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Filistin ve Doğu Akdeniz’de Nazi Partisi 1932-1939- The Nazi Party in Palestine and the Levant 1932-9

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The Nazi Party in Palestine and the Levant 1932-9
Author(s): H. D. Schmidt
Source: International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 28, No.
4 (Oct., 1952), pp. 460-469
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Royal Institute of International Affairs
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2604176
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THE NAZI PARTY IN PALESTINE AND
THE LEVANT I 9 32-9
H. D. SCHMIDT
D URING the Arab War in I948 news came from the southern outskirts of Jerusalem that Israeli soldiers had picked up swastika
flags, Hitler Youth badges, Nazi pamphlets, and German pass-
port forms found in a disused concrete building, situated to the left of the
road linking Talpiot with Ramat Rahel. After the fighting had stopped
I went there to investigate and found the floor of an empty, spacious hall
littered with files, some of which were rotting from exposure to moisture.
Examining the files I found that they contained documents of the National
Socialist Palestine Headquarters.
The condition in which I found the documents clearly indicated not
only that some material had been lost during the period of anarchy and
exposure but that some documents had been torn out of even well preserved files. The assumption that this was done by the Germans in the
autumn of I939 prior to handing over their papers to the Spanish Consulate, which was to act as neutral caretaker, is supported by the similar
procedure adopted during the Munich crisis, when all German papers
seemed to have been collected by the consulates in anticipation of war.
Some screening of material must have taken place in I938, because subsequent correspondence mentions missing documents. For this reason
no valid conclusions can be drawn from any argumentum ex silentio. This
applies especially to fifth column activities.
The files mention, for instance, a mysterious traveller whose mission
precluded any personal contact with official German and party branches.
The mysterious tourist did, however, call on the District Leader (Landeskreisleiter), who merely recorded, 'Came to see me'. Such observations
together with an order (which somehow survived) 'To be burnt after
reading' illustrate that the records do not reveal the deepest strata of Nazi
activities in the Middle East but only tell the story of daily administrative
routine work.
With all these reservations, however, this collection of Nazi papers in
Palestine throws an interesting light on German activities there before the
war. I have tried to supplement the material by assembling additional
records from private correspondence and diaries, and by personal interviews with persons mentioned in the files. The recollections of the latter
have often shown a marked divergence from the evidence offered by the
documents, in which case I have given preference to the documentary
evidence.
460
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OCT. I9521 NAZI PARTY IN PALESTINE AND THE LEVANT I932-9 46I
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NAZI PARTY IN PALESTINE
I932-3
At the end of the nineteen-twenties there lived in Palestine some
I,8oo German Christians, of whom I,300 were members of the Temple
Society which had been founded in Wiirttemberg in i86I. This unitarian
sect of Pietists desirous of teaching by example founded the first settlements in Palestine in I869. During the period of the- mandate Temple
communities existed in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Sarona, Wilhelma, and Beth
Lehem (Galilee). The members of the Society did not belong to any
church and were strongly opposed to clericalism. Next came 400 Lutheran
Germans with communities in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, and Waldheim
(Galilee), and about IOO German Catholics who were members of clerical
orders and had no lay community of their own. The majority of these
Germans had been born and brought up in Palestine. They had retained
their German citizenship and maintained their own educational and social
institutions.
Despite important confessional differences, and the inevitable mild
antagonism between the three groups, a common sentiment of national
solidarity in the face of the political and social exigencies of life in Palestine
predominated. The intense party strife of the Weimar Republic was never
transferred to the German communities in Palestine. The Republic as
such had few friends and the prevailing political climate showed a strong
inclination towards the old imperial tradition and was dei1tschmnational.
Young men went to Germany for vocational training and returned home
often with a young wife, and, since I93I, frequently with an interest in
Hitler.
The official history of the Nazi Party in Palestine begins in January
I932 when an architect and surveyor, who lived in the German colony at
Haifa, joined the Party and was appointed political agent for Palestine
(Landesvertrauzensmann). His superiors directed his activities from the
Levant Section of the Party's Foreign Division (AI/ssenamt) at Hamburg.
From the first moment a stream of propaganda material started flowing
into the letter-box of the first Nazi functionary. The leaflets stressed the
fact that the Party was about to assume power in Germany, an event, it
was alleged, which was bound to strengthen the position of the Germans
abroad. On the other hand the Foreign Division wanted to know the
views and personal contacts of the German consular personnel, the nature
of the German and general press of Palestine and, above all, requested
detailed information about the communal leaders of the German colonies.
The result of private canvassing and disseminating of Nazi propaganda
was at first extremely disappointing. After six months membership had
risen to three. Hamburg urged more courage and enterprise. Could not
the minimum of seven required for the lowest administrative unit, the
support point (Stfitzbuikt), be reached? It could not. In September I932
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462
INTERNATIONAL
AFFAIRS
[OCT.
membership was only six, two of whom were women. All belonged to the
lower rungs of the social ladder. When Hitler came to power in January
I933 membership had fallen to five, which shows that before the establishment of a Nazi Government in Germany the Nazi Party barely existed in
Palestine.
Yet the official membership list must not be interpreted as meaning
that wider sympathy with Nazi ideas was altogether lacking. Nazi
propaganda had a special appeal to German nationals abroad who felt
neglected by the Weimar Republic and were looking for a political movement which promised them greater prestige. The emotional appeal, too,
stirred the minds of many. Being spiritual descendants of German Pietism
which had always insisted on the incompleteness of Luther's Reformation,
many members of the Temple Society believed Hitler was destined to con-
tinue the national and religious work of Luther.1 The events of I933 in
Germany, therefore, appeared to many God-fearing German settlers as a
miracle which God had worked to save Germany, a triumph of religious
faith, the moral integrity and goodness of which was not questioned.
Listening to the German broadcasts became an event which moved the
women to tears.
The leaders of the colonies, the village mayors, pastors, councillors,
managing directors of banks and factories, shipping merchants and importers, who bore daily responsibility for the welfare of the colonies, were
more sceptical and had sincere misgivings from the start. They feared for
the internal peace of the communities, the loss of influence and control,
and also for the external peace between the colonies and their Jewish
neighbours on which a good deal of their trade depended. If the German-
Jewish conflict were to be transferred by Nazi activity to Palestinian soil,
they foresaw that it could only end in the destruction of the flourishing
German settlements. Thus a social factor made itself felt from the outset.
Those who had little to lose became Nazis with greater ease than the propertied German farmers and merchants whose growing anxiety was divided
between fear of the Jews and fear of the Nazis. This resulted in an official
local policy of caution and restraint which was openly derided by the
young, who showed contempt for their material-minded elders, communal
leaders, and parents.
The first weeks of Nazi government in Germany brought the rift into
the open. The German merchants, afraid of provoking the Jews by hoisting the swastika flag in Palestine, and led by the German Consul of Jaffa,
requested special dispensation from the German authorities, who rejected
the request. Even so, the much debated flag could not be hoisted at once
by the Consul because he did not know the correct design and measure-
ments. There was something symbolical in the hurried dispatch that night
1 For the connexion between Pietism and German nationalism see the revealing study by
K. S. Pinson, Pietism as a Factor in the Rise of German Nationalism (New York, Columbia
University, 1934). Pinson's conclusions are supported by the Palestine documents.
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I952] NAZI PARTY IN PALESTINE AND THE LEVANT I932-9 463
of a consular messenger to the house of a well known Nazi sympathizer
with the request for a swastika flag. New masters were not only rising in
Germany but also in the German settlements abroad.
With the Nazi proclamation of an anti-Jewish boycott to commence
on i April I933 the German merchants and farmers of Palestine found
themselves between two firing lines without any hope that the German
authorities would show the slightest consideration for their special position. Still, political leadership in the community was not yet in Nazi
hands and a desperate attempt was made to ward off the worst. The local
German firms sent individual telegrams to Germany requesting the cancellation of the anti-Jewish boycott and argued there was no boycott of
German goods in Palestine. The Nazi minority among the Germans were
greatly annoyed at what they considered was a humiliating surrender to
fear of the Jews. The split between the non-Nazi majority and the activist
minority was now very marked and bitter.
This anti-boycott campaign of the German firms in March I933 was
the last joint independent political move made against the express wishes
of the Party. Before long the settlements were all brought under effective
Nazi control. Hamburg Nazi headquarters clearly realized that the struggle
for political control in the settlements abroad was only just beginning. In
the summer of I933 Nazi membership had risen to 42, or 2'3 per cent of
the German population in Palestine. From October I933 recruiting for the
Nazi Party was intensified. The problem remained of how to achieve total
political control in a community living outside German jurisdiction and
within a plural society under British administration. Yet almost complete
political control was ultimately achieved.
THE STRUGGLE FOR TOTAL CONTROL
I934-9
The cultural and physical link with Germany was strengthened by
courses, literature, and cheap travel facilities for organized parties to go
to Germany for numerous conferences and rallies. The radio link-up was
improved and German news service bulletins were made available and
prominently displayed. Communal libraries were purged and communal
celebrations were as far as possible given Nazi content. These general
measures had to be followed up by patient and detailed work behind the
scenes. Special attention was given to the education of the young. Nazi
circulars emphasized that the battle for the minds of the young must also
be won as a means of controlling the minds of the adults. An example of
such indirect control is shown in the diary of a German mother in which
the lives of her children are followed with loving care. In I933 she referred to the Party as 'they' and with great reserve. Then her son entered
the Hitler Youth, travelled to a camp in Germany, became a platoon commander, and returned home to Jaffa with many an enthusiastic tale. His
pride and joy is fully shared by his mother who now introduces into her
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464
INTERNATIONAL
AFFAIRS
[OCT.
diary quotations from Hitler Youth songs. 'They' becomes 'we' and the
good woman is entirely unaware of the fact that the capture of her mind
had been part of a deliberate, calculated plan for political control.
Soon new teachers could go to Palestine only after they had been
approved by the Nazi Foreign Countries Organization (Auslandsorganization) as politically reliable for work overseas where they were expected to
give active support to all Party activities. Local teachers of German
nationality were pressed into the Teachers League and, by I938, all fulltime teachers in the German schools had become affiliated to that Nazi
association.
The schools depended on the German Reich in two ways. They received annual grants and, more important still, their certificates and
diplomas enjoyed full recognition in Germany. Parents shrank from
sending their children to a Palestinian school which would have been
either English, Arabic, or Jewish. The fear of social ostracism and the
cultural segregation of the Palestinian communities played into the hands
of the Nazis. Political control was much easier over a group of people who
were socially isolated.
In 1937 an amalgamated German secondary school was established in
Jerusalem to serve all the German communities of the country. After
prolonged secret negotiations the Nazis secured an overriding influence in
the management of the school through the German Consul General. An
official constitution for the new school was drawn up to serve as a blind
for the German settlers and the Palestine Government. It said the new
school would be run 'on the educational basis of the Third Reich in accordance with Christian principles and respecting the freedom of religious conscience'. A secret clause limited the number of Arabs to 25 per cent and
provided for the total exclusion of all Jews. This clause was not only
illegal in Palestine but also violated the tradition of the Lutheran communities where educational work among the Arabs had been regarded as
one of the principal missions of the Protestant Church in Palestine and
whose liquidated secondary school had, in the year of the amalgamation,
possessed a number of classes with an Arab majority.
The Hitler Youth was also represented on the School Board. Where
school ended the Hitler Youth took over, on much the same lines as in
Germany. Attendance figures of camps seem to suggest that by I937
nearly all German boys and girls had been drafted into the ranks of the
Hitler Youth. The religious leaders thus lost most of their educational
influence over the young. The Party even regarded the Lutheran Christmas
celebration arranged for schoolchildren with suspicion and tried to put
the parsons in the wrong by branding them as enemies of inter-confession
peace.
The year I935 saw the climax of the struggle for political control. At
the beginning of the year the post of President of the Temple Society h
fallen vacant. The deceased holder had closely collaborated with the Nazi
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I952] NAZI PARTY IN PALESTINE AND THE LEVANT I932-9 465
once Hitler's power had been established. This key post, which commanded
spiritual guidance and financial control, could not be allowed to fall
into the hands of an opponent. Orders arrived from Hamburg for the
District Leader to move a Party nominee into the post. The Temple
Society's candidate, however, was a man who had declared that there was
no place for the Party in Palestine. For the last time the Party lost and
the Temple Society's candidate was elected. There followed a reshuffle
of top functionaries after an inquiry into the failure of Party strategy. The
centre of leadership was moved from Haifa to Jaffa and political work was
intensified. The new era of increased political activity also saw a new
figure as German Consul General. The old Consul General had stood for
the continuation of German-Jewish collaboration in the economic field
on the basis of common interests. This, and his Jewish wife, had discredited him in the eyes of the local Nazis who tried hard to get him re-
called already in I933. The German Foreign Office on the other hand had
backed him up until the summer of I935. His successor saw to it that the
local Party members received the maximum support from all consular and
official bodies and that official contact with Jewish organizations was reduced to a minimum. Stricter economic control was enforced so as to
balance the growing anti-German boycott by a measure of economic selfsufficiency, by concentrating more on the Arab market, and by carrying
out a counter-boycott against the Jews.
At the end of I935 Party membership had reached 250, about I4 per
cent of the German colonials. The new District Leader could report to
his German headquarters that final victory was in sight. Unorganized
members of the community were given special individual attention during
the years I936-9. Social relations were subtly exploited, especially when
the German Labour Front opened its branches in Palestine in I936. Its
cells reached into every German firm and factory. The man who told (or
wrote to) an unattached person to join the Party or the Labour Front was
often a good customer, a relative, an influential citizen whom one did not
wish to offend. In May I936 instructions were received from Germany
that the next objective must be the total organization of every single
German in one form or another so as to ensure unity of command. This
directive was supplemented by an endeavour to cut off Germans from non
German organizations, thus sealing the German communities into a
hermetic compartment of totalitarian pressure. But could they not
simply break out?
Open dissent was rare. Maladjusted people, cranks, misfits, offered a
mental resistance which no amount of political or economic pressure could
break because of their capacity to ignore their environment and to be
indifferent to social sanctions. But their criticism was not taken seriously.
Social sanctions were severe enough to make anybody think twice before
openly breaking with the Nazis. The recalcitrant was branded as a traitor
to his people and soon found continued residence in the German colony
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466
INTERNATIONAL
AFFAIRS
[OCT.
unbearable. This and additional economic hardship not only affected him
personally but also his whole family. Not many dared to follow the ex-
ample of a Protestant clergyman who broke with the Nazis openly,
challenged their philosophy constantly, but had to live the life of a social
vagabond between all the Palestinian communities, at home in none.
The very rich could flee to another country. A few did. As a group only
the Catholic section of the Germans escaped Nazi pressure because
of their more rigorous mental discipline and their status as members of
some religious order. The Lutheran clergymen, too, with the backing of
the opposing Confessional Church (Bekenntntiskirche) could occasionally
withstand political pressure and make a mild show of dissent. The Temple
Society, deprived of any strong organizational body and without intellectual leadership, was naturally the most vulnerable community.
When in I939 numerous Germans realized that they were being shepherded into a train bound for war and the destruction of their farms, it
was too late for most of them to do anything. Their anonymous cry for
help voiced in the Palestine Post in the last weeks before the war makes
pathetic reading, but in the final catstrophe the innocent went down with
the guilty.
THE NAZI PARTY AND THE PALESTINE ENVIRONMENT
In the summer of I934 the District Leader reported to his German
superiors that correct relations and friendly contacts characterized the
position of the Germans towards the British administration although, he
added, 'we fully realize that we have had no greater enemy than the
English in the economic field as well as in power-politics'. Before Munich
the British Government sought a modus vivendi with the German Govern-
ment, and the Palestine Government, it appears from the German documents, maintained towards the Nazi Party an attitude of tacit tolerance
combined with careful watchfulness. The Germans understood perfectly
well that this toleration was given on condition of strict non-intervention
in the internal affairs of Palestine and the restriction of all Nazi activities
to the German colony. Party headquarters in Germany reinforced the
rule of strict legality at first which was required to build up the political
machine without rousing suspicion. Disciplinary action was taken against
unauthorized propaganda among the British troops. Even when there was
only a rumour in the local press about some Nazi activity among the Arabs
or Jews an internal inquiry was made by Party officials and detailed reports
demanded. All contact with British Fascists was discouraged and private
offers coming from Arab quarters were turned down. On Coronation Day,
I937, a forest of swastika flags was hoisted in all German colonies, ostensibly to demonstrate German sympathy with the British people but
actually, as the monthly report points out, to demonstrate German
solidarity behind the swastika flag. This blend of manifest and latent
intention goes right through the papers of the Nazi files.
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I952] NAZI PARTY IN PALESTINE AND THE LEVANT I932-9 467
Official legality did not preclude secret precautions and hidden lines
of communication. Political and secret agents whose tasks were never
specified in the correspondence were, so far as the documents show, invariably appointed outside Palestine and entered the country in the guise
of tourists and correspondents. On the whole Palestine was regarded as
unfavourable ground for political contact with the Arabs, because it was
under British administration and possessed a Jewish intelligence force
partly employed by the Government, which on several occasionshad proved
a nuisance. Egypt was much more suitable for political work. Strict
caution in all written communications was already advised as early as
I934. When during the Palestine riots (I936-9) a general censorship was
imposed by the Government the Nazis became still more guarded in their
letters. From April I938 no unauthorized persons were allowed to see
Party correspondence and no written information could be transmitted
to outsiders without prior authority from the District Office. Personal
contact between the local Party and the German headquarters was established by word of mouth through cruising inspectors who called at Haifa
on board a German vessel to interview or brief senior Nazi officials. Nazi
cells on German boats often received messages or printed matter for secret
delivery at Haifa or Jaffa where a special port office (Hafendienst) existed
for the purpose. But even this was considered unsafe later and the consular mail was preferred. In case of an official ban on Party activities
preparations were made in I937 for camouflaging the Hitler Youth as a
Sports Club and the Party as a German Society.
The post-Munich period, especially the year I939 with the rapid
deterioration in Anglo-German relations, witnessed active German intervention in Palestine politics with the clear aim of inciting the Arabs. The
Palestine documents for this period illustrate the gradual submergence of
the political apparatus with only a few periscopes remaining above the
surface. Official correspondence is camouflaged as private. All Party
headings, ranks, addresses, and formulae disappear. References to oral
instructions and agreements increase. Police surveillance had forced the
Party underground. But the new policy of active intervention in Palestine
had no time to mature. For the German designs in that region the war
broke out too soon.
During the disturbances of the years I936-9 German sympathy was
clearly on the Arab side, because official anti-Semitism apart, the Germans
shared with their Arab neighbours the fear that Jewish mass immigration
would ultimately threaten their very existence. The Germans had always
employed Arabs as agricultural labourers and domestic servants. Although they did not regard the Arabs as equals, close touch with the local
affairs of the Arab population had developed. Non-intervention as an
official policy did not preclude private encouragement and expression of
sympathy. There were moments when strict neutrality was impossible.
For example, the German settlement of Beth Lehem depended on Arab
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468
INTERNATIONAL
AFFAIRS
[OCT.
labour. When it was approached for a contribution to the Arab Strike
Fund the Germans at first refused to pay, whereupon the Arab workers
struck. It was then agreed to donate Pf6o to charity, a compromise which
officially maintained non-intervention and at the same time removed
local trouble. After I937 no further records insisting on the strict observa-
tion of non-intervention are to be found in the files.
Fear, suspicion, and economic warfare could not entirely wipe out all
contact between the Germans and the Jews. The Nazi campaign to replace
Jewish representatives of German firms by Arabs and Germans was not
altogether successful, because several firms insisted on retaining Jewish
agents to serve the Jewish sector. The anti-German boycott of the Jews was
equally evaded by some Jewish firms which used non-German labels for
German goods. The Germans of Jaffa were obliged to shop in the neighbouring Tel-Aviv, particularly during Arab strikes, to go to the Jewish dentist,
or enjoy an evening in a modern cinema. Jewish employees were kept on
by German firms, and German milk, vegetables, and meat found their way
-although with growing difficulties-to the Tel-Aviv market.
Many Jews regarded each German as a Nazi agent, whom they held
responsible for the troubles in Palestine. Many Germans, on the other
hand, believed each Jew to be in league with the Bolshevists receiving his
instructions straight from Moscow. Already in I934 it seemed to many
Germans doubtful whether there would be any future for their children
in Palestine. The acquisition of land in a neighbouring country was
actively considered. Syria, Cyprus, East Africa were thought of. The
Party, however, did not encourage such plans. No land transactions on a
large scale were permitted. Palestine was regarded as a German outpost
to be held at all costs. Even repatriation of Germans from Palestine was
granted only in the most urgent cases.
THE NAZI PARTY IN THE LEVANT
An active Nazi branch existed in Egypt before Hitler rose to power.
It was nourished by employees of German export firms and German
engineers. In Transjordan a Nazi agent was found at Mafrak. A branch
was established in the Lebanon in I933. Officials in Palestine were referred to Ankara and to Cairo in the first stage of organizational develop-
ment. Later, in I933, the group in Beirut was linked to that in Haifa for
local assistance and guidance. All through I933 the organizational link
between the two chapters of Beirut and Haifa was very close and is well
documented in the Palestine files.
In I933 there were a few Nazi sympathizers among the Germans in
Beirut, but no organization. The local Nazi chapter was founded by an
itinerant Nazi agent, the then principal of the Royal Public School of
Kabul, who in I933 toured the Middle East on behalf of the Party, givin
lectures to local German nationals and building up liaison and organization
where required. The six members of this Beirut support point were led by
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I952] NAZI PARTY IN PALESTINE AND THE LEVANT I932-9 469
an ex-officer of the German Imperial Navy. He was instructed by his
superior officials at Hamburg to remain in close touch with Haifa on the
ground that close co-operation between Beirut and Haifa would be
facilitated by common political interest in the Arab cause. One year after
its establishment the local branch in Beirut had a membership of thirtyfour and was planning to attract more women, because the female response
had been very weak and the Party felt it lacked social appeal. About that
time the close link between Haifa and Beirut was cut because of political
difficulties arising from the fact that the French mandate developed
problems of its own and the frontier between Palestine and the Lebanon
proved too formidable and dangerous a barrier for close political cooperation. As a result the work in the Lebanon and Syria was placed
under direct control of the Foreign Countries Organization. Despite these
difficulties Hamburg urged both the groups in Beirut and Haifa to maintain personal contact as far as possible.
Lecturers, books, press, and film material were sent out to the Middle
East through fixed routine channels. Records of the film department
showed a Middle East time-table for monthly full-length propaganda
films. These films were sent to German legations, and through them forwarded to the Nazi branches in their countries by the following route:
Albania-Greece-Turkey-Syria and the Lebanon-Palestine-Egypt. Lecturers, bona fide and camouflaged tourists, and inspectors were given a
list of Nazi branches in the Middle East with the addresses of the leading
officials and the dates and places of regular meetings. In I936 Cyprus was
linked to the network of addresses.
In August I937 three experts of the Berlin Hochschule fiir Politik went
on a motoring trip which took them through Italy, North Africa, across
the Western Desert into Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Austria. The local branches were advised in advance of their
arrival and requested by the Foreign Countries Organization to render
them all possible assistance, though the precise nature of their visit was
not explained. In I938 the Director of Short Wave Programmes toured
the Middle East to collect technical and political data. In March I939 a
high official of the Foreign Countries Organization, who had been in charge
of the political training of Nazi functionaries from abroad at the courses
held at Stuttgart in I938, flew out to see Middle East top officials of the
Party on his trip which took him from Germany, to Cairo, Haifa, Beirut,
Baghdad, and Teheran.
The Palestine records of the Nazis are an impressive illustration of how
a particular group living in a free country may be brought by peaceful
means under political control and totalitarian pressure on the basis of
language ties, national appeals, and the cunning exploitation of social
instincts all employed by a foreign Power two thousand miles away.
July I952
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