Jewish children the world over, growing up after the Second World War in the shadow of the Holocaust, had a double image permanently burned into their earliest memories. Craven skeletal human wrecks, barely alive, hovering in front of barbed wire at Auschwitz, in those loathsome pyjama suits with yellow stars stitched or painted on them. And Israel, Glorious Israel, the Saviour of the Jews, the Guarantee backed by God’s Word that never, but never, would such a deluge of death ever again afflict the Jewish people.
The fusion of two images into one was so powerful that the merest hint that there was anything wrong would automatically revive the fear of Nazism. All challenges would carry the deepest suspicions that they were anti-semitic in intention. To interpret this only as a victory for Zionist propaganda is, in a way, to belittle Jewish sensitivities. The problem was that the world after 1945 did actually appear to confirm the Herzl prognosis.
No-one really wanted the Jews. Germany had killed most of those who lived in Europe. The Allies in the war, Britain, America and France, had hardly gone out of their way to throw open their doors to the tragic survivors of the Holocaust. And Stalin’s earlier willingness to countenance a pact with Hitler combined with persistent rumours about anti-semitism in the Soviet Union to make any country that accepted Russian-style Communism a dubious alternative.
However, this begs three crucial questions. Did the world really have to look like this in 1945? What efforts did the Allies make to open up secure routes to the West for Jewish refugees just before and during the war itself, especially as the news of the slaughter of the Jews became known? And what efforts did the Zionists make? After all, the standard pattern of Jewish emigration away from persecution had been steadily westwards for three generations. The vast majority had settled in the West. Only a tiny minority had gone to Palestine.
At the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 the majority of the world’s Jewish population was non-Zionist. The Zionists were a minority cult among the Jews. Hardly any left the security of the West for Palestine.
What, then, did the Allied governments do during the war to bring Jewish refugees out of Nazi-occupied Europe?
The attitude of the United States was crucial. This had been, truly, the promised land for Jewish immigrants. Millions had already settled. Yet the United States had been refusing Jewish refugees, and indeed thousands of other immigrants, since 1924 when it introduced its so-called Quota Act.
An indication of the us government’s attitude, as news of the Holocaust grew, was its refusal to allow the us Air Force, despite repeated pleas from Jewish leaders, to bomb the railway lines leading to the Auschwitz concentration camp.  The British government took the same view.
In 1943, as the Nazi extermination of European Jewry was reaching its height, the us government allowed in just 4,705 Jews as immigrants.
A crucial question, rarely asked because the answer is wrongly assumed to be obvious, is where would the Jewish refugees themselves wish to settle. These were not only the Jews fleeing for their lives from Nazi terror. By the end of the war, these were Jews who may have seen their entire families, grandparents, parents, children, brothers, sisters, slowly mutilated before their very eyes. They may themselves have been close to death by torture.
“Of course, they would want to go to a Jewish Homeland” became the standard Zionist cry, and indeed the perfectly understandable reaction, in the shadow of the Holocaust, of Jewish people throughout the world.
Yet surprisingly the truth is not so obvious. There has been very little serious historical analysis of this critical aspect of the heartrending tragedy.
After the war, the pro-Zionist Jewish Agency demanded that Britain grant one hundred thousand immigration certificates for European Jews to go to Palestine. Bricha, the organisation responsible for illegal immigration to Palestine, sent organisers into the Displaced Persons camps. Obviously they would affect the mood of the refugees, and in the absence of any realistic alternative, would find a receptive response for the boarding of rickety ships en route for the shores of Palestine.
However despite this intense and powerfully emotional campaign, a later report to the American Jewish Congress by a Zionist organiser, Chaplain Klausner, stated that most of the refugees wanted to go to the United States. In fact Klausner’s own attitude revealed the inhuman face of Zionism. He concluded: “I am convinced that the people must be forced to go to Palestine.” 
This is not an isolated reaction. On point of principle the Zionists encouraged the Allies not to accept Jewish immigrants.
In 1938 a British scheme was floated to at least allow entry to Britain of several thousand German Jewish children. (Ironically, this scheme owed its origins to the magnificent Palestinian revolt in 1936. It was seen as a means of taking pressure off renewed Jewish emigration to Palestine as a short-term concession to the Arabs.) Ben-Gurion opposed the plan, revealing only too clearly the obscenity at the heart of the Zionist enterprise. He said:
If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them to Eretz Yisrael [“Israel”], then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the life of these children but also the history of the people of Israel. 
In other words, establishing the state of Israel took priority over saving Jewish lives, whenever the latter contradicted the former. This tears apart the post-war image of Israel as the saviour of the Jews. It beckons the question of what kind of morality really lay behind the Zionist land-grab in Palestine.
Rabbi Stephen Wise, a leading Zionist in the USA, adopted an attitude similar to that of Ben-Gurion when it came to the question of Jewish children entering the USA in 1939. He was worried about the effect of their entry on the US immigration laws, saying:
Our country comes first ... if these children cannot be helped, then they cannot be helped. 
But the biggest crime must surely be the attitude of the Zionists to the Nazis themselves. Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organisation, had, much earlier, set the scene for his attitude to German anti-semitism in a keynote speech in Berlin in 1912 when he said:
Each country can only absorb a limited number of Jews, if she doesn’t want disorders in her stomach. Germany has already too many Jews. 
Hitler himself could not have put it better.
In fact when Hitler seized power in 1933 he discovered in the Zionist Federation of Germany, the main Zionist organisation there, a kindred spirit as warped as his own. They sent Hitler the following memorandum which would shape the Zionists’ relations with the Nazis throughout this dreadful era all the way to the gas chambers and which requires no further comment:
May we therefore be permitted to present our views, which, in our opinion, make possible a solution in keeping with the principles of the new German State of National Awakening and which at the same time might signify for Jews a new ordering of the conditions of their existence ... Zionism has no illusions about the difficulty of the Jewish condition, which consists above all in an abnormal occupational pattern and in the fault of an intellectual and moral posture not rooted in one’s own tradition ...
... an answer to the Jewish question truly satisfying to the national state can be brought about only with the collaboration of the Jewish movement that aims at a social, cultural, and moral renewal of Jewry ... a rebirth of national life, such as is occurring in German life through adhesion to Christian and national values, must also take place in the Jewish national group. For the Jew, too, origin, religion, community of fate and group consciousness must be of decisive significance in the shaping of his life ...
On the foundation of the new state, which has established the principle of race, we wish so to fit our community into the total structure so that for us too, in the sphere assigned to us, fruitful activity for the Fatherland is possible ... Our acknowledgement of Jewish nationality provides for a clear and sincere relationship to the German people and its national and racial realities. Precisely because we do not wish to falsify these fundamentals, because we, too, are against mixed marriage and are for maintaining the purity of the Jewish group ...
For its practical aims, Zionism hopes to be able to win the collaboration even of a government fundamentally hostile to Jews, because in dealing with the Jewish question no sentimentalities are involved but a real problem whose solution interests all peoples, and at the present moment especially the German people.
The realisation of Zionism could only be hurt by resentment of Jews abroad against the German development. Boycott propaganda – such as is currently being carried on against Germany in many ways – is in essence un-Zionist, because Zionism wants not to do battle but to convince and to build ... 
The last paragraph refers to the anti-Nazi boycott of German goods, which was organised principally in the United States, and which the Zionists opposed.
Of course, the Zionists’ terrible attitude to the Nazis must never be allowed to hide or disfigure the tremendous courage shown by Jewish resistance fighters against the Nazis. They had to contend, not only with the Nazis, but also with what amounted to a Zionist “fifth column” in their own ranks, whispering “do not fight, you cannot fight, the German Nazis are right, you are not welcome in Europe. You do not belong here.”
In 1943, in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland, Jewish fighters rose up against the Nazis. They fought for six months, hiding in bombed-out buildings and the maze of sewer tunnels beneath the city. German commanders recorded: “Over and over we observed that Jews, despite the dangers of being burned alive, preferred to return to the flames rather than be caught by us.”  They also noticed that the women in particular, when surrounded, came out with their guns blazing rather than surrender. Against impossible odds, Warsaw Jews fought to the end.
Uri Avinery, a former member of the Stern Gang, one of several armed Zionist organisations in Palestine during the war, and which numbered among its members Itzhak Shamir, who was to become Israel’s deputy prime minister, has commented:
Throughout the war, nothing much was done by the Zionist leadership to help the Jews ... Many think things could have been done: hundreds of Haganah and Irgun fighters [other armed Zionist organisations] could have been parachuted into Europe ... 
But this was not the way the Zionists saw it. In the same year as the Warsaw uprising, Itzhak Greenbaum, head of the Zionist Jewish Rescue Committee, declared:
If I am asked could you give from the [United Jewish Appeal] money to rescue Jews? I say, “No, and again no.” In my opinion, we have to resist that wave which puts Zionist activities in the second line. 
1. The Politics of Rescue: The Roosevelt Administration and the Holocaust 1938-45, p.141, cited in Our Roots, p.56.
2. Alfred Lilienthal, What price Israel?, cited in Our Roots, p.62.
3. Quoted in Lenni Brenner, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators (Beckenham, Kent, 1983) p.149.
4. Quoted in Our Roots, p.55.
5. Brenner, p.34.
6. Brenner, pages 48-9.
7. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History (1958) p.452.
8. Uri Avinery, Israel without Zionism (1971) p.106, cited in Our Roots, p.57.
9. Ben Hecht, Perfidy (New York 1961) p.50, cited in Our Roots, p.57.
Last updated on 4.8.2001