Once taboo and considered shameful, the veil over anti-Semitism has been lifted in today’s world. Hatred toward Jews is now manifested openly through the media, mainstream politics and extremely violent acts in the streets and places of worship. Attacks against Jews have doubled in the US, according to American watchdog groups, while Europeans report a 70 percent increase in vicious anti-Semitic incidents in Germany alone. These statistics are a loud wake up call for the Jews to act to prevent a new Holocaust. We need to take our destiny in our own hands by uniting and implementing our role as “a light unto nations” against the increasing darkness revealed among the people of the world.
Now is a crucial juncture for us to examine and learn lessons from history. We must not miss the signs of approaching catastrophe in a world where there is nowhere to run. Do you know the story of the Nazi Germany’s initial support for Zionism? There are important lessons for us to take from that historical balance point in time when it was still possible to save the Jews of Germany from annihilation.
In 1933, when the Nazi party came to power, about two months after Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor of the German Reich, Leopold von Mildenstein headed the Jewish section of the Nazi Party’s security service. It was his task to find a solution to the Jewish Question, and Baron Mildenstein regarded the Zionist idea that Jews return to their historic homeland in the land of Israel as the best solution. He poured his efforts into trying to strengthen the Zionist bodies in Germany and to weaken those calling for Jewish assimilation within Germany. In retrospect, his mission was actually to save German Jewry.
In order to promote the idea of sending German Jews to British Mandatory Palestine, thus turning Germany into a Judenrein (an area from which Jews are excluded), Dr. Kurt Tuchler, a German-Jewish jurist and judge who served as the Zionist movement’s representative in Germany, invited Mildenstein to visit Palestine. The idea was that he would write his impressions of the visit to the emerging Zionist land and present them in the German press as an attractive destination for Jews, encouraging Jews to move to then-Palestine.
In the spring of 1933, Mildenstein and Tuchler traveled with their wives for a month’s visit to the British Mandate of Palestine. The visit was such a media success that it was extended to six months during which time a series of flattering articles called “A Nazi Travels to Palestine,” were sent and published in the Nazi journal, Der Angriff, edited by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister.
Mildenstein toured the Jewish homeland, mingled with the pioneers and settlers, and wrote sympathetically about their achievements in creating, according to him, a new type of Jew. He glowingly described Jews plowing the land, drying swamps, fulfilling the Zionist dream, and warmly praised Zionism as a movement that greatly benefits Jews.
Following this German pro-Zionist activity, and as a memento of the cooperation between the Nazi Party and the German Zionist Association, the newspaper issued a coin with a Star of David on one side and a swastika on the other, bearing the caption, “A Nazi Travels to Palestine.” These limited edition coins were given as gifts to new subscribers to the Nazi journal.
As hard as it may be to understand today, at the beginning of the Nazi period in Germany, long before anyone could have imagined the horrors the Third Reich, the Germans actually tried to help bring Jews to Israel, even by offering financial support. They built a special economic organization designed to help German Jews to immigrate without losing a penny, so that they would have all their financial assets here in Israel, just as they had in Germany.
Upon his return to Germany, Mildenstein continued his activities in support of the Zionist movement, and even participated in the 19th Zionist Congress as the official representative of the Reich. He enlisted Adolf Eichmann into the effort and in 1937 sent him to Palestine to determine whether it was fit to absorb the Jews. But in spite of all the supportive Nazi efforts, the Jews of Germany came to Israel in very small numbers. Most did not want to go and Mildenstein failed in his mission.
As a result of the failure of the project, Mildenstein was transferred from his post. Two years later, he was appointed as deputy under Adolf Eichmann, who instituted a completely opposite policy that led to the actual implementation of the Final Solution to exterminate the Jews during the period of the Holocaust and World War II.
We all know the tragic end to the story of the Jews under the Nazis, but we can still use its bitter lessons to prevent the gray anti-Semitic cloud that threatens Jews once again from closing in around us. The situation of the Jews around the world today is little different from that of the Jews at the time when the Reich tried to support the building of Israel. On the one hand, Trump and the United States ostensibly support the Israeli-Jewish interests, while on the other hand, anti-Semitism is rampant in almost every region of the world.
The possible future scenarios are two: Either Trump, “today’s Mildenstein,” could lose his job and begin a severe deterioration that would lead to similar or even worse than what occurred in the 1940s in Europe; or the people of Israel will recover their senses and take advantage of the grace period they are being given in order to begin to realize their historical role toward the world: to establish an exemplary society that operates in unity and mutual responsibility as a lighthouse for the world.
The sages of Israel, among them Kabbalists and many intellectuals, wrote extensively about the power of Jewish connection as a solution to the problems the world faces. Rav Kook, for example, wrote: “The building of the world, which is now collapsing at the feet of the terrible storms of a sword full of blood, demands the building of the nation of Israel.”(Orot)
Only when Jews fulfill their mission will anti-Semitism cease and the Jewish people and State of Israel be given legitimacy to exist in safety to lead the world to happiness and peace.