51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration With the Nazis By Lenni Brenner, ed. Barricade Books, 2002, 342 pp. List: $22; AET: $15.
It's no secret that Zionism embraced political expediency to advance the cause of carving Eretz-Israel from the land of its native inhabitants. In his 1983 book, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, Lenni Brenner shows that 20th century Zionists observed shockingly few limits to that expediency. Not surprisingly, the book received little coverage in the American media. Now, in 51 Documents, Brenner has compiled a wide variety of letters, statements, articles, and judgements-some of which appeared in his earlier book-by a broad array of activists and authors, that documents Zionist cooperration with the Nazis. On the face of it, the notion seems absurd. However, Brenner presents the case-made in many Zionists' own words-that the Nazi agenda of expelling the Jews from Germany fit nicely with the Zionist plan for enticing those Jews into settling in Palestine and creating a new Jewish nation.
In addition to introductory and concluding chapters, the book is organized into five sections which lead the reader through early, pre-Zionist documents; pre-Holocaust ideological factions; the Holocaust era itself; and a chapter on the Stern Gang and the Nazis. Readers should note that a few documents are not indicative of collaboration in and of themselves, but provide the background to others written in response. These latter do indicate levels of collaboration between Zionists and fascists, both the Nazis in Germany, and those in Mussolini's Italy. Brenner's brief explanatory notes at the beginning of each document are helpful, as are the glossary and index.
51 Documents assumes a certain knowledge of Zionist history, and requires a close reading and some deconstructive efforts on the part of the reader. Those willing to commit the time and effort, however, are rewarded with some stunning revelations. The reason some Zionists eschewed the boycott against Hitler's Germany, for instance, is that they had a financial deal-Ha'avara-with Germany allowing Jews to exchange their wealth for goods to be exported to Palestine at less of a loss, as an incentive to emigrate. Those wondering why Zionists today are so organized and experienced in their public relations efforts discover that these battles have been fought before. Moreover, the section on Nazi and Zionist understandings of "nationality" versus citizenship reveals how German and Israeli practices are based on the same concept.
51 Documents also sheds a whole new light on the term "Holocaust guilt," frequently understood to mean Western, non-Jewish guilt for not acting against the Holocaust earlier. However, these documents make it clear that Holocaust guilt began with those Zionists who made the undoubtedly difficult, but politically expedient choice to place Eretz-Israel at the top of their priorities, above the lives of their threatened European brethren.
From a Zionist Executive Meeting speech by Yitzhak Gruenbaum on Feb. 18, 1943:
And when some asked me: "Can't you give money from Keren Ha Yesod (Palestine Foundation Fund) to save Jews in the Diaspora? …