Jews escaping from German-occupied Europe

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A Jewish Brigade Soldier and Nurses of the Jewish Agency Taking Care of Jewish Refugee Children in Florence, Italy, 1944.

After Adolf Hitler came into power in 1933, Jews began to escape Nazi Europe.

Emigration[edit]

Boycott of the National Socialists against Jewish business in Germany, SA members are sticking to the shop window of a Berlin Jewish business. They are inscribed with the words "German, resist, do not buy from Jews"

In 1933, Hitler and the Jewish League agreed to the Haavara Agreement in which, over time, German Jews and their finances could and would settle in Palestine. Also, the Havaara Mark was used instead of the Deutschmark, because of its lower interest rates and used more favourably. By the end of 1933, of the 600,000 German Jews, 100,000 had already emigrated to Palestine."[1] Then, they discouraged emigration by restricting the amount of money Jews could take from German banks and imposed high emigrations taxes. The German government forbade emigration after October 1941. The German Jews who remained, about 163,000 in Germany and less than 57,000 from annexed Austria, were mostly elderly who were murdered in ghettos or taken to Nazi concentration camps, where most of them were killed.[2] Jews were able to leave France until the fall of 1942.[3]

Although Jews could easily leave Germany initially, it was difficult to find countries that would take them, particularly after accepting the initial wave of immigrants in Europe, Britain, and the United States.[2] One of the reasons that emigration was so difficult was that it began during the Great Depression.[1]

...we all wanted to get rid of our Jews but that the difficulties lay in the fact that no country wished to receive them.

German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in a conversation to Adolf Hitler.[4]

Following the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria to Germany in 1938, and forced emigration deepened the refugee crisis, the Évian Conference was held in France to explore options for countries to immigrate to, but the key outcome of the conference was that it proved that forced emigration would not solve the problem.[4] Another was a concern that there might be pro-Nazi spies among the refugees.[3]

It was also difficult to get out of Europe. After the war started, there were few ships that left European ports. Lisbon was a neutral port, though, from which refugees could travel.[3]

Countries[edit]

Europe, indicating Nazi and Axis occupation during the Holocaust

Germany and Austria[edit]

Hitler came into power in Germany in 1933,[5] when there were about 523,000 German Jews (<1% of the population) in the country.[2] Subject to threats and persecution, Jews began to emigrate from that point until the start of World War II.[2][5] In Austria, more than 50% of the Jews had left the country by May 1939 following Adolf Eichmann's program to force Jews to emigrate that began in the spring of 1938. Franz Mayer, a Jewish leader, said of Eichmann's system: "You put in a Jew at one end, with property, a shop, a bank account, and legal rights. He passed through the building and came out at the other end without property, without privileges, without rights, with nothing except a passport and order to leave the country within a fortnight; otherwise, he would find himself inside a concentration camp."[4] By the end of 1939, there were more than 117,000 Jews who left Austria and more than 300,000 who left the Germany.[a] Most of them were trained in a field or college educated. Generally they were young.[2][5]

Many of the people who went to neighboring European countries were captured by the Nazis, and many of the 100,000 who found refuge were killed, after May 1940, when they invaded western Europe.[2][1] As the Nazi regime extended into Czechoslovakia beginning in 1938 and Poland in 1939, there were more Jewish refugees.[6]

Poland[edit]

Jews were prevented from leaving German-occupied Poland by the Schutzstaffel (SS).[3] About 10% of the Polish Jewish population including nearly 1 million Poles, were round up by the Russians and sent to Siberia in intolerable circumstances and slaved and died from harsh treatment at the hands of the Russians from 1939 and 1943 and onwards. The Jews were spared harsh treatment though and some were trained in Moscow, so as to be fit to command a new Polish government after the war was over. Some of them were sent to remote areas of the Soviet Union, Siberia, or Central Asia.[7]

Norway[edit]

In 1940, many Norwegian Jews were able to find a safe haven in Sweden, which was neutral.[7]

Soviet Union[edit]

Jews were systematically killed as part of the Final Solution plan, starting with their removal to extermination camps and beginning in June 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and those who were unable to flee to the Asian parts of the country were methodically shot.[7] By the end of the war, 67% of the Jews from Europe had been killed.[6]

Denmark[edit]

From October 1943, Gerda II was used to ferry Jewish refugees from German occupied Denmark to neutral Sweden. It ferried some 300 Jews to safety.

In October 1943, 7,000 Jews and 700 of their relatives who were not Jewish escaped Denmark for Sweden, as was coordinated by the Danish resistance movement. They travelled to Malmö, Sweden across the Øresund Channel.[7]

Countries that offered refuge[edit]

Neutral countries[edit]

Neutral countries that took in Jews included Switzerland, Portugal, and Sweden. The Swiss took in nearly 30,000 Jews, but turned away 20,000 at their border.[7]

Spain allowed about 30,000 Jews to travel through their country to Portugal. Most of the refugees traveled between 1939 and 1941, and after Germans pressured the country to limit Jews ability to travel through their country, from 1942 to 1944 there were about 7,500 people who were admitted entry to Spain for Portugal. Spanish consuls also provided identity papers so that up to 5,000 people could escape through other parts of Europe.[7]

About 30,000 Jews entered Portugal through Spain, and many sought passage in Lisbon on ships bound for South America and the United States. The refugees in Portugal who traveled through Portugal were assisted by French and American Jewish organizations. Sweden took in Jews from Norway and Denmark.[7]

Other countries[edit]

Mandatory Palestine was a destination for 18,000 Jews escaping the Nazi regime through the Balkans between 1937 and 1944. This was organized by the Zionist movement. There were more than 16,000 Jews who later were bound for Palestine on boats from the Romanian and Bulgarian ports on the Black Sea and often through Turkey for refueling. One ship MV Struma was sunk, presumably accidentally, by a Soviet submarine, in what is called the Struma disaster.[7]

A group of passengers from the SS St. Louis arrive in France after the ship returned to Europe.

The United States had about 27,000 available visas in late 1938 for individuals for refugees. At that time, consulate offices outside the US were visited by 125,000 applicants, and by June 1939, there had been more than 300,000 applicants. This was far more than the US would allow into the country due to its immigration policy.[1] The MS St. Louis sailed from Hamburg, Germany for Cuba, who had issued transit visas for more than 900 Jewish refugees, on a voyage that occurred May and June 1939. Once the ship had arrived, the Cubans cancelled the visas of the refugees. The ship was denied permission to land at the United States and it had to make a return voyage to Europe. Of 928 returning passengers, 288 were accepted by Britain, 366 survived the war on the continent, and 254 died during the Holocaust.[1] In 1944, the War Refugee Board (WRB) was established to assist tens of thousands of refugees, in coordination with the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and an emergency shelter was established at Fort Ontario in New York, which housed almost 1,000 refugees.[3]

In July 1938, the Dominican Republic was the only country at the Évian Conference that said it would admit a large number of refugees. Between 1938 and 1941, Bolivia allowed for 30,000 refugees to immigrate to its country.[1]

Despite pressure from Germany, Italy protected Jewish people in lands that it occupied in Greece, France, Dalmatia, Croatia, and Yugoslavia, as well as protecting Jews in Tunisia, between mid-1942 and September 1943.[7]

Organizations and individuals that offered relief[edit]

Organizations were established to assist refugees, like the World Jewish Congress, the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. There were few non-Jews that helped the Jews escape, but there were some that risked their lives for the cause.[7] See also: Righteous Among the Nations.

After the war[edit]

In May 1945, European Jews were released from concentration camps or came out of hiding to find that they had lost family members and their former homes. The population of displaced persons also included more than 150,000 Jews who left eastern Europe due to violence and antisemitism. Countries continued to resist taking in Jews.[3] The most favorable destinations by the displaced Jews was Palestine and the United States, where President Harry S. Truman issued the "Truman Directive," on December 22, 1945 and up to 40,000 Jews entered the United States by July 1, 1948. That year, a law was enacted by Congress that increased immigration quotas to allow about 80,000 Jews, who were subject to what Truman called "flagrantly discriminatory" entry qualifications, and about 102,000 forced laborers and other individuals from the Baltics and Eastern Europe who were Christians to be admitted to the US.[3] There were 137,450 Jewish refugees that settled in the United States between 1945 and 1952.

Palestine alone could absorb and provide for the homeless and the stateless Jews uprooted by the war. It is canalized all the sympathy of the world for the martyrdom of the Jews that the Zionists reject all schemes to resettle these victims elsewhere — in Germany, or Poland, or in sparsely populated regions such as Madagascar.

Chaim Weizmann, first president of Israel[8]

On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was founded and many Jews settled there.[3]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Holocaust Encyclopedia also said that more than 340,000 Germans and Austrians emigrated.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Refugees". Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Washington, DC.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "German Jewish Refugees". Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Washington, DC.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "United States Policy Towards Refugees, 1941-1952". Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Washington, DC.
  4. ^ a b c Marilyn J. Harran; Dieter Kuntz; Russel Lemmons; Robert A. Michael; Keith Pickus; John K. Roth (2009). The Holocaust Chronicle. Publications International, Ltd. p. 122.
  5. ^ a b c Elizabeth A. Atkins (2005). "'You must all be Interned': Identity Among Internees in Great Britain during World War II". Gettysburg Historical Journal. 4 (5): 60. Retrieved April 8, 2017 – via The Cupola: Scholarship at Gettysburg College.
  6. ^ a b "A Bitter Road: Britain and the Refugee Crisis of the 1930s and 1940s". Wiener Library. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Escape from German-Occupied Europe". Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Washington, DC.
  8. ^ Martin Gilbert (4 May 2009). Israel: A History. Transworld. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-4070-3789-9 – via Palestine Remembered.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Emigration of Jews from Germany under Nazi duress at Wikimedia Commons