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Ken Livingstone’s claims are an insult to the truth

The former mayor of London's comments about Hitler, Jews and Zionism are distortions or inventions which insult the historical memory of the Jewish people

    Members of the Haganah. Suggestions that the Nazis supplied Zionist fighters with arms are
    Members of the Haganah. Suggestions that the Nazis supplied Zionist fighters with arms are "baseless"

    Defending himself during the Labour Party inquiry into his past statements about antisemitism, Ken Livingstone has unleashed a series of unfounded charges of “collaboration” between Jews and Nazis.

    According to him, not only was there a deal with the Third Reich (the Transfer Agreement or Ha’avara), but the SS also established training camps for German Jews, Hitler passed a law permitting the flying of the Zionist flag, and the Nazis supplied weapons (Mauser pistols) to the Jewish underground.

    All these claims are distortions or inventions. The Transfer Agreement, for example, allowed the salvaging of some German-Jewish assets from confiscation by Hitler’s regime while facilitating the rescue of many thousands of individuals. In his written submission to the Labour inquiry, Livingstone cites two sources on the agreement: one paper by Yf’aat Weiss and another by Francis Nicosia, who is also the author of two books examining the issue. Neither the papers nor Nicosia’s books endorse the “collaboration” fantasy.

    Livingstone’s other “facts” are just as unreliable:

    The idea that the SS “set up training camps” for German Jews is a fabrication. It was local Zionists who founded the hachschara farms as occupational retraining centres for Jews hoping to emigrate to Palestine. The SS initially tolerated these activities, while imposing strict controls on them. When the war started, the Zionist trainees who had not succeeded in escaping from Germany were used by the Nazis as slave labour and then murdered.

    On the claim that Hitler passed a law permitting the flying of the “Zionist flag” as well as the swastika, historian Richard Evans states that the Nuremberg Laws banned Jews from using the Nazi banner while allowing them to display “Jewish colours”. The laws never specified those colours, nor was any “Zionist flag” officially recognised.

    Livingstone’s tale about Nazi-Jewish arms deals is baseless. The Haganah received some German Mausers via Belgium during 1933-35, but the supplier is unknown. Haganah agents were seeking weapons all over Europe at the time, and the pistols could have come from any number of sources.

    The former London mayor also accused Zionists of urging Hitler to ban Yiddish-language sermons from synagogues. But it was Chanukah sermons in German that the Gestapo prohibited in December 1936, on its own initiative and without any request from the Zionists.

    Livingstone referred to a German foreign office meeting in July 1937, when Hitler supposedly intervened in favour of Jewish statehood. In fact, Hitler’s directive did not address the issue. Soon afterwards, however, the Nazis began a press campaign against the call for a Jewish state, insisting that Palestine belonged to the Arabs.

    These fictions must not divert attention from the ongoing scandal of Livingstone’s denial of the existence of antisemites in the Labour Party and his defence of Labour MP Naz Shah against charges of expressing antisemitic views, even after she retracted her statements and apologised for them.

    Ken Livingstone seems determined to continue insulting the historical memory of the Jewish people, regardless of the costs to the truth and to what remains of his own reputation.

    Paul Bogdanor is an author and researcher. His latest book is "Kasztner’s Crime" (Transaction Publishers, 2016)