We are fortunate to have Professor Hagit Lavsky work with our students in a number of capacities, including lecturer, and academic advisor. We are proud to announce that Hagit has recently published another book, The Creation of the German-Jewish Diaspora: Interwar German-Jewish immigration to Palestine, the United States and England. This book has been a labor of love for Hagit, she started the research process more than ten years ago; she used archives in Israel, Britain, the USA, and Germany.
In her book, Hagit reveals the complex connection between the socio-economic profile varieties and the decisions about when and where to immigrate and compares the life of immigrants in the three major overseas destinations: Palestine (then under the British Mandate), the United States and England. Interwar emigration from Germany did not start in 1933 – the crucial year of the Nazi access to power. In fact, during the 1920s tens of thousands of Germans and German Jews emigrated mainly because of economic factors, partly this had to do with the economic crisis in Germany following WWI and partly due to the Great Depression. Another factor was the rising Anti-Semitism. Most German Jewish immigrants went to the United States and a minority came to Palestine. The few thousand Jews that immigrated to Palestine during the 1920s were the ones to set up an infrastructure for immigrating German Jews after the Nazi access to power in 1933.
Following the rise of Hitler, emigration grew dramatically, but encompassed only a minority among German Jews. Many of the early emigrants, between the years 1933 and 1935, went to Palestine. Immigration to the United States was very limited since 1924 on, and particularly following the economic crisis of 1929. In contrast, Mandate Palestine was prospering in the first half of the 1930s, and became the most open overseas destination to Jewish immigrants. Palestine also benefited from the Transfer Agreement between the Jewish Agency and the Nazi government that gave preference to immigrants to Palestine by enabling them to transfer their capital.
At this time, it was natural for young Jewish people to emigrate from Germany. They had more prospects there than elsewhere, In Germany many Jews were not allowed to work, specifically in the wide German public sector. As a result, most of the emigrants were young and of white-collar professional background.
To some extent, there were other socio-economic factors that shaped the emigrants’ decisions where to immigrate to. For example, in order to get a visa to the United States most needed an affidavit proving they would not become a burden on the public. Immigrants with no capital coming to Palestine didn’t need individual affidavits but had the guarantee of the Jewish Agency within an agreed quota. Hagit deduced that more wealthy Jews immigrated to the United States and England while those less endowed went to Palestine. Of course, Zionism also was considered in this discussion.
Until 1938, German Jews were harassed in many ways, but there was no orchestrated governmental threat on their lives. For most of them, there were very poor opportunities and the idea of emigration was stressful. To claim that German Jews did not flee from Germany before 1938 because they were blindly in love with Germany is “nonsense.” In 1938 there was no choice anymore but to try and flee, the USA and England became slightly more flexible but there was no chance for most of those refuge seekers, who were trapped in Germany and doomed among other victims of the Holocaust.
The book includes individual stories as illustrations for the greater breadth of history covered. For example, Hagit’s parents were among those immigrating to Palestine as early as 1933 and she discusses their story in the narrative, among other illustrative stories. Hagit compares her family and other stories of immigration and adaptation in Palestine to other stories of immigrants in the United States and England.
Hagit Lavksy’s other books:
The book Before Catastrophe was born out of Hagit’s Phd Dissertation.
Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program? You can find the application and more information at our website