An Essay by Dr. Wolf Murmelstein
OTHERWISE IT WOULD MEAN TO DIE
NAZI-FASCIST "IDEAS" ABOUT "POSSIBLE JEWISH SETTLEMENT
A HISTORICAL ANALYSIS
From the very beginning of its history,
the Zionist movement had to face opposition to its aim of a Jewish
National Homeland in Palestine, recognized according to international
law as "proposals" of different settlement areas: the
first had been the Uganda Project.
After the first World War, in the new
states that arose in Central and Eastern Europe, Poland, etc.,
the Jewish Communities had to face the increasing Anti-Semitism
of the nationalist groups, governing or in opposition. In Poland,
a leading political figure expressed the opinion that a three-million
Jewish Community, or about ten percent of total population, was
too strong for the country and that about a million Jews should
In Rumania, many Jews did not even hold
citizenship in the country where their families had lived for
centuries. In Hungary, reduced to a third of its pre-war territory,
conditions were becoming worse and worse for its great Jewish
Community. Furthermore, in those countries, the masses of pious
Jews were living in very poor economic and social conditions
but, nevertheless, they were reluctant to emigrate.
The economic structure of the new states
in Central and Eastern Europe was unbalanced for many reasons;
those of interest in the present analysis are:
1. Borders with customs divided producers
from their former, pre-war markets; producers earned less while
customers paid more, especially where agricultural/food products
2. The main part of the population worked
in the agricultural sector which, because of its backwardness,
could not maintain production sufficient to supply the industrial
areas, mainly Germany.
3. From the early twenties, Germany had
considered Eastern Europe as its courtyard and natural source
for agricultural and food supplies and, therefore, was interested
in overcoming, no matter how, the need for overseas imports.
4. The Austrian proposal in 1927 for
Economic Cooperation, among the states that were formerly part
of the Hapsburg Monarchy, was met with strong Czechoslovakian
opposition. After coming to power in 1933, the Nazi government
considered seriously the option to solve many economic problems,
such as the supply of agricultural and food products, by getting
rid of, no matter how, minority groups like Jews, Gypsies, etc.
- considered to be unworthy to be part of the nation. So this
explains why Goering, in his capacity as supervisor of the "Four
Year Plan," was involved with the "Solution of the
The Nazi government had a "good"
relationship with Poland where no one paid attention to the German
professors traveling across the country studying its economic
and social problems and collecting data the Nazis found to be
very useful in 1939 when setting up their rule.
In the thirties, the Polish Nationalists
asked the French right-wing parties to back the idea of a mass
emigration of the Polish Jews for a settlement on the island
of Madagascar. At the same time, in the Soviet Union, Stalin
launched the project of the Jewish Republic of Biro Bidjan, located
of course in Siberia.
The Uganda, Madagascar island and Biro-Bidjan
"proposals" considered areas far away, as far from
Palestine as from Europe, and having hard environmental conditions.
The idea of putting the Jews in an area - with no concern about
the environmental conditions - far away from Palestine, had been
taken up by the Nazis, at least in the crucial year 1936 during
which there were some important occurrences:
1 .The dynastic struggle in the United
Kingdom, solved by the forced abdication of Edward VIII, who
was under the pro-Nazi influence of Wallis Simpson. Hitler realized
that a conflict with the United Kingdom had to be considered
2. The Arab Group in Palestine started
a campaign of armed attacks against the Jewish settlements there.
From 1933 on, the Fascist government of Italy - being hostile
to the socialist-wing majority in the Jewish Agency - had granted
the necessary arms supplies. The Mufti, El Husseyni, obviously
considered that, while Mussolini could grant material help, Hitler
had the possibility to address Jewish emigration, from Germany
and Eastern Europe, to destinations far away from Palestine.
Indeed the Nazi Foreign Organization
called attention to a possible alliance with Arab Nationalist
Parties - which were ideologically alike - so in Palestine as
in other countries. As the official Foreign Office could not
be directly involved, contacts had to be taken care of by the
SD, the SS security service, led by the terrible Reinhard von
Heydrich, who sent, in November 1937, Adolf Eichmann, already
a "specialist for Zionist affairs," to Palestine and
Egypt for talks, whose results can only be conjectured.
The very moment to show the Arab friends
how Nazi Germany could address Jewish emigration to a destination
far away from Palestine came in October 1939 after Poland had
been overrun. On October 6th, Hitler, in his speech before the
Reichstag, offering in this manner peace talks to the Western
Allies, spoke about the new assessment of Poland and mentioned
vaguely the idea of a Jewish Settlement Area there.
In the same days of October, a transport
of Jewish men of working age from Vienna and Bohemia-Moravia
had to be set up, and some leading Community Officials - Murmelstein
from Vienna and Edelstein from Prague - with other staff members
- had to join. On October 19, 1939, this first transport reached
the station of Nisko, a little town in the Lublin area, near
the border between the German and the Soviet zones of Poland.
After a long march, the group reached a meadow, their destination.
The following day, Eichmann gave a speech about building shanties,
setting up a health service, an organization to start, etc. as
"otherwise it should mean to die."
In a personal talk, Murmelstein asked
about the means available, realizing that there was nothing,
as Eichmann advised only: "kick the Polish peasant out and
settle in his house." This seemed to be madness, but a Jewish
official, within this mess and ignoring, of course, the political
background, could not appreciate the method there was in it.
In those days, other transports arrived;
people had been led by armed SS men for some miles and then ordered
to disperse: colonization by dispersion of people. A group had
been directed right into the marsh; wounded persons lying around
had been picked up by the peasants; some brave man had been able
to cross the border line towards the Soviet zone.
Murmelstein, after some days, obtained
an authorization to leave the camp to look for accommodation
opportunities; clearly the very intent was to reach Lublin, asking
the Community there for help. In order to have official evidence
of efforts performed to find out accommodation opportunities,
Murmelstein asked the area prefect for a hearing in order to
ask for assent to use some abandoned building as accommodation.
As the prefect stated he had no information about things going
on, it appeared possible to let local authorities stop the Eichmann
action. Murmelstein therefore referred to the October 6th Hitler
speech and then to the advice to "kick the Polish peasant
out and settle." The Eichmann march order did not allow
putting Murmelstein and his group under arrest, so the prefect
ordered them to go to Lublin without any further delay and wait
there for instructions.
The Lublin Community leaders were surprised,
learning about things going on nearby. Important is that Area
Commander SS Colonel Strauch, did not know anything about the
Eichmann action. After ten days, Strauch ordered Murmelstein
and his colleagues: Return to Nisko for instructions.
Eichmann, at Nisko, sent the leading
Jewish officials home in order to catch every possible further
emigration opportunity. From Vienna, Prague and Berlin, some
thousand persons, until March 1941, could still emigrate during
increasing difficulties. No further transports were scheduled
to arrive in Nisko any more. The 450 workers returned home after
six months. The camp had been set up for the transit of Germans
returning from Eastern European countries to the Reich.
General Governor Hans Frank claimed,
in a speech, to be the only authority and representative of the
Reich in Poland. Hans Frank was not willing to have there an
area controlled directly by the SS which would mean also control
over him and he preferred to set up overcrowded Ghettoes in town
districts. This was another way to show the Arab friends that
Jewish emigration had been addressed far away from Palestine;
from Poland, no emigration was allowed any more.
In the same months, in Italy, someone
had launched the idea to settle the Italian Jews in an Ethiopian
Highland where, according to a strange knowledge of Geography,
climatic conditions were supposed to be similar to that of Northern
Italy. Heydrich, in 1939, visited Italy, having talks about cooperation
between the security services, and it is unthinkable that in
those talks, Jews were not mentioned:
1. The leaders of the Italian Jewish
Community had been informed in 1940 by the Interior Ministry
that Jews were supposed to leave Italy.
2. In 1940 and 1941, in Libya, many Jews
had been deported from the towns toward camps in the desert.
In 1941 and 1942, Rumania sent a great part of its Jewish Community
to Transnistria, an area in Ukraine then held by Rumanian troops,
where between 280,000 and 380,000 victims perished.
Referring to the Nazi-Fascist ideas of
"Jewish Settlement Areas," it should be pointed out
that the aim was the death by starvation, diseases, various accidents,
etc. following the model of what was done in the German colonies
in Africa by deporting tribes from their homelands to areas where
climatic conditions were very different.
In 1943, the Theresienstadt Ghetto had
to modify its denomination: documents considered only the Jewish
Settlement Area of Theresienstadt; that was the only change.
In the Autumn of 1940, Murmelstein had
been ordered by Eichmann to submit an historical survey on the
idea of Jewish Settlement. Murmelstein stated that a Jewish Settlement
could only be in Palestine and favoured by the Power that after
the war would be leading in the East Mediterranean Area. Eichmann
remarked with dismay: Murmelstein does not realize that after
the war only Germany will be the leading Power.