Text auf Deutsch

The Reich Association of Jews in Germany

One of the most troubling and perplexing aspects of the Holocaust is the seeming cooperation of the primary Jewish organization, the Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland), in the deportations. What was called the Reich Federation and before it the Reich Representation of Jews in Germany had been an independent umbrella organization of Jewish organizations, but on July 4, 1939 it ceased to have an independent existence when it was taken over completely by the Reich Security Main Office (Reichsicherheitshauptamt). From that point, it became an arm of the Security Police (SiPo). It supplied the Reich Security Main Office with Jewish demographic statisitics and printed Nazi regulations in publications like the Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt. During the period when the Nazis encouraged Jewish emigration, there were articles about the pros and cons (mainly pros) of various emigration destinations like Palestine, Cuba, Shanghai, and New York. That changed with the Final Solution. In 1942, when the leaders of the Association realized what they would be called upon to do, some of them committed suicide. Others, like Rabbi Leo Baeck, leader of the Jewish community in Berlin, made a calculated decision to cooperate, reasoning that Nazi terror would be lessened if the Jews showed discipline and obeyed with dignity. There was also a desire to combat the deadly feelings of hopelessness in the Jewish community. Without hope, no life is possible. Many historians point out that Baeck and the other leaders of the organization had no choice. That may well be so. Sitting comfortably at my desk, it is not my place to judge people who find themselves in extreme circumstances. It should be realized that by 1939, many of the younger generation had already left Germany, leaving the elderly and the very young behind to fend for themselves. And so, in 1942 Jews throughout Germany presented themselves at the assigned collection points, from where they were whisked off to their deaths or to intermediate stops along the way.

In hindsight, it is quite possible that the Nazis would have been stymied, or at least slowed down, by Jewish non-cooperation or resistance. It was one thing to murder Poles and other "racial inferiors" outside of Germany proper, quite another to take the terror into German towns and villages, where Germans might be sickened by what they saw. Even given the level of antisemitism in Germany, the reality of public killings in German town squares was something the Nazis wanted to avoid. There was a reason why the Nazis only organized one "Kristallnacht."

The following documents are from 1942, i.e., after the "Final Solution" had been decided on. They were given to me by my friends in Geseke, Westphalia. In all probability, these documents were directly dictated, or at least supervised, by the Security Police; as the first one says, "We are responsible to the authorities for correct and timely completion." There can be no question of assigning equal culpability to the Reich Association for what ultimately happened. If anything, these documents put into starkest relief the utter dishonesty and cynicism of the Nazis.

It should be noted that Jews being deported to Theresienstadt had to pay 50 Reichsmarks as a deposit, which they were to get back upon arrival. They also had to buy phony property in Theresienstadt, as is shown by one of the documents, a property purchase form. All this was an elaborate ruse. Although Theresienstadt was not a death camp, it became a way station for those destined for Auschwitz. Of the officers of the Reich Association, only three of them, including Baeck, survived the Holocaust.

* * *

Extremely Confidential!
To the intermediates
in the District of Westphalia

Guidelines for assistance to Jews being relocated.

We have been given difficult assignments. We are responsible to the authorities for correct and timely completion. In the interests of our affected [community] members, we will have to work quickly and precisely. Our intermediates must give themselves over completely to the task at hand and make sure that it succeeds. For this reason, they are spared evacuation for the time being. Those who have been assigned the task by the authorities of organizing and carrying out the first transport can only complete their assignments if they get your whole-hearted support. We hope that you will not let us down in any way.

What we demand of you is necessary; the deadlines are set for us by the supervising authorities. Everything has to work smoothly. Otherwise, unpleasant complications could arise that nobody would want to assume responsibility for.

The final list of transport participants will be given to you as soon as possible. Immediately, let us know if there are among the people listed for transport any who, in your opinion, are too ill to be safely transported and who could pose a danger of contagion to others. You are to inform us immediately of the reasons and the documentation (if possible by telephone). Furthermore, you are to make note on the enclosed questionnaire of mixed marriages, superannuation, or serious illnesses. If possible, the questionnaire should be filled out by the intermediate himself. Further forms are available to you as needed.

The care of those who are affected must begin immediately. Each affected family should be assigned a special helper. His role should be to reduce the work involved, and also to provide spiritual counseling. (see Instructions)

Each participant is to immediately pay RM 50.00 (the limit) to be taken along. The money is to be given to us either in cash or postal money order. Inform us immediately of persons of poor means. To cover their costs and the required sum, an urgent appeal is to be made immediately to all those already affected and those not affected. Cash and donations from frozen accounts are to be received. For the latter, we need immediately legal written applications to the control board so that we can get authorizations. The authorities have allowed release of funds for this purpose even after the inventory has been completed.

The appeal should also focus on tangibles, especially warm clothes, blankets, footwear, and suitcases.

These collected things are to be immediately given to the nearest clothing center.

It is urgently recommended that the affected allow themselves to undergo vaccination against typhus as soon as possible. If our doctor at the district office in Bielefeld cannot be reached, the intermediate must try to interest another doctor to give a quick vaccine. (We request that questions concerning this issue be directed to our Welfare Department.)

We have been granted permission to bring one iron stove for each 50 persons. Let us know as soon as possible if there are such stoves at our disposal in your district.

We have been informed that baggage check will include a strict search for contraband material. Therefore, the participants are to be told that each transgression will result in severe punishment. Each individual could harm his own community. He impedes our cooperation with the authorities and restricts our ability to render aid.

Please recommend suitable persons to act as marshals and sanitary personnel.

We have received permission to bring along one straw mattress for each transport participant. These will be transported with the large baggage and will be billed to each individual. If possible, there will also be a community purchase of first aid kits.

Have all of those who are to be evacuated write down the names and addresses of family members here and abroad. We will place these in our files in the Migration Department. We ask those who are drawing retirement checks to get us a copy of their retirement authorization.

Please call Bielefeld 3140 or 4728 for any information. Call if you are in doubt or need advice and information yourself.

Help us to make the lot of those affected lighter. Make certain that the allowable baggage contains only useful items. Above all, try to dispel discouragement and doubt. Make assurances that we will render all possible assistance to lighten the load. However, we must all do more than we are called upon to do.



* * *

The "intermediates" and volunteers were given exact instructions designed to encourage trust and compliance. This was important to the Nazis, who wanted everything to run smoothly. Deportees were called "transport participants," as if they could choose not to participate. Again, it is important to recognize the pressure put on the Jewish leadership to produce such documents:

Information for volunteers!
Mr./Mrs./Miss _________________ Assigned to: __________________

We give the following guidelines for the care of transport participants:

1. Introduce yourself immediately to the family to which you have been assigned as a volunteer by the District Office in Westphalia. The family should be made to understand that the community cares about them.

2. Try to find out immediately whether general preparations have been carried out in a careful and timely manner.

3. Determine whether people know what they may take with them and what is out of the question.

4. Let your intermediate from the District Office know immediately what necessities your family lacks and what they have too much of.

5. Assume any task or trip that could lessen the burden of the family under your care. Remember, those affected will not have as clear a head as you.

6. Make sure that all regulations concerning baggage as well as contents and weight are followed exactly. You will save those whom you are assigned to protect a great deal of harm and annoyance.

7. Tell the resettlers that the inoculation we are recommending is in their own interests; they can prevent illness for themselves and those with whom they will be traveling.

8. Only give information or advice if you know for certain that the information and advice are correct. Otherwise, call the District Office first.

9. Before packing, choose only the most important things from all the things that seem important to take. Remember that warm clothes and footwear are a prerequisite for good health.

10. Make sure that all preparations are completed in a timely manner. The payment of RM 50.00, filing of addresses of kin, and the procurement of emigration documents cannot be put off to the last moment.

11. You are responsible for seeing to it that the family under your care has completed its preparations on time, and that it has all the necessities that may be taken along. The clothing depots and the District Office will make every effort to make your job easier.

12. Devote all your free time to this task and care for everything as if it were for your own family.

First Aid Tips

Lie flat, loosen clothes, cold rub the forehead and chest.
Massage with snow or cold water; do not treat with heat.
Alternating hot and cold bath, frost cream.
Bandage of salve, no flour!
Don't touch with your hands, antiseptic daubs, diluted potassium permanganate (pinkish colored water), gauze roll and bandage or gauze bandage.
Lie flat, cold compresses to the back of the neck; in case of strong bleeding, pack nose with gauze strips.
Spurting bleeding from the extremities:
Tourniquet using suspenders, belts of cloth.
Broken bones and sprains:
Stabilization using slings, boards, sticks or firm cardboard; first pad and then use elastic bandage.

You can get the following compounded medicines and bandage kits from us at the lowest cost:

1 bandage kit; 1 gauze bandage; 25 gr. of cotton
1/4 m bandage gauze; 1 small package of Lencoplast
30 gr. boric acid ointment; 1 small package of Hansaplast
1 sac of vulnerary and diaphoretic powder; 1 package of Leuto (for lice)
Insect powder
Gelonida Antineuralgica for pains of all sorts and fever
Adsorgan for diarrhea and gastric catarrh
Dispersed valerian for calming
Cystosporin for bladder and kidney problems
Antiseptic daubs to disinfect wounds
Potassium permanganate for general disinfection, esp. of the mouth, throat, and wounds

Energy is the most important physician in life.

The will to remain healthy and to recover are of more help than a bucket full of medicines.

Dept. of Welfare and Health

* * *

Information included health tips, which served to give the impression that the welfare of the Jewish deportees was important. The truth of the matter is that if ever there was a group of people who took cleanliness seriously, it was German Jews. They did not need quicky lessons. If you substitute the word "Jews" for "vermin" in #8, you get the Nazi program:

Information for heath and welfare

1) Cleanliness is the cornerstone of health. Keep yourselves clean even under the most difficult circumstances. You owe this to yourselves and to those around you.

2) Do not eat unpeeled fruit or uncooked vegetables; do not eat salad.

3) Do not drink unboiled water, even if boiling is difficult.

4) If you have an infectious illness involving the stomach or intestines, only use the toilet facilities standing up.

5) After defecation, wash your hands thoroughly. (Use a brush!)

6) Do not ingest anything before your hands have been carefully washed.

7) Do not leave any leftovers standing around. Flies carry disease.

8) Fight vermin by exterminating them and by keeping yourself clean. Vermin are dangerous carriers of infection.

9) Keep your room, clothes, and personal items clean even if you have only the simplest means at your disposal.

10) Care of your teeth is absolutely necessary for keeping them and for your overall health.

11) In cases of apparent infectious diseases, isolate the patient. Care should be given only by one person.

12) Should disease break out, call in the medic immediately, and/or a nurse or other persons experienced in sanitary procedures if needed.

13) Only use unknown or strong medications as prescribed by the medic.

14) Follow the advice of the doctors and nurses to the nth degree, even if this is difficult. They don't want to annoy you, but to keep you healthy.

Dept. of Welfare and Health
signed by Bela Israel Koritzer and Dr. Hans Israel Freudenthal

* * *

Jews going to Theresienstadt were obliged to buy phony property there. The money paid to the Reich Association actually went directly to the Nazis. The conditions of sale were completely fraudulent. Since the Reich Association had no existence independent of the Reich Security Main Office, all the monies probably went directly into a Nazi account.

Home Purchase Agreement

The following home purchase agreement has been concluded
between the
Reich Association of Jews in Germany,
District Office for Westphalia

and Mr./Mrs./Miss/Mr. and Mrs.____________________
legally represented by ______________________

a) Mr./Mrs./Miss/Mr. and Mrs. ____________________
recognizes/recognize the following:
The Jewish homes for the elderly and infirm have a large number of inhabitants who are supported either entirely or partially by Jewish charitable contributions. It is in the nature of things that you are currently an inhabitant of a home. In order to make it possible for people of limited means and others deserving assistance to stay in a home or to be admitted in the future, it is the duty of those inhabitants who have sufficient means to use their monies set aside for their care not only for themselves, but to contribute to the keep of needy inhabitants.

b) Mr./Mrs./Miss/Mr. and Mrs. ______________________
buys/buy themselves from ___________ a place in the home
for the sum of RM _____________(written out)


a) The purchase price will be paid as follows:_____

b) The purchase price will be paid out of own resources.

The purchase price will be paid by a third party, namely by
Mr./Mrs./Miss _____________. By co-signing this contract, Mr./Mrs./Miss _____________ recognizes its provisions, especially Paragraph 7, as binding.


a) Only items permitted by the authorities may be brought into the home.

b) These items become property of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany. They may be used by the inhabitant on a loan basis.


a) The Reich association commits itself to provide the inhabitant with a home and food for the rest of his or her life, will have his/her clothing washed, provide needed medical attention and medications, and provide hospitalization.

b) The Reich Association retains the right to transfer inhabitants to other homes or communities, even outside the Old Reich.

c) The inhabitants may not seek legal remedies in case of changes in their present living conditions.


Should an inhabitant develop physical or mental illnesses or other chronic conditions that preclude their staying in the home, the Reich Association reserves the right to transfer the inhabitant to a home for the infirm or a special home as needed.


The Reich Association has the right to cancel the contract for good reason. Such reasons include:

a) repeated gross violation of house rules despite written agreement.

b) the refusal of an inhabitant to comply with the transfer to another home administered by the Reich Association.


a) The purchase price becomes the property of the Reich Association.

b) Upon the death of the inhabitant or in case of premature cancellation of the contract, there is no legal claim to repayment of the purchase price.


Mr./Mrs./Miss/Mr. and Mrs. _______________ is/are responsible for the documents tax on this contract.

_________________, on this day, _____________, 1942

District Office for Westphalia
Reich Association of Jews in Germany

* * *

It all sounded so innocent. Every little last detail was taken into consideration. Reading this document while keeping in mind the reality of what was going on is a chilling exercise in imagination. Transports were well organized, and every effort would be made to accommodate the "participants." If they no longer had 50 Reichsmarks, that would be taken care of by the "intermediate" assigned to their case. This final document would have been read by my grandparents. They were "participants in the emigration transport to Theresienstadt, July 29, 1942."


date of postmark

To the Participants in the Emigration Transport to Theresienstadt, July 29, 1942:

We have been apprised of the following conditions for the relocation of the elderly and frail to Theresienstadt. It should be evident at first glance that this emigration transport will be particularly well and preferentially processed. The conditions are very generous and it should be possible, given time and practicality, for each family to take along what is most necessary for the establishment of a household. Even though relatively more room for storage has been set aside for us than has been the case with previous transports, we should nevertheless take care that community items be brought only insofar as they are urgently needed. For this reason, all items over and above those explicitly approved must have our written approval. The following items are approved for each individual:

1. one suitcase or backpack containing 30 kg.
2. bedding (quilt or blankets) with linens
3. one feather pillow
4. table ware
5. marching provisions for 4 days
6. provisions for an additional 8 days
7. mattresses
8. household items (buckets, pots, dishes, brooms, etc.)
9. sewing machines
10. tools
11. RM 50.00 to take along
12. handbag, bread sack, or backpack

How They Are To Be Packed
I. Large Baggage:

Large baggage either in the form of suitcase, bed, or backpack should contain a full set of clothes, good footwear, underwear, socks, extra bedding, household linens, work clothes, coats as well as toiletries and cleaning and sewing items. Be sure that aside from summer clothes, winter garments and woolens are also brought to the extent they are available. Don't forget the small items you might need such as writing materials, thread, hooks, patches, family mementos and photos. This large piece of baggage may not in any way exceed the allowed weight of 30 kg. and must be delivered to the collection hall in Dortmund along with the rest of the housewares no later than Thursday, July 23, 1942.

II. Bedding and feather pillows should be covered and rolled into a manageable bundle measuring 35 x 80 and taken along as hand baggage given its importance. If, as a result of illness or old age, it should not be possible to take articles to the collection center in Dortmund, this bundle of bedding and the above-mentioned large baggage may be sent ahead to Dortmund. However, it would be preferable to have these items on hand for the overnight at the collection center.

III. Tableware
Tableware, consisting of plates, cups or glasses, and spoons should be should be carried in a backpack or hand bag since they will be urgently needed at the collection center and on the trip. Items must be of unbreakable material; enamel is preferable to galalith because of its durability.

IV. Marching provisions for 4 days as well as food supplies for 8 days will be bought by us for the entire group. After the 8-day food supply has run out, the transport participants will, by agreement with the authorities, receive no further food cards. For this reason, the 4-day marching provisions will be packed for the entire group and given out daily on the train. Therefore, only pack those provisions in your food sack or backpack that are absolutely necessary for the collection center. Any excess food that can be taken to the collection center in Dortmund should be sent immediately to our address at Dortmund, 2. Kampstrasse 14, labeled "Foodstuffs."

V. Mattresses: (3-part) may be taken as long as you receive approval from us. Applications from the ill, elderly, and frail will be given preference. Naturally, it is not possible for all our travelers to be granted mattresses. The mattresses should have labels sewn on them and be marked with indelible ink. They, too, must be delivered to Dortmund by July 23, 1942. Excluded from this stipulation are those mattresses that will be used by the ill on the trains. This will only apply to the bedridden.

VI. Household items will mostly be excluded from transport. It is absolutely necessary to avoid overcrowding. Buckets and basins are to be packed telescoped together and delivered communally. Everyone should check to determine whether a household item is unnecessary because it may be replaced by a better item belonging to a fellow traveler. Because they are more easily checked, lath frames are preferred to crates or trunks.

VII. Sewing machines may be taken insofar as space is available. However, each sewing machine requires a timely application as well as approval. It must be understood that the number of sewing machines must be limited. It is recommended that they be packed in a lath frame. Table sewing machines will be given preference because they can be stowed more easily. When applying, please include the brand and model as well as the year acquired.

VIII. Tools should, if possible, be stowed in a tool box, which should, if possible, be lockable - and delivered with keys attached. When registering the tool box, please include its approximate size and weight. Approval is also required to bring it along.

All large baggage as well as household goods, sewing machines, mattresses, and tools are to be sent via:

Franz Wiechers Shipping Co.
Dortmund, Saarlandstrasse

and are to be prepared as express freight if delivery cannot be made directly by truck.

Baggage checks for the large luggage will take place in a shed at the shipper's. For this reason, suitcases should have keys attached or be unlocked and secured with rope.

Each piece of baggage should include complete name and place of residence. In the case of suitcases and backpacks, the address must be written in indelible ink. In your own interest it is recommended that each piece of baggage and everything that will be taken along be labeled with the owner's exact address.

IX. RM 50.00
This sum must be paid into our account 582 W at the Deutsche Bank, Bielefeld branch or must be given in cash to your intermediate. For each participant, RM 50.00 must be given to the transport leadership to be taken to the place of destination. Whoever does not pay this sum cannot count on being paid the sum upon arrival. Those receiving welfare or others who lack the means may apply through the intermediate for payment out of our special account W.

To the extent that there is not enough space for all the mattresses, straw sacks have already been prepared for our use. They will be delivered for those transport participants who do not have mattresses.

X. Medicines, razors, scissors, and knives:
Medications may be taken closed. If you have them, send them for inclusion in the group package to Kampstr. 14, Dortmund 2 before the deadline. Medications may only be carried if there is a medical certificate documenting the need for the medication on the trip as well as at the assembly camp. By the same token, razors, knives, forks, and scissors must be given to the transport leadership for collective packaging.

XI. It is forbidden to take poisons, securities and commercial papers, and asset documentation as well as money or items of value with the exception of wedding rings. We want to stress that these specifications in particular must be adhered to in the strictest fashion. Any transgressions will be severely punished. In your own interest and that of your fellow travelers, even the slightest deviation is to be avoided.

XII. Hand baggage should be light and hand carryable. To take account of the state of health and need for peace and quiet of the elderly and frail, we urgently expect that hand baggage not take up too much room. It should comprise only the most necessary size and weight, otherwise, count on rejection or confiscation.

XII. Beverages and beverage containers are urgently important. If you have or can procure larger jugs, bottles, or cans, they are to be placed at the disposal of the travelers for their drinking needs during the trip.

Very Important!

In order to stow the baggage pieces in the compartment and to expand and tie together the baggage nets, everyone should bring strong string or clothesline. This has shown itself to be particularly important. Whatever can be stowed in the baggage net will save space in the compartment and will make life easier for the travelers. We ask that you complete your preparations quietly and that you help anyone who needs it.

By the same token, we offer our help and have instructed our intermediates to give you advice and information as needed. In any case, our two telephone numbers, 3140 and 4728, are at your disposal for advice and information.


* * *

All of this makes my grandfather's last known letter dated July 21, 1942 understandable. Herr Schreiber was the head of the Reich Association branch in Anröchte, near Geseke. My grandfather no longer had 100 Reichsmark deposit money, and his request to take along his sewing machine so he could continue to make a living (he was a tailor by trade) was denied. All of it was a sham. One can only wonder how these instructions, which have about them the stench of betrayal and death, were read. Ferdinand and Ida Kronenberg were deported to Theresienstadt on July 29, 1942 and from there to Auschwitz.

Geseke d. 21.7.42
Werter Herr Schreiber:

Habe noch die Post abgewartet aber von Ihnen nichts bekommen. Nehme an, daß die Nähmaschine + Matrazen nicht genehmigt sind, deshalb habe alles aufgeführt. Haben Sie den Mitnahmebetrag von je 50 RM für uns besorgt, sonst müßte mir sie noch besorgen. Geben Sie mir bitte sofort Nachricht. Hoffe daß alles richtig gemacht habe u. bin mit bestem Gruß

F. Kronenberg
Mietsbuch habe beigelegt
[abstrei(chen) Nähmaschine]
July 21, 1942
Dear Herr Schreiber:

I waited for the mail but have received nothing from you. Take it that the sewing machine and mattresses have been denied, that's why I have listed everything. Have you gotten the allowance (sum) of RM 50 for each of us, otherwise will have to get it myself. Please let me know immediately. Hope that have done everything right and remain with greetings

F. Kronenberg
Have included rental book
[Sewing machine denied]

I have written several essays concerning my trip to Germany. If you would like read them, please click below:

A Few Thoughts on the Rails

The Trip to Auschwitz

Please be patient: this essay now has 5 photographs.

Taking the Night Train

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