History shows Hitler never was a Zionist

In 1922 Hitler told an army journalist that on coming to power ­he would publicly hang Jews until there were none left in Germany, writes historian Michael Burleigh

May 05, 2016 12:26

Antisemitism, as we have learned from the recent brouhaha in the Labour party, occurs across the left-right political spectrum, not forgetting liberals in between.

On the left, it originally took the form of identifying Jews, most of whom were poor, as a powerful financial cabal (in which the Rothschilds figured prominently), which is why the 19th century German labour leader August Bebel called antisemitism "the socialism of fools".

An extreme racist nationalist seeking to build a workers' party, Hitler blamed Jews for parasitically subverting the vitality of the Aryan-Germanic "race" but also for the political Marxism that sought to plunge society into class warfare for their own benefit.

Like some of his antisemitic precursors, he thought Jews should be segregated or expelled, but in the toxically turbulent aftermath of the First World World War , he countenanced more lethal "solutions" to what Karl Marx and others had dubbed "the Jewish Question" since the 1840s.

In 1922 Hitler told an army journalist that on coming to power ­he would publicly hang Jews until there were none left in Germany. Two years later in Mein Kampf he wrote: "If at the beginning of the war and during the war twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas, as happened to hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers in the field, the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain".

Brenner cannot point to a single contact between Hitler and Zionists of any stripe

And so we come, incredibly, to the controversies rocking the British Labour party in early summer 2016.

Hitler's words in the 1920s make a nonsense of Ken Livingstone's dim-witted assertion that a "sane" Hitler somehow lost it regarding Jews after 1932. But what of Livingstone's equally risible, perhaps snide, claim that until then Hitler was a closet Zionist?

Faced with the facts of the Holocaust, those antisemites who do not simply deny it, invariably opt for "evidence" of collusion between victim and oppressor. Since many left-wing antisemites also detest the state of Israel on "anti-colonial" grounds, they eagerly alight upon any "evidence" of contacts between Nazis and Zionists who did indeed seek a Jewish state.

The evidence for collusion is pretty slim, as Yehuda Bauer showed in a detailed book which explored the 1933-38 Haavara Transfer Agreement; the 1938 Evian Conference, negotiations in Slovakia in 1942-43, and the "trucks for blood" parleys in Hungary in 1944. Only the first concerns us here, and all of these dealings between Nazis and a few Jews took place in conditions of blackmail, coercion and in the last two cases mass murder.

This has not stopped far right or left-wing ideologues (like the American radical Lenni Brenner whose Zionists in the Age of Dictators Livingstone has cited) from straining the objectively episodic and marginal into something maliciously significant.

Neither Brenner nor Livingstone can point to a single contact between Hitler and Zionists of any stripe, and nor was pre-war Palestine "Israel" but a British-ruled mandate until 1948.

The Haavara transfer agreement was negotiated between the Zionist Federation of Germany and the German government. It was a bit like an immigrant investment visa scheme of the kind many countries have, but with the catch that these emigrants were being coerced to leave Germany. It allowed wealthy German-Jewish emigrants to surrender their assets before they left Germany. Proceeds were moved to a company in Tel Aviv, which used them to purchase exported German goods in Palestine. Less than half of the profits were in local currency to the new emigrants, with the rest going to local projects.

From the Nazi viewpoint, the aim of the agreement, which lasted until 1938, was to subvert a not very effective international boycott of German goods. This was why the transfer agreement was vehemently opposed by Polish Jews, who saw that it would not benefit any poor Jews, and worse, might encourage their own right-wing government to follow suit.

In the event, by the late 1930s the Poles were toying with a French plan to deport Jews to Madagascar, a scheme the Nazis also briefly ran with, until the outbreak of war meant it was unfeasible because of British domination of the sea lanes.

The Nazis next reverted to what they had only essayed in November 1938, bundling stateless Jews over the border, opting in 1941 to deport all Jews to occupied eastern Poland, where they killed them in the millions, in conjunction with the Jews they deported to or found in the Baltic States and the Soviet Union.

Rather than Hitler wanting to help the creation of Israel, which would not have helped win Arab allies - of whom the Mufti of Jerusalem was the most antisemitic in a competitive field - the Nazis had an SS "Einsatzkommando Egypt" ready to kill the 700,000 Jews in North Africa and the Levant if the battle of El Alamein had gone the other way.

Hatred of Israel has so blinkered elements in the Labour party that they will clutch at any straw to discredit it. Their loathing of the US comes a distant second, though they also imagine US foreign policy is directed by a powerful Zionist cabal.

But to revert back to August Bebel, I am more worried by the fact that there is no cure for stupidity. Corbyn and Livingstone are incredibly poorly educated by the lights of past Labour leaders from Gaitskell to Wilson. Both are consumed by serial causes, about which they read just enough to reinforce what are emotional prejudices, for why else pass over the 25 or so other conflicts not involving Israel in the Middle East? Maybe that's why Corbyn could denounce antisemitism, though not his old mucker Livingstone, at a May Day rally with the face of Stalin, a notorious antisemite and mass murderer, staring benignly at him from the larger Communist banners. Ignorance is bliss as they say.

May 05, 2016 12:26

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