The Problems which face the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden in its work of directing German-Jewish emigration, the obstacles which the organization faces and the progress it has made are described in the report of Dr. Mark Wischnitzer, general secretary of the Hilfsverein, made at the recent annual meeting of the organization.
When the Hilfsverein first turned its attention toward the German-Jewish emigration problem, Dr. Wischnitzer declared, it was faced with apparently insuperable difficulties which, to a large extent, have now been overcome.
“The main difficulties,” he said, could be classified under five heads:
“1. When the great stream of emigration started in 1933, the doors of most countries of immigration were completely closed. In others, immigration was restricted by hampering provisions concerning residents and the right to work.
“2. The emigration of Jews from Germany, unlike its emigration from the East European countries, had no nuclei, no groups of relatives and friends living in other countries to help the newcomers, strange to the new conditions, since for many decades there had been no emigration worth mentioning of Jews out of Germany.
“3. Information about the possibilities of immigration and settlement was almost non-existent.
“4. There were in the overseas countries relief committees to assist those in need, but no Committees to receive and advise immigrants who had to find means of livelihood.
“5. The lopsided economic structure of the German Jews made it impossible for the preparation for emigration to be adequate so that there was insufficient capacity for adaption to new conditions.
“The experiences which were gained in 1933 were useful in helping to rationalize the emigration movement in 1934,” he continued.
“The most substantial obstacle, the restrictive measures in the immigration countries, nevertheless continued because of the economic crisis. It is essential to undertake a far-reaching extension of the emigration aims and to adapt emigration as far as possible according to the different conditions in all the various countries of the world.
“The lack of sources of information has been overcome by extending the existing network of correspondents. Cooperation has been made closer and more systematic with State and Jewish authorities, the Reich Office for Emigration and other authorities, Consulates, the Central Committee for Aid and Reconstruction the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden and large numbers of Jewish communities and welfare offices. The cooperation with the ICA, HICEM, Joint Distribution Committee and Hias has been of the utmost value as well as with the National Council of Jewish Women and a large number of Relief Committees on the Continent and in overseas countries.
“The realization that the economic conditions in the European countries can hardly be expected to change drastically in the near future has led to a more intensive observation of the possibilities of emigration overseas. It is estimated that in 1934, at least 4,000 persons went to about thirty overseas countries after being advised and partly financed by the Hilfsverein. It may be assumed that in addition 2,000 to 3,000 emigrated overseas without the assistance of the Hilfsverein.
“The urge to emigrate has increased lately,” Dr. Wischnitzer said. “In the first months of 1935, 1,500 emigrants went to overseas countries after taking the advice of the Hilfsverein. In 1934, the Hilfsverein gave advice in 15,700 cases, and including the members of their families this affected about 40,000 persons. In the first months of 1935 there were about 10,000 applications for assistance from communities and individuals in 170 towns and villages. The contacts of the Hilfsverein with organizations on the Continent and overseas often made it possible to trace relatives and obtain undertakings from them.
“A definite turn in the position of Jewish emigration which permits a more hopeful view of future opportunities,” Dr. Wischnitzer said, “is that a number of South American states have in the course of the last year become important neuclei for continued emigration from Germany. Groups of emigrants have consolidated themselves economically and are now in a position to bring over their relatives.
“When we think that in all the big migration movements in Jewish history in the building up of the Jewish centres in Eastern Europe by Jews from Germany and the new Jewish centers in North America by the immigrants from Eastern Europe in the last decades, the decisive role was played by the so-called emigration of relatives which constituted the mass character of the emigration movement, it will be possible to realize the real significance of the new relatives emigration movement which is now going on. Even the latest difficulty, the lack of adaptation of the people to the new conditions may be partly overcome. The emigrants have developed a much greater capacity of adjustment and are in this respect very little behind the East. European emigrants. This is to be traced back to the effect of the vocational reconstruction work in Germany.”