The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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13 September 1933

Report by Henry Rothschild on the need for German Jews to emigrate

"The experiences that I had in America regarding the willingness there to help German Jews were extremely depressing." Thus begins the prescient report that Henry Rothschild (1870–1936) wrote on emigration possibilities for German Jews after a three-month stay in the United States.

Henry Rothschild—philanthropist, former owner of the "J. Adler jun." metals and scrap company and one of the leading members of the Jewish community in Frankfurt—regarded all previous help from American Jews as inadequate. There was much talk, he wrote, but little action. In his view, a far larger number of American Jews of German descent needed to sign affidavits of support for friends, relatives and acquaintances so that they could emigrate. But in Rothschild‘s eyes an even more promising plan was to make unsettled areas in the United States and possibly in Canada available to German Jews. This would require a commitment by immigrants to remain living in their designated territory in the longer term as well as to undergo comprehensive retraining in Germany so that they could work as farmers and skilled tradesmen.

Although Henry Rothschild was not a Zionist himself, he admired what had been achieved in Palestine. However, he makes clear in his report that Palestine could take in only a limited number of immigrants from Germany. He believed that in the United States and possibly the British colonies the "German Jews who are willing and fit to emigrate" had the best chances to start a new life. But the most urgent task in his eyes was to ensure that foreign Jews "become open to such ideas within their organizations."

It is unclear who the recipient of Henry Rothschild‘s report was. He himself did not live to see the ultimate failure of will abroad "to take in these masses." He died in July 1936 and was greatly mourned by the Frankfurt community.

The United States did not provide a haven for his wife and four daughters. Bertha Rothschild and her youngest daughters Hilde and Friedel managed to escape to England after stays in other countries. Their eldest daughter, Louise, was deported from the Netherlands to Bergen-Belsen, but survived an eighteen-month internment there. However, in 1944 their other daughter, Lotte, fell into the hands of the Germans in France and was murdered with her own twelve-year-old daughter in Auschwitz.

Aubrey Pomerance

Categorie(s): emigration | Frankfurt am Main | Zionism
Report by Henry Rothschild on the need for German Jews to emigrate, Frankfurt am Main, 13 September 1933
Leo Baeck Institute, Henry Rothschild Collection, AR 6512