The Seventh Million | Tom Segev

Summary of: The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust
By: Tom Segev


Embark on an enlightening journey through the intertwined history of Israel and the Holocaust in Tom Segev’s book, ‘The Seventh Million’. Uncover how the rise of the Nazis affected Zionists, particularly with respect to joining forces to get German Jews to Palestine. Discover the challenges faced by German Jewish immigrants, the Israeli community’s reaction, and their subsequent feelings of guilt toward the Holocaust. The book provides insightful analysis of political and moral issues concerning reparations, military connections with Germany, and controversies around Holocaust commemorations.

The Haavara Agreement

In the 1930s, the rise of Nazi Germany signaled danger for the Jewish community in Germany. The Nazi’s desire for Jews to leave Germany coincided with the Zionist goal of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. As a result, the Nazi and Zionist Jewish Agency made transfer agreements known as the Haavara Agreement. The agreement allowed Jews who emigrated to Palestine to take $4,000 and ship goods worth $5,000. However, the arrival of German Jews in Palestine caused chaos. Many refugees arrived against their will and were considered “undesirable human material” by members of the Jewish Agency. The established Jewish community in Palestine was also unhappy about the flow of poor people and businessmen with their families arriving from Germany.

The Holocaust and the Zionist Movement

The Zionist movement offered hope to only a few thousand Jews during World War II. News of the Holocaust wasn’t given priority in Jewish newspapers in Palestine until later that year. The Jewish settlers were more interested in focusing on building the state of Israel than saving European Jews. They didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of the genocide taking place in Europe as they had been victims of Jewish persecution and murder previously. The movement spent approximately several million dollars saving Jews, but much more on purchasing land and developing settlements in Palestine.

Revenge and Guilt after the Holocaust

After the horrors of the Holocaust became apparent, some Jewish people in Palestine called for revenge on the German people. The Nakam group planned to poison the drinking water in several West German cities with the hope of murdering six million Germans. However, this act of terrorism did not receive support from the Jewish Agency as it would have hindered the establishment of the Jewish state. Additionally, many Holocaust survivors required psychological care for years after the war due to intense anxiety, nightmares, bouts of depression, fury, and apathy. Some survivors struggled to readjust to normal life and felt uncomfortable joining the collective communities of the Jewish communal settlements. These survivors wanted their own space to deal with their problems along with a sense of guilt for not doing everything they could have to save European Jews.

Did Israel Take German Blood Money?

Following the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948, many Israelis demanded a boycott of Germany, but such a boycott would have been difficult and counterproductive. The Israeli government entered into negotiations with Germany in 1951 for reparations of about $820 million. Many Israelis opposed this, considering it ransom from murderers, while others believed accepting the money would aid Israel’s development. In 1952, despite citizens’ opposition, the Knesset agreed, and the settlement helped Israel’s national product triple over a 12-year period, and approximately 15 percent of this growth and 45,000 jobs directly attributed to the reparations money. Over time, the payments helped forge a better relationship between Israel and Germany.

Israel and Germany’s Military Ties

In the 1950s, Israel faced hostility from neighboring Arab countries and required military equipment, which it received from Germany. However, this connection between Israel and Germany was met with great opposition from the Israeli people due to the conflicting moral and political issues at stake. While some argued that selling arms to Germany would reinforce their commitment to Israel, others saw it as morally reprehensible to supply German soldiers with Jewish weapons. Additionally, Jewish collaboration with the Nazi state, exemplified by the case of Rudolf Kastner, sparked a huge debate as he was accused of working with the Nazis, which led to his assassination by right-wing Jewish activists. The controversy surrounding Israel’s decision to forge military connections with Germany remained a highly contentious issue.

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