I thought the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933 and headed towards exterminating the Jews, but now I read that they were initially Zionists who made it easy for German Jews to move to Palestine.
The world is a complicated place.
Of all groups of Jews I’ve known or read about, German Jews seem the best. If Hitler had harnessed them instead of persecuting them, he would likely have developed nuclear weapons and won the war.
The Haavara Agreement (Hebrew: הסכם העברה Translit.: heskem haavara Translated: “transfer agreement”) was signed on 25 August 1933 after three months of talks by the Zionist Federation of Germany, the Anglo-Palestine Bank (under the directive of the Jewish Agency) and the economic authorities of Nazi Germany. The agreement was designed to help facilitate the emigration of German Jews to Palestine. While it helped Jews emigrate, it forced them to temporarily give up possessions to Germany before departing. Those possessions could later be re-obtained by transferring them to Palestine as German export goods.
Hanotea (Hebrew: הנוטע), a Zionist citrus planting company, applied in May 1933 for the ability to transfer capital from Germany to Palestine. Hanotea served to assist German Jews’ immigration to Palestine as part of the Zionist endeavor. In a deal worked out with the German government, Hanotea would receive money from prospective immigrants and use this money to buy German goods. These goods, along with the immigrants, would then be shipped to Palestine. In Palestine, import merchants would then buy the goods from the immigrants, liquidating their investment. This arrangement appeared to be operating successfully, and so paved the way for the later Haavara Agreement. Connected to Hanotea was a Polish Zionist Jew, Sam Cohen. He represented Zionist interests in direct negotiation with the Nazis beginning in March 1933.
The Haavara (Transfer) Agreement was agreed to by the German government in 1933 to allow the Zionist movement, in the form of the Haavara company to transfer property from Germany to Palestine, for the sole purpose of encouraging Jewish emigration from Germany. The Haavara company operated under a similar plan as the earlier Hanotea company. The Haavara Company required immigrants to pay at least 1000 pounds sterling into the banking company. This money would then be used to buy German exports for import to Palestine.
The Haavara Agreement was thought among certain circles to be a possible way to rid the country of its supposed “Jewish problem.” The head of the Middle Eastern division of the foreign ministry, Werner Otto von Hentig, supported the policy of concentrating Jews in Palestine. Von Hentig believed that if the Jewish population was concentrated in a single foreign entity, then foreign diplomatic policy and containment of the Jews would become easier. Hitler’s support of the Haavara Agreement varied throughout the thirties. Initially, Hitler criticized the agreement, but shortly reversed his opinion, and continued to support it, in the face of opposition, through 1939.
After the invasion of Poland and the onset of World War II in 1939, the practical continuation of the Haavara agreement became impossible. In 1940, representatives of the underground Zionist group Lehi met with von Hentig to propose direct military cooperation with the Nazis for the continuation of the transfer of European Jews to Palestine. This proposal, however, did not produce results.