Eichmann's Jews the Jewish Administration of Holocaust Vienna by Doron Rabinovici for me was a book which I would recommend to all those who want to know more about this very harrowing time in history.
Doron Rabinovici has produced a very thorough study into how one faith was turned against in such a terrible way. The treatment of those from the Jewish faith is famous the world over and is told down through the generations, it is one subject from History which will never be forgotten. This is so unlike any other books based on this subject as the author has written an in-depth study of Vienna and its people and how those same Jews could actually join forces with the Nazi's and lead their Jewish friends and family to certain death for one simple reason they lived in fear of their own lives. But how did they live with this guilt afterwards as not everyone died in the camps, therefore talk would start and when their families asked "what did you do through the war?" what would their answer be.
I liked this book as it was unlike any other book I have ever read nothing was taboo to this author and he wanted to do one thing and that was to tell the world the truth of what happened to those Jews who worked with the Nazi's and those who were the victims. In some cases being a survivor through this time was made a form of guilt.
I highly recommend Eichmann's Jews by Doron Rabinovici mainly because it opened up so much to me as a reader and showed what life was like for those who worked for and against the Nazi regime. But I know one thing if you were given the choice to die a horrible death or lead those you worked beside and those who shared the same faith as you to the same horrible death how would you have answered? I know there was evil everywhere and this author showed how this evil was and where it came from in so many different directions. I cannot say this book brought me enjoyment but one which showed me how the evil of the Nazi's had to be defeated and I am so thankful for that generation of men and women who did all in their power to eradicate this evil force.
This book deals with a very controversial issue - the apparent collaboration of Austrian Jews with the Nazi Third Reich's programme for their extermination. How could they have participated in something so horrific, and why did they?
Doron Rabinovici is a Viennese Jew born after the war in Israel, but his family returned to Austria when he was 3. He has also written several novels and a collection of short stories. Eichmann's Jews was originally published in German under the title Instanzen der Obnmacht, which translates as Authorities of Powerlessness. It is based on his PhD thesis.
Adolf Eichmann was a senior SS figure whose job in Austria from 1938 was to implement the Final Solution, and many of his methods were also used in other countries which came under Third Reich rule, such as the use of Jewish community leaders and organisations to help carry out the dirty work.
Rabinovici describes the Jewish population of Vienna before the Anschluss brought Austria under Nazi rule in 1938 - the Vienna Israelite Community or Kultusgemeinde had responsibility for various social services, health care and educational functions as well as synagogues, and had hundreds of paid staff, and presumably lots of records and information about the city's Jewish population. Austrian Jews had faced a lot of anti-Semitism long before the Nazis - this had intensified in the 1930s, and there was substantial anti-Semitic legislation.
Eichmann's Jews were recruited by a mixture of coercion and persuasion. The community leaders involved were called to meetings where they were offered little choice. They were invited to discuss the systematic expulsion of Jews, and hoped to be able to negotiate emigration to Palestine and elsewhere for their community members. Although they were unable to fund the services they had previously run, they tried to find a way to continue running soup kitchens, vocational training to help people emigrate and prisoner support. Later, the Nazis forcibly recruited Jewish thugs and grouppenfuhrers (group leaders) to help round up Jews for deportation to concentration camps.
Rabinovici outlines how it all happened in fascinating and horrifying detail. While many of Eichmann's collaborator Jews were themselves later sent to camps and killed, those who survived were often judged, sentenced and punished for their involvement in war crimes than non-Jews - again, this is meticulously documented.
Eichmann's Jews is clearly a product of extensive academic research, backed up by over 40 pages of endnotes for a text of just over 200 pages. I don't know what the German text is like, but the English translation seems very well written, with real clarity and flow. The complexity and contradictions in the story of what happened to the Jews of Holocaust Vienna is presented in lots of short, straightforward sentences.
Given its subject matter, this is not an easy or entertaining read but a worthwhile, thought provoking and disturbing account of a particular part of Holocaust history.
Although anti-Semitism is more often identified with Germany than Austria it was in the latter where it flourished. The blood libel against the Jews, referred to by Josephus and Socrates Scholasticus in the first and fourth century respectively, became a cultural icon in Austria as the cult of Anderl von Rinn. By the seventeenth century it was widespread and continued even after the cult was forbidden in 1995. Between 1897 and 1910 Vienna was governed by the anti-Semitic Karl Leuger who created a mass anti-Semitic movement. At the time, "Vienna had the largest Jewish population of any city in the German-speaking world." Their support for nationalism and assimilation was widely resented by the pan-German movement.
Austrian born Adolph Hitler moved to Vienna where he developed a hatred of the Jews blaming them for his mother's death, the rejection of his application to the Vienna Academy of Art and despising their opulence and influence. Later he blamed the Jews for Germany losing the First World War and as the evil genius behind Bolshevism. However, none of these events created his anti-semitism, which was a psychological escape into as fantasy world as a result of his inability to form normal human relationships. By 1922 he distinguished between Judiasm as a religion and Judiasm as a race using religion as a means of making money. He set out to destroy them.
Jewish interests in Austria were represented in the Kultusgemeinde (IKG) which consisted of a number of factions, including the anti-Zionist Union of Austrian Jews and Adath Israel. The Union mistakenly relied on legal means to combat anti-semitism and both groups were committed to Austrian liberalism. In 1932 Englebert Dollfuss became Chancellor of Austria. In 1934 he introduced Austrofascism, establishing a corporate state along Italian fascist lines but with a strong anti-secularist theme. It was a totalitarian nationalist regime. Later that year he was assassinated by Nazis. His successors did not overtly adopt anti-Semitism although Jews were removed from office because they were Communists or other "undesirables".
The Anschluss, the entry of German troops into Austria, in March 1938, was met by cheering crowds. German anti-Semitic policies were eagerly adopted by Austrians and attacks began on the Jewish community immediately. Within two days the new rulers "banned excesses undertaken on individual initiative and the uncoordinated confiscation of property". As Jews were forbidden to take an oath to Hitler they were automatically removed from office. All Jews involved in the legal profession were dismissed, students were banned from studying at university and all Jewish teachers at the University of Vienna lost their jobs by the end of March 1938. The expropriation of the Jews was rapid. "In May 1939, 30 per cent of the self-employed Jewish businesses still existed in Berlin after six years, compared with just 6 percent in Vienna after a single year."
Adolph Eichmann arrived in Vienna four days after the Anschulss. In Berlin he was a subordinate figure, in Vienna "he took the initiative.....to manage the terror and the persecution." Austrian Jews believed Eichmann was interested in maintaining the IKG and encouraging emigration. Jews who had got rid of their possessions were granted visas and illegal emigration was stopped to prevent Jews from taking assets out of the country. The IKG was reorganised to act as functionaries in the administration of Nazi Jewish policies. "Zionist organisations were forced to cooperate with the Nazis in order to rescue the victims of persecution." Rabinovici claims, "They were powerless, trapped between Nazi persecution, the cynical imperial policy of the United Kingdom and the indifference of neutral countries." This is a lazy conclusion. The British government believed the best way to rescue European Jewry was to win the war and liberate Europe. Many historians argue Britain did all that was realistically within its power to assist European Jews. If there was a failure it was in not publicising the fact that Jews were being persecuted because of their race. By the time newsreels of Belsen were available it was too late.
After the war ended retribution and punishment began. Those who had served the Nazis in one way or another were put on trial. William Reisz was sentenced to fifteen years imprionment. Ironically, Weisz was a Jew who had already survived a Nazi death sentence. He did not expect to be convicted and hung himself the day after sentence. His boss, Herbert Gerbing, disappeared and was never tried. The brutal Nazi, Josef Weszl, was sentenced to life, commuted to twenty years in 1952 and released three years later. His Austrian subordinate Oscar Reich was executed. This and several other cases leads Rabinovici to ask why the predicament in which people found themselves was not taken into account when sentencing. "Under the Nazis, the victims were forbidden to live. After the liberation they had to justify their survival." It's a moral dilemma no one should have to face and for which no-one should be blamed other than the rotten regime which abandoned humanity for the inhumanity of racial persecution.
The dilemma was brought home to Simon Weisenthal when he encountered SS Rottenfuhrer Merz who told him that when people in America asked what conditions were like in the German concentration camps and what did they do to you, "You would tell the truth to the people....They wouldn't believe you. They'd say you were mad. Might even put you in an asylum. How can anyone believe this terrible business - unless he has lived through it?" It was a common theme repeated time and again by the SS. The crime itself was kept out of the public eye and the murderous nature of the regime made it unwise to talk about it. It served no military purpose was not considered of sufficient relevance to become one of the Allies' war aims. The Allies won a war they could easily have lost, diverting resources to protect victims of the Holocaust was unrealistic. A thoughtful book. Five stars.
If some heavily-armed bully gave you a gun and told you to betray your own friends and family to the point of death, would you be able do it? Could you collaborate with an enemy and become an enemy of your own people? And if you did so, would you be one of the monsters, or just a victim of the enemy?
It is a very difficult question, and this book seeks to explain what happened when the evil monster, Eichmann, forced the Jewish community elders of Vienna to become his agents in their own liquidation from 1938 (the Anschluss) until 1945.
The author goes to great lengths to show what the Jewish communal coordination body was forced to do at the behest of the Nazis, and asks the question: why did they do it, and why didn't they refuse to help? And even more so, were they deliberate collaborators, or was there no real choice?
You have to remember that Austria was far more inherrently anti-semitic than even the Germans, and when the Nazis took over in 1938, they found the Austrians willing to go further and faster than the German Nazis had dared at home. The producers of Sound of Music told how they were refused permission to film scenes of the Nazis being welcomed into Austria, and planned to use real 1938 footage - at which point the Austrian authorities realised it would look even worse for them, and relented. Once in, the Nuremberg Laws were implemented almost in their entirety almost immediately - a process which had taken many years in Germany.
The evidence is presented in great depth and detail, richly documented, and therefore all the more disturbing to read. Given the historical background, the holocaust in Austria was not the same as in Germany. The obvious emphasis of the Nazis wasn't on destroying the Jews - they were out to rob them, to steal their every possession, and only then to drive them out penniless. Eichmann was still trying to force the Jews over the borders and out of the Reich even after the war had started.
The circumstances made it impossible to drain every last penny, but as I read in another work on the financial aspects of the Holocaust, it was about raising funds for the Nazis to use in bribing the German masses to follow them.
Then why the Jews? The Jews of Vienna had money - Vienna was a rich city - and Hitler hated Jews (despite paradoxically having Jewish friends). He blamed them for what went wrong in Vienna before he fled to Germany - to avoid being drafted into the army of Austria. His view is clearly stated in Mein Kampf - the worst example of demented ranting I have ever had the displeasure to flick through!
This book shows the ugliness of the Nazi plan to rob, impoverish, and then destroy the Jews. It also shows how the Jewish elders tried to evacuate every possible person out of the reach of the Nazis whilst it was still possible, and the war began, they worked instead to try to prevent every last deportation to camps that they could.
It seeks to prove that the Jews who worked for Eichmann honestly believed that they had to do what he asked, or else somebody else would be appointed who would actually be eager to do the evil deeds. As such, he feels that they were - largely - just as much victims of the Nazis as those persecuted directly by the Nazis in other conquered territories of Europe. (He mentions some possible exceptions, and why they were hated by the survivors of the Holocaust).
The book answers all the questions raised, and does so very effectively, and I recommend it as one of the best Holocaust studies I have read recently.
on 8 May 2012
Eichmann's Jews: The Jewish Administration of Holocaust Vienna 1938-1945 aims to showcase `the internal workings of the Jewish community in Vienna' during the Second World War.
Eichmann's Jews has an incredibly ambitious scope. It sets out to present `a major new study of the role of the Jews, and more specifically the "Judenrat" or Jewish council' in Vienna, where Adolf Eichmann `developed and tested his model for Nazi Jewish policy from 1938 onwards'. Rabinovici portrays how Eichmann is widely regarded as the `Nazi authority responsible for organizing the mass expulsion and later the deportation [of Jewish people] to extermination camps'.
Rabinovici discusses an incredibly sensitive issue in his book, one that is nowhere near as widely known as other details of Jewish persecution in World War Two. `The question of the collaboration of Jews with the Nazi regime during the persecution and extermination of European Jewry' is the pivotal point of debate. The author takes into consideration newly discovered archives and a wide range of interviews, and focuses upon both Jewish groups and individuals. Transcripts have been copied from a variety of different sources which include other scholarly texts, Holocaust memoirs and interviews with survivors. The personal preface outlines why Rabinovici wished to undertake the writing of such a book.
The book is split into twelve separate sections which deal with such aspects as the November Pogrom, `Deportation and Extermination', `Struggle for Survival and Escape' and an overall discussion of the Jewish councils. All of these sections are of a manageable length and can be read separately or as a whole.
Eichmann's Jews has been relatively well translated and is an accessible text. It includes a list of abbreviations, extensive notes to the text, a glossary and an in-depth index. It is an easy book in which to find relevant information and is an incredibly useful text for scholars, students and those interested in the administration of the Holocaust or the history of Jewish people in Vienna.
Before starting this review, it is important to keep at the back of your mind this simple question when looking into the question of the collaboration of Vienna Jews with the Eichmann's Nazi regime. What would you do if you were in similar shoes?
It is always easy to judge when you're safe and sound.
To better understand this topic, it needs framed in context with what else was happening in Europe as the war developed. Most of occupied Europe, in worst cases, readily helped the Nazis by helping to identify, locate and transport their own Jews, as well as the recently arrived Jewish population fleeing from other occupied areas trying to escape persecution. It is sad to say that little coercion was needed, indeed many people actively helped in doing this nasty piece of work. Of course there were exceptions, there were people and organizations that tried to help and delay such actions. As for the case with Germany Hitler, in his own country, as opposed to the newly occupied states, he applied a more cautious approach in the early days as a large portion of the so called Aryan race did not adhere to Nazi propaganda against the Jewish population. Although, for the many, by doing nothing to oppose it, it can be argued that this may have given tacit approval to the regime?
Remember also that not until the Wannsee conference of 20th January 1942 was there a blue print for genocide. As early as 1937 it has been reported that Eichmann was sent to the Palestine, with his then boss Herbert Hagen. There they were to evaluate the opportunities of massive Jewish emigration from Germany to Palestine. It was there that they met with Feival Polkes, who was an agent of the Haganah, with whom they discussed plans of the Zionists and tried to procure their backing in easing Jewish emigration from Europe. The initial precursor then was twofold, get the Jewish peoples to leave areas of German control and ensure that all wealth from these peoples was extorted from them. The ones that were able to leave were then left nearly destitute. This was Eichmann's role to form the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, and then to be charged with forcibly deporting and expelling Jews from Austria.
Doron Rabinovici's study of the German-appointed Jewish administration in Vienna was originally published in 2000.The importance of this work is because it focuses on the first of this type of organization, of these German-appointed Jewish administrations, established by the Nazis. For Vienna Austria, was the proving ground and the prototype that was employed by the Germans wherever they conquered, or had significant influence.
This study shows many things that need to be known, and are too many to be covered here. Here are a couple of examples; the first being that until November 1941 the organization continued to helped in caring for needy, sick, aged and orphan Jews. However, when German policy switched to deportation and forced labour and genocide, it continued to perform. There was the distributed of the yellow star that marked Jews, prepared inventories of Jewish properties, and issued instructions for the deportees. They, Josef Löwenherz, The head of the Jewish council, and his colleagues, also agonized over which deportations they could try and defer. Secondly through the use of "Marshals" they located Jews in their homes, and ushered them to the assembly sites, and watched over vacated properties until other teams could come to collect household goods for the Germans.
For those that felt that the administration ruled their lives and death Mr Rabinovici shows that Jewish anger was misdirected: `In reality the Jewish officials were helpless in the face of the deceptions practised by the Nazi authorities'. It is worthy to note that the Jewish leaders could do, nor offer anything that could have changed Nazi policy. On occasions Mr Rabinovici writing seems repetitive but the style and the narration illuminate an area of study that has caused much controversy, for some they were seen as collaborators of the worst kind and were given very harsh sentences.
Room 8 is in the building where most of most harrowing decisions had to be made by Josef Löwenherz and his colleagues. this is an insightful book that is both thought provoking and compelling on a topic that reminds us of appalling suffering, hence my four star rating.
This book looks at the Jewish Administration of Holocaust Vienna, 1938-1945. This is a very sensitive issue - the author asks how could people cooperate in their own destruction? However, obviously, the answer is not clear cut, and this is an in depth study which, although readable, is a serious and detailed look at what happened during those years.
The book begins by showing how, after the war, the sentences given against Jewish collaborators were very harsh, even compared to those of the invaders. No account was made for the defendents predicament, which was often the stark choice of death or cooperation. "Under the Nazi's, the victims were forbidden to live. After the liberation they had to justify their survival." Vienna had the largest Jewish population of any city in the German speaking world and Eichmann developed and tested his model for Nazi Jewish policy there. Vienna became the prototype and the regime incorporated the Jewish community into the machinery of their own destruction.
When the Germans marched into Austria in 1938 they were met by cheering crowds. The Jews of Vienna were not victims of the policy from Germany, the Austrian Nazi's had already began their work long before they arrived. What followed was a catalogue of humiliation, violence, laws, restrictions and decrees heaped upon them day after day. Their businesses and homes plundered, children refused schooling, adults refused permission to work and it got worse and worse and worse. The state authority used the Jewish administration as an implementing instrument of their decrees. Many Jewish functionaries fled, but others remained, feeling responsible for the community. People such as Josef Lowenherz, an adminstrative director and lawyer, who was forced by Eichmann to work out a concept to enable Jews without means to emigrate. Eichmann enjoyed humiliating this academic, twenty years his senior, and it is questionable whether those picked by Eichmann to assist in his plans actually had any choice in the matter.
The German invasion of Poland brought about radical change - the deportation of Jews began in earnest. Rabinovici asks how was the Jewish administration involved in this and how could they have helped? Presumably somebody was required to deal with the senior Nazi's, a task which must have taken immense bravery in itself. They were used to distribute the Jewish star, which had to be worn, and to give records of house evacuations and make deportation lists - probably the most sensitive issue in this book. The author asks how much they actually knew, when rumours spread like wildfire and nobody was really sure about what fate befell the deportees. Could they have helped more? Some, like Franzi Low, took great personal chances in carrying forged documents and ration cards all over Vienna. Others, like Dr Paul Klaar, the head physician at the collection point was haunted by what he had done and tried to commit suicide three times after the war, even though he had little choice and tried to help the victims as much as possible.
There are stories of immense bravery here. Some died rather than participate in selections, individuals betrayed other individuals, and some in the Jewish councils were accused of collaboration in order to try to save themselves. It is certainly true that many in the Jewish councils believed they would help their community by cooperating. Others saw no alternative and most had no choice in the matter. This is a brave book, which looks unflinchingly at those years and presents emotive events in a clear light. At the end of the book you feel profound sympathy for everyone who was in that position and it is impossible to judge people in such terrible circumstances.
Eichmann's Jews is an incredibly brave book to write about the plight of the Jews in Vienna during the Second World War and in particular on the collaboration of some of the Jewish community in facilitating the Holocaust.
Being an Israeli Jew who has lived for many years in Vienna, Doron Rabinovici can give us perhaps a unique view on events of this period, in this place and for these people.
This is, understandably, a harrowing book in which Rabinovici holds no punches and tries to get to the bottom of why some Jews chose to help Nazis kill their own people. Few others could write a book as this in such an even handed way.
An incredibly moving, and at times difficult book to read, but a hugely important volume towards understanding of the Holocaust and how it happened.
In this study of the Judenrat (Jewish Council) in Holocaust Vienna, the author attempts to cover what is undoubtedly one of the most difficult and sensitive issues surrounding the Holocaust - the manner in which the Nazi regime incorporated the Jewish leaders, and sections of the community, into its machinery of destruction, persecution and extermination. A controversial subject indeed, but one that needs to be addressed. To that end the writer has provided an essential contribution to Holocaust literature.
With reference to recently discovered archives, alongside extensive interviews, what emanated from the text for me personally, was the sense of despair and utter hopelessness facing the Jews at the hands of the Nazis.
Words alone are perhaps inadequate to do justice to the subject, and as an 'outsider' it is impossible to imagine what it had been like as a member of the Jewish councils. They being confronted, on the one hand with the Nazi machinery intent upon exterminating all the Jews in their charge, while on the other trying to delay this execution and save as many innocent Jews as possible.
It was in Vienna, that department II-112 of the Security Service under Adolf Eichmann, developed the model for the Nazi Jewish policy. The Vienna model was then copied in other cities such as Berlin, Prague and Paris etc.. Eichmann set up the first Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Vienna, as the Nazi authority responsible for organizing the mass expulsion and later the deportation of Jews to extermination camps
What is clear from the text, as is what I highlight in the following paragraphs, is that the mass murder of Jews would not have been possible without the indulgence and tacit consent of the local Gentile population. Indeed, before the physical annihilation, the Jewish victims were subjected to policies which destroyed them both socially and psychologically. Local anti-Semites going about their 'business' and 'work' with great fervour, often proceeding with a fanatical sense of 'duty'. The writer describing how, not just the police and the judiciary, but also the railways, banks, universities and industry offered their services to help isolate and rob the Jews, while expelling and exterminating them.
The Nazi strategy was clear; all sympathy for the 'wretched and defenceless' Jews, by their non-Jewish neighbours was to be eliminated. Clearly the Jews were not in any position to refuse the tasks imposed upon them by the Nazi regime, and were forced to cooperate or suffer the due consequences, which often involved the death penalty or deportation to a death camp, where the inevitable fate confronted them.
A tactic employed by the Nazis, which worked only too well, was to ensure that the Jewish community itself was called upon to announce the discriminating laws, to ensure the exclusion and branding, and to handle the 'people points'. The Jewish community being manipulating to become an 'instrument' of the Nazis, an 'agent' of its own destruction, wherein many Jews died rather than become involved. Moreover, at the end of the day, under the Nazis the Jewish victims were essentiallyforbidden to live. After the liberation, many Jews perversely then had to 'justify' their survival to some elements. Paradoxically, the anti-Semitic logic that the 'only good Jew is a dead one' itself survived the Third Reich.
While a Jew could be an accomplice within the Nazi regime, to the latter he remained a Jew, and as such was fair game to the treatment meted out to fellow Jews. Whereas the Nazi perpetrator found enjoyment in killing others, the Jewish victim sought first and foremost to escape his or her fate. Even those who attempted to emulate the Nazi brutality, remained Jews who did not act voluntarily, but were involved in the crime primarily under coercion, and also in extreme adversity.
Many anti-Semites are shown to be only too prepared to indulge in the vague 'idea' that the Jewish victims might have participated and taken secret pleasure in the crimes committed against their Jewish brethren. A falsehood, but one that is so convenient to the minds of anti-Semites, who themselves are then able to take a perverted pleasure in holding the Jews responsible for their own extermination, essentially shifting the blame from the Nazi regime for the crimes of the Holocaust, to the Jewish victims themselves.
The book conveys a message that makes evident to the reader the desperation and the hopelessness of the situation confronting the Jews forced to participate in the genocidal schemes of their Nazi captors. I already have a relatively large library of books surrounding the Holocaust and this will be a welcome and essential addition to my collection.
Doron Rabinovici is to be congratulated on this meticulously researched and cogently argued reconstruction of Vienna's Jewish administration under Eichmann's Nazi regime.
Rabinovici looks in depth at the work of the Jewish administration which initially, prior to the onset of the war in 1939, was responsible for the emigration of thousands of Jews to Palestine and elsewhere. How this emigration gradually evolved into deportation, as the borders closed and the gradual realisation of the hopelessness and tragedy of the situation makes harrowing but riveting reading and anyone with an interest in Jewish and indeed of WW II history will find much of interest in this book.
The book is very well written and can easily be understood by the general reader as well as those with a more academic interest and I highly recommend it.