The National Representation of Jews in Germany - Obstacles and Accomplishments at its Establishment
There is little documentation of the activities of the Reichsvertretung between 1933 and 1938, as it was under close surveillance by the Gestapo. Dr. Ernest Herzfeld, a lawyer in Germany at that time involved in Jewish affairs, supplied some of the missing information. On the rise of the Nazis, it was clear that a central Jewish committee should be formed to negotiate with them. The kehillot (local communities) were the obvious basis for establishing such a body. However, it was feared that the powerful kehillot of Berlin and Prussia would overwhelm the rest and increase their power. However, it was agreed that Dr. Leo Baeck of Berlin was the only one who had the capabilities and prestige to head such a supreme organization. A meeting of the kehillot was organized and Dr. Baeck’s nomination confirmed. Dr. Otto Hirsh was elected Director–General and the Reichsvertretung offices would be sited in Berlin. The Zionists, a minority group, were not enthralled but decided to cooperate. Relief and vocational training as originally provided by Zentralausschuss were the reasons the Reichsvertretung attained its importance despite factional flare-ups. In general the members lacked foresight and imagination and believed that Jewish culture could flourish in Hitlerite Germany.