Flight from the Reich by Debórah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt
Adolf Hitler made no secret of his racist intentions or of the violence he would use to fulfill them. A few weeks after taking power in January 1933, he promulgated laws to remove Jews from employment as civil servants, physicians, professors, and teachers. Boycotts of Jewish shops and businesses, and the notorious public burnings of books, mostly but not exclusively by Jewish writers, were further measures proving that Nazi ideology had immediately become the mainspring of daily life in Germany. By the end of that same year, somewhere between 37,000 and 54,000 German Jews and 10,000 Gentiles had fled abroad. A country that had no place for Albert Einstein or Thomas Mann and his almost equally famous sons was a clear danger to the established order.
As Hitler proceeded to lay hands on the Rhineland and the Saar, Austria and Czechoslovakia, more and more Jews found themselves at his mercy. They too were to lose nationality, citizenship, property, livelihood, right to education, and finally, personal security. Initially, Nazi policy was directed at making them understand that if they were to have a future, they would have to find some other country to live in. Thus other countries all over the world had the plight of the Jews inescapably pushed upon them.
Flight from the Reich: Refugee Jews, 1933-1946 is first and foremost a study of the failure of the institutional apparatus set up in that period for the purpose of dealing with refugee problems in general, and the Nazi persecution of Jews in particular. The book’s authors, Debórah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt, previously collaborated on a comprehensive history of the Holocaust, and many of the refugees whose fate they are now describing were eventually caught by the Germans and became victims of genocide. This did not have to happen. Hitler’s anti-Semitism could have been confronted, and many lives saved. The authors do not raise their voices, but their disappointment at the feeble and inhumane responses to Nazi racism of the democracies and their institutions is this book’s undercurrent.
About the Author
David Pryce-Jones, the British novelist and political analyst, is the author of, among other books, Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews (Encounter).