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This article ran in The Barnes Review in May, 1996
The 1933 International Boycott of Germany – Execution
By Udo Walendy
Udo Walendy is a German publisher and author best known for exposing propaganda photographs from the world wars as fakes, “doctored” to indict Germans and Germany. His revisionist work includes periodic publication of the magazine Historical Facts, D-4973 Vlotho/Weser, Postfach 1643, Germany.
By 1933 the German people had reached their limits of tolerance under the draconian terms of the Versailles Treaty. Nationalism was on the rise. It was immediately met with an internationally coordinated effort to crush Germany's economy and keep the people in perpetual poverty and subjugation.
Previously, in an article entitled “The Economic Boycott of Germany - Prelude” (TBR April, 1996), the organization of an international boycott against Germany was discussed. When Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor in 1933, the handwriting was on the wall for the plutocratic European forces which had kept the German nation weak and its people in near-starvation conditions for 15 years. The re-emergence of Germany as a viable player on the international stage both in commerce and as a political power could not be allowed to happen.
Consequently, Jewish organizations outside of Germany set in motion an international boycott with the specific goal of bringing down the fledgling National Socialist government. Other groups, including religious and labor organizations, were recruited to help the effort.
Key personalities and organizations involved included Dr. Nahum Goldmann of the World Jewish Congress and the World Zionist Organization; Stephen Wise, president of the American Jewish Congress and key player at the Second Preparative World Jewish Conference of September 5,1933 in Geneva; the Jewish War Veterans; Samuel Untermyer (sometimes spelled Untermeyer), one of the most powerful and influential Jewish leaders in America, a successful attorney, government advisor and president of the non-sectarian Anti-Nazi League 1933-1939; W. W. Cohen, vice-president of the A. J. C., who organized a parade with banners proclaiming economic war on Germany; and New York Catholic Bishop Francis T. McConnell.
When Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schacht arrived in the United States on a good will tour in early May, 1933, to improve German-American relations, he found himself surrounded by an anti-Hitler tumult. On May 10, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators had assembled to condemn the Reich. Schacht then realized that the newspapers would continue to churn out anti-German news that would spread the boycott of German goods even further, without any possibility of diplomatic intervention on his part. The message was clear: the anti-Nazi boycott was killing Germany's economy. Schacht went home with empty hands. From January to April 1933, the Reich's exports had dropped by 10 percent.
Edwin Black, in his [book] The Transfer Agreement - The Untold Story of the Secret Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine, wrote:
Meanwhile, Germany's border crisis grew hour by hour. Poland's pro-invasion military hawks found widespread support among a population inflamed by Jewish boycott committees ... Events were culminating. The destruction of Hitler's tenuous regime - from within and without - loomed as the crisis of the hour in Berlin. German officials and corporate leaders had been dispatched to the cities of Europe and America to try to blunt the attack. Their efforts were unsuccessful. Government clarification, token protective decrees and threats of unrestrained retaliation against German Jews were also unsuccessful. (1)
Stimulated by continual press reports on “German atrocities” (in peacetime), which Schacht had emphatically denied, the boycott protests spread to the large cities of almost every country and even as far as Argentina and Australia, while, predominantly in Britain and the Netherlands, labor unionists and Labor Party leaders supported the boycott movement. The German fur, textile and diamond trades were hit particularly hard. In the first quarter of 1933, Germany's vital surplus of export was less than half the 1932 figure. Demands were already being made in the United States (by John Foster Dulles) to have German private and public assets seized in compensation for her debts, thus dissolving German international trade assets.
When the Reich could no longer pay its obligations, Germany would be bankrupt. That moment had been technically postponed for years by rationing foreign exchange to only the most important transactions. But with Reichsbank reserves hit so hard by both the boycott and the Depression, there would soon be nothing left to ration ...
If exports fell too low, Germany as a nation would again be faced with starvation. It had happened just 14 years earlier; it was still fresh in many minds. In the winter of 1919, a besieged Germany [had been] blockaded into submission, starved into defeat. To the Nazis, the anti-German boycott of 1933 was in many ways a reminiscent tactic. There were no enemy ships in the seaways, no hostile divisions at the bridgeheads. But as effective as any blockading frigate or infantryman was this boycott that blocked German goods from being sold, blocked foreign exchange from being earned and blocked the means of survival from entering Germany.
How many months could Germany survive once the boycott became global, once commerce was rerouted around Germany? The boycotters adopted a slogan: “Germany will crack this winter.”
Since the spring, the Jewish War Veterans in New York and the Polish boycott committees in Warsaw had talked of joining forces. On June 3, Lord Melchett and the British Trade Unions Congress took the initiative and issued formal invitations to the independent boycott committees of the world to assemble in London on June 25 to establish an international boycott council.
Melchett titled the boycott convention the World Jewish Economic Conference ...
At about the same time, the World Economic Conference, convened by FDR, was underway in London, but it achieved just the opposite of what it set out to achieve: an economic collaboration of the parties to world trade to remedy the economic crisis. A Reich cabinet meeting on June 23, 1933, reported:
Pessimistic as were the expectations with which the [German] delegation went to London, they were outdistanced by far. Germany found among all states an attitude that hardly could be worse.
[This is the economic conference which Hitler mentioned at the end of his March 25th, 1933 speech to the Reichstag when he said “We welcome the plan for a World Economic Conference and approve of its meeting at an early date. The Government of the Reich is ready to take part in this Conference, in order to arrive at positive results at last. . . . ” - WRF]
On Samuel Untermyer's recommendation, the World Jewish Economic Conference was postponed to July 20 and relocated to Amsterdam. About 35 countries were to participate. For weeks they had exchanged experiences, discussed successful boycott ideas, compiled long lists of manufacturers and sellers seeking alternatives for German goods, discussed countermeasures against boycott-breakers and even founded a special boycott publication: The Jewish Economic Forum. Untermyer's assessment of the situation, according to Black:
He had taken pains to explain to conservative Anglo-Jewish leaders that a de facto popular international boycott already existed: “In Poland, it is incredibly good; in Czechoslovakia, fantastically good; in France, in England, fair; in America, very good.”
Fiery speeches and a feisty determination to crack German economic staying power created an impressive spectacle that finally put the world on notice that some element of the Jews was united in the war against the Third Reich.
In Amsterdam, the following resolution was adopted:
Whereas ... unanimous outcry, protests and demonstrations of Jews and non-Jews throughout the civilized world against the incredibly inhuman policy toward the Jews of Germany have been unavailing ... Whereas the Hitler government has repeatedly expressed its determination ... to annihilate them economically, to deprive them of their citizenship ... and eventually exterminate them ... now, therefore, be it resolved, that boycotting of German goods, products and shipping ... is the only effective weapon for world Jewry and humanity by way of defense and protection of Jewish rights, property and dignity in Germany ... We earnestly urge all the men and women of the civilized world, irrespective of race or creed, to support and join in this movement against brutal fanaticism and bigotry and to help lead it to a victorious conclusion and until the last traces of barbarous persecutions have been eliminated.
The declaration of war officially proclaimed, the soldiers of Israel broke up into three businesslike commissions ... working with great speed, the conferees unanimously established the new world organization they had promised. Named the World Jewish Economic Federation, it would be headquartered in London, with Lord Melchett as its honorary chairman and Untermyer as its president. (2)
But this personal initiative on the part of Melchett and Untennyer was thought of as a “palace revolution” by the traditional Jewish organizations, such as the Anglo Jewish Association and the Dutch Jewish Committee, and considered non-representative. Wise, as well as Goldmann, both of them being concerned with the organization of the World Jewish Congress, also had obviously personal reasons for taking the coordinated boycott into their own hands, thus discrediting Untermyer. Their demands were identical in principle, as can be seen from the language adopted at the later World Jewish Congress. There it would be reported in 1936:
The boycott organizations were the first in every country to call attention to Germany's plans for economic conquest and military aggression. They warned public opinion against Germany's huge rearmament policy. They alerted it to Germany's economic domination of the weak Southeastern European regions and of certain Latin American countries which might lead to their political domination by the Third Reich. They pointed out the dishonest trade methods employed by Germany. At the same time, they carried on an unremitting campaign to enlighten the public, through all kinds of mediums about the German atrocities, the persecution of the Church, the destruction of the labor organizations, the degradation of women and the regimentation of education.
If one reads elsewhere in Black's book that the leading personalities of the World Jewish Congress understood the political situation from 1919 to 1939 not as peace but as an “armistice,” then the verbiage created in this fighting atmosphere, interspersed with so many untrue allegations, becomes understandable. It may be noted that the period of the Weimar Republic is likewise included in this “armistice” terminology, with no difference made from the years 1933 to 1939. This terminology would find its more precise expression later on, in a letter written by Winston Churchill to Joseph “Stalin” Djugashvili on February 22, 1944, in which he called World War II a “Thirty-year war against German aggression beginning in 1914.” (3)
In spite of the long-lasting personal quarrels among Wise, Goldmann and Chaim Weizman as top representatives of their organizations on one hand, and Untermyer as “ad hoc” boycott organizer on the other hand, the boycott became a fact. It had brought about a considerable isolation of Germany and extraordinary losses for the German export trade at a time when the world economic crisis caused more than 6 million jobless in Germany and when Germany could not even begin to keep pace with the additional reparations payments. Without mentioning any figures in this connection, an exchange of letters between Dresdener Bank and the French Bank Societe Generale dated July, 1933, characterizes the general situation. It is prefaced by Black as follows:
Desperate directors of Germany's prestigious Dresdener Bank hoped to call upon the international banking fraternity for help. In a dramatic written appeal sent in mid-July to a major French bank, the Societe Generale, Dresden Bank frantically declared:
“The atrocity propaganda ... harmful to German trade ... is based on lies and distortions of fact. Complete tranquillity reigns in Germany and any non-Party person on the spot can convince himself that no one is hindered in the lawful pursuit of his private and professional affairs. We would be glad if, in the interests of international trade relations, you would spread the truth and do your utmost to bring about a speedy end of the boycott of German goods.”
This highly unusual plea provoked an equally unusual response from Societe Generale, which had for decades enjoyed cordial professional relations with Dresden Bank. Societe Generale's response, which ultimately reached the world's newspapers, was that, “On opening our mail we find an amazing circular from your esteemed bank, We beg to draw your attention to the fact that a French business would never presume to send propaganda material in business correspondence. We are thus compelled to assume that the tactlessness of your letter arises from an inborn lack of taste. As for the systematic persecution of Jews by your government, we know what to believe. We know ... doctors have been driven from hospitals, lawyers struck off and shops closed down ... Every nation is a master in its own home ... Nevertheless, we are free to turn our business sympathies to our friends and not to a nation which aims at destroying individual liberty. We assure you, gentlemen, that we will continue to esteem your bank, but we cannot extend our sympathy to Germany in general, for we cannot hide our belief that the National Socialist Party will extend its lust for power to other countries at the first opportunity. You ask us to pass on this circular. Rest assured we will do so, and our answer with it.” (4)
In late July, 1933, Reichsbank representatives approached London brokers for an “embarrassingly small” loan of 40 million marks (slightly more than 3 million pounds sterling). This case caused a round of derisive laughter in the London financial community. Investor's Review reported in its August 5, 1933 issue:
We have seen a letter written by a financial broker in Berlin ... [that] throws a lurid light on the dreadful condition to which Hitlerism has reduced Germany ... The writer states that he has been asked by the German Reichsbank itself to negotiate for it a loan ... of 40 to 50 million marks. That the Reichsbank, formerly perhaps the greatest financial institution on the Continent, should have come begging to London for ... a paltry sum, is ... alarming ... So it is not surprising to hear that authoritative opinion is that Hitlerism will come to a sanguinary end before the New Year.
London refused, as did the U.S. Germany could not count on any financial aid from abroad. On August 6, Untermyer returned to New York from Amsterdam and greeted his compatriots in a continent-wide radio broadcast which was immediately arranged for him. He said, in part:
I deeply appreciate your enthusiastic greeting on my arrival today, which I quite understand is addressed not to me personally but to the holy war in the cause of humanity in which we are embarked ...
With the nation listening, Untermyer explained how the whole world had already made “surprising and gratifying progress” in the economic war against Nazism.
Each of you, Jew and gentile alike, who has not already enlisted in the sacred war should do so now ... It is not sufficient that you buy no goods made in Germany. You must refuse to deal with any merchant or shopkeeper who sells any German-made goods or who patronizes German ships ... To our shame … there are a few Jews among us, but fortunately only a few, so wanting in dignity and self-respect that they ... travel on German ships where they are despised ... Their names should be heralded far and wide. They are traitors to their race.
At about the same time, the 18th Zionist Congress convened in Prague (August 21-September 4, 1933). Over 10,000 delegates and visitors attended. The Zionist organization constituted a government without country, subdivided into territorial federations from each country, into religious and other associations, political parties and fractional groups. The League of Nations had granted it a quasi-governmental status. Every Jew who paid an amount of money equal to a token biblical shekel (about 25 cents) could vote. The Mapai (Labor Party), headed by David Ben Gurion, which represented roughly 44 percent of the delegates and was considered a moderate branch of Jewry, turned out to be the strongest faction.
It nevertheless had to stand hard disputes with the irreconcilably radical “Revisionists” headed by Vladimir Jabotinsky of Poland who did not shrink away from political murder of their own people. The assassination of Chaim Arlosoroff, a member of the Jewish Agency Executive Committee and one of the most respected Zionists, by members of the said radical “Revisionists,” which occurred north of Haifa shortly before the conference (on June 16, 1933) particularly accentuated the conflicts at this conference. Arlosoroff had pleaded for negotiations with Germany to enable the emigration of German Jews and the transfer of Jewish assets to Palestine.
In a moving speech, Jabotinsky insisted that all energies be expended to force the Congress to join the boycott movement. Nothing less than a “merciless fight” would be acceptable, cried Jabotinsky. “The present Congress is duty bound to put the Jewish problem in Germany before the entire world ... We are conducting a war with murderers ... [We must] destroy, destroy, destroy them - not only with the boycott, but politically, supporting all existing forces against them to isolate Germany from the civilized world.” (5)
While Jabotinsky urged his followers to postpone their personal differences in favor of war against Nazism, Ben Gurion demanded that his supporters do the opposite. He proposed giving the “Revisionists” the choice of pledging allegiance to the Mapai-controlled organizations with their moderate aims or leaving the congress. A Mapai-controlled presidium finally did prevail. Their spokesman, Nahum Sokolow, had visibly great problems finding the correct words to describe the sentiments of the delegates. He said:
It is not our task to influence or criticize the internal developments of the German people, which have gravely suffered through the war and its consequences. We are not gathered here to criticize any one nation or any one state. It is not part of the program ... of the Zionist Organization to break its [shepherd's] staff over this or that state organization, this or that economic system. Our duty is to speak the truth.
But, he did not forget to focus on the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, in that he repeated - also without concrete details, what really happened in Germany:
“The Jews will never forget and never forgive Germany's insult ...”
What Jabotinsky was not allowed to say in the conference, he postulated during a press conference outside: “One hundred thousand members of the revisionist movement” will exploit all possibilities around the world to carry out the boycott of Germany.
“We sympathize with our German brethren [meaning Jews in Germany] ... But Hitlerism is a danger to the 16 million Jews all over the world, and ... the German Jews cannot influence us not to fight our enemy. Our enemy must be destroyed.” (6)
Although he had been excluded from the Zionist Congress, his words were nevertheless propagated by the world press, a factor which certainly did not contribute to a peaceful solution to the problems on hand. Notwithstanding the fact that during the Eighteenth Zionist Congress the word “boycott” was avoided - even forbidden - the columns of the world press were filled with a new subject: the Second World Jewish Conference in Geneva which commenced on September 5, 1933, immediately following the Eighteenth Zionist Congress. Here the exact opposite was true.
According to Black, “Anyone who dared rationalize trading with the enemy was a traitor, and all boycott traitors were to be exposed.”
One hundred delegates in Geneva, coming from 24 countries and led by Wise, president of the American Jewish Congress, were determined to create a worldwide boycott organization, but this resolution was on a collision course with the Zionist movement.
The new callousness generated in the belligerent atmosphere of the Second World Jewish Congress can be described by the words of the two leading personalities as recorded by Black:
Therefore, the first task of the conference, urged Goldmann, was to create the organization needed to conduct a “bitter,” well-planned war against Nazi Germany.
Wise: “When the Jewish boycott of German goods and wares is to be ended depends not upon the Jewish people but upon the Nazi government. This instrumentality of moral and economic pressure Jews have been compelled reluctantly to adopt and utilize. But they will not lay this down until such time as the great wrong inflicted upon the German Jews is undone and the German Jews once again be placed in the status and position which were rightly their own before the accession of the Hitler government.” (7)
This amounted to nothing less than Wise's followers, without a mandate by German jewry, brazenly demanding that Germany should forget about her right of self-determination in favor of these foreign spokesmen representing world Jewry - an impossible and irresponsible attitude in terms of world politics.
Wise simply regarded the prevailing situation as a state of war. He looked on the Jews as being “in the first trenches of the front.” At the Second Preparative Conference in Geneva in early September, 1933, he stated:
Once again the Jewish people is called upon to suffer, for we are the suffering servants of humanity. We are called upon to suffer that humanity and civilization may survive and may endure. We have suffered before. We are the eternal suffering servants of God, of that world history which is world judgment. We do not rebel against the tragic role which we must play if only the nations of the Earth may achieve some gain, may profit as a result of our sufferings, may realize in time the enormity of the danger they face in that common enemy of mankind which has no other aim than to conquer and destroy. We are ready if only the precious and the beautiful things of life may survive. That is once again the mission of the Jews. We stand on the front line, in the first row of trenches. (8)
Wise did not present any concrete details concerning his wild accusations against the German government, at least nothing of this kind has been published. There is, however, a striking similarity between this situation and the manner in which the question of war guilt is generally dealt with: Using all available technical and economic means of power, the “other side's” responsibility for the outbreak of war is simply classified as a “well-established historical fact recognized by the whole world.” Conclusive details are deliberately ignored, and there is a general pretense that everything has been proven a long time ago and that no further evidence is required.
The general ignorance and dependence of the broad masses are recklessly exploited, while all kinds of accusations are made, the more rhetoric and crass, the better. Naturally, these accusations were always clothed in words aimed at benefiting mankind and in fighting slogans advocating the complete destruction of the “vicious” people branded in this manner, thus avoiding all unnecessary debates, critical analyses and objections.
The [Second Preparative World Jewish] Geneva conference was concluded with the following resolution:
The conference noted with deepest satisfaction that the Jewish people had spontaneously resorted to the one accessible weapon of self-defense against the new German regime: the moral and economic boycott. It affirmed that the Jews could not have any economic or other dealings with the Third Reich and expressed the hope that the boycott would be supported by millions of non-Jews in all lands.
At the Third Preparative World Jewish Conference in Geneva, which was convened on August 20, 1934, Wise declared:
Our place is indubitably and unalterably in the ranks of those forces of civilization and freedom which cannot coexist with Nazism ... We will survive Nazism, unless we commit the inexpiable sin of bartering or trafficking with it ... If we could survive, let us say, through our lifting the anti-Nazi boycott, we should morally have perished.
Prior to this, representatives of German Jewry had repeatedly and emphatically protested against this agitation by Wise and others in the United States. For instance, the editors of a prominent Jewish newspaper in Hamburg had sent the following telegram as early as March, 1933:
GERMAN JEWS ACCUSE YOU AND ASSOCIATES TO BE TOOLS OF OUTSIDE POLITICAL INFLUENCES STOP YOUR SENSELESS OVERRATING OF OWN INTERNATIONAL IMPORTANCE AND LACK OF JUDGMENT DAMAGE LARGELY THOSE YOU PRETEND TO WANT TO PROTECT ... BETTER SHUT OFF YOUR OWN LIMELIGHT AND USELESS MEETINGS AS SUREST MEANS AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM ... THIS IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT DUTY TO REPAIR YOUR CRIMES AGAINST US. (9)
At a time when, beginning from his access to power on January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler had already provided jobs for 2.2 million out of the 6 million jobless in Germany - and this obviously without rearmament - and had put an end to the chaotic conditions which had lasted for long years and which had often been deliberately engineered from abroad, when he introduced the Winter Relief Fund in early September 1933 and had the protection of the Catholic Church guaranteed in a Reich Concordat (September 10) in accordance with Rome's wishes, Untermyer declared on September 10, 1933, in New York City in front of boycott activists:
“The day of reckoning is at hand.” (10)
Personally he had not lost any assets by the change of government in Germany, nor had he been granted even the slightest legitimacy by any representatives of the German Jews to make himself the mouthpiece of their presumed will.
Radio talk shows, inspections of thousands of stores for German goods by feminist groups, demonstrations and the opening of anti-German offices were rampant, particularly in the United States.
In a solemn ceremony on September 6, 1933 in New York City, Untermyer called for “Cherem,” the Jewish ban on every boycott traitor.
Jabotinsky, of Polish and Russian origin, the founder of the Zionist “Revisionist” organization “Irgun,” meanwhile continued his hateful agitation and politics against Germany from East Europe. It is remarkable about this man that he had already fought on the British side against the Central Powers in World War I, settled down in Berlin in 1923, where he founded his movement, then again lived in Poland for some time, became president of the New Zionist Organization in Vienna in 1933 and finally moved to London. He died in the U.S. in 1940. At any rate, when he published the following passages in Mascha Rjetsch in January 1934, he did not do so with reference to any German crimes or to the Nuremberg Laws, for these were not promulgated until 18 months later. He wrote:
The fight against Germany has now been waged for months by every Jewish community, in every conference, in all labor unions and by every single Jew in the world. There are reasons for the assumption that our share in this fight is of general importance. We shall start a spiritual and material war of the whole world against Germany. Germany is striving to become once again a great nation and to recover her lost territories as well as her colonies. But our Jewish interests call for the complete destruction of Germany. The German people is a danger for us Jews, both collectively and individually. (11)
As the late Gen. Leon Degrelle so succinctly put it, Hitler was “born at Versailles.” The foreign-imposed conditions in Germany led to the rise of nationalism; the international boycott confirmed the suspicions of the German people. The National Socialist government represented the wishes of the majority of the people.
1. Black, Edwin, The Transfer Agreement - The Untold Story of the Secret Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine, New York, London, 1984, p, 130.
2. Ibid p. 207.
3. Documents containing correspondence from the Council of Ministers of the USSR with the president of the United States and the prime minister of Great Britain at the time of the “Great Patriotic War” 1941-45, Moscow, 1957, Vol. 1, p. 204.
4. Black, p. 266.
5. Ibid p. 301.
6. Ibid p. 348.
7. Ibid p. 358.
8. Ibid p. 36.
9. Ibid p. 63.
10. Ibid p. 370.
11. Benoist-Mechin, J, Sheet Lightening in World Politics - History of the German Military Forces 1918-1946, Oldenburg-Hamburg, 1966, p. 326.