Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Disruption of Berlin Jewish Community: Stormy Scenes Follow Liberal Majority’s Refusal to Restore Su

April 9, 1932
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The disruption of the Berlin Jewish Community, threatened at the meeting held on February 12th., took place to-day, when the Zionist members left the meeting of the Community Council as a protest against the refusal of the President, Herr Wilhelm Kleeman, one of the Liberal leaders, to reply to an interpellation put by the Zionist Party, demanding the annulment of the decision withdrawing the annual subvention of 2,000 Marks which was paid to the Heholuz, the organisation for training Haluzim for Palestine, under the former Zionist Administration, and complaining of the attitude of the Board of the Community in ignoring the wishes of the Zionist members, and ruling out everything that has to do with Zionism.

The Liberal majority on the Council refused to allow any discussion on the interpellation, and carried a motion for the closure.

Headed by Advocate Dr. Klee, the leader of the Zionist People’s Party, who had warned the Liberals at the meeting held on February 12th. that if they went on ignoring the wishes of the Zionist representatives, the Zionists would secede and form a separatist national religious Jewish Community, the Zionist members left the hall, and the visitors in the galleries started a tremendous uproar, shouting denunciations of the Liberal majority. Three of the Zionist leaders, Dr. Heinrich Loewe, Dr. Oscar olfsberg, and Herr Alfred Berger, went up into the gallery and from there delivered fiery protest speeches, in which phrases occurred like “we are living under Nazi dictatorship, under a hitlerist regime”.

The Zionist People’s Party is determined now to call to the Jewish electors to compel the Community leaders to arrange for fresh elections, failing which they will proceed to constitute a separatist Jewish community.

The subsidy was refused not for economy reasons, the Zionist leader, Dr. Klee, said when the question was under discussion in February, but on grounds of principle, in order to hit at our idea. Thousands of Jews are to-day thinking of leaving the community because they believe that the community burdens them with taxes without giving them any equivalent. The attitude adopted by the Liberals towards us is like an axe laid at the root of the united Jewish community. Why should the promotion of Jewish agriculture in Gross Gaglow, in the Argentine and elsewhere be a religious matter and the

promotion of colonisation in Palestine not a religious matter? Eretz Israel is not a political but a religious matter, even if it must be attained by political means. If you exclude Eretz Israel from the community, you exclude one of the fundamentals of Jewish teaching. Eretz Israel is under the League of Nations, and is not the League of Nations a victory of Jewish thought? No Jew can deny Palestine from the religious point of view. The Jewish community is a religious community, but Palestine, too, is a religious matter. Leading Liberal Jews all over the world are active in promoting the Palestine work.

For some time, Dr. Klee went on there has been a dead set at the meetings of our Representative Assembly against everything that we bring forward, beginning with the Chair at the Hebrew University, our school demands, and now our demand for the Reholuz. The very serious question, therefore, arises in our minds whether there is any purpose in our further participation in this body. What is the use of going on when everything that is dear to us is rejected without even hearing our arguments?

It is possible, said Dr. Klee, that I am speaking here for the last time. Remember that there are 30,000 Jews in Berlin who voted for our party, and they are not a negligible quantity. We do not say that we shall leave the community to-morrow, but we do say, what does this community still mean to us? What are we here for, if we can never get anything done that we want?


The Chairman of the Liberal Fraction, Dr. Kurt Fleischer, replied on that occasion. To Dr. Klee’s question what is the use of our stopping here? we Liberals, he said, say: We respect everyone’s conviction, but we demand just as much respect for our own conviction, because we represent here the great majority of the Berlin Jews. Our chief task here is to maintain the Jewish community: and to protect the exercise of our faith. We take account of the interests of every single member of our community, in all social and economic relations and in the protection of life and limb. The United Jewish Community will and must be maintained, and it can be maintained if we uphold our neutrality and respect every conviction. We respect also the Jewish Nationalist conviction. We give no privileges to any standpoint, knowing that in our final goal we are all at one. Our road to the goal, however, does not lead along national Judaism and Palestine. The majority of the members of this community see the support of the Reholuz as support given to a Party movement, and party movements we as a religious community must not support. We understand and we recognise the endeavours of these young people, but they are not our endeavours. If the majority of this community direct the affairs of the community according to their will, it is not a violation of the feelings of the minority. In an hour like this, frought with so much peril to Jews and Judaism, it is a dangerous thing to raise the cry of secession from the community. You speak of your 30,000 voters. We place against these our 60,000 voters. We know the gravity of the hour and the issue before us is to maintain our united community. Never the less, we are not going to yield to a demand that would mean sacrificing our own convictions.

Dr. Bruno Woyda, another of the leaders of the Liberals, said: We recognise the justification of every point of view, but here it is a matter which affects the very foundation of the community. Have we no common work outside the Heholuz and Palestine? Do we stand together in our religious and social work? One thing must be made clear. The last election campaign was fought on this very question, of restricting the scope of the community, to make it a religious community, and the decision given by the electors cannot be thrown overboard at the demand of the minority. It is not the duty of a united community to accept the fundamentals of the minority. The work of the Heholuz is not only national colonisation, but also national cultural. If you Zionists feel that you belong to the Jewish nation, we belong to the German nation.

Recommended from JTA