NEW YORK (Oct. 25)
The two-day international Jewish conference on claims against Germany, attended by representatives of 20 major Jewish organizations from nine countries, opened at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel today with a statement by Dr. Nahum Goldmann emphasizing that the parley is in the nature of “an exploratory meeting.”
In his opening address, Dr. Goldmann, who presided, said that the conference was initiated by the Jewish Agency after consultations with the Israel Government. “Its purpose is not to review, no less to settle, the historic problem of the relations between the Jewish and German peoples, ” he declared. “it has been called to discuss the material and financial claims of Israel and of the Jewish people against Germany and to devise possible procedures for their realization.”
Dr. Goldmann explained that the major Jewish organizations of the U.S.A., the British Empire and France have been invited to the parley “because the are the three occupying powers from whom we expect support in our claims against the Bonn Government.” The Representative Council of Argentine Jewish Organizations has been invited so as to include Latin American in the deliberations, he said.
This is in the nature of an exploratory meeting.” he pointed out. “It must inevitably be so, because we have no concrete German proposal before us. We do not even know whether, when such a proposal comes, it will prove an acceptable basis for negotiation. What we must do here is to set up the proper machinery to deal with such a proposal if and when it comes. A representative committee, appointed by us and instructed by us in general policy, would provide a practical method for solving this problem.”
DR. GOLDMANN ADVOCATES NEGOTIATIONS WITH GERMANY
The chairman of the Jewish Agency executive said he has never been able to understand the moral validity of the position taken by some Jews that Jewish self-respect and dignity forbid negotiations with the Germans on problems of restitution, indemnification and reparation. Is it more moral to leave Germany in full possession of looted Jewish property? “he asked. “Is there really moral validity to the principle that you have murdered and should also inherit?’ “
“I believe otherwise,” he told the conference. “I believe the highest moral validity lies in our doing everything possible to satisfy the claims of Israel and of the Jewish people, enabling hundreds of thousands of new immigrants to enter Israel, enabling the Jewish State further to consolidate itself, and bringing new hope and new life to those who managed to survive the Nazi holocaust.”
Dr. Goldmann pointed out that as a matter of fact responsible Jewish groups have been talking to the Germans for several years. The Jewish Restitution Successor Organization, he said, which represents many leading Jewish groups in the United States and Britain as well as the Jewish Agency, has been negotiating with the authorities of Hesse, Bavaria, Wurttenberg, Breman. “The concrete results of these talks,” he stated, “are just beginning to emerge: Even now pre-fabricated houses are flowing to Israel as part a minute part of our restitution claims. No one protested these negotiations,” he argued.
“To seek to get back what is ours from the Germans does not mean we are for giving our debtors,” he continued. “It does not mean that we must yield an inch in our attitude towards other aspects of the German problem: denazification, rearmament, etc. “He revealed that “some of the very organizations at this conference which are members of the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization continue to be the most outspoken opponents of German rearmament and renazification.” He appealed to the conference to support the claims of the Government of Israel against Germany, and affirm the claims of the Jewish people.
EBAN ASKS FOR SUPPORT OF ISRAEL’S CLAIM AGAINST GERMANY
Ambassador Abba Eban, addressing the conference, said that “there has never been a more convincing or unanswerable appeal to the human conscience than the Israel claim for collective indemnification by Germany for the unspeakable crimes committed against Jews in the name of the German people.” Mr. Eban reviewed the atrocities committed by the Germans in their annihilation of 6,000,000 Jews in Europe and added that our generation would be lost to all sense of dignity or honor if in its dealings with Germany it could forget “so heinous a crime.”
“There has been no tangible effort to expiate this sin, even if it were capable of expiation,” he pointed out. ”Israel is startled to observe the easy acceptance in many quarters of the doctrine that the German people, with this hideous responsibility still lying on its shoulders, can fittingly be associated as an equal partner in the defense of human freedoms and moral value,” he said.
Declaring that Israel could not stand by in silence while Germany advised to-wards acceptance in the family of nations, Ambassador Eban stated: ”It would be an intolerable distortion of justice if Germany ,having slain its victims and occupied their possessions, were not called upon even to make indemnification for the benefit of their survivors, some 500,000 of whom had found shelter in Israel’s shores. The expenditures incurred or anticipated in the resettlement of Jewish immigrants from the countries formerly under Nazi control were one and a half billion dollars.
This figure,” Mr. Eban emphasized, ”took no account of the property confiscated by German authorities, estimated at six billion dollars, and it had no relevance at all to the loss of Jewish life which lay beyond standard of material or physical measurement.”
“It was a minimal and symbolic claim; its dimensions stand in no relation to dimensions of German guilt or Jewish suffering,” said. ”In the name of our common Jewish solidarity, in the name of Jewish security and Jewish honor, Israel solemnly invites Jews everywhere to rally unreservedly to the support of this claim,” he appealed.
Commenting on Dr. Adenauer’s recent statement, Ambassador Eban said that “it remained to be seen whether a tangible act of recompense would be initiated by the German Federal Government. While the German Federal Government has now acknowledged that unspeakable crimes, involving Germany’s direct responsibility, had been committed in the name of the German people, no such acknowledgment has yet been made from the Government of the East German Republic.”
BLAUSTEIN URGES PRESSING JEWISH CLAIMS AGAINST GERMANY
Jacob Blaustein, president of the American Jewish Committee, told the conference that the claims of all Jewry throughout the would should receive consideration along with the claims of the state of Israel. ”The Nazi crimes against Jewry were so outrageous, ” he declared, ”that no amount of compensation could erase horrible deeds. But this does not mean that we should not be willing to press Jewry’s claims for compensation against the German government.
”It seems to me that we should insist on something more than a mere expression from German officials,” he continued. ”We should welcome Chancellor Adenauer’s statement and the Bonn Parliament’s pledges as a step in the right direction. This first stet by Germany should be speedily implemented, and our objectives should be toward that goal. An early settlement of all claims is most urgent. We must get definite deeds from Germany. The claims of the State of Israel are not the only claims. We must press equally for the claims of all Jewry.
“I feel certain that we can depend on the support of the Allied governments, particularly the U.S. Government, to assist us in obtaining a solution and speedy settlement of the German Claims problem. The American Jewish Committee is ready to co-operate, together with all other organizations, in achieving a speedy settlement.” Mr. Blaustein declared.
DR. GOLDSTEIN EXPRESSES VIEWS OF WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS
Dr. Israel Goldstein, speaking for the World Jewish Congress, told the parley that the W.J.C. has on numerous occasions given careful consideration and public expression to its views on the relationship between the Jewish people and Germany. “At the recent meeting of our world executive held in Geneva we formulated in detail the steps we believed that Germany must take if it is to begin work its way back into the society of civilized nations,” he said. “This we did because we had reason to believe that the Bonn Government was preparing to make a statement on its in tensions. Dr. Adenauer’s statement deals with the points we raised and we have publicly taken note of the fact.
“Mere statements or declarations on the part of German statesmen, or even of the German Parliament, will in themselves be of no significance.” Dr. Goldstein continued. “Such significance as they may in the course of time acquire, they will achieve only because they are implemented by acts. Against the backgrounds of the fearful experience through which we have passed, mere words in themselves can carry no weight.”
Speaking for Frank Goldman, B’nai B’rith president, a representative of the organization told the Conference of the measures taken by B’nai B’rith in the past six years to press financial claims against Germany. He said that together with other organizations, B’nai B’rith wholeheartedly supports the stand take by Ambassador Eban and Dr. Goldmann.
Jacob pat, secretary of the Jewish labor Committee, told the conference that while it was timely to demand the return from the Germans of that which had been stolen from the Jews be wanted to make it absolutely clear that to demand reparations did not imply, on the part of his organization, any attitude of forgiveness of all that had been done to the Jewish people. He expressed support of the claims of Israel and of Jews outside of Israel against Germany.
REPRESENTATIVE OF BRITISH JEWRY URGES SPEEDY ACTION
Dr. Abraham Cohen, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said that his organization has always supported Israel’s claim and in a unanimous resolution called upon the British Foreign Office to take action in relation to this claim. Dr. Cohen said that the Statement by Chancellor Adenauer must be treated with cautious reserve, but felt that time is running short in the pressing of any claims against Germany and that this conference should discuss in detail what united action can be taken.
Dr. Isaac Lewin, speaking on behalf of the Agudath Israel, said that, in his view, Chancellor Adenauer in his recent statement made it clear that the German people were refusing to accept the guilt for the crimes they perpetrated under the Hitler regime, “Under these circumstances.” he said, “it would be moral suicide for the Jewish people to sit down and negotiate with the Germans.” On the Other hand, he pointed out that it was right that Israel should be helped in its stupendous job of rehabilitating the surviving victims of Nazism. He declared further that it was Germany’s duty to return Jewish property.
“I therefore suggest.” he said, “that the claims of Israel and of the Jewish people be presented not to the Germans but to the Allied powers. It might be possible further to use the good offices of the United Nations in this connection,” the Agudah representative declared.
Others who expressed their support of Israel’s claim against Germany and the need for united action on the part of world Jewish organizations were: Mr. E.J. Horwitz, chairman of the executive council African Jewish board of Deputies; Mr. Michael Garber, vice-chairman of the executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress; Professor Nathan Stein of the Council for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Jewish from Germany; Mr. Saul Gold, representing the Jewish War Veterans of the United States; Dr. Maurice Perlzweig, representing the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and Mr. Shad Politer, vice-president of the American Jewish Congress.
A group of young Zionists, members of Brit Trumpeldor of Americana, attempted to obstruct the conference by handing out leaflets urging the delegates “not to sell the holy memory of our martyrs for hard cash” and not to indulge in any talks with the German Government.” The United Zionist-Revisionists of America issued a similar statement urging the conference “to reject any dealings with the German Government and people.”