Once in power Adolf Hitler attempted to make life so unpleasant for Jews in Germany that they would emigrate. The day after the March, 1933, election, stormtroopers hunted down Jews in Berlin and gave them savage beatings. Synagogues were trashed and all over Germany gangs of brownshirts attacked Jews. In the first three months of Hitler rule, over forty Jews were murdered. (1)
Hitler urged Jews to leave Germany. On 29th March 1933, Frank Foley, Director of the Passport Control Office, based at the British Embassy at Berlin. His cover job was Director of the Passport Control Office, sent a message to London: "This office is overwhelmed with applications from Jews to proceed to Palestine, to England, to anywhere in the British Empire." (2) On 1st April, 1933, Hitler ordered a one-day boycott of Jewish-owned shops. Members of the Sturm Abteilung (SA) picketed the shops to ensure the boycott was successful. As a child Christa Wolf watched the SA organize the boycott of Jewish businesses. "A pair of SA men stood outside the door of the Jewish shops, next to the white enamel plate, and prevented anyone who could not prove that he lived in the building from entering and baring his Aryan body before non-Aryan eyes." (3)
Armin Hertz was only nine years old at the time of the boycott. His parents owned a furniture store in Berlin. "After Hitler came to power, there was the boycott in April of that year. I remember that very vividly because I saw the Nazi Party members in their brown uniforms and armbands standing in front of our store with signs: "Kauft nicht bei Juden" (Don't buy from Jews). That of course, was very frightening to us. Nobody entered the shop. As a matter of fact, there was a competitor across the street - she must have been a member of the Nazi Party already by then - who used to come over and chase people away." (4)
The hostility towards Jews increased in Nazi Germany. This was reflected in the decision by many shops and restaurants not to serve the Jewish population. Placards saying "Jews not admitted" and "Jews enter this place at their own risk" began to appear all over Germany. In some parts of the country Jews were banned from public parks, swimming-pools and public transport. (5)
By the end of 1933 some 65,000 Germans had emigrated. Most of these headed for neighbouring countries such as France and Holland, believing that Hitler would be removed in the near future and they could return to their homes. Others wanted to move to the Jewish homeland in Palestine. Since the First World War Britain had administered the area with instructions from the League of Nations to "facilitate Jewish immigration". However, after Palestinian Arabs began to riot, British policy on immigration was a constant attempt to appease the Arabs with strict limits on the number of Jews to be allowed into Palestine. (6)
James Grover McDonald, League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Germany, resigned in protest about the way that Jews were being treated: "Tens of thousands are anxiously seeking ways to flee abroad... But except for those prepared to sacrifice the whole or greater part of their savings, the official restrictions on export of capital effectively bar the road to escape. Relentlessly, the Jews and non-Aryans are excluded from all public offices and any part in the cultural and intellectual life of Germany. They are subjected to every kind of humiliation. It is being made increasingly difficult for Jews and non-Aryans to sustain life. In many parts of the country, there is a systematic attempt at starvation. The number of suicides, the distortion of minds and the breaking down of bodies, the deaths of children through malnutrition are tragic witnesses." (7)
The number of Jews emigrating increased after the passing of the Nuremberg Laws on Citizenship and Race in 1935. The first Reich Law of Citizenship divided people in Germany into two categories. The citizen of "pure German blood" and the rest of the population. The Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour forbade inter-marrying between the two groups. Some 250 decrees followed these laws. These excluded Jews from official positions and professions. They were also forced to wear the "Star of David". (8)
Christa Wolf remembers hearing Joseph Goebbels give a speech on the radio in 1937 about the Jews: "Without fear we may point to the Jew as the motivator, the originator, and the beneficiary of this horrible catastrophe. Behold the enemy of the world, the annihilator of cultures, the parasite among nations, the son of chaos, the incarnation of evil, the ferment of decay, the formative demon of mankind's downfall." She grew up believing that the "Jews are different from us... Jews must be feared, even if one can't hate them." (9)
Adolf Hitler urged Jews to leave Germany. One of the major reasons why so many refused was that they were unable to take their money with them. Hitler arranged for 52,000 to emigrate to Palestine. To encourage them to go the German government allowed "Jews who left for Palestine to transfer a significant portion of their assets there... while those who left for other countries had to leave much of what they owned behind". Richard Evans has argued: "The reasons for the Nazis' favoured treatment of emigrants to Palestine were complex. On the one hand, they regarded the Zionist movement as a significant part of the world Jewish conspiracy they had dedicated their lives to destroying. On the other, helping Jewish emigration to Palestine might mitigate international criticism of anti-semitic measures at home." (10)
In April 1936, the Arabs declared a general strike, began attacking Jewish property and killed 21 Jews in Palestine. (11) Benno Cohen, chairman of the German Zionist Organisation, complained that after the Arab unrest began, the British Government limited the influx of Jews to Palestine more and more severely. "It was the period of the British policy of appeasement when everything was done in Britain to placate the Nazis and to reduce Arab pressure in Palestine and the whole of the Middle East to a minimum. There were British envoys in posts in Berlin at that time who carried out London's policy to the letter, who were impervious to humanitarian considerations and who more often worked for the greater good of the Nazi regime in friendly cooperation with its ministers". (12)
Frank Foley, the head of the MI6 station in Berlin, did what he could to help Jews from Germany to go to Palestine. According to Michael Smith, Six: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (2010): "Most wanted to go to Palestine, but the very strict quotas imposed by the British meant that few were eligible. Foley realised the danger they were in and tore up the rulebook, giving out visas that should never have been issued, hiding Jews in his home, helping them to obtain false papers and passports and even going into the concentration camps to obtain their release." (13)
Foley informed London about the growing anti-semitism in Nazi Germany. "It is becomring increasingly apparent that the Party has not departed from its original intentions and that its ultimate aim remains the disappearance of the Jews from Germany or, failing that, their relegation to a position of powerlessness and inferiority. Indications of this recrudescence of anti-semitism are apparent in recent legislative measures, in regulations governing admission to the liberal professions, in the boycotting of Jewish concems and in the increasing virulence of speeches of leading members of the Party." (14)
On 6th July 1938, a conference of 32 nations met at Evian in France to discuss the growing international problem of Jewish migration. The conference made an attempt to impose general agreed guidelines on accepting Jews from Nazi Germany. According to Richard Evans, the author of The Third Reich in Power (2005): "One delegation after another at the conference made it clear that it would not liberalize its policy towards refugees; if anything, it would tighten things up... Anti-immigrant sentiment in many countries, complete with rhetoric about being 'swamped' by people of 'alien' culture, contributed further to this growing reluctance." (15)
As Rita Thalmann and Emmanuel Feinermann, the authors of Crystal Night: 9-10 November 1938 (1974) have pointed out: "After five years of National Socialism, the German government angrily acknowledged that threats and intimidation had not rid the Reich of its Jews. About a quarter of the total had fled but the other three-quarters still preferred to stay in Germany. The government concluded that it would have to change tactics in order to obtain better results." (16)
Ernst vom Rath was murdered by Herschel Grynszpan, a young Jewish refugee in Paris on 9th November, 1938. At a meeting of Nazi Party leaders that evening, Joseph Goebbels suggested that there should be "spontaneous" anti-Jewish riots. (17) Reinhard Heydrich sent urgent guidelines to all police headquarters suggesting how they could start these disturbances. He ordered the destruction of all Jewish places of worship in Germany. Heydrich also gave instructions that the police should not interfere with demonstrations and surrounding buildings must not be damaged when burning synagogues. (18)
Heinrich Mueller, head of the Secret Political Police, sent out an order to all regional and local commanders of the state police: "(i) Operations against Jews, in particular against their synagogues will commence very soon throughout Germany. There must be no interference. However, arrangements should be made, in consultation with the General Police, to prevent looting and other excesses. (ii) Any vital archival material that might be in the synagogues must be secured by the fastest possible means. (iii) Preparations must be made for the arrest of from 20,000 to 30,000 Jews within the Reich. In particular, affluent Jews are to be selected. Further directives will be forthcoming during the course of the night. (iv) Should Jews be found in the possession of weapons during the impending operations the most severe measures must be taken. SS Verfuegungstruppen and general SS may be called in for the overall operations. The State Police must under all circumstances maintain control of the operations by taking appropriate measures." (19)
Reinhard Heydrich ordered members of the Gestapo to make arrests following Kristallnacht. "As soon as the course of events during the night permits the release of the officials required, as many Jews in all districts, especially the rich, as can be accommodated in existing prisons are to be arrested. For the time being only healthy male Jews, who are not too old, are to be detained. After the detentions have been carried out the appropriate concentration camps are to be contracted immediately for the prompt accommodation of the Jews in the camps." (20)
On 21st November, 1938, it was announced in Berlin by the Nazi authorities that 3,767 Jewish retail businesses in the city had either been transferred to "Aryan" control or closed down. Further restrictions on Jews were announced that day. To enforce the rule that Jewish doctors could not treat non-Jews, each Jewish doctor had henceforth to display a blue nameplate with a yellow star - the Star of David - with the sign: "Authorised to give medical treatment only to Jews." German bookmakers were also forbidden to accept bets from Jews. (21)
Reinhard Heydrich reported to Hermann Göring that 20,000 Jewish men had been arrested following Kristallnacht. (22) These men had been taken to concentration camps. However, in January 1939, Reinhard Heydrich ordered police authorities all over Germany to release all Jewish concentration camp prisoners who had emigration papers. They were to be told that they would be returned to the camp for life if they ever came back to Germany. (23) Benno Cohen argued that this meant that the wives of these men besieged Frank Foley in "order to effect the liberation of their husbands from the camps". (24)
The Jewish National Council for Palestine sent a telegram to the British government offering to take 10,000 German children into Palestine. The full cost of bringing the children from Germany and maintaining them in their new homes, as well as their education and vocational training would be paid for by the Palestine Jewish community and by "Zionists throughout the world". (25)
The Colonial Secretary, Malcolm MacDonald, told his Cabinet colleagues that the proposal should be rejected because of a forthcoming conference to be held in London, between the British government and representation of Palestinian Arabs, Palestinian Jews, and the Arab States". He argued that "if these 10,000 children were allowed to enter Palestine, we should run a considerable risk that the Palestinian Arabs would not attend the Conference, and that, if they did attend, their confidence would be shaken and the atmosphere damaged." (26)
Frank Foley appears to have largely ignored the instructions he received from London. "Captain Foley had to carry out official policy. A happy chance had however brought to the post in Berlin a man who not only fully understood the orders issued to him but also had a heart for the people who often stood in long, anxious queues before him. He took advantage of his powers in so broadminded a way that many who under a stricter interpretation of orders would probably have been refused, were issued with the coveted visas to Palestine. To many who had to deal with him, he appeared almost as a saint." (27)
Margaret Reid had just arrived from London to help Frank Foley in his work. In the evening of 12th December, 1938, she wrote to her mother. "Today I spent entirely on filing - work that ought to have been seen to days before. The staff is about double its normal size and they are closing the office for two days a week in an effort to keep pace with the rush. There was a queue waiting when we got there at nine this morning and I believe some of them had been there since 4 am. When we had elbowed our way through, the porter tried to turn us away until I explained three times that we were here to work, when he laughed and took us to Captain Foley - our chief." (28)
Frank Foley's wife. Kay, reported: "Jews trying to find a way out of Germany queued in their hundreds outside the British consulate, clinging to the hope that they would get a passport or a visa. Day after day we saw them standing along the corridors, down the steps and across the large courtyard, waiting their turn to fill in the forms that might lead to freedom. In the end, that queue grew to be a mile long. Some were hysterical. Many wept. All were desperate. With them came a flood of cables and letters from other parts of the country, all pleading for visas and begging for help. For them, Frank's yes or no really meant the difference between a new life and the concentration camps. But there were many difficulties. How could so many people be interviewed before their turn came for that dreaded knock on the door... He (Frank Foley) worked from 7am to 10pm without a break. He would handle as many applications himself as he could manage and he would walk among his staff of examiners to see where he could assist them, or give advice and words of comfort to those who waited." (29)
Wim Van Leer was also involved in trying to get Jews out of Nazi Germany and became close to Frank Foley. "The winter of 1938 was a harsh one and elderly men and women waited from six in the morning, queuing up in the snow and biting wind. Captain Foley saw to it that a uniformed commissionaire trundled a tea-urn on a trolley along the line of frozen misery, and all this despite the clientele, neurotic with frustration and cold. Others pleaded, offered bribes, threatened, flattered, wept, and threw fits. Foley always maintained his composure. As an ex-Army man, he knew that it was fear that motivated the heavy-coated bundles of despair outside his front door, wriggling to escape the closing claw. As a deeply devout Christian in deed as well as in spirit, he would not allow himself to be upset by the traumatised herd stampeding across his desk." (30)
Joseph Herman Hertz, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, asked Sir Michael Bruce, a retired British diplomat, if he could travel to Germany to assess the situation. He was horrified by what he found and went straight to the British Embassy to see Sir Neville Henderson, the British ambassador, who hoped he would contact Lord Halifax, the British foreign secretary, about what could be done to help. "I went at once to the British Embassy. I told Sir George Ogilvie-Forbes everything I knew and urged him to contact Hitler and express Britain's displeasure. He told me he could do nothing. The Ambassador Sir Neville Henderson, was in London and the Foreign Office, acting on instructions from Lord Halifax, had told him to do nothing that might offend Hitler and his minions." (31)
After Kristallnacht the numbers of Jews wishing to leave Germany increased dramatically. Sweden had taken in a large number of Jewish refugees since 1933. However, the government felt it had taken too many already. According to one source "this attitude was shared by the Jewish minority in Sweden, who were apprehensive that an influx of Jewish refugees might arouse anti-semitic sentiments". (32)
The American Ambassador based in Stockholm reported: "No matter how great the sympathy for the Jews may be in Sweden it is apparent that no one really wants to take the risk of creating a Jewish problem in Sweden also by a liberal admission of Jewish refugees." (33) It was claimed by one Danish newspaper, Politiken, that "Europe is inundated with refugees, but there must certainly be a place for them elsewhere in the world." (34)
The pressure on Frank Foley increased as it became to look as if war was inevitable. Margaret Reid was impressed with the energy of Frank Foley: "He is an active little man, wears a brown Harris Tweed jacket and appears to work 14 hours a day and remain good-tempered... He is not at all terrifying to work for and we are just managing to get each day's letters opened and numbered now that the staff is about doubled. I sit all day at the card index, with two other new girls and a man who came over from London a few weeks ago and the phone goes non-stop from nine (in the morning)... The big businessmen seem to have been preparing, some of them for a long time, and have the necessary capital in foreign banks, but more pathetic are the uneducated letters from wives whose husbands are in concentration camps (some of them have died there or are in hospital as a result of infection caught there and undernourishment). It is a panic-stricken land and many former adherents of the regime are now apparently violently anti." (35)
Hubert Pollack, who worked closely with Frank Foley helping the Jews, later commented: "Immigration rules were very strict in those days of economic depression in order to prevent the entry of additional manpower looking for employment. But in the conflict between official duty and human duty Captain Foley decided unreservedly for the fulfilling of his human duty. He never took the easy way out. He never tried to make himself popular with the ambassador or the Home Office by giving a strict and narrow interpretation of the rules. He did not mind incurring the displeasure of top officials in the British Foreign Office and Home office. On the contrary, he was not above sophistic interpretation if he could help Jews to emigrate." (36)
Frank Foley told his friend, Benno Cohen, why he broke the rules to help the Jews: "What were the motives that stirred him to act like this? We who worked closely with him in those days often asked ourselves this question. Before all else, Foley was humane. In those dark days in Germany, to encounter a human being was no common occurrence. He told us that he was acting as a Christian and that he wanted to show us how little the Christians who were then in power in Germany had to do with real Christianity. He detested the Nazis and looked on their political system - as he once told me - as the rule of Satan upon earth. He loathed their base doings and regarded himself as duty bound to assist the victims of their misdeeds." (37)
Frank Foley had several Jewish friends in Berlin. This included Professor Oscar Fehr, who was in charge of eye department of the Rudolf Virchov Hospital. In January 1939, Foley managed to get the Fehr family a visa to go to England. Inge Fehr later commented: "Captain Foley gave us visas. He told us that my father was the only doctor he knew who had received permission to work in England and that he was one of only a few who had been given a permit for permanent residence in England... England gave us permission to emigrate but my father would have to retake his medical examinations before being allowed to practise." (38)
Foley's biographer, Michael Smith, has argued: "He blatantly ignored the strict rules governing the issuance of visas to ensure that large numbers of Jews who might otherwise have gone to the gas chambers were assisted to safety in Palestine and the United Kingdom. Short, balding, and with his spectacles giving him an owlish appearance, Foley made an unlikely hero. Yet he went into the concentration camps to get people out, helped them obtain false passports and hid them in his own home, despite the fact that he had no diplomatic immunity and that the Germans, who were aware he was a spy, might arrest him at any time." (39)
On 25th August, 1939, Captain Foley and his team were ordered home. In a letter written on the ferry to Harwich, his assistant, Margaret Reid, expressed her regret at leaving the Berlin Passport Control Office behind. "They were a good crowd there and though I was worked off my feet I enjoyed the feeling of being of use and trusted." (40) Hubert Pollack has claimed that the Foley's team saved the lives of thousands of German Jews: "The number of Jews saved from Germany would have been tens of thousands less, yes, tens of thousands less, if an officious bureaucrat had set in Foley's place. There is no word of Jewish gratitude towards this man which could be exaggerated." (41)
In 1939 most of the world looked to the United States to take these Jewish refugees. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was approached by Jewish organizations to change the quota system employed by the United States. The combined German and Austrian annual quota of 27,000 was already filled until January 1940. It was suggested that the quotas for the following three years to be combined, allowing 81,000 Jews to enter immediately. (42)
President Roosevelt believed that such a move would not be popular with the American people. A public opinion poll conducted a few months after Kristallnacht asked: "If you were a member of Congress would vote yes or no on a bill to open the doors of the United States to a larger number of European refugees than now admitted under our immigration quotas?" Eighty-three per cent were against such a bill and 8.3 per cent did not know. Of the 8.7 per cent in favour, nearly 70 per cent were Jewish. As the authors of Crystal Night: 9-10 November 1938 (1974) pointed out: "At the very time when sympathy for the victims was at its height, ten Americans out of eleven opposed massive Jewish immigration into the United States." (43)
Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, put forward a plan to settle large numbers of German and Austrian Jewish refuges in the virtually uninhabited 120-mile-long Kenai Peninsula, in Alaska. However, four Alaskan Chambers of Commerce passed resolutions opposing the settlement plan. Felix S. Cohen, one of the Interior Department lawyers, told Ruth Gruber, how Ickes "was determined to help refugees" but that "a whole group of Alaskans came all the way down here just to fight us." These Alaskans "said there was no anti-Semitism in the Territory now because there were only a few Jewish families in each town. Bringing give thousand Jews a year would start race riots." (44)
Philip Noel-Baker, the Labour Party representative for Derby, and a leading Quaker, argued in the House of Commons, that Neville Chamberlain had been morally wrong to make concessions to Hitler and it was time to change policy towards Nazi Germany. He proposed a two-point programme: the threat of reprisals, to halt the arrest and expulsion of the Jews; and the immediate creation of a rehabilitation agency for the hundreds of thousands of emigrants.
"I think they (the Government) might in some measure stay the tyrant's hand in Germany by the means I have suggested. Certainly they can gather the resources, human and material, that are needed to make a new life for this pitiful human wreckage. That wreckage is the result of the mistakes made by all the Governments during the last twenty years. Let the Governments now atone for those mistakes. The refugees have surely endured enough. Dr Goebbels said the other day that he hoped the outside world would soon forget the German Jews. He hopes in vain. His campaign against them will go down in history with St Bartholomew's Eve as a lasting memory of human shame. Let there go with it another memory, the memory of what the other nations did to wipe the shame away." (45)
Chamberlain's rejected Noel-Baker's proposals but did have a meeting with Edouard Daladier, the prime-minister of France on 24th November. Daladier claimed that France had already accepted 40,000 Jewish refugees and urged Britain and the United States to do more. Chamberlain told Daladier that Britain was weekly admitting 500 hundred Jewish refugees: "One of the chief difficulties, however, was the serious danger of arousing anti-semitic feeling in Great Britain. Indeed, a number of Jews had begged His Majesty's Government not to advertise too prominently what was being done." (46)
French newspapers tended to support Daladier. One newspaper argued: "France is a hospitable country. It will not allow a properly accredited diplomat to be assassinated in Paris by a foreign pig who was evading a deportation order... The interests of national defence and of the economy do not permit us to support the foreign elements which have recently installed themselves in and around our capital. Paris has too long been a dumping ground for international hoodlums, the right of asylum must have limits." (47)
The French Socialist Party published a resolution of its executive committee "noting with regret that of all the government of the democratic countries only the French ministers had not thought fit to express publicly their disapproval of the Nazis government's crimes.... The SFIO urges workers to combine forces before the hateful repression embodied in fascism, and to join with the Socialist party in opposing all racial prejudice and in defending the conquests of democracy and the rights of man against adversaries." (48)
The Jewish National Council for Palestine sent a telegram to the British government offering to take 10,000 German children into Palestine. The full cost of bringing the children from Germany and maintaining them in their new homes, as well as their education and vocational training would be paid for by the Palestine Jewish community and by "Zionists throughout the world". (49)
Neville Chamberlain was very unsympathetic to the plight of the Jews. He wrote to a friend: "Jews aren't a lovable people; I don't care about them myself." (50) On 8th December, 1938, Stanley Baldwin, a former Prime Minister, made a radio broadcast calling on the British government to do more for the Jews in Nazi Germany. "Thousands of men, women, and children, despoiled of their goods, driven from their homes, are seeking asylum and sanctuary on our doorsteps, a hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest... They may not be our fellow subjects, but they are our fellow men. Tonight I plead for the victims who turn to England for help... Thousands of every degree of education, industry, wealth, position, have been made equal in misery. I shall not attempt to depict to you what it means to be scorned and branded and isolated like a leper. The honour of our country is challenged, our Christian charity is challenged, and it is up to us to meet that challenge." (51)
Six days later Chamberlain announced that the government would allow a total of 10,000 Jewish children to enter the country. However, their parents would have to remain in Nazi Germany. He also stated that Jewish refugee organisations in Britain would have to maintain them and would be responsible for finding homes for the children. (52) Anne Lehmann, a twelve-year-old girl from Berlin arrived soon afterwards. She was placed with a non-Jewish couple, Mary and Jim Mansfield, in the village of Swineshead. Anne never saw her parents again as both died at the hands of the Nazis. (53)
A Jewish boy who had witnessed the destruction of the synagogue in the village of Hoengen was another child who was allowed to live in Britain later wrote: "Standing at the window of the train, I was suddenly overcome with a maiming certainty that I would never see my father and mother again. There they stood, lonely, and with the sadness of death... It was the first and last time in my life that I had seen them both weep. Now and then my mother would stretch her hand out, as if to grasp mine - but the hand fell back, knowing it could never reach. Can the world ever justify the pain that burned in my father's eyes?... As the train pulled out of the station to wheel me to safety, I leant my face against the cold glass of the window, and wept bitterly." His parents died in an extermination camp three years later. (54)
In a leading article in Pravda compared the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany with the pogroms in Tsarist Russia: "The economic difficulties and the discontent of the masses have forced the fascist leaders to resort to a pogrom against the Jews to distract the attention of the masses from grave problems within the country... But anti-semitic pogroms did not save the Tsarist monarchy, and they will not save German fascism from destruction." (55) However, although the Soviet Union was willing to admit communists fleeing from Germany it did nothing to encourage Jewish emigration and rejected requests by the League of Nations High Commissioner for German Refugees to take in people seeking help. (56)
On 9th February, 1939, Senator Robert F. Wagner, introduced a Senate Resolution that would have allowed 20,000 German Jewish refugee children of fourteen and under into the United States. One argument raised against the bill was that the admission of these refugee children "would be against the laws of God, and therefore would open a wedge for a later request for the admission of 40,000 adults - the parents of the children in question". One newspaper claimed that America should concentrate on looking after its own children. Another objection raised was that the bill would create a dangerous precedent that would result in the wholesale breakdown of the existing immigration statutes. The bill "died in committee" and no further action was taken. (57)
An estimated 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps after Kristallnacht. (58) Up until this time these camps had been mainly for political prisoners. However, in January 1939, Reinhard Heydrich ordered police authorities all over Germany to release all Jewish concentration camp prisoners who had emigration papers. They were to be told that they would be returned to the camp for life if they ever came back to Germany. (59) Josef Stone later recalled that his father benefited by Heydrich's order as he was released from Dachau after he had obtained permission to emigrate to the United States. "He was away for about four or five weeks... I remember that when he came home, it was late in the evening. I remember when he rang the doorbell he looked strange to us. Although he never had much hair... now he was completely bald." (60)
On 13th May, 1939, the ocean liner, the St Louis, left Hamburg with 927 German Jewish refugees on board. All had immigration quota numbers, issued by the American Consulates in Germany, entitling them to enter the United States. However, this was for the years 1940 and 1941. Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury and a Jew, suggested that the refugees be given tourist visas. Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, rejected the idea.
The captain now tried seven Latin American countries - Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay. All these countries refused to take a single one of these refugees. On 6th June, the liner arrived in Miami and a further request was sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This was ignored and the St Louis returned to Europe. Britain took 288, France 244, Belgium 214 and Holland 181. Those in Britain were safe but more than 200 of those who were given haven by France, Belgium and Holland were killed after being deported to the death camps together with French, Belgian and Dutch Jews. The authors of Voyage of the Damned: A Shocking True Story of Hope, Betrayal, and Nazi Terror (2010) later argued: "What is certain is that if Cuba or the United States had opened their doors, almost no one from the ship need have died." (61)
It has been estimated 115,000 Jews left Nazi Germany in the ten months or so between November 1938 and September 1939. It has been calculated that between 1933 and 1939, approximately two-thirds of the Jewish population of Germany left the country. Almost 200,000 had been given refuge in the United States and 65,000 in Britain. Palestine, with all the restrictions imposed on it, accepted 58,000. It is estimated that between 160,000 and 180,000 of those left in Germany died in the concentration camps. (62)
Tens of thousands are anxiously seeking ways to flee abroad... But except for those prepared to sacrifice the whole or greater part of their savings, the official restrictions on export of capital effectively bar the road to escape. Relentlessly, the Jews and non-Aryans are excluded from all public offices and any part in the cultural and intellectual life of Germany. They are subjected to every kind of humiliation.
It is being made increasingly difficult for Jews and non-Aryans to sustain life. In many parts of the country, there is a systematic attempt at starvation. The number of suicides, the distortion of minds and the breaking down of bodies, the deaths of children through malnutrition are tragic witnesses.
My family, which consisted of my father, mother, my maternal grandmother, my older brother, and I were eating dinner (on 9th November, 1938) when there was a knock at our front door. I can still picture my father's somewhat ruddy complexion turning white, and the quizzical look that passed between my parents. My mother said she would answer the door, and I went with her. There stood a German woman who worked in our home as part-time housekeeper. When my mother asked her what she was doing there, she answered that my father had to leave the house the next day. I recall her saying that something was going to happen, although she did not know what. And she left as quickly and quietly as she had come....
The next morning... I met my cousin and we walked to school together. I remember that it was a relatively long walk, and as Jews we could not ride the trolley car. We walked along a broad, pedestrian street and came upon an 'army' of men marching four or more abreast. They wore no uniforms but were dressed as working men would have been. Each had a household tool over his shoulder. I remember seeing rakes, shovels, pickaxes, etc., but no guns. My cousin and I were puzzled by this parade, and watched for some minutes. Then we continued on to school.
We saw a bonfire in the courtyard in front of the synagogue. Many spectators were watching as prayer books and, I believe, Torah scrolls were burned. The windows had been shattered and furniture had been smashed and added to the pyre. We were absolutely terrified. I am fairly certain that the fire department was in attendance, but no attempt was made to extinguish the flames. We ran back to my home to tell my mother what we had seen. She told us that we would leave the apartment and spend the day in Luisenpark, a very large park in town. We spent the entire day in the park, moving from one area to another.
On November 20, President Roosevelt announced that he would ask Congress to allow between 12,000 and 15,000 German refugees already in the United States on visitors' visas to remain there "indefinitely". It would be "cruel and inhuman", he said, "to compel the refugees, most of whom were Jews, to return to Germany to face possible maltreatment, concentration camps or other persecution".
Roosevelt said nothing, however, about asking Congress to accelerate or increase the annual immigration quota, or to establish a special refugee category. The combined German and Austrian annual quota of 27,000 was already filled until January 1940. The American Jewish organisations had asked for the quotas for the following three years to be combined, allowing 81,000 Jews to enter immediately. This proposal was rejected by the United States administration.
President Roosevelt was aware that... American public opinion would balk at the influx of refugees. A poll conducted a few months after the "Crystal Night" asked: "If you were a member of Congress would vote yes or no on a bill to open the doors of the United States to a larger number of European refugees than now admitted under our immigration quotas?" Eighty-three per cent were against such a bill and 8.3 per cent did not know. Of the 8.7 per cent in favour, nearly 70 per cent were Jewish.
At the very time when sympathy for the victims was at its height, ten Americans out of eleven opposed massive Jewish immigration into the United States. Some intellectuals, including such writers as Eugene O'Neill, John Steinbeck, Pearl Buck, Clifford Odets and Thornton Wilder, tried to illustrate the immorality of the American attitude: "Thirty-five years ago, a horrified America rose in protest against the pogrom at Kishinev in Tsarist Russia. God have pity on us if we have become so insensitive to human suffering that we are incapable of protesting today against the pogroms in Nazi Germany. We believe it is profoundly immoral for the Americans to continue to maintain commercial relations with a country which openly adopts mass murder to solve its economic problems."
Isolated voices within the American administration expressed the same anguish. One of the most forceful was that of Anthony Drexel Biddle, Jr, the American Ambassador to Warsaw, who sent dispatch after dispatch to his superiors informing them that according to reliable sources the Nazis were aware that their action had aroused world-wide indignation but understood that no one would lift a finger to oppose them. This assessment was correct, since the European Affairs Section of the State Department, which was asked to elaborate the American Government's position on the matter, merely formulated an official confession of impotence.
I think they (the Government) might in some measure stay the tyrant's hand in Germany by the means I have suggested. Certainly they can gather the resources, human and material, that are needed to make a new life for this pitiful human wreckage. That wreckage is the result of the mistakes made by all the Governments during the last twenty years. Let the Governments now atone for those mistakes. The refugees have surely endured enough. Dr Goebbels said the other day that he hoped the outside world would soon forget the German Jews. He hopes in vain. His campaign against them will go down in history with St Bartholomew's Eve as a lasting memory of human shame. Let there go with it another memory, the memory of what the other nations did to wipe the shame away.
Thousands of men, women, and children, despoiled of their goods, driven from their homes, are seeking asylum and sanctuary on our doorsteps, a hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest... They may not be our fellow subjects, but they are our fellow men. Tonight I plead for the victims who turn to England for help... Thousands of every degree of education, industry, wealth, position, have been made equal in misery. I shall not attempt to depict to you what it means to be scorned and branded and isolated like a leper. The honour of our country is challenged, our Christian charity is challenged, and it is up to us to meet that challenge.
Desperate Jews continue to flock to the British passport control offices in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany in the hope of gaining admission to Great Britain, Palestine or one of the Crown Colonies...
A visit to the Passport Control Office here this morning showed that families were often represented only by their womenfolk, many of them in tears, while the men of the family waited in a concentration camp until some evidence of likelihood of emigration could be shown to the Secret Police.
While harassed officials dealt firmly but as kindly as possible with such fortunate applicants as had come early enough to reach the inner offices - about 85 persons were seen this morning - a far larger crowd waited on the stairs outside or in the courtyard beneath in the hope of admittance. The doors were closed and guarded much to the annoyance of Germans seeking visas, some of whom complained angrily of being forced to wait among Jews and demanded preferential treatment, though without success.
After the Arab unrest began, the British Government limited the influx of Jews to Palestine more and more severely... The more time went on and the greater the power of the Nazis and the fear of them grew, the more severely immigration was restricted.
It was the period of the British policy of appeasement when everything was done in Britain to placate the Nazis and to reduce Arab pressure in Palestine and the whole of the Middle East to a minimum. There were British envoys in posts in Berlin at that time who carried out London's policy to the letter, who were impervious to humanitarian considerations and who more often worked for the greater good of the Nazi regime in friendly cooperation with its ministers.
One man stood out above all others. Captain Foley had to carry out official policy. A happy chance had however brought to the post in Berlin a man who not only fully understood the orders issued to him but also had a heart for the people who often stood in long, anxious queues before him. He took advantage of his powers in so broadminded a way that many who under a stricter interpretation of orders would probably have been refused, were issued with the coveted visas to Palestine. To many who had to deal with him, he appeared almost as a saint...
The Consulate's premises had virtually been transformed into a place of refuge for the Jews who sought protection from persecution. Thirty-two thousand men were held in concentration camps in those weeks and their wives besieged Capt Foley in order to effect the liberation of their husbands from the camps. At that time it was a question of life and death for many thousands. In those days, he revealed himself in all his humanity. Day and night he was at the disposal of those who sought help. He issued visas of all kinds on a large scale and thereby assisted in the liberation of many thousands from the concentration camps.
What were the motives that stirred him to act like this? We who worked closely with him in those days often asked ourselves this question. Before all else, Foley was humane. In those dark days in Germany, to encounter a human being was no common occurrence. He told us that he was acting as a Christian and that he wanted to show us how little the Christians who were then in power in Germany had to do with real Christianity. He detested the Nazis and looked on their political system - as he once told me - as the rule of Satan upon earth. He loathed their base doings and regarded himself as duty bound to assist the victims of their misdeeds.
Foley acted however also as a good Englishman. He saw all the crimes of the regime at closest quarters and therefore realised better than ministers in London that there could never be any real peace with these people. His links with the leaders of the Jewish organisations were however useful too for his own country. Foley fulfilled other important functions in the service of his country and obtained continual and invaluable information from us about the Nazis' newest crimes and intentions. Through his endeavours, the British authorities received an accurate picture of what was currently going on in Germany.