Collaboration with Nazism

Gaby Rubin reviews Zionism during the holocaust: the weaponisation of holocaust memory in the service of state and nation by Tony Greenstein (2022, pp488)

This is an important and powerful book. It contains a prodigious amount of detail and argument.1 You will not find it in the shops (or on your Kindle) just yet, as it is not due to be published until September. But, if you are at all interested in why many Jews (and others) reject Zionism as a movement, make sure you get it next month.

But do not expect a pleasant read. The details are overwhelming, the hypocrisy astonishing. A picture will stay in your mind of hundreds of thousands of people who could have been saved, but were not because of political machinations and greed. Although titled Zionism during the holocaust, in fact the book covers periods before, during and after the holocaust. The subtitle - The weaponisation of holocaust memory in the service of state and nation - lays the foundation for the author’s argumentation.

Moshé Machover’s strong and forthright preface describes the fundamental views of the book. I know readers often skip the preface and introduction, but in this case I would read both. Tony Greenstein’s description of how he discarded his own background to embrace the views he now holds is worth the time alone.

As comrade Machover says about the crossover between Zionism and anti-Semitism,

And here is the point of intersection between anti-Semitism and Zionism. The former is a modern invention; it differs from medieval religious persecution of Jews. Instead, it condemns us as an alien ‘race’ (which to racists means more or less the same as ‘nation’) that must be rejected.

Assimilation of Jews is anathema. And Zionism responds: ‘Yes, we Jews are a separate nation/race; we are aliens who do not belong here among the Gentiles; we must not assimilate, but go to our God-promised homeland, which our ancestors, the Israelites, led by Joshua, son of Nun, invaded and ethnically cleansed in days of old, as recounted in the Bible.’

As Greenstein shows, the German Zionist movement and the Nazis both agreed that Jews did not belong in Germany. The Nazis wanted them out - either by expulsion or, after 1941, by annihilating them. The Zionists wanted the best “human material” to come to Palestine. They wrote off the rest of the Jews in a policy known as ‘selectivity’.

As Chaim Cohen (the defence counsel for Rudolf Kasztner, the most notorious of the Zionist collaborators) said in his appeal against the verdict of Benjamin Halevi of the Jerusalem District Court in 1955, he had “sold his soul to Satan” by his dealings with the Nazis:

He was entitled to make a deal with the Nazis for the saving of a few hundred and entitled not to warn the millions ... that was his duty … It has always been our Zionist tradition to select the few out of many in arranging the immigration to Palestine ... Are we to be called traitors?

Kasztner reached an agreement with Adolf Eichmann that the Zionist elite could leave Hungary on a special train to Switzerland in exchange for keeping silent about Auschwitz. Hungary’s Zionist leaders even encouraged the Jews to board the trains by telling them that they were going for ‘resettlement’, not extermination.

As comrade Greenstein says,

The Zionist relationship with the anti-Semites, the Nazis included, rested on a common ideological framework. The emphasis on racial purity is at the heart of Zionism’s opposition to mixed marriages and miscegenation. That is why the German Zionists welcomed the Nuremberg laws.2

The book not only deals with the Jewish holocaust - it also has chapters on the Slavic countries, and other groups murdered by the Nazis: the Roma, communists and Catholics, the disabled ... But because the Zionist movement (and indeed the anti-Semitic viewpoint) had the ear of major governments, including the US and the UK, it is important to understand why and how the Zionist movement treated those they considered their own people as they did.

Tony Greenstein shows why Zionists even now attack Jewish anti-Zionists with such venom. He says that Jewish anti-Zionists are proof that Zionism does not represent ‘all Jews’, as they like to claim. Those of us that take that view are told we are ‘traitors’ or ‘self-hating Jews’. The Zionist point of view is that Jewish loyalty should be to Israel. Of course, American Jews who donate a great deal of money to Israel are let off lightly. But there are constant promotional programmes to get young American and European Jews to ‘make Aliyah’: ie, come to their ‘homeland’ (the more cynical of us believe in order, at least in part, to offset the rising numbers of the non-European population in Israel).

At the same time, the treatment of the non-Jewish citizens and those in Gaza and other places has been compared to South Africa’s apartheid system, and has become more and more repressive. Thus many Jews in the US and Europe have started to turn away from Israel and the Zionist argument, so the calls of ‘traitor!’ have become more strident.


The book begins with chapters covering the origins of Zionism. The early Zionists claimed that it was a genuine liberation movement, but, as Greenstein points out, a liberation movement struggles against its oppressor. It wants freedom for those who are living in a country or area. Zionism never fought for that right, or struggled against anti-Semitism. For that reason, Greenstein argues, Zionism and anti-Semitism share a common premise.

Zionism claims to speak for all Jews everywhere. Fundamental to Zionism is the belief that all Jews, wherever they live, constitute one nation. In addition, the Zionist movement and the Israeli state claim to speak for all Jewish victims of the holocaust as well as living Jews today. It is certainly false that Zionists speak for all Jews (four generations of my family will attest to that) and, as for being one nation - are Jews in England, the USA, Mozambique (yes, there are some there) and the Cayman Islands (yes, there too) one nation? I think not.

Greenstein describes the history of eastern European Jews under the tsar, which pushed millions of Jews to the west, to France, Britain and the United States. Zionism, of course, draws a dividing line between diaspora Jews and those living in Israel. My family, for example, came from what is now Ukraine, but what was then called Little Russia (but was once called Greater Rus3). Some of them left during the pogroms, rather than risk being murdered. Others left after the revolution of 1905, some left before World War II - four generations of diaspora Jews. We are considered by Zionists to be weak and inconsequential Jews. Unless we have lots of money of course, to funnel to Israel (which we would not, even if we had). On a personal note, I was saddened to read about what happened to my paternal grandmother’s town. None of my grandmother’s family, who escaped earlier, were able to find out what happened to the rest of their family after the war, but their probable end is delineated clearly in this book.

Most eastern European Jews spoke Yiddish - considered decidedly inferior to Hebrew, since it is ‘well known’ that Yiddish speakers never fought back, but allowed themselves to be led to slaughter like lambs (sic!). This despite the fact that diaspora Jews were founder members of the Communist Party in several countries, fought for trade union and civil rights, were in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and fought in both world wars and other conflicts.

Let us look at England specifically (not Wales and Scotland) as an example of the historical treatment of the Jewish population. Jews were expelled from England in 1250, but ‘allowed back’ - as long as they were quiet - by Cromwell. But the paper officially allowing them to live in England was never signed. By the time the English Zionist Federation was started in 1899, Jews still felt fairly marginalised. Bourgeois Jews were able to do well, but full emancipation and acceptance of Jews was still not universal.

But from its very beginning, the EZF supported ‘anti-alien’ parliamentary candidates: ie, candidates who were opposed to the immigration of Jewish refugees in the 1900s, most whom were fleeing from the Russian empire’s pogroms. The refugees did not support the Zionists in elections, and mainly voted for the Liberal Party.

During World War I the Zionist leaders tried to convince the government that being pro-Zionist would make Jews become more interested in joining the struggle on the UK side. The Jewish community, however, as Greenstein points out, having fled from pogroms in Russia, was not that attracted to fighting on the side of the tsar. In any case, the Zionists were not that interested in the “mob and rabble” in the East End and the Jewish bourgeoisie was afraid that, by pledging allegiance to Zionism, they would be accused of having dual loyalties, and thus the struggle for full emancipation would be lost. Eventually, Greenstein says, Zionism began to be seen as complementary to imperial interests, at which point the Anglo-Jewish bourgeoisie embraced it.

The Zionist movement, at its most vociferous, argued that Jews were a people (in the beginning a ‘race’) who were strangers in every country they lived in, and thus needed their own country. They could be citizens, but would never be accepted as ‘one of us’. The Nazis used the same argument - that Jews could not be assimilated.

In England, as Greenstein points out in some detail, the working class was opposed to Zionism. And, as the fascists grew in strength in Britain prior to World War II, most of the Zionist press and organisations called for Jews to stay quiet and not fight back. The Battle of Cable Street was one episode that showed how ineffective that call was.

Theodor Herzl, the Zionist demi-god, supported restrictions on the immigration of Jews and his testimony to the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration helped pass the Aliens Act in 1905. As Greenstein points out, “Zionism held that anti-Semitism was a ‘natural phenomenon’ like the wind and the rain”. And Chaim Weizmann (president of Israel 1949-52) testified that a country like Britain could not absorb many more Jews.

The Zionist leadership was determined that concern for the victims of the holocaust should not undermine the building of a Jewish state. David Ben-Gurion (national founder and first prime minister of the state of Israel from 1948) made this explicit in February 1943, when he distinguished between “those Jews we can bring out of Europe, over here [and] those whom we cannot bring over here”. Ben Gurion insisted that funds should be used “only for rescue by immigration to Palestine, whereas rescue by assisting Jews to survive elsewhere was to be funded solely by private and organisational donations”.

Rescuing Jews where the destination was not Palestine was not the business of the Zionist movement. But, as a word of caution, Greenstein says: “Just because the Zionist leadership collaborated, and worse, with the Nazis, this did not mean that ordinary Zionists did.”

Many young Zionists under Nazi occupation actively fought against the Nazis, despite attempts from Jerusalem to get them to abandon the fight. The Warsaw Ghetto was one such struggle, but not the only one. At no time were they, or any Jewish fighters against Hitler, given support by the Jewish Agency. The Zionist movement not only abandoned the Jews of Europe: it refused even to publicise their plight.

The Zionist refusal to join the fight against anti-Semitism continued up to and including the Nazi era. Alone of the German Jewish organisations, the Zionists never opposed anti-Semitism or the Nazi party. After all, “if effective and successful self-defence ever became an end in itself, it would negate the centrality of Palestine and Jewish nationality and, thus, Zionism itself”. It was the political left which was the main danger!


Comrade Greenstein gives a history of anti-Semitism in Germany, and the growth of collaboration of Jews with ‘power’ with the Nazis. He includes a lengthy discussion about the meaning of collaboration and the guilt or otherwise of the collaborators (especially the Judenrat - those organisations that decided on the lists of Jews to be sent to the work camps and death camps, which were sometimes one and the same).

Parts 1 and 2 go deeper into the history of anti-Semitism and the Zionist movement. Part 3 looks at Zionism and socialism, and destroys the myth that the kibbutzim in Israel were socialist. Greenstein also goes into some detail about Borochovism, also known as ‘Marxist Zionism’. This review cannot do justice to the erudition and detail illuminated in the book. Anyone reading this review should get it and read it from cover to cover, even though it is sobering, sad and at the same time infuriating.

Part 4 charts the history of Zionism under Hitler’s Germany. Ben Gurion is shown up for the hypocrite he was. In January 1933 he said that Zionism was “not primarily engaged in saving individuals” and if there was “a conflict of interest between saving individual Jews and the good of the Zionist enterprise, we shall say the enterprise comes first”.

In other words, if Hitler wanted the Jews out of Germany and they were unable to leave, even with the help of the Zionist movement, then if extermination came next, the Zionist movement would be oblivious.

Greenstein then goes on, in chapters 4 and 5, to look at the relationship between the Nazis, and indeed Nazism, with the Zionists. (There was apparently even a group of pro-Nazi Zionists - something I had never heard of before.)

He deals with such subjects as: ‘What was Hitler’s motivation - anti-Semitism or anti-communism?’ ‘Did the anti-Semitism of the average German make the holocaust possible?’ ‘The final solution and Wannsee - was the holocaust inevitable?’

Chapter 6 investigates the Ha’avara agreement and the boycott of Nazi Germany. This is a subject which has had members of the Labour Party thrown out on ludicrous charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ when they dared to speak of it - as if speaking about a historical episode was in itself a crime. (Slavery anyone? The Kenya Mau Mau trial in Britain? Surely insulting to some people …)

There are chapters on resistance, and on the effort especially to erase the history of resistance from common knowledge. Some knowledge of this resistance has begun to creep in, as films like Defiance and Escape from Sobibor demonstrate.

Chapter 11 specifically deals with countries under Nazi influence or occupation and how the murders of people, especially Jews, were carried out - although Greenstein also points out that in Poland between 1939 and 1941 many soldiers, including the commanders themselves, were unhappy about the role of the SS and Einsatzgruppen killing squads.

There are tables showing the percentage of the Jewish population left at the end of the war by country, and one showing how many Jews were able to emigrate to various countries, plus a chapter on the church and the holocaust, and two chapters on how the Zionist movement impeded the transfer of Jews to other countries. The list of articles and bibliography alone takes up 14 pages.

There is an interesting section about the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Argentina, which some of my generation will remember well. At the time (1994), the allegations were that Iran and/or the Hezbollah were responsible. But a police informer who ‘turned’ made clear that Israel’s allegations had the actual purpose of diverting attention from what was in reality state and police involvement.

Many holocaust museums now run courses on how to teach the holocaust, but frankly they should read this book first.

The role of the Yad Vashem official holocaust memorial in Israel takes three sub-sections of a chapter. Yad Vashem is usually a place spoken of with a certain amount of awe and reverence, as it contains records of Jewish families and whole towns killed in the holocaust. But Greenstein labels Yad Vashem a “diplomatic Laundromat” - readers who only know the awe-side will find the conclusions shocking.

The amount of detail in Zionism during the holocaust is overwhelming. It is not a book that can be read through and understood at one sitting. It needs to be studied carefully, and its conclusions widely disseminated. Among those conclusions are:

This is clearly a life’s work. It should be closely studied and taken to heart, quoted and used by Marxists everywhere to demonstrate that anti-Zionism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Indeed it is Zionism and the pro-Zionists that have led to the most appalling consequences and can continue to do so.

Gaby Rubin

  1. Details of the publishers, price and availability will be announced just before publication in September.↩︎

  2. The Nuremberg laws prohibited, amongst other things, relations - sexual and other - between Jews and other Germans.↩︎

  3. In the 11th century, Kievan Rus’ was geographically the largest state in Europe... The term “Greater Rus’” was used to apply to all the lands of the entire Kievan Rus: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Ukraine#History. ↩︎