Review of David Cesarani’s “Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews, 1933–49” — Part Two of Five



“Germans were not being asked to hate Jews; they were being asked to love other Germans. … It would be a mistake to equate Nazi values with hate.
David Cesarani

Part 1.

The Complexities of Judenpolitik, 19331939

Although David Cesarani’s book is divided into eight chapters, it is best reviewed by dividing it in two sections: the author’s treatment of the development of Jewish policy by the National Socialist government before the war, and their development of Jewish policy following the outbreak of hostilities with Britain and France in 1939. The separation of the two is essential.[1] Throughout history, during times of war governments and heads of state have made significant changes or accelerations in their policies towards minorities, particularly ethnic and religious minorities with suspect loyalties. A major weakness in mainstream historiography on the Third Reich, particularly that authored by Jewish historians, is the refusal to make this concession. Instead, Jewish-authored narratives of Jewish casualties suffered in wartime overwhelmingly trace the sum total of deaths to earlier laws, edicts or policies in which very different circumstances prevailed, and in which no future outcomes were pre-ordained. By doing so, these “histories” become essentially anti-historical.

For over a decade I have been fascinated by the development of National Socialist Judenpolitik between 1933 and 1939. Indeed, I find the period infinitely more interesting than anything that occurred during the war years. The world then, in terms of government, diplomacy, and the global economy, was actually not that different from today. What careful study of this period offers is a unique opportunity to peer into the attempts of a modern state, with modern obligations and responsibilities, to reckon with the question of Jewish influence. It is therefore essential that those with an interest in this question familiarize themselves with the political and economic ramifications of attempting to deal with it. “Holocaust education” may therefore be of some use after all, although quite different from that envisaged by our educators.

David Cesarani was of course one of the foremost of these educators, yet he begins Final Solution with some frank admissions about the Holocaust trope he so relentlessly promoted. In one of many tactical retreats, he admits that histories of World War II have been pushed on the mass public as a part of a network of “extraneous agendas” which aim, among other things, at bolstering multiculturalism and constructing “an inclusive national identity.” Most of these histories “lazily draw on an outdated body of research, while others … downplay inconvenient aspects of the newer findings.” The inaccuracies, false memories, and downright lies of many self-professed “Holocaust survivors” “routinely trump the dissemination of scholarship.” The Holocaust is more a “cultural construction rather than the historical events to which it is assumed to refer.” Cesarani even argues that the term ‘Holocaust’ itself should be abandoned since it is “well past its sell-by date,” and if nothing else, its “politicization” is a “good enough reason to retire it.” The author admits the failings of a “standardized version [of Jewish deaths during World War II], to which I have myself contributed.”

If most “Holocaust” histories have been misleading, politicized, biased and inaccurate, then credit must go to a growing Eastern European scholarship for soberly highlighting many of its most severe shortcomings. This new scholarship is the provocation for Cesarani’s tactical retreat, and we may expect some of his concessions to become representative of the mainstream scholarship on the subject in the near future. The divergence between maudlin Western histories, and Eastern histories with significantly more scholarly integrity “became acute since the 1990s.” Following the collapse of Communism and the opening of many eastern archives, a generation of young Eastern European scholars were enabled to sift through mountains of valuable material unhindered by the Jewish professorial class that acts as the overseers of the historical and sociological disciplines of the West. Cesarani, rather typically, doesn’t give specific credit to any Eastern European scholars, though it is very apparent to me that he borrows heavily from their work throughout Final Solution. He instead explains that he will avoid referring to other historians and their pioneering work in order to “avoid lengthy digressions.” As we proceed, we should therefore keep in mind that much of what we encounter is not necessarily the original thought and research of David Cesarani. However, the sum total of their research, apparently assented to by the late professor, is the thesis that there was nothing “systematic, consistent or even premeditated” about Nationalist Socialist Jewish policy, and that “the Holocaust” as it exists in the minds of most people simply didn’t take place.

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It cannot be denied that the relatively small Jewish population of the Weimar Republic posed an objective social problem to the German people. A third of the entire Jewish population lived in Berlin. “The average Jewish household income was three times that of the average Gentile family.” Over 75% earned a living from “trade, commerce, finance and the professions. While nearly a third of Germans worked on the land, barely 2% of Jews were farmers.” German farmers were nevertheless beholden to Jews because “the Jewish grain merchant and cattle dealer were ubiquitous in rural areas.” Jews “owned 40% of wholesale textile firms and fully two-thirds of wholesale and retail clothing outlets.” Almost 80% of department store turnover went into Jewish hands, and “Jews dominated the publishing industry.” Jews comprised “11% of Germany’s doctors, 13% of its attorneys and 16% of its lawyers.” In addition to this population of semi-assimilated, ascendant Jews, was a population of around 100,000 Ostjuden that were widely associated with importing “crime, vice, disease, and the spread of revolutionary ideas” from the East.

Although there had been periodic grumblings about Jews from Nationalists and Conservatives, this Jewish population enjoyed an untroubled existence thanks to its tight organization and the tactics of its main defense committee, the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith, or Centralverein (CV). The CV systematically suppressed native indignation at increasing Jewish power, wealth, and influence by “suing rabble rousers for defamation, funding candidates pledged to contest anti-Semitism, producing voluminous amounts of educational material about Judaism and Jewish life, and coordinating the activity of sympathetic non-Jews.” The tactics of Jewish defense have changed little in the last century, owing mainly to the general success that they have had.[2]

During the 1920s, however, the CV failed and couldn’t recover. The main cause for the failure of the CV was the manner in which World War I ended. The dramatic German capitulation, but more importantly the sudden emergence of a leading cadre of Jewish socialists and communists at the point of the nation’s collapse forced many Germans to look past the CV’s “educational material” and into the heart of their nation’s problems. Modern historiography has been unkind to the German belief in a “stab in the back” from behind the lines, calling it a myth. However, as Cesarani acknowledges, even rudimentary research reveals that towards the end of the war “food riots, demonstrations calling for peace” and other forms of “unrest” were “led by the Independent Socialists.” Cesarani adds that most of their leaders, “including Rosa Luxemburg, were Jewish.”

It didn’t end there. When sailors and soldiers began to mutiny at the instigation of Bolsheviks, conservatives noted that “many leading Bolsheviks were of Jewish origin too, and one of the most prominent, Leon Trotsky, was calling for revolution in Germany.” When the Weimar Republic was declared in November 1918, the politician behind the drawing up of its constitution was Hugo Preuss, a Jew. As attempts were made to drag the country even further into the abyss, Luxemburg and a gang of fellow Jews formed the German Communist Party (KPD) in December. Bavaria was soon seized by a socialist government led by the Jewish journalist Kurt Eisner. Eisner was assisted by the Jews Ernst Toller, Gustav Langdauer, and Eugen Leviné. In this maelstrom of Jewish betrayal, the apologetic propaganda of the CV began to ring very hollow indeed.

As the CV weakened and Germany collapsed, notes Cesarani, “anti-Semitic groups moved from the margins of German society into the mainstream.” Luxemburg, Eisner, and the Jewish Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau soon fell to the bullets of native assassins, and a slow resurgence in the national consciousness began to take place. In this environment, Adolf Hitler crafted the National Socialist German Workers Party to give to the German people what the Jewish leaders of the Red factions only deceivingly promised. Cesarani reports on a new scholarly consensus that rather than being a “negative force,” the NSDAP “put down roots in local communities, offering help to hard-pressed citizens. … Above all they offered a positive social vision.” At a time when politics hurt people more than helped them, the NSDAP stressed that the state and the government were not what formed a nation — a nation was comprised of a racial-national community — a Volksgemeinschaft. Thanks to “clever and well-organized” campaigns, the National Socialists made steady gains in local elections, then national elections. And every failure of “the State” only helped the growth of “the People.” While the backstage manoeuvring that eventually led to Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor is too well-known to merit description here, it should suffice to state, as Cesarani does, that his path to power was not paved by “hate” (as countless Jewish propagandists have claimed) but by “idealism, the desire for strong communities, and love of Germany.”

Cesarani presents a National Socialist government that certainly didn’t like Jews or the impact they had on Germany. But it was keenly aware that its response to objective social problems had to be as measured and responsible as possible. After political triumph in January 1933, the new government actually had “very little” in terms of intentions towards Jewry. Cesarani points out that Hitler did nothing that was “immediately relevant to Jews as Jews.” Since Germany was in chaos, policy was instead developed rapidly in response to each individual crisis.

Crucially, however, Jews were consistently found at the heart of each crisis. For example, Communists and socialists, the political enemies of the national awakening, were targeted following the arson of the Reichstag by Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe. Although Jews throughout the world would shortly scream about their “persecution” at the hands of the National Socialists, this was true only to the extent that the Jews were found disproportionately among the communists and socialists, and thus fully deserving (along with their non-Jewish counterparts) of the opprobrium of the new government. Despite the lack of anti-Jewish intent behind the emergency measures, the situation was ripe for media manipulation thanks to Jewish domination of the press and publishing. By February there were Jewish protest marches featuring thousands in New York, and a worldwide Jewish boycott of German goods led by millionaire Jewish activist Samuel Untermyer. Whether the new German government liked it or not, it was being forced into a contest with an aggressive worldwide organized Jewish community.

By March, National Socialist theory that Jews “were an international force,” had been validated. Cesarani writes that “the foreign boycott was proof of Jewish solidarity, proof that they manipulated governments, and proof that they were a dominant economic force.” Just as they featured heavily in the crisis involving communists and socialists, Jews had now orchestrated “the first foreign policy crisis [the National Socialists] faced in office.” For the National Socialists, ideological confirmations aside, the question remained as to how to navigate dealing with this force as a modern state, and with economic and diplomatic considerations to take into account. The response was concessionary and tame. Faced with what Cesarani describes as a “barrage from world Jewry,” Hitler explicitly banned all Einzelaktionen (individual actions) by Party members, and reiterated that no legal impositions had been made against Jews as Jews. Hermann Göring even convened a meeting with leading German Jews in Berlin in an attempt to persuade the Jews to get their co-ethnics around the world to cease their agitation. Only when the barrage from Jewry worsened did Hitler consider a counter-boycott. The cabinet was still uneasy. Illustrating the reluctance with which the move was eventually made, a last-minute offer was made via the German Foreign Office to call off the counter-boycott if Jewish “atrocity propaganda” ceased.

Cesarani reports that the latest research indicates that most Western foreign ministries were very sympathetic to the German case. For example, the US Secretary of State Cordell Hull noted in official memoranda that he was struggling to keep Jewish agitation in check, and that “many of the accusations of terror and atrocities which have reached this country have been exaggerated.” Despite diplomatic sympathy, Jewish atrocity propaganda persisted, and the Germans announced a one-day boycott on April 1st by way of response. A tit-for-tat pattern of attack and counter-attack had been established, and centuries of European inter-ethnic tensions were slowly becoming more explicit.

Hillaire Belloc astutely wrote in The Jews (1922) that healthy grievances surrounding Jewish influence are often restricted and suppressed for such a length of time that when they eventually escape, they often do so at “high pressure.” The trajectory of National Socialist Jewish policies after the one-day boycott should be seen first and foremost as a means of managing decades of “high pressure” built up due to the activities of the CV, and similar organizations throughout Europe, in suppressing native dissent. With the suppressive powers of domestic Jewry now overcome, a major challenge facing the National Socialist hierarchy was the need to manage escaping “high pressure,” while also continuing to claw back economic and political influence — and all while walking the tightrope of international diplomacy. It was a difficult balancing act.

On 7 April 1933 the government introduced the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, dismissing officials deemed politically unreliable. Included were “non-Ayrans” who hadn’t served in the army, or had a son or father who had served. Although subjected to hysterical atrocity propaganda, and ongoing condemnation in mainstream histories, Cesarani concedes that it was so loosely enforced that only a relatively small number of Jews were ever dismissed. Despite the ongoing “barrage of Jewry,” the legislation was predominantly political rather than racial, and since the CV had been defeated, “Jews were not a chief concern of the regime.”

The National Socialists continued to come down hard on the Left, with Jews featuring as incidental targets but continuing to play the shell game of Jewish identity by claiming they were targeted for being Jewish. In difficult circumstances, the National Socialists continued to try to improve their image internationally by announcing an end to the “national revolution,” reiterating that they didn’t condone violence against Jews, and stripping the difficult and unruly SA of its auxiliary police role. Jews did continue as victims of the new regime, but again this was only incidental, an indirect result of the fact that a decline in Jewish influence was imperative to the recovery of the German ethnic majority. For example, when the new minister of agriculture, Walther Daré, moved to protect the tenure of German farmers and prevent the fragmentation of their land, he ended decades of Jewish speculation in rural debt. Similarly, when the government moved to assist small shopkeepers with subsidies to enable them to keep their prices low, it struck at the large chain stores and department stores — most, but not all of which, were Jewish-owned.

In April the government introduced the first measures that explicitly attempted to roll back Jewish influence. Again, despite contemporary atrocity propaganda, Cesarani alludes to a growing scholarly consensus that they were “temperate.” In an attempt to give the legal profession a more demographically equitable profile, Jewish lawyers and judges were permitted to continue without hindrance but for the time being no new Jewish students would be permitted to enter the profession. As budgets shrank for health and education, Jewish doctors were pushed out of the State sector, and Jews were permitted to enter schools and universities only in proportion to their share of the population at large. Rather than being extreme measures, similar quotas had already been employed in pre-Soviet Russia and also more recently in the United States (e.g., the numerus clausus at Ivy League universities) as a means of responding to a booming, upwardly mobile Jewish demographic. The much-exaggerated “denaturalization of Jews” that occurred at this time only affected the troublesome and often criminal Ostjuden, many of whom had in any case entered Germany illegally. Although the international Jewish press wailed about these developments, and although recorded history has reported them with sensationalism, Cesarani notes that the measures were “mild, especially when exemptions were taken into account.”

The mild actions of the National Socialist government extended to their attempts to maintain control over the “high pressure” still lingering among elements of the aggrieved German population. In very marked contrast to existing histories, recent research has focussed on the manner in which the National Socialist government attempted to protect Jews. On July 7, 1933 Rudolf Hess banned all Party members from disrupting business at Jewish department stores. Three days later Wilhelm Frick issued a circular forbidding any individual actions against Jews. At the start of September “the Reich Economic Ministry circulated instructions that there were to be no blacklists of Jewish businesses or people doing business with Jews; that Jewish businesses were not to be denied the right to advertise; that signs and pickets outside Jewish shops or stores were to be removed.” Defiance of the order was to be treated severely as “offences against the Führer principle” and as “economic sabotage.” The CV even printed Frick’s instructions in the October 11 edition of its newspaper. When breaches took place, the CV successfully worked with National Socialist officials to punish offenders. By the end of 1933, the police headquarters in Nuremberg-Fürth (home to the much-maligned Julius Streicher) reported that the Jews of the area were content and confident “in full awareness of the security they have been guaranteed.” Cesarani notes that many Jews who had believed foreign propaganda experienced a reality check, and that despite ongoing anti-German propaganda, there was a “steep decline in the number of Jews leaving the country, and a rising number of those returning.”

Despite the movement of Jews into National Socialist Germany, there was no easing of the international Jewish agitation against the new government. A phantom “refugee” craze was hyped by the media, with President Franklin Roosevelt even proposing that the US relax visa controls on Jews in order to admit “the desperate.” The proposal was “promptly squashed” by the more sceptical State Department. One of the gullible American puppets of Jewish interests was James McDonald, a Harvard graduate and former ambassador to Germany. Cesarani notes that at the behest of “New York Jews” McDonald managed to persuade the League of Nations to establish a High Commission for Refugees. Initially falling for the tales of these Jews, it is fascinating that after becoming entangled in their internal machinations, by December 1933 McDonald had experienced a reality check of his own, confiding in his diary: “I almost feel as if I wished each half of the Jews would destroy the other half. They are impossible.”

Between mid-1933 and mid-1935 “there was no major legislation on Jewish matters.” The State continued to try to monitor and control the “high pressure” felt by some elements of the population in relation to the persistent manifestations of Jewish economic influence. At the start of 1934 the Reich Interior Ministry forbade any interference with Jewish businesses. Several months later Hitler personally “called on Frick and Göring, who controlled the police, to ensure that Jews were not molested.” Around that time Max Eicholz, a Jew from Hamburg, was able to successfully sue an SS man for calling him a “dirty Jew,” and the CV continued working with the government to reinstate Jews who had been unfairly dismissed. During a trip to the races in Hamburg, English diplomat Sir Eric Phipps noticed that “several prominent Jewish race-owners” were comfortably seated in the same enclosure with National Socialist dignitaries. Another British consul wrote to Phipps that in Frankfurt “even the SA and SS men in uniform do not hesitate to visit Jewish shops.” American journalist William Shirer visited a spa town south-east of Berlin and found it heavily populated with Jews. Given all the atrocity propaganda he had been exposed to, he remarked that he and his wife were “a little surprised to find so many of them still prospering.” James McDonald began winding up the League of Nations” High Commission for Refugees, writing to a colleague that “within Germany the Jews were better off” than if they decided to go elsewhere as “refugees.”

And the Jews knew it. The German authorities remarked in October that Polish Jews were sneaking into the country looking for work. Many residents of towns targeted by migrants and, in the words of one police chief, suffering “the aggressive behavior of the Jews,” struggled to understand why the regime continuously failed to react to domestic and international Jewish provocation. Letters of complaint were addressed to Hitler that Jews still dominated the livestock trade and “even the Storm Battalion does business with Jews.”

According to Cesarani, all complaints and individual actions “ran up against the protective mantle of the authorities.” The Gestapo noted that the frustrated population was losing faith in National Socialism, and that Jews were once again continuing to grow in strength and influence with “self-assurance and aplomb.” The difficult balance struck by the National Socialists was not ideal, but at least peaceful. This peace would be shattered by successive Jewish bullets.

Go toPart 3.

[1] Cesarani does make the necessary distinction in his over-arching thesis, but scatters the relevant facts and arguments throughout the book.

[2] See Kevin MacDonald’s Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism for the best available scholarly treatment of Jewish defensive strategies.

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