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The Seventh Million

The Israelis and the Holocaust

By Tom Segev
15-minute read
Audio available
The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust by Tom Segev

The Seventh Million (1991) is all about the way in which the Holocaust has shaped the Israeli identity. These blinks detail everything from the Zionist response to Nazism and the arrival of the first European Jewish refugees in Palestine to the Six-Day War and Holocaust Memorial Day.

  • Jews, Israelis, Germans and Americans
  • Historians and students of the Holocaust

Tom Segev is a columnist at Ha’aretz, a leading Israeli newspaper, and the author of One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate.

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The Seventh Million

The Israelis and the Holocaust

By Tom Segev
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust by Tom Segev
Synopsis

The Seventh Million (1991) is all about the way in which the Holocaust has shaped the Israeli identity. These blinks detail everything from the Zionist response to Nazism and the arrival of the first European Jewish refugees in Palestine to the Six-Day War and Holocaust Memorial Day.

Key idea 1 of 9

With the rise of the Nazis, German Jews were “transferred” to Palestine – yet their arrival was fraught with tension.

Nineteen thirty-three was a turning point in history: the year the Nazis came to power in Germany. The rise of the Nazi state quickly signaled to Zionists, the community of Jews desiring to create a Jewish state in Palestine, that the Jews of Germany were in danger.

Back then, however, the interests of the Nazis and the Zionists complemented one another. That’s because the Nazis wanted the Jews to leave Germany and the Zionists wanted them to live in Palestine.

As a result, “transfer” agreements, also known as Haavara, were made between the Nazis and the Zionist Jewish Agency in Palestine. Here’s what happened:

In the 1930s, the Jewish Agency acted as a government for the future Jewish state, with Zionist officials traveling to Berlin to negotiate the emigration of German Jews and the transfer of their property to Palestine.

As a result of these negotiations, a transfer agreement was reached: any Jews who emigrated to Palestine would be permitted to take $4,000 of their money and to ship goods worth $5,000 to Palestine, a sizable amount of money in the 1930s. In this sense, the agreement was just.

However, the arrival of the German Jews in Palestine was a source of great tumult. The German immigrants were traumatized by the terror of Nazi Germany and from having been uprooted from their home country. Many had also come against their will, in other words, not as Zionists but as refugees. The latter did not have the same beliefs as the Zionist colonists, who sought to establish a Hebrew culture and language in Palestine.

And the Jews who already lived there?

They were not happy about the immigrants. In fact, they lamented the flow of poor people and businessmen with their families arriving from Germany. They would have preferred single men and women to come, as they were considered ideal for building a new country.

Quote/Fact: Eliahu Dobkin, a member of the Jewish Agency in the 1930s, considered German Jews who were arriving as refugees as “undesirable human material.”

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