Jewish Emigration from Germany

Jewish Emigration from Germany

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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. (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. (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... They are subjected to every kind of humiliation.

It is being made increasingly difficult for Jews and non-Aryans to sustain life. 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 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. 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... 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. 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. 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.

Kristallnacht (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler's Early Life (Answer Commentary)

Heinrich Himmler and the SS (Answer Commentary)

Trade Unions in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler v John Heartfield (Answer Commentary)

Hitler's Volkswagen (The People's Car) (Answer Commentary)

Women in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

German League of Girls (Answer Commentary)

The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich (Answer Commentary)

The Last Days of Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)

(1) Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power (2005) page 15

(2) Frank Foley, cable to MI6 headquarters (29th March 1933)

(3) Christa Wolf, Patterns of Childhood (1976) page 79

(4) Armin Hertz, interviewed by the authors of What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany (2005) pages 26-27

(5) Richard Grunberger, A Social History of the Third Reich (1971) page 575

(6) Michael Smith, Foley: The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews (1999) page 45

(7) James Grover McDonald, League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, letter published in The Daily Telegraph (30th December, 1935)

(8) James Taylor and Warren Shaw, Dictionary of the Third Reich (1987) page 208

(9) Christa Wolf, Patterns of Childhood (1976) page 160

(10) Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power (2005) page 556

(11) Michael Smith, Foley: The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews (1999) page 96

(12) Benno Cohen, statement (25th April, 1961)

(13) Michael Smith, Six: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (2010) page 371

(14) Frank Foley, cable to MI6 headquarters (January, 1935)

(15) Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power (2005) pages 559-560

(16) Rita Thalmann and Emmanuel Feinermann, Crystal Night: 9-10 November 1938 (1974) page 13

(17) James Taylor and Warren Shaw, Dictionary of the Third Reich (1987) page 67

(18) Reinhard Heydrich, instructions for measures against Jews (10th November, 1938)

(19) Heinrich Mueller, order sent to all regional and local commanders of the state police (9th November 1938)

(20) Reinhard Heydrich, instructions to the Gestapo for measures against Jews (9th November, 1938)

(21) Martin Gilbert, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (2006) page 168

(22) James Taylor and Warren Shaw, Dictionary of the Third Reich (1987) page 67

(23) Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power (2005) page 598

(24) Benno Cohen, statement (25th April, 1961)

(25) The Manchester Guardian (21st November, 1938)

(26) Malcolm MacDonald, cabinet minutes (14th December, 1938)

(27) Benno Cohen, statement (25th April, 1961)

(28) Margaret Reid, letter to her mother (12th December, 1938)

(29) Kay Foley, Sunday Mercury (7th May, 1961)

(30) Wim Van Leer, Time of My Life (1984) page 174

(31) Michael Bruce, Tramp Royal (1954) pages 236-240

(32) Rita Thalmann and Emmanuel Feinermann, Crystal Night: 9-10 November 1938 (1974) page 161

(33) Report of the American Ambassador in Sweden (18th November, 1938)

(34) Politiken (13th November, 1938)

(35) Margaret Reid, letter to her mother (January, 1939)

(36) Michael Smith, Foley: The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews (1999) page 110

(37) Benno Cohen, statement (25th April, 1961)

(38) Inge Fehr, letter to Michael Smith (2nd April, 1997)

(39) Michael Smith, Frank Foley : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(40) Margaret Reid, letter to her mother (August, 1939)

(41) Michael Smith, Foley: The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews (1999) page 171

(42) Martin Gilbert, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (2006) pages 165-166

(43) Rita Thalmann and Emmanuel Feinermann, Crystal Night: 9-10 November 1938 (1974) page 161

(44) Ruth Gruber, Inside of Time: My Journey from Alaska to Israel (2002) pages 13-14

(45) Philip Noel-Baker, speech in the House of Commons (21st November, 1938)

(46) Minutes of Franco-British talks of 24th November, 1938

(47) Action Française (8th November, 1938)

(48) Le Populaire (17th November, 1938)

(49) The Manchester Guardian (21st November, 1938)

(50) Neville Chamberlain, private letter (30th July, 1939)

(51) Stanley Baldwin, radio appeal (8th December, 1938)

(52) Martin Gilbert, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (2006) page 186

(53) Anne L. Fox, My Heart in a Suitcase (1996) page 43

(54) Martin Gilbert, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (2006) page 196

(55) Pravda (16th November, 1938)

(56) Kurt Grossmann, Emigration (1969) page 107

(57) Martin Gilbert, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (2006) page 213

(58) Daniel Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996) page 100

(59) Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power (2005) pages 598

(60) Josef Stone, What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany (2005) page 38

(61) Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts, Voyage of the Damned: A Shocking True Story of Hope, Betrayal, and Nazi Terror (2010) page 302

(62) United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (18th August, 2015)

Jewish Migration from 1500 to the 20th Century

The term migration is used to describe different, interconnected processes, especially mobility, immigration and emigration, internal migration, labor migration, seasonal migration, flight and expulsion. Among the most extreme forms of forced migration were the deportation of Jews to ghettos and concentration and extermination camps during the National Socialist regime or the death marches in the months and weeks before liberation in 1944 / 45.

As a port city, Hamburg has a special position in German and German-Jewish history with regard to migration. Jews from very different and in some cases very distant parts of Europe settled in Hamburg. Moreover, it was here that many Jews especially from eastern Europe began their overseas journey.

The beginnings of Hamburg’s Jewish community are linked to the Jews’ expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the 15th century. Until the 18th century Sephardic migrants and their descendants shaped the Jewish community in Hamburg. In the neighboring, Danish-ruled town of Altona, another Jewish congregation established itself. Altona pursued a more tolerant policy towards those of different faith than Hamburg did. In the second half of the 19th century Hamburg developed into one of Europe’s most important transit hubs while it grew to become the second largest city in Imperial Germany. The Jewish community grew mostly due to migration from northern Germany. In addition, a significant number of the more than two million Jewish migrants emigrating from eastern Europe to the New World between 1880 and 1914 passed through the port of Hamburg.

In the 1920s, Altona continued to be more open than Hamburg in its policy towards Jewish refugees and migrants who now mainly came from eastern Europe. Between 1933 and 1941 the majority of Hamburg’s Jews managed to emigrate. National Socialist authorities deported most of the Jews remaining in the city to ghettos and extermination camps. Only few Jews returned to Hamburg after the liberation. Most members of the Jewish postwar congregation were refugees and Holocaust survivors from eastern Europe. Since the 1950s Jews from Iran also began moving to Hamburg. After 1989 the congregation started expanding significantly due to immigration from the Soviet Union and its successor states.


BADEN, part of the Land of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. The former grand duchy was created in 1806 from parts of various territories (including the Palatinate), where until then the Jews had formed no united community or shared a common history. The earliest records of the presence of Jews in these territories relate to Gruensfeld (1218), Ueberlingen (1226), ʯreiburg (c. 1230), Lauda and *Tauberbischofsheim (1235), ʬonstance (1241), and Sinsheim (early 13 th century). The Jews had been expelled from several of these areas at various times: the Palatinate in 1391, the margravate of Baden in 1470, Austrian Breisgau in 1573, and the diocese of Basle in 1581. Until 1806 the history of the Jews in the margravate of Baden, which subsequently formed the nucleus of the state of Baden, may be summarized briefly. After the ʫlack Death , 1348�, few Jews lived there but even these were expelled in 1470, as a result of the blood libel of ʮndingen (South Baden). Jews were allowed to return to Baden at the beginning of the 16 th century. In 1535 the margravate of Baden was divided into Baden-Baden and Baden-Durlach, to be united again in 1771. The Jews were expelled from Baden-Baden in 1614, but readmitted during the Thirty Years' War (1618�). According to the first legislation concerning the status of the Jews in Baden-Baden in 1714, the territorial organization of the Jewry was headed by two lay officers (Schultheisse) and a rabbi. In Baden-Durlach Jews were first tolerated officially in 1537, but were expelled during the Thirty Years' War and readmitted in 1666. The Jewish population numbered 24 families in 1709, increasing to 160 families by 1738.

After the grand duchy of Baden was created, the position of its Schutzjuden ("protected Jews") improved. In the first constitutional edict of May 14, 1807, Judaism was recognized as a tolerated religion a year later, the sixth edict afforded the Jews irrevocable civil rights and abolished the marriage restrictions imposed on them (see ⫺miliants' Laws ). Local civil rights, however, remained severely restricted. The ninth edict (the socalled "Judenedikt" of Jan. 13, 1809) granted the Jews an officially recognized state organization, required them to adopt permanent family names, and determined their as yet very curtailed civil status. The constitution of 1818 implicitly confirmed the civil rights granted to the Jews by the edicts but denied them equal political rights. The struggle for emancipation focused on local civil rights and met with fierce and sometimes violent resistance in many villages and towns. Baden's liberal movement failed to endorse the idea of Jewish emancipation, most of its leading figures echoing public sentiment on the matter instead. Anti-Jewish outrages, often connected with the issue of emancipation, occurred in Baden in 1819 ( *Hep-Hep ), 1830, 1848, and 1862. Severe and widespread anti-Jewish rioting accompanied the revolution of 1848, especially in Northern Baden, and as a consequence the Diet pulled back from granting full emancipation to the Jews once more. In 1862 local civil rights were eventually granted, and the last of Baden's cities to exclude Jews (Baden-Baden, Freiburg, Constance, and Offenburg), allowed them to settle there. Nevertheless, animosity toward the Jews continued to be expressed in Baden, where Adolph *Stoecker 's antisemitic Christian Social Party found numbers of adherents. After the Baden Army Corps was incorporated into the Prussian army, no Jew was promoted to the position of reserve officer or medical officer. Professorships too were granted almost exclusively to baptized Jews.

In 1868 Grand Duke Frederick I appointed the Durlach lawyer, Moritz ʮllstaetter , his minister of finance, making

Jewish centers of population in Baden, Germany.

him the first German Jew to hold a ministerial position. Theodor *Herzl tried to interest the German emperor in Zionism through the intervention of the grand duke. The Jews of Baden also participated in its political life. In 1862 the lawyer R. Kusel was elected to represent Karlsruhe in the second chamber, and Ludwig Frank of Mannheim was elected to the Landtag and later to the Reichstag as Social Democratic member. He was among the 589 Baden Jews who fell in World War I. Two Jews were in the first postwar cabinet of Baden, L. Marum (minister of justice, murdered by the Nazis in 1933) and Ludwig *Haas (minister of the interior), who was also active in Jewish affairs.

In 1806 Baden had a Jewish population of about 12,000, which had risen to 24,099 by 1862. As the result of emigration after the rise of Nazism, it decreased from 20,617 in 1933 to 8,725 by 1939. The Jews of Baden were among the first to be deported from Germany. On Oct. 22, 1940, some 5,600 Baden Jews, along with others from the Palatinate and the Saar, were transported to *Gurs concentration camp (southern France), from where they were further deported to Poland from 1942 onward. Approximately 500 Jews from Baden survived in France. The Oberrat was reestablished after the war. In 1962 the cemetery in Gurs was leased to the Baden Oberrat for 99 years. In 1969 there were 1,096 Jews in six communities (66 Jews in Baden-Baden, 248 in Freiburg, 135 in *Heidelberg , 260 in Karlsruhe, 387 in *Mannheim and Constance), with N.P. Levinson as chief rabbi. After 1989 new communities were founded in Emmendingen, Loerrach, *Pforzheim , and Rottweil-Villingen. As a result of the emigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union, the number of community members rose to 4,485 in 2003.


B. Rosenthal, Heimatgeschichte der badischen Juden (1927), includes bibl. Gedenkbuch zum 125-jaehrigen Bestehen des Oberrats der Israeliten Badens (1934) A. Lewin, Geschichte der badischen Juden 17381909 (1909) R. Ruerup, in: Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte des Oberrheins, 114 (1966), 241� N. Stein, in: YLBI, 1 (1956), 177� P. Sauer, Dokumente ueber die Verfolgung der juedischen Buerger in Baden-Wuerttemberg…, 2 pts. (1966) H. Schnee, Die Hoffinanz und der moderne Staat, 2 (1963), 43� idem, Die Schicksale der juedischen Buerger Baden-Wuerttembergs 193345 (1969) F. Hundsnurscher and G. Taddey, Die juedischen Gemeinden in Baden (1968) Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 45� Die Opfer der National-sozialistischen Judenverfolgung in Baden-Wuerttemberg (1969). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M.A. Riff, in: YLBI, 21 (1976), 27� J.B. Paulus, Juden in Baden 1809� (1984) H.W. Smith, in: Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte des Oberrheins, 141 (1993), 304� S. Rohrbacher, Gewalt im Biedermeier (1993), 186� U. Baumann, in: Protestants, Catholics and Jews in Germany (2001), 297� G.J. Teschner, Die Deportation der badischen und saarpfaelzischen Juden … (2002).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

Jews in Poland

Immigration of Jewish settlers to Poland, which began in the first half of the thirteenth century, led to the establishment of settlements in the western part of its territory. Within the borders of the Great Duchy of Lithuania this immi­gration began only some 140years later.

Earlier, merchants&ndashmostly from Babylon, Persia, and the Caucasus&ndash[had] crossed through the Slavic lands of Eastern Europe in search of markets in the West, and there were incidents of Jewish merchants, such as these who remained for a certain period (a few months or even years) engaging in incidental busi­ness or enterprises, such as the minting of coins at the request of local authorities (tenth and twelfth cen­turies) or in connection with trade in amber or valu­able furs. The Jewish merchants also handled slaves, assigned to them by their Slavic masters for care and transfer to the lands of the Islamic &lsquoAbbasid empire.

This temporary presence of individual Jews or small Jewish groups in Polish lands in the tenth through twelfth centuries did not result in a perma­nent Jewish settlement there.But, in contrast to the political and economic situation of the earlier cen­turies, during the 1240sconditions developed which were conducive to a permanent Jewish settlement.

Mutual Interests Led to Settlement

During this period, the Polish rulers endeavored to rehabilitate their ruined lands by attracting immigrants from neighboring Germany to settle in the unoccupied territories of the land. The princes and rulers of the land between the Oder River to the West and between the lands along the tributary streams of the Vistula River and its sources, the Bug and the San in the East, who strove to establish settle­ments in these areas, also looked favorably upon Jew­ish immigration from Germany to both old and new cities.

Many of the Ashkenazic Jews, who had been persecuted by the crusaders and by burghers who viewed them as undesirable rivals, found their way mainly to western Poland. With time, this movement of Jewish immigrants from Germany gave rise to a permanent Jewish settlement there. Not only did this mi­gration from Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Italy, and Seljuk (and later Ottoman) Turkey aid the growth of Jewish settlement in Poland and Lithuania. Increasing sources of income, together with natural demographic development, also brought about a rise in Jewish population and Jewish communities in the kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which, in the mid‑fourteenth century, became united under one king.

The Best Little Charter Anywhere

The Jews of Poland learned from experience, and after a few years in their new settlements, they orga­nized themselves into communities which would serve as a base for their continued existence there. To this end they also endeavored to obtain from the authority governing the land on which they were living, a charter of privileges and rights, and in 1264 Boleslaw the Pious, ruler of western Poland, granted this privilege. In an expanded form (beginning in 1453) this charter served the Jewish commu­nity of the entire kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania until the second half of the eigh­teenth century.

The terms of this political privilege, now estab­lished in the form of a written charter, granted the Jews the right to engage in commerce (including moneylending and financial transactions), trades and independent professions. It equally defended their personal and property rights and granted them communal autonomy (essentially the conduct of in­ternal affairs of the Jewish community in accord with Jewish law and tradition), and also granted all Jews equality before the royal courts. The charter also required obligatory submission by the members of the Jews&rsquo communities to their chosen leaders. Freedom of movement within the territories of the kingdom was also assured.

The expanded ver­sion of this privilege (1453) is to be counted, it would appear, among the best of those which Jews ever obtained from authorities in the medieval and early modern periods, whether in Europe or any­where else. This situation also explains the establish­ment, from the fourteenth through sixteenth cen­turies, of more than 150 new Jewish communities in Polish territory, including the eastern regions which had been added to Poland.

But the Church Pushed for Restrictions

This privilege granted to the Jews also provided severe punishment for kidnapping and forced bap­tism of Jewish children, and for bringing false charges of ritual murder and host desecration. These protections and the general rights granted to Jews aroused the wrath of church authorities, and the papal legate convened a synod in Breslau (1267) which sought to bring about strict separation be­tween Polish Christians and Jews. They also strove to reimpose on the Jews rules requiring that they wear special Jewish headgear and the infa­mous badge and prohibiting them from holding public offices or using the services of Christian wet­-nurses and so on. In reality, resolutions such as these had little practical effect upon the status of the Jews.

Slavic Slaves Became Jewish Wives

During that time, the Church in Poland had not yet managed to become firmly established, and there­fore strongly opposed any social or personal relations between the local populace and the Jews, who, upon arriving in Poland had set up small workshops and businesses. In these, they employed local Slavic slaves who aided them in developing their enterprises. The Jews were mostly single men, from Jewish centers in western and southern Europe, who in the normal course of affairs desired to found families.

As by Jewish law, after seven years they were required to free their slaves, often, the owner, when his female slave continued working with him after her release, pro­posed that she remain with him as his wife. and un­dertake the management of the household as an equal partner, all on condition that she convert to Ju­daism. This could also explain the Slavic cast which often manifests itself on the faces of Jews from this region. That practice also aroused the anger of the church authorities.

The Picture Was Not All Rosy

In the kingdom of Poland, Casimir III confirmed (1334) the privilege[s] granted to the Jews. Yet, there were attempts to restrict certain economic activities, particularly with regard to financial businesses, in­cluding also pawn brokerage and land mortgaging. When the Black Death ravaged much of Europe in 1348, Jews in both Poland and Germany were ac­cused of poisoning the wells, and those in at least some of the cities were slaughtered.

The Jewish communities in Cracow and Posen became important during the early fourteenth century, if not earlier, and that of Lvov (Lemberg) soon joined them. [By 1650, 450,000 of Europe&rsquos 550,000 Jews resided in the Polish Lithuanian kingdom, making it one of the most vital and significant Jewish communities in existence between the Spanish expulsion and WWII.]

German Immigrant Period in the United States

Title page of Die Deborah, an influential American Jewish newspaper published in German for women, published in January 1901. The page reads, translated from German:

"Forward, my soul, forward with strength!

A German-American weekly to promote Jewish interests in community, school and home.

Founded in 1855 by Isaac M. Wise.

Published by a union of Jewish authors."

Like the men who immigrated in the same period, female German Jewish immigrants to the United States were generally younger and unmarried. Women who followed husbands to America or married once they had immigrated made their own sources of incomes, often through providing domestic services to other families and even opening small businesses. However, many female immigrants were widows and therefore likely to be poorer. Their struggles motivated women to create benevolent societies that aided the poor. These groups also encouraged people to continue participating in Jewish rituals, especially as the traditionally strict dichotomy between male and female changed in immigrant communities. Women began to attend synagogue more often and, through print journalism, portrayed themselves as the defenders of Judaism.

The period 1820–1880 has generally been considered the era of German Jewish immigration to the United States. In these sixty years, the bulk of the 150,000 Jewish immigrants who came to the United States hailed either from areas that, in 1871, would become part of a unified Germany, or from a range of other places in Central and Eastern Europe that later in the century adopted either the German language or various aspects of German culture. In these years, Jews came to America from Alsace, Lithuania, Galicia, Moravia, Bohemia, Hungary, Poland, and parts of czarist Russia.

Given the fluidity of European political boundaries in the nineteenth century, the volatility of language loyalties, and the absence of accurate immigration and census figures for this period in the United States, for women in particular, the term “German” may still be the most convenient, although not particularly precise, term by which to refer to this era in the history of Jewish immigration. Historical and popular writing consistently employ this term despite the misleading generalization implied in it.

Issues of gender and family shaped this migration from the Germanic regions, and from other parts of Central and Eastern Europe from 1820 to 1880. First, marriage became an increasingly remote option for both Jewish women and men from the poorer classes. In the 1820s and 1830s, a number of jurisdictions in the Germanic regions instituted limitations on Jewish marriage. Young Jews could marry only when a place became available on the community’s roster, known as the matrikel. These restrictions not only affected the absolute number of Jews who could marry, but also had implications for issues of economic class. Jews who could prove that they had a reasonable chance of earning a decent living could marry, while those whose prospects seemed dimmer were denied the right. This latter group was growing larger at precisely this point in time.

Secondly, the modernization of the economies of much of Central Europe severely undermined the basis of the traditional Jewish economy, particularly that of the poorer classes. Industrialization and improvements in production and transportation wiped out much of the need for the classic Jewish occupations of peddling and eliminated the businesses of other Jews who served as intermediaries between the rural peasantry and the rest of society. As such, the daughters and sons of the less-well-off Jews had to find other options for themselves. Thousands of young Jewish women and men migrated to America because they could not make a living in Europe or marry.

Immigrant Demographics

The migration to America began with young, single men, although unmarried women came in relatively large numbers as well, and in some cases, entire families joined the immigrant stream. The first phase of the move to America from any town or region began first with the young men. As a consequence, in the 1820s and 1830s in Germany, for example, Jewish communities saw female majorities developing, particularly in the rural districts.

This imbalance in the earliest years of the exodus from any particular German or other Central European town was only temporary. After achieving some economic stability in America, men frequently returned to their hometowns to find a bride. Other Jewish men in America relied upon the mails to propose marriage to a young woman from the home village, or they relied upon friends or male relatives who were journeying back to Europe, asking them to contract a match for them in absentia. Thus the years that saw the towns in Germany developing Jewish female majorities found the early American Jewish communities characterized in their formative years by male majorities. In most American Jewish communities, the majority of the women arrived later than their husbands, and communities endured some period of time in which a male—and bachelor—society characterized community life.

Despite the seeming masculinity of the early migration, a surprisingly large number of single women joined the migration, even in its earliest years. Women made up 45 percent among those who left the Bavarian town of Kissingen for America in the 1830s and 1840s, for example, whereas from all of Bavaria over the course of the 1830s, men and women emigrated in roughly equal number, 12,806 and 11,701, respectively.

Such figures obviously cannot tell the entire story, since some kind of time lag could have occurred between when the majority of the men and the majority of the women migrated to the United States. But importantly, Jewish women who emigrated came from the same classes and for the same reasons as the men. As daughters of the poor, they not only left to follow or meet potential spouses, but they too were victims of economic change.

Jewish women in Central Europe in the decades before and during the migration played a key role in the family economy. As the daughters and wives of craftsmen, they participated actively in producing and selling goods. Some women, among the somewhat more well-off, actually owned their own businesses independent of their husbands. Poor Jewish women in Europe had traditionally worked as domestic servants, while others sewed for a living with their families or on their own. Just as the economy had dried up for the men, in the more marginal rungs of the Jewish class structure, so it did for the women. These women had the same incentive to come to America as did their brothers.

The history of Jewish women in the period of the German immigration cannot be understood without an analysis of the particular economic niche that Jews came to occupy in the United States. Because so many of these immigrants were unmarried and arrived unencumbered by parents or children, they could take advantage of economic opportunities wherever they arose. While the small pockets of Jewish settlement that greeted them as of 1820 were limited to a few Atlantic coastal cities, the German Jews fanned out into almost every state and territory of the United States. They made their way through New England, the Midwest, the Great Plains, the South, and even the Far West, although they also settled in New York and Philadelphia and the other cities that already had well-established Jewish communities.

Although primarily going to agricultural areas, the male German Jews who “pioneered” and the women who joined them somewhat later did not do so as farmers, but as small-scale entrepreneurs ready to serve the needs of the rural population. Americans in the hinterlands had little access to finished goods of all sorts, since few retail establishments existed outside the large cities. Jewish men overwhelmingly came to these remote areas as peddlers, an occupation that required little capital for start-up and that fit the life of the single man.

In the large regional cities, Jewish immigrant men would load themselves up with a pack of goods, weighing sometimes as much as one hundred pounds, and then embark on a journey by foot, or eventually, if a peddler succeeded, by horse and wagon. So widespread was Jewish peddling that in 1840, 46 percent of all Jewish men made a living this way, and by 1845, the number climbed to 70 percent. Of the 125 Jewish residents of Iowa in the 1850s, 100 were peddlers. Memoir literature and biographical details of Jewish men who began their lives in America as peddlers indicate that most plied their trade during the week and on the Sabbath, they gathered together in the larger communities, in Jewish-operated boardinghouses, sometimes managed by the rare Jewish woman resident. In 1854, for example, a Mrs. Weinshank, ran a boardinghouse in Portland, Oregon—five years before statehood—which catered to the Jewish peddlers of the Pacific Northwest.

The concentration of Jewish men in peddling had implications for women and for the process of family and community formation. First, peddling as an occupation sustained the singleness of the migration and the process by which young men migrated first, followed by women later, depending upon the speed with which the peddler could amass the requisite capital to become a shopkeeper. Typically, these immigrant peddlers decided to marry at the point at which they had graduated from peddling to owning a small store, either in the hinterlands itself or in a larger city with a more substantial Jewish community already in place. The Jewish man who returned to his Bavarian or Bohemian hometown to contract a marriage frequently made arrangements to find willing women, often the sisters or cousins or friends of his bride, to come back to America as the fiancées of the many eligible Jewish bachelors there. Since the migration of this period flowed continuously, Jewish communities, particularly the smaller ones, tended to experience a dynamic in which single men predominated, followed by the arrival of women, often to be followed by a new influx of single men, who would shortly thereafter be joined by women.

The Jewish women who came to America in the years 1820 to 1880 came from the exact places and classes as did the men. Despite the absence of any kind of statistical evidence, it is possible to say that these women came to America not only to marry but to work. Their exact number cannot be ascertained, however, because most of these women labored in family stores and shops. Numerous contemporary commentators described women in these roles. The smaller the store, the more likely wives, and then daughters, worked. Indeed, men may have timed their marriage with getting off the road and into a shop precisely in order to have the services of a wife to operate the business jointly with them.

Some memoirs describe men in a family, the husband, and his brothers, continuing to do some peddling, while the wife and other female family members sold from behind the counter, offering the family the possibility of a diversified operation. Jews predominated in the sale of dry goods in small and large communities. These dry-goods stores emphasized the sale of clothing, and many of the Jewish men and women who owned and operated these stores also manufactured the clothes. The success of stores in which clothing was both made and sold along with other kinds of miscellaneous goods depended equally upon the labors of men and women, adults, and children. A man could not really envision such a store without a family.

Jewish women in this period worked not only as the wives and daughters of petty shopkeepers, but in other ways as well. When husbands died, wives often carried on family businesses on their own. This widespread phenomenon was particularly significant, because given the nature of the migration process, men tended to marry women significantly younger than themselves, thus making the probability of widowhood higher and accentuating the need for women to be self-supporting.

Married women and widows appeared in many community and family histories as operators of boardinghouses. Recognizing the need for feeding and lodging the stream of single men migrating to America, Jewish women turned their homes into businesses. Boarding operations supplemented income from other family enterprises or provided the family’s sole support. These Jewish women combined their domestic activities of cooking and cleaning with the imperative for making a living.

Jewish immigrant women, married and single, also sometimes created their own businesses, in essence keeping alive what seemed to have been a long-standing European Jewish tradition. Generally, these women ventured into the same kinds of small businesses that Jewish men did. A few examples from a number of communities demonstrate this pattern. Amelia Dannenberg came to San Francisco with her husband in the 1850s from the Rhineland and launched a children’s clothing business. By the 1870s, she branched out to manufacture men’s and women’s clothing as well. The mother of Judah David Eisenstein, a Hebraist, opened a dry-goods store on New York’s Lower East Side in 1872 so that her son could engage in full-time study.

As late as 1879, it became clear to the Lissner family in Oakland, California, that the family could not survive on husband Louis’s income as a pawnbroker. So, the wife, Matilda, decided to raise chickens, and she peddled the eggs on the city streets. Bella Block had learned millinery work in Bavaria before immigrating, and in Newark, New Jersey, she opened her own shop prior to marriage and continued to operate it afterward. She and her husband also jointly ran a grocery store. These and other examples from almost every Jewish community in the United States make it clear that women played a crucial role in the family economy, and indeed such an economy could not have existed without their input.

Not all Jews, men or women, did well economically, and Jewish women in particular suffered from financial distress and insecurity. Their high rates of widowhood caused a good deal of that distress. Indeed, in most communities, widows made up a disproportionate share of the Jewish indigent. These included both those with and without children to raise. Jewish children turned up in orphanages more often if they had lost fathers than if they had lost mothers, since men could make do, but women had a difficult time supporting children on their own. The development of philanthropic organizations for poor Jewish women indicated the extent of the problem, and asylums in a number of cities pointed to the feminine nature of poverty. Port cities like New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New Orleans had the highest rates of Jewish female poverty, although inland and secondary communities had them as well. Almost every Jewish community special charitable event and organization turned their attention to alleviating the special suffering of Jewish women.

The specific problems of the Jewish female poor pointed to another aspect of Jewish women’s lives in America in the mid-nineteenth century: the creation of philanthropic and communal organizations by women, usually, although not exclusively, for women. The creation of these organizations, which in many communities called themselves Ladies’ Hebrew Benevolent Associations, actually represented the fairly simple transplantation to America of traditional Jewish women’s organizations from Europe, the hevrot nashim.

Ritually, the women had responsibility for performing the responsibilities associated with the burial of other women. The women in these associations, in Europe and in America, adhered to a tradition that required Jews to visit the sick (bikkur holim) and to prepare the dead for burial. Strict sex segregation had to be maintained: Men took care of the men women ministered to the women. The women of the association purified the corpse, sat with it, read aloud from the Psalms, and accompanied the body to the cemetery. A women’s benevolent association of New Haven, Connecticut, in the 1850s was typical. Named Ahavas Achios [the love of sisters], it operated according to a formal constitution, which mandated a “sick committee” to sit at the bedside of the dying.

Between death and burial, two women remained with the deceased at all times. A specially trained group of ten women washed the body, and all members had to contribute six cents toward the “death cloth”—sewed by the women themselves—of any impoverished sister. Dues collected also went to various charitable purposes, determined by the members. By and large, funds amassed by the women supported the relief of female poverty and distress. Additionally, the women sponsored various fund-raising events, many of them quite American in format, like “dime parties,” theatricals, and “strawberry socials.”

These hevrot nashim functioned as complementary associations to the male hevra kadisha. They served the same religious and communal needs, and members and leaders tended to come from the same families. For example, Sarah Zlottwitz of Swerenz in Posen and Jacob Rich, who had migrated from the same town, married in 1853 at San Francisco’s Sherith Israel Congregation. At the time that they married, she served as treasurer of the Ladies’ United Hebrew Benevolent Society and he as secretary of the First Hebrew Benevolent Society, the men’s association.

In two ways, however, the women’s societies differed from the men’s, and these differences provide some important insights into the status and vision of Jewish women in the period of the German immigration. First, unlike the male associations, women’s groups did not hold title to the cemetery. Since these organizations were structured around issues of death and burial, this amounted to an important difference. Thus, some of the women’s associations installed men as their chief officers, and the men, who did own the cemetery, represented the women to the outside society. Secondly, the men’s associations tended to break down along congregational lines, according to place of origin in Europe, and even sometimes by occupation or neighborhood in an American city. Women tended to form more inclusive organizations, ones that served a broader swathe of the Jewish female population and which transcended the divisions that split the men.

The women may have opted for the more general type of organization because they did not belong to the congregations, which represented the most crucial and common division for the men. As women who had been excluded from discussions and debates about citizenship and emancipation in Europe, they may not have been especially identified with place of origin in Europe. Or it may be that because many of the Jewish communities in America had experienced periods of time in which women constituted a minority, the women gravitated toward each other, ignoring all sorts of other divisions, in search of female companionship.

Scattered evidence from many individual communities indicates that the women’s benevolent organizations did quite well at fund-raising and amassed solid treasuries. Although women did not belong to congregations, their benevolent associations often provided funding for congregations that wanted to rent space, as opposed to worshipping in homes and stores, or that wanted to move out of rented rooms into their own building.

Rabbi Liebman Adler of Detroit’s Temple Beth El lavishly praised the women of Ahavas Achios on the pages of Die Deborah, a German-language supplement to Isaac Mayer Wise’s Israelite. He noted that in 1859 these women had donated $250 “with the proviso that steps will be taken speedily towards the earnest realization of the long-discussed building of the synagogue.” In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1874, the Ladies’ Hebrew Association had been asked by the men of the congregation for money. The women agreed to give, but only if “the Gentlemen’s congregation . not use the money collected for rent of lot Cor[ner] North and Church . and that the said money only be used for purposes of the Building Fund.”

These Jewish women’s associations, and others not necessarily connected to burial, maintained a strong presence in providing charitable relief to the Jewish poor. The widespread involvement of Jewish women in charitable work in America may have been a characteristic way in which Jewish women in America differed from their European counterparts. American Jewish women in this period, immigrants from various parts of Central Europe, created a wide range of charitable enterprises, and funded and operated them as well.

In America, Jewish women in various communities created orphanages, day nurseries, maternity hospitals, soup kitchens, shelters for widows, and the like. Groups such as the Montefiore Lodge Ladies’ Hebrew Benevolent Association in Providence, Rhode Island, engaged in friendly visiting to the needy and distressed, and gave out coal, clothing, food, eyeglasses, and medicine. The Johanna Lodge in Chicago helped newly arrived single immigrant girls set up businesses. Some of these organizations, such as the Deborah Society in Hartford, Connecticut, grew out of female burial societies. Others, such as the Detroit Ladies’ Society for the Support of Hebrew Widows and Orphans, started specifically as female philanthropic organizations. Some of the women’s charitable societies at some point had male boards of directors or a male president of the board others operated with female-only leadership.

The organizational activities of Jewish women in America may have been inspired by the activities of charitable activism of Protestant women in their communities. Or it may have been in part modeled on the activities of the upper-class Jewish women and others from the Descendants of the Jews who lived in Spain and Portugal before the explusion of 1492 primarily Jews of N. Africa, Italy, the Middle East and the Balkans. Sephardic congregations like Ritual bath Mikveh Israel, epitomized by Rebecca Gratz of Philadelphia, who pioneered in the creation of Jewish women’s organizations. The origins of the wide range of associational activities of Jewish immigrant women in mid-nineteenth-century America may actually have grown out of the migration experience itself. Young women and men came to America and had to create communities from the ground up. Without the support of parents and other family members, they were forced to create new kinds of institutions to deal with the problems engendered by their move.

Most of Jewish women’s associational life existed on the local level. Yet at least one attempt was made by some of them to create a nationally based organization in this period. The Unabhaengiger Treue Schwestern, the United Order of True Sisters, was founded in 1846 in New York, and by 1851 branches had spread to Philadelphia, Albany, and New Haven. Its lodges provided various forms of self-help to members, and like the men who at the same time in American Jewish history founded the B’nai B’rith, Kesher shel Barzel, and other fraternal orders, the True Sisters embellished its meetings with secret rituals, distinctive ceremonial garb, and other kinds of specific paraphernalia. Similar to B’nai B’rith, the True Sisters in some places operated as a kind of female counterpart or, indeed, as a ladies’ auxiliary to the larger all-male B’nai B’rith.

The period of the German Jewish immigration also changed women’s relationship to Judaism as a religious system. Traditionally much of Jewish women’s crucial involvement in the maintenance of The legal corpus of Jewish laws and observances as prescribed in the Torah and interpreted by rabbinic authorities, beginning with those of the Mishnah and Talmud. halakhah , the vast body of Jewish law and practice, took place in the home, as women performed their domestic chores. Those tasks had either direct or indirect connection to the fulfillment of ritual obligation, be it in preparing for the Sabbath, guarding the The Jewish dietary laws delineating the permissible types of food and methods of their preparation. kashrut of the family’s food, or monitoring the strict observance of laws of family purity. With a few limited exceptions, such as the hevrot nashim and the supervision of the ritual bath, used primarily by women to purify themselves before marriage, after childbirth, and upon the completion of their monthly menstruation, public Judaism in Europe functioned as an all-male preserve.

Migration to America challenged the dichotomization of Judaism into a public and private sphere, which roughly corresponded to the male and female. The migration made the observance of private Jewish ritual life, which is most closely tied to women’s activities, more difficult and less often observed. Communities struggled with the problem of securing Term used for ritually untainted food according to the laws of Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws). kosher food, and even in communities where kosher meat was available, high levels of community conflict ensued over the punctiliousness of slaughterers and butchers. Evidence points to a steady decline in the observance of kashrut in America. The shopkeepers and petty merchants who made up the vast majority of American Jews did not adhere strictly to restrictions of Sabbath activities either.

Instead, under the pressures of the American marketplace, where, for example, stores were usually closed on Sundays, they worked on the halakhically mandated day of rest. It is harder to know how many communities maintained mikves, the ritual baths, and how many women used them on a regular basis. Minutes of various congregational meetings in the mid-nineteenth century across the United States referred to the construction and maintenance of a ritual bath or to some controversy over its supervision. While the traditionalists among the immigrants of this period denounced Jewish women in America for their failure to fulfill the commandment of Menstruation the menstruant woman ritual status of the menstruant woman. niddah , communities did indeed build, according to sacred specifications, these facilities. There is, however, no reason to believe that this ritual proved to be any hardier than the others, and it too probably fell into disuse.

But, over the course of the period 1820 to 1880, Jewish women came to assume a more public presence in the observance of Judaism. This assumption did not come as part of any kind of challenge to the reality that membership in congregations and participation in congregational affairs continued to be limited to men. Women had to be expressly invited to attend congregational events, and no evidence exists that Jewish women sought to overtly challenge this status quo.

But American Jewish women began attending synagogue on a regular basis much more often than they would have had they remained in Europe, and indeed many commentators decried the fact that women worshippers often outnumbered men on any given Sabbath morning. Although they continued to sit in the women’s section, mothers often were the ones who brought their children to the synagogue, while husbands may have been standing behind the counters of the family store.

The preponderance of women present at synagogue was confirmed by many of the rabbis of the time, who viewed the move toward a feminized congregation as a problem. Isaac Mayer Wise, for example, who was a major advocate of mixed male-female seating, criticized this tendency in American Judaism. In 1877, for example, he reported in the Israelite, the newspaper he edited, about a recent trip to the West Coast. “All over California,” he lamented, “as a general thing the ladies must maintain Judaism. They are three-fourths of the congregations in the temple every Sabbath and send their children to the Sabbath schools. With a very few exceptions, the men keep no Sabbath.”

Jewish women did not seek to participate more fully in the affairs of the synagogues in this era. But the fact that in the years of the German Jewish immigration Jewish women came to predominate as worshippers may have laid the groundwork for a challenge that did take place in future decades. It may also be that the emerging female majority at Sabbath services influenced leaders of the Reform Movement like Isaac Mayer Wise, David Einhorn, and others to begin to call for mixed seating. They may have hoped that moving toward family pews, as opposed to retention of sex-segregated service, would bring the men back to services.

Additionally, rabbis, particularly the Reform-oriented, were aware of a public discourse in Christian magazines and among gentile Americans about the supposed backwardness of Judaism, exemplified by the segregation of women during religious services. Some Americans wrote about this practice as an “oriental” atavism, a “mistreatment” of women, and a “great error of the Jews,” in which “she is separated and huddled into a gallery like beautiful crockery ware, while the men perform the ceremonies below.” Indeed, Christian writers at this time of militant evangelicalism held up the separation of Jewish women in the synagogue as evidence of the rightness of Christianity. “It was the author of Christianity,” noted one writer, “that brought her [the woman] out of this Egyptian bondage and put her on an equality with the other sex in civil and religious rites.”

Whatever the motivation of the leaders of Reform, Jewish women in the middle decades of the nineteenth century began to make themselves more publicly visible as Jews and as the defenders of Judaism. Jewish women, for example, began to produce religiously inspired literature in almost all of the Jewish publications, including Die Deborah and the Israelite, which represented the Reform-oriented tendency in American Judaism, and The Occident and Jewish Messenger, which stood on the more traditional end of the spectrum.

Their poems, short stories, and nonfiction emphasized the importance of loyalty to Judaism and to family. They depicted women as the bearers of the Jewish tradition through their families, and they encouraged young Jews, both women and men, to steadfastly resist assimilation into Protestant American culture and to withstand the aggressive efforts of evangelical Christian organizations.

The entrance of Jewish women into the world of print journalism represented a significant departure for them. They had no models for women engaging in this kind of activity. Indeed, one woman writing as “Miriam” for the Jewish Messenger begged her readers’ pardon, for “it may appear presumptuous in a female to enter into comments upon scriptural themes, but the daughters of Israel have always felt that allegiance to Zion was paramount to every other sentiment.”

By their behavior, Jewish women in America in the period 1820 to 1880 shared much with other American women. Both Jewish and Christian women responded to the same social and cultural contexts of industrializing America, in which men came increasingly to define their worth and identity in terms of the acquisition of wealth and less in the realm of the sacred. As men moved away from a commitment to community through religion, women filled the vacuum.

American women in general participated actively in nineteenth-century public religious life in a way that overtly jarred with traditional European Jewish practice. The “cult of true womanhood” of mid-nineteenth-century America assigned to women the proper zone of morality and goodness and defined religion increasingly as falling under women’s sphere of influence. As religion faded in significance to men in Victorian America, women, powerless in the political arena, turned to religion as an institution in which over time they could function comfortably. Jewish women’s behavior followed along these lines, although they did not directly challenge the policies and procedures of synagogue life.

The era of the German Jewish immigration brought approximately 150,000 Jews to the United States from Central and Eastern Europe. Women accounted for half of the immigrants, and they played a key role in the functioning of a family economy that allowed for steady and modest economic mobility, for the formation of communities from the ground up, which in turn provided services for the needy and for the emergence of a modern, American Judaism.

Barkai, Avraham. Branching Out: German-Jewish Immigration to the United States, 1820-1914. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1994.

Cohen, Naomi. Encounter with Emancipation: The German Jews in the United States, 1830–1914 (1984).

Diner, Hasia R. A Time for Gathering: The Second Migration, 1820–1880 (1992).

Kohler, Max J. "The German-Jewish Migration to America." Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society 9 (1901): 87-105.

Strauss, Herbert A. “The Immigration and Acculturation of the German Jew in the United States of America.” In Year Book XVI of the Leo Baeck Institute (1971).

1914�: Expulsion, Shoah and the foundation of Israel

The First World War had a huge, worldwide impact on the history of Jewish migrations. The war hit the great Jewish settlement centre in Eastern Europe directly and hard. In 1915 and 1916, Russian military authorities drove tens of thousands of Jews and German-speaking Protestants as potential collaborators into the interior of the country, German occupation troops conscripted thousands of Jews and Poles as forced labourers, and in the Habsburg monarchy, a refugee wave to Vienna and Budapest began after massive destruction in Galicia. Although the war ended in the West in 1918, a series of armed conflicts began after the collapse of the multiethnic empires in Eastern Europe that would last into the early 1920s. According to a conservative estimate, at least 60,000 Jews became victims of pogroms in the western territories of modern Ukraine in 1918/1919 alone. Millions of Eastern Europeans lost their homes, among them several hundred thousand Jews. Large groups succeeded in fleeing to the West, but there most stood before closed doors. 27

Fear of the spread of Bolshevism as well as explicit racist and anti-Semitic prejudices were behind the American restrictions on immigration of 1921 that were primarily aimed at East and South Europeans as well as Asians. Other traditional immigration countries such as Canada and Argentina also put up obstacles Britain didn't even bother to lift the mobility restrictions introduced during the war. After 1917/1918, it was only possible to cross international borders with valid passports. Many countries required visas and transit visas that often could only be acquired with great difficulties. This proved particularly fateful for many citizens of the former Russian and Ottoman empires as well as the perished Habsburg monarchy. The governments of the successor states often refused to issue passports to members of undesirable minorities. Without papers, stateless individuals had lost their right to freedom of movement. Tens of thousands of Jews from Eastern Europe as well as Armenians and opponents of the Bolsheviks were in a state that is best described as permanent transit. Jewish refugees became stranded in refugee camps and inner city slums all over Europe. After 1939, many of these people fell into the clutches of the Nazi persecution machinery because they did not have valid identity documents. 28

Few countries were open to migrants from Eastern Europe after 1918. Apart from the Weimar Republic, which pursued a relatively liberal policy toward refugees, there was essentially France. France had not been able to demobilise its army and urgently required workers for its industries and for reconstruction in the North. Palestine gained considerable significance in the 1920s. However, the difficult conditions of life in the British mandate territory explain why in the second half of the 1920s the number of returnees was almost as high as the number of arrivals. In the Soviet Union , a strong Jewish country-to-town migration began. Many Jews were resettled in the East during the course of the Stalinist forced collectivisation of the 1920s. Jewish aid organisations were desperately looking for a new home for thousands of Jewish refugees long before the persecutions by the Nazis. Destinations like Shanghai , Brazil and Mexico already gained in importance in the 1920s. No one described the hopelessness of Jewish refugees and migrants in the interwar period more vividly than the Galician Jewish journalist and writer Joseph Roth (1894�), especially in his essay Juden auf Wanderschaft (The Wandering Jews, 1927). But even in this crisis, Jews and other refugees were not only passive victims of state policies. Jews and other Eastern Europeans were significant contributors to the cultural boom in Berlin during the Twenties. For a few years, Berlin was an important crossroads of the Yiddish- and Hebrew-speaking Diaspora between Eastern Europe and North America. 29

The Great Depression deprived numerous people of the financial means necessary for migration. Many countries, especially the United States, tightened their immigration restrictions further. This put great obstacles in the way of German-Jewish emigrants and refugees after 1933. In 1939, the size of the Jewish world population had grown to seventeen million – around fourteen million Jews were Ashkenazim. With more than eight million Jews, Eastern Europe was still the most important centre by far, followed by the United States (about 4.8 million). Germany (about 200,000) had clearly dropped in this ranking. About 250,000 Jews managed to emigrate after the Nazi's seizure of power, often after losing their property, after months and years of waiting, and by complicated routes. The Conference of Évian in June 1938, which was called by the American president Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882�) to discuss possibilities of facilitating the emigration of German and Austrian Jews, marked a low point. Despite the brutal anti-Semitic excesses in Vienna only a few months earlier, none of the 32 participating nations was willing to receive more than a few Jewish refugees. The threatening situation for Jews in Eastern Europe was not even a topic of the negotiations. Many Eastern European states, especially Poland, pursued anti-Semitic policies in the mid-1930s and treated their Jewish citizens as de facto stateless. 30

The situation worsened with the outbreak of war. Only a few boltholes remained, such as Shanghai which had long become unreachable for most. In October 1941, Reichsführer of the SS, Heinrich Himmler (1900�), prohibited Jewish emigration from territories controlled by German troops. At this time, mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) – with the help of the army and allied troops such as those of Romania – had already murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews in the West of the Soviet Union. Shortly afterwards, the decision to implement the "Final Solution" was made. The deportation of millions of Jews from all Europe into extermination camps according to a refined schedule constitutes the most extreme form of forced migration. The Shoah completely extinguished the most important centre of the Jewish Diaspora in Eastern Europe in only four years. Sephardim, especially in Greece, Yugoslavia and Tunisia , were also among the victims of the Shoah. More than two million Jews in the Soviet Union were not reached by the German terror, some only because they had been deported into the Gulag after the Soviet invasion of East Poland in 1939. A minority of the Jewish population in Southeastern Europe, such as the Jews of Bulgaria, were spared deportation. 31

After the Liberation, Jewish refugees and survivors were caught in a permanent transit similar to that after the First World War, but under the explicit protection of the US army. Only few countries were prepared to accept Jewish "displaced persons" – the term was coined by Kulischer in 1943. In the United States, opponents of immigration, such as the powerful anti-Semitic senator Patrick McCarran (1876�), scuttled attempts to let Jewish survivors enter the country in larger numbers than determined by the immigration quotas. In Palestine, the British attempted to prevent immigration. The foundation of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948 changed this situation. However, most countries of the Middle East declared Jews an undesirable minority, partially already during the Israeli War of Independence. As a result, the centuries-old settlement centres in North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean disappeared from the map within a few months. Jewish communities in Damascus , Bagdad and Yemen , which were now subject to rapid and sometimes violent dissolution, could even be traced back to the pre-Christian era. 32

After the Shoah, the United States were the largest, (though after the foundation of the State of Israel, not the most important) centre of the Jewish Diaspora. The population of Israel only exceeded that of the Greater New York Area by the middle of the 1960s. The territorial nation state solved the problem of millions of stateless Jewish refugees and Jewish minorities who were treated as de facto stateless, who after 1914 had largely been deprived of the right of mobility, and had predominantly fallen victim to the Shoah. It remains an irony of history that the experience of Palestinian refugees, despite all differences, exhibits parallels in regard to their statelessness after 1948 to that of Jewish refuges in the three decades before 1948. In the 1970s, a migration of Jews from the Soviet Union began. Initially, small numbers of politically motivated emigrations occurred, but economic motives have been centre stage after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Up to 2010, about one-and-a-half million Jews have migrated to Israel, the United States and Germany. 33

The U.S. Government Turned Away Thousands of Jewish Refugees, Fearing That They Were Nazi Spies

In the summer of 1942, the SS Drottningholm set sail carrying hundreds of desperate Jewish refugees, en route to New York City from Sweden. Among them was Herbert Karl Friedrich Bahr, a 28-year-old from Germany, who was also seeking entry to the United States. When he arrived, he told the same story as his fellow passengers: As a victim of persecution, he wanted asylum from Nazi violence.

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But during a meticulous interview process that involved five separate government agencies, Bahr's story began to unravel. Days later, the FBI accused Bahr of being a Nazi spy. They said the Gestapo had given him $7,000 to steal American industrial secrets—and that he'd posed as a refugee in order to sneak into the country unnoticed. His case was rushed to trial, and the prosecution called for the death penalty.

What Bahr didn’t know, or perhaps didn’t mind, was that his story would be used as an excuse to deny visas to thousands of Jews fleeing the horrors of the Nazi regime.

World War II prompted the largest displacement of human beings the world has ever seen—although today's refugee crisis is starting to approach its unprecedented scale. But even with millions of European Jews displaced from their homes, the United States had a poor track record offering asylum. Most notoriously, in June 1939, the German ocean liner St. Louis and its 937 passengers, almost all Jewish, were turned away from the port of Miami, forcing the ship to return to Europe more than a quarter died in the Holocaust.

Government officials from the State Department to the FBI to President Franklin Roosevelt himself argued that refugees posed a serious threat to national security. Yet today, historians believe that Bahr's case was practically unique—and the concern about refugee spies was blown far out of proportion.

In the court of public opinion, the story of a spy disguised as a refugee was too scandalous to resist. America was months into the largest war the world had ever seen, and in February 1942, Roosevelt had ordered the internment of tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans. Every day the headlines announced new Nazi conquests.

Bahr was “scholarly” and “broad-shouldered,” a man Newsweek called “the latest fish in the spy net.” Bahr was definitely not a refugee he had been born in Germany, but immigrated to the U.S. in his teens and become a naturalized citizen. He returned to Germany in 1938 as an engineering exchange student in Hanover, where he was contacted by the Gestapo.

At his preliminary hearing, the Associated Press reported that Bahr was “nattily clad in gray and smiling pleasantly.” By the time his trial began, he had little reason to smile in a hefty 37-page statement, he admitted to attending spy school in Germany. His defense was that he'd planned to reveal everything to the U.S. government. But he sad he'd stalled because he was afraid. “Everywhere, no matter where, there are German agents,” he claimed.

Comments like these only fed widespread fears of a supposed “fifth column” of spies and saboteurs that had infiltrated America. U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle said in 1942 that “every precaution must be taken. to prevent enemy agents slipping across our borders. We already have had experience with them and we know them to be well trained and clever.” The FBI, meanwhile, released propaganda films that bragged about German spies who had been caught. “We have guarded the secrets, given the Army and Navy its striking force in the field,” one film said.

These suspicions were not only directed at ethnic Germans. “All foreigners became suspect. Jews were not considered immune,” says Richard Breitman, a scholar of Jewish history.

The American ambassador to France, William Bullitt, made the unsubstantiated statement that France fell in 1940 partly because of a vast network of spying refugees. “More than one-half the spies captured doing actual military spy work against the French Army were refugees from Germany,” he said. “Do you believe there are no Nazi and Communist agents of this sort in America?”

These kinds of anxieties weren't new, says Philip Orchard, a historian of international refugee policy. When religious persecution in the 17th century led to the flight of thousands of French Huguenots—the first group ever referred to as “refugees”—European nations worried that accepting them would lead to war with France. Later, asylum seekers themselves became objects of suspicion. “With the rise of anarchism at the turn of the 20th century, there were unfounded fears that anarchists would pose as refugees to enter countries to engage in violence,” Orchard says.

These suspicions seeped into American immigration policy. In late 1938, American consulates were flooded with 125,000 applicants for visas, many coming from Germany and the annexed territories of Austria. But national quotas for German and Austrian immigrants had been set firmly at 27,000.

Immigration restrictions actually tightened as the refugee crisis worsened. Wartime measures demanded special scrutiny of anyone with relatives in Nazi territories—even relatives in concentration camps. At a press conference, President Roosevelt repeated the unproven claims from his advisers that some Jewish refugees had been coerced to spy for the Nazis. “Not all of them are voluntary spies,” Roosevelt said. “It is rather a horrible story, but in some of the other countries that refugees out of Germany have gone to, especially Jewish refugees, they found a number of definitely proven spies.”

Here and there, skeptics objected. As the historian Deborah Lipstadt points out in her book Beyond Belief, The New Republic portrayed the government’s attitude as “persecuting the refugee.” The Nation didn’t believe that the State Department could “cite a single instance of forced espionage.” But these voices were drowned out in the name of national security.

America's policies created a striking dissonance with the news from Nazi Germany. In the Australian newspaper The Advertiser, above an update on Bahr's trial, a feature story put the refugee crisis in chilling context: “About 50,000 Jews from the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and from Berlin, Hamburg, and Westphalia have been dumped by the Nazis at Terezin.” Until the very end of 1944—by which time photographs and newspaper reports had demonstrated that the Nazis were carrying out mass murder—Attorney General Francis Biddle warned Roosevelt not to grant immigrant status to refugees.

Bahr “appeared weak” as he finished his testimony in August 1942. At the defense table, “he collapsed for a few minutes with his head in his hands.” On August 26, the jury reached a verdict: Bahr was guilty of conspiracy and planned espionage, a conviction that could warrant the death penalty.

The next day, Bahr's birthday, his wife announced that she planned to divorce him.

The case of Herbert Karl Freidrich Bahr fascinated the public for months, and with good reason it showed readers a very real case of attempted spying, carried out with an utter disregard of its impact on innocent refugees. The question was what Americans should do with this knowledge.

Government agencies like the State Department used spy trials as fuel for the argument against accepting refugees. But late in the war, government whistleblowers began to question this approach. In 1944, the Treasury Department released a damning report initialed by lawyer Randolph Paul. It read:

“I am convinced on the basis of the information which is available to me that certain officials in our State Department, which is charged with carrying out this policy, have been guilty not only of gross procrastination and wilful failure to act, but even of wilful attempts to prevent action from being taken to rescue Jews from Hitler.”

In an interview, Lipstadt says that the State Department’s attitude was shaped by wartime paranoia and downright bigotry. “All those things, they feed into this fear of the foreigner,” she says. It was thanks to the Treasury Department’s report that Roosevelt formed a new body, the War Refugee Board, that belatedly accepted tens of thousands Jewish refugees. But by that time, millions of Jews had already died in Europe.

Bahr lived to tell his tale. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. It's not clear whether he lived long enough to be released, but in 1946, after the war ended, he did make headlines again. The FBI called him to the stand in the trial of another accused spy. Once more, he told a rapt audience about spy tricks he learned from the Gestapo. Then he was sent back to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta.

With politicians in the U.S. and Europe again calling for refugee bans in the name of national security, it’s easy to see parallels with the history of World War II.

Lipstadt and Orchard think that although today’s refugee crisis isn’t identical to mass migration in World War II, the past could still offer lessons for the future. They say that this time around, governments should be careful not to rush quickly into new policies. “Simplistic kinds of answers—close all the doors to refugees, or welcome everyone—are dangerous, and ultimately counter-productive,” says Lipstadt.

Orchard highlights a related worry—“that we'll see short-sighted policies adopted that have real lasting effects.” He believes governments have historically succeeded at screening for refugees, which suggests that national security isn't at odds with welcoming them.

According to Breitman, the government, the media, and the public all share blame for the backlash against Jewish refugees during World War II. “I think the media went along with the fears of security-minded people,” he says. Among hundreds of thousands of refugees, there were only a handful of accused spies.

But that didn't stop them from making headlines. Says Breitman: “It was a good story.”

About Daniel A. Gross

Daniel A. Gross is a freelance journalist and public radio producer based in Boston.


Removal from one region to another. Ever since the Exile, Jews have been forced to wander from country to country, and a full history of their migrations would be almost identical with a complete history of that people.

In the first century the center of Jewish population, taking the whole spread of the Diaspora, was probably somewhere about Tarsus. In the twelfth century it had moved to the neighborhood of Troyes because of the migration of the Jews to Rome, to Spain, to Gaul, to England, and to Germany. By the middle of the sixteenth century, owing to the expulsion and migrations from western Europe, the center of Jewish population had moved over to Poland. It is impossible here to deal with these movements in detail, but the forcible migration of Jews to Babylonia in Bible times, whence they spread to Persia, and, it has been conjectured, even up to Caucasia, is a typical instance of such movements. Expulsion from England removed 16,000 Jews that from Spain is reckoned to have spread more than 300,000 over the lands bordering the Mediterranean. The medieval history of the German Jews consists almost entirely of wholesale movements of communities from one town to another. Unfortunately in few of these instances are any numerical details available. It was only recentlythat new conditions enable some estimate to be made of the numbers of Jews forced through migration from their native countries.

In recent times a new kind of migration has taken place, due partly to economic causes and partly to persecution, which can be traced in some detail for the past quarter of a century. The chief countries from which emigration has taken place are Russia, Galicia, and Rumania the chief countries of immigration, England and the United States.

The emigration of Jews from Russia increased remarkably in the seventies and became widespread in the eighties of the nineteenth century. That until then the emigration movement was but slight is evidenced by the fact that between the years 1821-70 only 7,550 Jewish emigrants from Russia and Russian Poland set out for the United States, at that time the most important objective point, and in the decade 1871-80 no less than 41,057 came from Russia alone.

The direct cause which led to the largely increased emigration may be found in the anti-Jewish riots which occurred in the early eighties. Maddened by fear after these riots, the Jewish population, including not a few professional men, formed regular emigrant companies. These removed to Germany, Austro-Hungary, England, France, the United States, and Palestine. There are no exact figures at hand to show the extent of that first emigration movement. The emigration from Russia to the United States, which amounted, on the average, to no more than 4,100 persons a year even in the decade 1871-80, reached in the decade 1881-90 an annual average of 20,700. The following table gives the number of Russian Jews who emigrated to the United States during the several years of this decade according to the figures of the United States Immigration Commission and of the United Hebrew Charities respectively:

Year.From Russia.From Other Countries.

However, while the riots of 1881 were the immediate cause of the increased emigration, the true cause was undoubtedly the very unfortunate economic condition of the Jewish population in Russia, and the riots merely supplied the stimulus. The pioneers were scarcely settled in their new homes when their friends and relatives followed them. The relations between the Pale of Settlement and the countries whither the emigrants moved became more intimate, and because of the more favorable economic conditions in these countries the emigration to them increased. The fluctuations in the separate years covering the period may be explained mainly by the fluctuations in the commercial prosperity of these lands.

The new and repressive measures inaugurated by the Russian government in the early nineties resulted in another increase of Jewish emigration. In 1891 and 1892 occurred the administrative expulsion of the Jews from Moscow and a similar expulsion from the villages and hamlets outside the Pale. It is estimated that there were expelled in this manner more than 400,000 persons. This mass of people rushed to the already overcrowded cities and towns of the Pale, and naturally enough could find no room there. As a result of this those who were expelled by the administration either emigrated themselves or crowded out others from the Pale, and the latter in their turn had to emigrate. The average number of Jewish immigrants to the United States, by far the greater part of whom were from Russia, was in the nineties more than double the number in the preceding decade. For the single years the immigration was as follows:

Year.From Russia.From Other Countries.

In Russia the emigration took place from every part of the Pale and from Poland, but the greater numbers came from the provinces which are nearest the boundary, such as Volhynia, Podolia, Kiev, Grodno, Kovno, Suwalki, etc.

  • Voskhod
  • G. M. Price, Russkiye Yevrei v Amerikye, St. Petersburg, 1893
  • Alien Immigration, Reports to the Board of Trade, London, 1893.

Statistics of the emigration of Jews from Austria and Rumania are accessible for the decade 1890-1900. These are obtained by subtracting the Jewish population of the former date from that of the end of the century. The increase in the Jewish population of Austria during that period was 81,594, but the excess of births over deaths was 186,352, showing that 104,758 had migrated from Austria. The majority of these went from Galicia and by the same process it is shown that 108,949 Jews left that province, some of them going to other parts of Austria ("Oesterreichische Statistik," lxvi., pp. xxxii.-xxxiii., Vienna, 1902).

If the same method be applied to Rumania, from data supplied by J. Jacobs in "The Jewish Chronicle," Aug. 21, 1885, and by W. Bambus in Bloch's "Oesterreichische Wochenschrift," 1902, p. 678, it would appear that between 1877 and 1894 the Jewish population increased 26,919, whereas the excess of births over deaths for that period ran to 69,193, showing that in those seventeen years 42,274 Rumanian Jews had emigrated. This number must have increased considerably in the last decade, during which persecution in Rumania has been more severe.

As regards the countries to which these emigrants from Russia, Galicia, and Rumania wend their way,it must be borne in mind that most of the Continental countries rigidly enforce the restrictions forbidding the Jews of eastern Europe to settle within their boundaries, yet, notwithstanding these restrictions, it has been reckoned that nearly 30,000 have settled in Germany since 1875 ("Ha-Maggid," 1903, No. 19). Nevertheless, there have been practically only two asylums for the Jews of the new Exodus, Great Britain and the United States, though numbers have gone to South Africa but during the Boer war the emigration to South Africa stopped on account of the limitations prescribed by the Cape Parliament against immigration. It is still uncertain at the present time whether the new law will actually stop the migration of Jews to South Africa. A few of the emigrants have been transported by the Jewish Colonization Association to the Argentine Republic (see Agricultural Colonies).

So far as immigration to England is concerned there is difficulty in ascertaining the number, as no statistics of religion are taken there. A conservative estimate ("Jewish Chronicle," Feb. 7, 1902) reckoned the number of alien Jews in London as 55,000, five-sevenths of whom were Russian Poles. The total Jewish immigration during the past twenty years has probably not exceeded 100,000 for all the British Isles, of which 80,000 came directly from Russia.

For the United States fuller details can be given, as records have been kept at the chief ports of entry—New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore—since the great exodus in 1881. Between that year and 1884 74,310 Jews were recorded as reaching the United States, though details no longer exist as to their provenience. From 1884 to October, 1903, the United Hebrew Charities recorded the nationalities of all Jewish immigrants landing at Castle Garden and Ellis Island, and furnish the following figures:


Besides these, up to 1903 there have come in at Philadelphia 50,264 and at Baltimore 28,487, making a grand total of 775,181 of Jewish immigrants actually counted since 1881, of whom it may be conjectured more than 500,000 were Russians, 180,000 were Austrians, and 50,000 were Rumanians.

Altogether during the quarter of a century from 1881 to 1904 there has probably been a migration of Jews numbering close on a million souls, of whom, so far as the imperfections of the records enable one to estimate, about 850,000 have gone to America, 100,000 to England, 30,000 to Germany, and 20,000 have been scattered throughout the rest of Europe. Of these 200,000 came from Galicia, 100,000 from Rumania, and the remaining 700,000 from Russia. Apart from these great streams of migration there is a natural ebb and flood of young men seeking their fortunes in most of the European communities and almost all quarters of the globe. Their numbers are somewhat larger in proportion than those of the rest of the population, owing to their international relationships but in the more settled communities like those of Holland, France, England, and the United States, where there is no active persecution, there is little tendency toward emigration.

Among the results of migration of which notice will have to be taken in all statistical inquiries are the ages and sexes of the migrants. It has been reckoned that whereas in Russia persons between the ages of 14 and 45 form 45 per cent of the Jewish population, they constitute 70 per cent of those who migrate to America. So, too, while there are 95 Jews to 100 Jewesses in Russia, there are said to be 134 Jews as against 100 Jewesses among those emigrating ("Ha-Ẓefirah," 1903, No. 62). This is confirmed by the records of the United Hebrew Charities in New York, between 1884 and 1902, which show that the immigrants consisted of 222,202 males, 155,000 females, and 197,351 children.

This tends to make the death-rate of any population consisting of Russian Jewish refugees very low, owing to the fact that so many of them are of the ages between 14 and 45, and at the same time renders the marriage-rate very high, as so many of the Jewish immigrants are between 20 and 30, the favorite age for marriage but it must be borne in mind that there are three men to two women in the stream of migration.

Jewish Emigration from Germany - History

The Johnstown Flood Museum and Heritage Discovery Center/Johnstown Children’s Museum are open Wed.-Sat. from 10 am-5 pm, and Sun. noon-5 pm (no appointments required). Please visit the children’s museum COVID protocols page for more information specific to that museum. All museum visitors and staff are required to wear masks and practice social distancing. Welcome!

Johnstown was founded in 1800 by Joseph Schantz, also called Joseph Johns, a Pennsylvania German immigrant. The first ethnic church in Johnstown was founded by German immigrants by about 1810. By the 1830s, Johnstown had developed into a small town, and the dominant ethnic group was German. Driven by economic hardship, larger numbers of immigrants began to arrive by the 1870s, and found work in the growing steel industry and the coal mines that fueled it. The Welsh, many of whom had been miners for generations, found work in the coal mines. Most Irish immigrants had originally come to the area to build railroads, and when that job was largely complete were hired by the steel mills. More Germans began to arrive, and by 1880 contract agencies in New York were sending train cars to Johnstown filled with Germans and Scandinavians.

The Irish, Germans and Welsh founded the earliest ethnic social clubs and organizations. The first German foreign-language newspaper, the Beobachter, began publication in 1855. By 1889, there were several Lutheran and Catholic German churches, and a few Irish Catholic churches. Johnstown was considered a “German” town. These Western European groups assimilated into American culture and became the most powerful, well-established groups in the Johnstown community.

Jewish immigrants were fleeing persecution, so they came to this country intending to stay permanently. For that reason, they generally brought their entire families with them. Jewish immigrants were predominantly peddlers and merchants. The first few Jewish families, mostly Reform Jews from Germany, arrived by about 1850. During the 1880s the first Orthodox Jews began to arrive from Eastern Europe. Jews first met in private homes for Orthodox and Reform religious services, and synagogues and social organizations were founded around the turn of the century. Jews were excluded from most jobs – including jobs in the steel mills.

As the Cambria Iron Works became more successful and more mechanized in the 1870s and 1880s, its need for unskilled laborers grew exponentially. At the same time, the great wave of emigration from Southern and Eastern European countries (predominantly Italy, Poland, Russia, Bohemia, Hungary, and Slovakia) had begun, and many immigrants settled in Johnstown. The Heritage Discovery Center’s permanent exhibit, “America: Through Immigrant Eyes,” focuses on this wave of immigrants, who arrived from about the 1880s through about 1914. Unlike their earlier counterparts from Western Europe, many of these immigrants never intended to stay America permanently — instead, they wanted to save money to build a better life back home in Europe. Often men came alone, planning to return after earning enough, or hoping to establish themselves here before sending for their families. Nationally, about one-third of these later immigrants did return home, but most stayed in the United States permanently.

These new arrivals to Johnstown faced prejudice and difficult living conditions. From the time the first Southern and Eastern Europeans arrived in the 1870s, they were referred to as “Hunkies,” a corruption of “Hungarians,” regardless of their country of origin. They were encouraged to live in certain neighborhoods, particularly Cambria City and Minersville (for more about the history of Cambria City, including current photos of historic buildings and churches, see the Walking Tour of Cambria City, which is part of the Visitor Resources section of this Web site). In 1870, 20% of Johnstown’s population was foreign born, but in these neighborhoods 40% were immigrants. This trend was to become even more extreme – in 1880, 85% of Cambria City residents were foreign born, compared to 40% in Johnstown. Additional neighborhoods dominated by immigrants sprung up, including Prospect and Conemaugh. Living conditions were unsanitary, and infant mortality was high. From 1890 to 1910, the city’s population of Southern and Eastern European immigrants swelled from 2,400 to more than 12,000.

Better jobs, with higher wages, safer working conditions and the opportunity to advance, were offered to native-born Americans first, and then immigrants from Wales, Scandinavia, Ireland and Germany. Immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe were forced to take jobs with lower wages and worse working conditions. Most had been peasant farmers in the Old Country, accustomed to working outside. The work in the mills and mines was dangerous, especially for these untrained workers, and many industrial accidents occurred. The management grouped immigrants by nationality into work crews so that they could communicate in their native languages – and also to prevent them from organizing. In fact, unionization did not come to Johnstown’s Bethlehem Steel plant until 1942.

In most cases, every member of an immigrant family had to work. Women ran boarding houses and gardened for fresh vegetables, helped by their daughters, while boys often left school early to work in the mills and mines alongside their fathers. Jewish families worked together at the stores they established. Economic survival in Johnstown remained a family effort until at least World War II – family goals were pursued as opposed to individual goals.

Excluded from mainstream Johnstown culture, immigrants founded their own social and fraternal institutions. Initially, Eastern and Southern European immigrants created institutions that served newcomers regardless of national origin – but as their numbers increased, these institutions separated by ethnicity. Instead of village-based identities of the Old Country, immigrants to Johnstown identified with their ethnic or nationality group.

After World War I, the institutional network of ethnic parishes, clubs, societies and other institutions steadily expanded and diversified into a rich community. Immigrant groups published newspapers in a variety of languages, and opened stores and other small businesses. More than 100 ethnic social clubs were operating in Johnstown at one time, and many had their own lodges. Singing societies, instrumental bands, women’s clubs and even athletic teams were founded. Some fraternal organizations started as insurance societies, offering insurance and death benefits to their members, and then became social clubs as well. A few even offered citizenship classes to immigrants seeking to become naturalized. As immigrants’ numbers increased, they established their own ethnic churches – by 1910, 14 had been built. Many are still active parishes today.

A small settlement of African-Americans was present on Laurel Mountain near Johnstown at least since 1825. There is evidence of Underground Railroad activity nearby during the 1830s, and the first area African-American church began meeting in a log cabin as early as 1840. A group of African-Americans came to work in a Woodvale tannery around 1870. However, African-Americans made up less than one percent of the population until 1919. World War I had brought a halt to immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, but the need for workers continued to increase — Cambria Steel (and later, Bethlehem) even sent representatives to Southern states to recruit Black workers. In 1910, Johnstown’s Black population was just 45, but by 1923 it had swelled to nearly 3,000. Groups of Mexicans also came to Johnstown to work during this period.

At the mill, Black workers were offered the least desirable jobs at the lowest pay, and white workers often limited their opportunities for advancement. African American workers and their families faced discrimination in the Johnstown community as well, including the infamous Rosedale incident of 1923, in which the mayor of Johnstown ordered all African Americans who had lived in town for less than seven years to leave.

The ethnic composition of Johnstown did not change significantly during the 1920s and 1930s. Serving together in the military during World War II helped break down the barriers faced by Southern and Eastern European immigrants and their children. In the post-war era, Southern and Eastern European groups became somewhat more assimilated into the rest of Johnstown society. Intermarriage with members of other ethnic groups became more common, and Southern and Eastern European immigrants were accepted into country clubs and other exclusive groups. Families began to move out of their traditional neighborhoods. Some young adults began to seek college degrees, particularly war veterans taking advantage of GI Bill benefits, which entitled them to one year of full-time college training plus a period equal to their time in service, up to a maximum of 48 months. It was no longer certain that boys would follow in their fathers’ footsteps and work in the steel mills and coal mines, although many continued to do so as long as the opportunity existed.

The Heritage Discovery Center’s permanent exhibit, “America: Through Immigrant Eyes,” focuses on the period of immigration from about 1880 to 1914, which was dominated by Southern and Eastern Europeans. The exhibit tells their story, including why they left, what they found when they got here, and how they developed a rich cultural life that is still celebrated today.

Sources include: Ewa Morawska, “Johnstown’s Ethnic Groups,” in Johnstown: Story of a Unique Valley, 1984.

10. Further reading

Most of the following publications are available for consultation at The National Archives library at our building in Kew and some are available from our bookshop.

Anthony Joseph, My Ancestors were Jewish (Society of Genealogists, 2005), also available to buy from The National Archives bookshop

Rosemary Wenzerul, A Beginner&rsquos Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Great Britain (The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, 2000)

Rosemary Wenzerul, Tracing Your Jewish Ancestors (Pen and Sword, 2008), also available to buy from The National Archives bookshop

Modern period

Early modern period

Medieval period

Richard Huscroft, Expulsion: England&rsquos Jewish Solution (The History Press [Tempus], 2006)

S. Lipton, Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography (Metropolitan, 2014)

J. Olszowy-Schlanger (ed), Hebrew and Hebrew-Latin Documents from Medieval England: A Diplomatic and Palaeographical Study (Brepols, 2014)

E.M. Rose, The Murder of William of Norwich: The Origins of the Blood Libel in Medieval Europe (OUP, 2015)

M. Rubin, Gentile Tales: Narrative Assault on Late-Medieval Jews (Yale, 1999)

Watch the video: ΕΞΟΡΙΣΤΟΙ ΔΡΑΠΕΤΕΣ Ντοκιμαντέρ με Έλληνες μετανάστες στην Γερμανία