
opposed vengeance for spiritual reasons. At the annual convention
of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) in June
1943, a leading Reform rabbi stated that “in the name of Judaism
we could not cherish vengeance towards the misguided people
of the world.” He was sure “that Jewish spokesmen at the next
Peace Conference will be the last ones to demand retribution and
reprisals for the misled subjects of tyranny.” 28 In a similar vein
the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative rabbis warned in the
summer of 1942 that “a military victory is not, by itself, adequate
to secure peace. If we are to achieve peace, we must keep our
victory clear of vindictiveness and national self-righteousness. We
must understand that the responsibility for the catastrophe which
has befallen mankind rests not exclusively on the shoulders of the
Axis powers.” The primary responsibility for the war rested on
abuse of nations; thus a world federation of democratic nations
was the alternative. 29 Even after the discovery of the Maidanek


50
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
death factory by the Russian armies advancing beyond Lublin
in August 1944, the editorialist of Liberal Judaism, the Reform
monthly, commented that “among our emotions, complex and deep
as they are, there is no raging, blazing desire for revenge.” 30 Rabbi
Abraham Cronbach, distinguished scholar at Cincinnati’s Hebrew
Union College (HUC), pacifist and universalist, and a member
of the anti-Zionist ACJ, went even further than the mainstream
Reform rabbis. In an exchange of letters with Stephen Wise and
with an HUC student of his, Rabbi Eugene J. Lipman, who in
1945 served as a chaplain with the Fourth Armored Division in
Germany, Cronbach pleaded for clemency for Nazi war criminals
because of his basic opposition “to all wars and to all persecutions
and all inflictions of man by man.” 31
In October 1944, historian Koppel S. Pinson, who had spent
some time in Germany during the 1930s and was to serve there after
the war as educational director for the Jewish DPs in Germany and
Austria under the auspices of the JDC, published in the Menorah
Journal a survey of opinions and proposals regarding the future of
Germany. The survey did not deal particularly with Jewish views on
that subject. A second essay dedicated to the Jewish position never
appeared. Nonetheless, Pinson’s comprehensive survey reflected
the attitude and expectations of at least a part of moderate liberal
elements in the American Jewish community. 32 Pinson rejected
extreme anti-German views such as those advocated by groups like
the Society for the Prevention of World War III or writers such as
Louis Nizer and William Shirer, the noted radio commentator who
published his Berlin Diary after he returned from the Nazi capital.
At the same time, he rebuffed appeasers both from the Right and
from the Left. Pinson did not favor the partition of Germany into
three states as suggested by Sumner Welles, nor did he regard as
feasible any attempt to reduce postwar Germany to a rural and
agrarian economy (perhaps he had Morgenthau in mind, but did
not mention his name): “German economy’s industrial potential
and efficiency are needed not merely for the welfare of the German
people but also for the welfare of the other peoples of Europe.
And the creation of a surplus population of unemployed millions in
an agrarian Germany would hardly be helpful to the stability and
peaceful security of the European continent.” In the long run, the
formation of a liberal and democratic Germany depended on its
spiritual and intellectual regeneration. Whereas Americans could


51
2. Morgenthau’s Plan
help in fashioning the mind of a future Germany by selection of
politically reliable elements, educational and psychological trans
formations would have to be carried out by Germans and through
Germans. The success of this program was a prerequisite for lasting
peace in Europe. Pinson’s analysis and recommendations already
forecast some of the difficulties and failures of reeducation and
denazification that started immediately after occupation and went
through different stages.
Similar views were expressed in the AJC’s Contemporary Jewish
Record, the predecessor of Commentary, by emigre Princeton histo
rian Erich Kahler, who rejected proposals to break up the national
unity of Germany as a guarantee against German nationalism. 33
Instead he endorsed the demand for internal decentralization and
organic reshaping of the German provinces. Germany should not
be deprived of its industrial potential. Its heavy industry, however,
should be nationalized, and a real solution should be linked with
a Pan-European economic system. The German problem could
only be solved by the creation of a strongly armed supranational
organization that would assume the protection of human rights and
the maintenance of cooperation, democracy, and social equality. A
new Germany, with its old universal, humanitarian ideas, would
find its place in such a framework, and this should be the main
educational task of the Allies.
The National Jewish Monthly, the journal of B’nai B’rith, one of
the key partners of the American Jewish Conference, expressed a
much sterner attitude toward Hitlerite Germany. 34 Editor Edward
E. Grusd opposed “a soft peace . . . [as] an insult to justice” and tried
to justify that attitude by quoting from the New York Herald Tribune,
then the most respectable right-of-center daily in the nation. While
dismissing any racialist approach to German blood, he regarded the
German people as responsible for the last ten years of murder, rape,
theft, torture, and world war.
Most of the Yiddish dailies, which reflected the feelings of
the Jewish immigrant masses, usually took a strong anti-German
line. However, late in September 1944 one could also find rather
skeptical comments regarding the Morgenthau plan, such as by
Shlomo Grodzensky, an editor of the Labor Zionist Yiddish weekly,
Yiddisher Kempfer. Unlike Pinson, he did not believe that after the
military defeat of the German empire any group of Germans would
be able to establish a really democratic government; he thought that


52
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
the return to normalcy would take a long time. Nevertheless, he
claimed, the victorious powers would have no other alternative than
to proceed with Germany’s economic reconstruction, and proposals
to destroy German industry did not make sense at all. 35
Hayim Greenberg, the editor in chief both of the Yiddisher
Kempfer and tht Jewish Frontier, the Labor Zionist English monthly,
did not endorse the collective guilt concept. He could not believe
“that the Germans are innately a people of murderers and that they
must remain so unto eternity.” But the fact of their showing no signs
of the wish to be punished had “afflicted the world with a feeling of a
dreadful, nightmarish mystery.” According to that most prominent
Labor Zionist essayist, there could “be only one proof of a general
revulsion of feeling in Germany. . . . Let the world punish us.” 36
Not surprisingly, no German followed his advice.
More than a year later, after the publication of Morgenthau’s
Germany Is Our Problem, his proposals regarding Germany were
reviewed in the Jewish Frontier by Nehemiah Robinson, a leading
WJC official and one of the founders of its Institute of Jewish
Affairs. Robinson expressed doubts about the feasibility of the Ruhr
region’s deindustrialization and the removal of the German popula
tion from there. However, the committed Zionist still subscribed,
as many others did under the impact of the Jewish Holocaust in
Europe, to Morgenthau’s basic thesis that no price was too high
to get rid of the constant menace of German aggression and that
the settlement of the German problem was the “key to the success
of American plans for genuine security in the world.” 37 Robinson,
one of those most deeply involved in preparing the Jewish case for
restitution and compensation, did not seem to have grasped the
vital connection between future individual and collective German
payments and Germany’s economic and financial recovery that
would not have been possible under the terms of Morgenthau’s
policies. But in any case, the plan that had never received an
approval of the organized Jewish community had already been
shelved. Successively, the community had to get used to the new
political constellation that replaced the anti-Nazi grand alliance
with a Western bloc which included a major part of Germany, even
though for many Jews it was a difficult adjustment.


3
53
Safeguarding
the Survivors and
Refugees
On May 7, 1945, five years and eight months after the beginning
of World War II, Germany unconditionally surrendered to the
Allies, who promptly completed the occupation of its territory. The
semisovereign Federal Republic of West Germany (FRG) was es
tablished four years later—soon to be followed by the Communist-
dominated German Democratic Republic in the east. It would
take six more years until the FRG regained full sovereignty as an
equal member of NATO and the postwar Western alliance, even
though the onset of the Cold War had started to affect American
policy toward Germany much earlier. According to the Potsdam
agreement, occupied Germany was to be ruled by an Allied Con
trol Council and a central administration under its direction. But
because of the contradictory interests of the victorious allies, the
real power in the four zones of occupation remained in the hands
of the occupying armies and the separate military governments.
The jurisdiction of the evolving German provincial authori
ties was at first very restricted. Therefore, until the end of the
decade—and in some cases a few years later—the administration in
Washington, the military government in the American zone, and
afterwards, the U.S. High Commission there were the main insti
tutions to which American Jews turned for support in dealing with
German affairs. These concerns included the fate of the survivors


54
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
and refugees, the attitude of the U.S. Army and of the local popu
lation toward them, restitution of Jewish property, indemnification
for the victims of persecution, and denazification and punishment
of Nazi criminals responsible for the murder of a major part of
European Jewry.
The popular quest for revenge notwithstanding, the most ur
gent American Jewish concern with regard to defeated Germany
was to secure the safety and well-being of tens of thousands of
concentration and slave labor camp survivors, as well as of the
large number of refugees from Poland, the Soviet Union, and other
Eastern European nations who crossed the borders of the Amer
ican zone. Many were directed there by the underground Zionist
Brichah in order to influence American and world public opinion
and exert pressure on the British government to open the gates of
Palestine. In 1946 the westward movement of refugees increased
even more rapidly because of Polish antisemitism, which reached
its peak in the Kielce pogrom of July 1946. Although thousands
had joined the ranks of the illegal immigrants to Palestine, in
1947 more than 200,000 Jews were living in occupied Germany
and Austria. The prolonged stay of a large number of Jews in
the American-occupied part of Germany, however, and the lack
of immigration havens for them caused serious problems for the
Army, which wanted to get rid of such an anti-German element,
especially because of the rapidly changing U.S. policy toward the
recent enemy. Thus, that precarious situation became a helpful
factor in the struggle for the creation of a Jewish state. The Yishuv
in Palestine, American Jewry, and the DPs themselves joined in that
fateful struggle. 1
In spring 1945, Jewish survivors in concentration and slave
labor camps heartily welcomed the American troops as libera
tors, in contrast to ambivalent feelings of the great majority of
the German population even though they preferred occupation
by the Americans and British to the Soviets. 2 For the American
commander-in-chief, for officers and men, the catastrophic situ
ation they encountered at the end of the war in the camps they
liberated was most shocking. For a long time many Americans had
not believed reports about the Nazi atrocities. Now the information
proved true, although the camps freed by the Americans and British
in the West differed from the extermination camps in the East,
which were shut down or, as in the case of Auschwitz, evacuated


55
3. Safeguarding the Survivors and Refugees
before they fell into the hands of the Soviet army. Anticipating
perhaps future attempts of “Holocaust denial,” General Eisen
hower paid a visit to Ohrdruf, a subsidiary camp of Buchenwald,
“in order to be in position to give first hand evidence ... if ever . . .
there develops the tendency to charge these allegations merely as
propaganda.” 3
Upon Eisenhower’s suggestion, a delegation of high-ranking
American publishers, editors, and journalists was brought over to
Europe shortly before the end of the hostilities there. In addition,
a congressional delegation was invited to visit occupied Germany.
Similarly, visits of delegations from Great Britain took place. The
American editors’ unanimous conclusion was that the “German
people cannot be allowed to escape their share of responsibility”
and that “just punishment must be meted out to the outstanding
party office holders, to all members of the Gestapo, all mem
bers of the SS.” Still, as Deborah Lipstadt emphasized, neither
the editors nor the members of Congress “were able to admit
that though multitudes had been cruelly tortured and murdered,
Jews alone had been singled out for total national annihilation.” 4
As a result of the extensive news reports, opinion polls showed
that a larger number of Americans now favored strict controls,
full demilitarization, total elimination of the Nazis, and super
vision of German industry. 5 This state of mind reaffirmed the
Army’s initially stern approach toward the defeated enemy, which
called for full segregation between American officers and enlisted
men and the German population; however, nonfraternization did
not last. At a meeting with Morgenthau in August 1944, General
Eisenhower agreed “that the German people should be made to
feel a sense of responsibility for the war and that German wel
fare should take a backseat to the welfare of Germany’s victors.”
The general also approved of free distribution of Henry Mor
genthau’s Germany Is Our Problem in 1945, despite the fact that
neither Morgenthau nor his plan were popular with the Truman
administration. Two years later, as his biographer Stephen Am
brose pointed out, Eisenhower had softened his attitude toward
the Germans and no longer wanted to be connected with the
Morgenthau plan. 6
Contrary to Jewish fears, the attitude of the vanquished German
population, except for a few incidents, did not present a physical
threat to the survivors and refugees. Although strong antisemitic


56
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
feelings persisted among many Germans who had remained loyal
to the Nazi regime until the bitter end, the Germans submitted to
American and other occupying forces without resistance. Thus the
main problem posed for the American Jewish community was how
to improve the lot of the large numbers of Jews who remained in
Germany much longer than expected.
Of major significance for the status of the Jewish DPs in the
American zone, and in the long run also for the U.S. involvement
in the future of Palestine, was the Harrison report that was sent to
President Truman in August 1945. The report was the result of an
investigation of the DP situation conducted by Earl G. Harrison,
the American representative on the ICR and Dean of the University
of Pennsylvania Law school. Harrison was dispatched to Germany
by Acting Secretary of State Joseph Grew, upon the urging of Henry
Morgenthau, at that point still secretary of the Treasury.
Harrison, along with Dr. Joseph J. Schwartz of theJDC, Patrick
Malin of the ICR, and Herbert Katzki of the WRB, who accompa
nied him, submitted two key proposals:
a) the separation of the Jewish DPs in special assembly centers
to be guided by the JDC and the improvement of their living
conditions (in fact, the separation had started before the publication
of the report);
b) the admission of 100,000 Jews to Palestine. That recom
mendation in accordance with the Jewish Agency’s demand was
endorsed by President Truman and reappeared, despite its rejection
by British Prime Minister Clement Atdee, in the report of the
Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946. 7
One of the consequences of the report was that it convinced
the War Department and the Army to agree to the appointment
of an adviser on Jewish affairs to the American commander-in-
chief. For the next four years the persons in charge of this new
office were to act both as mediators between the Army and the
DPs and as liaisons with the American Jewish establishment. The
administration’s insistence that the candidates for that position
should be acceptable to all the leading Jewish groups expedited
the formation of the ad hoc group of the Five Cooperating Orga
nizations, which paid most of the adviser’s expenses. As in the past,
the administration still objected to covering expenses for special
Jewish interests by the American taxpayer. However, that added to
the adviser’s independent status.


57
3. Safeguarding the Survivors and Refugees
Except for the first appointment of Major Judah Nadich, a
chaplain since 1942, all the advisers were civilians with a respectable
professional and public record. Judge Simon Hersh Rifkind, a
member of the AJC, had served on the federal bench before go
ing to Germany. Rabbi Philip S. Bernstein, a Rochester Reform
rabbi, was involved in the WJC; later, in the 1960s, he became
the first chairman of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC). Judge Louis E. Levinthal was the most prominent Zionist
among the advisers. The Philadelphia Circuit Court judge went to
Frankfurt after he had held high office in the Zionist Organization
of America (ZOA), including its presidency. His successor, William
Haber, an Ann Arbor professor of economics and a member of
AJC’s executive committee, chaired the National Refugee Service,
the main Jewish agency that dealt with refugees from Germany
and Nazi-occupied Europe. The last adviser, Harry Greenstein,
was the executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Welfare Fund.
During their tour of duty the advisers were awarded the rank of
brigadier general, and USFET (United States Forces, European
Theater) commanders treated them with respect even when dif
ferences of opinion arose. The whole institution was unique for
the American zone. Even though in April 1946 a Jewish adviser,
Colonel Robert Solomon, was appointed by the British military,
his functions did not compare to those of the American advisers.
There was no similar setup in the French zone, not to mention the
Soviet zone.
A most urgent task for the first advisers was to prevent the
closing of the American zone to the ever growing number of new
comers from Poland. Due to Jewish pressure in Washington and
the advisers’ intervention on the spot, the borders remained open
in 1946. After General Lucius Clay succeeded General Joseph
McNarney as USFET commander in 1947, he tried to enforce
stronger measures against further infiltration of refugees. But most
of the Jews fleeing Romania and Hungary still succeeded in entering
the camps, although the number of newcomers declined signifi
cantly in comparison to the preceding year. The continuing migra
tion conflicted with OMGUS’s interest in reducing the number of
DPs stranded on German territory. During Professor Haber’s term
of office in 1948, the birth of Israel and the subsequent exodus
from the Jewish assembly centers eased tensions with the Army.
Others benefited from the 1948 Displaced Persons Immigration


58
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
Act even though it discriminated heavily against Jews. In 1949
Harry Greenstein, who served under both General Clay and U.S.
high commissioner John J. McCloy, handled the liquidation of
most camps and also dedicated much of his time to restitution
and indemnification problems. Major Abraham S. Hyman, who
assisted all the advisers except Judge Rifkind, filled in as acting
adviser during the last ten weeks of 1949. 8
All the advisers were an important source of information for the
American Jewish community about antisemitic occurrences among
both the German population and the American forces. The search
and seizure operations with the help of German police in Jewish
assembly centers, which like all other camps were administered by
the UNRRA, often caused tension between the DPs and the Army.
After one Jewish DP was killed during an early search action in
Stuttgart in March 1946, Judge Rifkind intervened, and General
McNarney suspended the authority of German police to enter the
DP camps. Nonetheless, raids by GIs continued and even intensi
fied in 1948, when they especially aimed at big Jewish speculators,
since black marketeering was a widespread phenomenon before
the monetary reform of 1948. William Haber, the Jewish affairs
adviser at that time, and Major Hyman, his assistant, were very
much concerned about these Jewish black market activities because
of their negative impact on both the Army’s attitude and the morale
of the DPs themselves. 9
In 1947 the military government, which started transferring
more responsibility to local and regional German authorities, was
upset by prevailing strong anti-Jewish attitudes among the Ger
man population. According to public opinion polls taken in 1946
and 1947, over 61 percent of Germans were still deeply affected
by antisemitism. Upon the request of General Clay, Rabbi Philip
Bernstein presented a detailed plan to counter German anti-Jewish
feelings. Before that he consulted with a visiting AJC delegation
and met with a number of DP representatives, individual Germans,
and indigenous Jews. The report indicated three main causes for
the renascent antisemitism: the economic plight of the German
population; its belief that American Jewry was shaping the oc
cupation policy to avenge the murder of millions of fellow Jews;
and finally, nostalgic feelings for the Nazi regime “under which
they enjoyed gainful employment and the prospect of a dominant
position in the world.” Others considered the East European Jewish


59
3. Safeguarding the Survivors and Refugees
DP “as a provocative element in the German scene.” The DP
representatives, for their part, were unanimous in their belief that
“the reemergence of anti-Semitism in Germany is, to a considerable
extent, conditioned by the interaction between the American troops
and the German civilian population.” They contrasted the sympa
thetic attitude of the American troops that had liberated them with
the unfriendliness they often encountered among the occupation
troops. For the Germans, it was just the opposite.
At one time, Rabbi Bernstein suggested a special education
program “to immunize the American soldier against the views of
German anti-Semitism,” including visits to Jewish camps in order
to reduce mutual tension, but as he himself acknowledged, the
irritation remained. 10
American officers, the majority of whom came from conserva
tive small-town and rural America, sometimes suspected left-wing
Zionist refugees of pro-Soviet sympathies. High-level intelligence
estimates, however, found little evidence of large-scale pro-Soviet
infiltration among the camp inhabitants who had fled Eastern Eu
rope on their way to Palestine or the United States. 11 Intimate
contacts between American soldiers and German women after the
rapid breakdown of the nonfraternization rules also contributed
to negative attitudes toward Jews. One of the strongest protests
in this context was launched by Julius Klein, then a colonel and
later to be awarded the rank of two-star general for serving with
the Illinois National Guard. Klein, the national commander of
the Jewish War Veterans (JWV) in 1948-49, afterwards became a
strong supporter of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the Federal
Republic and served as lobbyist for German industrial enterprises. 12
Even though antisemitism in the United States declined after the
end of the war, American Jews were afraid lest happenings in occu
pied Germany might cause a backlash at home. Fortunately, these
fears proved wrong.
Army chaplains had been the first to meet the “Saving Rem
nant” in Germany, and a few of them, such as the young Re
form rabbi Abraham Klausner in Bavaria and the Orthodox rabbi
Robert Marcus in Buchenwald, distinguished themselves helping
the survivors after liberation. 13 Zionist activists from the camps
took the initiative in conducting public activities and organizing
the survivors, and they were soon assisted by Jewish soldiers from
Palestine and by emissaries of the Jewish Agency in preparation


60
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
for aliyah (immigration). 14 Since 1945, periodic visits were made
by individuals and delegations of major American Jewish groups.
The advisers chosen by the Five Cooperating Organizations usually
performed well in their contacts with the Army and the military
government. But although it took the JDC longer than expected to
bring its staff into Germany, it subsequently played a focal role in
the physical rehabilitation of the DPs and refugees until the camps
were dismantled. Despite recurrent differences of opinion with the
Central Committee of the Liberated Jews, the JDC helped in the
rebuilding of the lives of both the camp inmates who left for Israel
and the others who preferred to start a new life overseas. Yehuda
Bauer, the author of a three-volume history of the JDC’s activities
from 1929 until 1949, observed that under the impact of postwar
experience the JDC changed its course from an anti-Zionist or at
most non-Zionist philanthropic organization into an unequivocally
pro-Israeli one. 15
Restitution and indemnification claims from vanquished Ger
many were perhaps not accorded the same urgency as the efforts in
favor of the survivors and the DPs. However, American and other
Jewish organizations wasted no time in reminding the victorious
allies of the necessity to take up this issue. In October 1945 the
American Jewish Conference, the WJC, and the Board of Deputies
of British Jews endorsed the Jewish Agency’s claim for reparation
“due from the enemy states for the infinitude of murder, suffering
and destruction which they had inflicted upon the Jewish people.” 16
This endorsement followed a note to the Allied governments by
Dr. Chaim Weizmann, president of the Jewish Agency and World
Zionist Organization, demanding collective payments from Ger
many to cover the resettlement of Jewish refugees in Palestine,
in addition to individual compensation and restitution of Jewish
property. 17
On the diplomatic scene the issue of reparations to Jewish
victims was first discussed at the Interallied Conference on Repa
rations in Paris in December 1945. According to a suggestion by
Isador Lubin, the American delegation proposed setting aside for
them up to 2 percent of the resources available for reparations. That
proposal was not accepted by the other governments; however,
the claim of stateless and nonrepatriable victims of Nazism was
recognized. Instead of a fixed percentage, the Allies agreed to pay a
sum of $2 5 million derived from German assets in neutral countries


61
3. Safeguarding the Survivors and Refugees
and nonmonetary gold found in Germany, with an estimated value
of $5 million. Ninety percent of these sums was reserved for Jewish
refugees. That agreement established an important precedent, but
the sums were insignificant, and the payment took much more time
than expected. 18 Moreover, the Paris treaty was badly drafted, and
its implementation led to confusion in the allocation of a part of
the gold looted by the Germans.
In addition to their efforts for the survivors and refugees, the
Five Cooperating Organizations played a significant role in secur
ing the enforcement of the restitution law in the U.S. zone by
the American military government. Internal restitution of property
was explicitly included in JCS 1067, the directive to the American
commander-in-chief that had been drafted with the participation
of Morgenthau’s Treasury. The appointment in 1946 of a special
Internal Restitution Adviser at the OMGUS Legal Division fa
cilitated the advancing of that process. Particularly important was
the service in that capacity of Max Lowenthal, an influential liberal
lawyer close to President Truman, who would soon be of great help
in the struggle for America’s recognition of Israel. 19
Originally, OMGUS preferred that the law should be legislated
by the Stuttgart Landerrat, the coordinating council of the Lander
(provincial) governments. Yet, despite the goodwill of several Ger
man officials, these efforts foundered because of objections raised
by others. Finally, General Clay enacted restitution as Military
Law 59 in November 1947. That law also paved the way for a
Jewish successor organization to take care of identifiable ownerless
and heirless property. The first successor organization—the Jewish
Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO) comprised of thirteen
agencies—was set up in June 1948 and established its offices in
Nuremberg. One of its affiliates, the Jewish Cultural Reconstruc
tion agency, under the presidency of the renowned historian Salo
Baron, was charged with locating and salvaging Jewish books, man
uscripts, and cultural as well as religious objects looted by the
Germans. 20
Following OMGUS instructions, the German authorities pro
ceeded in legal preparations for individual indemnification.
Whereas JCS 1067 expressly dealt only with restitution, the new
directive JCS 1779 that replaced it and was more attuned to the
changing American attitude toward Germany nevertheless added
indemnification as one of the aims of the military government.


62
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
Because of German differences of opinion and especially their
objections to indemnifying a major part of the DPs, the drafting of
the law took more time than expected. Besides, the British military
government, as well as some OMGUS officials, thought it unwise to
enact such a law only a few weeks after the approval of the new Fed
eral Republic’s Basic Law in May 1949 and before its first general
elections. Nonetheless, upon the urging of the American Jewish or
ganizations, General Clay’s successor John McCloy, who had taken
up his office in July 1949, overrode all objections and instructed
the Landerrat to enact the General Claims Law in August 1949. 21
To complete the picture, two more organizations became in
volved at an early date in restitution and indemnification claims.
The Axis Victims League, established in 1943 in New York by
Bruno Weil, a former leader of the assimilationist German Jewish
Central Verein, aimed at satisfying the individual claims of its
members, the great majority of whom were Jews. In 1944 Weil was
involved in the creation of an additional organization, the American
Association of Former European Jurists, which, too, dealt with
compensation claims from their former homeland. Because of the
nonsectarian self-definition of these groups, there was no basis for
their joining the common Jewish effort, and after the establishment
of the Claims Conference, even the Germans did not pay much
attention to them. 22
* * it
The policies of the American administration and of the military
government, which controlled three Lander in the south of Ger
many as well as two northern enclaves, the city-state of Bremen
and a part of the former capital Berlin, underwent far-reaching
changes from 1945 until the establishment of the West German
Federal Republic in 1949. These changes were brought about by
the successive collapse of the Potsdam blueprint for a unified Four
Power administration, by French obstruction, and particularly by
the East-West antagonism and the impact of the Cold War on the
domestic American scene. 23
However, even during the early punitive stage of JCS 1067,
when Germany was still regarded as an enemy, it soon became
evident that the directive’s immediate implementation depended
on the regional and local commanders, who differed in their atti
tudes toward the vanquished Germans and also toward the Jewish


63
3. Safeguarding the Survivors and Refugees
remnants. Jews and American liberals were especially annoyed by
the course of the Third Army’s battle-proven General George S.
Patton, who was in charge of Bavaria, where most of the surviving
Jews had been liberated. Patton, of southern heritage and southern
California upbringing, was a convinced antisemite. He regarded the
Jewish DPs as “lower than animals” and predicted, according to an
entry in his diary, that “should the German people ever rise from
the state of utter degradation to which they now have been reduced,
there will be the greatest pogrom of the Jews in the history of the
world,” as if the murder of the six million had not been enough. As
Judd Teller once remarked, “not since Ulysses S. Grant’s notorious
order early in the Civil War, expelling Jewish traders from the areas
under his command, had an American officer been guilty of such
patent anti-Semitism.” 24 But Grant was later to apologize for that
order until the end of his life.
No wonder that Patton was slow in carrying out the orders to
improve the living conditions of the Jewish survivors, as demanded
by the Harrison report. In a letter to Secretary Stimson, Patton
protested against the pro-Jewish clout in the military government.
In his opinion, the early American postwar policies were the re
sult of a conspiracy of international bankers, labor leaders, Jews,
and Communists, whereas he regarded the Germans as potential
allies against the adversary in the East. Because of Patton’s failure
to implement denazification, Eisenhower summoned him late in
September to his headquarters in Frankfurt, but there was no
meeting of the minds between them. Patton stuck to his view
“that the Red Army was the real threat and the Germans the real
friends.” After their futile encounter, Eisenhower relieved Patton
from the command of the Third Army and appointed General
Lucian Truscott in his place. 2S The turnabout Patton hoped for
took place only a few years later; he himself died in December
1945 as the result of an auto accident.
Upon the order of the military government, together with the
removal of Patton, Bavaria’s conservative provincial government
that had been installed in May 1945 was dismissed because of its
failure to implement denazification. Fritz Schaffer, until September
1945 Bavaria’s prime minister and a leader of the Christian Social
Union (CSU), was to emerge later as one of West Germany’s most
influential politicians. He served as Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s
minister of finance (1949-57) and minister of justice (1957-61). In


64
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
Adenauer’s cabinet he was the main opponent of the 1952 Lux
embourg reparations treaty between West Germany and Israel.
Schaffer seems never to have forgotten his early trouble with the
American occupation authorities and continued to accuse the mili
tary government officials who had been involved in his dismissal as
“Morgenthauites.” 26
Liberal and left-wing Jewish newsmen in New York were the
first to protest the happenings in Bavaria and to describe them
as the “American failure in Germany.” Among them, the most
prominent was Victor Bernstein of PM, who afterwards, before
his appointment as managing editor of the Nation, was to serve as
the Jewish Agency’s public relations director. In a way, their critical
reports contributed to Patton’s removal but at the same time caused
virulent antisemitic reactions on the right. 27 The first round in the
struggle for Bavaria in 1945 was won by the liberals. However,
the portents pointed already in the opposite direction. The Jewish
community and its traditional liberal partners had soon to take
into account that because of the growing rift between the wartime
allies and the fear of further Soviet expansion, American policy
would move more rapidly toward Germany’s economic recovery.
As a matter of fact, the shift toward a softer peace had started
before the East-West gap became unbridgeable. But that rift was
an additional reason for American policymakers to rely even more
on conservative anti-socialist political forces in German society and
to look for close cooperation with the qualified German adminis
trative and economic elites, who, until May 1945, had been among
the mainstays of Hitler’s Reich.
The change of direction of American policy was reflected in the
successive replacement of anti-Nazi military government officials
from a liberal New Deal background, who were determined to
proceed with Germany’s social and economic reorganization, and
by the growing influence of conservative businesspeople there.
William H. Draper, head of the Economics Division of the military
government and one of General Lucius Clay’s most influential
advisers, was a leading opponent of the Morgenthau plan and did
all in his power to get rid of its remainders.
During the Weimar Republic the former secretary-treasurer of
the New York investment bank Dillon and Read had traded shares
of German firms and cartels and promoted both investments and
loans to Germany, strengthening the links between American and


65
3. Safeguarding the Survivors and Refugees
German industrial corporations. Other Wall Street investors did
the same, supported by law firms that specialized in such trans
actions. Despite the growing alienation between Washington and
Berlin and the differences concerning international trade after
Hitler’s rise to power, at least a part of these connections were pre
served until the war and revived after its end. Upon the conclusion
of his service at OMGUS, Draper was appointed undersecretary of
the Army and continued to influence American policy in Germany
from Washington.
It was no surprise that James Stewart Martin, a left-wing liberal
who had served in the Economic Warfare Division of the De
partment of Justice and been appointed in the winter of 1945-46
as chief of OMGUS Decartelization Branch, was not more suc
cessful in advancing decartelization than his predecessors Bernard
Bernstein and Russell Nixon, both former Treasury staff members.
Martin argued that failure of decartelization was not attributable to
the developing tension between the Soviet Union and the United
States but mainly to common interests by powerful economic cor
porations in the United States and Germany. 28 After the factual
freezing of decartelization by the military government, a partial
deconcentration of German industries had to wait until the 1950s.
A major turning point of postwar American policy toward Ger
many was Secretary of State James F. Byrnes’s Stuttgart address of
September 1946. Byrnes’s statement meant that despite continuing
controls to prevent the revival of Germany’s military potential,
Germans would no longer be regarded as enemies. He also assured
them that U. S. troops would stay in Germany as long as other troops
would remain there. 29 Although Byrnes had notyet given up hope of
reaching some kind of agreement with the Soviets, the American-
British economic joint zone—the Bizonia—was soon established
as the nucleus of the future Federal Republic. But even before
the Truman administration had taken these steps, the Republican
victory in the 1946 congressional elections, after the uninterrupted
Democratic hegemony since FDR’s accession to power in March
1933, substantially hastened the volte-face.
The most salient expression of the winds of change blowing in
the direction of a “soft peace” were the findings of the President’s
Economic Mission to Germany and Austria under the chairmanship
of Herbert Hoover, the last Republican tenant of the White House.
In his report published in March 1947, Hoover called for increasing


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EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
the production of Germany’s heavy industry and stopping further
dismantlement except some armament plants. He implied that
attempts at decartelization and continuing denazification could
harm recovery. Hoover’s recommendations enjoyed the support of
the Republican leadership in both houses of Congress and were
publicly endorsed by a broad spectrum of political opinion. A
few months later Secretary of State George Marshall, Byrnes’s
successor, launched the European Recovery Program (ERP). That
plan, aimed at dovetailing German economic revival with a general
European recovery program, was, in the eyes of Germany’s hos
tile neighbors, preferable to Hoover’s unilateral recommendations
aimed at improving its lot. 30
There were some protests and preventive activities of Jewish
and other left-liberal and anti-Nazi groups against the pro-German
campaign of the opponents of a “harsh peace” and subsequently
against the changing American policy toward Germany, but they
were rather ineffectual. Early in 1946 representatives of the Amer
ican Jewish Conference, B’nai B’rith, and even the AJC attended
a meeting of the Society for the Prevention of World War III,
although that pro-Morgenthau plan society’s impact was marginal.
The Council of National Youth Organizations affiliated with the
Conference followed suit. The Conference also joined a broad
coalition of liberal and ethnic groups in endorsing an appeal of the
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States urging the “quaran
tining” of the 300,000 soldiers in occupied Germany against frat
ernization, Nazi ideology, and alarming venereal disease rates. The
participating organizations demanded that while policing would
be carried out by the young draftees, the governing of the civilian
German population should be delegated to mature men, preferably
veterans with combat experience. The AJ Congress castigated “the
shocking neglect of proper training and education in the principles
and ideals of American democracy” in the armed forces in occupied
territories. Bernard Bernstein, who, as legal adviser of the American
Jewish Conference, represented it at the Paris Peace Conference
with Germany’s allies, warned Secretary of State James Byrnes after
his Stuttgart address that the race with Russia “to make an ally of
Germany is the greatest single stimulant for a third world war.”
The Zionist conflict with the Labor government in London made
it easier for him to put a part of the blame for America’s chang
ing policy on Great Britain, which was “interested in Germany


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3. Safeguarding the Survivors and Refugees
and German industry in order to solidify a West European bloc
of nations.” 31
In March 1947 Henry Morgenthau, who had accepted the UJA
general chairmanship, was involved in summoning, together with
Eleanor Roosevelt and Edgar Ansel Mowrer, a national conference
on the German problem that warned against Germany’s revival as
a power and the abandonment of the Yalta and Potsdam agree
ments of the “Big Three.” Mowrer, in his Germany Puts the Clock
Back, written in the early 1930s, described the failure of Weimar
democracy and predicted the Nazi takeover and its horrendous
implications for the Jews. The meeting, which was attended by
Albert Einstein, Sumner Welles, Representative Helen Gahagan
Douglas, Fiorello M. LaGuardia, and Erika Mann, Thomas Mann’s
daughter, called upon the administration to bar John Foster Dulles,
the Republican party’s main foreign affairs spokesman, from the
American delegation to the four-power foreign ministers confer
ence. As head of the prestigious New York law firm, Sullivan and
Cromwell, Dulles had been involved in American-German business
deals also after Hitler’s ascent to power. The critics of the Tru
man administration’s policies demanded that citizens of the United
States and other nations who had economic and financial interests
in Germany would be barred from all positions in the military
government. 32
AJC staff people, for their part, were privately much upset
by former President Herbert Hoover’s recommendations to lift
controls over German industry. His proposals reminded them of
the same “old heavy industry blindness” that brought about World
War II. 33 Others were alerted because of the purge of liberal Jewish
analysts and information officers, some of whom were suspected of
political disloyalty. Earlier, in the first period after the war, hard-
nosed Army officers had complained about the “tender-hearted ap
peal” to the German public by recent German immigrants serving
in the military government. 34
Lucius DuBignon Clay, scion to a southern political family who
knew the Washington scene better than most of his fellow generals,
was well aware of “the sensitivity of the American Jewish commu
nity toward the military government’s policies in Germany,” which
he regarded as “an element of great significance.” The problem
weighed much less on his counterparts in the Allied Control Coun
cil. As head of the military government, Clay intended to make the


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EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
U.S. zone a going concern. As early as 1945 he used for that reason
the leverage accorded to him in JCS directive 1067 and gradually
improved the lot of the Germans under occupation. He reduced
day-to-day American supervision and encouraged, as far as possible,
German self-government. In 1947 Clay became disturbed by the
renewed increase of antisemitism among the German population.
Yet talking privately to William Haber, his adviser on Jewish affairs,
who mentioned the persistent antisemitism in Germany, he once
remarked “that the anti-Germanism among the Jews in Germany
is far more bitter than the anti-Semitism among the Germans.” 35
His prompt advice to Jewish leaders—which of course they would
not follow, then or much later—was “to forget what happened.”
Clay repeatedly met with Jewish spokesmen and delegations
and was helpful on problems of the DPs and restitution. On po
litical issues he was glad to draw support from prominent Jewish
individuals like Bernard Baruch, whose anti-German views mel
lowed because of the Cold War and the fear of Soviet expansion,
and who testified in Congress in favor of the Marshall Plan. In
March 1948 Clay denied in a letter to Baruch that he had become
“pro-German,” an accusation that was made against him mainly
because of his “short-range effort to restore the prostrate German
economy in order to secure a stable Europe.” 36 As he confided to
James Warburg, he purposely had not learned German because he
wanted “to keep the Krauts at a distance,” nor did he have social
contact with them. 37 Despite the change of U.S. policy in 1946-47,
Clay continued reeducation programs, persisted in denazification
proceedings until 1948, and confirmed the execution of more Nazi
criminals. But after the final breakdown of East-West efforts to
reach agreement about the future status of Germany, he came to
regard West Germany as a bulwark against Communist aggression.
Thanks to his resolute stand during the Berlin blockade of 1948,
he earned much respect from the population of the former enemy.
Altogether, despite differences of opinion and temporary set
backs, the Army’s and military government’s balance sheet with
regard to special American Jewish requests and the Jews assembled
in the American zone was a positive one. That included the basic
safety of the DPs in their temporary refuge, where they did not
want to stay, and Jewish demands for restitution of identifiable
property and indemnification of victims of Nazi persecution and
their heirs. Whereas the DPs themselves often did not understand


69
3. Safeguarding the Survivors and Refugees
the American role and lacked guidance on friendly relations with
the Army, organized Jewry appreciated its role. However, there was
much less sympathy by American Jews for the rapid turn postwar
U.S. policy toward occupied Germany was taking, which sometimes
also affected the Army’s prompt handling of the situation. In the
short run, Jews were worried that the reversal might prevent an ef
fective punishment of the political, military, and economic German
elites who had been involved in a most murderous war and in the
extermination of the major part of European Jewry. But in the long
run, there, too, was the issue of Germany’s future in the community
of nations. For years to come the Jewish minority would not adjust
easily to the policy endorsed by the majority of Americans, even
though it would continue to make its point as an influential group
in American public opinion.



4
71
Denazification and
the Major War Crimes Trials
Of the “four Ds”—denazification, democratization, demilitariza
tion, and decartelization, often used to describe the main aims of
early postwar American policy in occupied Germany—denazifica
tion together with punishment of the Nazi criminals was the most
important German item on the agenda of American Jewish groups.
Because of the uniqueness of Hitler’s war against the Jews, which
had started long before the United States entered World War
II, the American Jewish community attached more urgency and
importance than most other Americans to the severe punishment
of the murderers of their brethren and other victims in Europe. Also
paramount was the cleanup of Nazi party activists from all walks
of German life. After the victorious war, the U.S. government and
a great many Americans soon came to regard the German people
as a crucial factor in Western Europe as well as a potential ally in
the looming confrontation with the Soviet Union. Most American
Jews, for their part, saw Germany as the enemy much longer, and
as a nation that needed more corrective treatment.
However, even before the full impact of the rift between the
members of the wartime anti-Nazi alliance became evident and
before the competition for German favors started, the expectation
that denazification would provide a clean sweep did not materialize.
Eventually, denazification was sacrificed in the process of Western


72
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
integration and economic reconstruction, as were other social and
structural reforms.
Plans for a large-scale denazification of Germany had been dis
cussed in Washington and London during the last years of the war
before the struggle for Europe had entered its ultimate phase. At
the Yalta Conference, the Big Three agreed on fundamental denaz
ification objectives such as to “wipe out the Nazi party, Nazi laws,
organizations and institutions, and remove all Nazi and militarist
influences from public office and from the cultural and economic
life of the German people.” After the end of the war in Europe,
the Potsdam Agreement of August 1945 specified the directions
according to which the Allied Control Council (representing the
United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union) would
proceed with the arrest and internment of Nazi leaders and influ
ential supporters. All active members of the Nazi party were to be
removed from office and positions of responsibility in important
private enterprises.
In the American occupation zone alone, 13 million people
older than eighteen were required to complete a detailed 130-
item questionnaire in order to establish their status in defeated
Germany. In a nation that counted approximately 12.5 million
members of the National Socialist party and its subdivisions, such
a compulsory registration was regarded as a vital condition for im
mediately relieving the functionaries and their collaborators from
all important—and even less important—jobs in the public sector.
Besides, the private sector was also affected. Even after Germany’s
unconditional surrender, these people were considered as a threat
to the victors, and getting rid of them was deemed necessary for the
personal security of the occupying forces. In the long run, however,
the exclusion of the Nazi leaders and active members aimed at
securing the democratic character of a reconstructed Germany, the
founding or revival of democratic parties, trade unions, and em
ployers’ associations. The reasoning was that without establishing
a stable German democracy it would be impossible to guarantee the
safety of Germany’s neighbors and other European states and lay
the foundation for constructive economic and political cooperation.
The U.S. administration had been the leading force in the
inter-Allied planning for denazification until Potsdam. The im
plementing of denazification in the American zone followed JCS
1067 and, in principle, had been agreed upon by all the major


73
4. Denazification and War Crimes Trials
government departments involved in policy toward Germany. Yet,
nuanced differences persisted among the Departments of War and
State and Henry Morgenthau’s Treasury. Whereas the first two
saw denazification as a punitive measure linked with Germany’s
postwar reconstruction, Morgenthau and left-liberals close to his
position hoped to reduce Germany’s economic and political power
once and for all, and to break up its traditional elites. Left-wing
Jewish intellectuals of the Frankfurt School and other anti-Nazi
prewar immigrants, who during the war served in the Office of
Strategic Services (OSS), shared Morgenthau’s opposition against
the German economic elites but not his proposals to substantially
weaken German industry. They also objected to proposals for the
partition of Germany. 1
Direct denazification handled by American military personnel
in 1946 encountered immense technical, administrative, and polit
ical difficulties. Quite a number of officers opposed the extensive
program; others did not show much interest in its implementation,
the most conspicuous case being that of General Patton in Bavaria.
Many Germans did not truthfully answer questions about their
former involvement in the Nazi regime, nor did they admit to
past incriminating activities, despite the threat of heavy penalties.
Thus, the whole procedure was not effective. There was a severe
shortage of American manpower, and many of those involved lacked
a satisfactory knowledge of the German social and political scene.
Because of these insurmountable obstacles, the military govern
ment conferred the task, early in 1946, upon the civilian German
“tribunals” (Spruchkammem), which were established by the Ger
man Lander authorities in coordination with and under control of
the OMGUS denazification policy board. These tribunals acted
on the basis of the German Law for Liberation from National
Socialism and Militarism, the provisions of which were, in part,
dictated by American military government officials.
According to the “Law for Liberation,” all Germans from the
age of eighteen had to file a registration form in order to obtain
food stamps or to get employment. Registrants suspected in past
Nazi activities were summoned before a local tribunal consisting
of representatives of the public who were without Nazi blemishes.
The court-like institutions distinguished among five categories in
dealing with their cases: major offenders, offenders, lesser offend
ers, fellow travelers, and noninvolved. The maximum penalty for


74
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
major offenders was up to ten years in prison or labor camp intern
ment, loss of their property, and suspension of citizen rights. Lesser
offenders and fellow travelers could get off by paying penalties to
the foundation for compensation of Nazi victims. 2
The main fault of the “tribunal” system was that it did not take
into account the very limits of the screening, because the great
majority of the German people had supported the Nazi regime
and remained loyal to it until its demise. The whole process soon
met strong objections from different parts of Germany society.
Non-Nazis and sometimes even anti-Nazi members of the tri
bunals were, in most cases, subjected to strong pressure from fellow
citizens to take a lenient attitude toward the offenders of various
categories. The Protestant and Catholic churches, which American
postwar planners regarded as vital factors for the reconstruction of
German society, were among the strongest and permanent critics of
denazification, as were the right-of-center and right-wing parties.
But denazification was also denounced by the Social Democrats
(SPD), who complained that instead of the real culprits being
targeted, it was mainly lesser evildoers who suffered punishment. 3
In November 1946 General Clay still criticized the lack of
political will of the German authorities to punish Nazi offenders.
However, with the softening of the American attitude, denazifica
tion became successively a process of whitewash and rehabilitation.
Eventually, from among 3.4 million charged in the U.S. zone before
the tribunals, nearly 2.5 million were amnestied without trial, and
three out of ten brought to justice were also amnestied. Only 1,600
persons were classified as major offenders and 22,000 as offenders,
106,000 as lesser offenders and close to half a million as Nazi
fellow travelers; less than 150,000 were declared ineligible to hold
public office and temporarily confined to restricted employment. 4
Many trials of major offenders were postponed until later when
the political atmosphere had changed because of the Cold War,
which helped them to escape severe punishment. Because a great
part of the German elites had been members of the Nazi party,
pressure was exerted to amnesty them and allow their return to
leading positions in the administration and economy. In 1948 more
than 40 percent of high government officials in Bavaria and the
American part of Baden-Wurttemberg were former Nazi party
members. Whereas the British and French occupiers followed the
American denazification practice of setting up German tribunals,


75
4. Denazification and War Crimes Trials
they had from the beginning taken a more liberal stand toward
former Nazis, the British because of administrative needs and the
French because they did not distinguish too much between Nazis
and Germans. The radical uprooting of the elites in the Soviet zone
was another matter. As Elmer Plischke put it, there denazification
played a subordinate role to the destruction of capitalism. 5
With the establishment of the Federal Republic in 1949, the
Americans ceded all control over the remaining denazification cases
to the Germans, and with a few exceptions, proceedings were
discontinued in 1951. Eventually denazification would end in 1955.
Although Adenauer expressly criticized the “injustices” caused by
denazification at the presentation of his government’s program to
the Bundestag in September 1949, the majority of the CDU-led
coalition and the Social Democratic opposition still prevented a
total repeal of the results of denazification. Instead of a general
amnesty favored by the right-wing parties, an amnesty of 800,000
persons was passed by the West German parliament. After 1951,
the settlement of the legal status of persons referred to in paragraph
131 of the Federal Republic’s Basic Law provided for the return of
tens of thousands who had until then been disbarred from jobs in
governmental offices. 6
For a number ofyears, denazification and its shortcomings were
continuously discussed in the Jewish press and in public statements
by the American Jewish Conference, the WJC and AJ Congress,
the Jewish War Veterans, as well as byjewish-inspired nonsectarian
groups. Although its tone was traditionally more subdued, the AJC
also voiced its constant concern about the failures of denazification
(see chapters 5 and 6). 7 Protests were submitted by the Jewish
organizations to both the executive and legislative branches of
government. Sometimes they fulfilled a counterbalancing function
against pressure for an immediate halt to denazification from con
servative anti-Communist legislators as well as from high govern
ment officials in Washington. While these Jewish protests could
not put the clock back, they may have been a factor in preventing
the administration from scuttling denazification earlier than June
1949. Moreover, at least partly because of Jewish sensitivity, denaz
ification in the American zone until 1948 was relatively the most
comprehensive among the western zones. Despite all its shortcom
ings, denazification still fulfilled a positive function in preventing
any substantial Nazi or neo-Nazi revival; and although there was


76
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
much personal continuity of German elites before and after 1945,
there was no continuity of their commitment to Nazi ideology
or activity.
Whether the lenient attitude toward millions of Germans who
had been active and supportive members of Hider’s party had ben
eficial or dismal effects on the political and social development of
postwar Germany has remained a matter of continuous controversy
in German historiography and in German politics. On the one
hand, some believe that only a conciliatory approach toward the
former Nazis started by the Western allies and pursued even more
conspicuously by Adenauer’s conservative coalition governments in
the 1950s could further a prompt social and economic reconstruc
tion and the gradual growth of democracy in the Federal Republic.
On the other hand, critics insist that the faults of denazification and
the forgiving attitude of the West German establishment toward
Nazi and war criminals were responsible for evading a meaningful
confrontation of the German people with their recent past, with
all the negative implications for the future. 8 While one has to
recognize the rather successful outcome of Adenauer’s policies for
West Germany’s rapid economic recovery and their contribution
to the development of its stable postwar parliamentary system,
at least from the moral viewpoint of Jewish-German relations an
alternative course might have been preferable.
Quite apart from denazification, the handling of the main Nazi
war criminals remained in the hands of the Americans and the
other allies. The Four Power International Military Tribunal (IMT)
that convened in October 1945 and concluded its deliberations
in August 1946, not only passed judgment on the twenty-one
defendants, twelve of whom were condemned to death, but also
convicted collectively three of the indicted criminal groups—the
Nazi leadership, the SS, and the Gestapo. Individual members
of the cabinet, of the Wehrmacht’s High Command and the SA
(Sturmabteilung, Storm Troopers), remained subject to trial by the
national, military, and occupation courts of the Allied powers. The
Truman administration conducted twelve additional war crimes
trials at American military tribunals in Nuremberg before which
were arraigned 185 defendants from the German High Command,
the government, industry, SS, Gestapo, and others. In addition, the
U.S. Army prosecuted 1,672 German individuals for violations of
the laws of war in military courts. Similar trials took place in the


77
4. Denazification and War Crimes Trials
other occupation zones, as well as in countries liberated from the
German yoke.
The “Nazi conspiracy of waging an aggressive war” approach
on which the IMT proceedings were based did not provide for a
really deep insight into all the aspects of the Nazi regime and its
ideology, and especially not into the central role that it gave the
extermination of European Jewry. The term genocide, coined by
Raphael Lemkin during the war as a legal definition of Nazi crimes
against the Jewish people, appeared only once in IMT’s record.
The crime against the collective right of the Jewish people to
existence would become the central issue only at Adolf Eichmann’s
trial in Jerusalem fifteen years later. 9 It took even longer until
Western and at least a part of German public opinion became
fully conscious of the active role played by the German army itself,
in addition to the SS, its security service, and a variety of units
of the German police under the command of Heinrich Himmler,
the SS chief. 10 Nevertheless, despite reservations with regard to
certain legal points and despite the fact that Jewish amici curiae
(Friends of the Court) were not admitted, the court proceedings and
the sentences pronounced upon some of the main Nazi criminals
revealed at least a part of the magnitude of the Jewish tragedy.
In general, the judgment served as a landmark in the history of
international law and a warning against premeditated aggression
and warfare, though its lessons have not always been heeded.
In contrast to anti-Communist right-wingers and German
Americans who could not overcome their hostility to the Roosevelt
legacy, including the setting up of the IMT, the Jewish response
to the international tribunal’s deliberations and judgment was, of
course, positive. From the legal viewpoint, Jewish dissenters such
as Milton Konvitz, then a promising young judicial expert, rejected
the use of ex post facto law and the principle of guilt by association
because it might undermine the traditional legal structure. 11 The
editorial writer of Hadassah Newsletter, representing the large Zion
ist women’s organization, was disappointed by the acquittal of Franz
von Papen and Hjalmar Schacht, who had served Hitler’s crimi
nal government in various capacities. 12 However, deeper analyses
such as by Jacob Robinson, the noted expert in international law,
sounded more satisfactory. For Robinson, the founding director of
the Institute of Jewish Affairs, the important novum was that for the
first time in Jewish history, judgment upon the evildoers who had


78
EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
perpetrated crimes against the Jewish people was pronounced by
court. 13 Anatole Goldstein, an IJA analyst, commented in Congress
Weekly that “the Nuremberg trial, with its faithful and dispassionate
description of the unlimited sufferings of the Jewish people and the
depth of German cruelty, will remain an eternal epitaph on the
unknown graves of the six million Jewish victims.” 14
All those who were actively engaged in crimes against humanity
were sentenced to death, regardless of whether they participated in
other criminal activities. The AJ Congress was very proud of the fact
that after the trial, Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Jackson,
who had served as American chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, paid
tribute to the IJA for its “prodigious labor and careful research in
compiling important evidence.” A delegation of the AJ Congress
and WJC had met the justice after his appointment to the IMT and
discussed in detail the Jewish case. 15
Some of the first books on the Nuremberg trial were authored
by Jewish writers. While Peter de Mendelssohn submitted a rather
academic presentation, Victor Bernstein added to his summary
of the Nazi crimes and the analysis of their social and political
background a critical appraisal of American and British policies in
regard to Germany. He included a reminder that some European
Jews under Hitler’s rule might have been saved if the rest of the
world had opened its doors in time. Because of Bernstein’s left-wing
proclivities and criticism of the Western powers, the AJC preferred
not to become identified to any extent with his views by helping
the distribution of the book. 16
As for the German population, the deliberations at Nuremberg
failed to obtain the educational and atoning effect that the Allies and
especially the Americans hoped to achieve. Despite the extensive
coverage and analyses by leading journalists of the new democratic
press and radio commentators, there was a big gap between publi
cized and public opinion. Most Germans remained indifferent if not
hostile to the message of Nuremberg, rejected it as an accusation of
collective guilt (which it was not) and refused to accept any respon
sibility for the happenings during the Nazi regime. Only Jewish
publications, among them Der Weg, which appeared in Berlin, dealt
in depth with the Jewish dimension of the trial. 17
The persecution and extermination of millions of Jews became
an important theme in several of the subsequent trials of Nazi crim
inals and dignitaries before the American tribunals in Nuremberg;


79
4. Denazification and War Crimes Trials
others had a Jewish angle because Jews involved in the prosecution
were sharply criticized by conservative judges and politicians at
home. Jewish circles were satisfied with the stiff sentences passed
in the Einsatzgruppen case, which primarily related to persecution
of Jews. Benjamin Ferencz, a young Jewish lawyer who started
his career as a war crimes investigator and would soon become
executive director of JRSO, was involved in the prosecution of
that case. Robert M. W. Kempner, a German Jewish immigrant
who later returned to Germany and took up law practice there,
assisted Telford Taylor, the chief of counsel for war crimes, in
preparing the trial of State Secretary Ernst von Weizsacker and
other high officials of the German Foreign Office. Josiah DuBois,
a gentile liberal, had gained much experience during his service at
the Treasury on the interaction between American and German
corporations and particularly on the role of the huge IG Farben
cartel. Thus he was regarded as the most suitable choice for the
prosecution of that company’s directors and was aided by a group
of capable young lawyers, mainly Jews. In Washington Colonel
David (Mickey) Marcus, who in 1948 would tragically lose his life
in Israel’s War of Independence, served in 1946-47 as head of the
War Department’s War Crimes Branch and was of help. Opponents
of these trials often alluded to the strong Jewish presence in the
prosecution. 18 On the other hand, the office of the chief of counsel
for war crimes found it impossible to schedule a trial dedicated
exclusively to crimes committed against Jews, since these had been
dealt with in the trials of the Einsatzgruppen and the German
Foreign Office. 19
The Republican victory in the 1946 congressional elections, the
deterioration of American-Soviet relations, and the domestic Red
Scare—all these cut into the support that the war crimes trials at
first enjoyed from the American public. The change in the political
climate affected most of the cases dealt with by the Nuremberg
tribunals as well as the Army courts. Relatively mild sentences
were passed against German industrialists (such as the heads of IG
Farben) and high government officials, who were freed after short
prison terms. George Kennan, a renowned diplomat who in 1947
had published his famous article on containment in Foreign Affairs,
was unhappy about the trial of Weizsacker, whom he had known
from his service in Berlin, and called upon McCloy to pardon
and release him. In the same vein the noted theologian Reinhold


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EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
Niebuhr, a steadfast believer in a “soft peace” with defeated Ger
many, appealed to McCloy. In contrast to Kennan, Niebuhr was
known as a supporter of American Jews in their striving for rescue
during the Holocaust and as a co-chairman of the pro-Zionist
Christian Council on Palestine since 1942. 20 In the early period of
occupation, death sentences passed by military courts were immedi
ately implemented. However, from 1947 on, the review of verdicts
of these courts became a continuing challenge for conservative anti-
Communist legislators, especially from states with a large German
American population.
Critics of Army procedures received strong support from Iowa
judge Charles Wennerstrum, who, in an interview in the Chicago
Tribune, launched an attack against the “vindictiveness of Amer
ican prosecutors,” which mainly meant Jews. The judge had just
completed the trial of eleven Germans accused of ordering and
executing innocent civilians throughout Europe as reprisals for the
shooting or kidnapping of German officers. Post-193 3 German
Jewish immigrants to the United States, such as Manfred George,
the editor of the New York Aufbau, were upset by accusations
against Robert Kempner in the Swiss weekly Weltwoche, which
during the war years had taken an anti-Nazi stand. A leading
columnist there implied that the “Kempners of Nuremberg” were
of the same political ilk as the former secretary of the Treasury
Henry Morgenthau and left-wing Czech Social Democrat Zdenek
Fierlinger, who in 1948 helped to bring about the Communist
takeover in Czechoslovakia. 21
A particularly long legal struggle took place following the
Malmedy Trial before an Army court in 1946, at which all seventy-
two arraigned SS soldiers were found guilty of participating in
the murder of American POWs. An American lawyer who had
been assigned to defend some of the main SS defendants accused
War Crimes Group investigators—Jewish refugees who “did not
understand the traditional protection afforded to the defense in
an American trial”—of exerting illegitimate pressure on the SS
POWs. After recurrent appeals for reprieve and delays of exe
cution of those condemned to death, the issue became entan
gled in internal American politics. Senator Joseph McCarthy, the
Republican junior senator from Wisconsin, a state with a large
German American population, repeated the accusations against
the foreign-born investigators. He argued that they committed


81
4. Denazification and War Crimes Trials
“brutalities greater than we have ever accused either the Russians
or Hitler’s Germany of employing,” as a part of his smear cam
paign against the Democratic administration that invented the war
crimes program under Roosevelt. 22 However, the administration in
Washington also had second thoughts about the way the program
was being implemented. In 1948 Secretary of the Army Kenneth
Royall, one of its main critics, dispatched an independent review
commission, which recommended the commutation of a number
of death sentences. Thereupon, Royall ordered a temporary halt to
all executions.
Jewish organizations, for their part, protested General Clay’s
decision to commute the sentence of Ilse Koch, the wife of the
infamous Buchenwald concentration camp commandant, from life
to four years’ imprisonment. (She was later rearraigned before a
German court and again given a life sentence.) For them, it was a
step in the wrong direction. In retrospect, Clay justified his decision
because Ilse Koch’s “crimes were primarily against the German peo
ple. They were not war crimes against American prisoners or Allied
prisoners.” Clay reviewed all the sentences passed by the military
courts at Dachau, which handled the defendants more roughly than
the Nuremberg tribunals. He set aside 69 convictions, commuted
119 death sentences, and reduced 138 other sentences; however,
from October 1948 until the beginning of February 1949, 104
convicted criminals were executed at Landsberg prison. As military
governor, he still tried to distinguish between the development
of a new democratic West German state that he favored and the
punishment of the worst perpetrators of Nazi crimes. 23
By July 1949, when John McCloy replaced Clay, the United
States had tried almost 1,900 Germans for war crimes, imprisoned
more than 700, and executed 277. Subsequently, the deteriorating
East-West relationship and the establishment of the West German
republic caused a definite change, and as the result of a wide-ranging
clemency act of the high commissioner, most sentences against
the surviving and condemned Nazi criminals were commuted. At
that time, as a recent critic of the American war crimes program
observed, the “punishment of war criminals, which had been a part
of almost every American proposal with regard to the treatment
of postwar Germany, ceased to be a priority and became instead a
political burden.” 24 The Jewish community was disappointed by the
reversal. It could not, however, impede the basic change of direction


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EARLY POSTWAR CONCERNS
of Washington’s policy toward Germany, which was dictated by
much more powerful political, economic, and military interests.
Pressure against the sentences passed at Nuremberg as well as
against those pronounced by Army courts had built up since the
late 1940s, both in the United States and in West Germany. Except
for the Communists and a few Social Democrats, all West German
political parties, as well as leaders of the Catholic and Protestant
churches, had joined the campaign against the sentences. Generals
Adolf Heusinger and Hans Speidel, who a few years later were
given a leading role in the new Bundeswehr, warned that, if the
Landsberg prisoners were hanged, Germany could not be regarded
as an armed ally against the East. Despite some objections, Social
Democratic members of the Bundestag, among them the Jewish
deputy Jakob Altmaier, had joined a delegation to McCloy to urge
upon him the abrogation of the last death sentences but were
rebuffed. 25 In Washington, recurrent appeals for a reprieve were
rejected by the president. 26 Truman still distinguished between the
moral duty not to spare the life of the murderers and the need to
further political links with West Germany, even though he hesitated
for some time over whether the moment for German rearmament
had already come.
The high commissioner, for his part, confirmed 5 death sen
tences out of a total of 15, for commanders of the notorious SS-
Einsatzgruppen, who had killed tens of thousands of Jews in East
ern Europe. Together with two defendants sentenced to death by
Army courts, they were executed in Landsberg in June 1951, the
last executions in West Germany, which had abolished the death
penalty. At the same time, McCloy reduced the sentences of 79
Landsberg inmates, allowing for the immediate release of 32 of the
prisoners sentenced by American military tribunals in Nuremberg
after 1947. Others convicted by American military courts were
reprieved by USFET commander General Thomas Handy. No
doubt McCloy’s far-reaching clemency was motivated by his efforts
to strengthen the links with the Federal Republic. The Korean War,
which had started in June 1950 and intensified backstage discussions
about German participation in Western defense, added even more
urgency to that matter. 27
McCloy’s act of clemency aroused strong criticism in all Ameri-
canjewish organizations. Jewish leaders, including Jacob Blaustein,
protested to Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and an NCRAC


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4. Denazification and War Crimes Trials
delegation met with State Department officials and warned that
the clemency granted to some of the worst Nazi criminals might
weaken the morale of democratic elements in Germany. But their
complaints were of no avail. 28 McCloy was encouraged by messages
of support from such old acquaintances as Bernard Baruch, even
though the veteran financier was not sure whether he “would have
been so forgiving in some of the cases.” 29 On the other hand, the
high commissioner was upset by the ongoing agitation of parts
of the German public in favor of the Landsberg prisoners, at a
time when many Europeans and Americans regarded his leniency
as unjustified and bordering on appeasement. As Thomas Alan
Schwartz, the biographer of John McCloy as high commissioner
in Germany, put it, the reactions underscored the still prevailing
“political difficulties of accepting Germany within the West and the
moral compromises and political expediency that were necessary
to do so.” 30 As for West Germany, McCloy’s clemency and the
subsequent freeing of the remaining Nazi criminals by the Ameri
cans and other Western powers served for a number of years as an
excuse for the German prosecution not to arraign Nazi evildoers.
A gradual change in confronting the murderous past of many who
were regarded as “ordinary citizens” began only in the late 1950s. 31



PART 11
Getting
Involved
or
Staying Aloof



5
87
Advocates of Moderation
In general, there was much similarity in the demands of the various
major American Jewish organizations: strict punishment of Nazi
criminals and officials involved in the persecution of the Jews since
1933; far-reaching denazification, demilitarization, and democra
tization of Germany and its society; as well as restitution of Jewish
property, compensation for the victims, and definite eradication of
antisemitism. However, major differences of opinion and emphasis
with regard to the Jewish position on postwar Germany were soon
to emerge. After all that had happened, should American Jews insist
on a punitive policy against the nation that exterminated millions
of their brethren in Europe, avoid contact with Germans, and not
care too much about their future democracy? Or should they try
and take an active role in U.S. efforts to shape another kind of
Germany and thus prevent any revival of German threats to the
world and to the Jewish people? Contradictory responses to that
question caused substantial disagreements in the community for a
number of years.
Because of both particular Jewish and general American in
terests, the prestigious AJC favored an active Jewish involvement
in promoting liberal democratic trends in Germany and trying to
change its authoritarian political culture. At the end of the war
the Committee, originally a small elitist organization, started to


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
gradually broaden its ranks and its appeal to the changing Jewish
community by presenting cultural and educational challenges, in
addition to its traditional defense activities at home and abroad.
Its assumption was that the democratic reeducation of the German
people was a basic precondition for fighting antisemitism, which
had not disappeared, despite the total defeat of the Nazi state.
Renewed antisemitism in Germany would not only endanger the
well-being of the surviving Jews and refugees inside and outside
the DP camps, but might also have negative repercussions among
the soldiers stationed in the U.S. occupation zone and, through
them, on the domestic American scene. At the same time, reshaping
Germany’s political culture was regarded as an essential guarantee
for preventing a renewal of the German danger after two bloody
global wars in which the United States had become enmeshed.
However, another question soon arose: how could these aims be
achieved at a time when the Cold War put an end to the wartime
anti-Nazi alliance and abruptly changed the international scene?
In the opinion of the AJC, this new development provided
an additional important reason for an active and positive Jewish
participation in the administration’s policy toward Germany. The
western part of Germany, which even before the conflict with the
Soviets was regarded as a vital asset for the economic reconstruction
of Western Europe, soon became a potential ally of the United
States and the other Western powers in containing the Communist
bloc. Therefore, Jews as American citizens were well advised to
insist upon the denazification and democratization of the German
people and the strengthening of constructive liberal forces as the
only reliable partners in rebuilding a healthy Germany in a Western
European framework. Any organized opposition of American Jews
against the new foreign policy and strategic approach could isolate
them in the eyes of the non-Jewish majority and endanger their
postwar achievements on the domestic scene. In this context, the
AJC also found it necessary to take issue with Communist attempts
to use Jewish anti-German sentiments against Washington’s new
course, yet that anti-Communist campaign became very contro
versial and raised strong objections from the liberal forces in the
community. 1
The AJC’s emphasis on reeducation and changing Germany’s
political culture fitted, in a way, its traditional approach to fighting
antisemitism and discrimination at home. It was also reinforced by


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5. Advocates of Moderation
the advice and knowledge of a number of emigre German Jewish
social and political scientists, who had come to the United States
after Hitler’s ascent to power, even though they did not always
see eye to eye with the Committee’s own professionals. The AJC’s
wartime association with Professor Max Horkheimer’s Institute of
Social Research, which had been established in Frankfurt in the
last years of the Weimar Republic, enabled the social scientists to
conduct a comprehensive interdisciplinary analysis of antisemitism
that was summarized in the five-volume series of Studies in Prejudice.
Theodor Adorno, together with others, authored The Authoritarian
Personality, the most important of the series. 2 There was a major gap
between AJC’s basic liberal philosophy and most of the Institute
scholars’ Marxist approach, even though they aimed to overcome
the crisis of Marxist theory with the help of empiric social sci
ences. However, despite the shortcomings of their sociological and
historical attempts to explain the antisemitism of Nazi Germany,
their lack of familiarity with American society, and Horkheimer’s
own pre-Holocaust aloofness from Judaism and Jewishness, the
partnership in a way added to AJC’s academic standing. It helped
its understanding of the social and political forces on the German
scene, besides the social scientists’ contribution to the Committee’s
work in education of the public at home. Horkheimer himself
served for several years as chief research consultant of the AJC,
and in 1944 established its new scientific research department. He
continued his connection with the Committee after he and Adorno
had returned to Frankfurt, where they rebuilt the Institute of Social
Research. 3 Their “Critical Theory,” which for many years had a
rather limited appeal in the United States, was to play a focal role
in the antiauthoritarian upheaval in West Germany in the 1960s. 4
In the first period of occupation, Arkadi R. L. Gurland, one
of the emigre social scientists working for the AJC, submitted a
position paper on the fight against antisemitism within the frame
work of Germany’s education for democracy. “If nothing is done
to eradicate anti-Semitism during the initial stage of Germany’s
readjustment to postwar conditions,” he warned, “suppression of
anti-Semitism under rule of Military Government and its possible
resurgence at a time when Germany will be getting on her own feet,
will engender a menacing interpretation. Absence of anti-Semitism
would stand for ruin, disintegration and chaos; resurgence of anti-
Semitism would be synonymous with health, vigor and orderly or-


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
ganization of social life.” Without answering the question whether
Jews from Germany should again “strike roots amidst the wreck
age,” the analyst regarded the survival of antisemitism as dangerous
to the whole of Europe, not only to Germany. 5 A few years later
the same analyst concluded that Germany’s main problem was not
antisemitism but rather the combination of economic and political
conservatism and the entrenched bureaucracy. That view was also
endorsed by Franz Neumann, the noted politologist and author of
Behemoth, who read the memorandum. Neumann, who stayed in
the United States until his untimely death in 1954, was known as
a strong critic of West Germany’s postwar political development.
After West Germany’s first general elections in 1949, Gurland was
critical of Adenauer’s victory and of the federalist Basic Law and
expressed his sympathy for the Social Democrats and the trade
unions. 6
The inadequacies of the military government’s reeducation
program soon became evident, and surveys taken by the Informa
tion Control Division showed that Germans felt no sense of guilt
about having started the war and were inclined to minimize the
record of Nazi atrocities. At the same time antisemitism was on
the rise again. In 1947 the AJC dispatched several of its leading
professionals to discuss corrective steps with OMGUS and also
with Jewish and German representatives. In a confidential report,
they argued that in spite of denazification, Germans were “still by
and large Nazis and that with only minor exceptions they remained
as anti-Semitic as they were during the Hitler regime.” The change
of American policy, which “revealed a disturbing willingness to
overlook antidemocratic attitudes on the part of those who are anti-
Russian,” added, in the opinion of the AJC, even more urgency to
revising OMGUS political education practices. Among others, the
AJC proposed that the War Department in Washington, which was
in charge of the American zone, establish an advisory council on
German democracy that would provide information and guidance
by American nongovernmental organizations to similar groups in
Germany.
Following these contacts, the AJC executive committee pledged
full support of a government-sponsored program of German reed
ucation. 7 One of the results of this renewed emphasis was the visit
to Germany by Rev. Everett Clinchy of the National Conference
of Christians and Jews (NCCJ) and the subsequent setting up of a


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5. Advocates of Moderation
number of chapters of Christian-J ewish cooperation. The AJC itself
became involved in cooperation with the Lessing Association, a
group of liberal-minded Germans dedicated to fighting intolerance
and named after the eighteenth-century humanist and playwright
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Despite endorsement and subsidies
from the Frankfurt municipality and a few others, that experiment
did not last. 8 However, during the following period a number of
American organizations became continuously involved in activities
promoting German democratic reorientation. These comprised the
American Council on Education, the trade union federations, the
churches, the League of Women Voters, as well as the Rockefeller
and Ford Foundations. They persisted in their efforts despite the
East-West confrontation and its repercussions.
In preparation for the German peace treaty, which was to be
discussed at the Moscow conference of the four foreign ministers
in April 1947, AJC leaders reiterated that the treaty must establish
two basic concepts: “First, German guilt for the unprecedented
suffering inflicted upon the Jews from the moment Hitler came to
power; second, affirmation of those human rights and fundamental
freedoms and guarantees for their maintenance, which would make
a resurgency of the Nazi tyranny impossible.” 9 The first point,
in fact, came close to endorsing the concept of collective guilt
without espousing it literally; later on the AJC repeatedly insisted
that it was the first Jewish agency to reject the “abortive concept
of German collective guilt as a basis for preventing a recurrence
of the outrages of Hitlerism.” AJC professionals were also afraid
that the Marshall Plan, by strengthening Western Germany and
rehabilitating its economy, might bolster German contempt for
democratic practices. Since it was impossible to challenge that
policy, some of the staff people thought it might be advisable that a
spokesman for the administration make clear to the German people
that the United States did not ignore or condone antidemocratic
attitudes among them. However, in the political climate of 1948
such public statements were not made.
As to Germany’s political future, in principle the AJC continued
to prefer a united country. It was assumed that after the creation of
a western state by the Western powers and an eastern state by the
Soviet Union, the reestablishment of one united Germany would
encounter great difficulties. However, in case all attempts to come
to a decent arrangement with the Russians failed, AJC president


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Joseph M. Proskauer endorsed the creation—together with France,
Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg, and all the others—of a separate
West German state as the best possible solution, both economically
and politically. 10 Thus, the AJC became the first American Jewish
organization to support Washington’s major policy decision with
regard to Germany. The fact that American forces would stay there
made the endorsement easier.
Reviewing the domestic German situation after 1945, AJC ana
lysts and professionals repeatedly stressed the democratic anti-Nazi
potential of the Social Democratic party and the trade unions, as
opposed to the conservative, if not reactionary, trend of the right
wing of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the CSU, its
Bavarian sister party. 11 For a while the AJC even considered the
possibility of closely cooperating with the Social Democrats. Their
leader, Kurt Schumacher, who spent ten years in concentration
camps, had been the first German politician to speak publicly
of Nazi Germany’s responsibility for the murder of six million
Jews and of the German duty of recompense. AJC executive vice-
president John Slawson first met him during his trip to Germany
in August 1947. Paul Jacobs, then with the AJC, somewhat euphor
ically regarded Schumacher as “the brightest hope we have for any
solution in Germany.” During Schumacher’s visit to the United
States in the fall of 1947, he and Fritz Heine, who accompanied
him, met with Slawson and other leading members in New York.
Schumacher complained about the discriminatory treatment of
his party by the military government and inquired whether the
AJC could use its influence to change that attitude. Yet, despite
mutual expressions of goodwill, proposals for cooperation with the
SPD were never institutionalized because of the incompatibility of
the partners.
The AJC also feared that such cooperation might antagonize
both State Department and military government officials who were
inimical to the Social Democrats and might be exploited by right-
wing antisemitic forces. In the winter of 1948-49 the Committee
tried to obtain Social Democratic support for including a commit
ment to indemnification and restitution in the West German Basic
Law, but with no success. Still, for a number of years to come,
SPD functionaries would approach the AJC’s European office in
Paris and request the supply of educational materials and other
publications. 12


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5. Advocates of Moderation
The change in West Germany from military government to
a semisovereign political status aggravated the fear of AJC lay
leaders and professionals that it might strengthen nationalists and
weaken moderates. While recognizing the importance of Amer
ican-German economic cooperation, the possible repercussions of
that change were included in outlines prepared by the AJC staff for
an appointment of its president, Jacob Blaustein, with President
Truman in the spring of 1949. According to Blaustein, who met
Truman in May 1949, the president appeared interested in the
suggestion that a commission of outstanding citizens should survey
the situation and make recommendations to him. 13 For the next few
years the Committee had to grapple with the dilemma of how to
pursue its campaign against nationalistic and antisemitic elements
in Germany without jeopardizing Washington’s basic policy, which
it wanted American Jews to support. The balance struck recog
nized the significance of Western Germany for the United States
and its allies, while reiterating warnings against the restoration of
reactionary social, political, and economic forces that had been so
heavily involved with the Nazi regime. At the same time, the Com
mittee stressed the need to support German liberals and democrats
as the only reliable allies against totalitarianism. However, contrary
to the AJC, which, despite its endorsement of anti-Communism,
continued to favor the left-of-center in Germany, the American
administration preferred to rely on right-of-center conservatives
and well-qualified technocrats bent on a quick revival of the Ger
man economy without striving for far-reaching social reforms and
without making a clean break with the past. That made things
difficult even for an agency as supportive of the government as
the AJC.
In retrospect, the fears of the AJC and of the American Jewish
community in general with regard to the postwar situation in Ger
many were exaggerated. There was still a lot of antisemitism, and
the change of German political culture was a rather slow process.
However, despite the blatant deficiencies of denazification and the
return of former members of the Nazi party to influential pub
lic positions, no major neo-Nazi party appeared on the German
political scene. A great many former Nazis, while not becoming
convinced democrats, did not join neo-Nazi groups but preferred
to be integrated, as members or voters, into the legitimate post
war democratic parties. Nationalist forces were kept in bounds


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by the strong-minded chancellor, whose policy was consistently
pro-Western.
In 1949 and in the early 1950s, Germany was a major subject in
the deliberations of the AJC staff and lay working groups, as well
as in the executive committee. Despite its basic moderate approach
and its traditional opposition to public demonstrations and protests,
the AJC was not at all of one mind. There were “pro-Germans”
like Irving Engel and the extreme anti-Communist Reform rabbi
S. Andhil Fineberg, who in the past had distinguished himself in
fighting Nazi Germany, or Eric Warburg, who was much more
German than American and not representative of the American
Jewish community. Edwin Lukas was a committed supporter of
reeducation and human relations programs. A permanent skeptic
was Lithuanian-born Zachariah Shuster, who observed the German
scene from the AJC European office in Paris; another critic was
Arthur Mayer, chairman of the committee on Germany in 1950
who authored the pamphlet “The New Threat from Germany.”
AJC president Jacob Blaustein and Dr. John Slawson, the executive
vice-president, could be regarded as critical middle-roaders, with
Slawson veering to the skeptics in regard to the new German
democracy. Blaustein was the first AJC president of Eastern Eu
ropean parentage; Slawson was born in the Ukraine. Whereas Jews
from German origins still dominated the lay executive committee,
the number of professionals of Eastern European origin was much
larger. Although there was no clear ethnic divide on the German
question, differences of opinion were observable among them.
Eventually, the AJC’s double strategy, agreed upon by the spe
cial committee on Germany, rested on informing the American
public, including the Jewish community, of developments in Ger
many, while at the same time looking for ways of influencing the
German people themselves. On the one hand, that meant that the
AJC would prepare analyses of the German situation such as “The
Recent Growth of Neo-Nazism in Europe” or “Neo-Nazis and
Nationalist Movements in West Germany” and distribute them to
hundreds of editors, editorial writers, TV and radio commentators,
news magazine editors, and other opinion leaders, not to mention
the English-Jewish and Yiddish press. Even years later the AJC as
well as the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL) would be
involved in promoting the distribution of anti-Nazi historical stud
ies such as Leon Poliakov’s Harvest of Hate and Edward Crankshaw’s


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5. Advocates of Moderation
Gestapo. 14 On the other hand, to broaden the scope of these activi
ties, the Committee looked for suitable allies from the liberal camp
and the labor movement. Following its suggestion, NCRAC—the
national Jewish communal relations agency in charge of domestic
issues—set up the Coordinating Council on Germany with the
participation of prominent gentile public figures. Among them
were Telford Taylor, the former chief of counsel for war crimes
at Nuremberg, Roger Baldwin of the Civil Rights League, Victor
Reuther of the United Automobile Workers, and Alfred Bingham,
president of the American Association for a Democratic Germany,
which counted a number of Jewish intellectuals and professionals
in its ranks. In 1950, the Council was reorganized and renamed
Citizens Council for a Democratic Germany, but that did not add
to its effectiveness, and Jewish sponsors became disillusioned by its
lack of impact. 15
The worsening of East-West relations increased support for
Western Germany among anti-Communist liberals, who in the
past had been a part of the anti-German consensus on the left,
and even more among the American Federation of Labor, which
regarded the containment of Communism as much more urgent
than the World War II anti-Nazi legacy. This course was espe
cially encouraged by Jay Lovestone, who was International Ladies
Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) president David Dubinsky’s
political and international relations adviser. He was also executive
director of the American Federation of Labor’s anti-Communist
Free Trade Union Committee. Neither the AFL nor Protestant or
Catholic church groups ever joined the Citizens Council.
However, the lack of nonsectarian support was only one cause
of the Citizens Council’s failure. In the opinion of the AJC delegates
at NCRAC, which sponsored the Citizens Council and its prede
cessor, the main blame rested upon the deep split with regard to
Germany in the Jewish community itself. 16 Whereas some Jewish
organizations, including the AJC, favored cooperation with groups
and movements inside Germany aiming at its democratic recon
struction, others maintained that it was not “part of the respon
sibility of Jewish organizations to ally themselves in any way with
any German elements,” and felt that their proper role should be to
apply pressure upon the American government and upon American
public opinion. In fact, as the NCRAC chairman summarized, the


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
Jewish community as a whole favored some kind of cordon sanitaire
between the Germans and the Jewish people.
According to the view of the AJC, that was the wrong approach.
Whereas it was necessary to keep alerting American public opinion
to dangerous phenomena in Germany, American Jews should not
turn their backs on that nation. As Professor Herman A. Gray,
himself a historian, put it, Germany was “undoubtedly destined to
play an important part not only in the coming history of Europe,
but in the history of world developments,” a forecast that proved
correct four decades later. In expressing only negative attitudes,
Jews would not be heard, but charged “with vindictiveness and spe
cial pleading.” In contrast to Will Maslow of the AJ Congress, who
defended the “negative program” and found it quite understandable
that “all but a handful” of Jews believed “there should be no traffic
with the Germans,” AJC executive vice-president John Slawson
would not “accept the non-differentiating view of the group guilt
of the German people.” In particular Jews who suffered from hostile
generalizations should beware of such an error.
In May 1951, the AJC’s executive committee recapitulated its
policy toward West Germany. 17 It rejected two extremes as equally
untenable: “the extreme which asserts that all Germans must be
permanently rejected and excluded from international society; and
the extreme which holds that the fate and future of Germany is
a matter on which American Jewish organizations should remain
silent.” The AJC endorsed a positive stand on the question of
Western Germany’s place in the free world and called a democratic
Germany “the best safeguard against the threat of Communism
today and Neo-Nazism in the future.” The demands raised by the
AJC included a speedy and fair settlement of problems involved
with indemnification and restitution; the creation of a prodemo-
cratic social and political climate; adoption of provisions for the
protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, together
with international controls of these rights; and intensification of
reeducation programs by the United States and the Western allies to
democratize German institutions as well as the traditional German
concepts of the relations between the individual and the state. They
criticized the reemergence and restoration to positions of power of
political, industrial, and militaristic elements responsible for World
Wars I and II; the reinstatement of former Nazis to influential posts
in the government, the civil service, the teaching profession, and


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5. Advocates of Moderation
the judiciary; and the adoption by the U.S. occupation authorities
of the theory that the return of former prominent Nazis to power
and influence was essential to the revival of German economy.
The executive committee’s statement was preceded by a joint
meeting of the AJC European Affairs Committee, its Special Com
mittee on Germany, and its full Foreign Affairs Committee. The
minority thought it might be better for the AJC “to refuse to
have anything to do with the [German] situation because of the
complexity of the problem and the doubts regarding its ability
to make a constructive contribution to it.” However, the majority
concluded that “although Germany has not yet earned the right to
take a position in the civilized world, the fact that Western Germany
is nevertheless being readmitted to the Western world, is one to
which we cannot refuse to react; but to react merely in the spirit
of vindictiveness ... is both futile and self-defeating.” Whereas
the statement met with much criticism from other Jewish orga
nizations, both High Commissioner John McCloy and the State
Department took exception to the AJC’s reference to American
support for the return of prominent Nazis to positions of power
because of its importance for the revival of German economy. 18
Until the summer of 1950 both President Truman and Secre
tary of State Dean Acheson had not been enthusiastic about the
idea of German rearmament, in contrast to the pressure exerted in
that direction by the Pentagon. As a matter of fact, the Labor party
government in London had preceded on this issue the antisocialist
administration in Washington. However, after the outbreak of the
Korean War, German participation in Western defense became an
urgent matter for the American government and was supported by
a growing part of the American public. Because of the sensitivity
of the Jewish community and internal differences of opinion, that
delicate issue was not included in the AJC policy statement. In fall
1950, representing the lesser evil in the eyes of the great majority of
organized American Jewry, the Citizens Council for a Democratic
Germany had publicly opposed as premature all plans for German
rearmament. Instead, it had advocated the building up of military
strength by the democracies as a precondition to future participa
tion of German troops on a basis that would strengthen German
democracy and prevent revival of German militarism. 19
However, an AJC subcommittee dealing with that subject rec
ommended acceptance of Western Germany’s rearmament on the


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
condition that Germany military units would not be placed under
German command but would be used only as part of an interna
tional Western European or United Nations army, under a unified
international leadership. To guard against a nationalistic military
threat by German units, a large American military force should
remain in Western Europe, and a careful screening of German
officers should give preference to proven opponents of Nazism,
including participants in the attempted conspiracy against Hitler. 20
Later the AJC, while recognizing American Jewry’s anxiety about
German rearmament, alerted the communal organizations against
engaging in joint activities or even common platforms with Com
munist groups. These were interested in exploiting Jewish sensitiv
ity for their campaign against West Germany without mentioning
the rearming of East Germany. 21
In accordance with the principles espoused in its statement
on Germany in May 1951, the AJC became involved in efforts
to establish a German agency for the defense and development
of human rights. To that end a German national conference on
human rights and group relations was planned. The aim of these
efforts was to contribute to the democratization of German society,
including the fight against antisemitism and racism, and to promote
active voluntary participation of leading German personalities from
different walks of life in the planned agency. But despite the initial
endorsement of AJC’s proposal by McCloy and the invitations
extended to anti-Nazi German individuals, “Operation Candle,” as
the initiative was dubbed by AJC staff member Edwin Lukas, never
got off the ground. Because of a reduction of the Office of the U.S.
High Commissioner for Germany’s (HICOG) staff, it withdrew
its financial support, and the Germans were not at all keen to
proceed with this venture. 22 Nonetheless, the AJC did persist in its
interest in the field ofGerman civic education. From 1959to 1960 it
tried again to help advance democratic trends in Germany through
the “German Educators Project.” 23 In this aspect it differed from
many other American Jewish organizations. After the Luxembourg
reparations agreement in 1952 between the Federal Republic and
Israel (see chapter 9) had partly mitigated their hostile attitude
toward Germany, except for common protests against antisemitic
manifestations such as in 1959-60, most American Jewish orga
nizations turned their attention mainly to the Israeli angle in the


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5. Advocates of Moderation
German-Jewish relationship and to problems connected with the
Claims Conference.
In contrast to the WJC, which in 1944 had proclaimed that
no former German Jew should be obliged to retrieve his German
citizenship after V-E Day, and had pledged in 1948 that the Jewish
people would never set foot again “on the blood-soaked German
earth,” 24 the AJC refrained from such statements. After the war
it supported the demand for opening the gates of Palestine to the
survivors and other refugees willing to go there; and in its statement
to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine in 1947, it
came out in favor of the establishment of a Jewish state in a part of
Palestine. However, the AJC also joined forces with the anti-Zionist
American Council for Judaism in the campaign for liberalizing the
admission of DPs to the United States, and was instrumental in
securing the 1948 Displaced Persons Act, even though that act
discriminated heavily against Jewish candidates for immigration. 25
In 1948, when General Clay told William Haber, his adviser
on Jewish affairs, that “to admit that Jews cannot live in Ger
many as they do in other countries” was a much too fatalistic and
pessimistic view of the situation, he could not convince him, and
AJC’s John Slawson endorsed Haber’s view because of the prevailing
antisemitic threat in Germany. 26 Yet, Haber distinguished between
the DPs, who he felt should be compelled to leave Germany, and
the German Jews living in their communities. They, too, should be
encouraged to leave but should not be penalized for the failure to do
so, and the main Jewish organizations should work for guaranteeing
their rights in the Basic Law of the West German state and their
implementation in daily life. 27 As a matter of fact, a majority of
the members of the communities in 1949-50 were themselves DPs
who preferred to stay there. The percentage of native German Jews
declined because of biological reasons, although a few thousand
successively returned to Germany, mainly from Israel. In May
1951 the AJC executive committee reiterated its position that the
Jews who wished to remain in Germany should be granted full
equality of rights and freedom, and conditions should be such as
to permit them to live a free and dignified life there. 28 On the
whole, for years to come the Jewish communities that remained
in Germany played no major role in the framework of American
Jewish-German relations. However, their importance grew in the
eyes of the West German government, which hoped that its official


GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
philosemitic polity would contribute to improving its image in the
eyes of Western public opinion.
The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL), which
emerged in the mid-1950s and 1960s as another relatively open-
minded Jewish organization with regard to Germany and approved
of contacts and visits there, had in the early postwar period taken
a rather critical stand on German developments. As the communal
relations arm of B’nai B’rith, for many years the largest American
Jewish membership organization, the most important task of ADL
was to fight antisemitism, racism, and discrimination on the do
mestic American scene. After the war it also became active in the
field of American Jewish-German relations as well as in supporting
and defending Israel. B’nai B’rith itself, whose president Henry
Monsky had played a major role in convening the American Jewish
Conference in 1943, remained a member of the Conference until
its disbandment in 1948. ADL was a founding member of NCRAC
until it withdrew from that agency, together with the AJC, in 1952.
In 1949-50 the ADL got involved in the activities of the Coordi
nating Council on Germany and its successor, the Citizens Council
for a Democratic Germany. The League endorsed its call for a
presidential inquiry into the shortcomings of American handling
of the German situation, as well as its warning against prema
ture German rearmament. 29 The ADL Bulletin carried a series of
articles very critical of developments in the new West German
state, including “Are the Nazis Back in Power?” and “Return of
the War Lords.” 30 In 1950 the agency drew much publicity by
disinviting, at the last moment, Assistant High Commissioner Ben
jamin Buttenwieser, the scheduled speaker at its annual meeting in
Chicago, because of his intended defense of HICOG’s policy on
Germany. Buttenwieser’s thesis was that with many Nazis punished,
even though some had escaped, the time had come for leniency so
that Germany might start being a democratic and antitotalitarian
member of the family of nations. 31 While the ADL’s handling of
the case was blamed editorially by the New York Times, it was
praised full-heartedly by the Reconstructionist, Congress Weekly, and
the Yiddish press. 32
In a statement published in May 1950, the ADL did not object
to the American “goal of reviving a self-sustaining German econ
omy . . . that will operate as a bastion against continued Soviet ag
gression,” but accused the American authorities of having ignored
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5. Advocates of Moderation
for years the “important qualification of democratic leadership” and
neglected their mandate regarding denazification, democratization,
and decartelization. The ADL called for a positive program in
Germany that would have these effects: it would strengthen the
democratic labor movement, the cooperatives, the democratically
constituted social welfare agencies, and the municipalities under
effective popular control; eliminate all active supporters of the Nazi
ideology from policymaking and other positions of authority or
responsibility in the administrative, judicial, and educational fields;
democratize the economy and curb the concentration of economic
power in cartels and trusts; maintain control of the German econ
omy to prevent the country from again becoming an aggressor,
and facilitate reeducation of German youth. B’nai B’rith president
Frank Goldman spoke in the same vein at the order’s triennial
convention. The denazification of Germany was an objective to
be achieved, he stated, “not so much for the sake of the Jews still
remaining in Germany as for the sake of peace itself.” By allowing
“the enemies of democracy to infiltrate into posts of power,” the
United States was bankrupting “the very treasure we built up.” 33
Subsequently, after the opening of German-Israeli negotiations
on reparations for the Jewish state and the Jewish people, B’nai
B’rith and ADL shifted to a moderate position. Frank Goldman
became a member of the presidium of the Claims Conference,
and under his successor Philip Klutznick (1953-59) B’nai B’rith
and ADL supported more contacts and a gradual improvement of
relations with the Federal Republic. In 1954 the ADL was the first
major Jewish organization to visit West Germany upon an official
invitation of the Bonn government. The report weighed positive
developments there, especially among German youth, against per
sisting negative phenomena. 34 This trend of the organization has
persisted ever since, despite ups and downs.
The Jewish Labor Committee’s attitude toward Germany was
another story. Its founding president was Baruch Charney Vladeck,
his successor was Adolph Held, and David Dubinsky served as
treasurer. The socialist leadership of the JLC had supported Ger
man and other European Social Democratic and trade unionist
exiles on the eve of and during World War II and disapproved of
Morgenthau’s ideas and the collective guilt concept, contrary to the
much more critical and emotional approach of the members of its
constituent organizations. After the war, the JLC leadership contin-


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
ued its links with German Social Democrats and welcomed Social
Democratic politicians during their visits to the United States,
while their attitude toward the conservative Adenauer government
was much cooler. 35 JLC officials tried to convince Jewish circles
of the difference and emphasized SPD leader Kurt Schumacher’s
condemnation of antisemitism and support for restitution and com
pensation. When Schumacher visited the United States in fall 1947
at the invitation of the AFL, Abraham Cahan, the veteran founding
editor of the Forverts, greeted him at a reception in his honor as “a
new type of socialist.” However, JLC executive secretary Jacob Pat,
a member of the Jewish Labor Bund, attended the reception with a
broken heart. “We sensed that as dangerous as it might be, we have
to strip the deep wound—like the physician who cannot refrain
from diagnosing the illness,” he reported. The SPD traditional
fraternal links with the Jewish Labor Bund notwithstanding, after
the destruction of East European Jewry among whom he grew up,
Pat could not suppress his hostility even toward a “good German,”
and he continued to express it publicly. 36
In the summer of 1951 Schumacher welcomed the Bund delega
tion that attended the reestablishment of the Socialist International
in Frankfurt. Mapai, the predecessor of the Israel Labor Party, had
opposed the admission of the German Social Democrats to the
interim COMISCO (Committee of International Socialist Con
ferences) and therefore also boycotted the Frankfurt gathering. 37
However, a few months later the few remaining Bund members in
New York were very much disappointed by Schumacher’s public
meeting with former Waffen-SS generals. Schumacher unsuccess
fully tried to assuage their anger by pointing to the difference
between the Waffen-SS and the original Nazi SS. 38 More than
thirty years later, in 1985, the Germans would use a similar excuse
before the meeting between Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Presi
dent Ronald Reagan at Bitburg military cemetery, where a number
of SS soldiers rested.
During the negotiations between West Germany, Israel, and
the Claims Conference, the JLC kept in close touch with the
Social Democratic leadership. In fact, without the full support of
the SPD parliamentary group, the Luxembourg reparations treaty
would not have been ratified. Yet because of the sensitivity of its
grass roots, the JLC preferred holding discussions with the SPD
delegation in Paris instead of in Germany. Its president Adolph


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5. Advocates of Moderation
Held declared that whatever the outcome of the negotiations on
reparations, “Germany will have to do a great deal more before
there can be any idea of reconciliation between the Jewish people
and Germany.” 39
To the organizations with a moderate attitude regarding post
war Germany, one may add the American Council for Judaism
that was set up after the breakaway faction of anti-Zionist Re
form rabbis was joined by a number of prominent laymen, such
as Lessing J. Rosenwald, the founding president of Sears, Roebuck
and Company. Before Pearl Harbor, Rosenwald was involved in the
isolationist antiwar American First movement. In 1946-48 he initi
ated, together with the AJC, the Citizens Committee on Displaced
Persons, which conducted a public campaign for admitting a large
number of DPs from different Eastern European nations who were
still in Germany. Rosenwald’s main aim was to bring more Jewish
DPs to the United States in order to show that not all of them
wanted to go to Palestine.
The Council drew most of its support from members of the
older German Jewish group; it was also joined by recent anti-
Zionist and patriotic German Jewish newcomers such as Klaus
Herrmann. In a way, the ACJ’s moderate stand on Germany resulted
from its ideological confrontation with the Zionists, most of whom
had endorsed a strong anti-German line. In his book The Jewish
Dilemma, Rabbi Elmer Berger, until 1968 ACJ’s executive head,
expressed the view that Jewish life in Germany had to be reinstated
after the defeat of Hitlerism. Taking into account the failure of
emancipation and integration of Jews in Germany in the past, the
problem as he saw it was “what shall be done with Germany so that
there emerges a nation in which Jews as well as other people will
be able to live upon a basis of freedom and equality.” 40
As an “organization of Americans of Jewish Faith” the Council
continued to support the integration of Jews into the life of their
respective nations, and this included the reestablishment of Jew
ish communities in Germany, which it regarded as a democratic
nation. 41
Immediately after the end of the war, right-wing nationalist
German exiles like Hubertus Prinz zu Loewenstein found it ap
propriate to approach leading spokesmen of the Council, such as
Lessing Rosenwald and Rabbi Morris S. Lazaron of Baltimore,
with regard to “an appeal... for immediate relief for German peo-


GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
104
pie.” Loewenstein intimated that such an appeal might counteract
the wave of antisemitism created in Germany by “a very unwise
policy, connected prominently with the names of Mr. Morgenthau,
Mr. Baruch and others.” Loewenstein was disappointed by Rabbi
Lazaron’s vague response and his refusal to take up commitments,
although the rabbi emphasized that he was opposed to “any unnec
essary suffering in Germany.” 42 At first, German observers contin
ued to praise the moderate attitude of the American Council for
Judaism. Yet after a few years they grasped the minimal impact of
that anti-Zionist group on American Jewry and started to look for
more promising ways gradually to conciliate the American Jewish
community. 43


6
105
Critics and Opponents
The American Jewish Committee was regarded by the American
administration and establishment for a number of years as the most
influential Jewish group. The Committee was very concerned with
the repercussions of Washington’s changing German policy on the
Jewish community. Since the first years after the war, the AJC had
consistently supported democratization and reeducation programs
for the German population under OMGUS and later HICOG, with
a special emphasis on fighting extreme nationalism, antisemitism,
and all racist phenomena. However, the great majority of organized
Jewry, represented by such bodies as the American Jewish Confer
ence (until its disbandment in 1948), the WJC and the AJ Congress,
most women’s organizations, and the various landsmanshaften, did
not want contact with Germans and did not care much about
the future development of Germany and its political culture, even
though some of them joined in paying lip service to it.
In addition to their concern for the DPs still on German soil,
Zionists and pro-Zionists spent all their energy in gaining political
support for the creation of a Jewish state. During Israel’s War of
Independence and the following critical period, the Zionists and
pro-Zionists mobilized vital financial assistance for the new entity.
Their attitude toward Germany and the Germans was dominated
by the emotional impact of the Jewish tragedy in Europe that they


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
had watched helplessly from afar. As U.S. citizens they did not
ignore American national interest, but they were slow to adjust
to the substantial change with regard to Germany that was taking
place so soon after World War II. This was particularly true at
least as long as a part of the material Jewish claims on the defeated
enemy nation had not been satisfied. In the meantime, they laid
special stress on public statements regarding shortcomings of de
nazification, antisemitic incidents, and failure of decartelization; on
intercessions with the American authorities against appeasement of
forces in Germany, which seemed unreliable in their eyes; and on
protests against German visitors and German-sponsored events in
the United States.
In a way, the outspoken Zionist hostility to Germany resembled
the anti-German position of the Yishuv in Palestine and during
the very first years of the Jewish state. Only after the signing of
the German-Israeli Luxembourg reparations agreement and the
additional protocols between the Federal Republic and the Claims
Conference (see chapter 9) would their official stand begin to
soften. This shift did not affect the Communists who continued to
exploit the legitimate post-Holocaust Jewish mistrust of Germany
for their campaign against U.S. efforts to rebuild West Germany’s
economy and bring that country into the Western alliance. During
the postwar Red Scare, the facts and myths of Jewish prewar and
wartime involvement in Communist party or pro-Soviet activities
were an additional obstacle in making the American public sensi
tive to Jewish qualms about the rapid turnabout of Washington’s
German policy.
In January 1947 the Interim Committee of the American Jew
ish Conference, chaired by B’nai B’rith president Henry Monsky,
adopted a statement of thirteen principles and proposals to be
included in a German peace treaty. During the following years a
few changes were introduced to make some of the formulations
less emotional, but basically the Conference stuck to the following
summary:
1) Germany must acknowledge her shameful guilt for the
monstrous crime against the Jews. Without such acknowl
edgment, a Peace Treaty with Germany would distort the
records of history beyond recognition. It would, moreover,
prevent that process of atonement which Germany must


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6. Critics and Opponents
undergo before she can again be received into the family
of civilized nations.
2) Germany must cleanse her public and private life from the
invidious poison of anti-Semitism. . . . Equal rights for all
and non-discrimination must be imposed and secured as
the guiding principles of her laws and practices.
3) Germany’s past conduct has shown that the treatment of
Jews within her borders cannot safely be left to her discre
tion for many years to come. Their status and treatment
must therefore be a matter of international concern and
supervision.
4) To attest her atonement for her crimes against the Jews,
Germany must effectively punish all those who had a hand
in the persecution of Jews or benefited from it.
5) Jews who have been deprived of their nationality by dis
criminatory laws and practices must have the right to reac
quire it but shall not be compelled to do so.
6) No Jew should be forced to remain on soil soaked with
his brother’s blood. Jews in Germany must have the un
fettered right to emigrate from Germany and to take their
belongings with them.
7) All Jewish displaced persons . . . must have the protection
of Allied or other international authorities and must never
be allowed to fall under German jurisdiction, but Germany
must provide the means for their subsistence.
8) Jews who will remain in Germany must be given freedom of
association and the right to pursue their religious, commu
nal and other activities with the same status and privileges
they enjoyed before January 30, 1933.
9) The property of which individual Jews have been robbed
must be returned to them or their heirs. Heirless Jewish
property must be transferred to and applied by a responsi
ble Jewish body to be set up for the purpose of relief and
resettlement of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.
10) Germany must indemnify fully all Jews who have suffered
in their person or property from measures and acts of Nazi
persecution.
11) To further the process of German education in principles
of justice, reparations should be paid by Germany for the
damage and suffering she has caused by her persecution of


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
the Jews.. . . Such reparation should include Jewish cul
tural property owned by non-Jewish German public insti
tutions.
12) Jews and their property must be exempted from any mea
sures which are applied by the Allies to the property of
enemy nationals.
13) The enforcement of all treaty provisions concerning Jews
cannot be left to German authorities. The clauses must
be supervised by international machinery to which Jewish
individuals and their organizations and communities must
have access. In addition, the treaty provisions must also be
enacted as part of the constitutional law of Germany. 1
To reinforce its proposals, the AJ Conference presented to the
four powers an 850-page volume reviewing “Nazi Germany’s War
against the Jews,” as revealed in the Nuremberg trials. 2 In general,
the WJC’s claims were similar to those of the AJ Conference, both
insisting on the German people’s collective admission of the guilt in
exterminating European Jewry. In a statement published in March
1947 the WJC demanded that “the preamble to the Peace Treaty
should contain an admission by the German Government of the
guilt of the Nazi regime and the German people of the conspiracy
to destroy European Jewry and of the attempt to poison public
opinion through an anti-Semitic propaganda designed to rob Jews
of the opportunity of life and labor in other countries.” 3
In 1946 the major Jewish organizations had been disappointed
by their very limited impact on the deliberations of the Paris Peace
Conference, which drafted the peace treaties with Hungary, Ru
mania, Bulgaria, Finland, and Italy. Thus they spent much time
in preparation for the more important peace settlement with Ger
many. The breakdown of the four power negotiations and prepa
rations for the establishment of a West German state did not leave
much leverage for the realization of punitive demands and caused
much disappointment among most Jewish groups. Whereas the
AJC approved of the Marshall Plan and later of the setting up
of NATO, the American Jewish Conference, for its part, was not
prepared to lend support to the plan and to mobilize Jewish public
opinion behind it, because of the intended industrial rehabilitation
of Germany. 4 Although Morgenthau’s anti-German principles were


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6. Critics and Opponents
not included in the Conference’s public statements, at least some
of its representatives clung to them.
In the early postwar period Zionist and pro-Zionist groups in
America were regarded as the most hostile toward Germany. This
was also registered by semi-official German observers in reports to
the Stuttgart Bureau of Peace Problems, the nucleus of the future
West German foreign office. Alexander Boker, for instance, who
spent the war years in the United States and upon his return to Ger
many joined the diplomatic service there, distinguished between
the hostile “three quarters Nazi like” Zionists and the moderate
non-Zionist AJC, the anti-Zionist ACJ, as well as Jewish socialists
and trade unionists. 5
In 1948 the four power negotiations on Germany had already
broken down, and no peace treaty was in sight. That did not pre
vent the WJC’s first postwar plenary assembly in Montreux from
calling upon the big powers “to include in whichever settlement of
the German problem . . . temporary or permanent” the following
provisions in favor of the Jewish people and Jews as individuals:
recognition of the guilt of Germany for the unprecedented tragedy
that befell the Jews after the Nazi accession; payment of reparations
by Germany for rehabilitation and resettlement of uprooted Jews,
primarily in Palestine; restitution of property or full compensa
tion; assignment of heirless and unclaimed Jewish property to an
international Jewish organization; measures to remedy the “failure
of denazification and purification of Germany.” The WJC, which
still counted some Eastern European Communist-dominated com
munities among its members, expressed its outright opposition to
returning to Germany areas that had been detached from it after
World War II and to the “reconstitution of the German state as an
economic and political and therefore inevitably military power .. .
as a threat to Jewish security and peace in the world.” 6 The plenary
assembly also reiterated “the determination of the Jewish people
never again to settle on the blood-stained soil of Germany.”
After Montreux, calls for a total Jewish boycott were repeated
by Rabbi Mordecai Nurock of the Mizrachi religious Zionist party
and other members of the WJC executive in Israel, as well as
by the American Labor Zionist leaders Louis Segal and Baruch
Zuckerman. The two Labor Zionists did not object to recovering
Jewish property from Germany, since “under no circumstances


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
should the murderer be permitted to be our heir.” However, they
insisted that the Jewish historic account require at least one thing:
that “no Jew shall remain on German soil and still maintain his
bond with the Jewish people.” Their argument was that such an
approval “will be an important factor in preventing the terrible
period we have lived through from being forgotten and a constant
reminder to honorable Germans that they are duty-bound to do
something demonstrative that will be accepted first of all by the
Jewish world and consequently by all mankind, as a manifestation
of sincere regret and thus pave the way for a new attitude.” Thus,
contrary to the deep-seated ideological opposition of the Zionist
Revisionists, they did not exclude the possibility of a future change.
Segal and Zuckerman distinguished between Germany and Austria
and excluded the latter from a similar boycott. That was character
istic of the lack of knowledge of the Austrians’ active participation
in the extermination of European Jewry and the wide support of
the Austrian people for Nazism. 7
Nahum Goldmann, WJC acting president after Stephen Wise’s
death in April 1949, opposed all these calls. He argued that the
German situation after World War II could not be compared with
that of Spain after the expulsion of the Spanish Jews in 1492 and the
subsequent cherem (ban) proclaimed against it. Both the Western
powers and the Soviet Union were interested in rebuilding Ger
many, and the Congress movement would not succeed in gaining
public support in the United States if it opposed West Germany’s
becoming self-supporting. Moreover, it would be dishonorable
to pronounce such a cherem with the foreknowledge that tens of
thousands of Jews would not obey it, among them the State of
Israel. 8 Statements by Rabbi Robert Marcus, the New York WJC
executive director and former head of the Joint Boycott Council
in the 1930s, that “the WJC was unequivocally opposed to Jewish
businessmen representing German firms abroad,” were rebuffed by
the moderates in the British section. 9 In fact, a great many Jewish
business people had already established close connections with a
variety of German counterparts.
In comparison to the Israelis and the Americans, who regarded
the WJC not only as a political organization but also as the “con
science of the Jewish people,” the British members were the most
pragmatic ones. Sidney Silverman, a left-wing Labor MP and an
influential spokesman of the European section, warned more than


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6. Critics and Opponents
once that Congress would remain isolated if its representatives
continued to object to Germany’s political independence. He en
dorsed direct Jewish contacts with both West and East Germany;
and Alexander Easterman, the London executive’s political director,
who favored contacts with democratic forces in Germany to fight
antisemitism, predicted rather early that Jewish claims could be sat
isfied only by German governments. Dr. Noah Barou, the chairman
of the London-based European executive, would soon be the first
to engage in informal talks with Herbert Blankenhorn, Adenauer’s
closest adviser on foreign affairs, about a public declaration by
West Germany concerning its responsibilities as successor to the
Third Reich and the payment of collective reparations to the Jewish
people. For all of them, Jewish-German relations were not only a
moral problem. 10
Nonetheless, on the eve of the proclamation of the West Ger
man Basic Law and after the first elections to the Bundestag in
August 1949, the WJC executive did not regard granting political
independence to Germany as justified. It called for continuing
occupation of German territory as well as for “closest control of all
phases of German public life” until there was “sufficient evidence
of a change in the German mentality.” In response to Chancellor
Konrad Adenauer’s offer of a symbolic advance payment to Israel
and President Theodor Heuss’s statement recognizing German
collective shame as opposed to collective guilt, the WJC reaffirmed
“that the world generally and the Jewish people in particular will
not believe that the German people have begun to realize the
enormity of the crisis and to atone for it until they have solemnly
and collectively affirmed their guilt through their parliamentary
institutions and later through a peace settlement or comparable
international instrument unequivocally accepted by the German
people.” The WJC’s attitude toward West Germany mellowed only
after the beginning of German-Israeli-Jewish reparations talks and
particularly after the Luxembourg agreement in September 1952.
In the long run, the shift affected even the WJC’s pronounced
opposition to German rearmament. 11
As the only pro-Zionist umbrella organization after the demise
of the American Jewish Conference, most of the general statements
regarding the Jewish people’s attitude toward Germany were han
dled by the WJC. Conversely, political action on the American
scene rested mainly in the hands of its American constituency, the


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
AJ Congress, which itself comprised a great many different groups
as well as individual members. Since its inception it had been the
politically most liberal of the major Jewish organizations; and in the
1930s, it had taken an activist stand in confronting Nazi Germany.
But whereas the leftists or “progressives” in the movement favored
mass mobilization, demonstrations, and rallies protesting the rapid
change of postwar American policy, the liberal mainstream pre
ferred growing public support by less confrontational tactics. 12
Thus, despite its strong objections to the New York German
Trade Fair in April 1949, Congress leadership shared the other
Jewish organizations’ decision to stage no protest demonstrations;
however, this did not prevent members of its three left-dominated
New York divisions from picketing the fair. A few weeks earlier
Stephen Wise had censured the “irresponsibility” of the New York
Metropolitan Coordinating Committee in setting up an indepen
dent Denazification Committee. 13 Yet, even after the purge of pro-
Communist groups from its ranks, the AJ Congress continued to
oppose the anti-Communist hysteria and rebuffed the Committee’s
extreme anti-Communist stand. 14
In 1949-50 the AJ Congress devoted much energy to further
ing a congressional investigation of American policy in Germany.
Because of its greater public effect it preferred a senatorial to
a presidential inquiry, the alternative endorsed by the AJC and
the majority of NCRAC member organizations. 15 However, the
yearlong effort of the Jewish and supporting non-Jewish groups,
such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Veterans
Committee, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and Amer
icans for Democratic Action, came to naught, as did the bipartisan
resolution introduced by eight senators and eleven congressmen. 16
Even a State Department proposal to assuage protesting members
of Congress by dispatching to Germany a group of well-known
citizens did not materialize. The international tension caused by the
Korean War in the summer of 1950 served as a convenient excuse
for High Commissioner McCloy to veto all kinds of investigations
into American policy in Western Germany. 17
In the NCRAC deliberations on Germany in 1949-51 the AJ
Congress usually preferred its on-the-spot critique of developments
in Germany and American policy there over long-range programs
for German democracy. The AJC, for its part, argued that Congress
was doing “the Jews of America a great disservice in making it


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6. Critics and Opponents
appear that criticism of American policy in Germany was a Jewish
issue rather than an American one.” The Committee and the major
ity of NCRAC also made the point that non-Jewish groups taking
part in the Coordinating Council and its successor, the Citizens
Council for a Democratic Germany, would not agree to cooper
ate with Jewish groups on a watchdog basis of day-to-day events
without promoting democratic and liberal forces in Germany. 18
Because of what most Americans regarded as the danger of So
viet aggression, the NCRAC national coordinator advocated “the
admittedly unpopular position that Jewish organizations should, in
the interests of the survival of a democratic world society, abandon
the attitude of hostility, vengeance and distrust and resume normal
and cooperative relationships with the German people in the hope
that in this way a democratic Germany will be created which will
redeem its sins.” 19
Such a position was not at all acceptable to the AJ Congress.
Moreover, besides Congress’s own traditional differences with AJC,
JLC, and ADL, there was a conflict of interest between its being the
American constituency of the WJC and its membership in NCRAC.
The Congress, despite Nahum Goldmann’s moderate course, com
prised a number of extreme anti-German groups, while NCRAC,
without much success, endorsed the activities of the Coordinating
Council in favor of strengthening German democracy. 20 In Septem
ber 1952, AJC and ADL withdrew from NCRAC after having been
outvoted by a large majority on the recommendations of political
scientist Robert Maclver in regard to joint program planning of the
Jewish communal organizations. Instead the United Synagogue of
America (the Conservative congregations) and the Union of Ortho
dox Jewish Congregations affiliated. However, under the changing
circumstances because of the German-Jewish-Israeli negotiations,
the German problem was no longer a critical issue on NCRAC’s
agenda.
As a watchdog on German developments detrimental to the
Jewish interest, the AJ Congress conducted a series of information
activities on both the national and local level. Memoranda in re
gard to disturbing phenomena in German politics were submitted
by Rabbi Irving Miller, Stephen Wise’s successor as AJ Congress
president, to the State Department. At a mass meeting in Brooklyn,
the AJ Congress hosted Delbert Clark, former chief correspon
dent in Germany for the New York Times, a strong critic of West


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
Germany and unequivocal opponent of German rearmament. The
organization’s Washington representative was involved in drafting
a statement by liberal Republican Congressman Jacob Javits against
ending the state of war with Germany; Javits was the only member
of the House who did not vote for this. The AJ Congress contin
ued to make critical statements regarding Germany also after the
signing of the Luxembourg agreement, but the intensity of its drive
lessened over the years. 21
At the Atlantic City War Emergency Conference in 1944, the
WJC had passed a resolution that after the war no Jew should
be forced to return to Germany. The Montreux postwar plenary
assembly reiterated the determination of the Jewish people never
again to settle there; this expressed the consensus of the over
whelming majority of Jews in the Diaspora and in the new State
of Israel. Nevertheless, while most of the DPs left Germany for
Israel, the United States, and other countries in 1948-50, thou
sands of survivors and refugees decided to stay and thus enlarged
the reestablished German Jewish communities. This presented a
problem both for the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish
Agency, as well as for other major Jewish organizations, which had
campaigned for the full exodus of the Saving Remnant since the end
of the war. In the first postwar years a number of German Jewish
regional organizations in the West and even in the Soviet Zone as
well as the central committees of the survivors and DPs affiliated
with the WJC; a few of them were invited to attend the WJC plenary
assembly at Montreux. The most meaningful affiliation was that of
the British zone, where German Jews and DPs had formed a unitary
organization. London-based WJC leaders consistently helped them
in contacts with the British authorities on the spot and intervened
at the Foreign Office and War Office on their behalf.
Nahum Goldmann, for his part, regarded the slogan that no
Jew should ever live in Germany as unrealistic. On matters of
German-Jewish relations he was more farsighted than many of his
colleagues. 22 Goldmann visited Frankfurt in April 1950 and on that
occasion introduced Gerhard Jacoby, a former Berlin lawyer who
worked for the IJA in New York, as WJC special representative
for Germany. In July, Jacoby was instrumental in summoning a
national conference of representatives of Jewish communities and
thus became involved in setting up the Central Council of the Jews
in Germany. 23 That initiative aroused strong objections from the


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6. Critics and Opponents
World Zionist Organization and the WJC’s own ranks. 24 However,
the pressure from Israeli and American members notwithstanding,
the links between the Central Council of the Jews in Germany
and the WJC were not cut off. After a number of years they were
normalized.
The change of American policy toward Germany—the recent
bloody enemy emerging as a potential ally in the confrontation with
the Soviet Union—was also a difficult problem for the Jewish War
Veterans, one of the smaller but vocal constituents of NCRAC.
The organization, whose origins dated back to the post-Civil War
era, distinguished itself, as did other veteran groups, in its patriotic
appearance. During Israel’s War of Independence, it helped in lo
cating well-qualified veterans for the Machal volunteer force. After
World War II, its members, who had fought Nazi Germany and its
allies, acquiesced to Washington’s new anti-Soviet course. Many
JWV activities in those years were devoted to Israel, but despite
its anti-Communism and qualified acceptance of the Truman and
Eisenhower administrations’ rapprochement with West Germany,
it remained an activist force that watched Germany with suspicion.
On several occasions, such as during the German industrial fair in
New York sponsored by OMGUS (see next chapter), the major Jew
ish groups put pressure on the JWV to refrain from anti-German
demonstrations in order not to be identified with protests orga
nized by communist groups. JWV branches also protested against
visiting German musical performers. General Julius Klein, the
organization’s national commander in 1948-49 and for a number
of years chairman of its international affairs department, changed
from a very critical position on Germany and OMGUS leniency to
an emphatic pro-German orientation. Eventually the JWVs most
prominent postwar spokesman became a lobbyist for the Adenauer
government and for German industrial corporations. However, his
attitude did not reflect the views of the majority of the organization,
which criticized him and caused his temporary departure from
its ranks. 25
From among the religious denominations, Orthodox spokes
men, both Zionist and non-Zionist, usually took the most resolute
anti-German stand. Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, chairman of the
National Council of the Mizrachi Organization of America and the
most respected intellectual religious figure in American Orthodox
Judaism, urged world Jewry “to take revenge against the entire


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
German people who must be held responsible for the outrageous
murder of 6,000,000 Jews.” In his opinion, antisemitism was “not
related in any way to the political form or the structure of a govern
ment . . . [but] to the fascist totalitarian mentality of a people.” He
could conceive the German people murdering six million Jews even
under a democratic regime. Soloveitchik drew a Zionist conclusion
from the Holocaust caused by the Germans: “Revenge if performed
physically would be only of momentary value. Ours must be an
eternal revenge—one which can be had only by rebuilding from
the remnants of Dachau, Maidanek and Treblinka a stronger and
greater folk in a Jewish national homeland in Palestine.” 26
Orthodox views of Germany, as reflected in the editorials of
Orthodox Jewish Life, remained very critical also after the establish
ment of the Federal Republic, which, because of the Cold War,
proceeded rapidly toward factual independence: “Civilization can
live and mankind remain secure only if the horror that Germany
begot shall have been extirpated. The retribution that the world
requires of Germany is not the execution of vengeance on its 65
million inhabitants, but the utter eradication of that in German life
that Hitler personified.” In the opinion of the Orthodox editorialist,
not much had been achieved during the six years since the end of
the war, and an “uncompromising reeducation” should be regarded
as not less important for German identification with the Western
cause than political and economic aid. Nonetheless, despite its
qualms about the negotiations with Germany on reparations, the
periodical published by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congre
gations condemned the behavior of Israel’s Herat party (the main
component of the future Likud) during the Knesset debate in Jan
uary 1952. It reaffirmed that Israel’s policy on German reparations
must be determined by democratic means.
The summary of a symposium published in the Jewish Forum,
a journal edited by Isaac Rosengarten with a great many Orthodox
contributing editors, was that “the record of postwar Germany was
such as to make it dangerous to allow them, so soon after the com
mission of their atrocities, when no one shows hardly any signs of
moral regeneration, to regain power, sovereignty and independence
through remilitarization.” Commenting on Chancellor Adenauer’s
statement of September 27,1951, the Jewish Forum's editorial writer
regarded it as totally inadequate and concluded that Jews should
wait “until a more drastic effort be made by Germany both in her


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6. Critics and Opponents
daily conduct and in the manner the German people generally, and
not just a few government leaders reveal a truly humble and contrite
heart.” 27
For the non-Zionist Orthodox of Agudath Israel and the “world
of the Yeshiva,” the Germans who had committed the greatest crime
in human history remained Avialek for years to come. According
to Orthodox tradition, Jews were commanded to perpetuate their
enmity toward Amalek because it strove to destroy the Jewish
people. The loss of their families, homes, and places of learn
ing in Eastern Europe weighed especially heavy on the Orthodox
community. Immediately after the war, the Union of Orthodox
Rabbis of the United States and Canada, the rabbinical organiza
tion aligned with Agudath Israel, considered convening a world
conference on imposing a cherem on Germany, but this proposal
did not materialize. Despite differences of opinion about whether
or not to accept reparation money from Germany, Agudath Israel
joined the Claims Conference in 1951. However, it was one of the
few dissenting organizations that opposed the opening of negotia
tions with Chancellor Adenauer, “the evil head of government of a
nation of murderers.” Rabbi Isaac Lewin, its representative at the
Conference’s founding meeting, argued that moral amends were
not in the gift of the current generation, or of any generation for
a thousand years. Germany should be forced to return what had
been stolen, but reparation should grant it no measure of moral
rehabilitation. 28
In contrast to the hostility of the great majority of the Or
thodox camp, different nuances prevailed among the Conservative
and Reform denominations. In an early discussion on the postwar
Jewish communities in Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Isaac Klein, who
spent his leave of absence from his congregation as representative
of the Synagogue Council in Germany, attached much importance
to the continuing existence of Jewish communities there, which
served also as stopover or haven for Jews from Eastern Europe. A
prominent Conservative rabbi such as Israel Goldstein, president
of the American Jewish Congress and the Western Hemisphere
section of the WJC, visited Germany and the Jewish communities
there a number of times, despite the critical attitude of the organi
zations he chaired. A strong supporter of Goldmann’s reparations
policy, he regarded the Luxembourg treaty as “a historic milestone
in international morality.”


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
Rabbi Norman Salit, another noted Conservative rabbi active
on the public scene, was invited by the West German government
in his capacity as president of the Synagogue Council, together with
a delegation of eight religious leaders, to visit that country in 1953.
He thus became the first head of a Jewish organization to officially
visit Germany. Salit met with Chancellor Adenauer and President
Heuss during his visit. However, the Foreign Office in Bonn was
disappointed by his critical comments regarding the “piecemeal
way in which West Germany was reeducating its people” and his
misinterpretation of Adenauer’s statement in this context. Later
Salit expressed doubts whether Germany had really put an end to
antisemitic manifestations. 29 Neither the Rabbinical Assembly nor
the United Synagogue were represented on NCRAC during its first
years, and none of them particularly dealt with the American Jewish
attitude toward postwar Germany in their conferences.
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), on
the contrary, was among NCRAC’s first members and actively
participated in its deliberations on Germany and on the Jewish
position regarding developments there. The Central Conference of
American Rabbis, the organization of Reform rabbis that discussed
the German issue at its annual meeting four months after V-E
Day, stated that it would “be moved by no desire for vengeance
or retaliation but by imperatives of justice, and the need to avoid
future wars. We seek neither a hard nor a soft but a just peace.”
While it emphasized the German people’s guilt, it reaffirmed its
conviction that the Germans could be regenerated if they pled
guilty to the destruction of large areas of Europe and the cold
blooded murder of almost ten million civilians, rejected the Nazi
philosophy, and reeducated their youth. This was a universalist
reminder that the Germans killed not only Jews under their control
but also many other innocent people. At the same time the CCAR
endorsed proposals for either removing heavy industry from Ger
many or putting it under inter-Allied control. In 1950 the CCAR,
together with other NCRAC constituents, called for a presidential
commission of inquiry to appraise the accomplishments and failures
of the American occupation policy. In 1951 it protested against the
American occupation authorities’ “veering away from their original
policy of seeking to restore the German nation to a worthy position
in the family of nations” and being more interested in creating
a German buffer-state against an anticipated Russian invasion of


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6. Critics and Opponents
Western Europe than in “ridding the world of the menace of
resurgent militaristic chauvinism.” 30
Stephen Wise, a prominent Reform rabbi, founding president
of the WJC and for many years head of AJ Congress, had been at
the forefront of the struggle against Nazi Germany since Hitler’s
accession to power in 1933. During the last years of his life, he was
troubled by the change of American policy toward Germany; here
and there he dispatched protests to members of the administration,
as in the case of a German scientist who had been brought to the
United States together with his Nazi wife under the “Paperclip”
project of securing the services of German weapons specialists and
technicians. 31 Wise died in April 1949.
Cleveland rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, Wise’s rival in the Zionist
leadership, was a most consistent opponent of American postwar
policies in the ranks of the Reform movement. In the thirties he had
been active in the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion
Human Rights; after the resignation of Samuel Untermyer in 1938,
he served as its president. During the crucial 1940s, Silver had a
central role in mobilizing American Jewry and public opinion in
support for the Jewish state. Silver was very skeptical of the anti-
Communist drive to rearm West Germany, contrary to the Pots
dam agreement permanently to demilitarize the defeated enemy
nation. He thought it would only weaken the democratic forces
in Germany that existed despite the failure of denazification and
demilitarization. Like James Warburg, he preferred a united, demil
itarized Germany that would pacify the whole European continent
and enable the German people “to rebuild their life ... on truly
democratic lines and in peaceful ways.” 32
In 1952 the prospective agreement between the Federal Re
public of West Germany, Israel, and the Claims Conference with
regard to reparations and indemnification encountered some op
position at the CCAR annual meeting, particularly because of
the face-to-face negotiations with the Germans. As during earlier
annual meetings, differences of opinion were expressed between
outspoken supporters, pragmatists, and anti-German skeptics. At
the same meeting Silver succeeded in swaying the majority to air
its opposition to the remilitarization of Germany, both East and
West, and to record its distrust of Germany in the struggle of
the free world against all kinds of totalitarianism. 33 Silver, who
had launched his attack against Washington’s new German course


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
during the Truman administration, stuck to his position after the
Republicans entered the White House. However, this did not pre
vent his invitation to deliver a prayer at President Eisenhower’s
inauguration. Despite the exacerbating Cold War, Silver continued
to endorse diplomacy and negotiations with Soviet Russia and to
warn that West German rearmament could cause a third world war.
The Communist Yiddish daily Morgen Freiheit extensively quoted
Silver’s Cleveland Temple sermons criticizing U.S. foreign policy,
whereas the anti-Communist Forverts castigated his statements. 34
In retrospect, despite the upheaval caused by the unification of
Germany after the breakdown of the Communist bloc and the end
of the Cold War, the great Zionist leader seems to have been wrong
on this issue.
For American Jewish Communists and pro-Communists, Jew
ish opposition to Nazi Germany since the early 1930s and Jewish
sensitivity regarding Germany after its defeat by the Grand Alliance
were important factors in their approach to individual Jews of differ
ent strata and also in obtaining a foothold in the organized commu
nity. In 1936 the Jewish People’s Fraternal Order QPFO), a section
of the International Workers Order, the large Communist fraternal
society, did not gain admission to the AJ Congress and the WJC,
because of Communist support for the Arab uprising in Palestine.
However, both theJPFO and the pro-Communist American Jewish
Labor Council (AJLC) were allowed to join the AJ Congress and
the American Jewish Conference in 1944. This was made possible
by the wartime anti-Nazi solidarity as well as by an adjustment in
the pro-Communist groups’ position on a national home for Jews
in Palestine; in 1946-47 these groups sometimes favored a more
militant line on Palestine than the Zionist majority. Even though
most of their members did not belong to the Communist party but
had joined for social and cultural purposes, the JPFO and AJLC
successfully infiltrated important branches and divisions of the AJ
Congress, the most liberal and grassroots Jewish organization. 35
As the pro-Communist Jewish Life boasted in retrospect, at the
AJ Congress biennial conventions in 1948 the fighting spirit of the
radicals still manifested itself in passing resolutions for the abolition
of HUAC and for a meeting of Soviet and American leaders to avert
the danger of war between the former allies. Together with others,
they participated in Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party campaign
for the presidency, and while Wallace and his party failed dismally,


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6. Critics and Opponents
approximately one third of the people who voted for him were Jews,
both because of his unequivocal pro-Zionist stand and because of
his rejection of the administration’s Cold War policies. 36
Even after the purge of the JPFO and the AJLC from the AJ
Congress in the wake of the postwar Red Scare—for the record
AJ Congress leaders pretended that the breaking of the organiza
tion’s discipline and not the ideology was the cause for their ex
pulsion 37 —some Communists and more fellow travelers remained
entrenched in local divisions that were dissolved two years later.
In April 1951 three large divisions in the New York metropolitan
area—Manhattan, Long Island, and the Youth Division—were still
able to organize a large protest rally against the rearming of Ger
many, without permission from the AJ Congress leadership, even
though it fully shared the opposition to German rearmament. As
a result, the AJ Congress dissolved its Manhattan division. The
JPFO and AJLC, for their part, started to set up “United Front”
organizations in different parts of the country. Their purpose was
to combat German rearmament, to oppose the Korean War, and to
promote the peace movement. In New York they were successful
in obtaining the cooperation of a few Eastern European lands-
manshaften and left-wing trade unions. In 1952, they established
a special committee against Jewish negotiations with the Adenauer
government. Afterwards, although a few protest meetings during
such occasions as the 1959-60 swastika epidemic, the German-
Israeli arms deal, and the New York encounter between Adenauer
and Ben Gurion in March 1960 still attracted substantial audiences,
the ranks of Jewish Communists and fellow travelers dwindled. 38



7
123
Anti-German Protests at Home
After their immediate postwar involvement in the survivors’ and
refugees’ safety and well-being, American Jews were greatly con
cerned about the political developments in Germany. Persistent
antisemitic and authoritarian phenomena as well as democratic
improvements were noted by the American Jewish community.
Quite understandably, the community’s anxieties were heightened
by the growing numbers of official invitations to Germans to visit
the United States for industrial, economic, and cultural exchanges.
The Jewish community was careful to take note of the impact of
these visits upon the American public.
The first Germans brought over to the United States after
Germany’s unconditional surrender were scientists and technicians
in the fields of rocketry and aeronautics, as well as other experts
whose knowledge was regarded as vital for the strengthening of
postwar American military and industrial capability. Even though
many of the participants had been members of the Nazi party, the
semisecret “Overcast” project, soon to be renamed “Paperclip,”
served as immediate intellectual reparations. Despite differences
of opinion in the relevant government departments and objections
raised mainly by a few Jewish State Department officials and Jewish
leaders, the operation did not arouse public protests. 1 Later came
chosen visitors from the Protestant and Catholic churches who


124
GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
were considered by Washington’s policy planners as most important
in the remaking of German society. Also invited were business
men, university lecturers, teachers, journalists, administrators, and
professionals—all in the framework of reeducating or reorienting
groups of the West German elite, strengthening Western Germany
against the Soviet Communist challenge, and restoring German-
American cultural and trade relations. In this context, musical
performances of famous German artists, and later of orchestras,
were also promoted.
The American rapprochement with the former enemy put the
Jewish community into a quandary. On the one hand, Jewish orga
nizations favored democratic education of the German public. At
least, the organizations paid lip service to it and, in spite of some
qualms, the left-of-center groups also adjusted to Washington’s
anti-Soviet containment policy. On the other hand, they could not
overlook the fact that quite a few of the illustrious performers, and
even more of the exhibitors invited to take part in the first postwar
German industrial exhibition in New York, were tainted by their
cooperation with the Hitler regime, if not by their own Nazi pasts.
Thus, the question arose of how to deal with the legitimate Jewish
sensitivity without isolating the community from the great majority
of the American population, which endorsed the outstretched-hand
policy toward West Germany because of the Cold War. The test
case of the German industrial exhibition, behind which influential
political forces and weighty economic interests were aligned, clearly
revealed the limits of Jewish ethnic pressure. Nonetheless, Jewish
objections in regard to the cultural scene, some of which were
more successful, at least in the early period, were registered by
the emerging West German political establishment. Bonn would
soon start looking for ways to assuage that antagonism, because it
recognized American Jewish hostility as an obstacle in the process
of narrowing the gap with the American public.
The German industrial exhibition took place in April 1949 at
the Museum of Science and Industry in New York’s Rockefeller
Center. For more than two months it was a matter of great concern
to all Jewish communal agencies as well as to NCRAC, the coordi
nating body, characterized by ongoing discussions between working
groups of staff people and committees of laymen. The NCRAC
deliberations were mainly dominated by the traditional distinction
between AJC’s cautious attitude and AJ Congress activism, although


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7. Anti-German Protests at Home
in principle everybody opposed the exhibition. There were also
unsuccessful intercessions by influential individuals. The meager
net result was a common statement of protest, while refraining
from any demonstrations. 2
The fair, with the participation of several hundred German
firms from all three Western occupation zones, was intended to
“strengthen trade relations between the U.S. and Germany which
were formerly so extensive and valuable.” 3 When General Clay
learned of the objections of major Jewish organizations such as the
AJC and the WJC, as well as the AJ Congress, he told his adviser
on Jewish affairs, Harry Greenstein—who conveyed the message
to the Four Cooperating Organizations—that the exhibition would
take place on schedule. Clay proclaimed “that he would regard any
demonstration as a disservice to the U.S., which is trying to build
up the German economy in order to relieve the U.S. taxpayers of
its present crushing burden.” 4 He appealed directly to prominent
American Jews like Judge Joseph Proskauer, past president of the
AJC, Bernard Baruch, and New York Times publisher Arthur Hays
Sulzberger, urging them to use their influence to prevent either
picketing or demonstrations by any group. At the same time, he
promised that no person previously identified in any way with the
Nazi party would be permitted to go to the United States as an
exhibitor or as a representative of any exhibitor, and that all the
participating firms would be carefully screened, a promise that was
only partly fulfilled. Members of Greenstein’s staff argued that it
was illogical for Jews to oppose the revival of the German economy
because they could not otherwise expect to receive indemnification.
AJC European representatives looking for a compromise suggested
that the German industrialists who would come to New York should
formally declare that the victims of Nazi persecution were to be fully
indemnified by an economically restored Germany. This proposal
was not taken up because of both German unwillingness and Jewish
objections. 5
The American Jewish Committee, while recognizing the neces
sity of Germany’s economic rehabilitation as an important ingre
dient of American foreign policy, initially voiced strong opposition
to the New York fair because the items exhibited were produced by
firms dominated by former Nazis. The AJC reiterated its position
that only a liberal and democratic Germany could be a reliable
ally in the framework of a united and democratic Europe. It also


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
warned that despite temporary economic advantages, support for
business and financial corporations that had been heavily involved
in the Nazi regime was, in the long run, adverse to American
interests. 6 However, the behind-the-scenes efforts undertaken by
the AJC, on both the local New York and the governmental level,
bore no results. Mayor William O’Dwyer did not intervene; nei
ther could Nelson Rockefeller or the Jewish board members of
the museum do anything to cancel the lease for the exhibition.
Proskauer’s successor as AJC president, Jacob Blaustein, was told
by high officials of the Defense and State Departments that the
economic rebuilding of Western Germany would proceed. Material
presented by Blaustein on Nazi infiltration into the top industrial
positions in Germany had no effect on his counterparts.
Moreover, during the controversy over the fair, it became ev
ident to the AJC and to other Jewish organizations that most of
their traditional nonsectarian allies were not prepared to share
the opposition to the German exhibition. Members of Ameri
cans for Democratic Action and other liberal groups were not at
all keen to engage in a confrontation with the recently reelected
Democratic administration on such a subject, at a time when the
Berlin blockade had increased public sympathy for the city and
for the West Germans. The trade union federations AFL and
CIO preferred that Nazi industrialists be kept out, but on the
whole regarded the exhibit as being sound policy in the context
of Germany’s economic recovery. 7 Besides, the fear of becom
ing identified with active Communist opposition to the fair also
weighed heavily upon the AJC’s and NCRAC’s strategy. Some
were afraid that the failure of Jewish organizations to distance
themselves openly from the Morgenthau plan before and after the
end of the war contributed to the impression of a link between
Jewish and Communist opposition to German recovery. If this
view were abetted by the Jewish community through action that
appeared to substantiate the belief that American Jews desired to
take vengeance upon the German people, their isolation might
endanger them. 8
Such fears seem to have been exaggerated. But without gentile
allies and because of the pressure exerted by the administration in
Washington and the military government in Germany, the Ameri
can Jewish Committee acquiesced to the fair taking place as sched
uled. Actually, it had objected to public protests and picketing from


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7. Anti-German Protests at Home
the beginning. Its consolation was that the agitation had made at
least part of the American public conscious of the counterproduc
tive aspects of America’s new German policy. But that proved an
erroneous assumption. The AJ Congress, on the contrary, still clung
to a Grand Alliance-minded and less anti-Communist orientation
and objected to the strengthening of West Germany as a bulwark
against the Soviet Union. That organization continued to regard
the danger to world peace and security from a restored Germany
greater than the Soviet threat.
In the opinion of AJ Congress executive director David Pete-
gorsky, the fact that labor and liberal groups “did not understand
what was happening” should not have deterred American Jews from
making a stand of their own. Petegorsky was one of the leading
committed liberal professionals in the Jewish community in the
late 1940s and until his untimely death in 1956. A representative
of the UAHC added that just because the Communists alleged that
they were the sole supporters of liberalism, there was no reason
“to abdicate any of the lofty ideals of Judaism.” The delegate of the
anti-Communist JLC thought it might be preferable to concentrate
on the broad aspects of American policy toward Germany, using the
fair only as an illustrative point. On the other hand, there were also
voices that demanded a resolute stand against the exhibition itself.
A spokesman for the Brooklyn Community Council warned that
silence would be misunderstood by the Jewish masses. The JWV
indicated that while it favored rebuilding the German economy,
it fully endorsed Jewish opposition to former Nazis returning to
leading posts in German industry. 9
As a compromise agreed upon by six national Jewish organiza
tions and twenty-seven community councils belonging to NCRAC,
a critical and diplomatically worded pronouncement of wishful
thinking stated that “the rehabilitation of German economy, but
only on a democratic basis, will contribute to world peace security.”
However, they insisted that Nazis must be screened from German
industry, and the German economy must be brought under the con
trol of liberal pro-democratic and trade union elements who were
both anti-Nazi and anti-Communist. 10 Because of the restraint of
the organized Jewish community, the German exhibit was picketed
only by the pro-Communist JPFO, the AJLC, and a few more leftist
organizations, such as the Committee of Jewish Writers, Artists and
Scientists, the Drug Store Employees Union, and several locals of


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
other unions. Leftist members of AJ Congress’s New York divisions
also joined in picketing. 11
The exhibit was arranged very carefully, reminding the visitors
that it was set up by the military governments of the three Western
zones with no direct political implications. According to a reliable
Jewish observer, it was attended by many Americans of German
origin, but there were also a lot of Jewish visitors. Despite differ
ences of opinion in the community, American Jewish importers
already represented German firms and were interested in using
the opportunity to broaden their commercial contacts. In order
to attract Jewish buyers, beautiful Chanukah candelabra could be
found on one of the silverware stands. 12
Summing up the Jewish response to the German industrial
exhibit, A. S. Lyric, a Jewish writer and journalist, complained
that the Jewish organizations, with the exception of the Jewish
Agency, which was not involved in the compromise, did not act as
free Americans. He maintained that they revealed their inferiority
complex when yielding to Washington’s demand to refrain from
public protests. Lyric ridiculed the congratulatory comment of the
New York World Telegram for the Jews having “conducted themselves
so well.” He assumed that the exhibit would have taken place
anyway but doubted whether Washington would really have been
angered if the Jewish organizations had stated publicly that their
conscience did not permit them to sanction the German fair. 13
Lyric and other columnists in the Yiddish press reflected the deep
sensitivity and powerful anti-German feelings among the Jewish
masses, feelings that were much stronger than the compromise
statement reached by NCRAC constituents.
The traditional differences between AJC moderates preferring
behind-the-scenes intercessions and activists like the AJ Congress
or the JWV again asserted themselves with regard to German
visitors brought over to the United States in different exchange
programs. AJC professionals and laymen favored, in principle, the
invitation of German businessmen, academics, and government
officials to the United States and sending American counterparts
to Germany. They agreed it was important to tie the former enemy
nation closer to the West, stimulate trade, and promote cultural
relations as well as tourism. At the same time, they called for
effective screening of the growing number of German guests to
prevent active and influential Nazis from visiting and for keeping


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7. Anti-German Protests at Home
“inadequately informed anti-democratically oriented Americans”
from influential positions within Germany. The AJ Congress, for
its part, reflected more Jewish grassroots feeling and sometimes did
not refrain from unilateral action against the admission of unwanted
prominent German guests.
A case that attracted much attention early in 1949 was the can
cellation of the admission of world-famous pianist Walter Giesek-
ing, who was scheduled to appear at more than forty performances
throughout the United States, starting in New York. Gieseking
had been cleared by the denazification court. Although not a card-
carrying member of the Nazi party, he had served Hitler’s regime
well by playing at official events not only in Germany but abroad.
In cooperation with the JLC, the AJ Congress had planned to
prevent his concert in New York with the help of the Stage Hands’
Union, even though all tickets had been sold a month before his
scheduled appearance at Carnegie Hall. However, the Immigration
and Naturalization Service refused Gieseking’s admission after he
arrived in New York. Documentary evidence provided by the AJ
Congress regarding the pianist’s political views and propagandist
activities before 1945 convinced the INS not to allow his entry,
despite a favorable advisory opinion by the State Department to
its consul in France, who authorized the granting of a visa to
him. 14 Four years later Gieseking returned to the United States and
performed in New York and in other cities. This time the protests
of the marginal Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League were of no avail,
even though New York police patrolled the streets to take care of
the demonstrators. 15
For a dissenting intellectual like David Riesman, the action
against Gieseking, while humanly understandable, smacked of
racial theory. It was easier for American Jews “to keep Gieseking
out of America than [antisemitic congressman John] Rankin out of
Congress.” No wonder that AJ Congress’s handling of the affair
was also denounced by S. A. Fineberg, AJC’s community service
director. In contrast to the Gieseking picketing, he mentioned the
widely favorable impact of the Chicago Symphony’s retraction of
renowned German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler’s appointment
as its musical director. As a matter of fact, Furtwangler’s case was
not exactly similar to Gieseking’s. He had damaged his international
reputation by remaining in Germany and conducting there during
the twelve years of the Third Reich. But he had never shown much


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
sympathy for the Nazis, had quarreled with their leadership, and
on several occasions had helped Jewish musicians. After the war
Furtwangler was denazified and resumed conducting in Germany
and abroad. Nonetheless, a great many American Jewish star per
formers and conductors like Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubin
stein, Nathan Milstein, Gregor Piatigorsky, Isaac Stern, Lily Pons,
Andre Kostelanetz, and Eugene Ormandy threatened to boycott
the orchestra in case of his appointment. The head of the American
Federation of Musicians as well as the board of the Chicago Orches
tral Society decided that he was undesirable. 16 Thus Furtwangler
remained in Germany, where in 1952 he was reappointed musical
director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he had
lost in 1938. 17
Furtwangler’s death in 1954 prevented him from conducting
the Berlin Philharmonic during its first postwar visit to the United
States in 1955, an act of gratitude to the American people for their
assistance during the Berlin blockade of 1948-49. The fact that the
orchestra was to perform under the baton of Herbert von Karajan,
Furtwangler’s successor and a member of the Nazi party since 1933,
upset many American Jews. The organized community was shocked
that a former Nazi like Karajan was sent by West Germany and
admitted by the State Department as an ambassador for forging
cultural relations between the two nations. But except for a few
demonstrations by the JWV, it refrained from action.
As in the past, the issue was discussed in depth at NCRAC.
Differences of opinion among both national and local member
agencies precluded publication of a joint statement even though
the AJC and ADL had withdrawn from the coordinating body
in 1952. The New York CIO council was about to picket the
performance but was dissuaded by the JLC and instead joined
the JLC in deploring Karajan’s choice. The AJ Congress, too,
refrained from public condemnations after it had polled its leading
members. This time its criticism was limited to a Congress Weekly
editorial. 18 Heinz Krekeler, West Germany’s first ambassador to the
United States, regarded it as a great achievement that the successful
tour of Germany’s leading orchestra had taken place without ma
jor disturbances, in spite of the Musicians Union protest in New
York. 19 Acts of disapproval in other cities were only marginal. A
group of HUC rabbinic students in Cincinnati, while resenting the
performance of the Berlin orchestra under the baton of a former


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7. Anti-German Protests at Home
active Nazi, nevertheless concluded that the “arbitrary denial of
men’s rights to a public audience” would harm democracy more
than the tour of the orchestra itself. 20
Irving Engel, Jacob Blaustein’s successor as president of the
AJC, told Krekeler that in spite of the AJC’s displeasure, his or
ganization exerted its influence against public demonstrations. 21
The same advice was given by the ADL to local community coun
cils. It reminded them that attempts to boycott Gieseking’s con
certs in 1953 had not only been abortive but had aroused the
anger of many music-loving liberals. Similarly, the ADL advised
against boycotting concert performances by the soprano Elizabeth
Schwarzkopf, though she had been a leader of the National Socialist
student organization at the Berlin Academy of Music and afterwards
joined the Nazi party. 22
At the next tour of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1961,
under the baton of Karajan and Karl Bohm, who had also closely
cooperated with the Third Reich music and cultural authorities,
no public protests were registered. In accordance with the wishes
of Jewish circles in Detroit, the original program was changed
to enable the orchestra’s Jewish concertmaster, Michael Schwalbe,
to perform Mendelssohn’s violin concerto. 23 At a concert in New
York, the soloist was Israeli pianist David Bar-Illan, who after his
return to Israel became executive editor of the Jerusalem Post and
later served as one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy
advisers. Bar-Illan’s performance under the baton of Karajan was
criticized by the Yiddish press and by Rabbi Jack Cohen, a noted
liberal Reconstructionist rabbi and Hillel director. Cohen regarded
Bar-Illan’s playing with an orchestra sprinkled with Nazi musicians
“to be beyond the level of good judgment, to say the least.” 24
It happened that Jewish displeasure added to a more critical
reception of prominent German visitors that had been incarcerated
by the Nazi regime as political opponents. Such, for instance, was
the case of the Protestant pastor Martin Niemoller, who in 1947
was hosted for a few months by the Federal Council of Churches
of Christ, which cooperated on many issues with Jewish religious
and communal organizations. Niemoller, a nationalistic submarine
commander in World War I, had since 1924 consistently voted for
the Nazi party, since he favored its program for a national revival
“with its denial of all that was meant by individualism, parliamen-
tarianism, pacifism, Marxism and Judaism.” However, after Hitler’s


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
ascent to power he disagreed with Nazi church policies and became
a cofounder of the “Confessional Church.” Together with other
pastors he rejected the application of the “Aryan paragraph” by
the Church and in 1935 refused to endorse the Nuremberg Laws
segregating German Jews.
Niemoller spent eight years in concentration camps; after the
war he was among the authors of the Stuttgart “Confession of
Guilt.” That statement was regarded as an important step in the an
nals of postwar Protestantism, although it did not mention German
responsibility for the murder of millions of Jews, which the pastor
himself recognized. On the other hand, Niemoller decried Ameri
can occupation policies, opposed denazification, and, together with
many others, believed that the Morgenthau plan was designed as
an instrument of American Jews to decimate the German people.
Later, in the early 1950s, Niemoller’s pacifism led him to endorse
pro-Communist and neutralist peace initiatives. The American
authorities therefore were concerned about the possible impact
of his goodwill visit to Moscow on at least a part of Germany’s
Protestant clergy. 25
Several leading American Jewish religious spokesmen ranked
high among Niemoller’s outspoken critics. Rabbi Stephen Wise
deplored his “lamentable past” and questioned why the Federal
Council of Churches of Christ had sponsored his speaking tour.
Wise charged that Niemoller’s talks aimed at selling a “soft peace”
for Germany, an assumption that proved correct. Rabbi Barnett
Brickner took sharp exception to Niemoller’s statement in New
York that antisemitism was dead in Germany. Rabbi Abba Hillel
Silver, while describing Niemoller as a “good, friendly, well inten-
tioned, courageous man,” told the public that he had opposed Hitler
and Nazism not because of their humanity-destroying racism but
because of their persecution of the German Protestant Confessional
Church. Since Niemoller had been taken in by Nazi propaganda
in the past, he was “not qualified for the role of a prophet or
spiritual leader.” Eleanor Roosevelt, too, reminded Americans of
Niemoller’s ambivalent past. 26 All the goodwill efforts of the Federal
Council did not help Niemoller to overcome the lack of confidence
on the part of many Americans, particularly since he objected to the
emerging Cold War policies. 27
Another former concentration camp inmate, SPD party chair
man Kurt Schumacher, who visited the United States in the same


133
7. Anti-German Protests at Home
year as Niemoller, was not subjected to a hostile reception from
Jewish organizations. As already mentioned, he had friendly
discussions with the JLC leadership and AJC professionals. 28
Nevertheless, there were a number of critical comments. Shlomo
Grodzensky, essayist and editorial writer of the Labor Zionist
weekly Yiddisher Kempfer, rejected Schumacher’s call for forgiveness
and help for suffering Germans, arguing that the will for revenge
was not less ethical than forgiveness of all sins. 29 Others complained
about his nationalistic confrontation with the Western powers. The
ADL refrained from financially supporting Schumacher’s lecture
before the City Club in Chicago and from arranging a press con
ference for him because of his unequivocal endorsement of Ger
many’s economic rebuilding. 30 Dr. Samuel Gringauz, the former
chairman of the Council of Liberated Jews in the U.S. zone who
immigrated to America in 1947, dismissed Schumacher’s warning
that the danger of antisemitism in Germany would increase because
of the decline of the belief in democracy, which depended on
Western economic aid. Gringauz demanded German repentance
before the survivors could allow the Jews in the Diaspora to engage
in a dialogue with the Germans. 31
During his stay in New York, Schumacher also hoped to meet
WJC president Stephen Wise, but such a meeting did not take
place. 32
Ernst Reuter, the Social Democratic mayor of Berlin, who
endeared himself to the American public during the Berlin block
ade and who often disagreed with Schumacher’s criticism of the
Western allies, visited the United States a number of times before
his untimely death in 1953. Reuter had spent the Nazi period as
an exile in Turkey; he returned home in 1946. During his visits
to the United States he did not encounter any Jewish protests.
But in 1951 his visit to Detroit caused the plenum of the Jewish
Community Relations Council to cancel an earlier decision of its
executive to join a reception committee in the mayor’s honor. The
critics tried to justify their refusal because of Reuter’s negative atti
tude toward the demonstrations staged in December 1950 by left-
wing Berlin students. They resented his attitude toward members
of the Jewish community and students who demonstrated against
the performance of actor Werner Krauss. Rrauss, the main star of
producer Veit Harlan’s antisemitic movie “Jud Suss,” performed
with the visiting Vienna Burgtheater. 33 Gerhard Jacoby, the WJC


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
representative in Germany, praised the stand taken by the Ger
man students and by Berlin Jews. However, Ben Zion Hoffman-
Tzivyon, a staunch anti-Zionist and a leading columnist in the
socialist-oriented Forverts, ridiculed the behavior of the Detroit
community leaders and regarded it as an insult to a leading Social
Democrat who himself had been persecuted by the Hitler regime. 34
A problem that caused some concern to organized American
Jewry in the late 1940s and early 1950s was the admission to the
United States of a large number of Volksdeutsche (persons of German
ethnic origin) who had been expelled after the war from Eastern
and Central Europe and found refuge mainly in the Western zones
of occupation, two million of them in Bavaria. Their immigration
was favored by German Americans who had been in the forefront
of the supporters of a “soft peace” with vanquished Germany since
1945—and even before that. All of them, antisemitic nationalists as
well as enlightened liberals, decried the Morgenthau legacy, blamed
Potsdam, and pressed for the speedy reconstruction of Germany’s
economy, contrary to a much more reserved and critical attitude of
the Jewish community. Even though a large majority of Americans
of German descent had already been fully acculturated (in 1950
approximately 14 percent of the U.S. population were of German
origin), their sympathy for the old country made an impact on a
number of senators and congressmen, especially in the Midwest.
Because of FDR’s anti-German course, which eventually led to
America’s entry into the war, most of them had supported the
Republicans since the 1930s, and their votes contributed to the
Republican victory in the congressional elections of 1946. Under
these circumstances, it was no surprise that the postwar immigra
tion of Germans indoctrinated by Nazi rule raised fears among the
Jewish community. The original Displaced Persons Immigration
Act of 1948 contained a provision that 50 percent of the visas
under the German quota were to be allocated to persons of German
ethnic origin. Legislation two years later was to provide additional
privileges to that group and to raise the number of these prospective
immigrants from 27,377 to 54,744. 35
NCRAC discussions before its participation in a Joint Confer
ence on Alien Legislation together with Catholic and Protestant
groups revealed the problem’s very special delicacy for American
Jews who had since 1946 played a central role in the fight for
admitting DPs. 36 Professor William Haber, who had served as


135
7. Anti-German Protests at Home
General Clay’s Jewish affairs adviser in 1948, remarked that the
German refugees had not come into the American zone of their
own accord and certainly were not welcomed by the Germans who
lived there. However, he was afraid that under the amended DP act
the influx into the United States of a large number of antisemites
and antidemocratic elements could constitute a serious threat to
the safety of the American Jewish community and the American
tradition of racial and religious equality. Even among carefully
selected Germans who came to Ann Arbor as exchange students,
antisemitic sentiments were very strong, and the Germans spread
them among the student body.
Irving Engel, an AJC lay leader and Blaustein’s successor in
1955, thought that the reaction of Jews to that question was mainly
emotional. He stated that Jews had always strongly objected to the
principle of guilt by association and that the entry of more anti
semites would be absorbed by American political culture without
any serious harm. Moreover, Jewish opposition would be a waste of
time because of the great number of Americans of German descent.
Shad Polier of the AJ Congress did not accept Engel’s judgment
that the Volksdeutsche were a lesser evil than German citizens, the
Reichsdeutsche. Throughout the period of Nazi domination, the
Volksdeutsche were more thoroughly poisoned by the concept of
ethnic identification than Germans who lived in Germany proper.
He argued that Jews should take a position against an influx of
ethnic Germans even at the risk of being called German-haters.
Eventually, NCRAC, while supporting the amendment to the DP
Immigration Act of 1948, objected to special provisions for the
admission of Volksdeutsche under the German quota, but its advice
was not heeded.
The American Jewish community was often inhibited by the
fear of being regarded as serving the interests of the Communist
party and its front-organizations against vital American interests
in the confrontation with the Soviet Union. This was especially
worrisome during the German industrial fair in 1949 and other
“German events” described in this chapter as well as in the general
context of Jewish protests against the inadequacy of American pol
icy with regard to denazification, democratization, and decarteliza
tion. Morris D. Waldman, John Slawson’s predecessor as executive
vice-president of the AJC until 1943, thought that the accusations
and suspicions regarding Jewish affinity for left-wing causes had


136
GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
contributed to the decline of Jewish influence in Washington, which
in 1949, after the last presidential and congressional elections, had
become Judenrein: “Apart from Ben Cohen, an alternate delegate to
the UN, and David Niles, a subordinate in the Executive Depart
ment, there is no one left.” 37 A New Dealer and active supporter
of civil rights, Niles, too, had been accused by right-wingers of
Communist ties. Niles, for his part, became involved in fighting
the antisemitic canard that Communism was, in fact, a Jewish
movement. In that connection he conveyed to FBI director J. Edgar
Hoover as early as April 1947 an AJC background memorandum
outlining the aims and the strategy for the struggle against Com
munism as a “subversive conspiratorial movement” in the Jewish
community. 38
During the 1950s the AJC persisted in its efforts to thwart
equations of “Jews and Communists.” Early in 1951 it analyzed the
attempts of American Communists to exploit Jewish sensitivity on
the German issue in order to promote united front groups for pro-
Communist causes. 39 The AJ Congress considered the AJC docu
ment most unfortunate and dangerous; the impression it created
was that the bulk of public criticism of developments in Germany
and of American policy was Communist-inspired and that virtually
all public activity in the United States was organized by Com
munists. According to the AJ Congress, this contradicted the fact
that by far the most important and extensive campaign concerning
the German situation was conducted by responsible national and
world Jewish organizations. The AJC’s cooperation with right-
wing anti-Communist groups such as the All-American Conference
to Combat Communism was strongly criticized by liberal groups
in the Jewish community. In 1952-53 the Committee went as
far as actively endorsing the death penalty for Julius and Ethel
Rosenberg, who had been found guilty of spying for the Soviet
Union. The AJC’s hysterical dealing with that case of espionage
and its justification of the death sentence passed by a Jewish judge
was nothing to be proud of. The AJ Congress, while condemning
some of the Soviet actions and supporting the military intervention
of the United States and the United Nations in Korea in 1950,
still distinguished between the Nazi menace before 1945 and the
Communist menace thereafter. It never forgot to mention that the
German Nazi regime had been responsible for the murder of six
million Jews. 40 However, because of the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel


137
7. Anti-German Protests at Home
policies of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites,
the Congress movement and its constituents successively became
much more critical of Communism at home and abroad.
In 195 3 the AJ Congress joined a NCRAC resolution that reaf
firmed the Jewish organization’s “unalterable opposition to Com
munism as a totalitarian conspiracy which denies the dignity of
the individual human soul, a concept basic to Judaism, and those
freedoms of religion, the press and assembly . . . which are indis
pensable attributes of democracy.” 41 In the following decades, the
struggle for freedom of emigration of Soviet Jews and their religious
and cultural rights at home resulted in a much more critical view
of Soviet Russia by the whole American Jewish community.



8
139
Waiting in Vain
for a German
Change of Heart
Whatever the differences of opinion among the American Jewish
organizations and schools of thought regarding the future of Ger
many and postwar German-Jewish relations, their frustration and
disappointment in the lack of individual and collective German
soul-searching concerning the crimes committed during the Nazi
regime against the Jews of Europe united them. These crimes had
been perpetrated by the SS, police reserve battalions of “ordinary
Germans,” and also many regular soldiers on the Eastern front,
without any protest on the part of the German people. The disap
pointment of American Jewry applied not only to the silence and
indifference of the masses but also to the evasion of the unpopular
issue by most German politicians and public opinion molders,
although there were a few exceptions. Usually they were more
occupied with the problems of German refugees from the lost
territories in the East and of the returning prisoners of war. An
tisemitism had, of course, ceased being part of official German
ideology after the nation’s unconditional surrender in May 1945.
Still, Jewish expectations that the full revelation of Nazi atrocities
after Germany’s surrender would cause a change of heart in the
German population toward the survivors did not materialize nor
did it bring about a rapid decline of antisemitism.


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
After the first shock of the defeat, the antagonistic behavior
of the DPs revived, explained, and even justified in German eyes
their own anti-Jewish sentiments. Because of a lack of outlets for
immediate emigration, the DPs were forced to stay on German
soil much longer than expected, most of them in the U.S. occupa
tion zone. Opponents of denazification and decartelization by the
American military government pointed to Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s
secretary of the Treasury, as the man responsible for that policy,
with all the implications of Jewish vengeance. The restitution of
individual and communal Jewish property that began in the late
1940s encountered bureaucratic obstacles and hostility from the
new German “owners,” who added another point of friction. The
churches, too, including the Protestants who, in 1945, had started
to discuss their role and responsibility for what happened during
the Third Reich, were late to confront the most ominous German
crime against the Jewish people.
Because of the Cold War climate, the impact of American
Jewish criticism of the various shortcomings in Germany and the
perseverance of antisemitism there were rather limited. Nonethe
less, the common interest of the United States and the emerging
semisovereign West German state in speeding up Bonn’s accep
tance by American and Western public opinion soon compelled
the Bonn government to pay more attention to the Jewish problem.
At home in Germany it contributed to what Frank Stern termed
the philosemitic “Whitewashing of the Yellow Badge.” 1 Abroad it
prepared the way to conciliate American and world Jewry together
with the State of Israel.
Reports of chaplains, representatives of Jewish organizations,
and journalists in the first months after the end of the war in Europe
dealt more with the situation of the surviving Jews than with the
German population among whom they were living. One of the
first to try to strike a balance in the postwar relationship between
Germans and Jews in occupied Germany was Moses Moskowitz,
a staff member of the AJC foreign affairs division, who served in
OMGUS and dealt with displaced persons. In a much quoted article
in Commentary that appeared one year after V-E Day, Moskowitz
stated that while the number of Germans who admitted having
approved of Jewish extermination was nil, the number who would
agree that the pogroms were Germany’s misfortune was not much
larger. 2 In the recital of Nazi crimes at public forums, the six million


141
8. Waiting in Vain for a German Change of Heart
Jewish dead did not loom large: except for Heidelberg philosopher
Karl Jaspers, married to a Jewish woman, no one had exhorted the
German people to repentance and expiation for the mass killings
of Jews all over the European continent. According to him, “the
failure of the German people to protest against the mass executions
of the Jews implicated them in the most hideous of the Nazi
crimes.” Still, when Jaspers’s book The Question of German Guilt
appeared in 1947 in English, his distinction between four kinds of
guilt—criminal, political, moral, and metaphysical, including his
justification of the criminal and political penalties imposed by the
Allies on the Germans—did not silence Jewish critics who were not
satisfied by his treatment of the Jewish problem. “Without gestures
of conciliation, without true signs of shame before the Jews ... we
can see in it only a display of empty pride and morbid vanity,” Ben
Halpern commented. 3
On the other hand, contrary to more skeptical Jewish observers,
Moskowitz concluded that Nazism as a political, social, and cultural
philosophy was no permanent part of the makeup of the German
masses and that it would never have come to power if Germany
had been more mature politically. The behavior of German women,
who consorted with both black and Jewish soldiers and officers, was
for him a demonstration that Hitler’s community of “blood and soil”
had dissolved. Moreover, interviews with hundreds of German men
and women from all classes of German society proved that while
most of them were not free from an anti-Jewish bias, the specific
influence of Julius Streicher’s propaganda on them had not been
much greater. The antagonism toward the Jewish DPs from Eastern
Europe was part of the general DP situation in Germany and
manifested itself in the resentment of the preferential treatment,
food and shelter, and other privileges denied to Germans but given
to the DPs. Moskowitz also thought that the great majority of
the Jewish survivors felt no particular vindictiveness toward the
German people. Although almost no acts of vengeance occurred
on the part of the Jews, Moskowitz’s argument in this case still
sounded somewhat apologetic, since he did not mention the strong
hatred of the Germans by East European DPs and survivors.
While some of Moskowitz’s conclusions may have been prede
termined by his AJC public philosophy, he correcdy stated that the
most common mechanism by which the German masses avoided
a sense of guilt was by convincing themselves that they, too, had


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
been victims of the Nazis. Of course, this was not the truth. To
confess a sense of culpability meant to them the acceptance of the
collective guilt principle, and this was emphatically rejected by all
the churches and the major political parties. At the same time, a
new form of antisemitism was rising in Germany: both native and
foreign Jewish survivors would haunt the Germans until the many
individuals who had personally been involved in the extermination
process were brought to justice. This subconscious feeling seems
to have lasted in German minds much longer than Moskowitz
anticipated. He did not underestimate the impact of twelve years of
racialist anti-Jewish indoctrination of Germany’s youth. Neverthe
less, Moskowitz thought that the total abandonment of Germany
by Jews, or its excommunication like that of Spain in the past, would
be a “terrible admission of hopelessness of the Jewish position in
the heart of Europe.” Its implications would be that all efforts to
regenerate Germany from within were condemned to total failure;
and neither the AJC nor its new intellectual monthly wanted to
subscribe to such a pessimistic view. 4
Thanks to close contacts with the advisers on Jewish affairs,
Jewish organizations were usually cognizant of the analyses of
antisemitic trends in the German population. These were prepared
by the Research Branch, Information Control Division (ICD) of
the American military government. Even though they contained no
catastrophic predictions (Rabbi Philip S. Bernstein’s warning that
one day after the withdrawal of American troops there would be
pogroms in Germany mainly seems to have been meant to impress
the visiting members of the UN Special Committee on Palestine),
they still caused much anxiety among American Jews. Discussions
and statements of communal agencies as well as articles in the
English-Jewish and Yiddish press reflected that concern.
One of the most incisive reports, drafted early in 1947, ac
knowledged that after being at a low ebb immediately after Nazi
Germany’s unconditional surrender, antisemitism rebounded and
continued to rise. A public opinion poll conducted by ICD in De
cember 1946 revealed that only 2 percent of the German population
in the U.S. zone were completely free from racial bias, 20 percent
had little bias, and 41 percent were antisemites and intense anti-
semites. German antisemitism manifested itself in isolated incidents
of violence against Jews and administrative sabotage in not allotting
to persecuted Jews the privileges to which they were entitled. It also


143
8. Waiting in Vain for a German Change of Heart
included desecration of Jewish cemeteries, threats, and anonymous
letters vilifying Jews sent to newspapers and individuals.
As reasons for reviving antisemitism, the ICD research branch
analyst quoted the following: a great decline in German morale, ac
companied by an increase in nationalism and antiforeign sentiment;
a resentment—mainly unjustified—over the privileges granted to
Jews in matters of food rations and dwelling; black market accu
sations against Polish Jewish DPs though not against the Ger
man Jewish survivors; a rationalization by the individual, when
confronted with antisemitism, that the Jews deserved the hostility
to which they were subjected; and another rationalization that
Jews were treated as sternly as they were by the Nazis because
they must have been very hostile and pernicious to Germany (the
Morgenthau syndrome). Last but not least was the exaggerated
influence attributed to the Jews as a pseudomystical evil force in the
mental framework of Nazi indoctrination, an opinion that had not
basically changed since the collapse of Hitler’s Reich. Since Jews
were an unpopular subject, leaders in politics, the churches, and
education were reluctant to combat antisemitism lest they alienate
their followers. Isolated instances of condemnation of antisemitism
remained without effect. 5 A similar investigation conducted in the
U.S. zone one year later showed a slight decline of overt antisemites
but an increase of racist attitudes. 6
A few months after the establishment of the Federal Republic,
HICOG argued that “as a social problem anti-Semitism is of minor
significance,” although it persisted as an attitude in German life,
particularly in the middle and upper classes. According to a public
opinion survey carried out in May 1949, about 20 percent were
definitely antisemitic, 30 percent were indifferent, and just about
one half of the German population could be termed as “non-
antisemitic.” Another survey taken in December 1949 concluded
that despite antisemitic incidents and criticism of the Allied powers
in the election campaign there was “no good basis for inferring
any recent resurgence of nationalism among the German rank and
file.” 7 However, a well-informed American Jew such as Professor
William Haber was still pessimistic. Haber had served for a year as
General Clay’s Jewish affairs adviser and drew his conclusions both
from OMGUS reports and from his personal experiences. After
sounding out Germans of different economic and social strata, trade
unionists and professionals, Haber was convinced that it would take


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
generations of reeducation to make headway with the anti-Jewish
psychosis embedded in the German mind. A few years after the
defeat of Germany, antisemitism had even spread to the working
class, which had been relatively less supportive of the Nazis. Haber
recommended to the AJC not to invest money and effort in fighting
antisemitism in Germany as long as it was not a part of a larger
program of democratic education and training. 8 In the long run,
the relative containment of antisemitism in the following decade
proved Haber’s forecast too pessimistic, as were other Jewish fore
casts on the eve of the establishment of the West German republic.
Haber obtained his knowledge of the German situation from
his service as Jewish affairs adviser. Rabbi Joachim Prinz, a recent
immigrant soon to become a leading spokesman for the WJC and
the American Jewish Congress, had another kind of experience:
until 1937 he had been one of the most notable liberal (Reform)
rabbis in Berlin and had gained prominence there in the first years of
the Nazi regime. Reporting on his impressions from an information
trip in summer 1949, he confirmed that there were no violent
outbreaks, no discrimination either in jobs or in schools. Yet there
was “subtle anti-Semitism even in the thinking of those people
who cannot be suspected of being anti-Semites.” After a great
many talks with public-opinion molders, politicians, clergymen,
and intellectuals, Prinz concluded that “the poison of 12 years of
propaganda [had] taken effect in the most well meaning of people.”
Nonetheless, Prinz shared Goldmann’s view that a Jewish com
munity in Germany would continue to exist; he correctly assumed
that the majority of those Jews would be former DPs. 9 Reports
from observers of the main Jewish organizations such as the WJC
representative in Frankfurt and the head of the AJC’s European
office in Paris amplified the knowledge of organized Jewry with
regard to German attitudes toward Jews, shortcomings of denaz
ification, presence of former Nazis in the officialdom, antisemitic
and nationalist trends, and other phenomena of the West German
state and society. Of especially great importance was the insight
provided by the AJC’s intelligent and well-versed correspondents,
whose reports served as the basis for critical in-depth discussions
of the German situation. 10
Jewish anxiety about the former enemy nation, which since
the late forties was regarded as a potential Western ally, was re
inforced by skeptical reports of well-known correspondents such


145
8. Waiting in Vain for a German Change of Heart
as Drew Middleton and Delbert Clark of the New York Times.
Clark, who summarized his conclusions in Again the Goose Step,
was an outspoken critic of the administration’s Cold War anti-
Soviet course and its efforts to pacify the West Germans. Drew
Middleton, for his part, warned that if the American army ever
withdrew from Germany, a year or two thereafter the United States
would encounter a recurrence of nationalism in its worst form.
Later, in winter 1952-53, Drew Middleton, who was never liked
by the Bonn establishment, informed the American public about
the Naumann affair. For some time a group of former influential
Nazis led by Goebbels’s state secretary Werner Naumann tried to
infiltrate the Free Democratic Party until their arrest by the British
military government. 11
Antisemitic and nationalistic outbursts as well as public ap
proval of the return of former Nazis or collaborators to influential
positions were reported in the general, the English-Jewish, and
the Yiddish press. A few months after the opening of the first
Bundestag, Wolfgang Hedler, a member of the right-wing German
Party and a junior partner of Chancellor Adenauer’s conservative
coalition, stated publicly that “Hitler’s anti-Jewish laws were all
right, maybe gassing was not the right method of enforcing them.”
Hedler, who had also criticized statements by Schumacher and
Paul Lobe, the last Social Democratic president of the Weimar
Republic’s Reichstag, was dragged out from the chamber by SPD
members of parliament. But although Hedler was expelled from
the German party’s parliamentary group and condemned to nine
months’ imprisonment, he remained a member of the Bundestag
until the end of his term in 1953.
In Hamburg, Veit Harlan, producer of the notorious anti
semitic movie Jud Suss, was greeted by public ovations when he
was declared innocent of charges of antisemitism. Werner Krauss,
star performer in Harlan’s antisemitic movie, appeared in Berlin
and other cities with the Viennese Burgtheater. He was heartily
welcomed by many theatergoers and the city’s political and cultural
establishment even though the police clashed with demonstrating
anti-Nazi leftist students, the first sign of the revulsion of the
German young generation from their parents’ past. In a way, the
confrontation with Veit Harlan in Hamburg, where Erich Liith,
chief press officer of the city-state, called for a boycott of the
producer’s first postwar movie despite his acquittal, contributed


146
GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
to Liith’s and editor Rudolf Kiistermeier’s public appeal for “Peace
with Israel.” That appeal in August 1951 was supported by a num
ber of noted German politicians and public figures. The students’
protests against Werner Krauss and their subsequent demonstra
tions in Freiburg and Gottingen against another movie by Harlan
heralded the first positive changes in Germany’s political culture at
a time of conservative dominance of its politics, but not many of
the American Jewish community were aware of them. 12
The first general elections in the Federal Republic caused much
anxiety among American Jews watching the German scene. A clash
between Jewish DP demonstrators and Munich police took place
in August 1949, following the publication of an antisemitic let
ter under the fictitious signature “Adolf Bleibtreu, Munchen 22,
Palestrinastr. 3 3 ” in the Letters to the Editor column of the liberal
Siiddeutsche Zeitung. These letters followed a comment by one of
the daily’s senior editors on a reference by the incoming Ameri
can high commissioner John J. McCloy, who defined the postwar
German attitude toward the Jews as the most significant test for
the new Germany. A crowd of several hundred Jews, who did not
exactly distinguish between that letter and the paper’s editorial
opinion, staged a protest demonstration in the Mohlstrasse, site
of various offices of Jewish organizations. Formerly, it had served
as a center of black-marketeers and, after the German currency
reform, a discount shopping area. At least six Jews were wounded
by shots fired by the German police and more Jews were beaten up.
According to German police, twenty-six of them were wounded by
the demonstrators, who threw stones and wielded sticks against
them. Quiet was restored thanks only to the appearance of two
companies of American military police and the intervention of a
Jewish army chaplain and a JDC executive.
As a matter of fact, the clash with the German police following
the letter to the editor had been preceded by a raid of the German
police in the Mohlstrasse area authorized by the American military
governor. According to Rabbi Prinz, who was visiting Germany at
the time, in that special case the German population sided with
the Jews because they could buy their merchandise cheaper at the
discount shops there. 13
Norbert Muhlen, a Catholic German refugee of partly Jewish
descent, who after the war became a steadfast propagandist for
West Germany, tried to convince Commentary readers that German


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8. Waiting in Vain for a German Change of Heart
postwar antisemitism aimed mainly at foreign Jews, while native
German Jews had more or less ceased to be considered Jews by
the Germans and had never been attacked on racial or religious
grounds. 14 A clear proof that Muhlen was wrong in his distinc
tion between German hatred of foreign Jews and acceptance of
their own German Jews was the case of the Jewish gynecologist,
Dr. Herbert Lewin. After his liberation from a concentration camp
in April 1945, he returned to his practice in Cologne, where the
remnants of the local Jewish community were offered assistance
by Konrad Adenauer, who for several months served in his for
mer job as mayor of Cologne. In summer 1949 Lewin submitted
his candidacy for the position of head physician at Offenbach’s
Municipal Hospital. Although he received more votes in a secret
ballot than his gentile competitors, leading Christian Democratic
and Social Democratic members of the city council torpedoed his
nomination. The councilmen, including a veteran Social Democrat
who had suffered under the Nazi regime, objected to entrusting
German women to a Jewish physician who had come back from a
concentration camp and whose family had been murdered.
Thanks to the intervention of the American authorities, Lewin
was eventually appointed. Both the mayor and the deputy mayor
tendered their resignations; most German newspapers and political
parties, except the extreme rightists, condemned the handling of
the affair by the Offenbach city fathers. 15 But to American Jews,
and not only to them, this was another reminder of the prevailing
antisemitism on a respectable municipal level.
A cause celebre in 1951-52 was the arrest, trial, and subsequent
suicide of Philipp Auerbach, one of the best-known spokesmen
for the Jews in early postwar Germany. After moving from the
British to the American zone, Auerbach, a member of the Social
Democratic party, became Bavarian state commissioner for the
victims of the Hitler regime and was later appointed president of
the Bavarian office of indemnification. In addition to these gov
ernmental offices, he acquired great influence among the German
Jewish survivors and the DPs, served as president of the Association
of Jewish Communities in Bavaria, and in 1950 became a member
of the newly established Central Council of the Jews in Germany.
Complaints that reached the American commissioner in Munich,
George Shuster, enabled Auerbach’s longtime foe Josef Muller, the
Christian Social Bavarian minister of justice, to put him on trial


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
on charges of embezzlement, blackmail, larceny, and fraud, most of
which proved incorrect. 16
Auerbach’s handling of the indemnification office’s affairs was
far from perfect, and he himself confessed to having used the
title of doctor of philosophy illegitimately and having obtained his
doctorate from Erlangen University on false evidence. However,
his own trial revealed strong antisemitic overtones, as did that of
Bavarian chief rabbi Aaron Ohrenstein, to which at least a part
of the Bavarian CSU establishment contributed. Returning to the
hospital after having been sentenced to two years in prison, the
forty-three-year-old Auerbach committed suicide. A Committee
for Fair Play for Auerbach, set up in New York by Bruno Weil, the
president of the Axis Victims League, tried to assist the accused
politically, morally, and financially, and to alert American Jews to
the antisemitic implications of the case. But the Weil committee
did not make a great impact, particularly since Auerbach had never
been on good terms with some of the major Jewish organizations.
Besides personal animosities, he had quarreled with JRSO because
of his attempts to use restituted property for the German Jewish
communities instead of transferring their value abroad. 17
Another cause for American Jewish disappointment with the
German public, administrators, and politicians in the early postwar
period was their ambivalent attitude toward the restitution of Jewish
property, not to mention the opposition of those who had profited
from the “Aryanization” of German Jewish property in the 1930s.
For General Clay, who enacted Military Law 59 in November
1947, restitution was one of the conditions for a cleanup of the
Nazi past and the reconstruction of the German economy, along
with denazification, land reform, and dismantlement (which was
soon drastically reduced). As it became clear that the new federal
government in Bonn would not be able to renege on the principle
of restitution and indemnification enforced under direct control
of the occupying powers, resistance to restitution among the Ger
man population intensified. 18 Warnings were voiced that restitution
would cause renewed antisemitism. JRSO was denounced as an
agency trying to implement the Morgenthau plan, and the restitu
tion of smaller property encountered many obstacles. Conflicting
interests between JRSO representing world Jewry and the German
Jewish communities also exacerbated. In meetings with the State
Department and the high commissioner, American Jewish leaders


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8. Waiting in Vain for a German Change of Heart
repeatedly asked for guarantees regarding the implementation of
restitution after the abolition of the occupation status. After pro
tracted negotiations, the three Western powers eventually secured
the continuing implementation of restitution and indemnification
in the framework of the contractual agreements that they signed
with the Federal Republic in May 1952 in Bonn. 19
In an early confidential report by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency
(fTA), the American Jewish leadership was alerted to antisemitic
prejudices even among anti-Nazi victims of the persecution. Be
cause of their past, these anti-Nazis felt safe and well enough
entrenched to act in accordance with their genuine feelings. 20 While
that report sounded exaggerated, there is no doubt that antisemitic
reactions, especially concerning the Eastern European DPs, could
be observed among them. The foreign Jews from the camps, whom
they met in the cities, were accused of being black-marketeers and
unwilling to work. The Germans also envied Jews because of the
extra food rations and preferential treatment in housing for those
living outside the camps. Nonetheless, such generalizations were
not characteristic of most of the leading anti-Nazi politicians on
the left. The Social Democratic party led by Kurt Schumacher
was the only one to assail antisemitism publicly in statements and
conferences and to emphasize the German duty to indemnification
of the victims on a national level. 21 Antisemitism was much more
conspicuous on the right, among the small right-wing parties,
and also among parts of the CDU, the backbone of Adenauer’s
conservative government.
Because of the large number of DPs and Bavaria’s own right-
wing conservative tradition, antisemitic prejudices were even
stronger in the CSU. To repeat an often-quoted story: for one
of the leading members of the Munich government who attended
the second congress of the liberated Jews in the American zone
in Bad Reichenhall, the only pleasing event was the unanimous
resolution adopted there: “Let’s get out of Germany!” However,
that Bavarian politician did not forget to stress the importance of
American Jews in renewing Germany’s economic relations with the
United States. 22
The Protestant and Catholic churches were the only large social
organizations that, thanks to their special status, had survived the
collapse of the Nazi Reich. They were regarded by U. S. policy plan
ners as well as by American public opinion as most vital factors in


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GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
reconstructing German society. In fact, many leading churchmen of
both denominations played an ambivalent role in their opposition
to denazification and dismantlement, in appeals for clemency for
the worst of the Nazi criminals and even in acts of direct or indirect
assistance to some of them, most of which did not become known
at that time.
As for the Protestants, the October 1945 Stuttgart “Confession
of Guilt” recalled the suffering caused by German Christians to
other nations but did not mention the murder of the Jews. Its main
aim was the rehabilitation of the German church in the eyes of its
sister churches in the West and preparing the way for its admission
to the World Council of Churches in 1946. However, influential
conservative church leaders and most local congregations objected
to the Stuttgart manifesto because of its political dimension. The
first meaningful and authoritative condemnation of Jewish perse
cution in the past, as well as of ongoing antisemitic activities, was
passed five years later by the German Evangelic Church synod at
Weissensee in April 1950. 23
In contrast to Protestant pastors (including those of the Con
fessional Church), many of whom were active members of the Nazi
party and its subsidiaries, Catholic priests had been prohibited by
the Vatican from joining the party. But although many priests had
loyally supported Hitler’s regime before and during the war, the
Catholic bishops at their first postwar gathering at Fulda disposed
of the question of guilt, deploring that many Germans—including
Catholics—had been deceived by false thoughts of the Nazis and
lent support to their crimes. In 1948 the Catholic lay gathering
(Katholikentag) in Mainz condemned the crimes committed against
Jewish individuals with no opposition from the Germans. Nonethe
less, it took much longer for the Catholic church to come to grips
with the Holocaust and with the role that anti-Judaic teaching had
played in deepening the hatred of Jews in the hearts of millions of
believers. 24
The National Council of Christians and Jews and its president,
Reverend Everett Clinchy, with whom the AJC had cooperated
in the struggle against antisemitism at home in the 1930s, joined
the efforts for advancing democracy in postwar Germany and en
joyed the support of OMGUS and, until 1952, of HICOG. The
cooperation with NCCJ was agreed upon by General Clay and
Clinchy during the latter’s visit to Germany in summer 1947. With


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8. Waiting in Vain for a German Change of Heart
financial and logistic help, the Council’s emissary, Methodist pastor
Carl F. Zietlow of Minnesota, became involved in setting up the
first societies for Christian-Jewish cooperation in 1948-49, with
the participation of local lay leaders and representatives of all three
faiths—Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. In 1950 a coordinating
council of all the societies was created, and according to the Amer
ican model, yearly “Brotherhood Weeks” were launched. While the
societies differed in the emphasis of their activities because of the
quality and personal views of their members, the future-oriented
liberal democratic orientation endorsed by the Americans in the
Cold War climate often overshadowed the necessary confrontation
with the Nazi past. The societies, including their Jewish members,
were mainly instrumental in presenting a more favorable image of
the anti-Communist part of Germany. In a modest way they served
later as a positive element in West Germany’s changing political
culture. In the beginning, however, their impact on the fight against
antisemitism and anti-Judaic prejudices was rather marginal, not
the least so because of the difficulty in applying an American pattern
to such a different society as postwar Germany. 25 For American
Jews, their small impact was another disappointment.
The end of American direct rule in summer 1949 saw the
quickening exodus of Jewish DPs, whose well-being and safety
had been a major American Jewish concern since 1945. From
the Jewish point of view, despite the satisfaction with the Army’s
handling of the survivors and refugees, the balance of the military
government that lasted more than four years had been mixed:
denazification had partly failed; dismantlement had almost been
stopped; reeducation encountered difficulties; antisemitism, while
not comparable to that of the Third Reich and not presenting an
acute danger to Jews on German soil, had survived. On the other
hand, important first steps had been taken in the field of indemni
fication and restitution of Jewish property. However, despite a few
individual expressions of good will and remorse, the main problem
of German postwar attitudes toward the Jewish people had been
left untouched.
Thus, even though American Jews had not made up their minds
with regard to the remaining Jewish communities in Germany, they
continued to favor the exodus of the DPs. They were also gratified
by John J. McCloy’s reference, at a gathering of representatives
of Jewish communities in Heidelberg in July 1949, to the moral


152
GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
issue involved. General Clay’s successor, soon to become the United
States’ first high commissioner to Germany, expressly emphasized
the “world significance of the relationship of the new Germany to
the Jews and of the Jews to the new German community.” As had his
predecessor, McCloy refused to accept the principle that a country
like Germany should remain without a substantial Jewish popula
tion. In his words, “to admit that Jews cannot live in Germany, as
they do in other countries [was] ... an incongruity itself.”
While not minimizing the existing antisemitic manifestations,
McCloy expressed the hope that the rather infinitesimal community
remaining in Germany would prosper again and that Jews would be
restored to positions they occupied in the past. The development of
that community would “be one of the real touchstones of Germany’s
progress toward the light.” On this occasion McCloy recalled what
he had told a leading German who wanted to forget the past: “The
moment that Germany has forgotten the Buchenwalds and the
Auschwitzes that [is] the point at which everyone could begin to
despair of any progress in Germany.” 26
Characteristic of the patriotic German mentality of the Mu
nich Society of Christians and Jews was the strong protest it voiced
against McCloy’s reference to persistent antisemitism in Ger
many. 27 The Society’s statement was challenged by Professor Franz
Bohm of Frankfurt University, the Catholic chairman of the Frank
furt Society, who a few years later was to lead the West German
delegation to the reparation talks in Wassenaar. Bohm saw the main
task of the societies in fighting the prevailing antisemitism and not
in suppressing responsibility for what happened in the past. 28
No matter how much McCloy was influenced by his adviser
Greenstein, who kept in close touch with the leadership of the major
American Jewish organizations, he willingly made his statement on
the importance of the mutual German-Jewish relationship. McCloy
wanted to forge a close relationship between the United States and
the new West German state. The parting Jewish Affairs adviser
exhorted the high commissioner that “one thing that has disap
pointed and disturbed freedom loving people throughout the world
has been the failure on the part of any responsible postwar Ger
man leader to denounce all that Hitler represented, including the
systematic vilification and extermination of the Jewish people . . .
unless the leaders of the present government commit themselves
in such forthright fashion, the more difficult, if not impossible, will


153
8. Waiting in Vain for a German Change of Heart
it be to develop the proper attitudes so necessary in a regeneration
of the German people.” 29
A few days later McCloy discussed the Jewish problem with the
newly elected Chancellor Adenauer; he also agreed to approach the
other Western high commissioners in order to persuade Adenauer
and President Theodor Heuss to speak up on the Jewish issue. 30
After all, such expressions of goodwill would serve the cause of
American policy: to make public opinion more responsive to the
acceptance of West Germany as a political ally of the West in the
Cold War confrontation. These contacts resulted in the statements
of Adenauer and Heuss on the eve of Rosh Hashanah extending
greetings to the Jews of the Federal Republic and inviting them “to
take part in the intellectual, social and political reconstruction of
Germany.” 31 McCloy congratulated Adenauer on that message. 32
However, Adenauer’s first address to the Bundestag a few days
earlier, which was more important than the Rosh Hashanah greet
ings, did not satisfyjewish expectations. The chancellor mentioned
the necessity of punishing the “real guilty” for the crimes com
mitted during the Nazi regime and the war but criticized denaz
ification, which had caused much suffering. Balancing right-wing
and left-wing extremism, Adenauer pledged to deal with both of
them. At the same time, he strongly condemned persisting anti
semitic manifestations and thought it incredible that, after all that
had happened, Germans were still persecuting and despising Jews
because they were Jews. 33 In his response to Adenauer’s outline of
his government policies, SPD leader Kurt Schumacher was more
explicit. He mentioned the fate of German and European Jews and
reminded the German people that the six million murdered Jews
would plague them for a long time. 34 But of course Schumacher
spoke in the name of the opposition.
In subsequent talks with McCloy, Adenauer confessed that
among the German people the National Socialist tradition was still
most effective with regard to the “Jewish question.” He promised
to do all he could and mentioned the possibility of setting up, in the
ministry of the interior, a special department for Jewish problems
headed by a German Jew. This suggestion was discussed during
the next year but rejected by the Jewish community and never
implemented. In a new democratic Germany, the Jews did not want
to be safeguarded by a special status. With an eye toward Israel
and world Jewry, another proposal was made by the chancellor


154
GETTING INVOLVED OR STAYING ALOOF
in an interview with Karl Marx, the publisher of the Allgemeine
Wochenzeitung derjuden in Deutschland. Responding to prearranged
questions Adenauer recognized the German duty to economic and
moral indemnification and expressed his willingness to supply Is
rael with goods to the value of DM 10 million as a first step of
recompense. However, both Israel and Jewish organizations in
the Diaspora did not regard that proposal as a basis for opening
meaningful contacts. 35
More outspoken on the German Jewish post-Holocaust rela
tionship was President Heuss. In his address to the Wiesbaden
Society of Christians and Jews, in the presence of McCloy, he spoke
of the collective shame that Germans would have to bear as a result
of Hitler’s persecution of the Jews, which should not be forgotten. 36
Heuss distinguished between collective shame and collective guilt,
of which he disapproved. But it would take almost another two
years until Adenauer’s authoritative statement before the Bundestag
on September 27, 1951, and the opening of the reparation talks
between Bonn, Israel, and the Claims Conference.
At a meeting of the Society of Christians and Jews in Berlin,
during a conference of the Congress of Cultural Freedom in May
1950, Elliot Cohen appealed for German soul-searching as a con
dition for bridging the gap between the two peoples. 37 Cohen was
the founding editor of Commentary and the first American Jewish
intellectual to address a German forum after the war on the relations
of Germans and Jews. He told his listeners that only a few Jews
among the five million in America had not lost some friend or
relative or a whole family in Hitler’s war against the Jews. He
complained about the continuing silence on the Jewish tragedy,
particularly on the part of German religious and political leaders,
scholars, historians, poets, and novelists. Cohen’s monthly, which
was sponsored by the AJC, had published a number of incisive
reports and analyses of the German situation. In a way anticipating
Ralph Giordano’s definition of “Die Zweite Schuld,” 38 he voiced
the warning that “if they [the German people] do not speak out
soon, if they do not take measures to show to the world that they
are aware of what was done, and that they mean to take steps,
steps of correction and self-understanding . . . then indeed all Ger
mans, whether guilty or innocent of past crime, will be implicated.
By default, Germany can achieve a collective guilt in the present
and future.”


155
8. Waiting in Vain for a German Change of Heart
In conformity with AJC’s basic trend, Cohen favored building
“a bridge across the abyss” and starting a German-Jewish dialogue
as soon as possible, as a contribution to the new Germany’s political
culture. He added that taking into account all that had happened,
only the Germans—and not the Jews—could take the initiative.
Behind the scenes Cohen was approached by West German gov
ernment representatives who suggested convening a joint German-
Jewish conference that would discuss not only the implications
of antisemitism for Germany but also concrete questions such as
restitution. 39 Nonetheless, neither he nor the AJC regarded such a
meeting as desirable at that time. They preferred that the Germans
themselves should summon a conference to deal with the Jewish
question and the problem of racism as a challenge for German
democracy, without linking it at that point with restitution of prop
erty or compensation for Nazi crimes. Yet such a conference did
not take place. As for the opening of an intellectual German-Jewish
dialogue, it was still many years off. The road to overcoming mutual
hostile perceptions was a very long one.



PART 111
Reparations:
Their Impact
and
Limits



9
159
The Twisted Road
Toward Shilumim
Because of the exacerbation of the Cold War and the hot war
in Korea, the role of the Federal Republic of Germany changed
more rapidly than expected. In 1950, a year after the military
governments of the three Western occupation zones had been
replaced, the three high commissioners opened negotiations with
Chancellor Konrad Adenauer on reducing the limitations of the
occupation status. In 1951 the semisovereign Bonn government’s
powers were augmented; in 1952 the contractual agreements with
the three Western allies prepared the way for West Germany’s fac
tual sovereignty and membership in NATO. The implementation
of these agreements was delayed because of French rejection of
the European Defense Community (EDC) treaty, but the Bonn
republic was well on its way to becoming an important ingredient
of the Western camp even before it joined NATO as a full-fledged
participant in 1955. Thereafter, it emerged as a founding member
of the European Economic Community. Thus, postwar American
foreign policy and military strategy achieved one of its major aims:
West Germany became integrated politically and economically in
the Western alliance and was able to contribute substantially to the
defense of the West against the Communist East. Adenauer, for his
part, preferred the Federal Republic’s belonging to the West to un
certain alternatives of a neutral and demilitarized united Germany


160
REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
and consistently stuck to that course, even though he may have
hoped that in the long run his policy would lead to reunification.
Whereas most American Jews were at least emotionally reluc
tant to accept the reemergence of West Germany as an important
factor and U.S. ally a few years after the Holocaust, they had no
chance to obstruct this process to which the administration attached
high priority. Eventually, even organizations that had been more
critical of that reversal acquiesced to it. Together with the State of
Israel, which began to play a leading role in world Jewish affairs,
they intensified their efforts to achieve at least pragmatic goals of
immediate Jewish concern, which did not clash with U.S. national
interest. Moreover, besides continuing intercessions concerning
Jewish demands in Washington, organized American Jewry, as well
as the Israeli government, reached the conclusion that they had to
approach the Bonn government directly. This was necessary for a
satisfactory setdement of collective reparations for the Jewish peo
ple, as well as improved indemnification for victims of Nazi perse
cution. It meant a substantial change of attitude, even though there
had been a number of unofficial contacts with German government
officials and direct communications with the Lander authorities on
restitution by JRSO.
The negotiations conducted by Israel together with the Claims
Conference and the signing of the Luxembourg Treaty ushered
in a new chapter in Jewish-German relations much earlier than
expected. The leadership of the Claims Conference was mainly
American. Adenauer rightly assumed that his qualified acceptance
of German responsibility for crimes against the Jews and West
Germany’s material amends to Israel and the Jewish people would
contribute to an improvement of his nation’s moral standing in
Western, especially American, public opinion and partly mitigate
Jewish hostility, at least on the institutional level.
A few distinguished personalities were to put their imprint on
this crucial early chapter of the American Jewish-Israeli-German
triangular relationship. The most influential Jewish leader in his
contacts with the American administration at that time was Jacob
Blaustein, AJC president from 1949 until 1955. While Blaustein did
not have his predecessor Joseph Proskauer’s intellectual capacities,
he now would play a focal role with regard to Jewish demands
from Germany. A few years earlier Proskauer, a lifelong opponent
of Zionism, had contributed to the rapprochement between the


161
9. The Twisted Road Toward Shilumim
non-Zionist AJC and the Zionists in the common American Jewish
effort in favor of a Jewish state.
In 1945 Blaustein attended the preparations for the founding
of the United Nations as a consultant of the U.S. delegation. After
the end of the war, he took part in the work of the Five Cooperating
Organizations dealing with refugees and restitution of Jewish prop
erty. He was nominated vice-president of the Jewish Restitution
Successor Organization created in 1948 and retained that title until
his death in 1970; in October 1951 he also became senior vice-
president of the Claims Conference. The public-minded Baltimore
multimillionaire, owner of the American Oil Company (Amoco; in
1954 it was to merge with Standard Oil of Indiana and become
one of the largest oil companies in the United States) and a major
contributor to the Democratic Party’s election coffers, had access to
the Truman White House. Blaustein also enjoyed good connections
with John McCloy, who, as a Wall Street corporation lawyer, had
represented Blaustein’s oil company for a number of years. 1
McCloy, a Republican, served during World War II as Henry
Stimson’s assistant secretary of war. In that position, he rejected in
1944 Jewish pleas for bombing the Auschwitz extermination camp
or the railroad tracks leading there, telling his interlocutors that
such action was “impracticable” and might “provoke even more
vindictive acts by the Germans.” Nonetheless, German industrial
facilities in the Auschwitz area were bombed by American aircraft in
summer and fall of the same year, once even less than five miles from
the gas chambers. Later, in the 1960s, McCloy became a supporter
of the Arab cause, warning that American support for Israel should
be tempered by recognition of the economic importance of the
oil-producing countries. In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War,
he appealed to the Nixon administration not to increase military
assistance to Israel and not to antagonize the moderate Arab states
because of the vital access to the oil wells—an attitude then regarded
as hostile by American Jews.
However, as President Truman’s appointee to the powerful
office of high commissioner for Germany, with wide prerogatives
that enabled him to act rather independently, McCloy was very
helpful to most Jewish requests. He was convinced that their ful
fillment might soften American Jewish hostility to Germany and
ease the way for West Germany’s acceptance by the American
public as a trustworthy ally. In a way, the development of a reliable


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
pro-American democratic West German state was also a personal
challenge for McCloy, who had been raised in a German Amer
ican household and had married a prosperous German American
woman, a descendant of 1848 immigrants. 2
Nahum Goldmann, although he never regarded himself as an
American Jew, lived in the United States from 1940 until the early
1960s and fulfilled a number of central functions in the community.
In 1949, after Stephen Wise’s death, he became acting president of
the WJC. In addition, he chaired the New York-based American
Section of the Jewish Agency executive. Later, he was elected
president of both the WJC and the World Zionist Organization. In
1954, he laid the groundwork for the Conference of Presidents of
the Major Jewish Organizations in the United States and served as
its first chairman. Before the opening of the Israel-Jewish-German
negotiations on shilumim and during their temporary breakdown in
the spring of 195 2, he also acted on behalf of the Israeli government,
past and future differences of opinion notwithstanding. Shilumim
was an euphemistic term that was introduced instead of reparations
in order not to antagonize the Germans and not to cause difficulties
with the Western powers.
Goldmann’s main contribution was both in coordinating the
domestic Jewish scene and in relation to the Germans. On the
one hand, he succeeded in swaying the basically anti-German pro-
Zionist majority of organized American Jewry and most Diaspora
communities, convincing them of the necessity of direct negotia
tions with the Germans, because of Israel’s urgent needs and their
own interests. On the other hand, he accomplished the significant
task of establishing a relationship of mutual trust with the West
German chancellor. This was of great importance not only in
paving the way for the Luxembourg Treaty but also for his further
successful intercessions as chairman of the Claims Conference. He
continued to head the Conference for many years; and whatever
Adenauer’s motives, his voice and actions were the decisive ones
in Bonn. 3
As for Israel, despite strong public anti-German statements at
the UN and other bodies, the ministry of foreign affairs under
Moshe Sharett and his director general Walter Eytan were the first
to insist that the government revise its policy of ignoring the West
German state. Sharett continued to play a leading role in promoting
that revision after the signing of the Luxembourg agreement, until


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9. The Twisted Road Toward Shilumim
Israel’s readiness to establish some kind of diplomatic relationship
was rebuffed by West Germany’s Foreign Office. The rationale for
that rebuttal was the “Hallstein doctrine” and German interests in
the Arab world. The doctrine, conceived by Prof. Wilhelm Grewe,
a high foreign service official soon to become West Germany’s
ambassador to Washington, insisted on the Federal Republic’s sta
tus as the only legitimate representative of the German people. It
threatened to break off diplomatic relations with all nations that
recognized the German Democratic Republic and tried to prevent
a situation where such a development might take place. For David
Horowitz, the powerful director general of the ministry of finance,
negotiations with the Germans on reparations were the only way
to extricate the new nation from its economic and financial straits. 4
Eventually, the historic decision to open direct talks with West
Germany was made by Prime Minister and Labor party leader
David Ben Gurion, although he personally became involved more
deeply in German-Israeli relations only several years later. 5
At first, the approaching end of American and Allied occupation
prompted the major American and international Jewish agencies
into coordinated action on safeguarding the restitution of Jewish
property, which had been imposed in 1947 by the military gov
ernment in the U.S. zone and afterwards by the British and the
French in their occupation zones. These intercessions started in
advance of Israel’s official appeal to the United States and the
other three occupying powers with regard to the retention of Allied
control over restitution, improvement of existing indemnification
laws, and speeding up of both restitution and compensation claims.
To surmount factual, legal, and bureaucratic obstacles in handing
over identifiable heirless property to JRSO, Goldmann, JDC chair
man Edward Warburg, and other Jewish leaders in 1950 suggested
global setdements with the German Lander responsible for the im
plementation of restitution. 6 McCloy responded positively because
satisfactory solutions would contribute to the stabilization of the
German economy and also help in improving Germany’s image in
the United States, particularly since a large part of JRSO claims
had been submitted by American citizens. Still, it took a number of
years to settle the claims. 7
A matter of great concern to the Jewish organizations was the
composition of the Court of Restitution Appeals on which Jewish
claimants often relied. Neither Washington nor London nor Paris


REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
164
accepted Jewish demands to preserve an Allied majority on the
mixed board. Eventually, as a compromise with the West German
government, a neutral chairman was agreed upon. Nonetheless, the
inclusion in the agreement between the three Western allies and
the Federal Republic of a German commitment to fulfill all its obli
gations pertaining to restitution of property and indemnification of
the Nazi victims was a significant one. Constant prodding by the
American Jewish community had contributed to this end. 8
A number of McCloy’s assistants in HICOG were of Jewish
origin. Some of them—for instance, Samuel Reber and Arthur
Settel—were regarded by the Jewish organizations as very helpful
and cooperative. Shepard Stone, McCloy’s public relations and in
formation director, who had fallen in love with Germany during the
last years of the Weimar Republic and married into the renowned
Hasenclever family, was more interested in German democracy
than in Jewish affairs. 9 Assistant High Commissioner Benjamin
Buttenwieser, an AJC executive member, preferred to act behind the
scenes and not to expose himself; for instance, he became involved
in preparations for Adenauer’s Bundestag statement in September
1951. In 1950, he angered the ADL leadership that disinvited him
from addressing its annual meeting because he played down the
threat of Nazi revival. But, on returning home eighteen months
later, he complained about the increase of neo-Nazi manifesta
tions. This warning enraged the West German minister of justice
Thomas Dehler, a member of the right-of-center Free Democratic
Party (FDP, Fiberals), who accused him of “Morgenthauism.” 10
The nationalistic views of Dehler, a lawyer who survived the Nazi
period together with his Jewish wife, were characteristic of at least
a part of Adenauer’s conservative coalition. However, the crucial
decisions relating to Jewish affairs were made by McCloy himself.
Sometimes he overrode objections from the State Department and
his own staff, for instance, enabling JRSO to transfer monies to
the Jewish Agency and the JDC in Israel, despite the still existing
freeze on the export of foreign currency. Blaustein was involved in
convincing him of the urgency of such matters. 11
The restitution of communal property in the early 1950s caused
conflicts not only with the Germans but also with Jewish groups,
particularly with those representing German Jewry. The lingering
crisis between the successor organizations and the Council of Jews
from Germany was shelved only by a last minute compromise in


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9. The Twisted Road Toward Shilumim
1954. But to achieve American and world Jewish consensus on
collective reparations from Germany and to obtain a satisfactory
settlement for the claims of the State of Israel and the Jewish
people was much more difficult than the coordination on resti
tution through JRSO and the two other successor organizations
for the British and French zones. Despite early WJC and Jewish
Agency demands of collective reparations, the issue had been stalled
because of the lack of a legitimate German government. After its
establishment, that government at first hesitated to deal with such
claims. There also was strong Jewish opposition to opening direct
negotiations with German authorities only a few years after the
Holocaust. When reparations for Israel and the Jewish people were
finally put on the agenda in 1951 because of Israel’s urgent needs and
Adenauer’s interest in conciliating American Jewry and the Jewish
state, the first problem in the American Jewish arena was how to
bridge the gap between the many pro-Zionist organizations and the
influential non-Zionist AJC, which enjoyed the best contacts with
the administration. The next challenge was to bring all of them
together under a common roof in expectation of direct talks with
the Bonn government in cooperation with Israel.
During a visit to Israel in 1950, Blaustein, as president of
the AJC, had reached an agreement with Ben Gurion, whereby
Israel would not interfere in internal affairs of Jewish communities
abroad. 12 This modus vivendi, however, did not put an end to
the ideological differences regarding Zionism and Jewish people-
hood. In 1951, the AJC supported Israel’s claim for $1.5 billion
in reparations from Germany as compensation for resettling half
a million Jewish victims of the German Reich. However, the AJC
did not agree with the concept embodied in the original Israeli
note “that Israel is entitled to the reparations. . . [and] should
be recompensed because of the outrageous annihilation of the
tremendous number of Jews.” Only Israel’s acknowledgment that
it would not monopolize the total reparations complex served as a
basis for the AJC’s participation in the forthcoming conference of
Jewish organizations that was to review the whole matter of Jewish
claims from Germany. 13 Afterwards, Blaustein used all his influence
and especially his personal acquaintanceship with McCloy to per
suade the German government to be more responsive to Israel’s
demands. But, of course, because of his basic strategy of promoting
closer American-German relations, McCloy himself was very much


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
interested in a successful outcome of the German-Israeli-Jewish
negotiations that were to open in March 1952 in the Dutch town
of Wassenaar near The Hague.
While Adenauer’s handling of the Jewish problem and his en
dorsement of reparations for Israel and the Claims Conference
may have also been based on a certain moral urge, he did not
conceal that, in his view, they matched most important German
foreign policy objectives. German interests in the Arab world made
their growing impact only somewhat later. Despite his Eurocen
tric education and background, the septuagenarian, conservative
statesman grasped the crucial economic and political role of the
American superpower after 1945, and its supreme significance for
Germany and Europe. For him, the United States was a bulwark
against the expansion of Soviet Communism, which he regarded
as the greatest danger to European and Christian values. He was
continually afraid of political changes and domestic pressures in
the United States that might weaken the American commitment.
In his positive appraisal of America, Adenauer differed from some
of his contemporaries of the older elite or critics from the Left,
who looked disparagingly at the great democracy overseas. This
was also true of the middle-aged and younger Germans who in the
first years after the defeat were still infected by Goebbels’s anti-
American propaganda. 14 In his consistent efforts to preserve and
strengthen close political relations with the United States, the task
of conciliating the American Jewish community, for understandable
reasons a hostile factor, came in; and a settlement with the Jewish
state became a part of that policy. In a way, Adenauer’s successors
aimed at the same goal, although the intensity of their efforts varied
according to the changing circumstances.
In background talks to editors, in cabinet sessions or meetings
of his CDU party executive, the chancellor asserted that without
moral as well as legal recognition of Germany’s equality by the
Western democracies, it would not be able to conduct a successful
sovereign foreign policy. An agreement with Israel and the Jewish
people was a vital precondition for that. At the same time, such
a setdement might have immediate positive repercussions in the
United States; sometimes Adenauer also mentioned possible ad
vantages in the economic field. Thus, while the Israel treaty did not
result from American governmental pressure, Adenauer’s moral de
cision was linked to political pragmatism. In this context, Adenauer


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9. The Twisted Road Toward Shilumim
took into account—and sometimes exaggerated—American Jewish
influence. 15
In the past, the anti-Nazi conservative Catholic statesman and
former mayor of Cologne had enjoyed good relations with promi
nent members of the local Jewish community. He was fully con
scious of the crimes against the Jews, the concentration camp
detainees, and the civilian population in Poland and Russia, crimes
committed not only by the SS and Gestapo but also by units of
the Wehrmacht itself. In a private letter to Pastor Bernhard Cus-
todis in early 1946, Adenauer referred to the guilt of the German
people, including a major part of the Catholic clergy, who had
been persuaded by the Nazi propaganda and willingly supported
the Nazi regime even when they could see what was taking place
openly in Germany during the 1933 (he must have had in mind
the anti-Jewish boycott of April 1, 1933) and 1938 pogroms. 16
However, as leader of the conservative Christian Democratic party
before and after the establishment of the Federal Republic and as
chancellor of an even more right-wing coalition government, he at
first moved slowly on the unpopular issue of stretching out a hand
to world Jewry. Interviews such as that granted to the Allgemeine
Wochenzeitung der Juden in Deutschland were trial balloons with a
limited impact. 17 He also did not show much interest in the handling
of restitution of Jewish property and of indemnification payments
by the Lander governments, in which the federal government was
not directly involved.
Nonetheless, at the beginning of 1951, Adenauer responded
to urgings from Jewish circles and from his own advisers and
concluded that he must break the deadlock by trying to improve
relations with Jews abroad and with Israel. Despite the failure of the
first meeting between the chancellor, Israel’s ambassador to Paris,
Maurice Fischer, and David Horowitz, director general of Israel’s
ministry of finance, informal contacts regarding the contents of the
German declaration continued during the summer. Federal pres
ident Theodor Heuss suggested to the chancellor that he address
the issue of reparations during the forthcoming Jewish New Year
holiday at a plenary session of the Bundestag. In talks with a number
of prominent Jews he had observed some softening of their feelings.
The president himself returned to the problem of moral compensa
tion for the Jews in a radio talk on the occasion of the “Brotherhood
Week” sponsored by the societies for Christian-Jewish cooperation.


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
Eventually Adenauer made a statement before the Bundestag and
expressed his willingness to open negotiations on collective recom
pense, even though the wording of his declaration acknowledging
German responsibility for “the unspeakable crimes committed in
the Nazi era in the name of Germany” fell short of fully satisfying
Jewish expectations. It also included an apologetic assertion that
many Germans had extended help to their Jewish co-citizens. In
the name of the Social Democratic opposition, which was not
happy with Adenauer’s low-key formulation, veteran Paul Lobe,
the former president of the Reichstag, addressed the Bundestag.
Lobe mentioned the murder of six million Jews by Germany’s Nazi
rulers for the one reason that they were Jews and expressed the
German moral duty to strive for reconciliation with the State of
Israel and the Jews world over. 18
A few weeks after Adenauer’s statement, the Conference on
Jewish Material Claims against Germany—usually known as Claims
Conference—was set up to coordinate the demands and interests
of the different organizations. Contrary to the original guidelines
from Jerusalem, the meeting of twenty-two major American and
world Jewish organizations on October 25-26 in New York became
more than a demonstration of support for Israel’s claims and estab
lished itself as a permanent body. 19 The difference between JRSO
and the Claims Conference was that while JRSO had been dealing
only with a rather limited problem such as heirless identifiable
property, the Claims Conference demanded a global sum for the
plundered unidentified Jewish property, as well as indemnification
of all the victims of German persecution.
Goldmann, who summoned the meeting upon the request of
Israel’s government, remained the Claims Conference’s undisputed
leader for many years to come. He had to work hard to bridge
the difference of opinion between “people whose entire past pub
lic Jewish record was one of public antagonism.” However, after
the decision by the Israeli government and the Knesset to open
direct negotiations with the Germans, he boasted of having ob
tained a much larger majority in the executive committee of the
Claims Conference than Ben Gurion in Jerusalem. Only Agudath
Israel opposed direct talks and, because of Orthodox objections,
the Synagogue Council of America abstained, as did the delegate
from Australian Jewry. 20 Goldmann tried to convince the oppo
nents of negotiations with Germany that the talks dealt only with


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9. The Twisted Road Toward Shilumim
reparations for the damage and losses suffered by the Jewish people,
and in no way meant reconciliation with those who murdered the
six million. Because of the evasive response of the United States and
the other Western powers to Israeli and Jewish claims submitted to
them, he argued, there remained no alternative other than to try
and obtain reparations directly from the resurrected West German
state. In January 1952 he secured a majority of twenty out of twenty-
six in favor of direct negotiations even in the WJC executive,
which usually mistrusted the Germans. In the JDC administration
committee, several lay leaders, such as Monroe Goldwater, opposed
the agency’s participation in negotiations with Germany because of
the resentment of a large part of the American Jewish community.
The majority, however, favored joining the Claims Conference and
taking part in the talks with the Germans. 21
In one way or another, most of the American Jewish organi
zations expressed satisfaction with Chancellor Adenauer’s declara
tion of German willingness to make amends for the Nazi crimes
and open negotiations with the Jewish people and the State of
Israel. The WJC noted, among others, the chancellor’s reference
to the importance of reeducating the German people, combating
the reemergence of antisemitism and indemnifying the Jewish vic
tims. The AJC looked upon Adenauer’s statement as a significant
first step toward Germany’s acceptance “of its moral and legal
responsibilities for the unprecedented crimes” committed against
the Jews of Europe. There was no surprise in the total rejection
of any dealings with the German government by the right-wing
Zionist Revisionists of America who followed the Cherut party line
in Israel. But to endorse negotiations with Bonn was also not an
easy matter for the sister party of the ruling Mapai in Israel, the
Labor Zionists, who had been among the outspoken opponents
of Goldmann’s moderate course in the WJC. After Adenauer’s
declaration, they approved efforts to safeguard the recovery of
Jewish property, but without recognition or rapprochement with
Germany. The Yiddish version of the Labor Zionists’ arguments
was more emotionally anti-German than the English version in its
information bulletin. 22
While most editorials recognized the significance of Adenauer’s
statement and the forthcoming negotiations with the Germans,
comments in English-Jewish publications as well as in the Yiddish
papers reflected the community’s ambiguity and mixed feelings.


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
One of the more thoughtful comments appeared in the Labor
Zionist monthly Jewish Frontier edited by Hayim Greenberg. The
author assumed that Adenauer’s offer to negotiate restitution for
destroyed or looted Jewish property might be accepted “without
any qualms that in doing so Germany is being whitewashed of
its crimes.” But if it was genuine “spiritual purging of unheard-
of suffering” that the Germans were seeking, they would be best
advised not to link it anyway with material reparations:
The path for such a purging lies elsewhere, first through an unequiv
ocal realization and admission of guilt, and later through genuine
remorse. Atonement and the consequent moral rehabilitation in the
eyes of the world are not something to be achieved overnight. The
Germans must win these themselves. Even the Jews, who were the
victims of the German crimes, cannot grant forgiveness as on a platter.
We may have to become reconciled to the thought that at least a
generation might pass before relations between Germans and Jews
enter upon a “new and healthy basis.” 23
Despite its decline, the Yiddish press still had a large readership
in the early 1950s. Strong criticism of the deal with Germany was
voiced by famous Yiddish writers and critics. During the ongoing
debate, the opponents drew encouragement from fellow writers
in Israel. Even before the reparations problem was put on the
agenda, poet Hersh Leivick castigated former DPs registering in
the United States for indemnification as taking “blood-money from
the Germans.” In October 1951, he questioned Goldmann’s right to
assemble the Claims Conference. In the same vein, Isaac Bashevis
Singer, the novelist and future Nobel prize laureate, disregarded
Adenauer’s statement and warned that “from no point of view—
whether religious, humane or national—have we the right to accept
German money.” The Yiddish poet Jacob Glatstein, who served
as the AJ Congress public relations officer for the Yiddish press,
simply denounced Adenauer’s statement as “a lying document,”
and Aaron Zeitlin questioned the moral basis of the conference
summoned by Goldmann. 24 An exception to the hostile reaction
of most of the writers was S. Charney-Niger, who welcomed the
Bundestag declaration of the chancellor as “a great moral victory”
for Jews, together with the rest of the world. Niger also rejected
the concept of collective guilt of all Germans. 25 A symposium on
the issue of direct negotiations with Germany, published in the
Tog after the approval of the talks by the Knesset, revealed the


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9. The Twisted Road Toward Shilumim
ongoing disagreement between cautious pragmatic supporters and
rigid moralistic opponents. 26
After having been involved behind the scenes in the prepara
tions of Adenauer’s Bundestag statement, Goldmann met Adenauer
at Claridge’s Hotel in London in December 1951 in connection
with Israel’s demand that the chancellor accept, in advance, its claim
of $1 billion as the basis for the forthcoming negotiations. That
meant West Germany would take upon itself two thirds of the total
sum demanded by Israel. In theory, East Germany would have to
pay the other third, although that was not in the realm of realistic
politics. Adenauer agreed in principle, and the meeting inaugurated
a relationship of mutual confidence and goodwill between him
and Goldmann, despite their totally different political and personal
backgrounds and their incompatible opinions on international af
fairs, including the East-West conflict. For Adenauer, Goldmann
was the ideal partner at the decisive crossroads of the reparation
talks. Besides his close links with American Jewry and the Jewish
Diaspora, Goldmann had lived in Germany for more than thirty
years and had been educated at German universities. He was well
versed in German thought and culture; he and Adenauer could talk
about more than indemnification and reparations. Thanks to his
direct approach to Adenauer, Goldmann could intervene during
the negotiations, helping to obtain adequate settlements. 27
In special cases, other American members of the Claims Con
ference presidium assisted the common effort. JLC president
Adolph Held, for instance, was in touch with the German Social
Democrats, although they might have supported the Israeli claims
even without the JLC’s friendly persuasion. Schumacher appealed
to the chancellor from his sickbed to reach a satisfactory agree
ment with the Jewish side. In October 1952, after the signing of
the Luxembourg Treaty, his successor, Erich Ollenhauer, rebuffed
objections from a visiting delegation of the Arab League. In March
1953, the SPD parliamentary group provided solid support for the
treaty’s ratification. Whereas the SPD, too, had absorbed former
Nazis into its ranks, 87.5 percent of its members in the first Bun
destag had suffered in one way or another from Nazi persecution. 28
Thanks to his special standing and his close relationship with
the chancellor, John McCloy played a significant role during cru
cial stages of the reparation talks. Neither McCloy, who served
as high commissioner until July 1952, nor the administration in


REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
172
Washington wanted to dictate terms. Still, his friendly persuasion
of Adenauer “to get him to adhere to the broad, generous concept
was an important factor in arriving at the final results” was how
he summarized his part twenty years later. He was also helpful in
bringing about a compromise on the separate claim of the Claims
Conference, which endangered the conclusion of the agreement in
the summer of 1952. 29
High-ranking and middle-level State Department officials,
whom Israeli diplomats and spokesmen for the major American
Jewish organizations had regularly approached on reparations since
March 1951, at first responded with noncommittal expressions of
goodwill and moral support. However, Ambassador Abba Eban
thought that his labor had not been in vain; in the spring of 1952,
the United States and the other occupying powers, he believed,
had become more sympathetic to Israel’s demands. 30 At one point
in April, Blaustein tried to elicit a statement of support for Israeli
and Jewish claims on behalf of President Truman, but on Secretary
Acheson’s advice, the president refrained from making a public
statement. 31 Acheson mentioned the American interest in West
Germany’s reaching a satisfactory agreement at the talks when
he met Adenauer during the signing of the West German-Allied
agreement and its annexed protocols in Bonn, but did not promise
any American aid for that purpose. 32
Thus, whereas the Western powers were in no way willing to
get involved in the intricacies of Israel’s reparation claims, they
nonetheless conveyed to Adenauer and his government the urgency
of a successful conclusion of the negotiations. A breakdown could
have a negative impact on public opinion in their countries. Even
the new Republican administration, to which prominent American
Jewish spokesmen and supporters of Israel did not have the access
they had to its Democratic predecessor, took the same attitude
on the eve of the Luxembourg Treaty’s ratification. 33 The positive
reaction of American public opinion to the signing of the treaty in
September 1952 could only reaffirm Adenauer’s belief that he was
right, even though the public interest there in ratification half a
year later was smaller. 34
The Luxembourg shilumim treaty granted Israel $822 million
over the next twelve years; most of it was to be covered by the supply
of capital goods and up to 30 percent paid to the British Petroleum
Company for vital oil deliveries to Israel. The sum included $100


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9. The Twisted Road Toward Shilumim
million collective compensation for the Claims Conference, in the
Diaspora and in Israel. The importance of the protocol between
West Germany and the Claims Conference regarding the improve
ment, and enlarging the scope of individual indemnification, was
not yet fully recognized at that time; in the long run it amounted
to much more than all the other payments. 35 Before ratification,
Adenauer was confronted with boycott threats by Arab League
members, with opposition from financial circles and the export
industry. Objections were raised by the coalition parties in the
Bundestag and representatives of the Lander in the upper house,
the Bundesrat. To accommodate the protesting Arabs, Adenauer
himself considered accepting UN arbitration for the reparation
shipments. However, contrary to Nahum Goldmann’s opinion, Ben
Gurion unequivocally rejected any control of German supplies by
the United Nations or some other international body. Such a con
trol would be interpreted as giving in to Arab pressure and under
mine the moral terms of the shilumim agreement. 36 Public opinion
polls showed that the majority of the West German population was
against reparations for Israel, or at least regarded the promised sum
as too high. 37 Nonetheless, the treaty was ratified in March 1953,
thanks to the solid support of the Social Democratic opposition.
Only half the members of the conservative coalition parties voted
for ratification; a substantial number abstained, including Minister
of Finance Fritz Schaffer, Adenauer’s most consistent opponent on
the issue of reparations. 38
Among those who opposed the ratification of the Luxembourg
agreement were not only right-wingers but also the Communists
who were represented in the first Bundestag. Scholars like Anson
Rabinbach tried to explain the Communist vote as a protest against
the Adenauer government’s “restricting the issue of responsibility
to the Jewish crime alone, bracketing out all other claims of repara
tions” and thus helping the restorative climate and postponing the
“mastering of the Nazi past.” Whether this was the most important
reason for their negative vote at the peak of the anti-Zionist and
anti-Israel campaign of the Kremlin and of East Berlin is a matter
of conjecture. 39 On the other hand, in his statement before the
Bundestag endorsing ratification, Adenauer referred to Soviet anti
semitism that endangered Jews in all Communist-controlled coun
tries in Eastern Europe. At the time that West Germany granted
reparations to Israel and improved indemnification payments for


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
Jews, Adenauer seems to have been interested in establishing a link
between these steps and the need for a resolute stand against the
Soviet bloc. He hoped that at least some elements of the Jewish
community might be of help. Nevertheless, a suggestion that AJC
president Jacob Blaustein discuss the danger of Soviet antisemitism
at a private audience with the chancellor during his visit to the
United States was not followed up. 40
Adenauer, who for various reasons had been advised to post
pone his first visit to the United States, came to Washington in
April 1953, a few weeks after the West German ratification of the
reparations agreement and of the EDC Treaty (which was later
rejected by the French National Assembly). Except for Adenauer’s
own short reference to the Israel treaty at the National Press Club,
the issue was not broached during his talks with the Eisenhower
administration. Instead, the chancellor pressed for more leniency
with regard to the imprisoned war criminals. 41 Still, some of Ade
nauer’s close assistants, among them Felix von Eckardt, the head
of the German Federal Press and Information Office, who accom
panied him on the trip throughout the country, thought that such
a friendly reception by the American public would not have been
possible without the reparation agreement. 42 Besides Goldmann
and Blaustein, whom he had met in Bonn in 1952, Adenauer was
introduced to other leading members of the Claims Conference
and of major Jewish organizations. During Adenauer’s next visit
in 1954 Goldmann gave a reception in the chancellor’s honor at
his home in New York. Goldmann’s excessive praise of Adenauer
sometimes provoked Social Democrats, who reminded him that
without their unanimous support the Luxembourg Treaty would
not have been ratified. 43 Adenauer also visited the Connecticut
home of his good American Jewish friend, Dannie Heineman, who
had helped him financially after Hitler’s takeover and had been in
close touch with him for many years. Heineman was not involved in
Jewish communal affairs but seems to have influenced Adenauer’s
views of the United States. 44
One of Adenauer’s closest political advisers in the late 1940s
and early 1950s was Herbert Blankenhorn, a junior diplomat at the
German embassy in Washington from 1935 to 1939 and the nephew
of the last prewar German ambassador there, Hans Heinrich Dieck-
hoff. After denazification, the extremely capable former member
of the Nazi party moved up and was appointed as CDU executive


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9. The Twisted Road Toward Sbilumim
secretary in the British zone. Since October 1949, he served as
Adenauer’s adviser for contacts with the high commissioners in the
chancellor’s office and from 1951 as head of the restored Foreign
Office’s political department. In that capacity, he was instrumental
in securing the reappointment of a number of his former colleague
diplomats from the Nazi period. 45 Whatever Blankenhorn’s per
sonal interest, he became involved, beginning in the spring of 1950,
in behind-the-scenes communications with Noah Barou, chairman
of the London branch of the WJC executive. In 1951 he helped
draft Adenauer’s Bundestag declaration regarding Germany and
the Jews. 46 In December 1951, he accompanied Adenauer to his
first meeting with Goldmann in London and took part in further
crucial meetings and stages of the deliberations in Bonn that paved
the way for the shilumim agreement. Spokesmen for the Non-
Sectarian Anti-Nazi League in the United States continued to
complain about Blankenhorn’s former Nazi propaganda activities
at the embassy in Washington during the 1930s. 47 McCloy tried to
soothe these critics, and the State Department rejected demands to
bar Blankenhorn’s entry into the United States. Blankenhorn came
to Washington and conducted diplomatic talks there a few months
after Adenauer’s visit. 48
However, the main attacks against Blankenhorn were launched
at home in Germany. Right-wingers in the CSU and pro-Arab
businessmen and government officials accused him of having sold
out to the Jews. Left-wingers argued that by helping the Jewish
and Israeli side, he had looked for an alibi for having staffed the
reestablished Foreign Office with a large number of former Nazis.
Otto Lenz, Hans Globke’s short-lived predecessor as state secre
tary in the chancellor’s office, told Blankenhorn frankly that he
regarded the agreement with Israel as a major mistake because
of the repercussions in the Arab states. People with an anti-Nazi
past like Lenz were sometimes less inclined to fulfill Jewish and
Israeli demands than former members or supporters of the Nazi
party, although one should beware of generalizations. In 1959,
Blankenhorn and Walter Hallstein, the former director-general
of the Foreign Office and thereafter president of the European
Economic Community (EEC) Commission in Brussels, lost a libel
case against an official in the Ministry of Economics, an opponent
of the reparations treaty who accused them of having promoted the
treaty against the best interests of the Federal Republic. Blanken-


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
horn was sentenced to four months’ probation but was cleared
by the court of appeals and stayed in the foreign service. 49 At
his different posts as representative to NATO and ambassador to
France, Italy, and Great Britain, he remained an important con
tact for Goldmann, and their correspondence continued until the
late 1970s. 50
Despite Adenauer’s friendly reception in the United States and
the positive press comments on his visit, the suspicious attitude of
major segments of liberal American public opinion toward the anti-
Communist conservative West German government and the post-
Nazi German society endured much longer. Newspapers frequently
reported the manifestations of neo-Nazism, the triumphal return
from prison of notorious SS leaders, and the desecration of Jewish
cemeteries. Correspondents and editorialists persisted in equating
neo-Nazi activists with ex-Nazis who, in spite of their successful
comeback to important administrative and economic positions, did
not at all intend to resurrect the Nazi regime. The negative image
of the Germans in the media, whether Jews were involved in its
presentation or not, continued for many years to strengthen anti-
German prejudices; and most Jews in the media did not care for
any guidelines by the Jewish establishment.
Moreover, the immediate psychological and emotional impact
on American Jewry of the reparation agreement, as well as the resti
tution and compensation arrangements, does not seem to have been
significant. In contrast to many Israelis who depended much more
on both collective German assistance and individual compensation
payments, American Jews were much less swayed by German deeds
and gestures. East European survivors who came to the United
States after World War II usually remained hostile, the indemnifica
tion money that they started to receive notwithstanding. In the best
case, they regarded the money as a very small payment for which
they had suffered and not at all as a conciliatory move. At least, that
is how the payments were interpreted by the U.S. administration
and its allies interested in West Germany’s acceptance into the
democratic camp. Some of the post-193 3 immigrants from Ger
many who, at first, had been very critical of their former homeland,
changed their views—as reflected in the Aufbau weekly—and took
a more positive attitude, but they were a marginal element on the
American Jewish scene. 51 Quite understandably, pro-Communist
publications such as Jewish Life campaigned against the deal with


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9. The Twisted Road Toward Sbihtmim
the Bonn government before and after the signing of the repara
tions treaty. 52
All in all, the reparations treaty and its prompt implementation
had a softening effect on the attitude of major parts of organized
American Jewry, especially the pro-Zionist elements, toward the
West German state. Up until 1951, with few exceptions, these had
distinguished themselves in their critical attitude toward Germany.
In contrast to the AJC, which consistently tried to get involved in
proposals and projects concerning the democratization of German
education and society, the pro-Zionist camp accorded priority to
immediate Jewish interests. From that viewpoint, the reparations
treaty was an important achievement. For the editorialist of the
Reconstructionist, by including payment to Jews of various countries
through the Claims Conference, the agreement meant an ideo
logical victory for those who always contended that Jews must be
regarded as a people and not merely a religious denomination. 53
Others, like the noted scholar Simon Rawidowicz, objected to
depicting the reparations treaty as “a major victory to the Jewish
people.” In the view of the author of Babylon andjerusalem, there was
no recompense for the six million Jewish victims. The negotiations
with Germany, to which he did not object, were conducted by the
State of Israel and the Jewish organizations but not by the people
of Israel. 54
As a result of the Luxembourg agreement, Jewish pronounce
ments pertaining to Germany became less hostile. In comparison
to the WJC’s first postwar plenary assembly in Montreux, the res
olutions of the plenary assembly in 1953 in Geneva sounded much
more moderate. So did the resolutions of the 1959 plenary assembly
in Stockholm. Goldmann even thought of inviting Professor Franz
Bohm, the honest German chief negotiator at Wassenaar, to attend
the Geneva assembly, but the Bonn government preferred that he
stay home. 55 Goldmann, himself a hidden neutralist and early sup
porter of an East-West detente, vetoed resolutions against German
rearmament lest they imperil his relationship with Adenauer. On
this issue the majority of the American branch was closer to him
than the French and British members who unequivocally opposed
German rearmament. 56 Goldmann’s personal access to Adenauer
and his successors remained very important for gaining further
improvements in the scope of indemnification and its procedures.
The Federal Indemnification Law of 1953 was amended twice, in


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
1956 and in 1965, and even though American ambassadors would
voice support for improvements of the legislation, it became mainly
a domestic German affair. 57 Later the Claims Conference succeeded
in obtaining indemnification for groups and cases not included in
the original law.
One of the major results of the reparations treaty was the
growing impact of Israel and its needs on future American Jewish-
German relations. Contrary to Israel’s interest in a strong critical
stand of the organized community in the early postwar period, it
now favored a more pragmatic look at the developments in Ger
many and the behavior of its government. Adenauer’s refusal to
bow to American requests and suspend reparation shipments after
Israel’s invasion of Sinai in November 1956 and its procrastination
in withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, as well as the chancellor’s
meeting with Ben Gurion in 1960 in New York, where he pledged
more economic and military assistance to Israel, were to reaffirm
that trend. Statements by prominent Jewish leaders took this de
velopment into account. Philip Klutznick, B’nai B’rith president in
the 1950s, who intermittently continued to serve both the com
munity and the U.S. government in different capacities, explicitly
explained his commitment to a well-balanced course with regard to
Germany, because of both American national interests and Israel’s
dependence on German deliveries. 58 Even when protesting in 1953
to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and High Commissioner
James Conant against further clemency or parole for war criminals,
Klutznick found it necessary to pay tribute to Adenauer’s “striving
for democracy and justice . . . [which] is known to us and merits en
couragement.” 59 Moreover, the triangular link also affected Jewish
congressmen who were close to the community, like Jacob Javits
and Emanuel Celler. 60 Thus, since the 1950s Israel’s influence on
the difficult relationship between American Jewry and Germany
was basically a moderating one, even though from time to time
issues connected with Israel caused strains in those relations. 61


179
10
German Diplomats:
The Initial Efforts to Soften
American Jewish Hostility
Despite the United States’ early strategic decision in cooperation
with Western Europe to forge a close relationship with the Federal
Republic against the Communist threat in the East, and the rapid
political rapprochement between the two nations, an important
part of the American public remained uneasy about renascent Ger
many. East Coast quality newspapers and also some popular dailies,
critical columnists and commentators, intellectuals and left-leaning
liberal groups and publications reflected that uneasiness. As soon
as the East-West tension started to decline, the uneasiness became
even more conspicuous. American Jews played a significant role
in this context, contrary to the limits of their and the organized
community’s influence on governmental decisions involving the
U.S. national interest. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, West Ger
many’s most prominent statesman, who determined that country’s
course until the early 1960s, regarded a gradual reconciliation with
American and world Jewry as a notable aim in Germany’s efforts
to gain full acceptance as a morally equal partner of the West.
He understood that the formal political alliance that was speeded
up by the Cold War would not suffice to achieve that goal. This
was the major reason for his concluding in 1952 the Luxembourg
reparations treaty with Israel and the Claims Conference. Adenauer
accomplished this despite strong opposition in his own cabinet and


REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
180
in German financial and economic institutions. He did not find
support from the population either.
Thus, West German diplomats who returned to the United
States in the early 1950s, even before the Federal Republic re
covered its sovereignty, consistently paid much attention to the
American Jewish community and tried to establish contacts with
its leadership and public opinion molders. Their aim was to calm
Jewish fears of resurgent antisemitism and neo-Nazism and to point
to the achievements of the democratic West German state and its
assistance to Israel. In spite of the mitigating impact of the German-
Israeli-Jewish reparations settlement, relations between organized
American Jewry and West Germany in the 1950s and also later
remained delicate. In addition, the diplomats had to face the hostile
sentiments of Jews in general, many of whom did not want to have
anything to do with Germans after the Holocaust.
This chapter deals mainly with the efforts of German diplomats
in the United States, their achievements and shortcomings in soft
ening American Jewish hostility in the first decade of their presence
there, when that issue seemed most urgent. The importance of
their contacts with the Jewish community at critical crossroads in
the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s was to rise again, particularly due to
the enormous growth of Holocaust consciousness among American
Jewry in the next generation. 1
Even before the establishment of the Federal Republic in 1949
and the opening in 1950 of the first West German consulate in
New York, Germans reporting to the Stuttgart Bureau of Peace
Problems were concerned with the hostility of American Jewish
groups toward Germany. According to Alexander Boker, 2 a highly
intelligent right-wing conservative German who had spent the
war years as an exile in the United States and after his return to
West Germany joined the staff of Herbert Blankenhorn, moder
ate American Jewish circles were usually silenced by the Zionists,
whose influence in Washington was the greatest. Boker saw se
cret collusion among organized hate groups, their representatives
in Congress, and elements of the Truman administration and its
bureaucracy, not to mention some members of the media. His
reports evinced no compassion for Jewish suffering during the war,
nor did he make any effort to understand the anger and justifiable
fears of American Jewry. In the same vein, Georg Federer, a career
diplomat who served in the German Foreign Office until 1945,


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10. German Diplomats
alerted the bureau to the anti-German impact of two unfriendly
groups: the Jews and the Communists. 3 He was later appointed
counselor at the West German diplomatic mission in Washington
and subsequently consul general in New York. However, reviewing
the state of American-German relations a few months after the
inauguration of the Adenauer government, Boker came to regard
reconciliation with American Jewry as one of the most important
aims of postwar German foreign policy. He also pointed to the
possible impact of Germany’s attitude toward the new State of Israel
on future American Jewish-German relations. 4
Boker listed three American Jewish groups he thought would
respond to Germany’s approach:
1) Conservative antd-Communists such as Bernard Baruch, who
in 1945 endorsed Morgenthau’s ideas and then changed his mind;
2) The anti-Zionist and assimilationist American Council for
Judaism, headed by philanthropist Lessing Rosenwald. Here Boker
failed to distinguish between the ACJ and the much more important
American Jewish Committee. The AJC, and not the ACJ, published
the intellectual monthly Commentary, whose objective reports on
Germany Boker praised;
3) Jewish social democrats and trade unionists who evinced
much sympathy for positive developments in Germany, even
though they criticized Bonn’s conservative policies.
Boker also focused on the views of the post-193 3 German
Jewish immigrants in the United States. During the war most were
hostile toward Germany, but since then, many were once more
becoming friendly. A few changed their views after visits to their
old homeland, and some were even prepared to return there, a
fact that Boker regarded as being of great propaganda value for
Germany.
On the other hand, Boker stressed that a number of Amer
ican Jewish groups continued their anti-German activities. For
instance, he listed the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith that
fought antisemitism in the United States and around the world.
He maintained that the ADL—which, according to his sources,
was “sometimes called the Jewish Gestapo”—was involved in the
activities of the anti-German Society for the Prevention of World
War III, which had been established at the end of the war. Even
though the ADL sometimes relied on information presented by the
Society, it did not subscribe to its program. However, the activity


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
of that marginal group, which continued the Morgenthau legacy,
published the magazine Prevent World War III and supported anti-
German publications such as T. H. Tetens’s Germany Plots with the
Kremlin, caused much concern to the German diplomats in the
United States in the 1950s. Tetens, a former contributor to the
left-wing journal of opinion Die Weltbuhne, left Germany in 1933
for political reasons and settled in the United States. In 1961 he
published another book very critical of the Federal Republic: The
New Germany and the Old Nazis.
In addition to Jewish organizations, Boker mentioned four
other groups critical of Germany: a section of the Left, especially
Communists and left-wing fellow travelers; academics teaching at
universities; part of the powerful Eastern establishment; and Poles
and Czechs, although their impact was limited. Among the first two
groups were, of course, manyjews. Some of Germany’s traditional
allies—the isolationists and pacifists whom they could count on in
the past—were no longer as important for the Federal Republic.
In the new political configuration, Bonn had to rely mainly on
internationalist-minded forces that had been Germany’s traditional
enemies for the preceding fifty years. Perhaps that was another
reason for conciliating the Jews in that camp.
Despite the shift in Washington’s attitude, the hostility toward
Germany that prevailed among parts of the American public was
also brought to the attention of Bonn’s policymakers by visiting
German VIPs. For instance, publisher Gerd Bucerius, a CDU
member of the Bundestag who until the end of the war had refused
to divorce his Jewish wife whom he brought to safety in England,
reminded the chancellor’s office of the Jews’ influence in Ameri
can politics because of the ruling Democratic Party’s dependence
on them. Bucerius, who enjoyed Adenauer’s personal confidence,
understood American Jews’ hatred of Germany, although “it came
close to self-destruction.” 5 He considered Adenauer’s statements
against antisemitic incidents in Germany as helpful in confronting
hostile opinion. Other observers indicated the difference between
the hostile climate in New York and the indifferent atmosphere
in the Midwest and the West. 6 New York was the home of “the
powerful Jewish element, the intellectuals and the rather left-wing
metropolitan inhabitants.”
West Germany’s first postwar consul general in New York was
Dr. Heinz Krekeler, a member of the right-of-center FDP, the


183
10. German Diplomats
chancellor’s junior coalition partner. 7 In 1951 Krekeler became
head of the German diplomatic mission in Washington, later am
bassador. Born in 1906, a chemist and industrial manager with fam
ily connections to the heads of the powerful IG Farben corporation,
Krekeler had never joined the Nazi party or its subsidiary organiza
tions. He presented himself as a strong supporter of German-Jewish
reconciliation and his attitude on this issue seems to have satisfied
Adenauer, who appointed him. However, Blankenhorn, Adenauer’s
closest political adviser at that time, thought that the somewhat
provincial Krekeler was not a suitable ambassador to Washington
and would not succeed in gaining access to the really important
people in the field of American foreign policy. 8
Before Krekeler came to New York—he arrived there three
days after the outbreak of the Korean War, which hastened the
American-German rapprochement—preparations for opening the
consulate general were made by his deputy, Dr. Hans Eduard
Riesser. 9 A former diplomat who had started his career as a junior
foreign service officer in Washington in the early 1920s, Riesser was
forced to quit the service in 1933 because of his “non-Aryan” origin.
He had spent most of the Nazi period in France and thereafter
lived in Switzerland. Both of his parents had been baptized; his
mother was deported to an extermination camp in the East; his
grandfather’s brother, Gabriel Riesser of Hamburg, had been a
fighter for Jewish emancipation in Germany and a member of
the Frankfurt parliament in 1848. For several years, Riesser also
served as West Germany’s diplomatic observer at the UN. His
successor as consul general in New York was Adolph Reifferscheidt,
an old acquaintance of Adenauer’s and an industrial manager who,
during the Nazi regime, had been removed from an important job
because he refused to join the Nazi party. In response to suspicious
public opinion, the consular staff in New York at first included such
outspoken anti-Nazis as Hanna Kiep, the widow of the former
consul general Dr. Otto Kiep, who had been executed after the
failed coup of July 20, 1944, and the Social Democrat Dr. Georg
Krauss. But that changed over the years. In 1958 a consul at the
New York consulate general was suspended from his post because
of antisemitic expressions.
Richard Hertz was the first consul general in Los Angeles,
another sensitive spot because of the growing Jewish community
and the Hollywood film industry. Hertz, a German Jew who had


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
immigrated to the United States after the Nazi takeover, was con
scious of the difference between his personal attachment to the
liberal Roosevelt legacy and the prevailing anti-Roosevelt views
in the Bonn Foreign Office. 10 Dr. Karl Heinrich Knappstein, a
former journalist on the staff of the Frankfurter Zeitung (the rela
tively least Nazified daily closed down by Nazi propaganda chief
Joseph Goebbels in 1943), began his long diplomatic career in the
United States as consul general in Chicago. From 1954 until 1958,
Axel von dem Bussche, a survivor of the anti-Hitler resistance,
became counselor at the German embassy in Washington. Rudolf
Borchardt, of partly Jewish origin, served in the early 1960s as press
attache. By 1952, however, formal past Nazi party membership
was not regarded as an insurmountable obstacle for diplomatic
appointments in the United States, as in the case of Georg Federer,
who came to Washington as counselor. 11
The New York consulate was soon flooded by German Jewish
immigrants who inquired about indemnification and restitution of
their property. As a gesture of goodwill, Krekeler visited Adolf
Kober, Cologne’s prewar chief rabbi, to whom he conveyed per
sonal greetings from the chancellor, the city’s former mayor. By
approaching such people, Krekeler and Riesser hoped to improve
relations with the German Jewish immigrant community, perhaps
as a first step toward winning over American Jewry. But these
efforts were not immediately successful; moreover, post-193 3 im
migrants did not carry much weight in the general American Jewish
community.
One of those whom Krekeler approached was Manfred George,
the editor of Aufbau, a German-language weekly founded in 1934
and widely read by German and Central European Jewish immi
grants. Shortly after Adenauer’s statement in the Bundestag indi
cating his readiness to open negotiations with Jewish organizations
and with Israel, George sponsored a meeting at Manhattan Town
Hall with representatives of a number of Jewish groups. Most of
them were German and Central European immigrants. German
officials who attended that meeting were struck by the critical tone
taken by most of the participants. The speakers expressed doubts
about Germany’s sincerity regarding restitution and indemnifica
tion, mentioned the increasing antisemitism there, and dismissed
the possibility of German-Jewish reconciliation. 12 During the war
and in the early postwar period, George encountered much enmity


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10. German Diplomats
on the part of “patriotic” German exiles because of his opposition to
a “soft” peace. While Aufbau continued to fight German American
nationalism and Nazi activities in Germany, he successively took
a more benevolent attitude toward the Federal Republic and its
government. As he told the German press attache, he was afraid of
moving too fast lest he antagonize a portion of his readers. In 1959,
President Heuss proposed to confer upon him the German Great
Order of Merit, but George refused to accept it, since that might
inhibit his work for Jewish-German rapprochement. 13
In their attempts to overcome a variety of obstacles, German
diplomats enjoyed from the beginning the support of some indi
vidual pro-German Jews. Most of them were immigrants who had
come to the United States after Hider’s ascent to power. One was
Fritz Oppenheimer, a New York lawyer and former OMGUS legal
adviser who kept in touch with both the State Department and
high German officials and introduced Krekeler to John McCloy. 14
Before Oppenheimer left the military government, the political
adviser’s office attested that his solutions for Germany’s problem
had been “American, objective, practical and serene.” Afterwards,
he supported relaxation of controls in Germany, a commercial
treaty between the United States and Germany, and giving to the
Federal Republic a voice in European affairs. He did not advise
Germany’s early rearmament, though, and thought the United
States exaggerated the security problem somewhat.
Another Jewish individual most active in promoting friendly
relations between America and Germany was banker Eric Warburg.
But because of his strong sympathies for Germany, he was not
at all characteristic of American Jewry. 15 A son of the German
Jewish financier, Max Warburg, who had unsuccessfully negotiated
transfer proposals with Reichsbank president Hjalmar Schacht for
rescuing a part of German Jewish property, Eric Warburg was
naturalized only in 1938 after he had lived in the United States
for many years. After Pearl Harbor, he joined the U.S. Army
and served in the Intelligence Corps in England, North Africa,
Sicily, and France. As an early opponent of the Morgenthau plan,
he implored McCloy after his appointment as high commissioner
to stop the dismantlement of German industrial plants. He also
advocated West German participation in European defense as well
as a close scrutiny of war crime judgments obtained by unfair
interrogation.


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
From 1950, Warburg was one of the most active members of
the American Council on Germany, which furthered public efforts
in favor of American-West German rapprochement. At the same
time, he helped to establish the “Atlantik-Briicke,” the German
counterpart of the Council. 16 In 1956, he returned for good to
his native Hamburg. Except for the Nazi period, he had always
deeply admired Germany’s cultural heritage. He died in Hamburg
in 1990 at age ninety. Characteristic for that assimilated American-
German-Jewish banker, as Ron Chernow remarked in his chronicle
of the Warburg family, was his choice to be buried in the non-Jewish
side of the Altona cemetery, near a stone marker that commemo
rated the baptized Warburgs who had died in concentration camps.
His son read aloud prayers and speeches in German and English
but not in Hebrew. He wanted to conduct the ceremony in a way
that seemed appropriate to his father. 17
When Krekeler and his staff came to hire an American public
relations company to gradually improve postwar Germany’s image
in the United States and to promote tourism as well as commercial
and cultural relations, they chose the Roy Bernard Company, a
middle-sized Manhattan agency with twenty years of experience.
Its president was L. Roy Blumenthal, who owned the company to
gether with Bernard Gittelson, another Jewish businessman—a fact
that probably influenced its selection. In submitting his application
to the chancellor’s office, Blumenthal expressly referred to Ade
nauer’s “strong statement against anti-Semitism,” a phenomenon
that was, in his words, one of the main obstacles to the reconciliation
of Germany with the American public. 18
In the mid-1950s General Julius Klein joined the Federal Re
public’s efforts to present a more attractive image and neutralize
negative American Jewish attitudes toward West Germans and their
state. Head of a Chicago public relations firm, Klein began his
pro-German activities in 1953, when he took on the difficult job
of promoting the return of confiscated German assets. He was to
remain in the limelight for the next fifteen years. The midwestern
conservative Republican, who had been close to Senator Robert
Taft in the early 1950s, enjoyed good connections in both houses
of Congress. In addition to his business interests, Klein also became
actively involved in the triangular relationship between American
Jewry, Germany, and Israel. He gained Adenauer’s confidence in
the early 1950s and continued to praise the achievements of the


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10. German Diplomats
chancellor and the new Germany for years. In 1954, he conducted
a study of American military establishments in Europe as consultant
to a Senate appropriations subcommittee. Later, with the help of
Krekeler and others, he received well-paying contracts as a reg
istered lobbyist for German industrial interests. In the American
Jewish community he remained a controversial figure, but Israeli
leaders and diplomats appreciated his help at certain crucial cross
roads. 19
The son of a wealthy fur importer and grandson of a German
Jew who immigrated to America in 1848, Klein was born in Chicago
in 1901 and for several years attended school in imperial Berlin.
In 1917 he volunteered for the United States Army and, after
the armistice, served as a low-ranking member of the American
military mission in Germany. As a journalist in Chicago in the
1930s, he was involved in intelligence-gathering activities against
Nazi and pro-Nazi organizations in the United States. After service
in the Pacific during World War II, where he attained the rank of
colonel, Klein held office as national commander of the Jewish War
Veterans in 1948-49 and remained one of its leading members for
many years. Right after the war, he warned against fraternization of
the American military with the German population and protested
against the reduction of sentences and clemency for war criminals,
but later he changed his attitude.
Despite his connections to Robert Taft, “the next president,”
Klein did not play an important role in convincing Adenauer to
come to a satisfactory arrangement with Israel and the Jewish
organizations. Israeli diplomats, though, were glad to have found
at least one strong supporter in the conservative Republican camp
where there were fewjews. With the help of Jewish SPD Bundestag
member Jakob Altmaier, Klein exaggerated his own contribution
to the reparations setdement and used it to justify his involvement
in the campaign to return withheld German property. He soon
became engaged in presenting the controversial Friedrich Middel-
hauve to the American public. Although he had never been a Nazi
party member, this right-wing FDP politician had tried to attract
former Nazi activists from the Naumann group to North-Rhine-
Westphalia’s FDP, of which he served as deputy leader. As deputy
prime minister of the largest West German state, Middelhauve met
prominent Jews during his 1955 visit to the United States, despite
some critical voices in the community. During his trips to Bonn,


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
Klein frequently visited the chancellor’s office and was received by
Adenauer. There ne also met State Secretary Hans Globke, whose
participation in drafting the Nuremberg Laws was often recalled
by political adversaries. 20 Klein claimed he helped arrange the New
York meeting between Adenauer and Israeli Prime Minister David
Ben Gurion in March 1960, at which a military and economic aid
package for Israel was agreed upon. In 1965, he earned Israel’s
gratitude for his part in bringing together Israel’s ambassador in
Washington, Abraham Harman, and Rainer Barzel, head of the
CDU parliamentary group. It was Barzel whose recommendations
contributed to convincing Chancellor Ludwig Erhard to establish
full diplomatic relations with Israel. 21 In talks with Israeli diplomats,
Klein did not conceal his close connections with the CIA but
insisted that he did not report on his pro-Israel activities. 22
The American Jewish community did not like the way Klein
conducted his campaign to change the Trading with the Enemy
Act in order to allow the return of German assets. 23 Nor were
American Jews happy about his promoting the interests of such
powerful German industrial corporations as Rheinmetall, which
had exploited Jewish slave labor during the war and refused to
compensate them. Former president Harry Truman’s people also
could not stand him and thought little of his rank as a two-star
general, conferred upon him by a former Illinois governor for
serving with the Illinois National Guard. 24 In the early 1960s,
Klein became persona non grata with the Kennedy administration,
owing to his involvement in senatorial attacks on Kennedy’s new
policy aimed at a partial detente with the East, which Adenauer
did not like. He was also called before the Senate Committee
on Foreign Relations investigating foreign lobbyists. As a result,
ambassadors Grewe and Knappstein were more hesitant to support
Klein’s activities than Krekeler had been in the 1950s. 25
After the opening of the German diplomatic mission in Wash
ington, Krekeler and other diplomats soon began to establish con
tacts with senators and congressmen from both parties. There were
not many Jewish members of Congress at that time, but their
position was a matter of special concern to the Germans. Although
the interventions and initiatives of Jewish legislators could not affect
the basic course of American foreign policy, they did influence a
part of public opinion. Bonn’s envoys tried to convince them of the
changes in German politics and society.


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10. German Diplomats
Krekeler paid special attention to Jacob Javits, the liberal
Republican congressman from New York and a member of the
House Foreign Affairs Committee. One of the most active Jewish
congressmen, Javits represented Manhattan’s Washington Heights
district, where many German Jewish immigrants had settled. How
ever, his complaints and demands reflected not only the views of his
constituents but also those of the many Jewish communal and pro-
Israel organizations in which he was involved. The endorsement
of American foreign policy, the Cold War, and the interests of the
State of Israel gradually changed Javits’s position on Germany, as
was the case with other Jews in public life.
Javits, who visited Germany first in 1946 and again in 1949,
called for a prolonged stay of American forces there in order to
secure a peaceful Germany. He unequivocally opposed German
rearmament, lest a rearmed and perhaps reunited Germany join
forces with Soviet Russia. He also complained about the revival of
German nationalism. In July 1951, he was the only member of the
House who did not vote in favor of ending the state of war with
Germany. 26
The first meeting between Krekeler and Javits took place on
September 27, 1951, the day Adenauer proclaimed his willingness
to open negotiations on collective indemnification with Jewish or
ganizations and with Israel. Neither the German diplomat nor the
congressman were aware in advance of that timing; however, Javits
told Krekeler that, as a Jew, he held Germany responsible for all
that had happened to his fellow Jews during the Hitler period. Nev
ertheless, he had voted in the House of Representatives in favor of
assistance to Germany, since he saw no contradiction between these
two principles. Krekeler tried to convince Javits that he misunder
stood Adenauer when he took a recent statement by the chancellor
as proof that West Germany would involve the Western powers in
a war in order to regain its lost eastern territories. At the same time
he asked Javits to understand the feelings of millions of Germans
expelled from the east. Javits, for his part, expressed his deep con
cern about the latest Soviet proposals regarding the reunification
of Germany. It was already evident from his remarks that the Com
munist challenge to American policy in Europe would eventually
bring him closer to a positive appraisal of West Germany. 27
Following Adenauer’s declaration on Israel, Javits commended
the German government and people for their readiness to open


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
talks on indemnification. He expressed the wish that the chancellor
would use his statement concerning the Jews to set a new moral
tone for Germany. Javits also hoped Adenauer would convince the
citizens of the Federal Republic they had a role in the unification of
Europe and the establishment of a European defense organization.
In June 1952, he called upon the House of Representatives to
endorse the contractual agreements between the Western allies
and the Federal Republic, including the military and economic
integration of Germany in the West European community. Javits,
who was elected to the Senate in 1956, became a steadfast supporter
of the American-German alliance. In 1976 he received the Badge
and Star of the German Order of Merit. 28
As a result of the Luxembourg agreement, another congress
man from a district with manyjewish constituents, Emanuel Celler
of Brooklyn, also became a supporter of the Federal Republic. In
early 1952, he had warned against American haste to admit West
Germany as a full partner into NATO because “the fear of the
rise of a militaristic Germany [lay] at the heart of the objections of
our allies.” A few years later he changed his mind and concluded
that American policy toward Germany redounded to its benefit. In
1957, he appeared with Krekeler on the Washington television in
terview program “Between the Lines” and praised West Germany’s
achievements. 29
Senator Herbert H. Lehman, the former Democratic governor
of New York and Roosevelt’s faithful associate, was more reticent.
In 1950, Lehman joined with some of his colleagues in calling
for a congressional inquiry by a bipartisan commission into the
German situation, but the resolution was tabled because of strong
opposition on the part of the administration. During the 1952
debate on German rearmament, the senator reluctantly agreed
to the rebuilding of West Germany’s military strength, but only
as an integral part of Western European defense. In the mid-
1950s, Lehman opposed efforts of senators from states with a heavy
German American population to unfreeze seized German property.
In 1955, he complained to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles
about the parole granted by the Allied-German Mixed Board to
former SS general Sepp Dietrich, a convicted war criminal. 30
German diplomats, of course, had no contact with expressly
anti-German Jewish public figures. The former secretary of the
Treasury, Henry Morgenthau Jr., remained a persona non grata in


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10. German Diplomats
German eyes, and he would never have talked with them. Albert
Einstein, who supported the Morgenthau plan in 1945, persisted in
his unequivocal negative attitude to all things German. He had no
wish to have dealings with Germans and denounced the Western
powers for being hard at work making them strong and dangerous
again. 31 On the other hand, German diplomats registered with
satisfaction the change of mind of Bernard Baruch, in the past a
strong critic, who now expressed his admiration for Adenauer’s
policies and even endorsed the setting up of German armed forces.
Baruch came to be a supporter of the Federal Republic because of
its economic and political importance in the confrontation with the
Soviet Union. 32
The ratification of the Luxembourg agreement and its speedy
implementation notwithstanding, West Germany was subject to
recurrent criticism on the American Jewish communal scene. There
were, of course, the leftists who, because of their ideological and
political support for the Soviet Union, opposed the Federal Re
public. On the right, hostility persisted on the part of the rather
marginal Zionist Revisionists and the Orthodox. The liberal pro-
Zionist AJ Congress continued for a number of years to oppose
German rearmament and to expose black spots in the German
political and economic establishment. In contrast to AJ Congress,
Nahum Goldmann, the president of the WJC whom Krekeler held
in high esteem, steered his pluralist umbrella organization away
from its traditional anti-German course. This became evident in the
resolutions of the WJC executive meetings and plenary assemblies,
and in part it also affected the WJC American section. However,
even the critical Jewish groups were not cold-shouldered by the
Germans. When AJ Congress president Rabbi Prinz invited the
German ambassador Professor Grewe to join him at the public
presentation of “The German Dilemma,” a pamphlet prepared by
his organization, Grewe attended. Two years later, the German
consul general in New York, Georg Federer, was invited to attend
an official celebration by another activist organization—the Jewish
War Veterans. 33
The first postwar German diplomats were anxious to present
themselves and their government’s policies to elite groups of the
American Jewish community, who were considered more moderate
than most of the middle- and lower-class activists. Thus, Krekeler
thought it a great honor that in the winter of 1953 he was the


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
first German since World War II to address the elite Manhattan
Harmonie Club (established in 1847). The theme of his speech,
delivered before two hundred invited guests, was “Today’s Germany
and World Peace.” Historian Saul Padover had served as a psycho
logical warfare officer in the area of Aachen, the first major German
city to be occupied by General Eisenhower’s forces in fall 1944, and
had summarized his experiences in Experiment in Germany (1945).
He introduced Krekeler and praised West Germany’s efforts in
strengthening its democratic foundations. 34
Nonetheless, Krekeler was not successful in establishing close
contacts with the AJC, which was still regarded as the most presti
gious American Jewish organization. He was impressed by its rather
moderate statement recognizing Germany’s place in the free world
and rejecting the collective guilt accusation of the German people.
Yet, he was disappointed by some AJC publications that sounded
very critical of renascent neo-Nazism and right-wing nationalism in
West Germany. Leading AJC spokesmen, for their part, continued
to see high German officials both in Germany and in New York,
where they also convened a meeting of Jewish leaders with Presi
dent Heuss during his 1958 state visit. Irving Engel and Zachariah
Shuster met Adenauer in Bonn in the fall of 1959; Blaustein revis
ited him one year later. 35
The first major Jewish organization to accept an official invita
tion from the West German government was the Anti-Defamation
League of B’nai B’rith. Krekeler had been irritated by the negative
impact of the AJC’s studies, especially since these publications
reached a much broader public than the Jewish community and
presented a serious challenge to German public relations. Thus,
he hoped that an on-the-spot survey by another respectable Jewish
organization, such as the ADL, which was about to celebrate its
fortieth anniversary, might limit the damage. Bonn readily agreed to
the ambassador’s proposal; eventually the official invitation to ADL
was extended by West German state secretary Walter Hallstein
early in 1954. The ADL also looked for encouragement from the
State Department before making its final decision with regard to the
visit. Its delegation, which met with a representative of the depart
ment, pointed out that “they could see advantages both in Germany
and in the United States to it as it would be a further proof to those
Jewish people and organizations who were still doubtful of the good
intentions of the Germans in this field that the Federal Republic


193
10. German Diplomats
was doing everything in its power to make up for the cruelties of the
Nazi regime. In Germany their experience in such matters might
be of real value to the Germans in making progress in eliminating
any racial or religious discrimination which might still exist.”
The American government, while favoring such a visit, pre
ferred to remain in the background. However, after the visit took
place, it thought “its findings might be useful in the execution of
the [U.S.] public affairs program in Germany.” Philip Klutznick,
federal housing commissioner under the Roosevelt and Truman
administrations from 1944 until 1946, was involved in convincing
the ADL executive committee to accept the German invitation. 36
In 1953, he succeeded Frank Goldman as B’nai B’rith president and
emerged as one of the most prominent American Jewish leaders in
the postwar era.
Klutznick consistendy followed a moderate course with regard
to West Germany. In the mid-1950s he became a founding member
of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations,
which at first was chaired by Nahum Goldmann. During Gold-
mann’s absence from the United States, Klutznick served as its
acting chairman. In March 1955 he met Adenauer in Bonn after
having discussed his forthcoming visit to the Federal Republic
with Krekeler. Klutznick could not endorse Adenauer’s proposal
that more Jews should return to Germany but assured him of his
personal confidence in him and his immediate colleagues. 37
The three-man delegation, which included ADL’s national di
rector, Benjamin R. Epstein, went to Germany in March 1954 as
part of a visitors’ exchange of twenty-eight Americans from differ
ent walks of public life. After the delegation’s return, it submitted a
detailed report both to Krekeler and to the State Department. An
expanded version appeared in pamphlet form, entitled “Germany—
Nine Years Later.” A few leading ADL officials such as Oscar
Cohen, who read the draft before publication, had some critical
comments. Cohen thought that while the report dealt with the
German people on a realistic basis, there was too much white
washing of Adenauer and his government. Moreover, there was no
“thorough survey or a profound analysis of the situation affecting
German Jewry.” The report criticized the still existing potential
of antisemitism, the “overpowering traditionalism in German life,”
and the fact that many prominent former Nazis had joined political
parties and had returned to high posts in the bureaucracy.


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
The delegation expressed particular concern over Nazi at
tempts to infiltrate the FDP, Adenauer’s junior coalition partner,
and over that party’s right-wing nationalist trend. But the report
also noted the positive change of mind among young Germans,
many of whom were much more liberal than their parents and not
at all keen to be drafted into a new army. A press release published
in Germany immediately after the conclusion of the delegation’s
visit stated “that at the present time neo-Nazism and Nazism as
organized political movements appear to be at a very low ebb.”
According to German sources, the hosts were told confidentially
that, in order to prevent accusations by other Jewish groups that the
delegation had been bribed by the Germans, the final version would
be more reserved than the factual position of the organization. 38
The German consulate general in New York and the diplo
matic mission in Washington were established at a time when
Israeli diplomats were not yet allowed to engage in any contacts
with their German counterparts. Nevertheless, informal talks with
Israeli consular officials had already taken place in 1951, even
before Adenauer’s statement in the Bundestag. After the ratifica
tion of the Luxembourg agreement, the Israeli consulate general
provided the Roy Bernard Company with advance copies of Consul
General Arthur Lourie’s address. His German counterpart, Hans
Riesser, who had represented his government at the exchange of
ratifications of the German-Israeli agreement at United Nations
headquarters, paid a visit to the Israeli consulate. 39 In Washington,
Israel’s ambassador, Abba Eban, accepted Krekeler’s invitation to a
festive reception in honor of Adenauer during his first visit to the
United States in April 1953. Later, restrictions on contacts with
German diplomats were relaxed. Krekeler and Eban extended lunch
invitations to each other, and before his departure, the German
ambassador received an autographed copy of Eban’s book, Voice
of Israel 40
Krekeler himself disapproved of Adenauer’s support for French
and British Suez intervention in 1956, in contradiction to U.S. pol
icy. However, the chancellor’s clear-cut refusal to bow to American
pressure and threaten Israel with the suspension of reparation deliv
eries contributed to an improvement in German-Israeli relations,
despite Bonn’s unwillingness to proceed with the exchange of diplo
mats. There was a meeting of minds in conversations on a number
of subjects between Rolf Pauls, counselor at the German embassy


195
10. German Diplomats
in Washington, and his Israeli counterpart, Yohanan Meroz, subse
quently Israel’s ambassador to Germany in the 1970s. Pauls was a
future ambassador to Israel and the United States who had started
his diplomatic career as an assistant to Blankenhorn and State
Secretary Walter Hallstein. Adenauer’s steadfastness in the face
of American pressure was subsequently extolled by German rep
resentatives as a proof of German goodwill toward the Jewish
people. In fact, it derived not just from sympathy for Israel but
from his basic disagreement with American policy at that point.
His fear of the repercussions of American-Soviet cooperation at
the UN and of the rift between the United States and its West
European allies also played a role. He was particularly afraid that
it might strengthen the Soviet position in the Middle East. At the
same time, Israel’s military prowess demonstrated in the short war
raised its standing in German eyes. Its importance had decreased
temporarily with the advent of the Eisenhower administration. The
organized Jewish community, for its part, which did not succumb to
the administration’s efforts of persuasion and showed full solidarity
with Israel during and after the crisis, took notice of the stand taken
by the German chancellor. 41
In the mid-1950s, after the Paris agreements had prepared the
way for granting sovereignty to the German Federal Republic,
American-German links were put on a new basis. West Germany
was admitted as a full-fledged member of NATO, and within its
framework, German rearmament and the creation of a new West
German army took place. The former enemy nation thus became
the mainstay of the Western alliance on the European continent. In
general, German diplomats devoted relatively less time to Jewish
reaction. However, there were exceptions: during the antisemitic
occurrences in the winter of 1959-60, the Eichmann trial two years
later, and especially the campaign for abolishing or extending the
statute of limitations for Nazi murders, the protests against German
experts’ contribution to Egypt’s armament industry, and Bonn’s
decision to stop its arms deliveries to Israel. 42
But although not always a dominant theme, Jewish issues were
never dropped from the German agenda. The consul general in San
Francisco complained about the damage that public attacks in Ger
many against indemnification payments caused the German-Jewish
rapprochement. 43 For example, he mentioned those by Minister of
Justice Fritz Schaffer, former minister of finance and Adenauer’s


196
REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
main opponent during the German-Israel negotiations in 1952.
Krekeler and his successors summoned representatives of the
Claims Conference and other leading individuals to meet with
important visiting politicians, who tried to convince their guests
of the change that had taken place in Germany. A few of these
meetings were especially satisfactory for the German side—for
instance, the favorable impact on the Jewish public of talks with
Berlin Social Democratic senator Joachim Lipschitz, whose father
was Jewish. 44 Nevertheless, German Foreign Minister Heinrich von
Brentano found it necessary to remind Grewe, who had succeeded
Krekeler early in 1958, that despite Adenauer’s personal prestige,
Jewish circles and influential American intellectuals did not reveal
much understanding for the German position. In principle, though,
they recognized the need to cooperate with the Federal Republic. 45
Albeit not the most important issue, a number of German
American organizations and publications sometimes proved em
barrassing to early West German diplomats, especially in view of
Jewish sensitivity to antisemitism. Members of these groups, not
only the Nazi “Bund,” had blamed the Jewish boycott and the
protests against the Third Reich. They had shown sympathy for the
old country at least until the U.S. entry into the war in December
1941. 46 Some of the less acculturated German Americans had not
adjusted to the postwar situation wherein a defeated Germany, on
its way to becoming an ally of the United States and the West, tried
at least in part to atone for its sins against Jews and its European
neighbors and to develop a democratic society. They were still
nostalgic for the former German Reich and its old boundaries;
France remained their traditional enemy, while the black, red, and
gold of the West German flag was a symbol of shame and treason.
Roosevelt, the wartime president, was the politician they hated
most, while Jews in general and American Jews in particular were
seen as dangerous opponents who should be fought, not people to
whom they should apologize.
Heinrich Knappstein, the first consul general in Chicago and
later Germany’s observer at the United Nations in New York and
ambassador in Washington, was especially aware of these feelings.
In Chicago he was in touch with the large German American com
munities in the Midwest. Krekeler, too, confronted these nostalgic
and resentful views when he met German American groups and
the local German American press. 47 Krekeler wrote Adenauer that


197
10. German Diplomats
one of the reasons for his guarded attitude toward the nationalistic
groups was the chancellor’s conciliatory policy in regard to world
Jewry. 48 Gradually, the resentment of these German Americans
toward the Bonn republic mellowed. Already during Adenauer’s
first visit to the United States in 1953, he was given a hearty
welcome by a major part of the German American community.
Consul General Reifferscheidt attended the New York Steuben
Parade in 1958, which was to become a yearly event dedicated to
the achievements and the legacy of German Americans. Leading
politicians from the region were to participate. In 1959, both Con
sul General Federer and Ambassador Grewe attended the parade. 49
However, the gap between many German Americans and the Jew
ish community persisted much longer, and anti-Jewish prejudices
continued to prevail among them. 50



199
11
Antisemitic Manifestations and
Their Abatement
For tiie Federal Republic of Germany, the Eisenhower years in
Washington, which started with Chancellor Adenauer’s first visit
to the United States, were in the main an era of good feeling.
The leading Western power and the former enemy had become
friends and close allies. This was true despite the dissension over
American policy during the Suez crisis and Adenauer’s exaggerated
fears of a reduction of American ground forces in Europe because of
the Radford Doctrine aimed at replacing them by superior atomic
weaponry. After the ratification of the Paris agreements between the
United States, Britain, France, and the Bonn government, West
Germany was accepted as a full-fledged member of the Western
anti-Communist bloc. Its leader, who was reelected in 1953 and
1957 by an increasing majority, enjoyed great prestige among the
Republican administration and both houses of Congress. Even
though relations between Adenauer and Dean Acheson, who at
first had been suspected of unfriendliness by German diplomats,
had evolved rather satisfactorily, there was more of a meeting
of the minds between him and John Foster Dulles. They shared
common anti-Communist ideological rigidity, strong support for
West European integration, and emphasis on Christian moral val
ues as opposed to Eastern “atheistic totalitarianism.” Their mutual
affinity also helped both sides overcome occasional differences of


200
REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
opinion, which became more severe after Dulles’s departure from
the scene. 1
Israel was not yet as dominant a force in American Jewish
life as it became in the first two decades after the Six Day War.
Still, the American Jewish community attached more importance
to safeguarding the well-being and security of the Jewish state after
its successful Sinai campaign, when it had been forced to withdraw
without peace from all territories conquered in November 1956.
Thanks to the prompt implementation of the Luxembourg agree
ment, there was no cause or need for intercessions in Washington
with regard to Jewish claims from Germany. At one point, in with
standing American pressure to suspend reparation shipments be
cause of Israel’s procrastination in withdrawing from the occupied
areas, Bonn revealed more understanding for Jerusalem than did
the U.S. administration. In the following years, the Israeli interest
overshadowed most other subjects in the American Jewish-Israeli-
German triangle, and this affected the attitude toward the West
German government of almost all Jewish organizations. On the
domestic scene, much of the community’s energy was devoted to
the civil rights campaign.
Nonetheless, antisemitic occurrences in Germany in the late
1950s, and especially the smear campaign and upsurge of anti-
Jewish manifestations in the winter of 1959-60, temporarily revived
Jewish worries with renewed intensity. In retrospect, it seems that
the importance of these events and also the American Jewish reac
tion to them were exaggerated. However, that reminder of Jewish
sensitivity and Bonn’s fear of their negative impact on American and
Western public opinion at least partially contributed to a gradual
improvement in the field of German education and to a more
intensive dealing with the Nazi past. After seven years the most
prominent ex-Nazi member retired from Adenauer’s cabinet. In
a way, steps taken by the Bonn government and, even more, the
revulsion of tens of thousands of young Germans who participated
in anti-Nazi protest marches in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Bonn,
and other major cities, revealed positive changes in the Federal
Republic’s political culture. 2
On the one hand, the third general election held in the Federal
Republic in September 1957 resulted in the ruling moderate con
servative CDU’s biggest victory. It was the only time it received
the absolute majority of seats in the Bundestag. In federal and


201
11. Antisemitic Manifestations
in state elections, the extreme right-wing groups suffered defeat,
losing most of the seats they had gained in the early 1950s. The
Sozialistische Reichspartei (SRP), the main neo-Nazi party, had
been banned by the Constitutional Court already in 1952. The
Deutsche Reichspartei, its successor, was a marginal splinter group,
and the larger Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD)
was to make its impact only since 1964. The right-wing voters had,
of course, not disappeared but preferred the CDU, the Bavarian
CSU, and the German Party, most of whose members were soon
to join the Christian Democrats.
On the other hand, there were the first stirrings of the enlight
ened younger generation. In 1956-57 many German youngsters
were moved by the performance of The Diary of Anne Frank in
the theaters. A much larger number had read the book, which was
published in German in 1955. Audiences all over Germany silently
watched the tragic story of the young girl caught in Amsterdam
in 1944 and deported to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Each year
groups of German high school students visited the mass graves
of victims of the Nazi persecution in the concentration camps. In
1958, the first major German war crimes trial against members
of an Einsatzkommando who had killed thousands of Lithuanian
Jews in 1941 took place in Ulm. The SS defendants were sentenced
to much shorter prison terms than requested by the prosecution
because of their “complicity in crimes” for which the leaders of the
Nazi Reich were mainly held responsible. Still, the revelations and
testimonies made a considerable impact on German public opinion
molders and had important repercussions. With all its flaws, the
trial established in the German mind that “the crimes committed
by Germans against the Jewish people were punishable according
to sovereign German law, not merely because justice had been
imposed by the Allied victory in 1945.” 3
Since the early 1950s, prosecution of Nazi and war criminals
by the German courts had declined drastically. A lack of interest
that reflected the attitude of both the conservative government
and a great majority of the German public was mainly responsible.
Difficulties in assembling the evidence also were a factor. Right
wingers in Adenauer’s coalition hoped that the time for a general
amnesty was approaching. However, after the shocking reminder of
the Ulm proceedings, more people became convinced that such tri
als were necessary for improving the moral standing of the Federal


REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
202
Republic. According to an Allensbach poll, at that point a majority
of 54 percent favored continuing prosecution of Nazi criminals, as
opposed to 34 percent who wanted to draw a line over the past.
In 1963 and 1965, during the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt, the
proportion changed in the opposite direction. 4 In 1958, the Lander
governments, with the federal minister of justice, setup the Central
Office for Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Ludwigsburg; this new
institution helped pave the way for a gradually more intensive
prosecution of Nazi criminals.
Still, the number of indictments in the first years after the estab
lishment of the Ludwigsburg Central Office was rather small, both
for administrative reasons and because of a lack of contacts with the
Eastern European nations that were a vital source of information
for the prosecution. Altogether, a total of 105,000 suspects were
investigated and approximately 6,500 indicted and sentenced since
1945. However, 70 percent of the convictions resulted from 5,228
indictments brought before the courts during Allied occupation
between 1945 and 1949, and most of the sentences did not match
the seriousness of the crimes. Erwin Schiile, the state prosecutor
at the Ulm trial who became the first head of the Ludwigsburg
Central Office, was forced to resign in 1965 because he had been a
member in the SA and the Nazi party. Characteristic of the German
situation in the first postwar decades was that at least 10 percent
of the Nazi criminals involved in the murder of Jews during the
Holocaust served as members of the federal police. A measure of
continuity existed between the prewar police and security forces
under Heinrich Himmler’s command and the postwar democratic
police force. An outspoken defender of Adenauer’s handling of the
past, Manfred Kittel, the author of Die Legende der zweiten Schuld,
conceded as much. 5
Regardless of West Germany’s political stability, rapid eco
nomic growth, and the first cautious steps in coming to grips with
the nation’s Nazi legacy, antisemitic manifestations multiplied in
the late 1950s. The Offenburg Nazi teacher, Ludwig Zind, was
sentenced to one year’s imprisonment because of his anti-Jewish
utterances and public support of Hitler’s policies. At the time his
appeal was rejected, Zind was already on his way to President Gamal
Nasser’s Egypt, where he joined other Nazis agitating against Israel.
West German justice also did not prevent the escape to Egypt of
Buchenwald concentration camp criminal physician Hans Eisele,


203
11. Antisemitic Manifestations
against whom complaints had been launched in 1954 and 1958.
Eisele had been set free by the Americans after his death sentence
had been commuted to life imprisonment in 1947.
In Hamburg, both the district court and the city state’s supreme
court rejected the prosecution’s demand to put on trial the local
merchant Friedrich Nieland, who blamed “international Jewry” for
the Holocaust. He argued that no Jew could serve in any responsible
position in the Federal Republic. At least one of the Hamburg
judges was known to be a veteran supporter of the Nazis, and so
were many of West Germany’s justices. In Diisseldorf, swastikas
appeared on the walls and doors of the new synagogue. All over Ger
many, a sharp increase in the desecration of Jewish cemeteries was
registered. Last but not least, right-wing Bundestag members of the
ruling CDU party, such as Jakob Diel, campaigned in an antisemitic
vein against the growing burden of the indemnification payments,
which had never been popular among the German population. Diel,
a former member of the Catholic Center party, had been impris
oned by the Nazis several times. His anti-Jewish hate campaign,
including his letters to Adenauer, served as a reminder that German
antisemitism was not at all limited to Hitler’s movement. 6
In April 1958, the AJC disclosed the results of disappointing
polls and surveys of German public opinion. Of those questioned,
about 30 percent “were definitely anti-Semitic” with most of them
falling into the post-thirty-five and post-fifty age groups. The high
est percentage of antisemitism was found in rural areas. On the basis
of the polls, the Committee concluded that a significant proportion
of the German population was “still harboring deep prejudices and
animosities against Jews.” The German authorities were upset by
this statement and submitted the results of another poll by the
Allensbach Institute to the AJC, which showed that unfriendly
attitudes toward Jews in Germany had diminished during the last
years. For instance, whereas in 1952 every third person thought it
would be best if there were no Jews at all living in Germany, in 1959,
only every fifth person held that view. Sociologist Marshall Sklare,
at that time a research analyst for the AJC, remained skeptical.
He thought that the improvement mentioned in the Allensbach
poll was because as time had passed, the possibility of a substantial
number of Jews coming back to Germany had receded. Sklare added
another possible reason: despite the propaganda against reparations
and indemnification, it had become apparent that neither had crip-


204
REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
pled the German economy and that the Jews were not “despoiling”
German resources and rights. 7 The American consulates, the mis
sion in Berlin, and the embassy in Bonn reported back home all the
major antisemitic incidents and manifestations but did not attach
to them much importance. Complaints by the Jewish organizations
did not have a great impact on them. 8
In 1958, AJC president Irving Engel, his predecessor Jacob
Blaustein, B’nai B’rith president Philip Klutznick, JLC president
Adolph Held, Rabbi Israel Goldstein of the ^AJC and AJ Congress,
and other distinguished figures in the American Jewish community
discussed the recent antisemitic occurrences with West German
president Theodor Heuss, who was visiting New York. In line with
AJC’s viewpoint, Engel rejected the concept of collective guilt and
paid tribute to Germany’s political leadership’s devotion to the
principles and objectives of democracy. However, he questioned
whether German public life was sufficiendy “shielded against the
possibility of serious departures from these vital principles and
aims.” Heuss expressed his interest in further strengthening re
lations between West Germany and the American Jewish com
munity and agreed that the antisemitic manifestations should be
taken seriously. Still, he excluded any possibility of a revival of
Nazi totalitarianism. Jacob Blaustein, the Claims Conference’s se
nior vice-president and AJC’s elder statesman, remarked that the
indemnification program, which had recently been criticized by
several German politicians, “must not be viewed merely as a boon
to its beneficiaries but also as a fundamental requirement of the
revindication of German democracy itself.” 9
AJC lay leaders and professionals continued to broach the
problem of German antisemitism in exchanges of views with West
German politicians, educators, and social scientists. They placed
particular emphasis on the education of the younger German gener
ation and the development of new educational techniques in dealing
more effectively with Germany’s recent past. After the events of
the winter of 1959-60, a German Educators Program was set up,
launched by the AJC in cooperation with the Ford Foundation and
the Institute of International Education. The program provided for
bringing over a number of West German teachers to the United
States yearly to study and adopt American democratic methods. 10
Chancellor Adenauer tried to convince his Jewish interlocu
tors that antisemitic and antidemocratic phenomena should not be


205
11. Antisemitic Manifestations
exaggerated. He continued to regard Communism and the Com
munist dictatorship east of the Federal Republic’s border as the
main danger and insisted that Communism was involved in deliber
ate efforts to discredit West Germany abroad. Because of the Soviet
diplomatic offensive on Berlin and Adenauer’s fear of a reversal of
American policy after Dulles’s departure, he thought he might gain
support for his stand also among American Jews.
The issue of education for democracy was also raised by the
AJC delegate to the first German-American conference, held in Bad
Godesberg in October 1959. The conference was jointly sponsored
by the American Council on Germany and the Adantik-Briicke,
both nonpartisan bodies committed to furthering German-U.S.
understanding. 11 Despite good personal relations between certain
AJC lay leaders and Christopher Emmet, for many years the Coun
cil’s executive vice-president and spiritus movens, the AJC as an
organization often disagreed with the Council’s built-in apologetic
pro-German policies. Differences of opinion between them were to
increase during the Kennedy administration’s first steps toward an
East-West detente, contrary to the consistent anti-Soviet emphasis
of Adenauer and his government. 12
As in the past, the AJC distinguished between its educational
efforts to contain antisemitism in Germany and any boycott threats
against West German trade. Stanley Marcus of the Neiman-Marcus
department store in Dallas, who inquired about sales promotion
in the United States of goods made in Germany, received the
unequivocal answer that “since the endorsement by the American
Jewish community, with almost complete unanimity of Germany’s
policy of collective and individual indemnification, no responsible
Jewish organization . . . was engaged in any kind or degree of anti-
German propaganda.” Politically, American Jews had increasingly
come to understand the Western security interest in Germany.
Thus, it was “unlikely that the less consequential issue of a German
merchandising company in the United States would evoke major
Jewish protests.” AJC’s response also mentioned Israel’s opposition
to any Jewish boycott movement against German goods in the
United States because of its dependence on German reparations
shipments and payments. 13 In the case of Marcus, a supporter of the
anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism, it is doubtful whether
the Israeli viewpoint was needed to convince him. Besides, the Israel
foreign ministry did not share the concern of American Jewish


206
REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
organizations about the German antisemitic threat. Commenting
on a report of the American Jewish leaders’ meeting with Presi
dent Heuss, an official of the ministry’s West European division
remarked that there was not more antisemitism in Germany than
in Britain, France, and the United States itself. 14
To the AJ Congress, which usually was more suspicious of
Germany, the antisemitic manifestations of the late 1950s pro
vided a suitable occasion for the presentation of its critical report
“The German Dilemma—An Appraisal of Anti-Semitism, Ultra-
Nationalism, and Democracy in Western Germany.” The authors
of the pamphlet argued that the indifference of large sections of
the German people to the problem of antisemitism had emboldened
hoodlum elements. They recalled the whitewash and rehabilitation
of former Nazis, many of whom had become respectable again and
had assumed important roles in the administration and economy, in
public and private life. In this context, they referred to the rebuild
ing of the industrial empire of Alfried Krupp who, after the war, had
been imprisoned as a war criminal. Conversely, the pamphlet paid
tribute to those forces consciously struggling to induce “a change of
heart” in Germany and to create “a more humane and free order.” It
mentioned the Bonn government’s positive record with respect to
reparations for Israel and indemnification payments to the victims
of the Nazi regime. It also praised the role of certain church groups
as well as the contribution of the German media to improving the
moral atmosphere in the country. 15
The AJ Congress pamphlet, the AJC’s statements after the
American-German Bad Godesberg conference, and the visits and
protests of American Jewish organizations during the swastika epi
demic in January 1960 caused a major controversy between these
organizations and the Central Council of the Jews in Germany.
Hendrik George van Dam, for many years the Council’s secre
tary general, insisted that “the Central Council and not publicity
chasing single Americans or American Jewish organizations were
the representatives of Jewish interests in the Federal Republic.”
Van Dam suggested that if Bonn really wanted to listen to Jewish
voices outside Germany, it had better heed the opinions of “really
competent personalities” such as David Ben Gurion or Nahum
Goldmann. Later, during the antisemitic occurrences in January
1960, he argued that the real cause of “criticism of Germany abroad
was not German anti-Semitism but foreign anti-Germanism.” He


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11. Antisemitic Manifestations
recommended that the Adenauer cabinet and its officialdom
strengthen its cooperation with German Jewish leadership and be
more discriminating in receiving protesting visitors from abroad. 16
The American Jewish organizations, despite their different
strategies, shared the view that an antisemitic upsurge in Germany
should not be regarded as a local problem and rebuffed van Dam’s
“Monroe Doctrine” for German Jews. In their opinion, the post
war Jewish community in Germany—while its safety should be
guaranteed—was too weak to cope alone with such a spate of anti-
Jewish events. 17 In the short run, van Dam’s challenge succeeded
in temporarily reducing the flow of interceding Jewish visitors
from abroad, which German officials in Bonn resented. But in
the long run, the controversy did not change the basic pattern
of American Jewry’s involvement or its visits and contacts. West
Germany remained interested in improving the ambivalent attitude
of American Jews toward the German people and their state.
The wave of antisemitic events began with the desecration of
the rededicated synagogue in Cologne on Christmas Eve 1959, and
extended to swastika daubings of Jewish institutions and defiling
of cemeteries. These episodes were perhaps less significant than
they appeared to Jewish organizations in the United States and
to Western public opinion at that time. There was no connection
between that wave and the political or public impact of the extreme
Right that had declined since the early 1950s. However, the 470
incidents, which damaged the official German philosemitic image
and endangered the process of reconciliation with Jews abroad,
came as an unpleasant surprise to the West German government
and the whole German establishment. As Ambassador Grewe re
ported to the West German Foreign Office, the Federal Republic’s
prestige was badly hurt by the media coverage and the editorial
comments on the happenings. 18 Besides the Jewish aspect, Bonn was
also afraid that the antisemitic manifestations might undermine its
consistent efforts to prove its status as a loyal and legitimate partner
of the Western camp. This was especially significant at a time of
the deteriorating Berlin crisis and on the eve of a crucial American
presidential election.
The AJC was the first American Jewish organization to express
its “deep concern” to the West German ambassador in Washing
ton. The Committee demanded an effective investigation, prose
cution of those responsible for the last outrages, removal of former


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Nazis from official positions, and the outlawing of neo-Nazi parties
and foreign fascist groups. 19 Eleonore Sterling, a capable young
political scientist and historian reporting from Germany for the
Committee, suggested that a strong word from the American pres
ident, even though not in public, might be more effective. Such
a word, however, was not forthcoming. 20 In the wake of the in
cidents, certain AJC staff officials even suggested that the time
had come for a reappraisal of the agency’s moderate stand on
Germany. The Jewish community, the officials suggested, should
imagine the consequences of the Federal Republic’s emerging ag
gressive role and dismiss the reasoning that criticism of the Bonn
government might only play into Communist hands. 21 For Max
Horkheimer of the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research, who
continued to serve as an AJC consultant, the antisemitic outbreak
proved that “there is no democratic tradition in the consciousness
of any age groups and the young generation have no feelings about
democracy.” In his opinion, whatever the causes of the anti-Jewish
occurrences might have been, they presented a demonstration of
hostility against the West and Western civilization. 22 Commenting
on Horkheimer’s far-fetched and misleading conclusions, Eleonore
Sterling remarked that the famous philosopher and social theorist
had embarked on a new kind of pessimism a la Oswald Spengler’s
Der Untergang des Abendlandes (Decline of the West). 23
Summarizing its view of the “hot winter,” the AJC called the
explanations offered by the West German White Paper a “danger
ous simplification” that did not “take into consideration the social
and political forces which made such occurrences possible.” 24 The
document portrayed the incidents mainly as a result of juvenile
antiestablishment delinquency and imitative behavior. Yet, even
though there was no meeting of the minds between Jacob Blaustein
and Chancellor Adenauer about the urgency of improving West
German political education, the crisis in the Committee’s relations
with Germany soon abated. The Committee continued to engage
in promoting and expanding its German Educators Project. 25
The AJ Congress regarded the antisemitic events as a renewed
justification of its critical approach. In its opinion, the desecra
tion of synagogues and cemeteries in Germany emphasized once
more the danger of resurgent Nazism and “the inadequacy of the
program of the German government in rooting out former and
neo-Nazi groups.” The statement of seven NCRAC organizations,


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11. Antisemitic Manifestations
which included the AJ Congress, was stronger, perhaps because
of the participation of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congrega
tions. It recalled that “Germany remains the breeding ground of
anti-Semitism, the manifest source of an infection that can spread
swiftly.” 26 The usually militant JWV stated that “one must judge
the Federal Republic of Germany not on what it inherited from
past German regimes . . . but rather on whatever rational steps it
has taken and will take to stamp out the current outbreak of anti-
Semitism.” In contrast to other Jewish groups, it thought Bonn was
sincere. At the same time it deplored the United States’ failure to
deal effectively with the Nazi legacy in the years of occupation,
before West Germany regained its sovereignty. 27 The prosocialist
JLC reiterated its position that “only with the active assistance of
the German democratic labor movement will Germany be able
to . . . democratize and reeducate the German nation and to create
a climate which will make the existence of neo-Nazism impossi
ble.” 28 A two-man delegation of the New York Board of Rabbis
who went to Germany a few months later called for supplementing
the Federal Republic’s economic miracle by a “moral miracle.” 29
The ADL, which was still closely connected with B’nai B’rith,
took the most moderate attitude among the competing American
Jewish organizations. Its delegation that visited there in January
1960 met with representatives of the major political parties, edu
cators, journalists, and finally with Foreign Minister Heinrich von
Brentano. Philip Klutznick, now chairman of B’nai B’rith’s Inter
national Council, was received by Adenauer. The ADL accepted
in part the official German view that the last events were the work
of bigots and juvenile delinquents. Still, the organization reminded
their German counterparts that the fact that antisemitism could
again easily become an export product of Germany “was a frighten
ing thing for Jews and all democracy-loving people in the world.” 30
A few months later, the organization initiated the first American
Jewish-West German exchange program, aimed at introducing
young German community leaders and officials to the American
system of voluntary association. 31 In 1961, one year after the visit
of a joint ADL and B’nai B’rith mission to Germany, a team of
young Germans from different walks of life came to the United
States. The participants were hosted by a number of local com
munities, although some groups, such as the Atlanta B’nai B’rith
women, raised objections. At first they thought the guests would be


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
German youth of the postwar period, but as it turned out they were
mature men who lived and were educated during the Hitler years
in Germany. Therefore, they abstained from any participation in
the program. 32
In 1963 a group of ADL civil rights specialists paid a return
visit to Germany. At least in public, most of the American Jewish,
as well as the German, participants in the exchanges expressed
satisfaction with their experiences. 33 Although the ADL members
still discovered weak spots and contradictions in West German edu
cation for democracy, they found less overt antisemitism there than
during the visit of the first ADL mission in 1954. They also took
notice of manifestations of philosemitism and support of Israel.
The German-born ADL director of foreign research, Jack Baker,
formerly Kurt Bachrach, was the first representative of an American
Jewish organization to address West German officers at a number
of military academies. It seems that his personal background was
helpful in the special relationship between the ADL and Germany. 34
As expected, WJC president Nahum Goldmann was also among
the moderates who warned against exaggerating the importance of
the incidents and the threat implied to the German Jewish commu
nity. Visiting Bonn a few weeks after the desecration of the Cologne
synagogue, Goldmann followed a suggestion of Joachim Prinz.
He advised the chancellor to demonstrate his goodwill toward
Jews in Germany and abroad by joining him and a delegation of
the Claims Conference in a commemoration of the Nazi victims
at the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. 35 Adenauer ac
cepted Goldmann’s proposal; it was the only time in his life that
he attended a commemoration in a former concentration camp. In
November 1952, he had refused a similar invitation and preferred
that President Heuss attend the ceremony. However, he did not
heed Goldmann’s other suggestion that Bonn should assuage Jew
ish bitterness by establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. The
Hallstein doctrine and the Federal Republic’s fear of Arab reprisals
still prevented such a step. Joachim Fest, then a young promising
journalist and member of the ruling Christian Democratic party,
implored Goldmann to use the opportunity and press for a purge
of former Nazi collaborators from Adenauer’s immediate circle.
During the Historikerstreit in the 1980s, Fest, who authored the
best-selling Hitler biography in 1973 and had become one of the
publishers of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, joined Ernst Nolte


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11. Antisemitic Manifestations
in the controversy over the uniqueness of the Nazi murder of
European Jews. 36
The Bonn government, no less than Jews in Germany and
abroad, had been surprised by the rash of anti-Jewish manifestations
after the desecration of the Cologne synagogue, even though there
had been a gradual increase of antisemitic occurrences in the pre
ceding two years. This time, the security forces reacted promptly.
The Cologne offenders were soon apprehended and sentenced to
prison terms, and so were others. Gerhard Schroder, minister of
the interior, who presented the government’s White Paper to the
Bundestag in February, put the emphasis on the imitative behavior
of bigots and juvenile delinquents, thus excluding any possibility
of a neo-Nazi conspiracy. He also alluded to Communist support
of at least a part of the instigators of the incidents, citing their
interest in denigrating West Germany. Chancellor Adenauer, and
particularly Minister of Defense Franz Josef Strauss, seemed to
have preferred stronger language with regard to East German in
volvement. Relying on secret information of the Defense Ministry,
Strauss maintained that the rulers of East Berlin had actively pro
moted antisemitic activities in the Federal Republic by infiltration
and other means. 37 Such activities damaged the image of the Federal
Republic, particularly on the eve of the abortive Paris summit
meeting of the Big Four. But these suggestions were hard to prove at
that time, and the anti-Jewish occurrences were not limited to West
Germany. In any case, the American Jewish community continued
to put the blame on the faults of the West German regime.
However, as Werner Bergmann emphasized in his analysis
of the 1959-60 incidents, the unequivocal condemnation of an
tisemitic incidents by West German political and cultural elites
presented a novum in German history and demonstrated the dif
ference from pre-Holocaust reactions. 38 The Bundestag debate on
antisemitism that followed the publication of the government’s
White Paper was one of the most important since the establish
ment of the Federal Republic. Leading spokesmen of the Social
Democratic opposition, such as Carlo Schmid, Adolf Arndt, and the
future West German president Gustav Heinemann, pointed to the
permanent connection between antisemitism and the weakening
of the foundations of German democracy. They castigated the
government’s failure to deal in a satisfactory way with the Nazi
past. CDU Bundestag members, for their part, while condemning


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
the anti-Jewish occurrences, nonetheless reiterated their conviction
that the most militant focus of antisemitism after World War II was
not in West Germany but in the Communist countries. 39
The number of antisemitic incidents soon decreased. But even
though far-reaching reforms were not yet implemented, the impact
of the shocking experience on German political culture was posi
tive. As a result of deliberations of the Lander ministers of education,
more emphasis was put on teaching contemporary history in high
schools; the law against preaching racist hatred was toughened; and
the most prominent ex-Nazi in the cabinet, Minister for Refugees
Theodor Oberlander, vacated his post. As a youngster Oberlander
had participated in the march toward the Feldherrnhalle during
Hitler’s unsuccessful Munich coup of November 1923; ten years
later he joined the Nazi party and rapidly advanced in its ranks.
Although he had been accused of having participated in a massacre
of Polish intellectuals and Lvov Jews as a lieutenant in the notorious
Nightingale Battalion during the German invasion of Ukraine, he
was cleared by an international committee. Still, many regarded
that as a whitewash.
Jerusalem’s reaction to the events of the winter of 1959-60
remained low-key. Israel, after all, was dependent on German repa
rations shipments and the evolving arms deals concerning the ex
port of Israeli military items to Germany and, more important,
German deliveries to Israel. The Knesset Foreign Relations and
Security Committee pronounced a warning against antisemitic ac
tions, which was transmitted to Bonn. However, during a Knesset
debate on a proposal of the Israel Communist Party to cancel an
arms export deal, Ben Gurion, who for the last years had stressed
the difference between the Nazi state and the “other Germany” of
Adenauer and the Social Democrats, again opposed the applica
tion of the term “a nation of murderers” to the German people. 40
The 1959 general elections in Israel, precipitated by a government
crisis caused by arms deals with Germany, enhanced Ben Gurion’s
position more than ever.
The possibility of a meeting between Ben Gurion and Ade
nauer had been broached since the late 1950s. Politically, both
had become closer after the Sinai War. Early in November 1956
Ben Gurion dispatched a message to Adenauer explaining Israel’s
motives. In the following years, more letters were exchanged, and
Israeli messengers such as Giora Josephtal, a leading member of


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11. Antisemitic Manifestations
the Mapai party, and Ambassador Fischer called on the chancellor’s
office in futile attempts to establish political and security links with
the Western community. Eventually, the visits of Adenauer and
Ben Gurion to the United States in March 1960 were chosen as
an appropriate occasion for a meeting between the two of them at
New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. That encounter provided for
a further strengthening of the pragmatic relations between Bonn
and Jerusalem, even though the subject of diplomatic links was
not discussed because of continuing West German objections. It
also contributed to improving Germany’s image among organized
American Jewry after the furor caused by the antisemitic incidents.
The meeting between Ben Gurion and Adenauer on March 14,
1960, the first between the heads of government of Israel and the
West German state, took place fifteen years after the end of World
War II and seven years after the ratification of the Luxembourg
agreement. Ben Gurion used the opportunity to appeal for long
term German credits of approximately $500 million—he had in
mind mainly the development of the Negev—as a further step in
helping the Jewish state. He also asked for increased and more
sophisticated arms shipments to provide for Israel’s security. Re
gardless of their differences in cultural and ideological background
and their divergent views on such issues as the future of Asia and
Africa, the two statesmen were very favorably impressed by each
other. After all, on international affairs, Ben Gurion was relatively
closer to Adenauer than was neutralist Goldmann. Israeli sources
leaked interpretations that Adenauer had committed himself to
development credits of $500 million for the next ten years, while
the Germans denied that the chancellor had made any definite
pledges. Nonetheless, Adenauer also committed himself to a sub
stantial increase of arms supply for Israel. 41 Goldmann, who was
not involved, privately criticized as exaggerated and damaging Ben
Gurion’s statement that the Germany of today was “a new nation.” 42
One day after his encounter with Ben Gurion, Adenauer met
President Eisenhower at the White House. On the eve of the
Paris summit and because of Adenauer’s fear of the first signs of
detente, the $tate Department advised Eisenhower not to annoy
the German guest. The president was counseled to discuss the
antisemitic incidents only if Adenauer himself broached them. If
he did so, the American side should express its concern about the
damage caused to the Federal Republic by those happenings. From


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REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
the beginning of the year it had become clear that, in contrast
to the uproar of American liberal public opinion, the reaction
of the administration and also of many legislators on the Hill
was rather subdued. This was particularly true when compared to
the much more critical view of the British government and the
House of Commons. No wonder that the subject did not come
up during the talk between Eisenhower and Adenauer. The aging
West German leader was mainly concerned with the danger of
Communist ideology. But U.S. governmental restraint did not
detract from the importance of American publicized and public
opinion, which had been much more sensitive to the antisemitic
manifestations in Germany. 43
In a way, the favorable media coverage of the German-Israel
summit in New York and its interpretation as a “hopeful sign
for the future” helped the Federal Republic and its government
improve their standing after the storm of criticism earlier in the
year. At a session of the American Council on Germany a few
hours after the meeting with Ben Gurion, Adenauer reassured his
audience that no Jew in Germany would be hurt by anyone. The
German mind, he said, was neither antisemitic nor nationalistic.
Rabbi Joachim Prinz, president of the AJ Congress, heaped only
praise on the chancellor on that occasion. 44 The AJ Congress’s
mouthpiece, Congress Bi-Weekly, which shared the general verdict
about the importance of the German-Israeli summit, nevertheless
thought that Ben Gurion’s role in that exchange of views was still
most difficult: “It was probably tempting not to raise the specter of
the past, but he was admirably frank in stating that while ‘my people
cannot forget the past, we remember it in order that it should not
reoccur.’ ” 45
Nathan Straus, the liberal left-leaning owner of New York’s
WMCA, remained unconvinced that a fundamental change had
taken place in the Federal Republic. His station counted many
listeners among the metropolitan Jewish population who usually
were more critical of Germany and the Germans than was the Jew
ish establishment. He reminded his audience of the former Nazis
and Nazi collaborators still in positions of power and concluded,
contrary to Ben Gurion, that the “past” was still the present. 46
Not surprisingly, the increasing number of antisemitic events in
West Germany in the late 19 5 Os brought about a temporary renais
sance of anti-German public protests. Objections were mounted


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11. Antisemitic Manifestations
by “progressive” or pro-Communist Jewish groups, in cooperation
with certain landsmanshaften, left-wing trade unions or members
of the Association of Polish Jews, all of whom reflected the deep
hostility of the Jewish masses to Germany. In October 1959, an
Israeli consul in New York was surprised by the large number—
more than a thousand—of participants at a protest rally against the
sale of Israeli arms to West Germany, organized by the Jewish Com
munist daily, Morgen Freiheit. Several of the speakers made it clear
that they objected to the arms deal but continued to support Israel.
The counselor at the Israeli embassy in Washington confessed that
the arms deal with Germany caused uneasiness and confusion in
contacts with American Jews, but the remarks of these diplomats
had no effect on Israel’s policy. 47
Early in 1960, a number of protest meetings against anti
semitism and Nazism in West Germany were staged in New York
and other big cities, most of them by left-wing progressives. At a
rally sponsored by the Youth Committee against Bigotry, Martin
Luther King Jr., the black civil rights leader, and socialist Norman
Thomas were among the speakers. The Yiddish Morgen Freiheit
daily, Morris Schappes’s Jewish Currents, and also Jack Fishbein
in his Chicago Sentinel expressed critical views on Ben Gurion’s
German policy, the sale of Israeli weapons to Germany, as well as the
Adenauer-Ben Gurion meeting in New York. This was in contrast
to the strong support for Ben Gurion in the American Jewish press.
More than once they also cited the criticism encountered by the
Israeli prime minister at home, because of both his readiness “to
forgive the Germans” and the implied threat that his meeting with
the anti-Soviet German chancellor might be considered by Moscow
as an anti-Soviet provocation. 48
In 1961, pro-Communist groups were involved in protest meet
ings against the West German general Adolf Heusinger, who
was appointed and later renominated as chairman of NATO’s
permanent military committee in Washington. On this occasion,
left-wing critics reminded the public of the World War II cooper
ation between the Wehrmacht and the SS. Because of Heusinger’s
ambivalent past, the anti-Communist JWV took part in protest
actions, whereas AJ Congress did not go further than passing a
resolution of disapproval. 49
The AJ Congress decided that it would not be desirable to
pursue the matter by public protests, and disassociated itself from


216
REPARATIONS: THEIR IMPACT AND LIMITS
the Communist campaign. Yet despite Rabbi Prinz’s hesitation, AJ
Congress’s leadership passed a resolution in 1962 against extending
Heusinger’s tour of duty. 50 However, because of the first steps of
detente in the early 1960s, the beginning of the American Jewish
struggle for Soviet Jewry and the old and new Left’s involvement
in the growing protest against the Vietnam War, left-wing anti-
German activities receded even more to the sidelines.


PART IV
Holocaust
Consciousness
and the Role
of Israel



219
12
The Eichmann Trial and
the Quest for Punishment of
Nazi Criminals
The Israeli capture of Adolf Eichmann and his trial in Jerusalem
eclipsed American Jews’ concern about a new rash of swastikas and
other Nazi symbols in Germany in the winter of 1959-60. While
the fate of six million murdered Jews was only a secondary item
at the trial of the major Nazi leaders in Nuremberg, all its horror
was exposed during the deliberations of the court in Jerusalem. In a
way, that experience contributed to deepening the links between the
American Jewish community and Israel. The trial also reaffirmed
Jewish identity in the Diaspora.
In the short run, the affair affected the domestic American
Jewish scene perhaps more than the community’s attitude toward
Germany. The Jewish establishment soon became involved in a
confrontation with critics of the trial inside American Jewry. At
the same time, it was busy furthering understanding among the
American public for Eichmann’s seizure and trial. But in the long
run, the trial’s impact spurred the growth of Holocaust conscious
ness, reaching its peak in the following decades. It also impeded
for a number of years any major improvement in American Jewry’s
perceptions of Germany.
From the very moment Eichmann was kidnapped, Israeli diplo
mats tried to obtain maximum support from American Jewish orga
nizations for Israel’s actions and its decision to put the Nazi criminal


220
HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
on trial in Jerusalem. American Jewish solidarity with Israel was
important as such, but it was also a precondition for a successful
information drive among the vast non-Jewish majority. Despite the
unease among liberals and trepidation engendered by Eichmann’s
capture and forceful removal from Argentina, the great majority
of committed American Jews soon became convinced that Israel’s
handling of the case was justified and joined forces in trying to
influence the American government and public.
Full support of Israel was expressed by the Yiddish and English
Jewish press; rabbis of all the major denominations dedicated their
weekly sermons to the affair. Jewish groups and individuals ap
pealed to Vice-President Richard Nixon, Secretary of State Chris
tian Herter, senators and congressmen; letters were dispatched to
the country’s leading newspapers. 1 Commentary, the most presti
gious Jewish periodical, published an article byjacob Robinson, the
distinguished veteran legal expert, strongly backing Israel’s claim
of jurisdiction. 2 A second round of intense public and community
relations activity followed early in 1961, before the opening of the
trial; another followed after the passing of the death sentence.
Nonetheless, despite the solid backing of the majority, there
was no full unanimity. Rabbi Dr. Louis Finkelstein, the renowned
scholar and chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New
York, at first hesitated over whether in his nonpolitical position he
could take a stand on such an issue as Eichmann’s capture. Eventu
ally he promised the Israeli consul general that Conservative rabbis
would support Israel’s case. 3 In contrast to the close cooperation
on the Luxembourg reparations agreement, divergent views were
also expressed by Nahum Goldmann, the WJC and World Zionist
Organization president. At first Goldmann suggested that Israel
turn Eichmann over to an international tribunal; subsequently he
proposed that the court in Jerusalem at least be supplemented by
non-Jewish judges. Ben Gurion angrily rejected such alternatives,
which contradicted Israeli and Zionist consensus. 4
Joseph M. Proskauer, past president of the AJC and himself
a retired judge, was afraid that the trial in Israel might increase
antisemitism in the United States. He felt it was important to
create a sympathetic climate in American public opinion that would
“permit America to furnish Israel with defensive weapons to meet
the Russian threat.” 5 Proskauer referred to the Washington Post’s
critical editorial that the government of Israel was not entitled to


221
12. The Eichmann Trial
speak and act on the Eichmann issue in the name of an “imaginary
Jewish ethnic unit.” He also detected antisemitism in some of
the last statements of Senator William Fulbright (D, Arkansas),
a persistent critic of Israel and Zionism. Because of such negative
repercussions he thought that some way might be found “to turn
the man over to West Germany or some international tribunal
for trial.” Ben Gurion took his time for a detailed reply to the
respected American Jewish leader, the former anti-Zionist who had
become a strong supporter of the State of Israel. Ben Gurion did
not exaggerate the importance of the Washington Post’s editorial
although it reflected a section of American public opinion that was
critical of Israel’s kidnapping of Eichmann and putting him on trial
in Israel. While there were antisemitic manifestations in the United
States, he did not regard the American people as antisemitic and
did not believe that because of the trial in Jerusalem America would
change its policy on the vital question of Israel’s security. 6 In any
case, for Ben Gurion, Eichmann’s trial in Israel, which he regarded
as the heir of the six million murdered Jews, was first of all a matter
of historic justice.
Not surprisingly, the main objections in the Jewish community
to the trial were raised by the anti-Zionist American Council for
Judaism. This body hoped to use the case to regain some of its
earlier standing after its decline in influence since the establishment
of Israel and the gradual improvement of U.S.-Israel relations. The
ACJ served as a platform for Harvard historian Oscar Handlin’s
attack on Israel’s leaders for exploiting the Holocaust to legitimize
the Jewish state, thus anticipating similar accusations by Israel’s
revisionist “new historians” in the post-Zionist climate of the 1990s.
In 1950, Handlin, a noted scholar of American ethnicity and im
migration, had rejected the anti-Zionist implication of Dorothy
Thompson’s insistence that “America demands a single loyalty.”
He emphasized just the opposite, that America did not take the
traditional tack of denying that Jews had such loyalties. Now, a
decade later, Handlin expressly refused to recognize Israel’s claim
that it alone was competent to represent the Jewish people as a
national entity. He also recalled that Jews were not the only victims
of Hitler’s savagery and accused Israel of setting “national, almost
tribal interests . . . above the more general, universal ones,” not
to mention the breach of the right of refuge by its violent act of
kidnapping. 7


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
Handlin was challenged not only by Zionists such as Marie
Syrian, a professor of Brandeis University, but also by Irving Howe,
a socialist intellectual and Dissent editor. However, contrary to mas
sive grassroots support for Israel’s position, Handlin’s reasoning was
shared in part by other members of the liberal scholarly and intellec
tual community, both Jewish and gentile. They expressed concern
about the role of Israel, the fairness of the trial, and even the ethics
of Judaism “because of Israel’s desire for vengeance rather than for
justice.” From Mexico City, Erich Fromm, author of The Sane Soci
ety, wrote to the New York Times that “the kidnapping of Eichmann
is an act of lawlessness of exactly the type of which the Nazis them
selves . . . have been guilty.” 8 The ACJ, for its part, revived in that
context accusations about the collaboration of Zionists and Nazi
officials prior to 1939 as well as during the Holocaust years. It re
hashed the slander that a great part of Nazi racial theory about Jews
was based upon an active understanding and support of the Zionist
doctrine that all Jews should leave Germany and settle in Palestine. 9
A much more significant controversy was caused by Hannah
Arendt’s report on the Eichmann trial for the New Yorker, which
in 1963 appeared in book form. 10 After the publication in 1951
of The Origins of Totalitarianism, her first major opus, the Jewish
German-born public philosopher, political thinker, and essayist had
established herself as a prominent voice among America’s leading
intellectuals. As a young undergraduate, she studied at Marburg
under Martin Heidegger, with whom she had an affair and who
had a long-lasting impact on her. But despite the famous exis
tentialist philosopher’s support for national socialism, which he
never publicly recanted, their personal contact was restored after
the war, upon Hannah Arendt’s urging, and lasted until the end of
their lives. At the same time, she developed a lifelong friendship
with her doctoral guide and revered teacher Karl Jaspers, who had
been removed by the Nazis from his teaching job in Heidelberg.
Jaspers, who before the Nazi takeover was close to the right-wing
intellectual critics of the Weimar Republic known as supporters
of the “Konservative Revolution,” moved after the war to Basel.
From there he repeatedly voiced his criticism of the West Ger
man government’s security policies and its insistence on German
reunification.
Arendt’s position moved from sympathy for the Jewish pioneers
in Palestine in her first years of exile in Europe to fierce criticism of


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12. The Eichmann Trial
Zionist nationalism during the war, which she spent in the United
States. In an essay, “Zionism Reconsidered,” which appeared in
1945 in the Menorah Journal after it had been rejected by Com
mentary, she argued that the promising social revolutionary Jewish
national movement had failed. She maintained that Zionism had
developed to the detriment of Palestinian Arabs, the Diaspora, and
international understanding. In 1948, she joined Hebrew Univer
sity president Judah Magnes’s opposition to the Jewish state. In an
article in Commentary, “To Save the Jewish Homeland: There Is
Still Time,” she cited the American proposal of an interim United
Nations trusteeship as the only hope to forestall a Jewish state, to
prevent partition, and to halt the ascendancy of Jewish and Arab
terrorists to power. 11
The trial in Jerusalem, which Arendt covered thirteen years
later, served as an opportunity for her to express anew her dislike of
Zionist nationalism and its militaristic trend. She strongly criticized
the conduct of the trial, and especially the nationalistic particularist
purposes it served. While obviously showing no sympathy for Eich
mann, she noted that he was less the evil incarnate and the initiator
of the liquidation of European Jewry, as Israeli chief prosecutor
Gideon Hausner tried to portray him, than a cog in the murder ma
chine. Arendt accused Israel’s prime minister, David Ben Gurion,
of conducting a show trial for educational purposes and objected
to efforts to link the Holocaust with an “eternal antisemitism” to
legitimize and strengthen the Jewish state. In her view, the genocide
was not just a problem of relations between Jews and non-Jews but
a crime against the human race, committed against but not limited
to the Jewish people. Even though her analysis of Ben Gurion’s
motivation was partly correct, she distinguished between Hausner,
who served Ben Gurion and the state, and the three German-born
judges who handled the case in a rather fair way.
However, more than on all other issues, the author annoyed
the Jewish community, and not only supporters of Zionism, by
her contention that the Jewish communal leadership in Germany
and Europe shared responsibility for the destruction of the Jewish
people. Without this cooperation, she wrote, the Holocaust might
not have reached the dimensions it did. 12 In his 1961 study, The De
struction of the European Jews, historian Raul Hilberg had expressed
similar views on the failure of European Jewry to engage in active
resistance and its self-deception about the German extermination


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
program. 13 For many years, Hilberg’s thesis encountered much
disapproval by Jewish historians in Israel and the Diaspora. But
his profound though controversial scholarly work did not evoke
the immediate response elicited by Arendt’s volume among the
American Jewish public.
Hannah Arendt’s treatment of the Eichmann trial aroused a
storm of criticism from different people in Israel and in the Amer
ican Jewish community, which raged for a number of years. Ger-
shom Scholem’s disgust with Arendt’s “lack of love for the Jewish
people” was so deep that he broke off their longtime friendship.
Kurt Blumenfeld, the liberal German Zionist leader who in the
1930s had provided her with a job at Youth Aliyah in Paris, was
deeply angered. Siegfried Moses, on behalf of the Council of Jews
from Germany, made a “declaration of war” against the author and
her book.
At home in the United States, she was debunked by Norman
Podhoretz, then still a liberal, in his Commentary summary of ob
jections to her volume raised by Lionel Abel, Marie Syrkin, Walter
Laqueur, and others. In the forefront of the communal assault on
Arendt was the ADL, which inspired hostile book reviews in the
English-Jewish press. Nahum Goldmann also joined the chorus
of her critics, telling a meeting of the Bergen-Belsen Survivor
Organization in New York that Arendt had accused European Jews
of letting themselves be slaughtered by the Nazis and of displaying
“cowardice and lack of will to resist.” Jacob Robinson’s And the
Crooked Shall be Made Straight, the most comprehensive rebuttal of
Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, appeared in 1965.
While Arendt complained that the Zionists and organized
Jewry in the United States were resorting to any means to destroy
her reputation, she drew support from gentile intellectual friends
such as Mary McCarthy and Dwight MacDonald. A few young
Jewish new leftists, too, were content that her critical analysis had
stirred up a generational conflict in the Jewish community. Yet,
despite her disagreements with the Zionists and the Jewish estab
lishment, she refused offers of protection and support from anti-
Zionist ACJ. 14 Overseas, she also found consolation in the private
correspondence with philosopher Karl Jaspers, who hailed her essay
as “an act of aggression against life-sustaining lies.” He predicted
that a time would come when Jews would erect a monument to
her in Israel. At least until now, that prediction has not come true,


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12. The Eichmann Trial
although as a result of generational and ideological changes she has
recently enjoyed a much better reputation in Israel’s academia. 15
For the record, it must be mentioned that in 1967 Hannah
Arendt was elated by Israel’s victory in the Six Day War. Arendt
expressly distinguished between aggressive and defensive military
involvements, and she regarded the 1967 war, unlike the 1956 Sinai
Campaign, as legitimate. According to her biographer, Elizabeth
Young-Bruehl, several months after that war she confessed to her
good friend Mary McCarthy that “any real catastrophe in Israel
would affect [her] more deeply than almost anything else.” At the
beginning of the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, she feared
Israel might be destroyed, and attended an emergency meeting at
Columbia University’s Law School, where various suggestions for
aiding Israel were considered. She even made a contribution to
the right-wing Jewish Defense League, as she did in 1967, perhaps
unaware of the League’s extremist program. 16 Nonetheless, such an
emotional display of sympathy toward Israel in times of stress did
not detract from the sum total of her legacy, which was profoundly
critical of Zionism and Jewish nationalism and of the link between
American Jewry and Israel as an obstacle to a settlement with the
Palestinian Arabs. In all, that rather long controversy contributed
to the Jewish community’s growing interest in the Holocaust, in
addition to the trial itself. Arendt, for her part, came to be regarded
as a pioneer both of the universalist interpretation of the Holocaust
and of the functionalist—as distinguished from the intentionalist—
approach, stressing the impersonal bureaucratic process of mass
murder in a totalitarian state. 17
Of course, there were also radical American Jews who had often
been critical of Israel and its political tendencies. As a result of the
Eichmann trial, some of them came to better understand the rea
sons for “Jewish parochialism, chauvinism and distrust.” For Paul
Jacobs, for instance, attendance in the courtroom in Jerusalem was
an experience that forced him to confront his admitted ignorance
and insensitivity in the past to the Jewish problem. He had opposed
the trial in Israel’s capital before it started. Yet, it strengthened his
Jewish identity, which had been marginal to him in comparison
to the radical movement and the case of the Spanish Republicans
struggling against the Fascists before World War II. As he confessed
in Midstream, the moment he saw Eichmann walk into his cage on
the day the trial opened, he could not rid himself of the guilt that


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
he “did not do enough for Israel, not even for Jews as such, but for
six million human beings.” 18
According to summaries of the American Jewish Year Book, gen
tile America’s response to Eichmann’s capture and trial ranged from
approval or condoning of Israel’s role to condemnation. There
was no consistent correlation between the political orientation of
newspapers and their comments and reports on the Eichmann case;
approval and opposition were expressed in both conservative and
liberal papers in different regions of the country. Skepticism toward
Germany in general was much rarer than the distinction between
Adenauer’s Federal Republic and the former Nazi Reich. ADL,
surveying more than a thousand editorials, found that whereas
comments at the time of Eichmann’s capture had run 7 to 3 against
Israel, one year later it ran 10 to 3 in Israel’s favor. Opinion polls
showed that 50 percent of the public felt that Israel was the proper
place to try Eichmann, in comparison to 36 percent who preferred
handing him over to an international court; 71 percent thought
it was a good thing, and 21 percent a bad thing, for the world
to be reminded of the Nazi concentration camp horrors; approx
imately the same majority regarded the trial in Jerusalem as fair.
An analysis of these polls by the AJC found that educated respon
dents with at least some college training were less ready to credit
Israel with sufficient objectivity to conduct the trial than the less
educated. 19
The verdict pronounced upon Eichmann in December 1961
came as no surprise to the American public, but the issue of his exe
cution became the subject of an intense public debate and continued
even after his hanging. To hang Eichmann seemed absurd to some
papers; not to hang him seemed absurd to others. The New York
Times and several other dailies echoed Martin Buber’s suggestion
that Eichmann be imprisoned and condemned to hard labor to the
end of his days. 20 Buber’s objection to the death sentence was shared
in Jerusalem by other noted scholars such as Gershom Scholem and
Samuel Hugo Bergmann. According to the recollections of Myer
Feldman, President John F. Kennedy’s Jewish affairs adviser, the
president thought the Israelis would probably come out better if
they commuted the death sentence, but he refrained from any offi
cial intercession in the affair, nor did he offer advice through private
channels. 21 It was common knowledge that Kennedy was regarded
as more friendly to Jews than President Eisenhower had been. Jews


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12. The Eichmann Trial
usually expected more support from a Democratic president than
from a Republican.
Opposition to applying the ultimate punishment to Eichmann
was also preponderant in the Jewish community. According to a
NCRAC analyst, this attitude was not motivated by a profound
sense of revulsion against capital punishment but by growing fears
that Israel, and with her the Jews, could not afford to be accused of
vengeance. 22 However, after the execution, spokesmen of organized
Jewry did their best to defend the ultimate penalty confirmed by
Israel’s Supreme Court.
During the Eichmann trial in 1961, NCRAC commissioned
a survey to measure the public’s image of the German people.
In a similar study twenty years earlier, the five most frequent
adjectives were warlike, cruel, treacherous but hard-working, and
intelligent. All adjectives in the current study were positive: hard
working, intelligent, progressive, practical, and brave. By and large,
America’s image of the Germans sixteen years after World War II
was favorable. This did not alleviate the Jewish organizations’ task
of raising public opinion against negative outbursts. In general,
during the Eichmann trial, the strongest anti-German sentiment
still came from the South and the East, the least from the West and
Midwest. 23
Another poll conducted in July 1961 showed that the trial had
not substantially affected the feelings of Americans toward the
German people. Seven percent reported that they had become more
sympathetic to the Germans as a result of the trial. Seventeen per
cent had become less sympathetic, 5 5 percent reported no change,
and 21 percent expressed no opinion. 24 As for Israel, the NCRAC
survey concluded that there was not much hostile reaction against it
as a result of the trial in Jerusalem. If the trial sparked any reaction
to Jewish people in America, the positive reactions undoubtedly
outweighed the negative ones. 25
Despite such polls, indicating a rather moderate decline in
sympathy, leading politicians in Bonn as well as German diplomats
in the United States were very much concerned about the possible
unfavorable repercussions of the proceedings in Jerusalem on the
Federal Republic’s standing in American public opinion and their
impact on American-West German relations. The German consul
general in New York broached the subject in talks with represen
tatives of the ADL, the American Jewish organization that had the


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
best contacts with the German diplomats since the mid-1950s. Ben
jamin Epstein, ADL national executive director, thought that a pub
lic German statement recognizing Israel’s right to put Eichmann on
trial, as well as a summary of Germany’s own legal actions against
Nazi criminals, might help to stress the difference between the
Nazi regime and the liberal democratic character of postwar West
Germany. 26 The day the trial opened, the acting German consul
general summoned a meeting with representatives of all the major
Jewish organizations who expressed similar views. Israeli diplomats,
too, were approached by their German counterparts in regard to the
Eichmann trial. Wilhelm Grewe, the ambassador in Washington,
discussed it with Israel’s ambassador, Abraham Harman, and in New
York the German consul general met members of Israel’s consulate
general in the presence of ADL. 27
Adenauer himself, who at first had been concerned about possi
ble negative repercussions for the German people, declared on the
eve of his visit to the United States that from the moral viewpoint,
Israel had the right to put on trial the man whom it regarded as one
of the worst mass murderers. His main worry was that State Secre
tary Hans Globke, his closest adviser, should not become involved
and be called to testify at the trial in Jerusalem. Whatever the doubts
about Globke’s service during the Nazi regime, as interpreter of the
Nuremberg racial laws and elsewhere, Bonn’s wish with regard to
Globke was honored by the Israeli side. Moreover, all efforts by
the GDR to incriminate Globke with the help of the observer it
dispatched to the trial were of no avail. 28
In contrast to its unwillingness to get involved in the American
Jewish-German confrontation over the antisemitic occurrences of
the winter of 1959-60, Israel played an active role in the Jewish
community’s actions on the Eichmann affair. It was interested in
preserving the support of American public opinion while not en
dangering continuous West German material assistance. The Ger
mans, for their part, reminded the American Jewish organizations
of the prompt implementation of the reparations agreement. They
also discreetly referred to the unofficial agreement on further aid
for Israel reached between Adenauer and Ben Gurion in March
1960. They could not grasp, though, that despite the conciliatory
summit meeting between the two leaders, Ben Gurion’s putting
Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem affected American Jewry in just the
opposite direction.


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12. The Eichmann Trial
West German public opinion polls and surveys did not show
any upsurge of antisemitism there as a result of Eichmann’s trial and
death sentence. These polls were conducted upon the initiative of
the AJC by the Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt in April-
May 1961 and in January-February 1962. On the contrary, they
confirmed a continuing small improvement in comparison to polls
taken over the last decade. Hundreds of editorials that appeared all
over Germany expressed much soul-searching. In the opinion of
one of the AJC staff people, the reaction of the West German press
to the Eichmann case constituted one of the most important and
promising developments since the end of Nazism. 29
The Eichmann trial took place at a very inconvenient time for
West Germany. Its relations with the new Democratic adminis
tration were less close than they had been with its Republican
predecessor, especially as long as John Foster Dulles served as
secretary of state. In the winter of 1960-61, both the outgoing
and incoming administrations in Washington were at odds with
the Federal Republic over the balance of payments and the costs
of keeping American forces on German soil. But even before the
Berlin Wall definitively divided the former German capital for
the next twenty-eight years, Adenauer became afraid of the new
preferences and the winds of change blowing from President John
Fitzgerald Kennedy’s brain trusters in Washington.
Afterwards, the chancellor was irritated by the relatively mild
American response to the wall built by the Ulbricht regime in
coordination with the Soviet Union, by the new NATO strategy
of flexible response, and by the friendly reception in Washington
of Social Democratic opposition spokesmen. This included Berlin
mayor Willy Brandt, who showed more understanding for the JFK
administration’s new emphases. After the building of the Berlin
Wall, Adenauer dispatched Kurt Birrenbach, a CDU member of
the Bundestag well versed in international affairs, on a special
mission to the United States to find out why Washington and the
other Western allies remained indifferent to the new Soviet and
East German challenge. The chancellor advised him to meet with
influential Jews in addition to leading members of the American
foreign and security policy establishment. Birrenbach saw, among
others, Nahum Goldmann, the lawyer David Ginsburg, Adenauer’s
friend Dannie Heineman, and Abraham Feinberg, president of
the Mayser Corporation and one of Israel’s main supporters. In


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
these talks he tried to impress upon them the similarity between
divided Berlin and Jerusalem. Some revealed understanding for
the German point of view, whereas others were noncommittal.
As Erhard’s emissary after Adenauer’s retirement, Birrenbach was
to take part in the 1965 West German-Israeli negotiations about
a settlement with regard to the suspended arms shipments and
the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two
countries. 30
In 1962, Adenauer had to replace Ambassador Grewe, whom
Kennedy and his advisers could not stand. In 1963, the gap between
Bonn and Washington widened even more because of the atomic
test ban agreement between the United States, Great Britain, and
the Soviet Union and the new Elysee Treaty between Adenauer
and French president Charles de Gaulle. Only after Adenauer’s
departure in October 1963 did his pro-American successor, Ludwig
Erhard, together with other “Atlanticist” ministers from the CDU
and FDP, attempt to restore mutual confidence with the hegemonic
power overseas on which the Federal Republic’s security still relied.
German VIPs visiting the United States and diplomats serving
there usually credited much of the anti-German sentiment to the
fact that many influential Americans in television, radio, book pub
lishing, and the film industry were Jews who did not forget and did
not want others to forget what happened to European Jewry during
the Holocaust. Even before the Eichmann trial and its impact on the
American media, the Germans were upset by the record-breaking
sales of William Shirer’s 1959 best-seller The Rise and Fall of the
Third Reich. Shirer, himself a non-Jewish left-liberal who served as
CBS Berlin correspondent until 1941, treated the Nazi movement
as a representative product of Germany’s political culture. His
book shaped the view of many Americans more than evenhanded
scholarly publications. 31 Well- done TV productions, later screened
as films, such as Stanley Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg, were
regarded by progovernment German observers as much more dam
aging to Germany’s image than the old anti-German propaganda
films of World War II. Anti-Nazi Social Democratic mayor Willy
Brandt in December 1961 sponsored the film’s premiere in West
Berlin, with General Lucius Clay as Kennedy’s special representa
tive in the audience. Still, Christopher Emmet, executive head of
the lobbylike American Council on Germany, found it necessary to
remind the public of producer Kramer’s Communist-front record,


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12. The Eichmann Trial
complaining that nobody was mentioning it since it smacked of
McCarthyism. 32
As a retaliatory action to protect German interests in the early
1960s, German diplomats discreetly approved of local protests by
German Americans against anti-German productions in the me
dia; 33 they would not have considered such means in the 1950s.
However, the consul general in New York warned his superiors in
Bonn against exaggerating the impact of the anti-German manifes
tations. He stressed the fact that leaders of the Jewish community
such as Nahum Goldmann, Irving Engel of the AJC, and Benjamin
Epstein of the ADL promised cooperation in containing the “anti-
German wave.” On an earlier occasion, the consulate general in
New York engaged the help of the ADL to prevent the screening
of Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi production Triumph des Willens.
On the other hand, Ambassador Harman was told by his superi
ors in Jerusalem to see to it that important Germans understood the
damage caused to them by Bonn’s ambiguous attitude to Israel. The
refusal to establish diplomatic relations, Germany’s hesitation on
Israel’s request for closer links with the EEC, and the insistence of
full secrecy regarding the assistance agreed upon at the Adenauer-
Ben Gurion meeting in 1960 contributed to Jerusalem’s concern.
Chaim Yachil, the director general of the Israel foreign ministry at
that time, shared the view of Harvard professor Henry Kissinger
that Germans were still sensitive to American Jewish opinion. 34
The influence of organized American Jewry on people of Jewish
origin in the media and in the film industry was admittedly limited.
The American Council on Germany, however, which counted a
number of Jewish Americans not representative of the community
in its ranks, was very much interested in gaining some kind of
support from the major Jewish organizations for its activities and
publications. Emmet repeatedly heaped much praise upon them,
but mostly his efforts were in vain. For instance, in 1960, after the
swastika daubings and antisemitic manifestations of the winter of
1959-60, both the AJC and ADL regarded the Council’s pamphlet,
“The Vanishing Swastika,” as one-sided and apologetic. The AJC
refused Emmet’s request that it buy and distribute a thousand or
more copies, even without the Committee’s endorsement. Ben
jamin Epstein, ADL’s national director who had known Emmet
since his anti-Nazi activities in the 1930s, thought that the pamphlet
was even more far-reaching in its whitewash of the significance of


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
former Nazis in government than the attitude of many officials in
Bonn. Nonetheless, Jewish criticism did not prevent the publica
tion of the booklet by the traditional pro-German Henry Regnery
publishing house in Chicago and its wide distribution in the United
States and Canada. 35
A few years later, the AJC also took issue with another apolo
getic statement circulated by the American Council on Germany. It
glossed over the problems presented by the election successes of the
extreme right-wing NPD in the fall of 1966, at a time when Kurt
Georg Kiesinger, himself a former member of the Nazi party, was
appointed federal chancellor as Erhard’s successor. 36 That state
ment was signed by twenty-nine American experts on Germany,
including not only the regular pro-German public and academic
figures but also political scientist Hans Morgenthau and Henry
Kissinger, who a few years later would become President Richard
M. Nixon’s main adviser on security and foreign affairs. 37
Two years after the Eichmann trial, the American Jewish com
munity became deeply involved in the campaign for extension of
the German statute of limitations in cases of murder that was to go
into effect in May 1965. After a long pause, which lasted until the
late 1950s because of the Cold War and the conservative political
climate at home, West Germany had finally started to look for Nazi
criminals and to bring them to court. Authorities were helped by
incriminating material gathered by the Ludwigsburg Central Office
for Investigation of Nazi Crimes. The World Jewish Congress,
particularly its New York office, made a substantial contribution to
the preparation of a number of trials through an intense search for
witnesses in America, Israel, and other nations. Until his death in
1964, IJA director Nehemiah Robinson, who had been involved
in reparations and uncovering of Nazi crimes since the 1940s,
was successful in establishing good working relations with German
judges and state prosecutors. 38
However, according to the German penal code of 1871, under
which Nazi criminals were prosecuted and punished, the statute of
limitations applied to all crimes. Thus, since the Bundestag’s con
servative majority had rejected the extension of the statute in 1960
in cases of manslaughter, 39 it was likely that after May 1965, Nazi
criminals who had successfully evaded detection and indictment
would be able to survive in safety without further prosecution. Is
rael, Americanjews, and other Diaspora communities joined forces


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12. The Eichmann Trial
against such a possibility and, with pressure exerted by various
nations, eventually prevailed. The improved atmosphere in East-
West relations made the Jewish community more resolute in its
efforts than it had been in opposing the amnesty and commutation
of sentences of Nazi criminals by the American authorities in the
heyday of the Cold War.
In a way, the belated Nazi trials in West Germany added to
the urgency of the campaign for extending the statute of limi
tations in cases of murder. Fritz Bauer, the state prosecutor in
Hessen, himself a former Jewish exile who had helped Israel find
Eichmann in Argentina, meticulously prepared the Frankfurt trial
of twenty-two former Auschwitz guards and medical personnel.
Yet, his expectation that the biggest mass trial of Nazi murderers
since Nuremberg would shock the German public and contribute
to its self-cleansing did not materialize. Despite the German me
dia’s detailed reporting of the case, the number of Germans who
favored an end to further prosecution of Nazi criminals grew dur
ing the proceedings. Whereas 53 percent of those interviewed
in mid-1964 considered it proper to continue such trials, at the
end of the year 63 percent of all German men and 76 percent
of German women wanted to put an end to them. Six life sen
tences were passed at the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt, four at
the Treblinka trial in Diisseldorf, and a few more at other trials.
However, a great many defendants accused of murder received
shorter sentences. 40
In the early 1960s, a partial purge in the West German judiciary
system took place. Approximately 150 judges and state prosecutors
who had been involved in illegitimate severe sentences during the
Nazi dictatorship voluntarily retired. However, many judges who
remained in office continued to rely on the excuse that defendants
of lower ranks had only fulfilled the orders of their superiors. There
also was a growing tendency of the assize courts, comprised of
three professional judges and six lay jurors, to hand down verdicts
of complicity in murder rather than murder itself, a fact sharply
criticized by most of the serious media. Altogether, the first major
trials in the mid-1960s showed how little had been done until
then to cope with many thousands implicated in the Nazi murder
machine. 41
Skepticism prevailed, therefore, over Bonn’s argument that the
putting into effect of the statute of limitations would not mean the


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
cessation of all the outstanding Nazi crime trials. Under the existing
law, the suspects needed only to be formally charged before the
statute’s expiration to secure their prosecution. The long-delayed
search for incriminating material against suspected Nazi criminals
in Russian, Polish, and Czechoslovakian archives revealed many
unknown testimonies and added further proof of the necessity of
at least extending the statute, if not for its abolition.
In the last months of his chancellorship, Adenauer told Ambas
sador Eliezer Shinnar, the head of the Israeli mission in Cologne,
that he was very much concerned about the damage caused to the
Federal Republic by the continuing trials of Nazi criminals eighteen
years after the end of World War II. He suggested a dubious
quid pro quo: putting an end to all the trials, together with the
establishment of full diplomatic relations with Israel. 42 Adenauer
left office without establishing such relations, and as a result of
Ben Gurion’s resignation and domestic pressure, Israel became an
active participant in 1964 in the fight against the implementation
of the statute. Because of Israel’s dependence on German financial
as well as military aid, Ben Gurion was careful not to raise the issue
of Bonn’s handling of Nazi criminals after the Eichmann trial in
Jerusalem, and he refrained from exposing the blemished record
of several high West German officials. His successor Levi Eshkol’s
attitude in regard to Germany was more critical, 43 and Foreign
Minister Golda Meir’s even more so. However, because of the
importance of the American-German alliance and West Germany’s
vital interest in preserving the goodwill of American public opinion,
the brunt of the world Jewish campaign was borne by organized
American J ewry.
At the end of 1964, the West German government declared that
it would not extend the statute of limitations on Nazi war crimes,
which was to go into effect in mid-1965. Upon the suggestion of
Israeli diplomats in Washington and New York, the Conference of
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, whose impor
tance and range of activities grew in the 1960s, called for a change of
that attitude in an appeal to West German foreign minister Gerhard
Schroder. But the minister, no friend of Israel and a persistent op
ponent of Jewish pressure, refused to meet with a Jewish delegation
during his visit to the United States in December 1964. 44 Schroder
himself, a member of the Nazi party, had been expelled from its
ranks because of his marriage to a woman of Jewish descent.


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12. The Eichmann Trial
Ambassador Knappstein, who was familiar with the Jewish
community from long years of service as consul general in Chicago
and as observer to the United Nations in New York before his
appointment to Washington, was more forthcoming. He did not
share his government’s initial insistence that the statute should not
be extended for constitutional reasons. He hinted to the Jewish
leaders, whom he asked to call off public protests, that the cabinet’s
negative decision would not remain the final one. As a matter of
fact, contrary to the German ministry of justice, high officials in the
Foreign Office favored postponement in order to relieve pressure,
and Chancellor Erhard himself was known to support the extension
of the statute. 45 Jewish community leaders also appealed to legis
lators on Capitol Hill to use their good offices for the statute’s ex
tension. Subsequently, Senators Jacob Javits and Abraham Ribicoff
introduced a sense-of-Congress resolution asking the president to
formally make this a request from the West German government. 46
Although all American Jewish organizations were of one mind
about the urgency of extending the German statute, in the final
stage the traditional differences of opinion reappeared regarding
the steps necessary to achieve the common aim. As in the past, the
AJC opposed public protests. Morris Abram, its president at that
time, met the West German minister of justice Ewald Bucher in
Bonn and tried to convince him of the necessity to postpone the
implementation of the statute for at least five years. Abram wanted
to start the twenty-year period in 1949, when the Federal Republic
was established, and not in 1945. 47 Jacob Blaustein, the AJC’s elder
statesman, told Knappstein “that Germany would make a grievous
mistake if it acted under the erroneous impression that U.S. public
opinion—either non-Jewish or Jewish—was no longer sensitive as
to what Germany does, or does not, from here on.” 48
The member organizations of the Presidents Conference pre
ferred direct action and endorsed picketing in fifteen key cities
where West German consulates were located. The JWV played
a leading role in organizing the protests. A partner that cooper
ated with the JWV was the Orthodox Young Israel, which hence
became a permanent participant in anti-German demonstrations. 49
NCRAC encouraged public statements by nonsectarian civic, pro
fessional, and civil rights groups, and particularly by Christian
clergymen. The ADL appealed to public opinion in states and cities
that were not targeted by the Presidents Conference. 50 However, an


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
extremely critical advertisement of the JWV in the national press
that recalled German brutality and arrogance in World Wars I
and II incurred much criticism not only from Julius Klein, who
submitted his resignation from the organization, but also from
the Jewish establishment. Philip Klutznick, for instance, regarded
it as detrimental from the American, the Jewish, and the Israeli
viewpoints. 51
Though not the only factor, the American Jewish campaign and
Israel’s demands undoubtedly contributed to the change of attitude
of West Germany’s government, which finally extended the statute
until 1969. Pressure had constantly mounted not only from Jewish
circles but also from foreign governments whom Bonn could not
afford to ignore, especially because of the incriminating material
supplied by Eastern European archives. The four-and-a-half-year
extension was the minimal period demanded by the AJC; others
thought it was too short. According to German public opinion polls,
the majority of the Germans felt otherwise: 57 percent of them
wanted to put an end to the trials of Nazi criminals altogether, 11
percent had no opinion on that issue, and, despite the evidence
produced at the trials of the Nazi murderers in Auschwitz and
other extermination camps, only 32 percent favored the lifting of
the statute. 52
Nonetheless, the Bundestag debate of March 10, 1965, on the
postponement of the statute of limitations saw more German soul-
searching than had most of its earlier deliberations. 53 The House
was split between those who recognized the priority of historical
responsibility and those who refused to budge from existing legal
principles, some of them bona fide and others for political reasons.
The Social Democratic legal expert, Adolf Arndt, himself partly
of Jewish origin, reminded his fellow parliamentarians that “every
body in Germany knew that Jews were being murdered, possibly
not all the details, but there was no one who today would not be
lying if he claimed that he was ignorant.”
Arndt asked forgiveness for not having protested when Ger
man Jews were deported to the East. Ernst Benda, a prominent
Christian Democrat of the party’s liberal wing, who later served as
president of the Federal Republic’s Constitutional Court, refuted
all comparisons between Nazi crimes and indiscriminate Allied
bombings in their war against Nazi Germany. In principle, the ma
jority of the Social Democrats favored total abolition of the statute


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12. The Eichmann Trial
by a constitutional amendment, mainly for reasons of Germany’s
democratic regime, not because of foreign pressure. But since they
found no partners who would support abolition, they agreed to the
rather limited extension by regular legislation. This compromise
was also endorsed by former chancellor Adenauer and confirmed in
the Bundestag by a majority of 344 to 96, and 4 abstentions. 54 The
experience of the following years showed that the postponement
until 1969 was not enough. Thus, in 1969, the statute was extended
for another ten years until its final abolition in 1979.



239
13
Changing Circumstances
and Futile Dialogues
Late in March 1965, the West German government and parlia
ment bowed to pressure from abroad and decided to postpone
the application of the statute of limitations, thus providing for
further prosecution of Nazi criminals accused of murder. But even
more crucial for the American Jewish-Israeli-German triangular
relationship was Chancellor Ludwig Erhard’s decision, taken in
the same month, to establish full diplomatic relations between
Bonn and Jerusalem. After agreement between both nations had
been reached in May, ambassadors were exchanged in August. The
American Jewish community, which was very much involved in the
campaign for postponing the statute of limitations, also contributed
to Bonn’s rather belated decision on normalizing relations with the
Jewish state.
Both the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel and
the postponement of the statute of limitations were regarded by
some American Jewish leaders as paving the way for an improve
ment of American Jewry’s attitude toward Germany. There were
deliberations on the subject in communal agencies, exchanges of
views at symposia, and more visits to the Federal Republic by rabbis
and secular intellectuals, but without concrete results. The only
outcome was that for organized Jewry the interest in the German
problem that had increased again during the swastika rash and the


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
Eichmann trial lost its urgency. The exception was issues connected
with Israel, support for which had become the common denomi
nator in American Jewish life. On the political level, the German
issue reemerged forcefully only twenty years later, as a part of the
conservative trend of the 1980s. To great dismay and despite strong
Jewish protests, West German chancellor Helmut Kohl insisted on
a common visit with President Ronald Reagan to Bitburg military
cemetery where a number of veteran SS soldiers were interred.
American Jewry’s growing Holocaust consciousness and its im
pact on communal priorities would soon add another dimension to
the complex American Jewish-German relationship and reinforce
the grass roots’ negative perception of the German people. The
Germans, for their part, regardless of their persisting interest in
conciliating American Jews, directed their main efforts in those
years toward Israel and its Jewish society. There they succeeded in
lifting a great many barriers in a remarkably short period. Mutual
ties between German and Israeli groups and institutions became
even stronger in the 1970s, the growing political difficulties be
tween both governments notwithstanding. 1
The long delay in establishing diplomatic relations between
the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel was caused by Bonn’s
insistence on the so-called Hallstein doctrine, as well as by German
economic and political interests in the Arab nations hostile to
Israel. Israel had been ready for such links since the late 1950s
but did not find it suitable to force the issue. In the 1960s, it
would agree only to full-fledged relations and not to any halfway
alternative, which some West Germans had in mind. According to
the Hallstein doctrine, West Germany regarded itself as the only
legitimate representative of the German nation, and the Foreign
Office in Bonn continued to argue that diplomatic relations with
Israel might cause Arab nations to retaliate by establishing relations
with the East German government. Thus the issue of formalizing
relations with Israel was put on ice for close to a decade.
Instead, the pragmatic West German-Israeli relationship that
began with the ratification of the reparations agreement in 1953
was augmented by arms deliveries and additional credits for Israel’s
development. Israel had become interested in obtaining quasi
military equipment from Germany even before the Sinai campaign,
but that successful war provided the opportunity for the first deals
based on mutual benefit. Franz Josef Strauss, West Germany’s


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13. Changing Circumstances
defense minister, and Shimon Peres, the director general of Israel’s
ministry of defense, initiated the sale of Israel’s Uzi submachine
guns to Germany and the first deliveries of German weapons to
Israel. Israel needed the German weapons, and Strauss favored
strengthening Israel’s military capacity as a de facto ally against
Soviet expansion in the Middle East. 2 Ben Gurion’s meeting with
Adenauer in 1960 in New York paved the way for a substantial in
crease of German arms supplies in the early 1960s. At the same time,
West German foreign-policymakers, some of whom regarded Israel
as a “nuisance factor,” presented their refusal to establish diplomatic
relations with Israel also as a service to the Western alliance, as well
as to Germany’s own political and economic interests. They argued
that both the European allies and the United States, who themselves
had such relations for many years, were interested in preserving the
traditional German-Arab friendship and not endangering it because
of Israel.
Quite understandably, German ambassadors to the Arab cap
itals such as Cairo, Baghdad, and Damascus were in the forefront
against any shift of Bonn’s policy in favor of diplomatic relations
with Israel. However, most of the foreign affairs establishment
shared the same views, as shown in the memoranda and correspon
dence of the recendy published volumes on German foreign policy
since 1963. 3 Even after the establishment of diplomatic relations,
Asher Ben-Nathan, Israel’s first full-fledged ambassador to Bonn,
was greeted with distinct coolness by German diplomats in charge
of contacts with him. 4 At the discussions of the CDU/CSU par
liamentary group, too, the opponents of establishing diplomatic
relations with Israel had prevailed, pointing to both Germany’s
political and its economic interests. Those who warned that Bonn’s
procrastination might sooner or later endanger the achievement
of the Luxembourg Treaty in “assuaging the aggressive polemic of
world Jewry against Germany” remained in the minority. 5
Before leaving office in October 1963, Adenauer explained to
former president Theodor Heuss that he had failed to establish
diplomatic relations with Israel because of Washington’s advice
against it. 6 As a matter of fact, the Americans never pressured
Bonn to proceed with the establishment of relations with Israel and
refused to promise the Germans preventive steps against retaliatory
measures of Egypt and other Arab nations. However, the U.S.
position was never as clear-cut as German spokesmen repeatedly


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
tried to interpret it, even though their view was shared in part also
by Israel’s envoy Eliezer Shinnar. 7 The main reason for Adenauer’s
retreat was that he could not obtain a majority in the CDU par
liamentary group and in the cabinet for such a decision. Foreign
Minister Schroder led the opposition and enjoyed the full support
of the FDP ministers, the coalition’s junior partner, in addition to
most Christian Democrats. The FDP objected to normalization
of relations with Israel just as it had opposed the extension of the
statute of limitations.
After Schroder had consistently opposed Adenauer’s attempts
to conclude his chancellorship by exchanging ambassadors with
Israel, he recommended to Adenauer’s successor, Erhard, in 1964
that he stop military cooperation with Israel. He also suggested
that Erhard invite Egypt’s President Nasser to pay an official visit
to Bonn. 8
Before the triangular German-Israeli-Egyptian crisis reached
its peak in the winter of 1964-65, German-Israeli relations in
1963-64 had been marred by Egypt’s employment of West German
scientists and military experts for its rocket research and armaments
industry. In fact, Israel’s leadership was divided in its evaluation of
this threat to its security, which Ben Gurion himself did not exag
gerate. Nevertheless, even before Ben Gurion’s resignation, in June
1963, which in part was caused by that issue, the foreign ministry de
cided to mobilize American Jewish support in the campaign against
the German experts, both in contacts with the administration and
congressmen and in talks with German diplomats and politicians.
Leading spokesmen of the AJC and B’nai B’rith broached the prob
lem with German ambassador Knappstein; Philip Klutznick tried
to engage Myer Feldman, President Kennedy’s and his successor
Lyndon Johnson’s Jewish affairs adviser, as well as Jacob Arvey,
still an influential voice among the Democrats. 9 All these interces
sions did not bear quick results. The West German government
did not wish to antagonize Egypt, since 1958 a main recipient of
German development aid and rated as a central factor in Germany’s
Middle East policy. At least some of its policy molders regarded
the scientists’ employment as a balancing factor at a time when
Israel enjoyed a growing amount of German military assistance.
Averell Harriman, at that point undersecretary of state for political
affairs, expressed understanding for Egypt’s interest in establishing
its own aircraft production by using Western sources. If the German


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13. Changing Circumstances
experts returned home, “they might well be replaced by Soviet
Bloc personnel, again forcing the UAR [United Arab Republic,
as Egypt was called during its ephemeral union with Syria] into
greater reliance on the USSR.” 10
Nonetheless, American Jewish pressure persisted. In Chicago,
for instance, fifteen local rabbis picketed the German consulate
half a year before the nationwide protest action in January 1965. 11
Thus, the issue of the German scientists became one of the central
themes of what the Israeli diplomats in the United States dubbed
“Operation Germany.” The others were the fight for extension of
the statute of limitations, the suspension of German arms deliveries,
as well as the establishment of full diplomatic relations between
Bonn and Jerusalem.
The normalization of diplomatic relations finally took place
during Chancellor Erhard’s relatively short term of office, as a
result of the crisis caused by the curtailment of German arms
shipments to Israel. It was the irony of history that these relations
were established by a political leader whose accession to power
in October 1963 had been greeted by the Arab nations because
he was regarded by them as more forthcoming than Adenauer. In
1964, Erhard had unwillingly bowed to demands of the Johnson
administration to supply Israel with secondhand American M-48
tanks and other military equipment via third countries, a rather
complex transaction that did not remain secret. Before that Israel’s
prime minister Levi Eshkol had paid the first official visit of an
Israeli head of government to Washington. Although the Johnson
administration was more sympathetic to Israel than its predecessors,
it still preferred the indirect arming of Israel. In October 1964, the
Egyptian daily Al-Gumuria published a news report on German-
Israeli scientific cooperation falsely implying that atomic research
for military purposes at the Weizmann Institute in Rehoboth was
involved. Following that story, which among others also aimed
at fending off the Israeli campaign against the German scientists
and experts in Egypt, details of the German-Israeli arms deal were
leaked to the German press. These revelations played into the hands
of German politicians and officials who wanted to put an end to
the military supplies. 12 Subsequently, the Bonn government hinted
that no additional agreements on military aid to Israel would be
concluded. Nevertheless, Egyptian president Nasser, encouraged
by the Soviet Union, exploited the critical juncture and extended


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
an official invitation to the East German leader, Walter Ulbricht,
to visit Cairo. Even before that visit took place, West Germany had
officially renounced farther arms shipments to Israel. Although
it left the door open for financial compensation to Israel for the
undelivered shipments, the Federal Republic’s public giving in to
Arab blackmail and abandoning its commitments to Israel raised a
storm of protest both in Israel and in the American Jewish commu
nity, as well as in some other major communities of the Western
Diaspora. Whereas a number of American Jewish leaders had been
privy to the importance of the supply of the German weapons, only
its suspension made the broader community conscious of the loss.
The cancellation of the West German arms shipments to Israel,
which had been preceded several months earlier by a decision not
to take up any further commitments, was supported by the over
whelming majority of Germany’s public opinion and of its three po
litical parties. It immediately prompted spontaneous trade boycotts
of German goods by major Jewish business firms. The organized
American Jewish community refrained from nationwide action to
curtail imports from Germany as long as there was hope for some
satisfactory settlement with Israel. 13 It assumed that at least some
influential West German representatives might become concerned
about the damage caused to the Federal Republic’s standing at a
time when it was trying to cooperate as closely as possible with the
Johnson administration on NATO strategy and European affairs.
AJC president Morris Abram protested bitterly to German state
secretary for foreign affairs Karl Carstens, the future federal presi
dent who never revealed much sympathy for the Jewish state. The
AJC, Abram asserted, had never manifested such a “widespread,
deep and spontaneous reaction” as that triggered by Bonn’s refusal
to fulfill its defense commitments to Israel. The same German
government that had cited concern for the impact upon the younger
generation as one of the reasons against extending the statute of
limitations, lest it be interpreted as yielding to expediency, now
returned to a “discredited Realpolitik based on opportunism and
disregard of principle.” Carstens emerged as one of the strongest
opponents of Israel among the makers of Bonn’s foreign policy. In a
circular letter to German diplomatic missions abroad in November
1964 he had unequivocally come out against the future supply
of weapons to Israel, the establishment of an embassy there, and
against legislative steps to halt the employment of scientists in


245
13. Changing Circumstances
Egypt. After Erhard’s decision to offer Israel the establishment of
diplomatic relations, Carstens continued to oppose any notion of a
special German moral commitment to Israel. 14
As in the past, Bonn tried to use the Communist threat in
Europe and the Middle East when appealing to Secretary of State
Dean Rusk against possible Jewish boycotts of German exports to
the United States. The Israeli embassy instructed the Presidents
Conference to tell Knappstein that it would be able to prevent
a “grassroots explosion” only in case of a meaningful German
action, and not by his appeals to the Department of State. 15 For
the Conference, the handling of the German crisis was an im
portant achievement; it overshadowed the special status that the
AJC enjoyed in the past in the eyes of the American government.
Early in March 1965, its leaders discussed the situation with Rainer
Barzel, chairman of the CDU parliamentary group after Brentano’s
untimely death, who visited the United States at that time and was
received by President Johnson and high officials of the administra
tion. Barzel also met separately with a representative of the AJC.
The Christian Democratic politician was upset by the negative
impact of his government’s handling of the affair both on Jews and
on the American public in general. Following the suggestion of
General Julius Klein, he discussed ways to dissolve the crisis with
Israeli ambassador Abraham Harman and immediately upon his
return to Bonn reported to the chancellor. 16 For many years Barzel
was held in high esteem by American Jewish leaders, thanks to the
role he played during that critical period.
It seems that Barzel’s impressions and recommendations were a
major factor in Erhard’s unilateral decision to compensate Israel and
American Jewry by proposing the establishment of full diplomatic
relations, a political choice that comprised a moral element. That
step was also supported by several other prominent CDU/CSU
politicians who wanted to teach Nasser a lesson, and by Heinrich
Lubke, the president of the Federal Republic. Erhard finally made
up his mind, relying on his special powers as chancellor. He could
not obtain a majority in the cabinet, as many of the ministers
still preferred the lesser evil of establishing a consulate general
in Israel that would later be raised to ambassadorial status. But
Israel explicitly rejected such a compromise formula. 17 The Social
Democratic opposition criticized the government’s handling of the
case. However, in spite of its friendly attitude toward Israel and


246
HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
especially Israel’s labor movement, it preferred the formulation of
a common Middle East policy by the three parties represented in
the Bundestag. Helmut Schmidt, the future chancellor who visited
the United States at the same time as Barzel, complained about the
exaggerations introduced by certain Jewish organizations into the
debate, but was sure that the crisis would not affect the American
commitment to preserve its position in Europe. 18 The Knesset
expressed its willingness to establish relations with West Germany
even before all the details had been worked out.
After Erhard’s decision, it still took two months of tough
bargaining with regard to compensating Israel financially for the
canceled arms shipments before the agreement establishing full
diplomatic relations was signed. Kurt Birrenbach, an influential
CDU member of the Bundestag who enjoyed excellent contacts
with the American foreign policy establishment and powerful eco
nomic circles, was chosen by the chancellor to conduct the talks
with the Israelis in Jerusalem.
Following Birrenbach’s marriage to a woman of partly Jewish
descent, he left Germany in 1939 for Argentina where he was
employed by American and German corporations. Returning home
ten years later he became a leading board member of the Thyssen
corporation and, besides, gained much experience in the field of
international relations. Before taking up his mission to Israel he
revisited the United States and met Secretary of State Dean Rusk,
Undersecretary George Ball, as well as Dean Acheson and John
McCloy. He hoped to convince them of the necessity of replacing
the Federal Republic in providing arms for Israel and at the same
time of reaffirming support for Bonn’s balanced course as a mod
erating factor in the Middle East. Birrenbach also tried to explain
the German position to Jewish community leaders such as Rabbi
Joachim Prinz of the Presidents Conference and Morris Abram
of the AJC. He warned them that the immediate establishment of
full diplomatic links with Israel might cause a breakdown of West
German Mideastern policy and have negative repercussions on the
whole German-Jewish relationship. Birrenbach himself belonged
to those German politicians and diplomats who preferred opening a
consulate general in Tel Aviv as a temporary solution leading to the
establishment of diplomatic relations. But when he arrived in Israel
with proposals which the Israelis would not consider acceptable, the
die had already been cast by the chancellor’s solitary decision. 19


247
13. Changing Circumstances
After protracted and difficult negotiations concerning the fi
nancial compensation for the curtailed arms shipments and contin
uing economic aid, diplomatic relations were established on May
12, 1965, and ambassadors exchanged three months later. The
United States, which had been instrumental in the triangular arms
deal in 1964 and helped to settle the crisis, subsequently became
a major supplier of arms for Israel. In addition to 40 tanks from
Germany, Israel was to receive 210 tanks directly from the United
States. The Germans, for their part, also took it upon themselves
to pay the bill (DM 140 million) for Israel’s purchase of missile
boats, a submarine, and various kinds of military equipment in
other countries. As a matter of fact, the settlement did not put an
end to continuing West German-Israeli cooperation in the fields of
security, intelligence, transfer of knowledge, and common measures
against terrorism. As for the German military experts and scientists
in Egypt, in 1965 most of them had left and obtained employment
at home or in other places.
In response to President Nasser’s demonstrative hosting of
East German leader Walter Ulbricht and his intention to open
a consulate general in East Berlin, West Germany suspended its
economic assistance to Egypt. Upon the urging of the Western
allies, however, it refrained from breaking off relations. 20 That was
done by Egypt and most of the other Arab nations in retaliation for
Germany’s establishing relations with Israel. The three exceptions
were Morocco, Tunisia, and prerevolutionary Libya. Nevertheless,
even the countries that broke off relations did not extend diplomatic
recognition to the GDR, as West German opponents of relations
with Israel had warned for years.
At this point 56 percent of the West German public favored
the establishment of relations with Israel, 10 percent opposed, 22
percent had no clear view, and 12 percent of those polled abstained.
But when confronted with a choice between relations with Israel
and the Arab nations, only 35 percent preferred Israel, 29 percent
preferred the Arabs, 24 percent would not state their preference,
and the rest abstained. 21 Twenty years after the Holocaust a great
many Germans still had their difficulties with the Jewish state.
The overwhelming majority of American Jewish organiza
tions welcomed the establishment of German-Israeli relations, the
few exceptions being the Communists and the ultra-Orthodox
groups. 22


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
After the statute of limitations had been extended and even
before the agreement on full diplomatic relations between West
Germany and Israel was finalized, attempts to evaluate the reper
cussions of those events and their implications for the attitude of
American Jewry toward Germany were made at NCRAC’s execu
tive committee. 23 The main question posed, as defined by NCRAC’s
chairman, Aaron Goldman, was whether there was evidence “of
genuine democratic sentiment among the masses of the German
people and whether there were elements and forces at work in
Germany that merited a positive attitude and perhaps support
of American Jews; in short, whether a change in the posture of
American Jews was required or justified by recent developments.”
For Benjamin Epstein, ADL’s veteran national director, the time
had come to transcend mere criticism, censure, or condemnation of
German anti-democratic or anti-Jewish hostility. He recalled that
even as good a friend as Berlin’s mayor Willy Brandt, the chairman
of the Social Democratic party, had pointed out that constant
repetition of accusations against Germans as a collective would
bring diminishing results. Others who had been combating neo-
Nazism and promoting goodwill said the same. It would particularly
cause resentment among Germany’s youth, who were unwilling to
bear any longer the burden of moral responsibility for the crimes
of their fathers. This forecast by Brandt proved wrong, since the
young generation would soon start to question their parents’ deeds
and behavior during the Nazi regime. Epstein’s advice was to pay
more attention in the future to positive factors in Germany, such
as the prodemocratic mass media, labor unions, youth and student
groups, as well as to genuine democratic politicians from the major
parties. The relationship with all those of goodwill in Germany
would be even more fruitful if, on occasion, American Jews did not
hesitate to praise their accomplishments, thus encouraging them
and dispelling allegations that German goodwill was not being
reciprocated.
Will Maslow, a leading official of the AJ Congress, acknowl
edged the importance of the linkage between West Germany’s
relations with Israel and its relationship with the Jewish people
as a whole. He took into account that continuing financial, sci
entific, political, and indirect military German assistance to Is
rael would undoubtedly affect the attitude of Jews throughout the
world toward the Federal Republic. While buying a Volkswagen


249
13. Changing Circumstances
car, using the Lufthansa airline, and drinking German wine were
issues for each individual to decide, he excluded future organized
boycotts of German goods. He admitted, though, that during the
last crisis, the impact of pickets and the threat of boycott were more
efficient than Rabbi Prinz’s meeting with Barzel and Ambassador
Knappstein’s talks with the Presidents Conference. There were,
however, positions on which American Jews should reserve the right
of independent judgment, such as opposition to German nuclear
development and to reunification of East and West Germany. The
debate in which different opinions were expressed was concluded
without seeking or reaching a common stand. But questions about
American Jewish response to developments in Germany would
reverberate over the next decades, when circumstances changed
for both better and worse.
The future of German-Israeli relations, the need for a further
extension of the statute of limitations in cases of murder, the ex
tension of material indemnification for Nazi victims from Eastern
Europe, as well as the importance of civic education, particularly
because of the revival of right-wing nationalism and recurring
antisemitic manifestations, were the main topics in meetings be
tween the American Jewish leadership and Chancellor Erhard.
Erhard thus continued the established pattern of exchanges of views
with American Jewish spokesmen both in Bonn and in the United
States. 24
In his youth Erhard was a student of Franz Oppenheimer, the
renowned German Jewish Zionist scholar. In the early 1950s he
had been one of the strongest supporters of German reparations
to Israel and had rebuffed contentions that they might harm the
German economy. Talking to American Jewish spokesmen, he re
iterated his belief in the “irrevocable links” between German and
Jewish history, as he had done on various occasions before being
elected Adenauer’s successor. The Jewish interlocutors emphasized
Germany’s special obligations to Jews the world over, stemming
from the tragic events of the Hitler period.
While acknowledging Erhard’s historic contribution in estab
lishing full diplomatic links with Israel, American Jews were nev
ertheless concerned about the new concept of “normalization” of
relations. This was discussed in a number of leading German news
papers and reflected the thoughts of influential German circles.
American Jews were afraid that it meant considering the effects


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
of the Nazi era as past history. 25 In regard to Nazi war criminals,
Erhard complained that the issue continued to be exploited by the
Communist bloc for political reasons. He himself would appreciate
it if Jewish organizations explicitly condemned Soviet and East Ger
man reluctance to release pertinent documents that were needed
to bring Nazi criminals to justice. 26
A new development in the contacts between the American Jew
ish establishment and West German representatives were attempts
to conduct public dialogues, the contents of which were published
in the Jewish press. Early in 1966, German ambassador Knappstein
participated together with Joachim Prinz, chairman of the Presi
dents Conference and a prominent member of the AJ Congress and
WJC, in the first public dialogue of its kind at Brandeis University. 27
Knappstein was held in high regard by the Jewish leadership thanks
to his goodwill during the critical period of the winter of 1964-65.
In 1963, with the endorsement of Nahum Goldmann, Prinz
had approached Willy Brandt with regard to a proposal by young
German Social Democrats and left-wing Catholics to organize a
dialogue between them and American Jews. At that time, the idea
was dropped because of strong resistance from the AJ Congress
executive committee. 28 Three years later, the Knappstein-Prinz
encounter raised no objections. Brandeis University was chosen as
host of that dialogue because of its early contacts with the Federal
Republic. Since 1958, German students had attended courses there;
later, a West German student served as the first president of the
Brandeis International Student Association. 29 When Ambassador
Rolf Pauls succeeded Knappstein in 1969, he chose to make his
first public address regarding Jewish affairs at the same place.
At the Brandeis dialogue, Knappstein reminded the audience
of West Germany’s impressive record on personal and collective
indemnification, its consistent support of Israel, and the ongoing
prosecution of Nazi criminals. In regard to the perseverance of
many former members of the Nazi party in high office, the ambas
sador asked his listeners to distinguish between active promoters of
Nazism and opportunistic fellow travelers. He also called upon the
American Jewish community to acknowledge the changes that had
taken place in postwar Germany and to provide encouragement
for further constructive efforts. On other occasions, Knappstein
praised Jewish contributions to German culture and science before
Hitler. During the following years German spokesmen would con-


251
13. Changing Circumstances
tinue to espouse the achievements of that ambiguous symbiosis, but
their words often fell on the deaf ears of the public they hoped to
convince.
Joachim Prinz, for his part, tried to illustrate the great difficul
ties of improving mutual relations by two recent cases. As chairman
of the committee planning to build a New York memorial for the
six million Jewish victims, he had received a design that utilized the
tale of Cain and Abel. That design was expressly rejected by the
ghetto fighters and the former inmates of concentration camps,
who objected to applying the example of the two brothers to Jews
and the Germans who had murdered them. As for the continuing
private boycott of German goods by many American Jews, Prinz
quoted a recent letter to the AJ Congress by a noted Jewish writer
who indicated why he himself persisted in that boycott: “I bear
no hate—not for Germans, nor for anyone, and if a German were
dying, even a Nazi, and any act of mine could save his life, I would
prefer that act regardless of the cost. But I will not sail in his ships,
fly their airlines, ride in a car Adolf Hitler specified and designed. I
will not bend to him and I will not take his hand, and most of all, I
will not forget. Future generations will and must. That is for them.
But I saw a whole people turn executioner, and I cannot forget it.”
In any case, while many Jews were reluctant to forgive and for
get, Prinz regarded the further strengthening of German democ
racy and the continuing support of Israel as preconditions for an
improvement—not yet normalization—of relations between Ger
mans and Jews. It should be noted that Prinz did not share the
disapproval of German reunification that was shared by most Jews.
On the contrary, he was afraid that if German unification were
not achieved in this generation, “the collective disappointment [of
the Germans] will turn into a sense of national humiliation, which
was often the cause of German nationalism and therefore anti-
Semitism.” 30
Prinz also participated in the high-level German-Jewish di
alogue convened by Nahum Goldmann during the WJC’s fifth
plenary assembly in Brussels in August 1966. In contrast to skeptic
Gershom Scholem, who stated that “after the horrible past, new
relations between Jews and Germans must be prepared with great
care,” Salo Baron, the dean of Jewish historians living in the United
States and himself a witness at the Eichmann trial, sounded rather
euphoric. He expressed the hope that a modus vivendi between the


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
German nation and world Jewry, including Israel, would prove to be
of great importance, not only for both peoples but for all humanity.
Despite the boycott by right-wing and left-wing Zionist parties,
Goldmann regarded that symposium as a step toward creating a
basis for coexistence between the two peoples. 31 However, it made
no major impact in Europe or in the United States, where the WJC
did not carry much weight anyway.
As in the past, the Orthodox community remained the most
critical among the Jewish rabbinical and congregational organiza
tions. Activist Young Israel shared pickets and other protest actions
with the Jewish War Veterans; in deliberations of the WJC’s Amer
ican section, Hillel Seidman, representing Poale Agudath Israel
of America, protested against having any relations with Germans
“since there could be no relationship between the murderers and
their victims.” Rabbi Zalman Shneur Schneerson, the Lubavitcher
rebbe, unequivocally opposed any common meetings or dialogues
between Germans and Jews, arguing the Germans should not be
trusted. 32 As for the Conservatives, at the yearly meetings of their
Rabbinical Assembly there was usually no discussion of German
problems. Dr. Louis Finkelstein, the chancellor of the Jewish The
ological Seminary, did not get involved publicly in such issues; and
a number of Conservative rabbis, such as Israel Goldstein, made
their views known in their communal, not rabbinical, capacities.
Only once, in the winter of 1962-63, did Conservative Judaism,
the Conservative movement’s journal, dedicate its pages to an in-
depth debate of the German-Jewish problem. 33 The platform was
shared by Rabbi Richard L. Rubenstein, a religious thinker and
Hillel director, who had visited Germany twice in the early 1960s
and returned with ambivalent impressions, and Dr. Jacob Neusner,
then a young Judaic studies scholar, who was to earn great fame in
the 1970s and 1980s. Neusner did not request that those few who
had survived should forgive, but he criticized the indiscriminate
hatred for Germany on the part of others, both Jews and non-Jews.
There was no rational ground for continuing to look for the blood
on the hands of every German, whatever his age or station in life.
In Neusner’s opinion, it was a great iniquity to continue to hate all
Germans, including children not even born when Hitler died, or
men and women who themselves suffered under Hitler. Moreover,
many individuals of other nations, not least of them Jews, did not do


253
13. Changing Circumstances
all that might have been done to save the lives of those condemned
to die.
Rubenstein could not accept Neusner’s reference to the six
million dead as “martyrs against their own will for the sanctification
of God’s name.” He found it impossible to believe in any way,
actually or metaphorically, that God had used Adolf Hitler and
his criminal band as a rod of his anger. The real Jewish problem
for him was how to cease being the victim, not how to forgive
the murderers. Even if the entire German nation were to ask for
forgiveness—and that did not happen—such a relationship with
them should be opposed. On the other hand, bitter hatred of all
things German should also be disapproved of, not because the
hatred was necessarily undeserved but because by doing so, Jews
perpetuated their victimhood. The Jewish task was to cease being
the victim: “Germans and Jews must relate to each other not as
murderer and victim, but as human beings struggling as best they
can with an indecent past which has by no means lost its poison.”
Only on this basis were fruitful relations between Jews and Germans
possible and even desirable, though the Jews should never again be
dependents or clients of the Germans.
More supporters of a cautious rapprochement with postwar
Germany could be found among Reform rabbis than among other
Jewish religious groups. This was partly because the Reform move
ment had absorbed a relatively large number of refugees from
Germany in its ranks who served as rabbis in the United States or
were ordained at Hebrew Union College after the war. However,
different views were voiced there too. Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath,
UAHC president for many years and involved in NCRAC deliber
ations on American Jewish-German relations since the late 1940s,
remained uneasy about Germany despite its democratic achieve
ments and close relationship with Israel. He did not believe that
postwar Germany should have been dismembered or permanently
quarantined. Instead, he viewed with disquiet its growing influence
in the Atlantic alliance and the deference accorded to Germany
by American foreign-policymakers because of what he regarded as
an illusion that only Germany provided America with a safe buffer
against the Soviet Union. 34 Rabbi Alexander Schindler, his deputy
and successor, put more emphasis on West Germany’s attitude
toward Israel.


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
There also were individual bona fide initiatives, such as Rabbi
Joseph Asher’s proposal that a team of German-speaking American
rabbis be sent to Germany to teach German youth and teachers
about Jews and Judaism. Asher, a German-born rabbi who served in
the Australian army and after the war was ordained at HUC, had for
a number of years opposed any ties with the West German republic.
After his visit to his former homeland in 1955, however, he called
for “a reorientation of the Jewish relationship with Germany” and
for reaffirming the lost promise of the German-Jewish symbiosis.
Such an attitude was welcomed by the Germans but was not at all
characteristic of the great majority of American rabbis. Following
the publication of his article in Look magazine, Asher and the mag
azine received about two hundred letters, the majority favorable,
although some were “vitriolic and hyper-emotional.” The UAHC
Commission on Interfaith Activities endorsed the proposal, and in
the summer of 1966, a group of Reform rabbis spent two weeks in
Germany at the invitation of the Lander ministries of education.
Quite a few Reform rabbis had, of course, visited Germany before
that; some had served in communities and others had been there
as members of bilateral exchange programs. But this was the first
time that the study and teaching took place in the framework of a
special pilot project for non-Jews. 35
Commentary, the intellectual monthly published by the AJC
and at first edited by Elliot Cohen, devoted for a number of
years a substantial quantity of essays and incisive articles to the
post-1945 German-Jewish complex. In 1950, Cohen was the first
American Jewish intellectual to address a German audience after
the war and to appeal for German soul-searching as a condi
tion for a new dialogue. 36 Norman Podhoretz, Cohen’s successor,
visited Germany seventeen years later, early in 1967, together
with a group of twelve American intellectuals, most of them Jews,
whose trip was sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the German
Atlantik-Briicke. The group met with politicians, including the
new chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger, who in December 1966 had
been installed as the head of a “grand coalition” with the Social
Democrats. They also met with businessmen and bankers and
conducted informal talks with writers and students. Podhoretz’s
overwhelming impression was that, in one way or another, the
Nazi past was being buried, either intellectually by rationalizing
it as an “excess of nationalism” or symbolically by destroying it as


255
13. Changing Circumstances
evidenced by “sanitizing” the environment of Dachau concentra
tion camp. The German students he met, most of them in their
twenties, he found to be almost neurotically obsessed with the
question of Nazism. Their chronic state of anxiety and irresolution
on the subject was mirrored in their confused attitudes toward
words like liberal and democracy. His conclusion was that as long
as the fundamental idea of civil liberties for all was not grasped
and exercised, no progress toward true democracy could be made
in Germany. As a nation the Germans still suffered from what
could be termed a vast inferiority complex. For reasons buried in
their history, they conveyed a sense of alienation from Western
civilization even while stressing their devotion and contribution to
its culture. 37
Other members of that group of intellectuals and writers, while
not being able to overcome their prejudices and not forgetting that
they were in the country that had devised and implemented Nazism,
were more optimistic about the young German generation. 38 Diana
Trilling took heart for the German future from her meetings with
students of various universities. The new generation was enor
mously attractive also to Harvey Swados, author and professor of
literature, even though he was made uneasy by the guilty generation
that had not yet passed from the face of the earth. Midge Decter,
Norman Podhoretz’s wife and a noted essayist in her own right,
remained critical. She was upset to hear sincere and responsible
Germans maintaining that the elevation of a former member of the
Nazi party to the office of chancellor in effect constituted a proof
of Germany’s repudiation of Nazism because people did not take
Nazism seriously. If Nazi Germany was, as people used to say, the
land of Wagner, Fichte, and Nietzsche, it meant that present-day
Germany was the land of Hegel-turned-sour. 39
The visit of the intellectuals, who summarized their impressions
in Atlantic Monthly, took place before the psychological, cultural,
and social upheaval caused by the students’ movement a few months
later. Some of the group and others who preceded them had already
noticed the gradual change in West Germany’s political climate
and political culture, even before the end of the right-of-center
hegemony in Bonn and the students’ riots and protests of 1967-
68. In the 1950s, the Cold War’s heat and the requirements of
West German economic reconstruction had deliberately prevented
a confrontation over the Nazi period. Many former members of the


256
HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
Nazi party, including the economic and social elites who served the
Third Reich, were integrated into the democratic Federal Republic
and contributed to its “economic miracle.”
Since the early 1960s, however, at least a part of the motivated
young generation began to look into their nation’s past and to
question their parents. This process was speeded up by the impact
of the swastika rash of 1959-60 and especially by the lessons of the
Eichmann trial in Israel and the major trials of the Nazi criminals
at extermination camps in Germany. After the success of The Diary
of Anne Frank many German theatergoers were moved by Max
Frisch’s Andorra and Ralph Hochhuth’s The Deputy in the early
1960s. Hochhuth’s play decrying Pope Pius XII’s reluctance to in
tervene in favor of the Jews made a great impact in many European
countries as well as in the United States, where it contributed to
Holocaust consciousness. In 1961, Hamburg historian Fritz Fischer
blamed German nationalism and imperialism for World War I as
well as for World War II. A few years later, the German psycholo
gists and authors Alexander and Margarethe Mitscherlich were to
castigate the German people for their inability to mourn the victims
of the Holocaust they had caused, and the Frankfurt School’s “Crit
ical Theory” was to supply the philosophical superstructure for the
“mastering of the past,” if only the past could really be mastered. 40
Writing in Commentary in April 1964, Norman Birnbaum, who
had been a frequent visitor to Western Germany, observed that
German society had become increasingly opaque, German culture
more agonized, the German populace more profoundly restive,
German life more cosmopolitan. A most encouraging recent de
velopment, in his opinion, was a renewal of the country’s intellec
tual and literary life. He particularly pinned hopes on the Social
Democrats and trade unions as indispensable background forces
for a democratic German ethos. 41
These positive changes in German political culture starting in
the 1960s, the intellectual distancing from the Nazi and nation
alist legacy and the endorsement of Western democratic norms,
although registered by a few clear-eyed observers, did not receive
much attention among American Jews, most of whom continued
to be more concerned about the reappearance of extreme rightists.
At the AJC’s sixty-first annual meeting in May 1967, Marvin
Kalb, the renowned TV commentator who addressed the plenary
session, sounded moderately optimistic about the future of German


257
13. Changing Circumstances
democracy, in spite of the recent successes of the extreme right-
wing NPD at elections to several legislatures of West Germany’s
federal states. He expressed the view that although not all Germans
had changed, Germany as a nation had. AJC’s veteran executive
vice-president, John Slawson, disagreed with the speaker, mainly
in regard to what he himself thought of as the fundamental au
thoritarian streak penetrating German culture and education. 42
Only a few months earlier, all the organizations and community
councils comprising NCRAC had publicly voiced their concern
about the growth of the NPD as well as about the fact that CDU
could not find a leader other than Kiesinger, a former Nazi. 43 In
Germany, Max Horkheimer, who personally respected Kiesinger
as an honest man and a good democrat, called his appointment
“the termination of confession of guilt.” 44 An AJC delegation also
raised the NPD problem in talks with Eugene Rostow, under
secretary of state for political affairs. The delegation was told
that it was essentially a German issue and that any U.S. gov
ernment intervention could be counterproductive, in contrast to
statements by private American organizations. Rostow disagreed
with suggestions made by the AJC interlocutors that the United
States take a stand against German reunification, the Hallstein
doctrine, and Bonn’s unwillingness to recognize the Oder-Neisse
border. 45
Most American Jewish leaders subsequently met with Kiesinger
as they met with Erhard, his predecessor, and with his Social Demo
cratic successors after 1969. Representatives of the Claims Con
ference demanded further improvements of restitution payments;
others discussed Israel’s needs, the impact of the EEC on its trade,
and a further extension of the statute of limitations. The Germans,
for their part, recalled their assistance to the Jewish community
in the Federal Republic, the yearly events of Brotherhood Week,
the rebuilding of synagogues and community centers, as well as the
protection of cemeteries. However, despite more or less satisfactory
results on concrete issues, there was no meeting of the minds in the
sporadic encounters between American Jewish organizations and
German representatives, and their impact on the German scene
was minimal. Except for right-wing conservative Caspar Schrenck-
Notzing’s vitriolic Charakte-rwasche,* 6 there was less talk in West
Germany about the hostile “Morgenthau legacy” than in the 1940s
and 1950s. Yet, here and there German observers and journalists


258
HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
continued to explain American uneasiness about Germany by citing
the influence of Jews on American public opinion.
As a matter of fact, relations with Israel too were strained in
the first period after the exchange of ambassadors. The Germans
complained about the hostile demonstrations against their first
ambassador Rolf Pauls, when he submitted his credentials to Pres
ident Zalman Shazar and the German national anthem was played.
Israeli diplomats in the United States had a hard time explaining to
American Jews why Israel had to agree to the appointment of the
former Wehrmacht officer. A conflict with Bonn caused by Israel’s
refusal to accept him would be a victory for the Arabs just after they
had suffered a defeat by the establishment of West German-Israeli
diplomatic relations. 47 In 1966, Pauls’s criticism of Israel’s official
support for Poland’s western Oder-Neisse border caused an uproar
in Israel’s public. 48 A few weeks earlier former chancellor Adenauer’s
private goodwill visit to Israel was marred by a quarrel with Prime
Minister Eshkol because of the critical tone of the host’s dinner
speech. 49 Much tension was also caused by the protracted talks on
German economic aid to Israel. The Germans definitely rejected
Israel’s claim for continuing financial aid, according to the 1960
understanding between Adenauer and Ben Gurion, in addition to
regular development aid. They did not bow to any further pressure
from Israel and the American Jewish community on this issue.
Eventually the Federal Republic pledged yearly development loans
for Israel up to DM 140 million (DM 160 million in the first year). 50
In his recollections, Israel’s first ambassador Ben-Nathan
pointed to the difference between the friendly and understanding
publicized opinion, such as the quality newspapers and periodicals,
TV, and radio, and the ambiguous public opinion he encountered
in Germany. For instance, he quoted the question put to him in
1966 by West German president Heinrich Liibke: Why did Israelis
continue to rebuke the Germans after all they had done for them by
paying compensation for many years? Ben-Nathan thought that the
rather unsophisticated president was characteristic of the German
“silent majority.” 51 Nevertheless, the expanding flow of visiting
German youngsters, high school and university students, trade
unionists, church groups, Social Democrats, and others to Israel
contributed to establishing mutual links that were reciprocated by
the Israelis in increasing numbers in the following decade. Scientific
cooperation between the Max Planck Society and the Weizmann


259
13. Changing Circumstances
Institute in Rehoboth started already in the early 1960s; in 1960
Israeli firms began to participate in the main German trade fairs;
and despite the uproar in the Knesset caused by a visiting German
teacher addressing Israeli high school students in winter 1961, the
directives established by the Israeli government for controlling the
different kinds of cultural activities did not prevent their gradual
expansion. Germans soon discovered that in attempting to concil
iate world Jewry, it was easier for them to make progress in Israel
than in relations with the American Jewish community. This was
particularly true after the show of solidarity during the Six Day War
and despite the political differences that were soon to emerge as a
result of Israel’s military victory. 52



Henry M. Morgenthau Jr. (1891-1967), secretary of the
treasury, 1934-1945.
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.
Stephen S. Wise (1874-1949), Zionist leader, president
of the American Jewish Congress, and founding president
of the World Jewish Congress in 1936.
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.


Abba Hillel Silver (1893-1963), rabbi, Zionist leader,
author, critical of postwar American policy toward
Germany.
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.
Abraham Cahan (1860-1951), America’s most eminent
Yiddish journalist, editor of the Forward. Welcomed
Kurt Schumacher during his visit to the United
States in 1947.
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.


Dr. Kurt Schumacher (1895-1952), chairman of the
Social Democratic Party of Germany, 1945-1952.
Courtesy: Press and Information Office of the Federal
Govern?!lent, Bonn—Federal Photographic Service.
Dr. William Haber (1899-1989), adviser on Jewish affairs
to the American commander-in-chief in Germany, 1948.
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.


Rabbi Philip S. Bernstein (1901-1985), adviser on Jewish
affairs to the American commander-in-chief in Germany,
1946-1947.
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.
Elliot Cohen (1899-1959), founding editor of
Commentary.
Courtesy: American Jewish Comtnittee, New York.


Herbert Blankenhorn (1904—1991), Chancellor
Adenauer’s foreign policy adviser in the early 1950s,
afterwards ambassador to NATO, France, Great Britain,
and Italy.
Courtesy: Pi-ess and Information Office of the Federal
Government, Bonn—Federal Photographic Service.
Jacob Blaustein (1892-1970), American Jewish
Committee leader, senior vice-president of the Claims
Conference.
Courtesy: American Jewish Committee, New York.


John J. McCloy (1895-1989), U.S. high commissioner
for Germany, 1949-1952, and the leadership of the
American Jewish Committee at their annual meeting in
1953. From left, Irving Engel, AJC president after Jacob
Blaustein; John J. McCloy; Jacob Blaustein, president of
the AJC 1949-1955, Benjamin B. Buttenwieser, assistant
high commissioner, 1949-1951.
Courtesy: American Jewish Committee Library/Archives.
Jacob K. Javits (1904-1986), elected to the House of
Representatives in 1946 (R, New York), and to the Senate
in 1956.
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.


President Theodor Heuss (1884-1963), president of the
Federal Republic of Germany 1949-1959, engaged in
efforts to improve German-Jewish relations after the
Holocaust, 1949-1959.
Courtesy: Press and Information Office of the Federal
Government, Bonn—Federal Photographic Service.
Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) and David Ben Gurion
(1886-1973) meet at New York’s Waldorf Astoria,
March 14, 1960.
Photo: INP/dpa.


Philip M. Klutznick (b. 1907), B’nai B’rith president,
1953-1959; president of the World Jewish Congress,
1977-1979; secretary of commerce and industry,
1979-1981.
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.
General Julius Klein (1901-1984) with President
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969).
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.


Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), public philosopher,
essayist, and author of, among others, Eichmann in
Jerusalem.
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.
Nahum Goldmann (1895-1982), cofounder of the World
Jewish Congress, WJC president 1949-1977, here
together with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and David
Ben Gurion during Adenauer’s visit to Israel in 1966.
Courtesy: Press and Information Office of the Federal
Gorvemment, Bonn—Federal Photographic Sendee.


Dr. Joachim Prinz (1902-1988), a leader of the American
Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress, former
Liberal rabbi in Berlin.
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.
Karl-Heinrich Knappstein (1906-1989), West Germany’s
consul general in Chicago 1950-1956, observer at the
UN in New York, 1960-1962, and, finally, ambassador in
Washington, 1962-1968.
Courtesy: Press and Information Office of the Federal
Government, Bonn—Federal Photographic Service.


Dr. Rainer Barzel, born 1924, chairman of the
parliamentary group of the Christian Democratic Union
in the 1960s. His meetings with American Jewish
representatives contributed to Chancellor Ludwig
Erhard’s decision to establish full diplomatic relations
with Israel.
Courtesy: Press and Information Office of the Federal
Government, Bonn—Federal Photographic Service.
Morris B. Abram, born 1918, community leader,
president of the American Jewish Committee and head
of different Jewish organizations.
Courtesy: American Jewish Committee, New York.


Willy Brandt (1913-1992), chancellor of the Federal
Republic of Germany 1969-1974, meets with Rabbi
Dr. Max Nussbaum (1910-1974) of the World Jewish
Congress during his visit to the United States, February 1,
1972.
Courtesy: Press and Infonnation Office of the Federal
Government, Bonn—Federal Photographic Service.
Rolf F. Pauls, born 1915, the Federal Republic’s first
ambassador to Israel, 1965-1968, thereafter ambassador
to the United States, 1969-1973.
Courtesy: Press and Information Office of the Federal
Government, Bonn—Federal Photographic Service.


Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, born 1918, talks with
Richard Maass, past president of the American Jewish
Committee, September 10, 1981.
Courtesy: Press and Information Office of the Federal
Govemmetit, Bonn—Federal Photographic Service.
Cynthia Ozick, born 1928, writer and critic, reflects
Jewish doubts about today’s Germany.
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.


Dr. Niels Hansen, born 1924, West Germany’s
ambassador to Israel, 1981-1985, thereafter ambassador
to NATO. Before coming to Israel, he served in different
capacities in New York and Washington.
Courtesy: Press and Information Office of the Federal
Government, Bonn—Federal Photographic Service.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl, born 1930, and President
Ronald Reagan, born 1911, at Bitburg military cemetery,
May 5, 1985.
Courtesy: Press and Information Office of the Federal
Government, Bonn—Federal Photographic Service.


Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Ronald Reagan
at the Belsen memorial, May 5, 1985.
Courtesy: Press and Information Office of the Federal
Government, Bonn—Federal Photographic Service.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl meets Howard Friedman,
president of the American Jewish Committee, and other
leading members of the organization, July 25, 1986.
Courtesy: Press and Information Office of the Federal
Government, Bonn—Federal Photographic Service.


I
1
Lothar de Maiziere, born 1940, the only
democratically elected prime minister of
East Germany, 1990. Photo taken during
his service as member of the Bundestay
after reunification.
Cotirtesy: Press and Information Office of
the Federal Government, Bonn—Federal
Photographic Service.
Edgar M. Bronfman, born 1929,
president of the World Jewish Congress
since 1981.
Courtesy: WJC Israel Office.
Abraham Foxman, born 1940, national
director of the Anti-Defamation League of
B’nai B’rith, Holocaust survivor.
Courtesy: American Jewish Archives,
Cincinnati.


261
14
Disappointment with
the Social Democrats
In the fall of 1966, three years after the departure of West Ger
many’s founding chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Ludwig Erhard’s
resignation ended the long hegemony of right-of-center govern
ments led by the CDU. After a short interlude of difficult partner
ship between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats,
the Bundestag elections in September 1969 enabled the Social
Democrats to set up, with the Free Democrats as junior partners, an
alternative left-of-center coalition that was to rule the Federal Re
public for the next thirteen years. Although a few cautious steps had
already been taken by his predecessor, Willy Brandt’s Social-Liberal
government initiated major changes in West Germany’s relations
with its Eastern neighbors—the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslo
vakia, and also the Communist-controlled German Democratic Re
public. On the domestic scene, the Brandt government undertook
substantial social, legal, administrative, and educational reforms
that liberalized German society. Thanks to both the rapprochement
with Eastern Europe and the reformist breakthrough at home,
Brandt came to be regarded as one of the most important statesmen
in the history of the Federal Republic, second only to Adenauer. As
chairman of the Social Democratic party, he continued to influence
the German political scene after he was replaced as chancellor by
Helmut Schmidt, who held office until October 1982.


262
HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
There were ups and downs in the relations between American
administrations and West Germany’s left-of-center governments
in the 1970s. President Nixon’s Republican administration, with
Henry Kissinger as its national security adviser and since 1973
as secretary of state, eventually acquiesced to Brandt’s Ostpolitik.
It conformed with the overall trend of the East-West detente
in the early 1970s, despite American suspicions about long-term
implications of the new German policy and dislike of Brandt’s
personal style. The consolidation of Bonn’s course toward East and
West under the pragmatic Helmut Schmidt provided for a much
better atmosphere between him and Kissinger, who remained in
charge of American foreign policy during the administration of
President Gerald Ford.
In the late 1970s, Schmidt was disappointed by the effects of
President Jimmy Carter’s vacillations on the state of the general
East-West detente. Kissinger’s own German Jewish origin did not
influence his attitude toward West Germany and its government in
any special way. He judged leading German politicians according
to the national interest of the United States, which continued to
attach much importance to the alliance with the Federal Republic in
the changing political and strategic circumstances of the 1970s. As
far as the Jewish community tried to exert pressure on Washington
in these years, its agenda included support for Israel in the Middle
East conflict and Soviet Jewish emigration.
Nonetheless, it was mainly the Israeli angle that caused strain
and misunderstandings between West Germany in the Social-
Liberal era and most American Jewish organizations, their liberal
proclivities and the Social Democrats’ cleaner past notwithstand
ing. There were a number of reasons for that. The quest for strong
U.S. support made Israeli governments before and after the Yom
Kippur War afraid of the repercussions of the Federal Republic’s
accommodating new course regarding Eastern Europe. In German
public opinion, the Left that had heartily supported Israel in the
1950s and early 1960s switched allegiance after the Six Day War
and joined in its majority the critics, if not opponents, of the Jewish
state. Soon the change of heart affected the younger generation
of the Social Democrats as well. After the Knesset elections in
May 1977, the replacement of Labor by the Likud-led government
headed by anti-German right-winger Menachem Begin deepened
the divide. But it was just that growing disillusionment with Israel


263
14. Disappointment with the Social Democrats
that encouraged the West German government to look for new
ways to improve its relations with American Jewry.
In November 1966, a number of American Jewish leaders and
organizations were disappointed by the CDU choice of Kurt Georg
Kiesinger as Erhard’s successor for the chancellorship because of
his former Nazi party membership and service in the Third Reich’s
foreign office. 1 At the same time, they were pleased with the ap
pointment of Willy Brandt, as vice-chancellor and foreign minister,
one of the few German political leaders with an unequivocal anti-
Nazi record. Their acquaintanceship reached back to meetings
when Brandt served as mayor of Berlin. In 1961, he had delivered a
pro-Zionist address at the New York Herzl Institute shortly after his
first visit to Israel; during his visit, B’nai B’rith president Label A.
Katz expressed appreciation for what Brandt had done in the period
of swastika daubings. 2 Even though in his youth Brandt had shared
the doubts of most Socialist comrades about the Zionist venture, the
Jewish catastrophe in Europe, as he later recalled in his memoirs,
had convinced him to endorse a more favorable approach to the
practical accomplishments of Zionism in Palestine. 3
However, Brandt’s appreciation of Israel’s achievements did
not prevent him from taking a sympathetic attitude to Egypt’s
president Gamal Abdel Nasser and his nationalist revolution, as part
of the liberation movements of the Third World. No wonder that
Brandt’s view of Nasser and his visit to Cairo in 1963 caused concern
among Israelis even before the former mayor and chairman of the
Social Democratic party became foreign minister and thereafter
chancellor. 4
In 1965, Brandt met with an AJC delegation and discussed with
its members the situation in the Middle East and other issues of
special American Jewish interest. He expressed his opinion that
West Germany had waited too long in developing a well-integrated
Middle East policy. He himself would have preferred a multilateral
arms agreement instead of the semisecret one with Israel that had
been unilaterally canceled, but he doubted whether the remaining
German scientists in Egypt could be compelled to leave. On this he
was wrong because most of them soon left. Brandt’s reference to the
German educators program, in which the AJC had been involved
for a number of years, did not satisfy his Jewish counterparts. Like
most other Germans, he thought that education toward democracy
should be primarily a German concern and give Germans a sense of


264
HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
pride. Expert advice and recommendations would be welcome, but
no sense of outside domination should be conveyed. That would
only endanger the chances of permanently altering outmoded tra
ditions and concepts. 5
Brandt paid his first visit to the United States in his new minis
terial capacity in February 1967. On that occasion, he had a short
meeting with a small group of the top American Jewish leadership.
The subjects discussed were the rise of the extreme right-wing
NPD, the state of German-Israeli relations, and the statute of
limitations that was to expire in 1969. Brandt’s concise analysis of
the NPD as a mixture of “poujadists” (a short-lived populist, mainly
lower-middle-class movement in France in the 1950s), genuine
nationalists (whose views were not restricted to that group alone),
far rightists, and a sprinkling ofwould-be Nazis, most ofwhom were
over forty-five, did not fully satisfy the Jewish spokesmen. The next
elections, however, would prove that their fears were exaggerated.
At the meeting with Brandt, AJC president Morris Abram
renewed the demand for extension or abolition of the statute of lim
itations. Joachim Prinz, still chairman of the Presidents Conference
of Major Jewish Organizations, hoped that thanks to the renewed
diplomatic relations between West Germany and a number of Arab
governments, Bonn would use its influence to bring peace to the
Middle East. Prinz was also concerned about the attitudes of social
ist students in Berlin, whom he had met during his last visit there,
with regard to Germany’s past and their historic responsibility.
For instance, he complained, “they considered the concentration
camps and the bombing of [German] cities by the Allies of equal
significance.” Furthermore, they regarded criticism of Germany
from other countries as “unwanted interference.” 6 After the Six
Day War, organized Jewry in the United States would become even
more concerned about the expressly anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and
pro-Arab trend of student radicals and other leftists in Germany,
which was reinforced by their anti-Americanism. 7
In 1967, half a year after the setting up of the Kiesinger-Brandt
coalition in Bonn, American Jewish organizations took notice of
the massive West German support for Israel during the Six Day
War. At that point the Federal Republic was also one of the few
European states that allowed American weapons to be shipped
to Israel through their territory and airspace. This was the first
time since the creation of the Jewish state that the majority of


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14. Disappointment with the Social Democrats
the German population came out in its support. The wide sym
pathy from Social Democrats, trade unionists, and a major part of
anti-Communist conservatives contributed to lowering the postwar
barriers between Germans and Israelis and ushered in an era of
manifold contacts and exchanges. However, Israel’s changing im
age from a beleaguered underdog David to an oppressor Goliath
keeping hold of the conquered territories soon caused a reversal
of sympathy for Israel among the German Left. A far-sighted
observer such as Eleonore Sterling, who until her untimely death
in 1968 surveyed the developments in Germany for the AJC, was
uneasy about the exaggerated enthusiasm of the right-wing popular
Springer press, which dominated a great part of the West Ger
man media. 8 That support only reinforced the hostility to Israel
of students and other young leftists, although it was not caused
by it.
Brandt’s distinction between the Federal Republic’s official pol
icy of nonintervention and neutrality and an attitude of moral
indifference that he ruled out was, of course, welcomed in Israel
and in the Diaspora. 9 Helmut Schmidt, then head of the party’s
parliamentary group and usually regarded as more reserved on Is
rael, made the strongest pro-Israel statement during the Bundestag
debate in June 1967. 10 Yet regardless of the broad public backing of
Israel and the SPD’s sympathies for it and especially for the Israeli
labor movement, motives of realpolitik affected Social Democratic
policymakers not less than those of the other main parties. At a
meeting of NATO’s foreign ministers just after the conclusion of
the June war, Brandt mentioned the legitimate interests of the Arab
nations, most of whom had broken off diplomatic relations with
West Germany after its decision to establish such relations with
Israel in 1965. At subsequent meetings, Brandt expressed the hope
that Israel’s success would enable it to proceed toward a secure and
stable peace, because a military victory itself would not solve the
problems. 11
In spite of their understandable personal preference for Brandt
because of his anti-Nazi credentials, the records of the American
Jewish organizations reveal that Jewish leaders met in the years
1967-69 more often with Kiesinger, the CDU chancellor, than
with the Social Democratic foreign minister. The same was true
during the Brandt chancellorship and at least the first years of
Helmut Schmidt’s term of office, if compared with Helmut Kohl,


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
who took over in 1982. Because of both the Social Democratic anti-
Nazi past and the more independent West German policy in the
framework of the Atlantic alliance, Social Democratic chancellors
seemingly cared less for frequent personal meetings with spokes
men of organized American Jewry. Still, they satisfied most of the
latter’s essential demands no less than had Adenauer’s conservative
successors.
In 1967, Kiesinger’s past Nazi party membership did not pre
vent Jacob Blaustein, senior vice-president of the Claims Confer
ence and one of the Jewish community’s elder statesmen, from
striving to establish a kind of “personal relationship” with him
regarding further improvement of the indemnification payments.
Goldmann, who was the first to meet the new chancellor, discussed
with him matters pertaining to the Claims Conference. 12 Philip
Klutznick tried to convince Kiesinger to process restitution pay
ments more rapidly, as the administrative technicality arising from
the Lander responsibility was of little import to the outside world,
which judged the program as a responsibility of the whole German
nation. 13 On another occasion, Jewish leaders broached the issue
of abolishing the statute of limitations, a demand that was fulfilled
only in 1979. 14 In 1969, the statute was extended for another ten
years by a majority of 280 to 127, with four abstentions. In contrast
to 1965, when the cabinet left the initiative to the Bundestag, the
legislation to extend the statute was this time introduced by the
Social Democratic minister of justice in the grand coalition headed
by Kiesinger. But contrary to Kiesinger’s personal view, the majority
of the CDU parliamentary group still prevented the final abolition
of the statute. 15
In 1969, Kiesinger told an AJC delegation that Asher Ben-
Nathan, Israel’s ambassador in Bonn, had asked him to discuss the
situation in the Middle East with President Nixon. The chancel
lor indicated his willingness to assist Israel but preferred a “non
spectacular support” that would minimize Arab reprisals. He also
promised to help Israel improve its links with the EEC, French
objections notwithstanding. At the same meeting, AJC executive
vice-president Bertram Gold, who in 1967 had succeeded John
Slawson, did not forget to raise the issue of the Oberammergau pas
sion play production. The AJC and other Jewish groups regarded
the revision of its text as important in their fight against church
antisemitism. 16


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14. Disappointment with the Social Democrats
On another occasion Kiesinger indicated to B’nai B’rith presi
dent William Wexler his concern about the deepening Soviet infil
tration into the Middle East. In his estimate, which Brandt and the
Social Democrats did not share, the Soviet tactic transcended the
Arab-Israeli conflict and was threatening to escalate into an East-
West confrontation. Middle East leaders whom he met, such as
the shah of Iran, Pakistan’s ruler General Ayub Khan, and Turkey’s
president General Cevdet Sunay, had expressed doubts whether
the United States could be relied upon to frustrate a Russian drive
for dominance in the region. 17 Like his predecessors, Kiesinger
hoped to enlist Jewish influence on American public opinion in
favor of a more resolute anti-Soviet policy. That would serve as a
reward for West Germany’s spontaneous support for Israel during
the Six Day War and its continuous economic and political backing
of the Jewish state, which some German conservatives regarded
as an important anti-Communist ally. In fact, Soviet antisemitism
and the drive for opening the gates for Soviet Jews to immi
grate to Israel or other places had at that time already become
an item of great urgency on the American Jewish agenda, set
ting aside the historical and emotional problem of Jewish-German
relations. 18
In the summer of 1969, on the eve of the West German federal
elections, which were to put an end to the three-year interregnum
of the coalition between the two large parties and open a new era
in the country’s postwar history, Philip Klutznick paid another visit
to Germany. He met many politicians and officials and discussed
the remaining difficulties regarding restitution and indemnifica
tion, the development of German-Israeli relations, and the changes
taking place in the Jewish community in the Federal Republic as
well as its relationship with the non-Jewish population. Klutznick
remarked that as an American Jew it was not easy for him to accept,
as he had done long ago, the necessity for an intimate relationship
between the United States and the West German republic. Yet he
had done so because, first, he was by nature a universalist, and sec
ond, he thought he was a realist. In his opinion, Washington’s policy
since 1945 had vindicated itself: “A defeated and broken Germany
could not help rebuild a shattered Europe [he must have thought
of the Morgenthau plan], nor could a [whole] Germany influenced
by Eastern Communist policies be helpful to the Western hopes
for a better world.”


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
As for the relations between American and world Jewry and
West Germany, Klutznick came to the conclusion that “there will
continue to be a cautious alert on the part of organized Jewry
outside Germany as well as by those Allied interests who poignantly
remember the violent bestial Nazi period—but it is especially ev
ident that a new plateau has been reached in which the tones are
more normal and the postures somewhat more relaxed.” 19
Klutznick at that time served in no major Jewish official capac
ity, but was still regarded as one of the most important American
Jewish leaders. His voice was authoritative and remained so during
the 1970s. In 1977, Nahum Goldmann, whose dovish views on the
Arab-Israel conflict he shared, secured his election to the presidency
of the WJC, a position he held for only two years because of his
appointment as secretary of commerce and industry by President
Carter. But as Klutznick himself confessed, even on the Jewish lead
ership level few would go as far with regard to Germany as he did on
the basis of what he regarded as American national interest, the in
terest of the Jewish people, and the well-being of the State of Israel.
Incidentally, Klutznick and Jacob Blaustein, another consistent
pragmatic supporter of improving relations with Germany, were
both second-generation Americans of East European parentage.
In postwar American Jewish demography, the attitude of the lead
ership toward Germany was not determined by ethnic descent. The
overwhelming majority of American Jews were of East European
origin; there were pragmatists as well as strong opponents of any
contact with Germany in their ranks. The most resolute anti-
German, Henry Morgenthau Jr., happened to be a grandson of
a nineteenth-century immigrant from southwest Germany.
The first left-of-center West German government, headed by
Willy Brandt and dominated by the Social Democratic party, ac
ceded to power in October 1969, more than two years after Israel’s
military victory in the Six Day War. During its long opposition
years, the SPD had been in the forefront of improving relations
with Israel and the Jewish people. Besides a moral commitment
to Jews after the Holocaust, that attitude was based on Social
Democratic values shared with the Israeli labor movement, on the
appreciation of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East,
on its economic and social achievements, and on the assumption
that Israeli experience in economic and technological development
might serve as a bridge between Germany and Third World nations.


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14. Disappointment with the Social Democrats
Admittedly, from time to time differences of opinion popped
up that strained the friendly relations between both sides. The
SPD condemned Israel’s intervention in Sinai in collusion with
France and Britain and did not like its support for French colonialist
policies in Algeria. In the early 1960s, the party was not at all
happy about the secret West German-Israeli arms deal engineered
by Franz Josef Strauss, its bitter enemy; and Social Democratic
politicians preparing for an active role in their country’s leadership
moved from one-sided friendship for Israel to a more evenhanded
attitude toward the Middle East and Arab nationalism. 20
Nevertheless, the balance sheet of Social Democratic-Israeli
relations until 1967 was positive. Yet, because of Israel’s holding
on to the conquered territories after the war, the emergence of
the PLO, and the Palestinian quest for self-determination, the
gap widened. Moreover, from the early 1970s, the Social-Liberal
government’s policy was also affected by the European Political
Cooperation (EPC) of the six and afterwards the nine members of
the European Community (EC), where France and several other
nations took a much more critical view of Israel. 21 As for the
Free Democrats (the Liberals), the junior partner in Brandt’s and
Schmidt’s cabinets in charge of the Foreign Office, most of them
never revealed much sympathy for Israel’s position.
In addition, the integration of many 1968ers into the reform-
oriented SPD enhanced the criticism of Israel in its ranks, first of
all among the younger membership. Besides strong objections to
Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians and the Arab nations,
their attitude was also affected negatively by the strengthening
of Israel’s anti-Communist strategic relationship with the Nixon
administration. Left-wingers outside the party were even more
hostile to Israel, and some of the radicals went as far as joining the
Palestinian struggle against the Jewish state. 22 Younger American
Jewish intellectuals were often disappointed by the German leftists’
approach. Some of them had come to Germany in the 1970s to do
research on the Frankfurt School’s Critical Theory, which influ
enced both them and their German counterparts. They concluded
that the anti-Vietnam/anti-American sentiment among young Ger
man leftists and their identification with the Third World revolu
tionary movement were much more a constitutive aspect of their
consciousness than the revolt against their fathers and Germany’s
Nazi past. 23


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
In July 1973, Brandt became the first German chancellor to pay
an official visit to the Jewish state. His anti-Nazi past, his demon
strative kneeling before the Warsaw Ghetto memorial during his
visit to Poland in 1970, and the fact that in his government and
in high administrative posts were people with an untainted past,
encouraged him to try to follow a new, more balanced course in
relations with Israel, the basic moral commitment and continuing
economic and political assistance notwithstanding.
Thus, in spite of Brandt’s glowing reception in Israel, there
was no common ground between him and Israel’s prime minister
Golda Meir, with whom he had clashed at meetings of the Socialist
International regarding the occupied territories and the stalled
diplomatic process. The Brandt government’s attempt to dilute
special relations with Israel into a formula of “normal relations
with a special background” failed to satisfy Israel, which was also
afraid of the implications of Brandt’s conciliatory policy toward the
Soviet Union and other Eastern European states. 24
Oil and commercial links had already begun to influence the
EC’s and West Germany’s Middle East policies in the early 1970s,
but the impact of the oil weapon increased because of the first global
oil crisis after the Yom Kippur War. At the end of that war, Brandt
vowed his government’s support for efforts to end the hostilities
and achieve peace on the basis of Security Council Resolution 242.
According to the European interpretation, this meant withdrawal
from all occupied territories. When the West German government
refused late in October 1973 to allow the use of Bremerhaven port
for further American military supplies for Israel, Bonn explained
that it did so as a “demonstration of neutrality,” even though
Brandt repeated that there can be “no neutrality of the heart and
conscience” toward Israel. 25
In the wake of the Yom Kippur War, West Germany and the
other members of the European Nine added to their demand for
an end of occupation the recognition of the legitimate rights of
the Palestinians. In November 1974, Rudiger von Wechmar, the
German representative to the UN, which the Federal Republic
together with the GDR and other nations had joined one year ear
lier, endorsed the request of self-determination for the Palestinians,
including their right to an “independent authority.” 26
The reaction of organized Jewry in the United States to the
new West German cabinet reflected its own concerns as well as


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14. Disappointment with the Social Democrats
the attitude and feelings of the Israeli government. At a private
luncheon with German ambassador Rolf Pauls, former ambassador
to Tel Aviv, representatives of leading American Jewish organiza
tions noted with satisfaction the defeat of the extreme right-wing
NPD, which did not gain the necessary 5 percent of the total vote
to qualify for any seats in the Bundestag. An ADL memorandum
emphasized that the Brandt government was composed of men with
a clean past, with the only exception of Minister of the Economy
Karl Schiller, who had worked in an economic institute during the
war. It expressed the hope that any changes in the new govern
ment’s foreign policy would be of “nuance” and not fundamental.
Nevertheless, doubts regarding the new coalition’s impact on Israel
were also voiced. Brandt’s desire for a rapprochement with the East
might have some “softening effect” on Germany’s overall policies,
including the Middle East. As a resistance fighter he would be less
solicitous in regard to Israel than Kiesinger, the former Nazi, who
was always attempting to live down his past. 27 Then again, one
of Brandt’s close political advisers was Hans-Jurgen Wischnewski,
who was well known for his pro-Arab sympathies. 28
Since its inception in October 1969, the SPD-led West German
government maintained casual contacts with the leadership of the
American Jewish organizations, some of whom were concerned that
the Federal Republic’s pro-Israel attitude was being supplanted by
a new pragmatic, more pro-Arab policy. In fall 1970, Professor
Horst Ehmke, a member of Brandt’s cabinet, tried to dispel these
fears in talks with Jewish leaders in New York. 29 Another goodwill
messenger was trade union banker Walter Hesselbach, chairman of
the board of the Bank fur Gemeinwirtschaft and one of Israel’s best
and most committed friends in the German labor movement. 30 On
this occasion the German emissaries were asked whether in view
of its new relationship with Eastern Europe and especially with
Moscow, Bonn might be helpful regarding Soviet Jews and their
struggle for emigration. Later Brandt himself was approached on
the same issue by American Jewish leaders who tried to convince
him that just because of Germany’s guilt and his own anti-Nazi
record, he should mention the subject in his talks with Soviet
leaders. 31 Indeed, he proved helpful.
In December 1970, Brandt’s kneeling before the Warsaw Ghet
to fighters memorial during his visit to Poland had a great impact
on Jews throughout the world. But the growing gap between Israel’s


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
and West Germany’s policies, as well as the European Community’s
position in regard to the Middle East conflict, made it difficult for
Ambassador Pauls and his successor Berndt von Staden to calm
American Jewish fears and satisfy their demands. Remarks of the
ambassador that the Brandt government believed it was time to
normalize relationships with Israel and the Jewish world caused
anxiety among the Jewish interlocutors lest “normalizing” meant
lessening of German historic responsibility after the Holocaust.
At one point, on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, Joachim Prinz
complained to von Staden that some of the former German diplo
mats in the United States, because of their Nazi connection, had
been easier to deal with since they were troubled by problems of
conscience concerning Jews. 32
The Brandt government’s cessation of the supply of American
arms to Israel in the last week of the October war caused much
disappointment among organized American Jewry. Even a good
friend of the Federal Republic such as Hans Steinitz, Manfred
George’s successor as editor of Anfbau, strongly criticized at an
official German reception the withholding of arms from the Israeli
ships and rhetorically asked whether Social Democrats were pro-
Israel only when in opposition. Kurt Mattick and Paul Corterier,
two Social Democratic members of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs
Committee, told American Jewish friends in January 1974 that
Israel would find it easy to come to terms with President Anwar
Sadat concerning the Sinai. Yet, they were adamant that Israel give
up its claim to Jerusalem, which should become a “free city” to be
governed by the United Nations or placed under the supervision of
some other international authority. The Jewish hosts unequivocally
rejected that advice of their German guests, who also warned them
that Israel’s religious fanaticism would find no sympathy among the
Europeans and the Social Democratic parties. 33
There was not much love lost between Brandt, the former exile
and active anti-Nazi resister, and Henry Kissinger, the German-
born Jew who had managed to leave Nazi Germany in good time.
But this lack of sympathy had nothing to do with the attitude of
organized American Jewry and Germany. Brandt, the Social Demo
crat, tried to follow an independent course in his rapprochement
with Eastern Europe. He could not accept Kissinger’s insistence
that the Great Power detente must be designed and implemented
first of all by Washington. As Brandt stated in his memoirs, he never


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14. Disappointment with the Social Democrats
belonged to Kissinger’s admirers. In his opinion, Kissinger’s policy
was too old-fashioned and adopted the balance of power categories
of the nineteenth-century “Concert of Europe.”
Kissinger, for his part, was in no way anti-German. Even as
head of a U.S. Army counterintelligence detachment in Bensheim
immediately after the war, he avoided any expression of hatred
of Germans and chided other Jewish GIs for doing so. 34 But he
harbored doubts about the political maturity of the Germans and
especially the Social Democrats. Though he did not dislike Brandt
personally as much as Nixon did, he regarded him as a political
romantic. In retrospect, however, Kissinger recognized Brandt’s
historic achievement: “to find a way to live with the partition of
Germany which for the entire postwar period his predecessors
in Bonn had refused to accept... to recognize the division of
his country was a courageous recognition of reality. For German
unification was not achievable without a collapse of Soviet power,
something that Bonn was in no position to promote.” 35
Nonetheless, during the Yom Kippur War the relationship
between Kissinger and Brandt reached another low point, since
Kissinger regarded the West German government’s behavior as
a stab in the United States’ back at a critical moment when it
faced great difficulties. On October 23, after the cease-fire had
come under stress, the American ambassador in Bonn, Martin
Hillenbrand, was abruptly informed—as Kissinger recounted in his
Years of Upheaval 36 —that the Federal Republic would no longer
approve shipment of American material to Israel from German
ports; a second strong German demand was made one day later.
The American response was “that for the West to display weakness
and disunity in the face of a Soviet-supported military action against
Israel, would have disastrous consequences.” This disaccord and
the deepening gap between the U.S. and the European Community
policies in view of the oil crisis strained American-German relations
in the last months of Brandt’s chancellorship.
But although President Nixon’s and Secretary Kissinger’s han
dling of the situation was of great importance for the restoration of
Israel’s strength and morale after the traumatic war, American strat
egy in October 1973 and thereafter was determined by U.S. national
interest in the superpower confrontation over the Middle East
much more than by any domestic pressures. European pressure for
Israel’s rapid return to the 1967 borders was mainly oil-motivated.


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
After Brandt’s departure and the appointment of Helmut Schmidt
as chancellor, Kissinger’s personal trust in Schmidt and his sub
sequent friendship with Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who succeeded
Scheel as foreign minister, contributed to a substantial improve
ment in Washington-Bonn relations. 37 Yet, differing interests and
viewpoints would continue to put their mark on a number of im
portant policy issues, including the Middle East.
Under Schmidt’s chancellorship (1974-82), the discord be
tween the SPD-led coalition and Israel with regard to a Middle
East settlement deepened, although their expanding bilateral coop
eration encompassed a growing number of governmental and non
governmental fields. In 1975, Schmidt reiterated West Germany’s
support for Israel’s right to exist in secure and recognized borders,
and also its respect of the legitimate rights of other nations and
peoples in the area. 38 Yitzhak Rabin, the first Israeli prime minister
to visit Germany, demanded from Bonn more understanding for
Israel’s position in the face of the EC’s political attitude, though the
Federal Republic was very helpful in confirmation of the first major
trade agreement between the EC and Israel. 39 Schmidt himself
never paid an official return visit and came to Israel only in 1985
and 1991 as a private citizen.
West Germany’s growing capacity as a world economic power,
the steady increase of its political influence in Europe and the
Western alliance, as well as the lack of Schmidt’s own emotional
involvement in Israel made him a much more difficult partner for
Israel than Brandt had been. Still, Schmidt publicly recognized
Germany’s historic responsibility and emphatically expressed this
at a ceremony marking the fortieth anniversary of the Kristallnacht
pogrom. As former Israeli ambassador Yohanan Meroz recalled in
his memoirs, Schmidt disliked Israel’s behavior as a superpower and
thought it should adopt other mores. 40 The chancellor managed to
reduce his nation’s dependence on Middle East oil supplies, but he
highly valued the importance of Arab markets to German exports
in a time of reduced economic growth. These dwarfed economic
relations with Israel regardless of the fact that the Federal Republic
had already become Israel’s second largest trade partner. 41
The end of Labor’s long-lasting hegemony in Israel and Mena-
chem Begin’s and his Likud party’s rise to power after the Knesset
elections in May 1977 caused a substantial deterioration in Israel’s
relations with the Schmidt government. Despite the Egyptian-


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14. Disappointment with the Social Democrats
Israeli peace treaty of March 1979, which provided for the com
plete withdrawal of Israel’s forces from the Sinai three years later,
Bonn became upset by Israel’s refusal to deal seriously with the
Palestinians and its establishment of further new settlements in
the occupied areas. In 1980, West Germany coauthored the EC’s
Venice resolution calling for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from
all occupied territories, the recognition of the Palestinian right to
self-determination, and the participation of the PLO in the peace
process. During Schmidt’s visit to Saudi Arabia in April 1981, no
arms deal was struck. However, Schmidt upset Israel with his refer
ences to the equal moral rights of the Palestinians and Germany’s
commitment to them. His emphasis on the traditional German-
Arab friendship, which reminded many Israelis of the Jerusalem
Mufti’s collaboration with Nazi Germany during World War II,
plus Begin’s personal accusations against Schmidt as a former loyal
officer in Hitler’s Wehrmacht, all added more strain to the rela
tionship. 42 The wave of criticism that swept West Germany during
Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in summer 1982 caused a further
deterioration in the bilateral political climate.
As in the past, American Jewish organizations both praised and
criticized various steps and decisions of the Schmidt government.
The chancellor usually devoted most of his time during visits to the
United States to bankers, captains of industry, and the American
Council on Germany. At the bicentennial celebrations in 1976 no
meeting between him and the American Jewish leadership took
place. Ambassador von Staden recommended such a meeting, but
was rebuffed by Genscher’s Foreign Office. A talk with State Sec
retary Maria Schlei, who accompanied Schmidt, was regarded as an
alternative. She herself was instructed not to devote much time to
the Zionism-racism UN resolution, although the ADL delegation
came to thank the West German government for its stand during
the General Assembly debate. 43
A few years later the ADL found it necessary to voice a protest
against Willy Brandt’s meeting with Austrian chancellor Bruno
Kreisky and PLO chairman Yassir Arafat in Vienna. The ADL
national leadership adjusted to the new Likud rulers in Jerusalem
much more easily than the AJC and AJ Congress, although La
bor too was not yet friends with the PLO. At a meeting with
Hans-Jurgen Wischnewski, an influential member of the last Social
Democratic government, the ADL leadership argued that “the


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
good will of the American Jewish community toward the Federal
Republic, developed miraculously in view of the history of the Ger
man and Jewish peoples, was dissolving.” The reason quoted was
the surfacing of German corporations “to sell advanced weaponry
to those who would again kill Jews.” 44 Brandt, who in 1976 had
been elected president of the Socialist International, continued to
serve as chairman of the West German Social Democratic party,
and in both capacities was interested in promoting the rights of the
Palestinians. However, when asked to sign a statement describing
Zionism as a “symbol of Jewish self-determination” and as the
Jewish people’s “reply to centuries of persecution which culminated
in the Holocaust,” he refused. While reaffirming solidarity with
Israel and its labor movement, he stated that it could not be his
task to engage himself in “a Jewish discussion on Zionism and its
various brands of self-expression.” 45
More important was organized Jewry’s renewed campaign for
full abolition of the statute of limitations in cases of murder. A
novum in a delegation meeting early in 1979 with Ambassador von
Staden was the inclusion of three survivors of the Holocaust: Abra
ham H. Foxman, associate director of ADL who was saved from
the Nazis in Poland by a Catholic nursemaid; Ernest W. Michel,
executive vice-president of the United Jewish Appeal of Greater
New York, who was imprisoned in Auschwitz and Buchenwald; and
John Fox, vice-president of the Philadelphia Jewish Community
Relations Council, who survived Buchenwald and Dachau. Their
participation was an indication of the growing weight of the Holo
caust survivor generation in American Jewish communal affairs.
Members of an NJCRAC subcommittee also approached Con
gresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, who entered a resolution with
almost one hundred cosponsors in the House of Representatives
expressing the “sense of Congress that the government of West
Germany abolish or extend the statute of limitations.” 46
Injune 1979, leading members of the AJC met with Chancellor
Schmidt in New York after they had heaped much praise on him at
an earlier appointment in Bonn for the leadership he had provided
in the effort to eliminate the statute of limitations on war crimes
and murder. The abolition of the statute by the Bundestag a few
weeks later ended the prolonged struggle in which the American
Jewish community had been involved since 1964. However, the
exchange of views with Schmidt demonstrated to them the depth


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14. Disappointment with the Social Democrats
of the crisis in German-Israeli relations, in spite of the signing of
the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Schmidt argued that because of
Israeli prime minister Begin’s provocative policies, the Saudis would
not withstand pressure to use their oil power in ways damaging to
Western interests. As a result, Western nations would sooner or
later turn on Israel, which might find itself completely alone. The
chancellor’s advice was that “the friends of Israel should help Israel
to understand that by her actions she is preparing the road to her
future isolation.”
On the human rights issue and the forthcoming Madrid con
ference (a continuation of the earlier meetings at Helsinki and Bel
grade), which interested American Jewry, particularly in connection
with freedom of immigration for Soviet Jews, Schmidt made it clear
that he opposed a “frontal attack” against the Soviet Union. The
most important thing, in his opinion, was a successful conclusion
of SALT II. In his view, the change of Soviet policy with regard to
Jews and other emigrants was not fundamental but rather an act
of expedience relating to Moscow’s desire for SALT; otherwise all
efforts to increase immigration would be meaningless. 47
Robert Goldmann, who was often on the defensive among his
colleagues for being “too understanding” of the new Germany and
who admired Schmidt’s leadership, thought that the chancellor’s
criticism of Israel’s prime minister went “beyond the limits of
propriety.” He also disapproved of Schmidt’s and President Carter’s
attempts to engage American Jews on the SALT II side by linking
the problem of Soviet Jewish emigration with the U.S. Senate’s
confirmation of the treaty. A1 Moses, on the contrary, criticized the
AJC for becoming “a lackey of whomever the Prime Minister of
Israel is at the moment.” 48 The top leaders of the moderately liberal
AJC, who had not been surprised by Schmidt’s blatant statements
in view of the shifting patterns of both European and Middle East
politics, found themselves in a quandary. On the one hand, they
dared not come out openly against the Israeli government and its
policies. On the other hand, they refrained from personal and public
attacks on the West German chancellor, who had been so frank with
them at a private meeting.
A few weeks after Schmidt’s visit to Saudi Arabia, in May 1981a
sharp confrontation between him and a delegation of the Presidents
Conference took place in Washington. Howard Squadron, presi
dent of the AJ Congress and at that time chairman of the Presidents


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
Conference, recalled the recent events that demonstrated the de
terioration of Israel’s position: its growing isolation on the interna
tional scene because of West Germany’s participation in the EEC;
the 1980 Venice declaration; and particularly the chancellor’s public
references upon the conclusion of his visit to Riad. Schmidt was also
taken to account for refusing to pay a visit to Israel in spite of the
invitation extended to him. The chancellor rebuffed the criticism
and reiterated his support for “Israel’s right to live in safe and recog
nized borders.” He stressed Saudi Arabia’s realistic attitude to Israel
and the Middle East situation, the calls for Jihad notwithstanding.
Schmidt was accompanied by Eric Warburg, who had become a
close friend of his and who tried to convince the participants of
Schmidt’s favorable record. Flattering his interlocutors, Schmidt
remarked that as representatives of American Jewry, they enjoyed
more influence in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv than they themselves be
lieved and that they should make use of it. 49 In fact, the opposite was
true: the members of the Presidents Conference acted according to
Israel’s instructions. Even before that meeting, the ADL had urged
all its officials in places where German consulates were located to
express to them “sentiments of outrage” over Schmidt’s statements
on his way back home from Riad. An exception was the position
by Edgar Bronfman, Philip Klutznick’s heir as head of the WJC.
Bronfman, who would soon emerge as a strong critic of Chancellor
Kohl because of his insistence on meeting President Reagan at Bit-
burg military cemetery, found it necessary to apologize to Schmidt
for Begin’s accusations against him because of his World War II
service as an officer in the Wehrmacht. 50
Altogether, the deteriorating political climate between the Fed
eral Republic and Israel adversely affected relations between or
ganized American Jewry and Germany, although a major Jewish
demand such as the abolition of the statute of limitations was
finally fulfilled in 1979. 51 Also, additional requests of the Claims
Conference for indemnification and hardship payments for late
comers from Eastern Europe were satisfied in 1980 by the last Social
Democratic government. In contrast to most Diaspora leaders,
Nahum Goldmann, the Conference’s aging chairman, had forged
close links with both Brandt and Schmidt, thanks in part to their
common criticism of Israel’s policies. 52 For more than a decade
after the establishment of German-Israeli diplomatic relations and
because of the stalemate in American Jewish-German relations,


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14. Disappointment with the Social Democrats
Bonn had directed its main efforts in conciliating world Jewry
to the expanding partnership with Israel. Now, in the late 1970s
and early 1980s, there was a reversal. Because of West Germany’s
growing disappointment with the Jewish state and its government,
it turned the tables and redirected its efforts to American Jewry,
which continued to be a force in American public opinion. Except
for Israel, this was the leading factor in the Jewish world.
In the eyes of German diplomats observing the Jewish scene in
the United States, the persistent negative attitude toward Germany
among the younger generation of American Jews added urgency
to these efforts. American Jewry still continued to be regarded by
policymakers in Bonn as a major stumbling block for a more as
sertive role of the Federal Republic in the world. That new German
emphasis depended on willing partners from the American Jewish
side who were soon found. Particularly for the AJC, which had
lost its paramount position of earlier years and was superseded in
different fields by the Presidents Conference, AIPAC, and the Na
tional American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, the new kind of
mutual American Jewish-German links became an important chal
lenge. Afterwards B’nai B’rith and ADL would follow suit. Thus
a new chapter in American Jewish-German institutional relations
began, despite the difficulties caused for such a rapprochement by
the growing impact of Holocaust consciousness among American
Jewry and German disapproval of Israel’s policies.
The turning point was the presentation to Chancellor Schmidt
in June 1979 53 of an AJC draff concerning an exchange program
for future leaders in the Federal Republic and the American Jewish
community. In order to provide young American Jewish leaders
with a more objective view of democratic Germany, groups from
a variety of professional fields, as well as those active in the com
munity, were invited to visit there. Upon their return, they were
to transmit their knowledge and experience to others in the Jewish
community as well as to the broader American society. Conversely,
Germans of similar age groups and professional backgrounds—
younger members of the Bundestag and regional legislators, educa
tors, journalists, and representatives of the Protestant and Catholic
churches—would come to the United States to study the American
Jewish community, the largest in the world, and its contribution
to the social and political life of America, its history and future.
Seminars for the German guests, which would deal with religious,


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
cultural, and educational institutions, community relations, and
philanthropic and social welfare activities, would be held in New
York. The participants would also visit other major communities
such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia and meet with
American Jewish legislators in Washington.
The memorandum to the German chancellor was preceded
by informal contacts between West German diplomats serving in
the United States and some influential AJC executives. William
S. Trosten, bilingual and married to a German woman, and often
critical of the Israel-centered trend of organized Jewry, played an
important role in forging the new relationship. Because of his
personal commitment, he had maintained close contacts with a
variety of officials of the Foreign Office in Bonn over the years and
cooperated closely with Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, AJC director of
interreligious affairs and afterwards head of its international affairs
department. Among their counterparts in the German consulate
general in New York was Dr. Wolf Calebow, who later served in
the same capacity at the embassy in Washington. After Trosten’s re
tirement from the Committee in 1989 he established, with Theodor
Ellenoff, an AJC past president, the pro-German Armonk Institute
for furthering friendly relations between American Jews and Amer
icans in general and Germany. That private institute has enjoyed
the strong backing of the Bonn government. For the last few years
it has been instrumental in bringing over American high school and
college teachers, not only Jews, to Germany, to get acquainted with
its politics and society.
Upon his return from the United States, Schmidt submitted
the AJC draft to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, related to the
Christian Democrats, then still in opposition. In 1980 the Founda
tion established its first visitors exchange program with the AJC. 54
The new direct American Jewish-German relationship expanded
gradually during the next decade. There was, of course, no contra
diction between the new ethnic venture and American national in
terest. On the contrary, the Republican administrations in the 1980s
were very much interested in strengthening the American-German
alliance and in lessening criticism and furthering understanding for
Germany also among the Jewish community.


281
15
The Growth of
Holocaust Consciousness
and Its Impact on
American Jewish-German Relations
For thirteen years, from October 1969 until September 1982, the
left-of-center coalition led by the Social Democrats held power
in West Germany, even though its reformist zeal was blocked by a
renascent conservative trend in German society in the late 1970s. In
1982, Chancellor Schmidt’s last cabinet was replaced by the right-
of-center coalition of CDU leader Helmut Kohl, who in fall 1996
already had remained in power longer than any other German head
of government since Otto von Bismarck. In Israel, the Labor party’s
long hegemony since its creation in 1948 was interrupted between
1977 and 1992 by either Likud-led or national unity governments
dependent on the Likud. In 1996, after an interval of four years,
Labor was again relegated by the voters into opposition.
There were ups and downs in American Jewish-German re
lations during these two decades. But in addition to German and
Israeli political changes, the growth of Holocaust consciousness in
American Jewish life added another polarizing dimension to that
already complex relationship. Still, it did not prevent the establish
ment and broadening of a variety of American Jewish and German
exchange programs from the early 1980s. At least until the Bitburg
imbroglio in 1985, the increasing Holocaust consciousness was not
connected to any major happening on the West German scene.
Instead, that awareness resulted from the accumulating impact of


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
the Eichmann trial, the struggle against the enactment of the statute
of limitations, American Jewish concern for Israel’s safety during
the wars of 1967 and 1973, and the generational change in the
community. It also coincided, after the optimism of the halcyon
days up to the mid-1960s, with the reappearance of antisemitic
manifestations at home as well as abroad, which made American
Jews temporarily more conscious not only of the similarity but also
of the differences between themselves and other Americans.
After V-E Day and the liberation of the concentration and slave
labor camps, the safety and well-being of the few survivors and
of the larger number of refugees who assembled in the American
occupation zones of Germany and Austria had become American
Jewry’s most urgent concern. Even though the latter welcomed the
exposure of Nazi atrocities and the sentences passed upon their
perpetrators by the Nuremberg IMT, the destruction of European
Jewry had not been central to the deliberations of that court.
Because of the Cold War and the American national interest in
incorporating the only perfunctorily denazified West German state
in the Western camp, the Jewish community had to adjust to
the new situation. While Jews did not forget, they at least took
advantage of Adenauer Germany’s interest in gaining acceptance
by American public opinion in their efforts to obtain restitution
and indemnification for the victims, and shilumim for Israel and the
Claims Conference. In 1957, in an often quoted remark, sociologist
Nathan Glazer wondered why American Jews were not interested
in the two main events in recent Jewish history: the Holocaust
and the creation of the State of Israel. The formulation of this
rhetorical question was, of course, exaggerated, but it contained a
kernel of truth. 1
Interest in the Holocaust revived as a result of the Eichmann
trial in Jerusalem that focused attention on Nazi Germany’s crimes
against the Jewish people. The controversy caused by Hannah
Arendt’s reports from the courtroom in Jerusalem, and especially
by her accusations against the Jewish leadership during the years
of Nazi persecution and mass murder, increased the awareness
of the problems Jews faced during the tragic period. In 1963,
the major concentration camp trials in Germany began, and the
community became involved in a continuing struggle to extend the
German statute of limitations, which threatened to put an end to
the prosecution of Nazi criminals.


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15. Growth of Holocaust Consciousness
Holocaust consciousness became even stronger during the Six
Day War and the Yom Kippur War. After the latter, Irving Green
berg called Israel “the response of the Jewish people to the Holo
caust, its dialectical contradiction.” At the same time, the domestic
crisis of the civil rights movement, to which American Jews had
contributed much financial and organizational assistance as well as
intellectual energy, and the subsequent rise of black nationalism
redirected Jewish concern to the community’s own problems and
revived fears of antisemitism. 2 Besides, interest in the Holocaust
period also increased because of the failure of the Roosevelt ad
ministration to try to rescue at least a part of European Jewry,
exposed first in Arthur D. Morse’s While Six Million Died. The
historical monographs of Henry L. Feingold, David S. Wyman,
Saul Friedman, and others added to this awakening. These books
revived the debate on organized American Jewry’s response in those
fateful years. 3
In part, Holocaust consciousness among American Jews and
its commemoration grew because of the emergence of Holocaust
survivors in the United States—the second largest group in size
after those who immigrated to Israel—and their children as an
important force in the community. After a period of acculturation
and economic progress, as Eva Fogelman and William Helmreich
have pointed out, the survivors became active on the local and na
tional Jewish scene. The children of the second generation, whose
identity had been strengthened by the flowering of Jewish causes
during the late 1960s and early 1970s, soon followed suit. 4 Quite
a few rose to leadership of major communal organizations; others
were important contributors to new types of agencies such as the
Holocaust-centered Simon Wiesenthal Center, which sprang up on
the campus of the Los Angeles branch of Yeshiva University. Elie
Wiesel, a survivor of Auschwitz, whose novels, Night, Dawn, and
The Accident, made him one of the foremost molders of Holocaust
consciousness in the 1960s, was already regarded in the 1970s as
one of the most respectable figures of American Jewry and at
tracted worldwide attention that would later secure him the Nobel
Peace Prize.
Even though a substantial number of survivors had preferred
to come to the United States after the war, they felt closer to
Israel than most other American Jews and visited there more often.
The affiliation of many survivors and their families with Orthodox


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
synagogues and day schools gradually enlarged the Orthodox
presence in several organizations, in comparison to the almost
total non-Orthodox hegemony of Reform and Conservative lay
representatives and officials in earlier times. Over the years, this
contributed to an ideological, cultural, and political shift to the
right, even more so with regard to Israel’s policies, when in 1977 the
Likud replaced Labor as the leading political force. Quite under
standably, a large segment of the survivors took a negative attitude
toward Germany and Germans, although there were exceptions. 5
The rise of Holocaust consciousness, the politicization of the
survivors in the 1970s, the changing East-West relations, as well
as continuing Jewish concern with neo-Nazi activities abroad, also
furthered the American administration’s new look into the admis
sion or infiltration of former perpetrators of crimes against Jews
during the peak of the Cold War. Some of those infiltrators were
regarded then as helpful tools in the confrontation with Communist
regimes in Eastern Europe. On the one hand, Democratic Jewish
members of the House such as Elizabeth Holtzman from Brooklyn
and Joshua Eilberg from Philadelphia were instrumental in arrang
ing the first public hearings on this matter. Afterwards, a law was
passed making racial, religious, or political persecution a ground
for deportation. An appropriation of $2.3 million granted to the
Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute Nazi and fascist
criminals living in the United States enabled the attorney general to
establish the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) in 1979, and this
agency has been prosecuting Nazi suspects ever since. 6 On the other
hand, these Jewish-sponsored initiatives triggered more intense
antisemitic, anti-Holocaust activities. With the support of Willis
Carto’s Liberty Lobby, an Institute for Historical Review opened
on the West Coast and published the quasi-respectable Journal of
Historical Review, which tried to convince university students and
faculty members of the legitimacy of Holocaust revisionism. No
wonder that nationalistic German-American groups shared anti-
Holocaust measures on the local and state level, especially in op
posing the introduction of the Holocaust into the public school
system’s history curriculum.
The first American memorial to the victims of the Holocaust,
which was to be built at a site in New York’s Riverside Park between
83rd and 84th Streets and dedicated by Mayor William O’Dwyer
in October 1947, was never erected. Neither in the late 1940s nor


285
15. Growth of Holocaust Consciousness
in the early 1950s did the main Jewish organizations support the
building of such a monument. They had other priorities, and the
Cold War climate was not favorable for such an undertaking. In
the mid-1960s the atmosphere had changed; more organizations
endorsed the idea, and for several years the Memorial Committee
originally sponsored by the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organiza
tion was chaired by Joachim Prinz, a leader of the AJ Congress
and the Presidents Conference. However, it was more than thirty
years until the New York Holocaust memorial in Lower Manhattan
across from Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty was completed. 7
In the meantime, since the 1970s, monuments and memorials
have been dedicated and sponsored by survivors and other Amer
ican Jews in nearly all major American (and Canadian) cities. In
197 8, President Jimmy Carter, following the advice of Jewish White
House assistants, decided to establish the U.S. Holocaust Memo
rial Commission, later renamed the Holocaust Memorial Council.
Partly this was intended to placate American Jewish leaders upset by
his sale of F-15 fighter planes to Saudi Arabia and by his reference to
a Palestinian homeland. Carter’s decision, however, opened a new
chapter by introducing the Holocaust into America’s civic culture,
the “Americanization of the Holocaust.”
In his founding statement, Carter mentioned three reasons for
the commission: first, it was American troops who liberated many of
the Nazi camps and the United States became a homeland for many
survivors; second, the nation must share the responsibility “for not
being willing to acknowledge forty years ago that this horrible
event was occurring”; and finally, only by study of the systematic
destruction of the Jews could Americans as humane people learn
how to prevent such enormities in the future. The main result of
Carter’s initiative was the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, near
the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial in the
nation’s capital, which caused much concern in the ranks of the
West German establishment (see chapter 18). The museum was
inaugurated in April 1993, fifteen years later, by another Demo
cratic president, Bill Clinton. In 1992, another large museum on
the West Coast opened its doors: the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s
“Museum of Tolerance—Beit Hashoah,” built upon the initiative
of Rabbi Marvin Hier, the head of that new agency.
By the 1970s, Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Day), which origi
nated in Israel in the early 1950s, had become an annual day of


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
remembrance in the American Jewish calendar, years before it was
authorized as an established ecumenic event. Groups of Jewish
youngsters began to visit Auschwitz and other sites of the Final
Solution in Poland, and in 1983, many thousands of Holocaust
survivors attended their first convocation in Washington. In the
1980s, university courses on the Holocaust were widely taught in
the Judaica curriculum. 8
Gradually, Holocaust consciousness and its recognition as a
major component of Jewish identity also pervaded at least a part
of American Jewish intellectuals. During World War II and for
a number of years thereafter, many of them had been uninclined
to deal with that disastrous event and preferred to maintain their
cosmopolitan position. The so-called “other intellectuals,” com
mitted Labor Zionists such as Hayim Greenberg, Marie Syrkin,
and Ben Halpern, whose contributions appeared mainly in the
Jewish Frontier, or Ludwig Lewisohn and Maurice Samuel, were
a different case. As Stephen Whitfield recalled in 1979 in his essay
“The Holocaust and the Intellectuals,” 9 participants in the 1944
Contemporary Jewish Record symposium had felt no obligation to
incorporate in the depiction of human actuality experiences of the
mass murder which was then taking place. In Commentary’s 1961
discussion of Jewishness and the younger intellectuals, only two
out of thirty-one mentioned the impact of the Holocaust; there
was no reference to the Holocaust in the Judaism symposium of
the same year.
However, in the August 1966 issue of Commentary dedicated to
the condition of Jewish belief, Seymour Siegel, a leading scholar
and professor at the JTS, already came to the conclusion that
“Jewish thought must try to fathom the meaning of the European
Holocaust ... For all Jews (and non-Jews as well) it remains
the most agonizing question of our age.” By now, both writer
Alfred Kazin and psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton had become more
conscious of the implications of the Holocaust than before. In
another Judaism symposium in 1974, after the Yom Kippur War,
the Holocaust and Nazi atrocities were recognized by a third of
twenty-six academics, writers, artists, and scientists as crucial to
their awareness of themselves. That symposium of affiliated and
nonaffiliated intellectuals also showed a much higher degree of
Jewish self-identification and of Israel’s significance for them. In
1970, Saul Bellow, who in Herzog had only marginally touched


287
15. Growth of Holocaust Consciousness
the Jewish tragedy in Europe, published his Mr. Sammler's Planet.
Dealing with the world of a survivor, he argued that the Holocaust’s
main truth was that the Enlightenment’s conception of man as a
rational being was moribund. 10 Bellow’s visit to Auschwitz in 1959
had a long-lasting impact on him.
The subject that permeated major parts of the community was
picked up by popular novelists, magazines, and the mass media.
The telecasting in 1978 of Gerald Green’s Holocaust series attracted
wide attention not only among Jews but also among the general
American public. Renowned critics such as Robert Alter warned
that the Holocaust should not be made the ultimate touchstone of
Jewish values and emphatically opposed any comparisons between
the Arab threat and Nazism, which were popular in pro-Likud
circles. 11 Historian Ismar Schorsch was against imparting new life
to the “lachrymose conception of Jewish history” (a concept against
which Salo Baron fought all his life) and cautioned that if the
Holocaust alone sustained American Jewish consciousness, it would
grant a posthumous victory to Adolf Hitler. 12 However, the critique
of Holocaust distortion by commercialization, politicization, and
theologization, though an important intellectual corrective, did not
change the basic state of mind of American Jewry. The continuous
preoccupation with the Holocaust for which the German people
and the Nazi regime had been responsible reaffirmed the negative
perception of the Germans in the eyes of many Jews.
It must be mentioned that in intellectual debates on Jewish-
German relations, here and there moderate views were expressed,
particularly by former German Jews who had immigrated to the
United States after 1933 or after the war. Leo Trepp, a rabbi and
religious thinker, rhetorically asked in Sh'ma whether Jews, living
under God’s commandment, could reject all Germans and their
children without destroying themselves in hate. Werner Cahn-
mann, a former official of the Central Verein in Bavaria who had
been engaged in efforts to improve American Jewish-German re
lations since the 1950s, went further and complained about Jewish
lack of response to all German goodwill gestures: “[While] the
monstrosity of genocide cannot be erased from our memories,. . .
the ritualistic genuflections we have become addicted to will not
help us solve the problems of the present period in history.”
Herbert Strauss, who as a young man had escaped from Ger
many to Switzerland in 1943 and was to serve in the 1980s as


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
the founding director of the Berlin Center for Research of An
tisemitism, did not deny that there was also a negative side to
contemporary Germany: “survival of yesterday’s attitudes and of
people who had been part of the Nazi machine at one level or
another; belief in titles, class, dogmas; forgetfulness, rationalization,
even die-hard nationalism and provincialism; appeals to hatred or
fears, authoritarianism or anti-Semitism.” Nonetheless, postwar
German democracy had functioned longer and better than the
Weimar Republic; West Germany had paid (until 1973) DM 50
billion in restitution and indemnification to Nazi victims; and the
story of postwar German-Israeli and German-Jewish relations had
revealed “on the German side, people of high moral stature,” some
of whom he called his friends. Strauss concluded that no one of
his age could have a simple relationship with Germany and nobody
could avoid having a relationship with it, since he needed to come
to grips with the experiences that formed his generation and its
Jewish existence. 13
However, it seems that the views of other participants in the
Sh 'ma debate such as Cynthia Ozick and Harry Gersh were more
representative of the mood of the American Jewish community.
Gersh, although his family had left his native Bessarabia after the
Kishinev pogrom many years before Auschwitz, was not ready
for friendship with Germans after what had happened from 1933
to 1945. He opposed making any personal contribution to their
economy and wondered whether he could bring himself to buy a
German car. Only after the generation of Germans who knew and
accepted Hitler had perished would he “be ready to accept their
children and their children’s children.” Cynthia Ozick, when asked
by Harper and Row for a favorable comment for advertising a new
German book by Dieter Wellershoff, who at seventeen had been
sent to serve in the German army on the Eastern front where he
was wounded, replied:
a book by a German is not for me . . . it’s a complex and transcendent
thing, not simply a matter of perpetuating hatred . . . the point is
that I, in my generation, will not perpetuate the connectedness of
speaking to, for, or about a German.... It so happens that in the
roads of that ‘Eastern Front’ (how much the cool geography of
war terminology covers up!—on that Front lay a civilization now
decimated, a language now extirpated) my great-aunt Feyge-Etel
perished fleeing from Dieter Wellershoff. 14


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15. Growth of Holocaust Consciousness
In 1976, the German Carl Duisberg Society and Common
Cause, an American organization concerned with improving U.S.-
German relations, were involved in the visit of a group of young
German intellectuals to the United States. They were mostly leftist
writers, poets, and playwrights, and they met with, among others,
American Jewish counterparts. At a session at the ADL national
headquarters, most of the Jews said that while they approved of
the encounter intellectually, they had to overcome emotional ob
stacles to participate. At a “frank and freewheeling dialogue” of
twelve Germans and twelve Jews, the Germans disapproved of the
popular American Jewish opinion that all German leftists were anti-
Zionists. Fred Viebahn, a twenty-eight-year-old poet and member
of the board of the Association of German Writers, could not grasp
why young Jews like Abraham Foxman, then still a junior ADL
executive, disliked all Germans, as at least some of them, including
his own family, had been persecuted because they were Socialists
and Communists. For Heike Doutine, daughter of a Nazi party
member who served as a soldier in the Wehrmacht and herself
the author of the German Requiem, about growing up in postwar
Germany, meeting with Jews face-to-face was difficult. Her advice
was that “Germans should remember more [of the Holocaust],
while Jews should perhaps forget a little.”
Of course, the Jewish partners would not agree that guilt was
limited only to contemporaries of the Nazi period. Lawrence Lesh-
nik of the ADL staff, an anthropologist who came to the United
States from Germany when he was six years old, confessed that he
could not maintain feelings of ill will against young Germans but
demanded that they remember their responsibility to face up to
their past. He also recalled his shocking experience during Middle
East “teach-ins” after the Six Day War when young Germans—not
“visceral anti-Semites” but “intellectual anti-Semites”—castigated
Israel as “the new imperialistic power of the world.” Foxman ad
monished them that “it wasn’t only the Holocaust that must not
be forgotten, but that Israel must not be abandoned.” Despite the
difficulties that had arisen during the debate, ADL officials recom
mended that the concept of such dialogues should be implemented
as one of their program activities. 15
In talks with the AJC, which also hosted the German visitors,
the representative of the Carl Duisberg Society suggested that
Commentary conduct, either alone or in conjunction with some


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
German cultural institution, a symposium on the Jewish-German
relationship. The symposium should counteract to some extent the
anti-Israel position of many of the critical German intellectuals.
Podhoretz, now a leading neoconservative dedicated mainly to the
fight against Communism and leftism abroad and at home, did not
regard such a symposium as a “dramatic and exciting enough sub
ject” for publication. As an alternative, he proposed holding such a
conference in Israel or in Germany, preferably at Nuremberg, “with
the focus on the isolation of Israel and its being made into a pariah
of the nations, in much the same way as Jews found themselves
isolated in a growing environment of hatred in the 1930s.” 16 But
such a conference did not take place.
A Midstream symposium a few years later demonstrated a simi
lar ambiguous state of mind among committed Jewish intellectuals
in regard to Jewish-German relations. Warnings were voiced that to
indict young Germans and their future generations because of the
sins of their fathers was incompatible with Judaism’s moral imper
atives. However, most of the participants, including such eminent
scholars as historian Michael A. Meyer, stated that in spite of the
right of the younger German generation to begin with a clear slate,
the “Jewish attitude toward Germany. . . must be characterized
by a sense of balance” and the West German Federal Republic
could not be disconnected from the German Reich that preceded
it. The time for a dialogue had come, but it was much too early
to speak about normalization. Encounters between Germans and
Jews would be strained for generations, even though rationallyjews
recognized the fact of a new Germany. 17
Beginning in the mid-1970s a group of younger Jewish intellec
tuals and social scientists challenged Gershom Scholem’s negative
verdict on the German Jewish symbiosis as “one-sided and nonre-
ciprocative” and refused to accept his repudiation of the German-
Jewish intellectual synthesis. Conversely, they argued that such a
symbiosis continued to exist, if not yet at the level of a German
Jewish presence in contemporary Germany, then at the level of
an intellectual and cultural tradition that resonated and bloomed
beyond the historic borders of 1945, mainly in the English-speaking
world. A sense of identification with that culture remained essential
for their self-definition, as Anson Rabinbach admitted. That link
was reinforced by the impact of the Frankfurt School on them
selves as well as on their counterparts in Germany. But while


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15. Growth of Holocaust Consciousness
their contribution to historical and sociological analyses of post-
Holocaust German-Jewish relations was respectable, and some of
them established themselves at American elite universities, they did
not yet affect the larger Jewish community in the United States. 18
In 1978, German diplomats in the United States, who had been
concerned about the possible negative impact of the NBC Holocaust
series on American-German relations, were pleased that the telecast
did not cause an outbreak of anti-German feelings. Following the
controversial and commercially successful American showing, the
WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk), the largest of West Germany’s
regional television networks, immediately obtained broadcasting
rights for Germany. But because of the refusal of four other regional
networks to show the film on the highly watched First Program, the
telecast was postponed until January 1979. Through their contacts
with the German Information Center and consulate general in
New York, organizations such as the ADL prodded the German
authorities to proceed with the screening of the series. 19 It was
finally telecast during four consecutive days on the Third Program,
which usually drew a much smaller though intelligent audience.
Yet according to reliable surveys, 40 percent of all West German
TV viewers—approximately fifteen million people—watched the
program every night; more than 35,000 telephone calls (four times
the number reported by NBC during the film’s American showing)
were received by the stations, and an equal amount of telegrams
and letters were sent. 20 Many East Germans in regions adjacent to
the Federal Republic also watched the film, although their own TV
network did not broadcast it for political reasons.
The major debate that preceded the screening revealed again
the split in German society with regard to its historic respon
sibility for the murder of millions of European Jews. The film
showing also highlighted the difficulty faced by many Germans
in coming to grips with their past, forty years after the Kristallnacht
pogrom and thirty-four years after the end of World War II. Many
leading members of the ruling Social Democratic party, including
Chancellor Schmidt and Willy Brandt, regarded the event as “a
healthy and necessary part of the Federal Republic’s political devel
opment.” 21 The deterioration of West German relations with Israel
after Begin’s accession to power did not affect the Social Democrats’
commitment not to blur the lessons of the past. The CDU, again
the largest single party after the 1976 Bundestag elections, exerted


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
pressure on TV officials at least not to telecast the series on chan
nels that normally reached mass audiences. Franz Josef Strauss,
prime minister of Bavaria and unsuccessful CDU/CSU candidate
for chancellor in the 1980 federal elections, thought the film was
not balanced because it gave the “false impression” that brutalities
were committed only by the German people. 22 Violent neo-Nazi
groups on the extreme right even bombed two television transmit
ters during the showing of a preparatory documentary.
As Jerry Herf pointed out, opposition to the screening also
came from various groups of leftist radicals. In their opinion, Holo
caust served the interests of the United States and Israel. 23 On the
other hand, the DGB (Germany’s Trade Union Federation) and
its constituent unions voiced strong support. Most columnists and
critics of the liberal dailies and periodicals argued in favor of the
telecast; they were joined by xhefeuilleton section of the conservative
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which at first had been critical of the
series when it was screened in the United States. Der Spiegel, too,
heaped praise on it after the performance, although it had opposed
the program before it was shown to the German public.
There is no doubt that the screening of Holocaust in Germany—
despite its debatable quality—was a significant event, shocking the
German public and making more Germans conscious of Hitler’s
Final Solution than all the preceding efforts and explanations by
their own media. The “pedagogy of the Holocaust” was especially
important for the younger generation born in the Federal Republic
after the war. But although the immediate post-Holocaust climate
may have advanced the final abolition by the Bundestag in July
1979 of the statute of limitations for murder, its long range political
impact seems to have been limited. It did not affect the election of
the conservative CDU politician Karl Carstens, a former member
of the Nazi party, as federal president in the spring of 1979. The
program also did not arrest the renewed conservative trend in
German politics that in October 1982 was complemented by the
replacement of Schmidt’s social-liberal coalition with Kohl’s right-
of-center government.
In February 1979, a few weeks after the shocking experience
of Holocaust, one poll indicated that in contrast to past opinions,
51 percent of West German viewers wanted prosecution of Nazi
criminals to be continued as opposed to 45 percent who insisted
it should be ended. One year later, after the statute of limitations


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15. Growth of Holocaust Consciousness
had been abolished, support for Nazi crimes trials evaporated; the
number of opponents of further prosecution rose to 57 percent,
while those in favor fell to 34 percent. 24 Another survey conducted
by the ADL showed that while the telecast of Holocaust stimulated
education about the Nazi era and encouraged controversy between
parents and children, 59 percent of those interviewed believed Ger
many could no longer be held responsible for the crimes committed
under the Nazi regime. The same percentage argued that those who
talk about the wrongs done to the Jews should also talk about the
wrongs done to Germans, such as the bombardments of the cities
and the expulsion from the east. 25
Characteristic of the winds of change blowing in the early
1980s was the much-quoted address of Hermann Liibbe, a lead
ing neoconservative political philosopher and professor at Zurich
University. At a symposium held in January 1983 in Berlin on the
fiftieth anniversary of Hitler’s rise to power, the first of the many
anniversaries that would continue until 1995, 26 Lubbe strongly
criticized the intense post-1968 cultural and political preoccupation
of the younger left-wing generation with the Nazi past. In his view,
this threatened the stability of the Federal Republic. Conversely,
he extolled the reticence and discretion with which the Germans
dealt with that past in the postwar years, thus making possible their
country’s reconstruction and consolidation. Liibbe’s attitude was
contrary to the Mitscherlich couple’s complaint about the German
“inability to mourn.” 27
American Jewish consciousness of the Holocaust and the on
going German difficulties with that subject quite naturally affected
the new direct dialogue between organized American Jewry and the
Federal Republic, which began in the early 1980s. However, the
“Americanization of the Holocaust” added even more urgency to
German efforts to improve relations with the Jewish community.
In 1980, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation established a visitors
exchange program that has continued ever since. 28 The program,
financed by both partners, brought mainly young German aca
demicians, civil servants, and businesspeople to the United States
and Jewish counterparts to Germany. For a number of years these
exchanges were complemented by AJC chapter missions. Three
years later, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, connected with the
Social Democratic party, 29 followed suit and initiated a different sort
of exchange, based on mutual visits of Social Democratic politicians


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
and officials and select AJC officers. In 1988, both sponsored a con
ference on including material about American Jewish life in West
German high school textbooks. In the early 1990s, the Friedrich
Naumann Foundation, close to the liberal Free Democratic Party,
also became involved in several projects together with the AJC.
Subsequently, as a result of the rivalry between American Jewish
organizations, contacts that had started in the mid-1950s between
the West Germans and the ADL, as well as B’nai B’rith, were
reinvigorated, 30 and additional programs with German political
foundations were set up. Still, the Adenauer Foundation remained
the leading one in the American Jewish-German exchange pro
grams before and after Germany’s reunification.
Quite separately, representatives of the major Jewish organiza
tions met with German diplomats in Washington and New York,
as well as with officials in Bonn. At personal meetings and in their
correspondence, Israel’s security, the sale of German weapons to
Arab nations, neo-Nazi activities, manifestations of antisemitism,
and the situation of Soviet Jewry came up. On a higher level, most of
these issues were discussed by the Jewish leadership with Chancel
lor Kohl and members of his government. Besides, the rotation of
German diplomats between Washington, New York, and Tel Aviv,
which had begun in the late 1960s, added to a better understanding
of matters of triangular concern. Rolf Pauls, the first German
ambassador to Israel, had been stationed in the 1950s as counselor
at the German embassy in Washington, where he returned in 1969
as ambassador. Niels Hansen became ambassador to Israel in 1981
after he had served in different capacities in Washington and New
York; similarly a number of lower-rank diplomats rotated between
the United States and Israel.
Helmut Kohl had first met with representatives of the Pres
idents Conference and other Jewish groups as chairman of the
CDU, when that party was still in opposition. In 1978, he had
addressed the American Federation of Jews from Central Europe
at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York and thanked them for their
support of U.S. efforts to rebuild Germany after the war, as well
as for their “critical observation” of its development as friends. 31
At the first meeting with the American Jewish leadership six weeks
after his appointment as chancellor, Kohl impressed them favorably.
He reiterated that he was the “political grandson” of Adenauer
and wished to continue the tradition of friendship with Israel that


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15. Growth of Holocaust Consciousness
extended back to Adenauer’s meeting with Ben Gurion. He told
them that his parents had not been Nazis and that as first chancellor
of the postwar generation, he could speak and act free of any prewar
liability. As for Israel’s prime minister, Kohl thought that some
remarks made by Menachem Begin were “not good,” but he favored
reconciliation and felt “that we should let bygones be bygones.”
Kohl expressed his strong support for the Israeli-Egyptian
peace treaty (Schmidt had been more reserved with regard to it
because of the lack of progress toward a comprehensive peace) and
promised to strengthen the Federal Republic’s ties of friendship
with Israel. In response to a question, he remarked that there would
be no German recognition of the PLO without a fundamental
change in its position. 32 However, other contacts with Kohl were
less harmonious. In 1984, for instance, American Jewish leaders
bombarded him with protests against the sale of sophisticated West
German weapons to Saudi Arabia. In this context, representatives
of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors visited
the German ambassador. 33 Despite all the expressions of goodwill,
the pro-Arab orientation of Germany’s business circles influenced
the Kohl government perhaps even more than its predecessors.
Alois Mertes, minister of state in the German Foreign Office
(deputy foreign minister), devoted special attention to American
Jewry on behalf of the Kohl government until his untimely death
in June 1985. In his last address to a Jewish audience, Mertes
tried to convince his critical listeners that German patriotism forty
years after World War II was no different in essence from the
principles of human rights and democracy sponsored by the AJC.
But despite mutual manifestations of well-disposedness, the deep
gap between the two sides—a function of their national memories—
persisted, as was shown during Reagan’s and Kohl’s visit at Bitburg
military cemetery, which happened to belong to Mertes’s own
constituency. 34
The German objective in the manifold exchange programs was
to show the new generation of American Jewish communal leaders
and professionals the achievements of postwar German democracy
and the changes their society had gone through since the Nazi
period. Some also expected that better contacts with American
Jews might serve as reassurance for German-Jewish reconciliation.
This interaction, of course, would take into account the difficulties
with Israel’s right-wing government, the demographic and cultural


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changes in Israel, and last but not least, the widening gap between
Bonn and Jerusalem caused by Germany’s support for Palestinian
self-determination and its political and economic interest in the
Arab world. 35 Speaking before a B’nai B’rith audience in Washing
ton in 1985, the German ambassador Gunther van Well flattered
American Jews as “the main torch bearers of Ashkenazi heritage,”
presumably having in mind the majority of Israel’s citizens who
lacked the traditional ties with Europe and the United States. 36
The aims of the Jewish participants were more limited. They
tried to explain to their German counterparts the functioning of
the American Jewish community and its impact on the American
public by cooperation and coalition-building with other groups,
and by its contribution to the labor movement, to civil rights, and
to other important issues. 37 But they also reminded the Germans
of the consistent American Jewish concern with Israel’s security
and well-being. Thus Howard Friedman, an AJC lay leader who in
1991 delivered the annual Alois Mertes Lecture (named in Mertes’s
honor after his death), went as far as defining “steadfast German
support for Israel. . . [as] an earmark of the vitality of the com
mitment of Germany and its people to free institutions,” to free
societies. 38 In 1984 Friedman, at that time president of the AJC,
participated in the Berlin ceremonies marking the fortieth anniver
sary of the German opposition’s attempt to assassinate Hitler. It was
the first time that a representative of American Jewry attended such
a commemoration. 39
No quick rapprochement was achieved at the early American
Jewish-German encounters that began in 1980, mutual courtesies
notwithstanding. The youngish and not so young German visitors
repeated their willingness to accept at least a measure of historical
responsibility for what had happened to Jews in Europe during the
war, although they rejected any kind of collective guilt. To grasp
the uniqueness of the American Jewish community and its workings
in the midst of pluralistic American society was a hard task for
them, after lack of any meaningful contacts for forty years. Some
of the members of the AJC mission, such as David Gordis, at that
time vice-president of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles,
were struck by the ambivalence of their own feelings toward the
Germans, “awestruck by the abilities and talents of the culture
as well as terrorized by their capacity for murder.” Gordis was
not impressed by the German sense of emotional confrontation


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15. Growth of Holocaust Consciousness
in coming to terms with the Holocaust. The fact that the screening
of the Holocaust series had such an immense impact, he felt, proved
that there had not been much teaching about the event beforehand.
Mark Spiegel, a Los Angeles attorney, complained that the
feeling of “collective shame” for the Holocaust related more to
the shame of the Germans than to the suffering of the Jews. But
others argued that the Holocaust was, after all, “both a human and
a German undertaking and that to hone in only on its German
characteristics would limit its usefulness as a lesson to all people.”
Moreover, West Germany “was not only the author of the Holo
caust but also a modern nation of 61 million people” and was a
co-leader of the Western world, together with the United States. 40
Besides the Israeli angle, that recognition was an important reason
for organized American Jewry to engage in the mutual exchange
programs that aimed at some kind of rapprochement. Gradually,
despite continuing differences of opinion, the network of mutual
acquaintanceships and organizational links widened and became
stronger. In 1985, it withstood the shock of the major U.S.-Jewish-
German crisis caused by the Bitburg event.



299
16
Bitburg and
Its Repercussions
The new series of American Jewish-German programs was es
tablished at a time when West German politics tilted back to
the conservative side. Moderate conservatives such as Chancellor
Kohl, who, because of the “grace of his late birth” was saved from
becoming involved with the Nazi regime or serving in Hitler’s army,
continued to pledge assistance to Israel, here and there mentioning
Nazi wrongdoings and crimes against the Jewish people. At the
same time, the Germans tried to base German-Jewish relations
more on the present and future than on the past. This was part and
parcel of the Federal Republic’s overall effort to assert its status
as a leading European ally of the United States forty years after
World War II and to dissociate itself as much as possible from its
predecessor.
However, the 1985 Bitburg affair, intended as a symbol of
normalcy along the above lines, served, in fact, as a reminder of
the persevering impact of that past. President Reagan’s compli
ance with Chancellor Kohl’s insistence that they together visit the
German military cemetery, where, among others, a number of
SS soldiers were buried, came as a major shock to the organized
Jewish community, even more so since many other Americans
supported their president’s stand against his critics. For Jews, it
demonstrated the wide gap between their Holocaust consciousness


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
and the attitude of the Gentile majority, the “Americanization” of
the Holocaust notwithstanding; whereas the relationship between
their organizations and the German counterparts continued, old
wounds reopened. The Jewish confrontation with the administra
tion over Bitburg also served as a reminder of the limits to ethnic
pressures. In the last stages of the Cold War, Washington rightly or
wrongly regarded this visit as a matter of crucial national interest;
for American Jewry, opposing it had mainly great moral value.
The Bitburg episode that shook American Jewish confidence
both in Reagan and in Kohl occurred during an era of good feeling
between the conservative governments of the two Western allies,
despite lingering German doubts about the U.S. Strategic De
fense Initiative. It originated from the German leader’s request that
President Reagan accompany him to a German military cemetery
during his planned visit to the Federal Republic in spring 1985.
Kohl also asked Reagan to join him in placing a wreath there, as
a symbolic act of reconciliation forty years after the end of the
war in Europe. Kohl had not been invited by the former allies to
commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the landing at Normandy
but as a conciliatory gesture had been asked by French president
Frangois Mitterand to join him in a wreath-laying ceremony at
the World War I cemetery of Verdun. Accordingly, he wanted the
American president to share in a similar demonstrative act during
his European visit commemorating the fortieth anniversary of V-E
Day, even though many Germans still regarded it as a date not of
liberation from the Nazi dictatorship but of their nation’s defeat. 1
The trouble started when, in order not to annoy his German
hosts, Reagan decided not to include in his itinerary Dachau con
centration camp, which had been liberated on April 29,1945, by the
U.S. Army. The controversy grew heated when it became known
that at Bitburg military cemetery, where both chief executives were
to visit, close to fifty soldiers of the Waffen SS had been interred,
some of them veteran members of the criminal Nazi “elite” orga
nization. This contradicted Reagan’s own gullible description of
the SS men buried there as “victims of Nazism . . . drafted into
service to carry out the hateful wishes of the Nazis.” Even the
White House’s belated decision to add a visit to the Bergen-Belsen
memorial did not calm the storm of protest of Jewish organiza
tions, nor did it satisfy legislators of both houses of Congress,
church leaders, and some prominent individuals. Newt Gingrich,


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16. Bitburg and Its Repercussions
the future leader of the Republican majority in the House of Rep
resentatives, was among the conservative Republican opponents of
the president’s appearance at Bitburg. Gingrich of Georgia and Vin
Weber of Minnesota called Bitburg the “Watergate of symbolism,”
and expressed concern about its potential unfavorable effect on
the Republican party. During the White House ceremony at which
Reagan awarded author Elie Wiesel the Congressional Gold Medal
for Achievement, Wiesel, then still chairman of the U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Council, appealed to the president that his place was
not with the SS but with the victims of the SS. 2 Reagan, who was
told by Kohl that a cancellation of the Bitburg visit “would have
a serious psychological effect on the friendly sentiments of the
German people for the United States of America and the Reagan
administration” and might even topple his government, decided to
stick to the original plan and not to disappoint his friend and ally.
The confrontational course of some of the White House ad
visers involved in Kohl’s visit, such as antisemitic right-wing Re
publican Patrick Buchanan, made things even more difficult. But
as Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz recalled in Turmoil
and Triumph, the person most responsible for preventing any com
promise on the controversial visit was the German chancellor.
Shultz, who accompanied Reagan even though he and the State
Department had not played any major role in the preparation of the
visit, felt that Kohl exaggerated the threat to his government: “His
unbending iron will did seem to demonstrate a massive insensitivity,
on the one hand, to the troubles he was causing Ronald Reagan, and
on the other hand, to the trauma this episode caused to the Jewish
community around the world, and beyond the Jewish community,
to all who remembered the Holocaust and its horrors.”
While Shultz remained critical of the Bitburg affair, he never
theless paid tribute in his memoirs to Ronald Reagan’s “stubborn
determination and willingness to do what he considered to be right,
regardless of the apparent political fall-out.” 3 A few years later,
Shultz complained again about Kohl’s lack of sensitivity when the
chancellor was reminded at high-level talks of the involvement of
German companies in setting up a poison gas factory in Libya. That
involvement of German industrial enterprises in the development
of nonconventional weapons by Libya as well as by Iraq triggered
protests by a number of American Jewish organizations. In March
1989, Seymour Reich, B’nai B’rith president who also served as


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
chairman of the Presidents Conference, discussed the matter with
Kohl, warning that it might affect the Jewish-German relationship
throughout the world. 4
In his confrontation with American Jewry over Bitburg, Reagan
drew unequivocal support from former secretary of state Henry
Kissinger, who had never been particularly sensitive to Jewish com
plaints regarding Germany. Later, Kissinger opposed the siting of
the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, preferring New
York. Arthur Burns, the American ambassador in Bonn, on the con
trary, regarded the Bitburg decision as ill-conceived and, as a Jew,
understood the feelings of moral outrage voiced by the visit’s oppo
nents. Because he did not wish to hurt Kohl, whom he regarded as
one of the staunchest friends of the United States, and also because
of fear of reawakening antisemitism if American-German relations
were to be seriously damaged, he advised President Reagan to stick
to his planned route. However, Burns concluded from the affair that
the reconciliation between the German public and other peoples
of the world was less complete than generally supposed and that
the German nation could not escape the historical burden of the
responsibility for the Holocaust. 5
For a number of years, American Jewish-German relations had
centered on exchanges of views between the Jewish leadership and
West German government officials, on Jewish complaints about
neo-Nazism and demands regarding the statute of limitations, on
intercession in favor of Israeli interests, and, since 1980, on the
mutual visitors programs. Now, because of President Reagan’s con
troversial visit to Bitburg and its implications, the focus temporar
ily shifted back to the relationship between the American Jewish
community and Washington. All attempts to intercede on Bitburg
with the Federal Republic’s government were unsuccessful, and
Israel remained on the sidelines. In fact, its dependence on the
friendship and financial assistance of the Reagan administration and
the support of West Germany continued to be a mitigating factor
in the response of the major Jewish organizations to the challenge.
In principle, the entire Jewish community was united in its
opposition to the demonstrative visit of the American and Ger
man leaders to the Bitburg cemetery, albeit there remained the
traditional differences regarding the organizations’ emphases and
actions. As soon as the definite schedule of Reagan’s trip to Europe
had been officially announced, the AJC protested discreetly to the


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16. Bitburg and Its Repercussions
White House and tried to obtain nonsectarian support from differ
ent religious denominations, black and white ethnic organizations,
and other groups. Behind the scenes, in talks with Reverend Billy
Graham, the president’s close friend, and Michael Deaver, who was
organizing Reagan’s trip, AJC officials proposed to reconceptualize
it: instead of Bitburg, dramatize American-German reconciliation
by a visit to the grave of Konrad Adenauer or the Remagen Rhine
Bridge. But although Reagan and Kohl went to the Adenauer grave,
Bitburg was not canceled. The only achievement of the AJC inter
mediaries was that the president agreed to reduce the visit to the
Bitburg cemetery to a perfunctory ceremony, without making any
statement there. 6 Former associate Supreme Court justice Arthur
Goldberg, a past president of the AJC, was disappointed by the
Committee’s (and everyone else’s) “under reaction” to the events, 7
but the majority of the organization favored the moderate course.
This was because of both AJC contacts with the administration
and its interest in not damaging its relations and programs with its
German counterparts.
In Washington, D.C., on the day Reagan visited Bitburg, the
Committee was instrumental in organizing a memorial ceremony
at Arlington National Cemetery instead of a public demonstration
at Lafayette Park across from the White House. Since shouting
and placards were not permitted at Arlington, it made sure that
the anti-Reagan component would be minimized. 8 Having been in
the forefront of the new mutual relationship with West German
political foundations, AJC leaders also tried to change the mind
of the Kohl government, but their intercession in Bonn bore no
results. This did not prevent them from hosting West German
deputy foreign minister Alois Mertes, who fully supported Kohl’s
point of view, as guest of honor at their annual meeting in New
York during the same week as Kohl’s and Reagan’s visit to Bitburg. 9
Before the wreath-laying ceremony in Bitburg, disapproving
statements condemning the visit were made by all the main Amer
ican Jewish organizations—B’nai B’rith, ADL, JWV, AJ Congress,
the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, different Zionist
and Orthodox groups, and others. Among the first to speak out
against Reagan was Menahem Rosensaft, founding chairman of the
International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors,
who later staged a protest demonstration at the site of the Jewish
memorial at Bergen-Belsen. 10 The liberal AJ Congress vented its


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
protest in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Munich graves of Hans
and Sophie Scholl, young students executed by the Nazis in 1943
for their resistance activities as part of the White Rose group,
but the White Rose Foundation set up by the AJ Congress soon
folded. 11 Israel Singer, chief executive of the WJC, accused key
leaders of the community of engaging in “whitewash” and acting as
defenders of the Reagan administration. For the New York-based
international umbrella organization chaired by Edgar Bronfman,
the controversy served as an opportunity to reemerge as a more
militant factor, particularly with regard to Germany. Bronfman
went so far as to suggest that the leaders of Jewish communities
in seventy countries contact the U.S. ambassador and demand that
President Reagan not visit Bitburg. 12 This was a major change from
the moderate accommodating course of Nahum Goldmann and
his successor Philip Klutznick, and complemented the WJC’s turn
toward an activist position in the campaign for Soviet Jewry. In the
long run the WJC would translate its activism into spearheading the
campaign for the restitution of Jewish property in Eastern Europe
and the recovery of Jewish assets from the neutral countries, most
of which helped the German economy in World War II.
However, not only the AJC but also several other major agen
cies concluded immediately after the Bitburg event that continuing
the confrontation with the administration would be self-defeating.
Despite their disappointment with Kohl, they also applied the same
conclusion to the Federal Republic. Abraham Foxman, associate
national director of ADL, recalled President Reagan’s support of
Israel, his use of the Air Force to rescue Ethiopian Jews, and his
help for Soviet Jewry. 13 Morris Abram, chairman of the National
Conference on Soviet Jewry and a past president of the AJC, stated
in the New York Times that “Bitburg was the mistake of a friend—not
of an enemy.” 14 In a similar vein, KennethJ. Bialkin, chairman of the
Presidents Conference, mentioned Reagan’s consistent support for
Israel and world Jewish affairs and praised his speeches at Bergen-
Belsen and the U.S. airbase in Bitburg, which confirmed Jewish
“confidence in his compassion and understanding.” 15
Presumably, the American Jewish establishment took into ac
count that the reaction of Israel’s leadership to Bitburg was rather
subdued. Shimon Peres, Israel’s prime minister at that time, ex
pressed “deep pain” at the American president’s visit to Bitburg,
while reaffirming his belief that Reagan was “a true friend of the


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16. Bitburg and Its Repercussions
Jewish people and the State of Israel,” and so did President Chaim
Herzog. Israel’s ambassador Yitzhak Ben-Ari attended the wreath
laying ceremony at Bergen-Belsen that was boycotted by the Jewish
community. A few prominent individuals, including former prime
minister Menachem Begin, reacted angrily, but Israel’s concern was
mainly confined to press comments. 16
President Reagan’s decision to attend the wreath-laying at Bit
burg encountered bipartisan opposition in both houses of Congress
and was criticized in editorials in some of the major dailies, news
magazines, and journals. Leading conservative columnists, how
ever, including consistent friends of Israel like George Will, en
dorsed Reagan’s perseverance in going through with the planned
visit. On the church level, public support for the Jewish position
in the confrontation over Bitburg came mainly from mainstream
Protestant denominations, whereas most of the evangelical groups
(except for controversial Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority), who
usually showed more understanding for Israel’s policies, remained
silent. Reverend Billy Graham, a friend of both Reagan and the
Jews, preferred to intervene privately.
Among the conservatives, only the American Legion and other
veterans organizations stood up to the president, because they were
incensed by the choice of Bitburg. Some of the SS soldiers interred
there had committed crimes against American servicemen during
the Battle of the Bulge. 17 Contrary to the unprecedented 82 to 0
resolution against the visit adopted by the U.S. Senate and the letter
signed by the majority of the House, a Washington Post-ABC News
public opinion poll taken in April showed that only a slim majority
of Americans disapproved of Reagan’s going to Bitburg (52 percent
against, 44 percent in favor, the rest offered no opinion). According
to that poll, 51 percent thought that by laying a wreath at Bitburg
cemetery, Reagan would not dishonor Holocaust victims, compared
with 33 percent in disagreement and 16 percent who were not sure.
A USA Today poll published ten days before Bitburg reported a 52
percent disapproval rate, compared with an 88 percent disapproval
of American Jews. Another Washington Post-ABC News poll pub
lished ten days after the event found that 60 percent of Americans
felt that “Jews were making too big a deal over Reagan’s visit.” 18
A more detailed analysis prepared by Roper several months later
showed that there was no linkage between approval or disapproval
and antisemitism in this case. On the contrary, young people born


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
after the end of World War II and the better educated, who were
less antisemitic, approved of Bitburg more than the average because
they saw Reagan’s visit as a contribution to international amity and
the healing of old wounds. The elderly and less educated approved
less than the average, although they tended to be more antisemitic.
The higher disapproval ratio of blacks reflected their general dis
approval of the president. But contrary to Jewish expectations, the
disapproval ratio of liberals was a little lower than that of conser
vatives, presumably because of their support of reconciliation with
the former enemy. 19 Political analyst William Schneider, writing
in October 1985 in the National Journal, pointed out that thanks
to his standing up to the critics of his visit to Bitburg, Reagan
reversed his approval rating, which had begun to fall after his second
inauguration. 20
In contrast to the fluemating American response, Kohl’s insis
tence on Bitburg enjoyed the solid support of West German public
opinion. Sixty-four percent regarded Reagan’s visit there as a sign
of American-German reconciliation; in the eyes of 79 percent, all
the interred at Bitburg were German soldiers and not Nazis, and
90 percent of those polled argued that the young German gener
ation must not feel guilty of the crimes of the Holocaust. 21 The
confrontation also provoked antisemitic outbursts in major West
German publications. Reviving traditional antisemitic canards such
as Jewish money power, cleverness, and conspiracy, the popular
weekly magazine Quick, based in Munich, reminded its readers
that American Jews were doing everything they could to sabotage
an honorable German-American reconciliation and reopen Ger
man wounds. The respectable conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine
Zeitung argued in an editorial that Jews should be careful not to
overstrain relations because the consequences could be negative
for them and for Israel. 22
According to George Shultz, even such a high German official
as Helmut Teltschik, for many years Chancellor Kohl’s foreign
policy and national security adviser, found it necessary to mention—
in a talk with Assistant Secretary of State Richard Burt—that in
view of American Jewish influence, as demonstrated before Rea
gan’s visit, young Germans were saying “they now understood the
problem Germany faced prior to World War II.” 23 In an open letter
addressed by Alfred Dregger, the right-wing chairman of the CDU
parliamentary group, to Senator Howard Metzenbaum and other


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16. Bitburg and Its Repercussions
cosigners of an appeal to the president to reconsider his visit to
Bitburg, he described their action as an insult to his brother and
his comrades who had been killed on the eastern front in defense
of their homeland. Dregger used the apologetic version that the
German people “was subjugated by a brown dictatorship for twelve
years,” but there was no word about the Nazi guilt for murdering
the Jews. 24 The Social Democrats’ motion accusing Kohl of injuring
U.S.-German relations was rejected by a small margin, but a more
meaningful motion of the Greens to condemn the visit to Bitburg
received only the party’s own twenty-four votes. 25
Nevertheless, more important than the perfunctory challenge
of the opposition parties in the Bundestag were the dissenting voices
of prominent individuals who rejected the chancellor’s course; while
they could not reverse his policy, they still carried some moral
weight. Jurgen Habermas, West Germany’s foremost left-liberal so
cial philosopher, challenged the chancellor’s “defusing the past,” as
he would rebuff one year later Ernst Nolte’s attempt to “relativize”
the Holocaust at the start of the Historians’ Debate. 26 President
Richard von Weizsacker’s address a few days after Bitburg, on the
fortieth anniversary of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender on
May 8, 1945, had an especially great impact. 27 Relying on the Baal
Shem Tov that “the secret of redemption lies in remembrance,”
Weizsacker told the German people that the only way to come
to terms with the shame and horror of their past was by contin
uing to remember it. While Weizsacker rejected collective guilt,
as his predecessors had done, he advised all those who directly
experienced the Holocaust years to quietly ask themselves about
their involvement then. Although the German president had no
executive power, the moral weight of his speech helped to limit the
damage caused by Bitburg to American Jewish-German relations
since 1985.
In the same week of Weizsacker’s address, SPD chairman Willy
Brandt called upon his countrymen to dispose of the false eu
phemism regarding what happened “in the name of the German
people,” which had been used since the early days of the Fed
eral Republic. He asked them to recognize that dreadful deeds
had happened in their country and were performed by Germany
itself. 28
At a post-Bitburg analysis, the main questions posed by the AJC
staff to a national advisory panel of prominent participants related


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
to the possible backlash in the United States over Jewish reaction
to the trip, and the effect of the episode on U.S.-West German
as well as on Jewish-German relations. The comments noted that
antisemitism was permanent in the United States, “like the disease,
herpes, it never goes away forever, flares up occasionally, but is
not fatal.” There should be no overreaction to what had happened;
in the short run, efforts should be made to cultivate relationships
with key administration officials. Helmut Sonnenfeldt, a former
member of the NSC staff and the State Department’s planning
council, approached the issue mainly from the viewpoint of Amer
ica’s national interest. Like his mentor Kissinger, he thought the
administration would have been better served if it had done more
to explain the political background of the Bitburg visit. The great
est danger was that Bitburg might have aroused antisemitic and
anti-American feelings among the German Right, which had been
quiescent; whereas anti-American attitudes had existed on the left,
now Left and Right together might destabilize the German political
process. The consensus of the entire panel was that the AJC should
not dwell upon the Bitburg affair any longer. Whether the anti-
Jewish feeling generated by the controversy was episodic or more
symptomatic of a larger problem, the Bitburg visit itself was not
a continuing event. Keeping it alive would only bring about the
backlash the community wanted to avoid. 29
Stuart Eizenstat, chief domestic adviser to former president
Jimmy Carter, drew other conclusions. He thought that Bitburg
would always remain a major incident from the Jewish commu
nity’s standpoint, whereas for the non-Jewish community it was a
footnote. In terms of how the Holocaust would be remembered,
perhaps there was a silver lining: “The whole debate that was
engendered by the Bitburg incident tended to elevate the historical
significance of the Holocaust to a level that it would not have had
in terms of general consciousness were it not for the incident. . . .
To that extent, it could even have led to a greater sensitivity by a
greater number of people to the tragedy of the Holocaust.” 30
Differing appraisals could also be found among Jewish authors
and intellectuals. To quote a few views, for Mark Krupnick, pro
fessor of English at the University of Wisconsin, writing in the
Christian Century, the effect of President Reagan’s and Chancellor
Kohl’s decision to sacrifice the Jews to political expedience had been
mainly positive: “The Bitburg fiasco has awakened a whole new


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16. Bitburg and Its Repercussions
generation of American-born Jews to the isolation and vulnerability
of the Jewish condition.” This was very important because “Jewish
piety toward the past cannot depend solely on those who experi
enced the Nazi terror at firsthand.” 31
In the context of the emerging controversy over the uniqueness
of Jewish lessons of the Holocaust, Michael Walzer’s message in
Congress Monthly, the liberal mouthpiece of the American Jewish
Congress, was universalistic: “Nazism was evil set loose in the
world, and the protest against Reagan’s Bitburg visit was an in
sistence that the evil not be forgotten or forgiven. In the 1930s and
40s, the evil stench ran with terrible force, but we are not the only
actual or potential victims. Nazi-like regimes pose a general threat
to all that is decent in human life. We are, perhaps, uniquely ready
to recognize that threat, and that is the only uniqueness we should
claim in the modern world.” 32
Indiana University scholar Alvin Rosenfeld held an opposite
view. Referring to the tension between the “universal” and the
“unique,” he thought that memory placed primary historical de
mands upon the Jewish people: Jews should “remember what hap
pened not, in the first place, to prevent a given ever from happening
again, but because it already has happened—and has happened to
them.” They should know the truth about the world they live in
and also see to it that the dead of the Holocaust are not overtaken
by oblivion. 33
Charles Silberman, author of A Certain People, was reassured in
his optimistic view of the Jewish future in America: “Nothing could
be more significant than the absence of any significant upturn in
anti-Semitism ... a large majority supported [the Jews’] right to
protest, and roughly half the population opposed the President’s
visit. For all the pain it brought, therefore, the Bitburg incident
demonstrated that for American Jews, the United States is now
home as well as haven; once characterized as ‘eternal strangers,’
Jews are now natives, free to assert their pain and anger—able and
willing to ‘speak truth to power.’” 34
Midge Decter in Commentary was mainly critical of the Ger
man chancellor: “To insist upon hallowing the earth that contains
SS bodies is not an act that in any way serves to relieve one of
penitence. Rather, it is an act that retroactively denies the need to
have repented in the first place. As for American Jews, forgiving the
Germans is not and has not for a very long time now been much of


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
a problem. It is the forgetting—their own as well as others’—that
troubles them.” 35
Lucy Dawidowicz, a veteran contributor to the same journal
and a historian who dedicated her most important work, The War
Against the Jews, 1933-1945, to the memory of the murdered Eu
ropean Jews, revisited Berlin a few months after Bitburg. She was
impressed by the Federal Republic’s stable and successful democ
racy and was struck by the desire of many Germans to learn more
about Jews and Jewish civilization as “a form of moral education.”
In her opinion, the curse wherewith any Jew was entitled to curse
the German nation to eternal hell was “finally inadequate.” 36 But,
as developments in Germany were soon to prove, her conclusion
that “with the virtual disappearance of neo-Nazi parties, the era of
anti-Semitism in German political history has come to an end” was
overly optimistic. Even in 1985, she overlooked the fact that legis
lation against the denial of the Holocaust (the so-called Auschwitz-
Liige) was passed by the Bundestag only after the right-of-center
coalition linked it with putting on trial those who disregarded atroc
ities committed against the German people at the end of World
War II.
Bitburg had reopened Jewish wounds and caused disappoint
ment with Kohl’s government. However, the crisis of the spring
of 1985 did not interrupt the American Jewish-German relation
ship that had been institutionalized since the beginning of the
decade. The reasons that had motivated Jewish groups to enter
that relationship persisted despite Bitburg, whereas the Germans,
regardless of their political victory, multiplied their efforts in order
to limit the damage of the affair in the American Jewish community.
In an address to the Board of Governors of B’nai B’rith in
May 1985, two weeks after Bitburg, the West German ambassador
urged Jewish-German reconciliation and called for a “solid, long
term basis” of that relationship. 37 The youth exchange with ADL
and B’nai B’rith, which had been planned for some time, was
now finally implemented. Another group of youngsters chosen
by the ADL participated together with several hundred American
youth leaders in Berlin’s 750th anniversary celebration in 1987. A
delegation of the AJC that visited West Germany in October 1985
felt that “the Federal Republic now is truly a democracy” and that
its political structure was “fairly close to that of the U.S.” Jews
appeared to be fully accepted, and there was but a modicum of


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antisemitism and neo-Nazism left in Germany. Yet, the future of
the Jewish community there was viewed as being dim: not enough
Jews were left, and their number was below the “critical mass”
necessary to have an impact on the social, cultural, or economic
life of Germany. 38
President Weizsacker, who earned much praise in the Jewish
community for speaking up against forgetting the Nazi past, was
awarded the Burton Joseph humanitarian prize by the ADL; 39 the
same award had been conferred upon Willy Brandt in the 1970s. In
November 1988, Weizsacker welcomed a delegation of one hun
dred New Yorkers, major contributors to the city’s UJA Federation,
led by former Auschwitz and Buchenwald inmate Ernest Michel,
who came to Germany to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary
of Kristallnacht. 40 Weizsacker’s daughter and two speechwriters of
the chancellor were among the young Germans who visited the
United States in the exchange program between the AJC and the
Adenauer Foundation. 41 In cooperation with the JLC, the American
Federation of Teachers, and the ADL, German educators observed
the teaching of Jewish history and the Holocaust at American
schools; 42 in 1990 the Friedrich Ebert Foundation published a first
study of the American Jewish community, which was to be used
by German educators and public opinion molders. 43 There were
also pilot projects such as “Bridge of Understanding,” coordinated
in Germany by Professor Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, a noted political
scientist at Bonn University. Jacobsen hosted Jewish students on
behalf of the Foreign Office and the German Academic Exchange
(DAAD, Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst), in coopera
tion with the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation. 44
In 1988, the ADL participated in a major survey of the Center
for Research of Antisemitism in Berlin. The Allensbach poll, which
was commissioned in that context by the ADL and carried out
among 2,500 Germans over the age of sixteen in September and
October 1987, showed that 8 percent of all West Germans were
still “vehemently” antisemitic and an additional 15 percent had a
“definite anti-Jewish prejudice.” But among Germans below the
age of thirty, the part of those with anti-Jewish prejudices fell to 9
percent compared to 27 percent for persons over sixty. As for the fu
ture, 67 percent thought that forty years after the war the Germans
“should stop talking so much about persecution ofjews.” According
to that poll, most antisemites were also anti-Arab, anti-Turkish,


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HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
and generally anti-foreign, whereas those who supported Israel’s
security also tended to support the Palestinian cause. That last
finding contradicted American Jewish assumptions. Thus, the ADL
representative maintained there was a link between antisemitism
and anti-Zionism and argued against the “futility and artificiality
of trying to separate these attitudes into airtight compartments,”
which was a widespread notion in parts of European and American
public opinion. 45
In 1987, another prestigious program aimed at furthering mu
tual understanding between American Jews and postwar Germany
was inaugurated. Recognizing “that the American Jewish commu
nity plays an important role in shaping American attitudes toward
Germany,” the Atlantik-Brucke, the German partner of the Amer
ican Council on Germany, initiated, together with the AJC, yearly
conferences that rotated between the United States and Germany.
Since the 1950s, Atlantik-Brucke had devoted itself to improving
German-American relations; its membership comprised leading
representatives of German political, academic, financial, and other
elite groups. Because of the triangular link, in 1994 Israel was added.
As one of the participants summarized the first conference, the
results were still disappointing and confirmed the existence of a
vacuum in both communication and understanding: “The Germans
are unclear about who American Jews are, do not fully understand,
and sometimes misunderstand, their sensitivities regarding Ger
many. American Jews, on the other hand, see Germany as locked in
a time warp of twelve years, 1933-1945, and do not fully appreciate
the development of a democratic Germany since 1945.” 46
In the words of Alvin Rosenfeld, bridging the gap of mutual per
ceptions remained a major obstacle. Any German attempt to rein
terpret the past in more “normal” terms directly challenged Jewish
historical memory; conversely, Jewish memories impeded “German
desires for a reconciliation with their past.” Even German efforts
to establish and maintain good relations with Israel had not re
ceived much attention among the broader strata of American Jews.
Nonetheless, the importance of this issue was constantly stressed
by most Jewish delegates at the AJC-Adantik-Briicke meetings.
Summarizing the first conference, the American participants
stated that both as Americans and as Jews, their feelings regarding
West Germany were negative. The basic reason for this was the
immense power of the memory of the Holocaust: “To overcome


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16. Bitburg and Its Repercussions
this negative attitude, American Jews must feel that Germans are
not denying the past, and then they would be willing to learn more
about Germany today.” Both Americans and Germans were of one
mind about the shortcomings of the media in their coverage of
American Jews and Germans. Too often, American reporters in
Germany focused exclusively on the negative, whereas the Ger
man media reinforced the stereotype of the hostile “Jewish lobby”
instead of dealing with the deeper causes of American concern. 47
Besides Bitburg and German resentment caused by the WJC’s
campaign against Austrian president and former UN secretary
general Kurt Waldheim, who served in the German army in the
Balkans, the projected Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washing
ton became the subject of another bitter American Jewish-German
confrontation. Since the early 1980s, Chancellor Kohl’s strong
opposition to that project had been no secret. German participants
in the annual encounters of the AJC and Atlantik-Brucke repeatedly
pointed to the damage that such a museum would inflict upon
the image of the West German republic, whose liberal democratic
system and contribution to the defense of the Western free world
would not be reflected there. 48 However, in spite of some differences
of opinion in the Jewish community with regard to the museum’s
location near the hallowed memorials of George Washington and
Thomas Jefferson, the resolve of the committed individuals and
donors to complete the museum as soon as possible was only reaf
firmed by the Bitburg incident. Moreover, contrary to Bitburg, in
the Jewish endeavor of building the museum no conflict of interest
with American foreign policy was involved.
Well-versed American Jews watching the German scene were
also worried by the repercussions of the Historikerstreit, during
which conservative and revisionist historians attempted to rela-
tivize Nazi Germany’s guilt for the murder of the Jews. In the
1986-87 controversy however, the liberal historians’ insistence on
the uniqueness of the Holocaust had the upper hand. 49 Before
that, American Jewish organizations had registered the resurfac
ing of anti-Jewish sentiments with the staging of Rainer Werner
Fassbinder’s controversial play, Garbage, the City, and Death, at
Frankfurt’s municipal theater. In this case, anti-Jewish prejudices
were indirectly defended, mainly by leftists and liberals, on the
principle of free speech. The performance was finally canceled
after members of the local Jewish community—among them Ignatz


HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE ROLE OF ISRAEL
Bubis, who would soon emerge as the influential leader of the
Jews in Germany—had occupied the stage on the first night and
persisted in their protests. In contrast to the Bitburg affair, this time
the Jewish community was supported by conservative politicians
and critics. 50
For understandable reasons, the sector of the American public
that most enthusiastically welcomed the American-German rec
onciliation over the graves at Bitburg were nationalistic-minded
German Americans. Although their views and attitudes had no
major impact on the relations between American Jewry and West
Germany, and united Germany after 1990, their actions were, of
course, harmful. In 1977, plans to introduce Holocaust studies
in New York high schools drew fire from the German American
Committee of Greater New York headed by George Pape, who
happened to be a relative of Karl Carstens, the Federal Republic’s
fifth president. That experimental curriculum was also opposed by
Arab-American spokesmen. Pape at first stated that there was no
real proof that the Holocaust happened. Later he tried to relativize
its horrors by equating the killing of the Jews with “the countless
civilians . . . slaughtered for political purposes during the last half
century.” 51
Efforts of the German consulate general in New York to help
improve strained relations between Jewish and German-American
organizations by denouncing the distribution of inflammatory ma
terial on the part of irresponsible groups were not effective because
of the deep chasm dividing the communities. Proposals to have
the Aufbau, the German Jewish immigrants’ weekly, participate in
the annual German American Steuben parade did not material
ize. 52 The German American National Political Action Committee
(GANPAC), a radical right-wing group founded in 1982 by Hans
Schmidt to fight anti-German sentiment in the media and pro
mote Holocaust revisionism, cooperated with the anti-Holocaust
Institute for Historical Review in Santa Monica, California. 53 At
the peak of the Bitburg crisis, Elsbeth M. Seewald, president of
the German American National Congress (DANK), who enjoyed
good contacts with the West German government and received
some financial support from Bonn, appealed to members of the
House of Representatives in favor of the planned visit by President
Reagan and against dishonoring German war dead. Two years later
she published an open letter to members of the Senate protesting
314


315
16. Bitburg and Its Repercussions
the blacklisting of Austrian president Waldheim by the OSI, which
prevented him from revisiting the United States. 54
In the early postwar period, German American nationalistic
groups were relatively isolated and only gradually earned the con
fidence of the diplomatic representatives of the Federal Republic.
In the 1980s they enjoyed a measure of respectability with both
German and American authorities. In October 1987, President
Reagan proclaimed an annual German-American Day and thus
acceded to the request of DANK and other German American
organizations. All these groups had a clear preference for the con
servative government in Bonn, as well as for the Republicans in
American politics. In 1988, a flier paid for by GANPAC warned
German Americans and other citizens not to vote for Democratic
presidential candidate Michael Dukakis unless they wanted more
Holocaust studies in their schools. The Steuben News, the official
publication of the Steuben Society of America, “a patriotic or
ganization comprised of American citizens of German ancestry,”
usually was in the forefront of the fight against deportation of “loyal
German Americans” because of alleged Nazi war crimes. 55
In all, events in the 1980s were a reminder of the fragility of
the complex American Jewish-German relationship. On the strictly
political level, Bitburg was a victory for both Reagan and Kohl
over Jewish pressure. But the depth of Jewish opposition resulting
from Holocaust consciousness robbed the German chancellor of
some of the fruits of his victory. It also threw a shadow on the
staged reconciliation ceremonies, revived Jewish suspicions of post
war Germany, and damaged German efforts to improve relations
with American Jewry, the least friendly sector of American public
opinion toward the Federal Republic. To find ways to bridge the
gap between the Jewish historical memory of the Holocaust and
the German quest for more normalcy and a new sense of national
identity, regardless of the events of the past, remained the difficult
task of the American Jewish-German exchanges that continued
despite Bitburg. However, doubts persisted as to how much these
institutionalized relations reflected the true feelings of the major
ity of American Jews toward Germany. Probably they remained
more hostile.



PART V
American Jews
and
East Germany



319
17
From Grotewohl to de Maiziere
On April 12, 1990, after the demise of the Communist regime, the
German Democratic Republic accepted German historic responsi
bility for the murder of the Jewish people during World War II. At
least for the record, that declaration of the first freely elected East
German parliament—the Volkskammer (People’s Chamber)—went
much further than Chancellor Adenauer’s statement of September
27, 1951, before the Bundestag. However, it was made only a few
months before unification of Germany was agreed upon, and the
outstanding issues of restitution and indemnification were trans
ferred to the government of the enlarged Federal Republic in Bonn.
Thus, the unhappy chapter of American Jewry’s relationship
with East Germany, even though it had played only a marginal role
in Jewish perceptions of postwar Germany, came to an end. Early
denazification in the East had been much more stringent than in the
Western zones, and there had never been a statute of limitations.
However, the Cold War climate, the persistent anti-Israel stance
of the Communist regime since the early 1950s, its unwillingness
to recognize German responsibility for the Holocaust, as well as
its refusal to satisfy Jewish demands for restitution of property,
indemnification, and compensation—these factors had stiffened the
negative attitude of the American Jewish community toward the
GDR for many years.


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AMERICAN JEWS AND EAST GERMANY
In the first years after the war, as mentioned in an earlier
chapter of this study, the most urgent American Jewish concern
with regard to defeated and occupied Germany was to secure the
well-being of concentration and slave labor camp survivors and
of the growing number of refugees from Poland, Soviet Russia,
and other East European nations that swelled the population of
the assembly centers in the U.S. zone in southern Germany and
western Austria. 1 Even though thousands of these refugees crossed
the territory of the Soviet occupation zone on their way, they did not
settle there. In contrast to the Jewish communities outside the DP
camps in the Western zones, which comprised growing numbers
of East European survivors and refugees, the small communities
in the Soviet zone consisted mainly of surviving German Jews.
Subsequendy, exiles returned, among them active Communists as
well as renowned pro-Communist and leftist intellectuals, authors,
and artists. For a number of years they were to play an important
role in the cultural and political life there, although with a few
exceptions they did not join the communities. In the early period,
East Berlin Jews enjoyed substantial philanthropic help from the
JDC, as did the western part of the still united community. Later
East German Jewish spokesmen were urged to denounce the JDC
operatives as agents of American imperialism. 2
In its first pronouncements after the war, the German Com
munist Party, soon to merge with the East German Social Demo
crats into the Socialist Unity Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei
Deutschlands, SED), reminded fellow Germans of their guilt and
responsibility for the war and the murderous deeds. Its leaders
recalled the memory of the victims of the Nazi terror but with
no special emphasis on the Jewish catastrophe. In the first years
after the war, the suppression of the Third Reich elites and of
Nazi party activists by the Soviet military government and the East
German authorities was far more radical than the measures taken
by the American, British, and French in their zones. As already
stressed in the first part of this study, the Western powers favored
the integration of most of the German elites and their participation
in the revival of the West German economy and the develop
ment of a stable democratic and anti-Soviet West German state.
Yet, except for marginal Communist and pro-Communist groups,
in the deteriorating climate of East-West relations, mainstream
American Jewish organizations would never point to East German


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17. From Grotewohl to de Maiziere
handling of the former economic and social elites as an example that
should be followed. Moreover, denazification in the Soviet zone
ended formally sooner than in the West because of the regime’s
simplistic antifascist legitimation. For the record, Thuringia, one
of the East German provinces, had in 1945 been the first in all
Germany to enact a law of restitution. This exceptional process,
however, did not last longer than two years because of the change
of East Germany’s indemnification policy and the abolition of
the status of the provinces. The preferential pensions and social
benefits granted to Jews as “victims of Fascism” were somewhat
lower than those of anti-Nazi (mainly Communist) resistance fight
ers, but still very much above the average. They were supposed
to satisfy the needs of East German Jews, instead of indemni
fication or restitution of property as discussed and legislated in
the West. 3
East Germany’s hostility toward Zionism and the State of
Israel gradually increased after the early 1950s. In 1948, before
the establishment of Israel and during its War of Independence,
the Jewish community there enjoyed short-lived sympathy from
the leaders of the ruling Socialist Unity Party. That attitude was in
line with Soviet support for the emerging Jewish state, which they
hoped would help to evict the British from the Middle East and
perhaps also encourage at least a part of American Jewry to oppose
the anti-Soviet course of the Truman administration. Early in 1948,
the party’s central committee welcomed the UN decision to divide
Palestine into Jewish and Arab states and called the creation of the
Jewish state an important contribution to enabling Hider’s victims
to build new lives for themselves. In May the party daily Das Neue
Deutschland condemned Arab air attacks on the new nation, which
had just declared its independence. 4
Chaim Yachil (Hoffmann), who represented the Jewish Agency
for Palestine in occupied Germany and afterwards became Israel’s
first consul in Munich accredited to the American military gov
ernment, and Eliyahu Livneh, who succeeded him a year later,
met in April 1948 with Otto Grotewohl, co-chairman of the SED
and from October 1949 the GDR’s first prime minister. As part of
indemnities, they discussed the possibility of East German help for
the emigration of Jews from the DP camps in the American zone
to the emerging Jewish state. But Grotewohl’s suggestions with
regard to East German ships and a global payment did not prove to


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AMERICAN JEWS AND EAST GERMANY
be realistic at a time of the Berlin blockade and growing East-West
tension in Germany. 5
Nonetheless, expressions of goodwill from East Berlin in the
summer of 1948 continued. Wilhelm Pieck, the Communist chair
man of the SED and after the establishment of the GDR its first
president, congratulated Jews in Palestine and in Germany on
the proclamation of Israel’s independence, and the rejoicing small
Jewish communities in the Soviet zone hoisted the blue and white
flag. In an article in the East Berlin journal Die Weltbiihne, Leo
Zuckermann, Pieck’s assistant, acknowledged the Jewish right to
restitution and compensation. On this issue he followed in the
footsteps of another former Mexican exile, the veteran gentile
Communist Paul Merker, who had dealt with the uniqueness of the
Jewish catastrophe in his writings during the war years and contin
ued to support financial indemnification for all surviving German
Jews after his return to East Germany in 1946. In 1948, Merker
emphatically expressed his solidarity with the Jewish people and
his support for Israel. In 1952, he was imprisoned and condemned
as an American and “imperialist agent,” and even after the revision
of his verdict in 1956, he was never fully rehabilitated. 6
As the late East German historian Olaf Groehler pointed out
in his analysis of the GDR’s treatment of the Holocaust and the
Jewish problem, a number of Communist exiles in the West such
as Merker distinguished themselves both from the Moscow exiles
and from those incarcerated in Germany during the Third Reich.
Whereas the two latter groups regarded the Jewish question and
therefore also the Holocaust as part of the class struggle and to
tally subordinated the racial antisemitism of the Nazi regime to
its anti-Communism, those who found refuge during that period
in the West—whether Jews or gentiles—revealed more under
standing for the central role of antisemitism in Nazi ideology and
politics. 7
The friendly welcome by the East German SED and the Soviet
Union, as well as Israel’s insistence on a policy of nonalignment with
both the two rival blocs, explained in part the cool reception of the
new Jewish state by West Germany’s Social Democrats. The party
was also angered by Mapai’s hostility toward them in COMISCO,
the predecessor of the revived Socialist International. The Social
Democrats’ attitude improved after Israel’s Labor-led government
proceeded gradually toward a more pro-Western foreign policy. 8


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17. From Grotewohl to de Maiziere
Because of their growing support for the U.S. anti-Soviet course as
a result of the Cold War, American Jews, too, were interested in a
clearly pro-Western orientation of the Israeli government. Leading
in that direction was the AJC, but other groups and influential
individuals, including Henry Morgenthau Jr., also tried to influence
Israel in the same way. 9
Several events soon caused a change in the Soviet Union’s
policies toward the Jewish state and the Middle East. The vic
tory of the pro-Western Mapai in Israel’s first Knesset elections
in January 1949, the exclusion of the (then) pro-Soviet Mapam
from Ben Gurion’s coalition government, the volatile anti-Zionist
Soviet reaction to the enthusiastic welcome of Golda Meir, Israel’s
first minister plenipotentiary, by thousands of Moscow Jews, and
the Kremlin’s growing disappointment with Israel’s stand on in
ternational affairs contributed to this change. The hostility that
replaced the short-lived friendship was further exacerbated when
anti-Zionism and antisemitism became important elements in
Stalin’s domestic policies in the last years of his life, reaching their
climax during the Doctors’ Plot. 10
Despite Israel’s official stance of nonalignment, it was regarded
by the Communist bloc as an ally of the “imperialist camp.” Israel
had, after all, politically supported the United States during the
Korean War. The reversal of Moscow’s attitude as well as its anti-
Zionist campaign affected all East European countries as well as
the GDR. Except for the prosecution of Paul Merker, who was
not Jewish, no anti-Zionist show trials took place in East Ger
many. However, some Jews, who after the war had returned to
East Germany and joined the GDR elite, were purged in the early
1950s, and a few others were arrested. Steven S. Schwarzschild,
an American Reform rabbi, officiated in 1948-50 in the still united
Berlinjewish community. In June 1950, he broached with President
Pieck and Otto Nuschke, the minister in charge of church affairs,
the possibility of religious care for members of the Jewish faith
who had been detained by the East German authorities or interned
by the Russian military administration. On the same occasion, the
setting up of a government office for Jewish affairs was discussed. 11
But these proposals were not implemented, and the “imperialist,
fascist, plutocratic, capitalist and reactionary” rabbinate was soon
condemned by a number of East German Jews in letters of resig
nation to their communities.


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AMERICAN JEWS AND EAST GERMANY
Israel’s decision to open direct talks with the West German
Federal Republic regarding reparations and the conclusion of the
Luxembourg shilumim treaty added another dimension to East Ger
many’s anti-Zionism, which aroused great fears among the mem
bers of the Jewish community. From November 1952 to March
1953, a few hundred Jews, including some of its leading members,
fled from East Berlin to the West, altogether 550 from the entire
GDR. Rabbi Nathan Peter Levinson, who served as rabbi in Berlin
from 1950 to 1953, encouraged the exodus. The escapees included
Julius Meyer, the Communist head of the Federation of East Ger
many’s Jewish communities, Leo Zuckermann, and Albert Hirsch. 12
Jewish party members were interrogated about past and present
connections with Jewish organizations or with relatives in the West.
Quite a few prominent Communists who happened to be Jews were
purged from their positions in the party and in East Germany’s
cultural life, although some of them made a comeback several years
later. 13 Alexander Abusch, for instance, executive secretary of the
Cultural League until 1953, served as deputy prime minister in the
1970s. Other Communists of Jewish origin such as Albert Norden
and Hermann Axen were not affected by the purge and served in
influential positions during the next decades.
The restitution laws based on the Potsdam Agreement of 1945
were abolished in the GDR in August 1952, shortly before the sign
ing of the Israeli-Jewish-West German reparations treaty. How
ever, these laws had never been of practical importance to survivors
or heirs of the Jewish property owners. In general, “Aryanized”
property had been taken over by the custodians and where pos
sible nationalized but not handed back to the former “capitalist”
owners. 14
Reports about the anti-Zionist campaign in East Germany
and the flight of hundreds of Jews from East to West caused
much concern in the American Jewish community, even though it
affected a relatively small group. Relying on information obtained
by one of the leading ex-Communist refugees, the AJC alerted
the American public about an alleged order by the East German
Ministry of State Security to put under supervision persons who
were regarded as non-Aryans or of mixed parentage. It interpreted
that order as an attempt to attract neo-Nazi elements for the anti-
American hate campaign. Although there was no lack of reliable and
incontestable material about the difficulties encountered by Jews in


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17. From Grotewohl to de Maiziere
East Germany, this particular item proved incorrect. 15 But the issue
served the AJC well in its campaign to educate the American Jewish
community on the necessity of supporting the administration’s anti-
Communist policy, which was not popular among leftist groups and
left-liberal individuals.
During the crisis of the winter of 1952-53, the WJC empow
ered Rabbi Israel Goldstein, chairman of its American executive, to
check with the West Berlin Jewish community whether the WJC
should appoint a field representative there, whose task would be
to organize emigration of the remaining Jews from the GDR.
The WJC usually took a more moderate stand with regard to the
Communist regimes than the AJC and the ADL. Heinz Galinski,
chairman of the West Berlin community, agreed on the condition
that the emigration work would be carried out in full cooperation
with the Western allies and especially the American authorities. 16
However, there was no more need for such an emergency action.
The East Berlin government showed signs of being embarrassed
by the exodus of a great number of Jews and its negative public
ity. Thus, it decided to support the remaining communities while
stressing the difference between “meritorious anti-Zionism” and
“reprehensible antisemitism.” In the following years sentences by
East German courts for antisemitic insults were widely publicized,
and more synagogues were consecrated or rededicated, including
the East Berlin synagogue in the Rykestrasse, regardless of the
small numbers of congregants and the lack of rabbis. From the
economic viewpoint, Jews, many of whom were engaged in aca
demic and intellectual professions, enjoyed a better life than many
other citizens.
Since the early 1960s, the GDR party and state authorities tried
to utilize the Jewish communities in their confrontation with the
West German Federal Republic, as witnesses to East Germany’s
mastering the Nazi past. Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem served as
an opportunity to publish in East Germany a few historical works
dealing with the Holocaust without, however, infringing on the
basic Communist doctrine. Here and there the Jewish communities
voiced complaints regarding the population’s lack of knowledge
about the Nazi persecution of the Jews and occasional antisemitic
manifestations. In 1978, its fortieth anniversary, the first major
East German governmental commemoration of Kristallnacht took
place, not at least because of the growing attention paid to these


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commemorations in West Germany. That was already a few years
after East Germany had been admitted to the United Nations and
established diplomatic relations with the United States. For both
economic and political reasons, East Berlin gradually took the first
steps to improve relations with the capitalistic West and particularly
the American superpower. 17
In all, since the crisis of the early 1950s, the small Jewish
communities in East Germany enjoyed relative stability, although
on different occasions their leading representatives were asked to
participate in statements critical of Israel, the Federal Republic, and
the United States. These efforts were not always successful. Among
the signatories of an anti-Israel manifesto during the Six Day War,
no members registered with the communities could be found, only
the regime’s devoted supporters of “Jewish origin” such as Albert
Norden, Alexander Abusch, and Gerhart Eisler, the brother of the
composer Hanns Eisler. With all their loyalty to the East German
state, the organized Jewish communities refused to condemn Israel,
and despite pressure applied by the Communist rulers, defended
it on a number of issues. Even during the Lebanon war of 1982,
Helmut Aris, chairman of the Association of East German Jewish
communities and a SED party member, rejected all comparisons
between Israel’s offensive war of which he disapproved and the
imperialist aggression of fascist Germany. 18
In 1956, the fruitless East German-Israeli contacts in various
East European capitals regarding Israel’s demands for reparations
were discontinued. The GDR’s anti-Zionist and anti-Israel policy
became more emphatic after the Sinai Campaign, as did all the
Communist states who preferred solidarity with President Nasser’s
Egypt. Economic, technological, and military support of Arab na
tions became an important element of East Berlin’s Middle East
policy and also served its ongoing competition with West Germany
for international recognition. Although the GDR recognized the
existence of Israel and the right of self-determination of its people,
from 1967 the chasm between Israel and East Germany deepened
even more, and this also affected American Jewry. The PLO, which
expanded its struggle against Israel and conducted terrorist activ
ities both inside Israel and abroad, was granted military supplies,
instruction, and training facilities by the GDR as well as medical
treatment for the wounded. During Yassir Arafat’s visit to East
Berlin in 1973, the establishment of an official PLO representation


327
17. From Grotewohl to de Maiziere
was agreed upon one year before such an office opened in Moscow.
In 1979, the East German regime condemned the signing of the
Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and supported the Arab rejection-
ist front. Anti-Israeli outbursts reached another peak during the
Lebanese invasion by Israel’s army in 1982. East Berlin’s attitude
toward Israel began to mellow only in the latter 1980s, mainly as
part of its efforts to gain respectability among American Jews and
advance a rapprochement with the United States.
American Jews, who at first had insisted on the full demilita
rization of defeated Germany together with its thorough denazifi
cation and democratization, had to overcome great psychological
difficulties in adjusting to West German rearmament in the mid-
1950s. They did so because of the American national interest in
strengthening the Western alliance, and also taking into account the
interests of Israel, which was dependent on the shilumim deliveries
and other kinds of German assistance. However, it was easy for
them to condemn the Soviet Union’s arming of East Germany’s
National People’s Army as well as the Communist regime’s laxity
toward a number of former Nazis who advanced in several of its
institutions and organizations.
During the 1956-57 Sinai-Suez crisis, the American Jewish
community acknowledged Chancellor Adenauer’s support for Is
rael in refusing to suspend shilumim shipments. This benevolent
stand was diametrically opposed to that of East Germany, whose
prime minister, Otto Grotewohl, called upon the Bonn govern
ment to stop the “so-called reparations” that made it possible for
the “aggressive circles” of Israel to finance its struggle against
the “national liberation movement of the peoples of the Middle
East.” 19 TheEichmann trial in 1961 did notaffectthe GDR’s hostile
attitude toward Israel, even though it dispatched to Jerusalem an
observer, the lawyer Friedrich Karl Kaul, who was received by both
the minister of justice and the chief prosecutor. In the context
of that trial, East Berlin’s main aim was to blame Adenauer and
the Ben Gurion government for a secret deal according to which
State Secretary Hans Globke, who had participated in drafting the
Nuremberg racial laws in 1935, would not be called to testily as
a witness. 20 Nonetheless, despite the continuing anti-Israel course,
historian Herbert Strauss, who visited the GDR in 1963, did not
find much antisemitism there. He concluded that the East Berlin
propaganda machine was grateful for its small but valuable Jewish


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population, used it to harass the Bonn government, and rewarded
it by subsidizing the existing communities. 21
There was a further upsurge in American Jewish criticism of
Communist East Germany in the mid-1960s, after East German
leader Walter Ulbricht’s visit to Cairo in February 1965, where
he endorsed President Nasser’s confrontational policies. Rabbi
Joachim Prinz, chairman of the Presidents Conference, noted that
whereas the Bonn regime, responding to Jewish reminders, had at
least “begun the great task of moral redemption,” East Germany
had rebuffed every Jewish approach, rejected every appeal, ignored
every demand, and at the same time encouraged “Arab adventur
ism” aimed against Israel. On this occasion, Prinz enumerated a list
of veteran Hitler supporters who were serving in official positions in
East Germany, including twenty-nine former Nazi party members
in the Volkskammer. 22
Despite the GDR’s longstanding refusal to enter negotiations
on restitution and collective compensation, neither Israel nor the
American Jewish community had given up hope for a change of
that country’s attitude. Israel renewed its efforts in that direction
when the admission of the two German states to the UN became
imminent in 1973. It started a campaign to convince other countries
to take the position that if East Germany was to be considered as
a “member of the international community in good standing,” it
should take action on restitution and indemnification. 23 Both the
American Jewish Committee and Nahum Goldmann, the WJC
president, were critical of Israel’s raising the issue in public. Gold
mann talked about the problem with West German chancellor
Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr, one of his closest advisers, and hoped
he would be able to meet Erich Honecker, who in 1971 had suc
ceeded Walter Ulbricht as the GDR’s leader. But despite “friendly
greetings” conveyed to Goldmann from Honecker through histo
rian Josef Wulf, such a meeting never took place. 24
Because of the Claims Conference’s continuous involvement
with West Germany, Goldmann thought the GDR might prefer
to deal with another body such as the WJC, but the consensus of
the major Jewish organizations was that negotiations with the East
Germans about restitution and indemnification must remain in the
hands of the Claims Conference. 25
Representatives of the Jewish organizations discussed the mat
ter with State Department officials, reminding them of American


329
17. From Grotewohl to de Maiziere
support for West German payments of restitution and compensa
tion in the early 1950s. However, it became evident that regardless
of moral support for Jewish claims, no preconditions would be
made for the admission of the GDR to the UN, which took place
in 1973. 26
American Jewish expectations that things would change for
the better with the establishment of diplomatic relations between
Washington and East Berlin too did not materialize. Arthur Hart
man, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, disappointed
his Jewish interlocutors, telling them that it would not be possible to
make the issue of reparations a part of the formal agreement regard
ing diplomatic relations with East Germany. Instead, he promised
to press the GDR for a settlement of claims by victims of the Nazi
persecution and by Americans whose property had been seized,
as soon as diplomatic relations were established. 27 Objections by
Senator Jacob Javits that a satisfactory settlement of the claims
should be made a condition for normalizing relations with East
Berlin were of no avail. 28 Nineteen seventy four was not 1951-52,
and Henry Kissinger as secretary of state was even less supportive
of Jewish demands regarding reparations than Dean Acheson had
been in 1952. Moreover, for the Jewish community, which was
deeply involved in its campaign for advancing free emigration of
Soviet Jewry, compensation from East Germany was basically a
marginal issue. All that was agreed upon was the GDR’s commit
ment to enter into talks about unsolved property questions, which
included claims of American (former German) citizens who had
suffered from Nazi persecution, and that did not mean much. Again,
a decade later, long after diplomatic relations between Washington
and East Berlin had been established, Jewish pressure failed to move
the State Department on alleviating trade with the GDR in the hope
it might further an agreement about compensation.
Whereas the East German government refused to enter direct
negotiations with the Claims Conference because of its status as
a “private organization,” it agreed that the Conference should
discuss American Jewish claims with the Anti-Fascist Resistance
Fighters Committee (AFC), one of its front organizations. For the
next two years, Benjamin Ferencz kept in touch with the AFC on
behalf of the Claims Conference, and its representatives repeatedly
contacted the State Department but did not manage to obtain
an appointment with the East German ambassador in Washing-


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AMERICAN JEWS AND EAST GERMANY
ton. Nor were they successful in promoting the idea of settling
restitution claims by increased East German exports to America. 29
As a gesture of goodwill, in 1976, the AFC transferred “for humani
tarian reasons” to the Claims Conference’s account a symbolic sum
of $1 million for U.S. citizens of Jewish faith who were victims
of Nazi persecution, without implying recognition of any legal
or moral claims of Nazi victims in general. Upon the advice of
Nahum Goldmann, the check was returned to the East German
committee. 30
However, this was not the end of the story. During the next
decade, the Claims Conference persisted in its attempts to try
and make progress both by involving U.S. officials and friendly
legislators as well as by directly approaching the GDR government
and its Communist party leadership. A sum of $100 million as an
appropriate basis for settlement of Jewish claims at first cropped up
in 1977 at a meeting of representatives of the Claims Conference
with David Bolen, the American ambassador to Berlin. That was,
of course, much less than the third of the original reparations
sum which Israel had demanded from East Germany in 1952.
Rabbi Israel Miller, one of the few prominent Orthodox leaders
continuously involved in negotiations with the Germans, who,
after Goldmann’s death in 1982, became chairman of the Claims
Conference, met East German foreign minister Oskar Fischer in
1978. On that occasion, as well as during further meetings with
Fischer and GDR ambassador Horst Grunert, the sum of $100
million was mentioned. Aging Nahum Goldmann, who had retired
from the WJC presidency, met Grunert in 1979, but the contacts
with the East Germans rested mainly in the hands of Miller and Saul
Kagan, the Claims Conference’s executive director. Both also told
their interlocutors that a compensation payment for the Jews could
be made in goods as West Germany had done in the framework of
the Luxembourg agreement. 31
A subject of special interest for East Germany was obtaining
the full or at least partial Most Favored Nation (MFN) status for
its exports to the United States in order to improve its negative
trade balance. This became even more important because of the
GDR’s growing economic difficulties in the 1980s. Representatives
of the Claims Conference indicated to the East Germans that
they might be of help on the trade issue if at least a part of the
increased GDR exports would serve to satisfy Jewish compensation


331
17. From Grotewohl to de Maiziere
demands. That idea of a package deal between compensation for
Jews as well as American property claims and trade concessions to
East Germany was discussed for a number of years on different
levels in Washington and East Berlin. 32 Jewish congressmen such
as William M. Lehman tried to be of help, and the matter of Jewish
compensation claims also came up during a visit of a congressional
delegation to East Berlin headed by Representative Thomas P.
Lantos. Lantos, a California Democrat and Holocaust survivor
from Budapest, reminded his host Honecker of their common
background in fighting Nazi tyranny. 33
At one point, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
Lawrence Eagleburger, who in 1992 would conclude his long diplo
matic career as President Bush’s last secretary of state, considered
asking the Reagan White House’s support for a limited MFN
status for the GDR. Nonetheless, it soon became evident that the
basic differences were too great for an agreement to be reached.
The Reagan administration, not at all interested in helping East
Germany’s economy, objected to any linking of Jewish and other
claims with trade concessions; 34 it insisted that, first of all, American
and Jewish claims had to be settled. Conversely, the East Berlin
politburo did not budge from its standpoint that the GDR had
fulfilled its reparation requirements according to the 1945 Potsdam
agreement and had no obligations regarding Jewish claims. 35 High-
level meetings such as those between Rabbi Miller and Honecker
in June 1987 in Berlin and between Hermann Axen, a politburo
member and himself a survivor of Auschwitz, and American coun
terparts in Washington were inconclusive. 36 A frank though private
confession of foreign minister Oskar Fischer, who was involved in
contacts with Jewish organizations for a number of years, that both
German states shared historic responsibility for what happened to
the Jews, was an exception to the rule. 37 A far-reaching revision of
the GDR’s policy toward Jews and Israel was to take place only
after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and on the verge of the GDR’s
disappearance from the international arena.
The meetings with the Claims Conference were only one part
of East German-American Jewish contacts in the 1980s. Other
groups that became involved were the AJC and the WJC. B’nai
B’rith president David Blumberg was the first head of a major
Jewish organization to visit East Germany in 1983, but neither
B’nai B’rith nor ADL showed much interest.


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Howard Friedman, president of the AJC, went there in 1984.
He had been preceded in 1983 by another delegation of the AJC
which met with Klaus Gysi, the East German state secretary for
church affairs, and three representatives of the Jewish community.
Gysi, himself partly Jewish, found the question regarding anti
semitism “insulting” and insisted upon the distinction between
antisemitism and anti-Zionism. 38 At a subsequent meeting with
Gysi the possibility of bringing over an American rabbi to East
Berlin was broached. The AJC had been encouraged by the positive
experience of another former German rabbi, Ernst Lorge, who
conducted Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services there in 1984.
Lorge was favorably impressed by the cooperative attitude of the
East German authorities and their “frank admission of all the details
of the Holocaust.” The gullible rabbi also sounded convinced that
the majority of the young people in East Germany had accepted
Communism and friendship with Russia. 39
Gysi, who was in charge of Jewish affairs in the East G