Referat Deutschland, Jewish Policy and the German Foreign Office 1933-1940
The bureaucratic proliferation in Germany following the Nazi rise to power did not bypass the German foreign office, in which Referat Deutschland was one of the first agencies specializing in Jewish affairs. Referat Deutschland became the apologist and propagandist for antisemitism in Germany. Eventually, the whole foreign office adopted the Nazi attitude to the Jews. In 1935 the Nuremberg Laws discriminated between Jews and Aryans. Referat did not support transport of Jews to Palestine, even though the state could have benefited economically from the ha’avarah agreement. In 1938 Emil Schumburg became leader of Referat Deutschland. Simultaneously, Goering decided to eliminate German Jews from the economic life of the country. In October 1938 Germany expelled its Polish Jews and Poland closed its borders so that Jews were trapped in a no-man’s land. Consequently, Herschel Grynszpan, whose family was among the deported Polish Jews, murdered Ernst vom Rath in Paris thus creating an excuse for the Kristallnacht pogrom. At the 1938 international Evian conference, no country was prepared to accept Jewish refugees and most of the German foreign office staff refused to cooperate with Rublee, the American appointee, to discuss emigration of Jews from Germany. Goering became the central authority for Jewish affairs and Foreign Minister Ribbentrop’s influence waned. In 1938 Heydrich, appointed by Goering, was instructed to prepare measures for the emigration of all Jews from Germany. Jews were thus delivered into the hands of the SS. Following the outbreak of the war and the conquest of Poland, the Germans decided to turn the Lublin area into a Jewish reservation — a decision soon rescinded. In May 1940 Referat’s activities ended, it having achieved little in the seven years of its existence during which time it fell between the power bases of the Nazi bigwigs.