Friday 29 April 2016

Hitler and Zionism: Antony Beevor and a Scrupulous Attitude to the Facts of History

Special medal issued by 'Der Angriff', a newspaper of the Nazi Party, commemorating a joint visit by members of the SS and German Zionist Federation to Palestine in 1934

With many bestselling tomes including ones dealing with the Battle of Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin under his belt, Antony Beevor is a military historian of fine repute. However, his recent intervention in the furore over comments made by Ken Livingstone positing Adolf Hitler as having been a Zionist was high on emotion but fell short of historical accuracy.

After claiming that Livingstone's comments were "grotesque", he went on to speak of "an element of truth". The problem is that Beevor underplays the level and length of contact between Zionists and Nazis while mentioning Adolf Eichmann whose name is synonymous with the planned extermination of the Jews.

There was actually an agreement reached between early Zionists and the National Socialist regime in 1933. The Haavara Agreement which is alternately known as the Transfer Agreement, had the objective of facilitating the migration of all Jews from the German Reich. It was pursued with the idea of mutual benefit: Germany circumventing an international economic boycott instigated by most of world Jewry, the majority of whom were not Zionist, and German Zionists aiding Jewish resettlement in Palestine.

The Haavara Agreement broadly observed the following modus operendi: A German Jew would deposit money into a specific account in a German bank. The money would then be used to buy German goods for export usually to Palestine. The Jewish emigres to Palestine would then receive payment for the goods which they had previously purchased after their final sale.

In 1934, the Nazi Newspaper Der Angriff produced a medal commemorating a joint tour of Palestine by an SS officer Leopold Itz von Mildenstein and an official of the Zionist Federation named Kurt Tuchler. The purpose of the visit was to assess development in Zionist settlements. The following year in May, the official newspaper of the SS, Das Schwarze Korps, proclaimed its support for Zionism.

Reinhard Heydrich, the high-ranking Nazi official who notoriously presided over the Wansee Conference noted at this time in history that "As a National Socialist, I am a Zionist."

It was an unholy alliance that did not meet with unanimous support on both sides. There were vehement denunciations of the agreement within the Zionist movement and the wider Jewish community. In fact, one of its key instigators, Chaim Arlosoroff was assassinated on his return to Tel Aviv from negotiations in Germany. Hitler himself is said to have initially had misgivings about the agreement but later gave it his full backing in the two years preceding the war.

The agreement continued to be implemented until the outbreak of war in 1939.

Beevor recently voiced his concern over what he saw as an attempt to re-write the history of Britain via a revised GCSE syllabus in order as he put it "to bolster the morale of certain sections of the population, rather than a scrupulous attitude towards to facts." He is absolutely entitled to this view. However, in this matter his critique of Livingstone is not based on a full consideration of historical evidence.

Indeed, it betrays the logic of his maxim relating to having a scrupulous attitude towards the facts.

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.


  1. It seems very strange that the NSDAP would strike a medal using the word "NAZI" on it, since that was a derogatory word used by the party's enemies, and never used by the party members themselves.

    1. The NSDAP made brief attempts to reappropriate the term after taking power but gave up the effort.