The Holocaust Historiography Project

The First Holocaust

Jewish Fund Raising Campaigns with Holocaust Claims During and After World War One

by Don Heddesheimer

Chapter 4
The 1926 Campaigns

"There are millions of Eastern European Jews in Poland and an equal number in other countries who are passing away and all of them will disappear unless we rise to the emergency, forget everything else, and come to the rescue."

Louis Marshall, President, American Jewish Committee.[123]

"There are 5,000,000 Jews in Central and Eastern Europe facing starvation […]. Five million Jews are in desperate distress today-2,225,000 in Russia, 2,225,000 in Poland, and 500,000 in Bessarabia, Lithuania, and the nearby countries."

The American Christian Fund, December 6, 1926.[124]

After World War One, the public generously contributed to European relief efforts. But by 1926, the 'Joint' found itself:[125]

"Faced with a Jewish American community that was becoming increasingly indifferent to disaster appeals."

The records of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee show a drop off in contributions from 1920 to 1925 followed by a large increase in 1926. 1926 was also the year in which the most outrageous Jewish suffering news stories of the 1920s were concocted, the stories of the five million starving eastern European Jews.

On April 26, 1926, a page one New York Times news story announced the opening of this fund raising drive at three simultaneous dinners in New York City the preceding night attended by 2,200 people. It was announced that the largest gift was $400,000 from Felix Warburg. Speakers drew graphic word pictures for the guests at the dinner tables and also for the larger radio audiences[126]

"of the pathetic conditions in which millions of Jews are living in Poland, Bessarabia, Russia and Rumania, as a result of post-war industrial and economic depression, added to the distress left by the war itself. […] The speakers appealed to America to salvage one half of the Jews of the World. They said that all the suffering and persecution to which Jews had been subjected to in the past all over the world were nothing [compared] to the misery of the Jews in Eastern Europe today [… and that] thousands have died from starvation and the diseases that follow famine like typhus and tuberculosis, and hundreds have committed suicide because they felt their lot hopeless.

Unless America goes to the rescue, it was declared, 1,000,000 Jews in Poland and 1,000,000 more in other countries affected will be wiped out by famine and pestilence and will simply disappear off the face of the earth."

Louis Marshall, the head of the American Jewish Committee, said:[127]

"At this very moment there are literally millions of men, women, and children who have always led blameless lives, who are industrious, thrifty, conscientious, abstemious (eating and drinking sparingly), and provident, who, without fault of their own, are moving on the very brink of destruction and annihilation, before whom gaunt famine stalks, who are threatened and pursued by bigotry and intolerance, and who are denied the opportunity of gaining a livelihood by abhorrent legislation and by malignant hostility. The scene of the Jewish tragedy is laid in Poland and its several divisions, including Galicia; in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Rumania and Russia. The victims are the Jews of these countries, numbering more than 7,000,000 souls. They are emaciated, ragged, debilitated by physical deterioration resulting from hunger and disease and mental solicitude. Their eyes are downcast. There is scarcely a gleam of hope left in their hearts. They are on the verge of despair, and many of them have given way to it, so that on every side one beholds the suicide of desperation. […] All this has come after the war is over, after they have passed through famines, after they have been refugees, after they have lost frequently the head of the household as a result of the war, after in some of these countries there have been pogroms, and people have been murdered in cold blood, after all that they possessed is gone, their wealth taken from them, and these things have not been enough, but those that I have just described are continuing, are occurring at this hour, at this moment, while I am speaking, there are millions of Eastern European Jews in Poland and an equal number in other countries who are passing away and all of them will disappear unless we rise to the emergency, forget everything else, and come to the rescue."

David A. Brown from Detroit, Michigan, the national chairman of this 1926 drive, said that:[127]

"900,000 Jews in Poland alone were on the verge of starvation and that this was nearly one third of the entire Jewish population of Poland. There have been more suicides among the Jews in Poland alone than had ever occurred there in five centuries. […] However, there has been a rift in the clouds of Russia due to the fact that the Russian Government recognizes that the very foundation of their economical existence depends on agriculture. It has hundreds of millions of fertile acres. Russia has put an end to the private ownership of land, but it recognizes the right of anybody who desires to work upon the land to engage in agricultural pursuits and has made no discrimination between the Jew and the non-Jew in that regard."

Brown's message, which was read at the meetings, began:

"Never in the history of the Jewish people, dating back for centuries, was there a situation like this, and never before in the history of the Jewish people was there an emergency as great as this."

The New York Times quoted Mr. Brown as stating the "standard of life of the Russian Jew is lower than that of the people of India, China, Japan and Korea" in an editorial in support of the drive.[128] This editorial called the drive:

"the latest chapter in the story of American succor for Europe's stricken populations, which began with Herbert Hoover's work in Belgium and has taken the form of vast sums expended on war relief, famine relief and reconstruction."

The 1926 drive of the American relief fund for the Jews of eastern Europe used a correspondent named Irma May who sent radiograms from Warsaw to New York. One of these radio programs said:[129]

"In Lodz […] Records show threatening increase of hysteria, insanity and suicide within last months. Schools report tuberculosis to 65 percent. Sixty percent of children survive on tea and bread distributed by schools which face closing. Outbreaks of typhoid and other hunger epidemics anticipated and no means available for preventing. Approximately 230,000 Jews doomed unless immediate relief available."

Another of Ms. May's radio messages described conditions in Rovno, Poland "selling last piece of furniture to escape prison for not paying taxes."[130] About 500,000 persons attended rallies in New York City in support of this 1926 drive and speakers "spread the message of the suffering of millions of Jews abroad."[131] The Joint Distribution Committee cabled that

"unless substantial help came quickly — the Jewish orphans asylum will be compelled to close. […] Thousands of children will be turned out into the streets to roam about aimlessly, hopelessly, blindly."

On November 26 in Washington, D.C., a movement to enlist 50,000 Christian clergy in an organization to save 5,000,000 starving Jews in eastern and Central Europe was backed by what was called, oddly, the Near East relief movement. They claimed that one third of the Jewish population is in distress and:[132]

"in some parts of Europe the death rate among Jewish babies is almost 100 percent. […]

Thousands of Jews are dying of want right now. Hundreds of thousands are confronted by that most painful death-hunger. Unless help is given, 5,000,000 Jews will starve. This does not mean that they will die immediately, but that they will linger, with lack of sufficient food, and some will die next week, some next month and each succeeding month, unless relief comes, one way or another."

On December 6, 1926, there was another page one New York Times article about a rally for the five million starving Jews of eastern Europe. The headline read: "Cathedral is Scene of Rally of Faiths for Jewish Relief". 1,500 people attended the mass meeting and heard World War One Commander in Chief of the US forces General John J. Pershing urge generous contributions as well as Protestant and Catholic leaders and Louis Marshall, the head of the American Jewish Committee. New York Governor and later Presidential Candidate Alfred Smith and Supreme Court Justice Arthur S. Tompkins sent telegrams of support. One of the themes stressed by several of the speakers was that by financially helping the starving Jews of Europe they will be fighting race prejudice, hate and bigotry throughout the world.

General Pershing said:

"It is a difficult thing for us in our prosperous country to imagine just what suffering those poor people overseas are going through. This is an occasion for all Americans, whether Christians or what not, to show our Jewish friends that we have charitable instincts and that there is no such thing as race prejudice in this great country. To my mind this is one of the great lessons we can teach the people of Europe by contributing to this fund."

Bishop Manning who presided is quoted as follows:

"The lives of 5,000,000 Jewish men and women and children are at stake. Our Jewish fellow Americans are sending their help nobly to their stricken brethren. But the American Jews cannot do it all. The need is too great for them to meet it. And we cannot allow them to do it all. The Christians of America must have a share in this great work of mercy. The call that comes from those suffering mothers and starving babies is the call of our common humanity."

Louis Marshall, the wily head of the American Jewish Committee, stated:

"We rejoice that the Christian Community has decided to help us complete our fund. The telegram we received announcing this decision came to us like manna in the wilderness, like the dew of heaven on the parched soil, after the Jews in America for twelve years had striven alone to keep alive their brethren in Poland, Rumania, Besserabia and Russia, where pestilence, war, famine, and massacre have been their daily experience."

New York Governor Alfred Smith, who two years later would be the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, sent a generous contribution and the following telegram, which was read to the audience:

"Contribution to the American Christian Fund and to the fund of the United Jewish Campaign for relief of suffering Jews in Eastern Europe represents the true Christian and American spirit. Suffering unites us in common brotherhood. Such deeds further good will, better understanding and tolerance. May your meeting have substantial results."

It was also reported that the American Christian Fund had sent a letter to 150,000 Christian leaders around the country apprising them that there are 5,000,000 Jews in Central and Eastern Europe facing starvation.

"We must realize that American Jews cannot save all of them. Unless Christians help, many will perish. American Christians have never realized nor understood the sufferings of the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe. Five million Jews are in desperate distress today-2,225,000 in Russia, 2,225,000 in Poland, and 500,000 in Bessarabia, Lithuania, and the nearby countries. Men, women, and little children are suffering and in misery — they are hungry all the time.

Since 1914 'the Four Horsemen' have ridden grimly over half the Jewish population of the world-war pestilence, famine and always death."

A New York Times editorial supporting this drive reported that 62 million dollars had been raised and that they were now engaged in raising 25 million more.[133]

Isn't it revealing that in 1926 there are news stories on page one of the New York Times that five million Jews are starving, unlike during World War Two, where press coverage was nonexistent or relegated to the back pages and the religion section until it was practically over? In 1926, we have fifteen hundred people coming out in a snowstorm for the five million starving Jews, fund drives all over the country, support from notables including the Governor of New York, 500,000 people attending rallies in New York City in support of this 1926 drive.[134] One can't help but wonder about the I.M.T. prosecutors and staff that grew up in the New York area or elsewhere and had been exposed to these earlier campaigns. Are we really supposed to believe that an extermination of the Jews in Central and eastern Europe was avoided in the 1920s because of mass fund raising campaigns and an outpouring of public sympathy and support and that twenty years later these same people in eastern and Central Europe were killed because no one knew about their plight or no one cared? Certainly they couldn't have argued that nobody knew about the holocaust in 1926 because it was on the front page of the New York Times at least twice.

Did the 1926 holocaust stories evolve out of previous Jewish fund raising drives and commitments? Was this just part of a charity tradition? Were these emotional appeals playing on people's fears or perhaps spirituality contrived in order to raise lots of money? We do know these charity drives were run by international bankers who had also financed wars, revolutions, and railroads. What they said they actually did with this money is the subject of the next chapter.

A few other news stories about millions of suffering Jews. In 1937, Samuel Untermeyer called a conference at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to report that at least 2,000,000 of the slightly more than 3,000,000 Jews in Poland were virtually starving:[135]

"An entire nation of more than three million souls is threatened with annihilation."

In 1938, "a depressing picture of 6,000,000 Jews in Central Europe deprived of protection or economic opportunities, slowly dying of starvation, all hope gone" was presented by Jacob Tarshis, known by his radio audience as the Lamplighter, representing the American Joint Distribution Committee:[136]

"'The Jewish tragedy started when Hitler came to power in 1933,' Mr. Tarshis declared. 'Now anti-Semitism has spread to thirteen European nations, and threatened the very existence of millions of Jews."

In 1940, Dr. Nahum Goldman, chairman of the administrative committee of the World Jewish Congress, said in an interview at the Hotel Astor that:[137]

"Six million Jews in Europe are doomed to destruction, if the victory of Nazis should be final. […] The chances for mass emigration and resettlement of European Jewry seems to be remote, and European Jews face the danger of physical annihilation. Even the 4,000,000 Jews under Soviet rule, although free from racial discrimination, are not safe in the event of a final Nazi victory."

There is a pattern of emotional appeals playing on people's fears in order to raise lots of money. And they needed a believable crisis to convince the donors to contribute these large sums of money. Were the leaders making these appeals calculating and unscrupulous enough to invent facts? Over time and with enough practice, could miracles be manufactured that would appear credible to institutional sources? Repeated and expanded upon day after day over and over for generations in these institutional sources, could the credibility of these invented facts become unassailable? I believe that these early holocaust fund raising drives provide an important clue toward unraveling the revisionist puzzle.


[123] "Gifts of $3,700,000 Open Jewish Drive", New York Times, April 26, 1926, p. 1.
[124] "Cathedral Is Scene of Rally of Faiths for Jewish Relief", New York Times, December 6, 1926, pp. 1, 18; first part reproduced on p. 126.
[125] Y. Bauer, op. cit. (note 56), p. 18.
[126] "Gifts …", op. cit. (note 123), p. 1.
[127] Ibid., p. 10.
[128] "Arrives With Plea For Starving Jews — Miss May Relief Worker, Says 1,000,000 in Poland Alone Need Speedy Help", New York Times, April 8, 1926.
[129] According to the article quoted before, Miss May made a study of conditions in those countries on instructions from David A. Brown, National chairman of the United Jewish Campaign.
[130] "Jews of Poland Again Face Period of Want", New York Times Sunday Magazine, May 28, 1926, p. 8.
[131] Editorial, New York Times, May 3, 1926 p. 6.
[132] "Will Aid Starving Jews-Protestant and Catholic Clergy to Back Near East Relief Movement", New York Times, Nov. 27, 1926.
[133] "Cathedral Is Scene", New York Times, December 6, 1926, p. 1.
[134] New York Times, May 3, 1926, p. 6.
[135] "Untermeyer Asks Aid For Jews In Poland — He Reports at an Emergency Meeting That 2,000,000 Are Virtually Starving to Death", New York Times, December 6, 1937.
[136] "Jewish Teachers Chided By Isaacs", New York Times, February 23, 1938.
[137] "Nazi Publicity Here Held Smoke Screen", New York Times, June 25, 1940, p. 4.

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