His Majesty’s Government

His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object…but understand the payment for this homeland will be the lives of six million Jews… I hope you will understand. Its business, not personal…

On November 2, 1917, Lord James Balfour sent what was to be called, The Balfour Declaration, to Lord Nathan Rothschild. On December 11, 1917, General Edmund Allenby approached the Jaffa Gate, dismounted his horse, and entered the Old City of Jerusalem on foot, “As a pilgrim, and not a conqueror.” Ironically, it was the first day of Hanukah. The liberation of Jerusalem was one of the most celebrated events of World War One. It was celebrated by the Jewish community on the steps near David’s Citadel.

On October 31, 1918, Turkey, and the Ottoman Empire, officially surrendered to the Allies. The Great War was over, and a Peace Conference was to be convened near Paris in 1919. Representing the Jewish concerns would be Chaim Weizmann, and Menachem Ussishkin.

Ussishkin stated, “The Land of Israel was forcibly taken from the Jewish people who were exiled and disbursed throughout the world. And now, I, the descendant of those exiles, come before you and demand that our stolen historic homeland be returned to us.” (Yigal Lossin, Pillar of Fire, p.75)

The Allies convened the Peace Conference, in Versailles, France, on June 28, 1919, to determine the punishment Germany would receive for having begun the First World War, and shortly thereafter, the German Weimar Republic was formed to govern the “new” Germany. Many of the new government officials were Jews. “The Jews were proud of their special and unique contributions to the Fatherland…of the thirty-eight Nobel Prizes awarded to Germans prior to Hitler’s rise to power, eleven were given to Jews—thirty times more than their proportion of the population. In the large cities from one third to one half of all doctors and lawyers were Jews, and they took their integration into German culture for granted…The Weimar Constitution assured full integration of Jews as first class citizens…Jews were noticeably affluent after the war…The Constitution was drafted by a Jew, Hugo Preuss…and Edward Bernstein was the guiding spirit of the Social Democratic Party…Walter Rathenau was the Foreign Minister in the Weimar Republic cabinet. Rathenau believed in the new Germany…” (Ibid. p.103). Sixty-six million Germans. Five hundred thousand Jews. Less than 1%.

On April 19, 1920, a Conference was held in San Remo, Italy to decide the future of areas of Syria, Palestine and Iraq, and to partition the lands of the Ottoman Empire into three Mandates. One Mandate was for Palestine. The Ottoman Empire had ruled the lands in the Middle East from 1517 to 1917, a period of four hundred years. As areas were divided Great Britain received the Mandate for Palestine, accepting its obligations under the Balfour Declaration for the establishment in Palestine of the Jewish National home. Lord Curzon, then British Foreign Secretary, called the vote by The League of Nations, predecessor to the United Nations, “Israel’s Magna Carta.” The Mandate originally included 48,000 square miles of land on both banks of the Jordan River.

“On July 1, 1920, the British government, with input from its then Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill, appointed Sir Herbert Samuel to be the first High Commissioner of Palestine. Samuel was a Jew and a Zionist, and supported the Jewish aspirations of re-establishing a homeland for the Jewish people. He was the first Jewish ruler in the Land of Israel since Herod Agrippa. On Shabbat Nitzavim, the High Commissioner paid his first visit to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and walked into the Hurva Synagogue…Jews inside that synagogue…felt the hour of redemption had come.” (Ibid. p.85). They would be wrong.

On March 23, 1921, the Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill outlined what was to be called the Churchill White Paper, beginning the first in a series of betrayals by Great Britain and Churchill, of its obligations under the Mandate, which had been to transform all of Palestine into a national home for the Jews. Churchill separated 78% of the land area included in the Mandate, partitioning the area east of the Jordan River, to create an Arab entity within the Mandate, to be called Trans-Jordan, with Abdullah ibn Hussein as the new emir. This was the first two-state solution, and would establish the treachery of Churchill.

While back in Germany, by 1933, the people had become disenchanted with the Weimar Republic, and after new elections, “…on January 30, Paul Von Hindenburg, having been elected President of the German Republic, administered the oath of office to the new Chancellor of Germany, Adolph Hitler. Hitler’s party the National Socialist German Party had won thirty-three per cent of the vote., and under Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, it granted the President the authority to invoke dictatorial power to protect democratic order…( Lucy Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews, p.49)

Most urgently, the German economy had to be addressed. The War, and the peace agreement, the Treaty of Versailles, had drained Germany of much of its resources, and left Germany, an extremely weak and inflationary economy. Yet the Jews of Germany seemed to be doing relatively well as compared to the rest of the population. Average Germans were coming in contact on a daily basis with Jewish doctors, lawyers, professors, industrialists, and businessmen, who were still assimilating into the German society, most notably in the big cities, and so history was to step back into the comforts of German Jewry. Germany needed resources, and Hitler knew the place to get them. And so in 1935, he enacted the Nuremberg Laws. It should be understood that initially, as the Chancellor, Hitler had no intention to slaughter the Jews. It wasn’t personal. It was business. Maybe a little personal. But his main concern was to confiscate Jewish wealth, then forcing them to leave the country.

From 1933 to 1938, Adolph Eichmann, Minister of Transportation, worked with the Jewish Agency, and people such as Teddy Kollek, to transfer over 180,000 Jews to Palestine, leaving the astronomical sum of over three billion Deutsche marks in Germany. Business was good, but as Germany overtook more countries, especially to the East, it needed more places to send Jews from these countries. Led by the United States and Britain, it was time for a Conference, then in Evian, France. In July of1938, 32 countries met to discuss who would be willing to take in some real live Jews. After less than 10 days of discussions and debate came the answer. None of the 32 was willing to open their doors!

On September 30,1938, Neville Chamberlain returned from his meetings with Hitler, and with a smile, as he was getting off his airplane, he waived a piece of paper, and triumphantly declared, “There will be peace in our time!” But not for poor Czechoslovakia. Being in Britain’s parliamentary opposition, and out of power, with the words hardly out of Chamberlains mouth, Churchill flamboyantly seized the opportunity, declaring for posterity,” You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, you will get war!

And among those nations you will not be tranquil;…there Hashem will give you a trembling heart…you will be frightened day and night, and you will not be sure of your livelihood…Hashem will return you to Egypt (exile)…And there you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as slaves and maidservants- but there will be no buyer! (Deut.28:65-68)

American Jews in high office turned their backs on their fellow Jews of eastern Europe. Rabbi Steven Wise, spokesman for American Jewish Congress, Sam Rosenman, and Joseph Proskauer of American Jewish Committee, Sol Bloom, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and others close to President Roosevelt were silent. To Evian, Hitler’s first response was on November 9, 1938, Kristallnacht! His second response coming not long after, in a speech at the Reichstag on January 30, 1939: “It is a shameful example to observe today how the entire democratic world dissolves in tears of pity [for the Jews] but then, in spite of their obvious duty to help, closes its heart to the poor tortured people.” The Nazi publication Der Weltkampf echoed Hitler’s theme: “We are saying openly that we do not want the Jews, while the democracies [including the United States] keep on claiming that they are willing to receive them- and then leave then out in the cold.” (Rafael Medoff, The Deafening Silence, p.59) And so, after Evian, in May of 1939, Britain issued the McDonald White Paper limiting the number of Jews entering Palestine to 15,000 per year, a mere trickle, at a time when hundreds of thousands needed refuge. Britain, in effect, closed the doors to Palestine and rescue.

Churchill railed against the British betrayal. The League of Nations stated the White Paper contradicted the Mandate under which Britain had been given the Mandate to rule Palestine. On May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Britain. In August of 1941, he began to receive reports from Bletchley Park, where the British had broken the codes of the Nazis, and had begun transmitting information of the massacre of European Jews. On August 24, 1941, Churchill himself declared, as the Nazis advanced, “….whole districts are being exterminated. Scores of thousands of executions… in cold blood are being perpetrated by the German police-troops! (Ibid. p.176-7). Churchill knew, and could have opened the gates to Palestine. He too had a choice between honor and shame. He too should be remembered for the choice he made, and his betrayal of six million Jews.

05/10/19     Yom Hazikiron:5779                                  Jack “Yehoshua” Berger

About the Author
Educated as an architect with a Masters in Architectural History, Jack Yehoshua Berger became a practicing architect and real estate developer. In his late 30's he met a Rabbi who turned him on to the miracle of Israel and he began learning how the amazing country, against all odds, came to be the miracle of the modern world.