Eshkol in 1933: Jews ‘adapting’ to new situation in Germany

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February 14, 2011 01:31

The Israel State Archives release letter from Eshkol to his wife from Berlin six months after Hitler's rise to power.

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Eshkol in 1933: Jews ‘adapting’ to new situation in Germany

levi eshkol 88. (photo credit: )

The Israel State Archives, marking the 41st anniversary of the death of Levi Eshkol, released a letter on Sunday that he wrote to his wife from Berlin in 1933, bewailing the hesitancy of German Jews with means to move to the Land of Israel despite the darkening clouds on the horizon.

In the spring of 1933, Eshkol – who later became the country’s third prime minister – was sent on a mission by the Zionist Organization (later the World Zionist Organization) and the Labor movement to London and from there to Nazi Germany, where he helped move Jewish assets out of the country, and took part in organizing groups to make aliya.

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In a letter to his wife, Elisheva Kaplan, who at the time was visiting her mother in Poland, Eshkol wrote from Berlin of the German Jews in September 25, 1933, six months after Hitler’s rise to power, that “I have a suspicion and a feeling that the Jews are beginning slowly to adapt to the situation, especially those with means.”

“It is hard for them to leave, just as it was hard for Hanna Robina to get rid of the dybbuk from within her,” he said, in reference to the celebrated Habima actress who became famous for her role as the young bride possessed by a demon in S. Ansky’s play The Dybbuk.

Eshkol said that only in the far away and poor provinces were there voices heard of those who “want to leave and go to Eretz Yisrael in the hopes that they will get along [there]. But from them we will not be built; them we will need to build.”

This letter, and another one written to Eshkol from his wife in Poland during the same period, were given to the Israel State Archives by their daughters Tama Eshkol-Shohat and Ofra Eshkol-Nevo, and the late Dvora Eshkol-Rafaeli. They were not included in a 2002 commemorative exhibition on Eshkol titled Levi Eshkol, The Third Prime Minister: Selected Documents 1895–1969.


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