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Ken Livingstone may not be everyone’s pin-up boy but he does know his history. Shortly after Hitler gained power the Zionist leader, David ben-Gurion, felt the Nazis’ take-over could become ‘a fertile force’ for Zionism.
A Mapai Party activist, Moshe Beilinson, soon visited Germany and reported — “The streets are paved with more money than we have ever dreamed of in the history of our Zionist enterprise. Here is an opportunity to build and flourish like none we have ever had or will ever have.”
A senior Zionist official, Prussian-born Arthur Ruppin, then went to Berlin to bargain with the Nazis, to secure the transfer to Palestine of the property of German Jewish emigrants. Travelling on to Jena, Ruppin had a two-hour meeting with the prominent Nazi race theorist, Hans F.K. Gunther — who assured his visitor that he did not see Jews as “inferior” to Aryans, only “different”. Therefore “a fair solution” must be found for “the Jewish problem”. Back in Berlin, on 7 August 1933, Ruppin was well received at the Nazi finance ministry.
It was agreed that every German Jew emigrating to Palestine could take £1,000 sterling and merchandise worth at least 20,000 DM — perhaps more, were the finances handled by German and Jewish trust companies. In mandatory Palestine, £1,000 was the minimum capital essential to obtain British permission to settle. For this agreement the Hebrew term “haavara”(‘transfer’) was used in Nazi documents. It suited both the Nazis (Jews gone) and the Zionist (Jews arriving).
But, tragically, most German Jews were not then interested in the Zionist project though this transfer of people and property had been suggested by Theodor Herzl in The Jewish State, published a generation earlier.
Many more details about those Nazi-Zionist negotiations may be found in Tom Segev’s The Seventh Million.
The Old Market,
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