The German Jewish Minority

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


The German Jews in America

A Minority Within a Minority

In 1656, twenty-three Jews arrived in New Amsterdam, later New York, from Recife in Brazil. They were the first Jewish community settled in North America. Other Portuguese and Spanish speaking Jews came later.

A much larger immigration of Jews came from Germany, principally during the 19th century after the revolutions of 1848 had failed. These German Jews came together with thousands of other Germans and settled not only in East Coast cities but also all over the United States. The early Jewish settlers were mainly peddlers who later established the first department stores in the United States. By the beginning of the 20th century there were about 40,000 German Jews in America. They were well received by the overwhelming Protestant majority, as they exhibited many of the attributes of the Calvinist culture then most common in the United States

The  second immigration of German Jews to the United States was provoked by the ascent of Hitler and the persecution of German Jews beginning in January of 1933. At once Jewish stores were boycotted, Jews were beaten in the streets, Jews were prohibited from working and earning a living , all Jewish bank accounts were confiscated, synagogues were burned down, and Jews were sent to concentration camps in Dachau, Ravensbruck, Bergen-Belsen, and several other places, all in Germany.

There were at that time 680,000 Jews living among about 72 million Christians in Deutschland. At once Jews applied to the American consulates for visas to come to the United States. It would have been possible to rescue all German Jews under the quota system then enforced.

The German quota was so large at that time because Germans had come to the United States since revolutionary days. Unfortunately for the German Jews, Franklin Roosevelt had become president of the United States in 1933. A determined enemy of the Jewish people, Roosevelt ordered the State Department to cut the German Jewish immigration to a minimum.

In this Roosevelt was helped by the American Jewish community under the leadership of Rabbi Stephen Wise. Rabbi Wise was at that time the president of all major American Jewish organizations. For that reason, Roosevelt had befriended him because Roosevelt wanted Wise to deliver the Jewish vote to him and the Democrats. Thereupon Stephen Wise held numerous speeches and wrote articles in which he claimed that the German Jews were exaggerating their persecution and should not be allowed into the United States. Nevertheless a few German Jews came to America before the United States entered the Second World War in December 1941, when nearly nine years had passed since the Nazis had taken over the German government.

During all these years, the American Jewish community, with few exceptions, voted  for Roosevelt and supported his policies against the German Jews. There can be no question as to the complicity of Franklin Roosevelt and his supporters in the mass murder of the German Jews, who were deliberately kept from coming to the United States and from  escaping certain death. Even when only 900 German Jews sought to enter the United States after the ship St. Louis was not allowed to land in Cuba despite visas allowing the Jews to enter that country, Roosevelt refused to allow these Jews to find refuge here. The ship returned to Germany and the American Jews kept voting for Roosevelt.

After the Second World War, only 5000 German Jews had survived in that country. These 5000 were almost all married to non-Jews.

In 1956, the newly established German government, now a democracy, allotted some money to a New York committee of American Jews for the purpose of establishing in the United States libraries or other institutions commemorating the Jewish communities which had been destroyed by reason of the Nazi persecutions. The New York committee allocated money to the Polish Jews, the Russian Jews, the Lithuanian Jews, and all other Jewish communities exterminated and murdered. The committee, however, refused to allocate any of these funds to commemorate the German Jews. Indeed, there is today in New York the Leo Baeck library commemorating German Jews. The money for that library was collected in Israel, because American Jews refused to even give German Jews what was rightfully theirs according to the German government request.

Today, in 2019, there are very few German Jews in America who came during the 1930s. This tiny minority within the American Jewish community has reached old age. Their erstwhile existence is obliterated and unrecognized and resented by the overwhelming American Jewish establishment, who to this day support the enemies of the Jewish people and the enemies of Israel.

Shalom uívracha .

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Religion & Social Change (2018).

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