3 November 1933
Report on a settlement project planned by the Le Renouveau association
Around 37,000 Jews left Germany in the course of 1933 because of the anti-Jewish measures implemented by the Nazi government. More than a quarter went to neighboring France and in most cases received temporary residence permits. Because of the international economic crisis, the immigrants’ financial situation was often precarious. Compounding matters was the fact that many were intellectuals, while almost the only work available was in agriculture and the skilled trades.
Refugees without private means were dependent on assistance. In addition to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which closed its Berlin office in 1933 and moved its headquarters to Paris, a large number of private relief committees were established. Among them was the Le Renouveau association, which was founded in Paris in September 1933 by Dmitri Marianoff, Albert Einstein’s son-in-law. The central idea behind the association stemmed from the then French Interior Minister Camille Chautemps: to create settlements for Jewish immigrants in France that would provide them with agricultural training and thus a means of earning a living later on.
Jewish organizations in Germany were concerned about developments in France and the Central Committee of German Jews for Relief and Reconstruction sent several of its members to Paris to gain more information about the project. From the report written about Le Renouveau in November 1933 we learn that, with the approval of the Ministry of Agriculture, the association was offering interested parties the opportunity to establish a settlement on nine hundred hectares of fertile land in Normandy that was suitable for agriculture and livestock breeding. The association intended to settle around thirty families there, but each would have to buy a stake in the project.
Le Renouveau saw its role as vetting the site and providing advice for the interested families. As regards financing, it only intended to act as a trustee, and envisaged that land settlement companies would later purchase additional land in the southwest of France. After his visit, the representative from Germany was skeptical. He concluded his report with the words: “the association appears to be more of a commercial venture, … despite all outer appearances.”
The settlement project was apparently never carried out. Le Renouveau commenced its work in September 1934 but when Marianoff immigrated to the United States in 1935, it was taken over by the religious Zionist Mizrachi organization. Settlements do not appear to have been founded on a larger scale and most of the refugee committees that were created in 1933 disappeared by 1936. Many immigrants left France, going to Palestine or other countries.
Enclosure in a letter from C.A. Paris, dated 3 November 1933
Report by our staff member
Re: l’Association “Le Renouveau” (5 Boulevard des Italiens).
I first visited Dr. Goldberg, who referred me to Dr. Wolff at the Hotel Moliere, 21 rue Molière. I received the following information at our meeting:
L’Association agricole “Le Renouveau” is headed by Dr. Wolff, Professor Qualid and Lord Malchett.
The purpose of the association is to establish colonies of German immigrants in France. Dr. Wolff had a meeting with the Minister de l’Agriculture, who was not opposed to the idea in principle. At the moment the association does not own any land, but the government has pledged to make nine hundred hectares available in Normandy depending on membership growth. The site consists of six hundred hectares of cultivated land that is crisscrossed by streams and connecting roads and has wooded areas as well. There is an additional three hundred hectares of land with buildings. The land is fertile, has a thick moist humus soil and is extremely well suited to livestock breeding and the cultivation of turnips and potatoes. Access is facilitated by a city of 40,000 inhabitants in the direct vicinity and a train station at the center of the site.
The association plans to sell living quarters on fifteen hectares of land to around thirty families for 60,000 francs each. Payment will be made in cash when they take possession of the plot and at that point in time a land settlement company will become the official owner. The association is currently looking for investors prepared to settle there at once, if necessary. The agricultural work will be carried out by other German immigrants without private means under the supervision of French engineers. These immigrants will be housed in large buildings for this purpose. Support is expected from America. Later, when the settlement company flourishes, small parcels of land will be given to the agricultural workers, and a similar colony established in the southwest of France.
In summary, the association appears to be more of a commercial venture, despite the people who have apparently taken an interest in it and despite all outer appearances.