[6.13. Poland: Emigration committees for the
Jews in 1938 - no places to emigrate - Madagascar
[Nov 1938: Poland: Set up
of the Jewish Emigration and Colonization Committee -
and a committee of Friends to Promote Jewish Emigration
However, the Poles had learned their lesson effectively.
If Germany managed to get rid of her Jews by Gestapo
methods, Poland could follow in her footsteps. In early
November the government forced the acknowledged head of
the Jewish community in Poland, Rabbi Moshe Schorr, to set
up the Jewish Emigration and Colonization Committee. The
Poles gave this organization the task of collecting 3 mio.
zloty and convincing Jewish organizations abroad to do
everything in their power to get large numbers of Polish
Jews to emigrate. By and large the Zionists boycotted this
committee; but their leaders, Henryk Rosmarin, Ansselm
Reiss, and Moshe Kleinbaum, were told point-blank that the
government no longer considered Palestine as the only
emigration goal for Jews from Poland. "If the price paid
to Germany for brutalities against the Jews will be taking
out the Jews from that country, nothing remains for Poland
but to use similar methods with regard to stimulating
Jewish emigration from Poland."
(End note 67: R10, report by Troper and Smoler, 12/2/38 [2
In line with this approach, and in order to increase the
pressure on the Jews, the Polish government also set up a
non-Jewish committee of Friends to Promote Jewish
Emigration to Madagascar.
The main task of the members of the Jewish committee,
aside from collecting money, was to travel abroad and
conduct negotiations about the emigration of as many Jews
as possible. Within a month, by December 1938, one-third
of the required sum of 3 mio. zloty had been collected
from wealthy Jewish individuals in Poland.
[JDC can only watch the
Polish action for emigration committees]
The new JDC European chairman, Morris C. Troper, saw no
possibility of opposing the new Polish attitude. On
December 20, 1938, he wrote to Hyman that if the Polish
emigration pressure was inevitable, then the committee
should at least be in the hands of people amenable to JDC.
(End note 68: 44-3).
[Competition in fund
raising for Polish Jews between AFPJ, WJC and JDC]
Schorr and Rosmarin were connected with the American
Federation of Polish Jews [AFPJ] and the World Jewish
Congress. WJC's concept of the unity of the Jewish people
all over the world and its endeavor to set up political
machinery to represent world Jewry ran counter to JDC's
rejection of Jewish nationalism. Also, WJC and AFPJ were
trying to collect money in America for Europe's Jews, in
competition with JDC. Schorr and Rosmarin were therefore
unacceptable, and Troper suggested that three
industrialists respected by JDC should be invited to the
U.S., one of whom was Karol Sachs, a very wealthy Jewish
industrialist from Lodz.
The New York office, as well as the Warsaw JDC office,
were not eager to enter into the whole problem of
emigration from Poland, at least not under such blatant
Polish pressure. There was, it is true, a slow but
decisive change of JDC opinion on emigration generally.
Polish anti-Semitism seemed less marked in early 1939,
and it was believed that the Poles had to "throw something
to the wolves."
(End note 69: 44-21, Committee on Poland and East Europe,
2/8/39 [8 February 1939])
Adler thought it was very easy to tell people not to
emigrate when one was a Jew in America. "But if they are
legislated out of existence, our only chance is
(End note 70: 44-29; Adler to Hyman, 2/9/39 [9 February
organizations cannot find countries for emigration of
the 3 mio. Polish Jews - U.S. quota 6,000 per year]
The problem was, of course, where to go and how to prepare
effectively for emigration. In Poland itself the stress on
vocational retraining for occupations that might be useful
in applying for entry in to overseas countries was nothing
new. A report from Galicia in March 1939 stressed that
"nowhere are we allowed to grow roots and we are forced to
consider our children and youths as future export
merchandise. We must try to deliver first quality."
(End note 71: 14-39; report from Galicia)
Yet in the 1939 world, not even first quality was
sufficient. Palestine was almost closed. The Polish quota
for the U.S. was about 6,000 annually. South American
countries were reluctant to accept Jews. The world was
unwilling to help the three million Polish Jews.
[1939: Idea of George
Backer that Jews should buy a colony]
In this desperate situation desperate remedies were
thought of, even in such level-headed circles as
those at the JDC offices in New York. George Backer, who
was very active with both JDC and the American Jewish
Committee, was suggesting to the Poles that they buy a
colony, presumably in Africa, where the Jews might settle.
The Polish ambassador, he reported, responded
(End note 72: 44-21, Committee on Poland and East Europe,
2/8/39 [8 February 1939])
[Jan 1939: Schorr in
London - JDC work in Poland should not put into danger -
JDC does not want to see Schorr - Schorr warns in London
from the absolute discrimination of the Jews]
In the meantime, at the end of January 1939, Rabbi Schorr
and others left for London. If they were to come to the
U.S., the situation might become difficult for JDC. JDC
could not offer any places for emigration, nor could it
pay for such a huge enterprise even if there were places
to go to. A campaign for emigration might endanger the
small-scale but vitally important work that JDC was doing
in Poland. No emigration would ensue, and masses of Polish
Jews who were now receiving some help through JDC would
find themselves abandoned.
JDC therefore decided that a visit by the delegation from
Poland had to be avoided.
In February 1939 Troper reported to Hyman that he had
prevented the visit and that the delegation was discussing
its problems in London instead. There, apparently, the
delegation reported that the Poles had (p.249)
threatened anti-Jewish legislation if no emigration was
forthcoming. This legislation would include "revision" of
citizenship and the elimination of Jews from the economic
and cultural life of Poland.
(End note 73: 44-29; Troper to Hyman, 2/14/39 [14 February
1939]; 44-4, memo on Poland, 5/1/39 [1 May 1939])
There was not much JDC could do to help.