The Jewish Establishment Under Nazi Threat
And Domination, 1938-1945

Carl O. Nordling

The millions of Jews persecuted by Nazi Germany and to a certain extent also by the Romanian government, by Vichy France, by the Arrow Cross Corps in Hungary, etc., are generally regarded as anonymous "masses" of people, too numerous to be perceived as individuals. Admittedly, some books have been written by persons subjected to these persecutions. Such books as Anne Frank's Diary, Si questo é un uomo [If This Be a Man] (by Primo Levi), I Cannot Forgive (by Rudolf Vrba) and La Nuit (by Elie Wiesel) certainly present accounts of persecution under its individual aspects, but on the other hand it is obvious that the authors of these books had too narrow a range of vision to permit drawing any general conclusions.

There is, however, a certain substantial group, consisting of Jews whose individual fates are all fairly well known, so that the entire group may be studied statistically. From such a study, at least some general conclusions may be drawn. For convenience, this group will be called here the "Jewish Establishment Group," or EstG, as it is limited and defined below. The group consists of all the Jews whose biographical data are recorded under individual entries in the Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House and New York: Macmillan, 1971). For the purpose of the following investigation the group has been limited to Jews from 12 countries, who were born in the period of 1860-1909 and alive on January 1st, 1939. A further limitation is caused by the difficulty of finding every applicable entry in the encyclopedia. (On going through the encyclopedia the first time, I found 590 applicable persons. A second survey added 132 persons, but the general view didn't change very much.) To qualify for inclusion in the EstG, an individual Jew must have been living in one of the following countries on January 1st, 1938: France, Poland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Denmark Yugoslavia or Belgium. In the case of Poland, Jews from the Vilna district have been excluded.

Although the Jews in the Soviet Union, the Baltic states and the Vilna district were also persecuted by the Nazi regimes they have not been included in the present study because of the difficulty of determining whether the Nazis or the Soviets were responsible for the fate of each individual. The great majority of the 96 Polish Jews included were living in the German zone in 1939.

Two Norwegian and three Greek Jews were excluded as being too few to represent any "Establishment" of their respective countries. There were no Jews from Finland, Bulgaria, Albania or Luxembourg to qualify for inclusion. Within the limitations mentioned, altogether 722 Jews were found to satisfy the requirements, distributed according to last country of voluntarily chosen residence, as follows: France 170, Poland 96, Germany 93, Austria 85, Hungary 64, Italy 63, The Netherlands 49, Czechoslovakia 42, Romania 29, Denmark 13, Yugoslavia 9 and Belgium 9. This group of 722 will be referred to as EstG for brevity's sake.

Out of the entire EstG, 317 persons (44%) emigrated or fled from the twelve countries studied at some time between January 1938 and April 1945. This figure of 317 does not include persons who emigrated to the Baltic states and were later caught by the Germans, nor persons who emigrated after liberation from German occupation. The emigration in most cases took place in the years 1938-41, although later cases of escape, notably among Danes, are also recorded.

Out of the 405 non-emigrated Jews, or "remainers," 256 (63% of the remainers, 35% of the EstG as a whole) were fortunate enough to escape seizure by the SS, the Gestapo, the Arrow Cross and like organizations. The 256 non-captured remainers also include Polish Jews living in ghettos throughout the war. The number of cases of those who hid cannot be determined because the Encyclopaedia Judaica does not give such details except in a few odd cases.

Out of the 256 non-captured remainers, 88 (34%) died before May, 1945, and 168 (66%) survived the war. The harsh treatment inflicted on Jewish people was especially detrimental to the elderly. The death rate was 67% among those born 1860-79 as against 6% among those born 1890-1909 (non-captured persons).

149 of the remainers were captured by Nazi organizations or by individual Nazis. However, 17 of the captured Jews (11%) were released (or escaped) to freedom outside Nazi controlled territory, thus became "secondary emigrants." 18 were murdered or executed without previous imprisonment of any kind. 18 were detained in custody or in POW camps -- some of them released before the end of the war without subsequent emigration. Five of these 18 died in confinement. All the other 96 persons were sent to some kind of concentration camps, as far as is known. (A few may have died in route.)

The most fortunate among the concentration camp group were the 15 Jews who were permitted to stay at Theresienstadt (which was not a concentration camp proper). Four of these died (three of them 72-74 years old) and 11 survived until liberation. Next comes a group of 20, who were detained in a number of identified camps in Germany, Austria, France and the Netherlands. 11 of these died, 9 survived. (Some of the 17 "secondary emigrants" were in fact also survivors from the categories mentioned.)

The remaining 61 Jews of the "camp group" were either sent to Auschwitz (33 persons), to camps in Poland (13 persons), or to destinations unknown (15 persons). Only four returned alive, all of them from Auschwitz. The other 57 perished or disappeared. What really happened to every one of the 57 missing persons is, of course, impossible to ascertain. The notorious cause of death in these Eastern camps was, of course, organized mass murder. There are, however, also noted seven cases of individual murder or executions. It is also well known that typhoid fever and other diseases took a heavy toll among the internees in the Eastern camps -- just as in the Western ones. (About half of the EstG who died in the Eastern camps were 60 years old or older.) According to Elie Wiesel, an enormous number of evacuated Auschwitz internees died during the 10-day transport in open railway trucks to Buchenwald in January 1945. In Wiesel's truck only a dozen out of a hundred are said to have survived the transport. For every one of the four survivors of the EstG, one would expect several transport victims. We must also consider after-effects of torture, accidents and suicide as occasional causes of death in any concentration camp. Finally there is the possibility that some of the 57 missing ended up in Soviet captivity. Except for the 7 cases of individual murder, no precise figure can be given for the various other causes of death.

Contrary to what would have been expected, it is obvious that only a minor part (fewer than 50) of the EstG Jews who died in Nazi territory (183 in all) were subjected to organized mass murder.

Ridding Europe from Jewish influence on cultural life was one of the declared aims of the anti-Semitic policy of the Third Reich. It appears that primary and secondary emigration -- totalling 334 EstG Jews -- was a much more effective means of attaining this end than was the killing of prominent Jews. However, none of these means was entirely effectual in eliminating the Jewish Establishment on the Continent. When the Third Reich perished, no less than 205 Jews of the EstG (28% of the original number) were still alive in the 12 countries that had been targets of anti-Semitic persecutions on a scale that the world had never beheld.

Auschwitz and the Eastern camps certainly proved to be much more fatal than the rest. Therefore it is noteworthy that as many as about 30% of the EstG remainers from Poland and Czechoslovakia were sent to these camps (including unknown destinations), while only about 18% of those from Austria and Hungary suffered the same fate. And among the EstG from France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands the proportion was 10-14%, a fact that differentiates those countries from Romania, Denmark, Yugoslavia and Belgium, none of which supplied any EstG internees to the Eastern camps.

Another seeming difference applies to professions. A check on the professions of the 95 persons who died as victims of Nazi activity (Table 5) reveals a higher number of rabbis among them (15) than would have been expected from the fact that only about 10% of the EstG Jews are rabbis. The reason may be that the rabbis in most cases remained with their community and therefore are seldom to be found among the large, victim-free group of emigrants.

Apart from the differences mentioned above, the German authorities seem to have paid little attention to the standing (in the world of letters, etc.) of the specific Jewish individual. In spite of this, the group of 722 Jews studied here cannot be regarded as a random sample of European Jews in general -- for several reasons.

First, inclusion in the Encyclopaedia Judaica may have been influenced by what happened to these individuals during the war.

Secondly, some who wouldn't have qualified for inclusion in 1945 may have been able to distinguish themselves enough -- afterwards - because they happened to survive. (This applies to the youngest category.)

Third, internationally known Jews must have had considerably better opportunities for emigration than Jews without foreign relations. (The best-known Jews are not among the 722 either, because they emigrated long before 1938.) Still, in the countries noted for the highest and the lowest proportion of Jewish emigration, these proportions differ very little between EstG Jews and Jews in general. About 70-80% of all EstG Jews in Austria and Denmark emigrated in 1938-44, and roughly the same percentage applies to the general emigration in the same period of time. In Hungary and Yugoslavia, Jewish emigration reportedly was insignificant, and so was emigration among the EstG from these countries (about 15%).

Fourth, if a well-known Jew left his country (even if secretly) and entered another country (even if illegally), his migration certainly was disclosed in public, sooner or later -- contrary to what might have happened in the multitude of cases of clandestine and illegal migration in general. For similar reasons, the noted Jews could hardly seek rescue by means of changing their identity - a means that was most certainly used by a great but indeterminable number of ordinary Jews.

Finally, Jews of the "Establishment" category (and especially politicians, Zionists and rabbis) often protested or took action against the persecutions. (Many such cases are reported in the Encyclopaedia.) Consequently, they may have been arrested and treated according to such political offenses in the first place.

The group of 722 treated above consist mostly of Jewish authors, scholars, artists, scientists, rabbis and politicians -- all with some reputation, at least in 1970. They probably are typical for an even larger number of Jews belonging to these same professions, but somewhat less distinguished in 1970. As far as their fates under the Nazi persecutions are concerned, the following general conclusions may be drawn from the present investigation: The members of the group apparently had relatively good opportunities to emigrate or flee in the years 1938-41, and many used them. About one third of those who did not emigrate were taken prisoners by the Nazis. As prisoners they were treated in various ways. It turns out that 13% were released, 28% survived imprisonment and 21% died under circumstances demonstrably excluding organized mass murder. The remaining 38% (7% of the EstG total) probably died from a variety of causes, possibly including gas chambers and most certainly also typhoid fever, starvation, ill-treatment and hypothermia.

It is obvious that wholesale extermination was not decreed by the Nazi leadership as a means to rid occupied Europe of prominent Jews, capable of influencing public opinion.

TABLE 1
Rescue by Emigration among 722 "Establishment Group" Jews From 12 European Countries

Country No. of Jews No. of emigrants according to year of emigr.
    All 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
France 170 75 1 5 39 23 3 3 1 -
Poland 96 42 1 28 8 5 - - - -
Germany 93 54 17 22 7 6 - 1 1 -
Austria 85 66 50 11 3 2 - - - -
Hungary 64 10 6 2 1 1 - - - -
Italy 63 21 9 10 - 1 - 1 - -
The Netherlands 49 7 3 2 1 1 - - - -
Czechoslovakia 42 20 6 14 - - - - - -
Romania 29 6 - - 4 2 - - - -
Denmark 13 9 - 1 - - - 8 - -
Yugoslavia 9 1 - 1 - - - - - -
Belgium 9 6 - - 5 1 - - - -
All 12 countries 722 317 93 96 68 42 3 13 2 0


Thereof:

to USA 30 35 36 26
to Engl. 30 23 12 1
to Pales. 20 20 13 5
to USSR - 16 2 5

 

TABLE 2
National Socialist Treatment of 405 Jews of the "Establishment Group" From 12 European Countries

Country No. of non-
emigrants
Unmolested Murdered,
executed
Arrested
(seized)
France 95 68 1 26
Poland 54 23 10 21
Germany 39 22 2 15
Austria 19 6 - 13
Hungary 54 38 3 13
Italy 42 38 - 4
The Netherlands 42 24 1 17
Czechoslovakia 22 9 - 13
Romania 23 20 1 2
Denmark 4 3 - 1
Yugoslavia 8 2 - 6
Belgium 3 3  -  -
All 12 countries. 405 256 18 131

 

TABLE 3
National Socialist Treatment of 131 Arrested Jews of the "Establishment Group" From 12 European Countries

Country No. of
Jews arrested
Released to
foreign country
Taken into
custody and
POW
Western camps
& Theresi.
Eastern camps
& unknown
France 26 4 6 5 11
Poland 21 1 2 2 16
Germany 15 6 3 2 4
Austria 13 3 1 5 4
Hungary 13 - 1 3 9
Italy 4 - - - 4
The Netherlands 17 - 1 10 6
Czechoslovakia 13 1 - 5 7
Romania 2 1 - 1 -
Denmark 1 - - 1 -
Yugoslavia 6 1 4 1 -
Belgium - - - - -
All 12 countries 131 17 18 35 61
Thereof:
Died as interned 77 - 5 15 57
Survived 54 17 13 20 4
Note: The heading "Released to Foreign Country" also covers a few POWs who escaped to a foreign country.
The heading "Taken Into Custody and POW" covers POW-camp internees, inmates of jails, hospitals and
penal institutions, and persons kept as hostages (notably Léon Blum).

 

TABLE 4
Presumed Year of Death of 95 "Establishment Group" Jews From 12 European Countries Who Died as Victims of National Socialist Action or Imprisonment in the Period from January, 1939, to April, 1945.

Country All 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
France 17 - 1 - 2 5 8 1
Poland 27 - - 2 11 8 3 3
Germany 8 - - 1 3 2 2 -
Austria 5 - - 1 2 - 2 -
Hungary 13 - - - - - 10 3
Italy 4 - - - - 2 2 -
The Netherlands 11 - - 1 3 4 1 2
Czechoslovakia 8 - - 1 1 - 6 -
Romania 1 - - 1 - - - -
Denmark 1 - - - - 1 - -
Yugoslavia - - - - - - - -
Belgium - - - - - - - -
All 12 countries 95 0 1 7 22 22 34 9
Note: The "Presumed Year of Death" may not always represent the real year of death but instead the
last year when something was known about the person in question.

 

TABLE 5
95 "Establishment Group" Jews Who Died as Victims of National Socialtist Action or Imprisonment Divided According to Country and Profession.

Country All Author,
poet,
journal.
Scholar,
historl.,
humanist.
Artist Scient.,
miscel.
Rabbi Polit.
leader,
Zionist
France 17 5 1 5 3 2 1
Poland 27 13 6 1 2 2 3
Germany 8 2 - 2 2 2 1
Austria 5 5 1 1 - - 3
Hungary 13 3 2 - 1 5 2
Italy 4 1 - 1 1 1 -
The Netherlands 11 2 3 - 4 1 1
Czechoslovakia 8 2 1 1 2 1 1
Romania 1 - - - - 1 -
Denmark 1 - - - - 1 -
Yugoslavia - - - - - - -
Belgium - - - - - - -
All 12 countries 95 29 14 10 15 15 12
Distribution of prefessions among
a sample of EstG Jews
100 30 20 10 17 10 13

 

TABLE 6
Wartime Deaths Amoung 722 "Establishment Group" Jews from 12 European Countries Divided according to Decade of Birth and Place of Death.

  Thereof: Thereof:
Years of Birth No. of Jews
Jan. 1938
All Deaths
1939-45
Emigr. and
unmolested
Subj. to
Nazi
Action
Western
Camps
Eastern
Camps
1860-1869 88 55 42 13 3 7
1870-1879 135 69 43 26 5 14
1880-1889 182 42 21 21 2 14
1890-1899 173 39 15 24 3 16
1900-1909 144 17 6 11 2 5
1860-1909 722 222 127 95 15 56
Ditto, percent:
1860-1869 100 63 48 15 3 8
1870-1879 100 51 32 19 4 10
1880-1889 100 23 12 12 1 8
1890-1899 100 23 9 14 2 9
1900-1909 100 12 4 8 1 3
1860-1909 100 31 18 13 2 8
Note: The heading "Western Camps" covers the deaths among the 35 Jews who were sent to
Theresienstadt and to concentration camps outside Poland. The heading Eastern Campsn covers the deaths
among the 61 Jews who were sent to Auschwitz, to concentration camps in Poland and to destinations unknown.

APPENDIX I

Names and relevant facts of the first 25 EstG Jews:

  • Abel, Emil, 1875-1958, Austrian chemist, to England in 1938.
  • Abeles, Otto, 1879-1945, Austrian author and Zionist living in the Netherlands, taken to camp, died after liberation.
  • Abramowitz, Raphael 1880-1963, Latvian-German politician, to France in 1939, to U.S.A. in 1940.
  • Adler, Friedrich, 1879-1960, Austrian politician, to U.S.A. in 1939..
  • Adler, Hugo, 1894-1955, Dutch composer, to U.S.A. about 1938-39.
  • Adler, Jules, 1865-1952, French artist.
  • Adler, Paul, 1878-1946, German author, hiding in Czechoslovakia.
  • Algazi, Leon, 1890-, Romanian composer, living in France.
  • Almagia, Roberto, 1884-1962, Italian geographer, living in the Vatican.
  • Almanzi, Joseph, 1901-1960, Italian author.
  • Alter, Victor, 1890-1941, Polish politician and Jewish leader, to USSR in 1939 (executed there).
  • Altman, Moishe, 1891-, Romanian poet, to USSR during or after WW II.
  • Altmann, Alexander, 1906-, Hungarian rabbi, to England in 1938.
  • Arendt, Hannah, 1906-, German philosopher living in France, to U.S.A. in 1941.
  • Aronson, Grigori, 1887-1968, Russian author, living in France, to U.S.A. in 1940.
  • Aronson, Naum, 1872-1943, Latvian sculptor, living in France, to U.S.A. in 1940.
  • Artom, Elia, 1887-1965, Italian rabbi, to Palestine in 1939.
  • Ascarelli, Tullio, 1903-1959, Italian jurist, to England in 1938.
  • Aschaffenberg, Gustav, 1866-1944, German criminologist, to U.S.A. in 1938.
  • Aschheim, Isidor, 1891-1968, German painter, to Palestine in 1940.
  • Ascoli, Ettore, 1873-1943, Italian lieutenant general, fell as partisan.
  • Ashendorf, Israel, 1909-1956, Polish author, to USSR about 193940.Asscher, Abraham, 1880-1955, Dutch Zionist, to Bergen-Belsen camp in 1943.Bab, Julius, 1880-1955, German literary historian, to U.S.A. in 1940Bachi, Armando, 1883-1943, Italian lieutenant general, to Auschwitz in 1943, died there.

APPENDIX II

List of 33 known Jews who were interned in Auschwitz Concentration Camp during part of World War II (name, age and manner of death as given in the Encyclopaedia Judaica).

  • Bachi, Armado, 60, "died"
  • Bernstein, Béla, 76, "died"
  • Blum, René, 66, "died"
  • Borchardt, Georg, 72, "died" (Entry: Hermann, G.)
  • Buchler, Alexander, 74, "died"
  • Cohen, Ernst Julius, 75, "transported to gas chambers"
  • Cohen, Isaac Kadmi, 52,"died" (actually at Gleiwitz)
  • Duckesz, Eduard, 76, "perished"
  • Edelstein, Jacob, c. 50, "shot"
  • Fleischman, Gisi, 47, "killed on arrival"
  • Fondane, Benjamin, 46, "murdered"
  • Frankl, Victor, born 1905, alive in 1970
  • Friedemann, Desider, 64, "sent to gas chambers"
  • Heyman, Fritz, 44, "killed"
  • Hirschel, Levie, 49, (no mention of his death)
  • Hirschler, Pal, 37, "died"
  • Hirschler, René, 39, "perished"
  • Hoffmann, Camill, 66, "died"
  • Jakobovits, Tobias, 57, "deported to his death"
  • Katzenelson, Itzhak, 58,"perished"
  • Lambert, Raymond, 49, "gassed upon arrival"
  • Lohner, Fritz, 59, "died" (Entry: Beda, F)
  • Nadel, Arno, 65, "murdered"
  • Pollak, Miksa, 76, "killed"
  • Salomon, Erich, 58, "died in the gas chambers"
  • Spiegel, Isaiah, born 1906, alive in 1970
  • Stein, Edith, 51, "died in the gas chambers"
  • Steiner, Hannah, 50, "died in the gas chambers"
  • Stricker, Robert, 65, Transported to the gas chambers"
  • Szenes, Erzsi, born 1902, alive in 1970
  • Taussig, Friedrich, 35, "died after torture" (Entry: Fritta)
  • Varshavsky, Oizer, 46, "sent to Auschw. for extermination"
  • Wygodzki, Stanislaw, born 1907, alive in 1970

(The encyclopedia gives 1942 as the year of death in three cases, 1943 in five cases and 1944 in 21 cases.)

Note: This list contains real names wherever possible; Encyclopaedia Judaica has entered three Jews who were interned at Auschwitz under the pen names noted above (after "Entry:").


From The Journal of Historical Review, Summer 1990 (Vol. 10, No. 2), pages 195-209.

About the Author

Carl O. Nordling (1919-2007) was a Finnish-born architect, urban planner and historian. He graduated as an architect from the Helsinki University of Technology in 1939, and migrated to Sweden in 1944. As a statistician, he applied statistical methods to a number of scientific problems and published a large number of articles, mainly in his native Swedish. Internationally he is perhaps best known for papers he published in English-language peer-reviewed scientific journals.