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Jews for Sale?

Jews for Sale?: Nazi-Jewish Negotiations, 1933-1945

Yehuda Bauer
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Jews for Sale?
    Book Description:

    The world has recently learned of Oskar Schindler's efforts to save the lives of Jewish workers in his factory in Poland by bribing Nazi officials. Not as well known, however, are many other equally dramatic attempts to negotiate with the Nazis for the release of Jews in exchange for money, goods, or political benefits. In this riveting book, a leading Holocaust scholar examines these attempts, describing the cast of characters, the motives of the participants, the frustrations and few successes, and the moral issues raised by the negotiations.Drawing on a wealth of previously unexamined sources, Yehuda Bauer deals with the fact that before the war Hitler himself was willing to permit the total emigration of Jews from Germany in order to be rid of them. In the end, however, there were not enough funds for the Jews to buy their way out, there was no welcome for them abroad, and there was too little time before war began. Bauer then concentrates on the negotiations that took place between 1942 and 1945 as Himmler tried to keep open options for a separate peace with the Western powers.In fascinating detail Bauer portrays the dramatic intrigues that took place: a group of Jewish leaders bribed a Nazi official to stop the deportation of Slovakian Jews; a Czech Jew known as Dogwood tried to create an alliance between American leaders and conservative German anti-Nazis; Adolf Eichmann's famous "trucks for blood" proposal to exchange one million Jews for trucks to use against the Soviets failed because of Western reluctance; and much more.Tormenting questions arise throughout Bauer's discussion. If the Nazis were actually willing to surrender more Jews, should the Allies have acted on the offer? Did the efforts to exchange lives for money constitute collaboration with the enemy or heroism? In answering these questions, Bauer's book-engrossing, profound, and deeply moving-adds a new dimension to Holocaust studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16052-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Note on Names
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Prologue
    (pp. 1-4)

    Jews attempted to save Jews from the Nazis through negotiations, and for varying motives a few Nazis entered into such discussions. Most of the attempts failed; some succeeded to a very limited degree. But considering them might be of importance, because they raise a host of historical, philosophical, and moral issues.

    Up to now the historical literature has dealt with the Jewish side of these contacts, both before and during the war, though not exhaustively so. The aims of the Jews were quite understandable: before the war they wanted to help Jews emigrate from a country ruled by a threateningly...

  7. 1 Deliverance Through Property Transfer
    (pp. 5-29)

    The danger had been apparent to many—Jews and non-Jews alike—but the Nazi accession to power was nonetheless a shock to most people: on January 30, 1933, the senile President of Germany, Paul von Hindenburg, asked Adolf Hitler to become Reich Chancellor. Hitler did not—contrary to post-1945 popular belief—come to power by winning an election. Almost the opposite is true: In the last free election in pre-Hitler Germany, in November 1932, the Nazis lost thirty-four seats in the Reichstag (parliament), or some two million votes, and their share of the vote declined from 37.3 percent to 33.1...

  8. 2 Failure of a Last-Minute Rescue Attempt
    (pp. 30-43)

    The Evian conference on refugees from Germany (July 1938) has been discussed many times before. Here we need to see how the events at Evian and afterward fit with the analysis of Jewish and German policies before and during the Holocaust.

    The initiative for convening the conference was American. Roosevelt wanted to do “something” for the people persecuted by the Nazis, without spending any money and without changing the quota system of immigration to the United States. He thought he could do that if he put the United States at the head of an alliance of nations that would negotiate...

  9. 3 Enemies with a Common Interest
    (pp. 44-54)

    Between 1938 and 1941 a peculiar set of contacts developed between Nazi officials like Adolf Eichmann and Jewish individuals representing either a Zionist organization or only themselves or sometimes both—contacts whose aim it was to further Jewish emigration from the Reich and immigration into Palestine. The background to the contacts, on the Jewish side, was the increasing tendency of the British in Palestine to limit, even choke off, Jewish immigration.

    The reasons for the gradual change of policy have been examined and clarified by a number of historians: the imminent threat of Axis powers to disrupt imperial communications in...

  10. 4 The Road to the “Final Solution”
    (pp. 55-61)

    There is no evidence that any major Nazi agency was interested in negotiations with Jews or about Jews, except for B immigration, from the invasion of Poland well into 1942—in other words, during the period of the greatest Nazi ascendancy. Nazi policy toward the Jews moved from forcible extrusion to annihilation in a process that is well known and has been described in detail in current literature.¹

    With the invasion of Poland, all contact with the United States regarding the sale of Jews ceased, and Britain became Germany’s enemy when it declared war on September 3, 1939. The reason...

  11. 5 “Willy”
    (pp. 62-90)

    Historians of the Holocaust have long been aware of the peculiar negotiations that took place in Slovakia in 1942–43 between a group of Jewish leaders and the NaziBerater(adviser) on Jewish affairs in Bratislava, Dieter Wisliceny. These negotiations were described by a participant, Rabbi Michael Dov Ber Weissmandel, in a book published posthumously in New York (1960) calledMin Hametzar(From the depths), in rabbinical Hebrew.¹ Most subsequent authors, including myself, followed Weissmandel’s description of what happened in Slovakia for a number of reasons: first, because Weissmandel wrote in the 1950s, when his memory was presumably still fresh;...

  12. 6 What Really Did Happen in Slovakia?
    (pp. 91-101)

    Dieter Wisliceny was apprehended by the Americans at war’s end, taken to Nuremberg, interrogated many times, then handed over to the Slovak authorities. In Bratislava he was again interrogated for a long period of time. Finally, he was put on trial, found guilty of war crimes and murder, and executed in Bratislava in 1948.

    To analyze his testimony while taking into account the pitfalls that such testimony presents is obviously very important. He was fighting for his life, and he knew it. He could hardly be expected to make self-incriminating statements; he would presumably glorify his role as much as...

  13. 7 Himmler’s Indecision, 1942–1943
    (pp. 102-119)

    To understand Himmler’s policy in the matter of contacts with Jews during World War II—specifically during 1942–43—we must try to understand the personality of the man.

    Himmler was a pedantic classroom teacher, a gifted organizer and administrator, and a basically weak, superstitious, and unstable man. In his groove as ideologically convinced Nazi devoted to his Führer, he acted with decisiveness and brutality. When confronted with unexpected problems, he prevaricated, hesitated, wavered, or acted erratically, changing his stance and his decisions. The symptom of his indecisiveness was the stomach cramps from which he increasingly suffered. Here he was...

  14. 8 Dogwood’s Chains
    (pp. 120-144)

    The U.S. wartime intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services, has received detailed treatment in the historical literature. On the whole, the agency, founded in mid-1942 under the leadership of “Wild Bill” Donovan, has received a good press. It was a fairly large organization, employing some 7,000 people at its peak; yet it had to struggle hard for its existence against the competition of Army and Navy intelligence organs, and it finally lost the struggle, after the death of Roosevelt, its protector. In 1945 the U.S. government still balked at the prospect of a permanent intelligence agency, carried over from...

  15. 9 Satan and the Soul—Hungary, 1944
    (pp. 145-171)

    In 1953, Dr. Israel (Reszoe, Rudolf) Kasztner, the man who is identified with the attempt to save Hungarian Jewry by negotiating with the Nazis, was persuaded by his center-left political friends in the new State of Israel to bring a libel suit against one Malkiel Grünwald, an old man who had said in an obscure Israeli publication that Kasztner was a criminal: he had negotiated with the most terrible enemies of the Jewish people and had saved a trainload of Hungarian Jews in return for abandoning to their fate the rest of the Jews of Hungary. In the process, he...

  16. 10 The Mission to Istanbul
    (pp. 172-195)

    On May 17, 1944, Joel Brand and Bandi Grosz left Budapest in an SS car for Vienna. There they spent the night in a hotel reserved for SS personnel. Brand had with him recommendations from the Judenrat and from the Vaada legitimating him as the representative of Hungarian Jewry. Grosz had notes, which he carefully memorized and then destroyed. The next day Brand received his passport, in the name of Eugen Band, but without a Turkish visa, which he never even requested, because he was sure the emissaries in Istanbul would see to a minor problem like that.¹ Grosz had...

  17. 11 The Bridge at Saint Margarethen
    (pp. 196-221)

    When Brand did not return and the deportations from the provinces assumed the proportions of the most terrible disaster, Kasztner thought at first that he had failed totally, that everything was lost. In a desperate letter to Nathan Schwalb in Geneva on July 12, 1944, he wrote:

    You will understand the mental condition in which I am writing this letter. The dream of the big plan [the ransom plan and the Brand mission] is finished [der Traum des grossen Planes ist ausgeträumt]; the hundreds of thousands went to Auschwitz in such a way that they were not conscious until the...

  18. 12 The Swiss Talks and the Budapest Tragedy
    (pp. 222-238)

    The idea of letting the remaining Jews leave was not taboo in Nazi Germany in early 1944. On April 3, Veesenmayer in Hungary asked Ribbentrop what had become of the idea that the Foreign Minister had suggested to the Führer: presenting all the Jews to Roosevelt and Churchill as a gift.¹ He was not answered, but he doubtless knew what he was talking about.

    We can only surmise the reason for this surprising move by the arch-Nazi Ribbentrop. The simplest explanation seems to be that after the failure of the Feldscher negotiations, Ribbentrop thought that the Allies would refuse a...

  19. 13 The Final Months
    (pp. 239-251)

    On October 23, 1944, in expectation of a massive Soviet offensive, Kurt A. Becher was nominated chief of the evacuation staff of the Nazi occupation authorities in Hungary.¹ “Evacuation” meant that he was in charge of cleaning out Hungarian property. According to our source—Gyula von Szilvay, then director of the Hungarian Foreign Trade Ministry—the property shipped away was put on 25,000 wagons and trucks and had a total value of SFR 6,000,000,000. According to the same source, most of it was Jewish property.

    The Hungarian official in charge of abandoned Jewish property, Albert Tutvölgyi, resigned in March 1945...

  20. Epilogue
    (pp. 252-260)

    The accepted interpretation of Nazi antisemitism and the evolving anti-Jewish policy of the regime has been confirmed in our study. So has the policy of the “Final Solution”: the Nazi elite’s decision to murder all Jews wherever they could reach them was implemented with thoroughness and conviction. But exceptions were granted during the war if tactical advantages could be gained by keeping some Jews alive or by letting some Jews escape to the free or neutral world. There was, as has been argued already, no inherent contradiction between the two policies, one representing the main strategic line of Nazi thinking,...

  21. Notes
    (pp. 261-290)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 291-296)
  23. Index
    (pp. 297-306)