- Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany
Frank Nicosia's Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany represents an important contribution to the existing body of secondary literature on the fate of German Jewry in the Third Reich. Nicosia's book is important not only for what it has to say about the evolution of Nazi policy toward the Jews prior to the implementation of the "Final Solution," but also for what it reveals about the ways in which German Jewry tried to respond to the threat that the triumph of Nazism posed to its very existence. Based upon extensive research in nearly seventy different archival collections in Germany, Israel, Great Britain, the United States, Canada, and Russia, and a thorough command of the existing secondary literature, Nicosia paints a persuasive picture of the ways in which the architects of Nazi racial policy exploited the aspirations of German Zionists for their own purposes. He adeptly captures the self-deception that bedeviled Zionist hopes that Nazi authorities might actually have been acting in good faith in their apparent support for the Zionist cause. As Nicosia so artfully points out, the relationship between the Nazi regime and the Zionist movement was never one of equals; it was a relationship in which the Nazis held all the power and the Zionists had no choice but to operate within the parameters set by their overlords.
In his analysis of Nazi racial policy, Nicosia confirms the emerging consensus on the episodic and sometimes contradictory way in which the leaders of the Nazi state tried to deal with the "Jewish Question." To be sure, Hitler and the other leaders of the regime harbored a deep and abiding hatred of Jews and were determined to reverse the terms of Jewish emancipation, eliminating Jews from the positions of influence they held—or were imagined to hold—in German economic, cultural, social, and political life. But given the regime's other priorities at the time of Hitler's appointment as chancellor, Hitler and his associates were obliged to temper their ideological commitment to the elimination of Jewish influence with a heavy dose of pragmatism. Moreover, the Nazi leadership was by no means in agreement concerning the questions of who within its ranks should take the lead in addressing the Jewish problem. Nicosia rightly detects a certain anarchy in the regime's efforts to deal with "the Jewish Question" until the SS began in the late 1930s to assert its claim to leadership in the formulation and implementation of the regime's racial policies. Here Nicosia correctly identifies the Anschluß of Austria in March 1938 as the radicalizing moment in the evolution of Nazi anti-Jewish policy. [End Page 297] Hitler, Goebbels, and other Nazi leaders were impressed by the pogrom against Austrian Jewry that followed more or less spontaneously on the heels of Austria's annexation. The "Austrian model" that Eichmann developed for accelerating the expropriation and expulsion of Austrian Jewry with the establishment of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration (Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung) in Vienna in August 1938 would quickly become the prototype for subsequent Nazi efforts to deal with "the Jewish Question" in Germany proper.
Throughout this period, the Zionist movement played a special role. As long as the Nazis were committed to solving Germany's Jewish "problem" through forced emigration, the architects of Nazi racial policy—both in the ministerial bureaucracy and the SS—looked upon the leaders of the Zionist movement in Germany as a useful instrument in the pursuit of their own goals. In this respect, there was an odd congruence of objectives between the Nazis and the Zionists inasmuch as both were fundamentally opposed to the assimilationist assumptions upon which German-Jewish life had been based, and sought to accelerate the pace of Jewish emigration from Germany. The groups worked closely from the time of Hitler's appointment as chancellor until the outbreak of World War II to consign the specifically German formula for Jewish emancipation and assimilation to historical...