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A Fatal Balancing Act: The Dilemma of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany, 1939-1945

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A Fatal Balancing Act

The Dilemma of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany, 1939-1945

Beate Meyer
Translated from the German by William Templer

454 pages, 5 tables, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-027-6 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (September 2013)

ISBN  978-1-78533-214-2 $39.95/£31.95 Pb Published (June 2016)

eISBN 978-1-78238-028-3 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $39.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“One of the more remarkable things about Meyer’s study is her almost total lack of criticism of the various Jewish leaders in the RJD and the RR.… Meyer sees the work of the RJD and the RR in a very different light. She argues that these Jewish leaders worked continuously through various phases of Nazi Germany’s ever-changing policies on the “Jewish Question” to find ways to ameliorate such policies…a masterful study of a phase of the Shoah that needs further exploration.” • Holocaust and Genocide Studies

“The strength of the book lies in the sophisticated and nuanced analysis, the encyclopedic detail she provides of the challenges the functionaries faced, and of the organizational changes and constraints during Nazi rule… this is an excellent book, meticulously researched, and it will be a major contribution to the field.” • German History

“Meyer has written a highly informative and fascinating study. She discusses complicated topics in a very balanced way, describing without judgment the dilemma in which both the organization and Jewish functionaries found themselves. This book is a masterpiece.” • American Historical Review

“The book should be required reading.” • Czech Historical Journal

“The author grounds her analysis in an imporessive array of sources unearthed in dozens of archives in Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic…Meyer’s work is a much needed addition to the fields of German-Jewish and Holocaust history and deserves a broad readership beyond specialists.” • German Studies Review

“…an extremely well researched and meticulously-documented study, relying heavily on original source material to document the history of the Reich Association of Jews… during WWII…This is an excellent addition to a Holocaust studies program or library.” • Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

“[The author] keeps the focus on the individual without ever losing sight of the overall crime. This book…can be considered as an essential contribution to the history of the extermination of the German Jews.” • Bulletin of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Frankfurt

“Beate Meyer succeeds in producing a nearly complete picture of procedures and decisions within the organization. In addition she describes openly but not without empathy the diverse, often narrow perspectives and possibilities of responsible individuals in their respective situation.” • Sehepunkte

“The attraction of the book lies not only in the clearly presented results of wide ranging archival material, Meyer also offers a reconstruction of the eventual tragic-political entanglement of the Reich Association with the NS-regime. The study is impressive with its highly informative and factual presentation.” • Jüdische Zeitung


In 1939 all German Jews had to become members of a newly founded Reich Association. The Jewish functionaries of this organization were faced with circumstances and events that forced them to walk a fine line between responsible action and collaboration. They had hoped to support mass emigration, mitigate the consequences of the anti-Jewish measures, and take care of the remaining community. When the Nazis forbade emigration and started mass deportations in 1941, the functionaries decided to cooperate to prevent the “worst.” In choosing to cooperate, they came into direct opposition with the interests of their members, who were then deported. In June 1943 all unprotected Jews were deported along with their representatives, and the so-called intermediaries supplied the rest of the community, which consisted of Jews living in mixed marriages. The study deals with the tasks of these men, the fate of the Jews in mixed marriages, and what happened to the survivors after the war.

Beate Meyer is a Senior Researcher at the Institute for the History of German Jews in Hamburg, Germany and is a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Hamburg. She has been a Fellow at the International Institute of Holocaust Research in Yad Vashem/Jerusalem (2000/2001) and the USHMM (2010). Recent publications include Jews in Nazi Berlin: From Kristallnacht to Liberation (co-edited, University of Chicago Press 2009).

William Templer is a widely published translator from German, and is based in Shumen, Bulgaria.

Subject: Jewish Studies Genocide History
Area: Germany


Abbreviations in the Text and Notes
List of Tables


Part I: From “Forced Emigration” to Assisting with the Deportations

Chapter 1. Created in Chaos

  • Pogrom as Prelude: November 1938
  • Looking Back at the History of the Reich Representation of German Jews, 1932-1938
  • Between Reich Representation and Reich Association: Adaptation Under Duress

Chapter 2. “Forced Emigration”

  • Orderly Emigration or Flight at Any Cost? Legal or Illegal?  Emigration to Palestine (Aliyah)
  • To Emigrate or Stay On? Functionaries Between Duty, Responsibility and Self-Overestimation
  • ”Losing sight of the big picture for the sake of something smaller” The Conflict over Rescuing the Polish Jews 1939/40

Chapter 3. The “Territorial Solution”: “Reservations for Jews” and Early Deportations

  • “Jewish Reservation Lublin”
  • The Madagascar Plan
  • The Deportation of the Jews from Baden and Saarpfalz

Chapter 4. Welfare

  • Interim Summary

Part II: Walking on a Thin Line  – The Participation of the Reichsvereinigung and the Berlin Jewish Community in the Time of the Deportations

Chapter 1. Decision on a Basic Principle: Avoid Hardship, Participate in “Partial Operations”

  • Clinging to a Lost Life World
  • Straying from the path or “legal work in the underground”32(Baeck)? Preparatory Tasks Executed by the RV
  • Changes in Tasks and Structures (1941-1943)
  • New Task: Compilation of Personal Data and Card File Systems
  • A New Imposed  Challenge: Setting Up and Maintaining Assembly Camps for Deportations
  • Another New Task: “Collecting Deportees”
  • Other Supplementary Assistance – Postal Services
  • Social Work as Exemplified in Care for Children
  • The Limited Possibilities of the Reichsvereinigung  to Influence the Deportations
  • The Reichsvereinigung as Employer and a Protective Space for Functionaries and Staff

Chapter 2. “Every Day More Terrifying News”  – The Year 1942

  • Repercussions of the Arson Attack on the Nazi Propaganda Exhibition ”The Soviet Paradise”
  • Socially Acceptable Deportations? Destination Theresienstadt
  • The Daily Round of Work under Threat of Arrest
  • The ‘Community Operation’ in October 1942
  • The “Time of Brunner” 

Chapter 3. The Stepwise Liquidation of the Reichsvereinigung (1943)

  • Deportation of the Leading Functionaries
  • The “great inferno.” The Factory Action
  • (Temporary) Closure of the Business Offices

Chapter 4.  Theresienstadt  as a New Field of Activity of the German-Jewish Functionaries

  • A Veritable Army of Officials
  • The Bitter End of Activity by Functionaries in Theresienstadt
  • Knowledge among the German-Jewish Functionaries about the Murder of the Jews
  • Interim Summary

Part III: The “Psychological Environment” (Hilberg) in the Countryside. Latitude for Action by Jewish Functionaries in the District Branches

Chapter 1. The District Branches

  • Structure and Motivation of the Jewish Functionaries
  • The Tasks
  • Mitigating the Plight, Dissemination of Prohibitions and Social Disciplining
  • Judenhäuser” and Barracks Settlements
  • Preparatory Arrangements for the Deportations

Chapter 2. A Troubled Relationship: The District Branches and the RV Central Office

Chapter 3. The District Branches and the Deportations

  • Brief Digression: Preparations for Deportation by the Gestapo

Chapter 4. A Comparative Look at District Branches

  • Frankfurt am Main.  The System of Organized Arbitrary Action
  • Munich. Hatred of Jews in the Gau of Nazi Tradition
  • Nuremberg. Uninhibited Hordes
  • Mainz. “Reliable” Relations?
  • Hamburg.  “Easier Going” than Elsewhere?
  • Final Thoughts

 Chapter 5. Strategies for Dealing with the Authorities

 Chapter 6. The Fate of the District Branch Directors

  • Liquidation of the District Branches
  • Interim Summary

 Part IV: The Residual Reichsvereinigung

Chapter 1. The Last Compulsory Members: Jews in Mixed Marriages

Chapter 2. Structure and Tasks of the Residual Reichsvereinigung

  • Director Dr. Dr. Walter Lustig
  • Origin and Motivation of the Intermediaries
  • Work under the Conditions of the Bombing Raids
  • Intermediaries in Conflict with the Central Office
  • Lethal Office

 Chapter 3. Vertrauensmänner, Gestapo and Jews in the Final Phase of the War

 Chapter 4. The War is Over – Liberation and/or a Horrible End?

  • Interim Summary

Part V:  A Look at Later Developments: The “Strategy of Cooperation” as an Incriminating Legacy for a New Start

Chapter 1. Proceedings Before a Court of Honor and Employment Bans in Berlin

Chapter 2. Under Suspicion: Former Jewish Functionaries in the Western Occupation Zones and the Fledgling Federal Republic

Chapter 3. “Gestapo Collaborators”: Former Jewish Functionaries in the Soviet Occupation Zone and the GDR

Chapter 4. Aftermath

  • The Conflict Surrounding Recha Freier’s  Let The Children Come
  • Surviving Functionaries in Jewish Organizations
  • Summary

Archival materials cited
Literature and printed sources

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