1939: Reichschvertretung archives

24 November 1938

German Jewish Aid Committee

Dear Mr S

referring to our last phone talk with you we are sorry to state that the trip of Dr P to London is at the moment not feasible. …

  1. We need not stress the fact that the situation of German Jewry has been fundamentally changed within the last two weeks and that the opening of new immigration possibilities is now really a question of the most vital importance for thousands. Without going into details we should therefore definitely state that quick and, if possible, positive decisions in regard to the various plans (such as British Guyana, Tanganyika, Kenya) are an urgent necessity. Every delay in dealing with such schemes may prove fatal for thousands.
  2. We are absolutely convinced that there has to be a new departure also in regard to the methods of immigration policy. Under the present circumstances the method hitherto followed of mere ‘infiltration’ cannot but give unsatisfactory results. That is why some scheme of mass-colonisation is absolutely essential.
  3. The necessity of emigration in Germany is such that our people are really willing to accept almost any conditions in the immigrations countries; therefore we should think that it would be the very greatest mistake to be too tedious about climatic or similar conditions of the immigration countries. …

… the present situation in regard to sources is as follows: 1. In spite of all that has happened and especially the impending payment of the fine of thousand millions Marks we are trying hard to obtain further voluntary contributions from wealthy individuals, but, of course, the outcome for our efforts is rather small.

2. The regular payments of the Jewish community are at present nearly all over at a standstill and unfortunately we have reason to suppose that many communities will be altogether unable to bear their share of our financial burden.

3. The fate of the Reichsvertretung is still absolutely uncertain. At present the organisation is not working.

On the other hand there is not only the most urgent necessity to make new grants to those emigrants who are already in possession of their visa or landing permits and who have to leave the country immediately, but there are above all …

Kitchner camp, German Jewish Aid Committee, 24 November 1938
Kitchner camp, German Jewish Aid Committee, 24 November 1938, Shipping debts

The correspondence: November 1938 onwards

There are numerous letters of many different kinds in the archives housed at the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust. Some refer to large-scale emigration plans for hundreds of people at a time, some to overall budgetary considerations, and some to the desperate plight of members of individual families.

In fact, by December 1938, Woburn House was receiving around 1,500 letters and 1,000 people calling in person at the offices each day. By the end of March this had risen to 17,000 letters and around 6,000 personal interviews per week. By July 1939, over 400 staff were receiving 21,000 letters a week – and hence the move to larger premises at Bloomsbury House (Shatzkes 2002, p. 78).

We want to provide an overview here of the kinds of issues being raised, because to baldly state that Woburn House and similar places were receiving letters at the rate of 1,500 a day does not really give a sense of what this must have meant, and the scope of what was having to be considered.

Thus, in extracting the following broad examples of some of the remaining correspondence, we hope to provide a fuller sense of what this time was like, and of what the vast range of considerations must have been.

If you are interested and wish to read more of the correspondence outlined here, you may arrange to view the archive at the Wiener Library on any weekday.

In what follows, most personal identifiers have been removed – except where the names are already well-known figures from the CBF and similar organizations.

Richborough transit camp, Reichsvertretung Budget, 1938
Kitchener camp, Reichsvertretung Budget, 1938

24th December 1938



Dear Mr C

I enclose a letter which Herr Dr M gave me last time he was here. As I am unable to come to London just yet, I [am] sending it on so that you know who I am.

I have learnt from a reliable source that in the beginning of January a liner with 1000 people on board is leaving for China from Germany. Each of them have 10 M with them and the liner is supposed to have been chartered by a Jewish Shipping Company. This has been organised by the Hilfsverein.

In our papers there are warnings for people not to come to China, the Jewish Committee in China has no money and cannot have people sent them. But what is going to happen to the 1000 men who are going to be sent away? Is there a possibility that one of the Aid Committees of the world is going to look after them, that is, could they send money, so that these people will not suffer hunger from the start?

I have written to the Jewish Committee in this city and to the one in New York, and would be very grateful to you if you could tell me what could be done in cases such as this.

2nd January

Dr Eppstein

Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland

Dear Sir

I have had a letter from a firm of solicitors in South Africa, regarding Mr KS, who formerly resided in Hindenberg, Upper Silesia.

Mr S has been in South Africa on a temporary permit for approximately eighteen months. This permit expires in one or two months, and Mr S has been informed that by the production of a Police Certificate from the German Authorities, certifying that Mr S was of satisfactory character, he will obtain permanent residence in the Union

I understand that Mr S has been in communication with an uncle who had promised to get the certificate, but has unfortunately since been placed in a Concentration Camp, and having subsequently been released, he has informed Mr S that he cannot now obtained the necessary Certificate.

We shall be very much obliged, if you can do anything in this matter, and if so, to hear from you at the earliest possible moment.

Kitchener camp, 1939, Reichsvertretung archives, Richborough transit
Kitchener camp, January 1939, Reichsvertretung archives, extract

2nd January

Hilfsverein der Juden in Deutschland


Dear Sirs

We are in receipt of your letter of the 23rd inst., … and in reply would mention that this morning we have received a visit from the undermentioned: –




RL and his wife

GH and his wife.

Arrangements are being made to place all of these people for a short time in England preparatory to their going to Kenya.

We are looking forward to receiving news of the others in due course.

3rd January 1939

Dear Sir *

A meeting of the Officers of the Council for German Jewry this afternoon considered the enclosed statement which has been received from the Reichsvertretung regarding its work during the first quarter of 1939, from which you will see that they estimate an expenditure of, approximately, 8 Million Marks.

We understand from Dr Hirsch that, in view of the present situation in Germany, it will not be possible to mobilise any funds in that Country before the 15th February, and that a sum of 4 Million Marks will be required up to this date.

We understand that the position after the 15th February will be as follows:

The Reichsvertretung will collect from the Jews in Germany various amounts viz:

  1. In connection with the 20% Property Tax which has been levied by the German Government, 1% will be added and will be placed at the disposal of the Reichsvertretung for Jewish requirements
  2. A 33 1/3% Income Tax will be demanded from those Jews who do not pay Property Tax. This applies mainly to Jewish Physicians, Legal Advisers, Employees of Jewish Organisations and, to a certain extent, to those receiving pensions.
  3. A Jewish Flight tax, the amount of which is not yet fixed, will be demanded from the Jews emigrating from Germany.
  4. The funds owned by the various Committees, Unions, Institutions and Foundations will be mobilised for Jewish work.

Provided such raising of funds will be allowed by the German Government Authorities, the Reichsvertretung estimates that such a collection in Germany, which will probably be the last one, will amount to about 25-30 Million Marks.

There therefore remains the problem of providing 4 Million Marks to tide over the period between the 1st January and the 15th February 1939.

The Officers … are prepared to recommend to the Executive at its meeting on Thursday, that a sum of £100,000 should be placed at the disposal of the Reichsvertretung for this purpose.

… The suggestion of the Officers was that the sum of £1000,000 should be divided between the ICA, the American Joint Distribution Committee and the British Section of the Council for German Jewry, and I am writing to you tonight so that you may have an opportunity of considering the matter and seeing whether you can announce to the meeting of the Executive … that the ICA will be able to bear its share of this vote.

9th January 1939



Would you good enough to give me some information as regards emigration for Shanghai for Jews.

A friend of mine who is an Englishman, Mr HK, … now in Saigon, Indo-China, advised me to write to you.

I am the representative of tobacco firms and have represented the British-American Tobacco Company, London. I have introduced their goods to East Prussia. I asked them whether it would be possible for them to offer employment of some sort to me, but they refused me. In the meantime I have heard from Mr K. He has told me that he cannot help me to emigrate as there is no Jewish Community at Saigon. He advised me not to go to Shanghai as there is no possibility of finding work there. He recommended Engapures and said that you would be able to give me some more information with regard to that town.

I enclose a letter from the Hilfsverein, Koenigsberg, so that you know what is actually happening in Germany. As I have no relations abroad there is probably nothing left to me but to emigrate to Shanghai, and I should be very grateful if you could give me some advice. Being a Jew it is not possible for me to stay in Germany any more and I have to emigrate in order to be able to keep my family. I am married and have a daughter of 10. My wife and I are both very healthy and would do every sort of work. I am 42 years old and an expert in the tobacco trade. I have very good testimonials. I was wounded in the war.

I should be extremely grateful if you could give me some advice, and would again stress the fact that I am willing to do every sort of work.

20th January

Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland

Dear Sirs,

I have much pleasure in advising you that at a meeting of the Executive of the Council for German Jewry held on the 18th instant, it was decided to bring over 150 young people who had been released from concentration camps on the understanding that they were to be emigrated immediately.

The work is being carried out under the auspices of the Movement for the Care of Children from Germany, and we shall be glad if you will kindly get in touch with that body with regard to the necessary details.

24th January 1939

Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland

Dear Sirs,

We have received a letter from Mr A, regarding an application made to him by Mr R, of Berlin, who desires assistance for his emigration.

I understand that Mr R is a sculptor, and has a recommend from Sir William Rothenstein.

I shall be glad if you can give me any information regarding this man.

27th January 1939

Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland

Re: KS, Gleiwitz,

now Cape Town

in reply to your letter of the 2nd January, 1939, we would inform you that the “Synagogue-Gemeinde, Gleiwitz” is not in a position to obtain the official certificate for Herrn S, and that he has to make application himself or through a representative.

Richborough transit camp, Application form, 1939, Cenral British Fund archives
Kitchener camp, Application form, 1939, Cenral British Fund archives

13th February 1939

Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland

Our Ref. Dr H/O

Immediately before my departure I sent you the papers concerning Mr S who is going to Australia. Would you please be good enough to pass the enclosed letter on to Mr DC (or his secretary) and also to try to obtain a permit for him to come to England as quickly as possible. The case is an extremely urgent one. With reference to the note I sent with the documents, perhaps you could inform Mr C’s secretary, if further correspondence should be necessary to write to you or through you to me.

15th February, 1939

Comunidad Israelita de Tanger

President of the German Jewish Aid Committee

Dear Sir,

Although we are desirous to help our persecuted co-religionists, we feel we should inform you that it is contrary to their own interest for the organisations to attempt to send more refugees to Tanger.

A number of them have already been admitted who are looked after by a commission appointed by the Committee of the community, and whose object it also is to collect funds for that purpose. This however, is not an ultimate solution.

The refugees cannot find positions in Tanger which has no commerce or industry and the government of which is an obstacle to economic development. Besides, the immigrants are only allowed to stay there for a limited period … and all they ask for is to be sent to a district where they can work.

If their number would increase the police, which at present tolerates the refugees, will enforce much more strong regulations, resulting in arrests and expulsions. The newly arrived refugees risk to be sent back, and the situation of the one[s] that are already here is endangered. On the other hand it is doubtful if their permits will be extended and we have no means at our disposal to send them to more hospitable countries.

The situation which thus arises apart from being dangerous for the refugees, puts our commission into a very precarious position.

Under the circumstances we would ask you, therefore, to dissuade emigrants from turning to Tanger and to choose countries where they will be able to build up a new existence.

22nd February

Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland

Berlin-Charlottenburg 2

German Jewish Aid Committee

Woburn House



Dear Mrs A,

We are in receipt of your letter of the 7th inst., and have asked the Hilfsverein to let us have the documents relating to the admittance of HR, Frankfurt, to the Richborough Camp.

Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland, nd

Dear Sirs,

I have had brought to my notice the case of KW and his family, who reside at *, Berlin, who I understand are in dire need.

Would you be good enough to look into this and help them as far as possible.

Central British Fund archives, 1939, letter requesting help
Central British Fund archives, 1939, letter requesting help

4th June 1939

Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland

Dear Mr S

I am in receipt of your kind lines and have noted with pleasure that you returned safely and that you had a good impression on the work here. May I remind you of your promise to make inquiries for a young gifted sculptor with regard to a paid post. Perhaps you are kind enough to give me a reply should you hear of anything.

23rd July 1939

Gebr. L

Kenya Colony

East Africa

Council for German Jewry

London WC1

Our brother SL from Leipzig has for the last three months been detained in Concentration Camp Buchenwald (Germany) without reason. In spite of repeated attempts to get him out, everything failed. He can only be released, if he and his wife, AL, can emigrate at once.

For the last 3 months we have been here in Kenya and are not able to raise the necessary £1,500 to get him a permit for this country. We would be able to find £120 to £150 if you could find a possibility to get our brother and his wife out of Germany. My brother and his wife have agreed to go, if necessary to a camp in England or anywhere else. SL is 31 years old, a merchant by profession, and would be able to turn to any other work offered to him. AL, 24 years old, hospital-nurse, is willing to do any other work as well.

Please help us get our brother alive out of the concentration camp. If desired we can produce first class reference from abroad.

Asking you in our distress for your advice and help, we remain, with regards


Brothers L.

London, 24th July 1939

The Council for German Jewry

Dear Dr Eppstein

My weekend at the Camp as usual produced some “wants”; and there was one “want” that I picked up at Miss E’s school, Bunce Court. One of her teachers’ father, IS, who was a chazan at Königsberg, is under order to leave Germany at the end of the month. He is a Lithuanian subject, and it seems to me that as it is impossible to obtain a guarantor for him in England, the hopeful course was to get him to Kovno. His address is *, and I promised I would write to you to ask for the help of the Reichsvertretung in his repatriation.

You will be glad to know that we have now secured the Haig Camp at Richborough, and so shall have places for training workshops, and also vacant places for some more men.

gez. Unterschrift

gez. Norman Bentwich


Proposal to emigrate 400 persons from Germany to Sweden

The Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland have obtained the possibility of emigrating the following persons from Germany (including Austria):-

100 children (preference being given to those who will during the next 2 or 3 years re-emigrate).

100 Young girls of 16/18 years of age, who will be trained in private households and domestic courses with a view to re-emigration at the age of 18 as domestic workers.

200 Transmigrants, who will be chosen from the same standpoint with regard to the necessity for their emigration and their chances of re-emigration as those for Kitchener Camp, but with the difference that the members of their families will also be considered for emigration with them, and that there will be no restriction with regard to age. …

The Swedish Government has offered to contribute a sum of 500,000 Kr (£.  ) towards the maintenance of emigrants in need, and the Jewish Community has to provide the rest of the money necessary.

It is estimated that the cost of maintaining the Transmigrants will be 100 Kr per head per month, 240,000 Kr for one year. In addition to this, re-emigration would cost 75,000 Kr per year – making a total of 315,000 Kr for a year, or 630,000 for 2 years – which is the period envisaged by the plan.

The Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland asks the Council for German Jewry and the American Joint Distribution Committee … to provide between them the required sum.

25th July 1939

Dear Dr Eppstein

I am in receipt of your letter of the 19th inst. and note what you wrote in regard to K. and A. J.

I am trying to find some way of getting them out but, at the moment, do not quite know how to manage this. If there is any possibility which you can think of, I shall be much obliged if you will use your influence on their behalf.

1st August 1939

Brothers L.

Kenya Colony

East Africa

Dear Sirs,

We are in receipt of your letter of the 23rd inst, the contents of which we have today noted.

We have today written to Mrs A.L. of Germany, advising her to apply to the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland … on behalf of her husband and also to the Nursing Committee of the German Jewish Aid Committee, Bloomsbury House, Bloomsbury Street, WC1 in applying on her behalf.

The Reichsvereinigung is the only organisation which can nominate people for the Camp in England, and we also have written to them putting the case before them.

We sincerely hope that in this way, something will be done to help your brother and his wife.

15th August 1939

Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland


Dear Mr Stephany,

Thank you for your letter of the 4th inst., regarding the 400 persons which are to emigrate to Sweden.

Although it is not yet certain whether it will be possible to purchase tickets for re-emigration in this country and how long they will be valid, we, too, are of the opinion that the required sums should be raised here and we have only mentioned this for the information of the Council and the AJDC.

It will, however, not be possible to decrease substantially the sum of Kr.100 per head per month. It must be taken into consideration that there are fixed amounts which decrease as the number of persons increase, and from that point of view it is obvious that the cost per head will increase as the number of persons decreases.

It should be noted that a settlement such as Richborough Camp cannot be established in Sweden so that persons can only be placed in small groups, which is understandable in view of the position in Sweden which I described in my letter of the 2nd August.

16th August 1939

Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland


Dear Sirs,

We have this morning received information by cable from Shanghai that the Japanese Naval Authorities, whilst displaying genuine sympathy with European refugees, have notified the Jewish Refugee Committee in Shanghai that owing to lack of accommodation, they are obliged not to permit further refugees to reside in Hongkew after the end of this month.

In view of the fact that the International Concession is already overcrowded and that it is impossible to find accommodation for further refugees, the Committee state further immigration to Shanghai must cease forthwith. The Municipal Council of the International Settlement have informed the Committee that they must forbid the further entry of refugees into the International Settlement. …

We do not know what will happen to those refugees who are already en route, but you may be sure we will do all possible for them. It must however be clearly understood that no persons who leave after today will be admitted and to endeavour to send them will only be a wanton waste of public money.

28th August 1939



Dear Sirs

A. and K. J.

The two above named are men desirous of coming to England temporarily. They are both registered with the American Consulate in Hamburg. They have affidavits, their waiting numbers are 10503/4, so that their re-emigration within two years appears to be certain. …

We should be very grateful if you could go into the matter and let us have a short report. As this case is a very urgent one, we should be glad for your early reply. If it is impossible to raise sufficient funds for their stay in England, perhaps you could be good enough to inform us how much will be available, so that we can see whether it will be possible to place them in another country.

3rd March 1940

Dear Mr de Rothschild,

Thanks very much for ringing on Friday afternoon. I arrived in the office about 4.30. I had quite a long talk with T. on Thursday afternoon … he only arrived back in Paris from Brussels just about the time that I arrived in Paris, having been detained in Brussels to see Dr Otto Hirsch of Berlin, who had come to Brussels.

From what Mr T. told me … the position of the Jews in Germany is very bad. So far as the leaders are concerned, they are endeavouring to arrange for Mr S, who is President of the Berlin Hilfsverein, to be emigrated. He is an elderly gentleman and is, I think, finding the strain too much. Eppstein and Mayerheis, both of whom have been working in the Reichsvereinigung for a number of years, are still there, but it is felt that the German Authorities will not allow them, or Dr Hirsch, to leave, as they are afraid that if they go, the whole fabric of the Organisations of the Jewish Community will collapse. Whilst Eppstein might go, I think it is very doubtful whether Dr Hirsch could be persuaded to leave. I think that he and Dr Beck will remain whilst there are still any Jews in Berlin or Germany.

Their position, however, is exceedingly difficult. During the recent cold spell, they have been absolutely without coal or heating material of any kind. They are not allowed to get any clothes and they have to make collections among themselves for Jews who have not got any, and T. told me that Hirsch, who himself has contributed a suit and a pair of boots, was actually in need of them for his own personal use. …

The work of emigration from Germany goes on, to various overseas countries and for the expenses of this, the JDC is responsible. On the question of assistance for the Polish Jews in Wilna, I enclose copy of a letter which I have written today to B., which I think … give[s] you the present position of the work of the Joint on behalf of the Jews in Poland, both in the occupied territories and in Lithuania. …

Dr Hirsch spoke to T. regarding a new effort made by the German authorities to extract further monies from the Jewish community. Twelve months ago the Reichsvereinigung lost its status as a charitable organisation and the German Government have been endeavouring to collect a very large sum from the Reichsvereinigung for Income Tax. They have now made a demand which is retroactive to 1934, the result of which is that they are demanding a sum of approximately 5 million Marks, being tax on amounts paid by foreign organisations in Germany.

This tax is not collectable if it can be proved that the payments have been made by charitable organisations abroad for relief work in Germany, and we have been asked to take such action as may be necessary in this direction. …

Yours sincerely

Joint Secretary

Anthony de Rothschild, Esq.,

New Court

St Swithin’s Lane

EC 4


To be continued ...