Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden

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HILFSVEREIN DER DEUTSCHEN JUDEN ("Relief Organization of German Jews"), German Jewish organization founded in 1901 to improve the social and political conditions of the Jews in Eastern Europe and the Orient, especially after the pogroms. The Hilfsverein was planned as a central body for German Jewry on the lines of the French *Alliance Israélite Universelle, and its establishment was opposed by the Alliance; some of the German members of the latter created the Deutsche Conferenz Gemeinschaft within the framework of their own organization. On occasions the Hilfsverein policy was guided by pro-German political objectives such as the introduction of German language teaching in its schools in the Balkans and Ottoman Empire. The Hilfsverein established in Palestine a school system from kindergarten to teachers' training college level, with Hebrew as the language of instruction. The attempt to introduce teaching in German at the planned Haifa *Technion in 1913 caused an international furor in Zionist circles. After the Kishinev pogrom, the Hilfsverein called the Vienna Conference of 1903 to organize relief for Russian Jewry, and a similar conference in London in 1905. During the 1905 revolution in Russia it gave financial help to the self-defense groups of the Bund and Zionists. From 1905 to 1914 the Hilfsverein published a weekly, Russische Korrespondenz, in German, English, and French, on the position of the Jews and the liberal and revolutionary movements in Russia. Following a policy of assisting only "organized emigration" of Romanian Jews, the Hilfsverein decided in 1902 not to help those emigrants who were stranded in Germany, but instead to help the Jews in Romania itself. The Hilfsverein became the agent of Jacob *Schiff's project to help Russian Jews to emigrate to the southern United States (the Galveston plan), but in view of the autocratic nature of the German regime was unwilling and unable to assist Jewish emigration to Germany. On the eve of World War i the Hilfsverein had over 10,000 members in Germany, and followers in America, Russia, and Palestine. During the war the Hilfsverein assisted in interdenominational relief work in the occupied territories in Eastern Europe and distributed American relief funds. However, the assimilationist policy of the Hilfsverein and its Eastern European agencies provoked sharp conflicts with the Zionists and other anti-assimilationist groups. As a result the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee began to participate to a greater degree in the allocation of funds formally channeled through the Hilfsverein.

After the defeat of Germany, the Hilfsverein ceased to play a major role in international Jewish matters but joined the Alliance and other non-Zionist organizations, though it refused to take part in the efforts for united Jewish representation at the League of Nations. Through its 290 local committees in Germany (in 1930), the Hilfsverein concentrated mainly on helping Jewish emigration from and via Germany (about 350,000 between 1921 and 1936). After the advent of the Nazi Reich, the Hilfsverein (which in 1935 had to change its name to Hilfsverein der Juden in Deutschland, "Relief Organization of Jews in Germany") was unable to continue with relief work abroad. The Hilfsverein initially advised German Jewry to postpone emigration as long as possible but was forced by circumstances to aid those who wished to leave for destinations other than Palestine. It was officially dissolved in 1939 though it continued to exist until 1941 as an emigration section of the *Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland. Between 1933 and 1941 the Hilfsverein assisted over 90,000 persons to emigrate to overseas countries, with the exception of Palestine. Leading personalities of the Hilfsverein were James *Simon (president until 1932), Eugen *Landau, Paul *Nathan, and Max M. *Warburg.


Festschrift anlaesslich der Feier des 25-jaehrigen Bestehens des Hilfsvereins (1926); Z. Szajkowski, in: jsos, 13 (1951), 47–70; 19 (1957), 29–50; 22 (1960), 131–58; idem, in: ylbi, 9 (1964), 131–58; Kahn, in: Die Arbeit des Hilfsvereins… (1931), 77–82; E. Feder, in: hj, 14 (1952), 3–26; E. Cohen-Reiss, Mi-Zikhronot Ish Yerushalayim, 2 vols. (1933–36); Wiener Library, London, German Jewry (1958), index; M. Rinot, Pe'ullatah shel "Ḥevrat ha-Ezrah li-Yhudei Germanyah" ba-Ḥinnukh be-Ereẓ Yisrael (19011918), (1972). add. bibliography: I. Friedmann, "The Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden, the German Foreign Ministry and the Controversy with the Zionists 1901–1918," in: lbiyb, 24 (1979), 291–320; E. Bar-Chen, "Two Communities with a Sense of Mission – The Alliance Israélite Universelle and the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden," in: M. Brenner, V. Caron, and U.R. Kaufmann, Jewish Emancipation Reconsidered (2003), 111–21; M. Rinott, "The Zionist Organisation and the Hilfsverein," in: lbiyb, 21 (1976), 261–78.

[Ze'ev Wilhem Falk]

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Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden

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