21 September 1933
Draft appeal from the Reich Representation of German Jews
At a meeting in Berlin on 17 September 1933, just four days before the start of the Jewish New Year, the largest and most important Jewish organizations in Germany agreed to establish a common umbrella association called the Reich Representation of German Jews (Reichsvertretung der deutschen Juden). According to Georg Hirschland, one of the initiators and a member of the board of the Jewish community in Essen, this agreement was preceded by “a series of talks and very difficult negotiations and meetings … before the final results were achieved.” Due to Nazi policies aimed at excluding and persecuting Jews, it had become urgently necessary to create an organization that represented the interests of German Jews with one voice. However, an even more important task was to provide centralized coordination and support for Jewish self-help efforts, an area in which the Reich Representation was to play a major role.
The Berlin-based rabbi Leo Baeck was appointed president of the new organization. Its board consisted of representatives of the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith, the Zionist Federation of Germany, the Reich Union of Jewish Veterans, the Conference of Large Communities, the Working Group of the Regional Associations of German Jewish Communities, and orthodox groups within the Jewish community.
The draft appeal shown here, entitled “To German Jews,” was written on Rosh ha-Shanah but ultimately never published in this form. However, it does list the main points upon which the Reich Representation of German Jews intended to focus its work: the involvement of all German Jews in community concerns, the protection of their livelihoods, the advancement of Jewish education, the promotion of culture, religion, physical fitness, occupational training and retraining, support for Jews willing to emigrate, the settlement of Palestine by and for German Jews, and, not least, the preservation of the “values of German culture.”
On 28 and 29 September the newly founded Reich Representation of German Jews published a revised and more detailed proclamation essentially containing all the above objectives in the country’s major Jewish newspapers. The organization also hoped for “the sympathetic support of the authorities and the respect of our fellow non-Jewish citizens, to whom we are bound by our love for and loyalty to Germany.”
Although the Reich Representation was not officially recognized, it maintained ties to government on many different levels in the years to come and was the organization that took a stand on anti-Jewish legislation on behalf of all German Jews. As a result of the November pogroms of 1938 it gradually lost its independence. In 1939 its name was changed to the “Reich Association of Jews in Germany” and it became a puppet organization completely controlled by the regime.
To German Jews!
With the consent of all the regional Jewish associations in Germany and the major organizations of German Jews, we have taken over the leadership of the Reich Representation of German Jews. At this time let us not ask why a person is Jewish but, out of our ardent love for Judaism, unite all forces emanating from our shared ancestry, faith and fate in order to purify and preserve the character of the German Jew. Without entering the field of government or politics, we aim to pursue this goal with utmost dedication. We hope for the active support of the government without further interference in our rights as citizens and expect that Jews abroad will assist us with their greater financial resources, just as in better times German Jews always willingly sought to remedy Jewish hardship outside Germany’s borders. But we are aware that we alone will play the decisive role in shaping our destiny.
We must overcome the disputes among different branches of Judaism.
We must bring back into the fold the many individuals who have distanced themselves from the Jewish way of life.
We must organize German Jews in such a way that they will be able to tackle the important task of securing their livelihoods, establishing new ones, fostering Jewish education and promoting culture and physical fitness.
We must end the decay and decline in our commercial and social life, morals and discipline.
Through a careful selection process, we must do our utmost to change the abnormal occupational structure of our community, particularly by training farmers and skilled tradesmen.
We must ensure that those who are unable to live in Germany can find a home abroad and preserve their ties to German culture.
We must ensure that the holy land of Palestine is settled by and for German Jews.
We must preserve the values of German culture when educating our young people and adults, build on the moral and religious foundations of Judaism, understand Jewish history and inculcate in people a sense of community and a sense of their responsibility to Judaism and the state.
We must keep Judaism alive within us.
Let us stand together and work with trust in God for the honor of the Jewish religion!
Berlin, 21 September 1933