This article reassesses the efforts by western Jews to rescue their imperilled European brethren in the years before and during the Second World War. It goes beyond the conventional question, “Could more have been done to rescue European Jewry?” Rather, the article explores what Jewish leaders learned about the global practice of philanthropic relief during the decades before the rise of European fascism and hyper-nationalism. It then asks how this accumulated knowledge may have informed their decisions once they understood the dangers faced by Jews in Germany, Poland, and Romania. This holistic analysis of actions taken by transnational leaders accounts for operational precedents, geo-politics, migration regimes, diaspora networks, organizational history, intra-communal relations, and economics and contemporary orientations toward aid. All these create a realistic reckoning of the strengths and limitations of Jewish transnationalism at the time, allowing us to transcend value-based judgements of this painful chapter in Jewish history.
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- agricultural resettlement
- diaspora Jewry
- interwar European history