The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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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.

Aubrey Pomerance

Categorie(s): associations | politicians | religious life
Draft appeal from the Reich Representation of German Jews, Berlin, 21 September 1933 (Rosh ha-Shanah)
Leo Baeck Institute, Leopold Levi–Otto Hirsch Correspondence Collection, AR 5412