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A Fatal Balancing Act

A Fatal Balancing Act: The Dilemma of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany, 1939-1945

Beate Meyer
Translated by William Templer
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 454
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  • Book Info
    A Fatal Balancing Act
    Book Description:

    In 1939 all German Jews had to become members of a newly founded Reich Association. The Jewish functionaries of this organization were faced with circumstances and events that forced them to walk a fine line between responsible action and collaboration. They had hoped to support mass emigration, mitigate the consequences of the anti-Jewish measures, and take care of the remaining community. When the Nazis forbade emigration and started mass deportations in 1941, the functionaries decided to cooperate to prevent the "worst." In choosing to cooperate, they came into direct opposition with the interests of their members, who were then deported. In June 1943 all unprotected Jews were deported along with their representatives, and the so-called intermediaries supplied the rest of the community, which consisted of Jews living in mixed marriages. The study deals with the tasks of these men, the fate of the Jews in mixed marriages, and what happened to the survivors after the war.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-028-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. viii-ix)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. x-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    A study that deals with the behavior of German-Jewish functionaries in the Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland, RV) during the Holocaust risks receiving unwanted applause from the wrong side, that is, from those who wish to contend that the persecuted Jews participated in their own murder. It is my hope that my work does not in any way abet such mistaken assumptions, which serve to exculpate the German perpetrators. Rather, I have sought to determine what specific and ever-changing challenges and constraints the Jewish representatives faced in the years 1939 to 1945, and how...

  7. Chapter 1 From “Forced Emigration” to Assisting with the Deportations
    (pp. 15-106)

    When Benno Cohn arrived at the Palestine Office¹ on Meineckestrasse in Berlin on 10 November 1938, where he worked, a demolished building confronted him. Nonetheless, he was allowed to enter the ruined structure. Two hours later, all the telephone lines there had been cut. Paul Eppstein and Otto Hirsch from the Reich Representation of Jews in Germany (Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland), whose office was located on Kantstrasse, did not even head for work first that day. Instead, they rushed immediately to the Reich Chancellery, hoping to be able to speak with State Secretary Lammers,² but that proved to no...

  8. Chapter 2 Walking on a Thin Line: The Participation of the Reichsvereinigung and the Berlin Jewish Community during the Deportations
    (pp. 107-220)

    The process of Nazi decision making on deporting all Jews from theAltreich,by no means linear, had more or less come to a conclusion after the German attack on the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941.¹ It was not only Hitler and Heydrich who were pushing ahead with the deportations, but also individualGauleitersas well. In particular, Joseph Goebbels in Berlin, as well as others such as Karl Kaufmann in Hamburg, pressed more and more vociferously for finally rendering their areas “Jew-free.” The plan envisioned deporting the German, Austrian, and Czechoslovakian Jews to ghettos in occupied Poland...

  9. Chapter 3 The “Psychological Environment” in the Countryside: Latitude for Action by Jewish Functionaries in the District Branches
    (pp. 221-321)

    In the capital of Berlin, where the government, its ministries, and the RSHA had their main offices, the Reichsvereinigung central office, the large Berlin Jewish Community, and its members were under the constant attention and surveillance of the organs of persecution. Just under two-thirds of the around 320,000 Jews remaining in Germany in 1938/1939 lived in Berlin. The remainder was distributed across the country, concentrated primarily in the larger and medium-sized cities. What unreasonable demands did the heads of the district branches and the Jewish Communities there have to grapple with? What possibilities and latitude for maneuver were they able...

  10. Chapter 4 The Residual Reichsvereinigung
    (pp. 322-369)

    The successor organization to the officially dissolved Reichsvereinigung, the Residual or New Reichsvereinigung (Rest-Reichsvereinigung), took up its work in June 1943. It addressed the needs of the nondeported members of the old RV who lived in mixed marriages, as well as the other Jews in such marriages who had not been members of the previous organization. The new Jewish functionaries, termedVertrauensmänneror intermediaries, had to cope with a similar burden of work as their predecessors, but now were in smaller offices with reduced personnel, and had to grapple with this under the grueling conditions of the intensified air war...

  11. Chapter 5 In the Wake: The “Strategy of Cooperation” as an Incriminating Burden
    (pp. 370-397)

    Within the ramified architecture of the Reichsvereinigung and all its institutions, Jewish personnel—at every post, from top management down to building janitor—were under orders to implement the instructions of the RSHA and the Gestapo. By contrast, on the other side of the divide, the few persecutors actually visible were at best the “Jewish experts” or camp directors. Given that skewing in perception, the Jews often associated all the suffering they or their relatives were exposed to with the names and faces of the Jewish functionaries, the district branch directors, the trustees in the assembly camp, or the collectors...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 398-407)

    On the one hand, the establishment of the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland, legally formalized in the 10th Ordinance on the Reich Citizenship Law on 4 July 1939, was in the immediate vital interest of the German Jews. Since before the November 1938 pogrom, they no longer possessed an operational nationwide organization. However, the National Socialist state—in which the Security Service and later the RSHA had taken over the leading role in Jewish policy—also needed a Jewish interlocutor, a contact counterpart in order to implement its measures of oppression. Initially those measures were defined under the rubric of...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 408-428)
  14. Index
    (pp. 429-441)