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March 25, 1966 - Image 48

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1966-03-25

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Stamps Honor Germany's Stepchild

Franz Oppenheimer 's Personal Zionist Credo

"Franz Oppenheimer — Erlebtes-Erstrebtes-Erreichtes-Lebenserinnerungen"—
(Published 1964 by Joseph Melzer invited for coffee, I wish that it be
Verlag of Duesseldorf, with excerpts
from a speech by Chancellor Ludwig brought to me," the local ruler
Erhard April 30, 1964, at the Free Uni- said in explanation for the destruc-
versity of Berlin on the occasion of
the 100th birthday anniversary of tion. Abandoned for awhile, Mer-
Franz Oppenheimer. Translated from chaviah was later reestablished as
the German by this reviewer)

By ERIC LIND
Franz Oppenheimer was a proud
Jew and Zionist. Born in Berlin
April 30, 1864, the son of Dr. Julius
Oppenheimer, a rabbi of the Re-
form congregation and his wife An-
tonie (Davidsohn), he was a des-
cendant of the famous German
Jewish family Oppenheimer, im-
mortalized in Lion Feuchtwang-
er's Book, "Jud Suess," (which in
turn became Harlan Veit's anti-
Semitic film during the Nazi
period).
He received his MD degree from
the University in Berlin in 1885
and had a successful practice as an
ear and nose specialist.

.



But medicine was not his real
field, he discovered later. Poverty
and social injustice led Dr. Oppen-
heimer to the study of economics
and sociology, and he obtained a
PhD from the University of Kiel in
1908. Soon he had a reputation as
a leading economist, having his
own ideas and reforins and an
ever-growing group of followers.
First a privatdozent (lecturer)
and later professor at the Univers-
ity of Berlin, and from 1919 until
his retirement in 1929, he was pro-
fessor of theoretical economics and
sociology at the . University of
Frankfurt.
Although -Dr. Oppenheimer dis-
approved of capitalism, he also
was an outspoken enemy of com-
munism. He was an advocate of
the genossenschaftliche siedling"
(communal settlement) and can
be called the father of- the kib-
butz system.

It was in 1902, in the Berlin-
Vienna Express, that I first came
into contact with Zionist thought.
In the train I met two men who
were among the closest associates
a kvutzah cooperative and exists of Theodor Herzl, Oskar Marmo-
rek, a Viennese architect, and
until this very day.
Kremenetzy, a Viennese engineer
During World War I he once and big industrialist born in Russia.
traveled east as a government They introduced -me to the leader
adviser and was to meet then- of the movement, and I was strong-
Gen. Fieldmarshall Von Hinden- ly impressed by his personality: a
burg and General Ludendorff. good looking, tall man of the most
Since he was a jew, five minutes noble purely Semitic type . . . ,
were set aside for his appoint-
While I did sense the burning
ment. It was extended to several
ambition that impelled his entire
hours . . . they were impressed
personality, I was, nevertheless,
with what this German Jew had
strongly impressed by the sincerity
to say.
with which he pursued his objec-

After the war, he served as
assistant minister of agriculture
and undersecretary of state. Later
he devoted his knowledge and time
to teaching and writing several
standard works still in use today.
Oppenheimer was a fearless
fighter for what he believed in. He
was an idealist dreaming of a free
society and equal citizenship for
all in the framework of true
democracy . . . Like Max Nordau,
he believed in the physical rejuve-
nation of the Jewish people. A
feared _ duelist in his youth, he
challenged any anti-Semite at the
university. After Stoecker preach-
ed hate at German universities at
the turn of the century, Oppen-
heimer's face . looked like that of
a Prussian Military officer.

With the Nazis arriving on the
scene, Oppenheimer was stripped
of all his rights, possessions, pen-
sions. Forced to leave his native
Germany in 1939, he did not settle
in Palestine, as was to be expected.
First he went to Shanghai to await
his immigration visa to the United
States. At 77, he arrived in Los
Angeles, broke and dependent on
his sister for support.
.
.
Leaving Germany, he cried—
not for himself, but for the Ger-
many he loved. Knowing the
Nazis and their goals, he knew
that this would be the end..

He also believed in free competi-
tion and such unheard-of new ideas
as "profit sharing". He pointed out
and proved, that by giving the farm
worker his well-deserved share, the
work would be carried out better,
more efficiently and, ultimately,
with the employer still profiting
"Die Juden sind unser unglueck"
from this social gesture. Still he
was in opposition to Karl Marx's was one of the main slogans of the
social and economic philosophies. Nazis throughout the years in
power and even before. But Ger-
His first agricultural cooperative many's • postwar "Wirtschaftswun-
was founded in Germany. "Baeren- der" (economic miracle) can be
klau Settlement" was established traced directly to Dr. Franz Oppen-
with government assistance and heimer's ideas and theories.
considered a pilot project.
Chancellor Ludwig Erhard was
This and other experiences led
a student of Dr. Oppenheimer and
Dr. Oppenheimer to Theodor Herzl,
a stanch advocate of his economic
who needed an economic adviser to
and social theories. He • applied
the young Zionist movement. He
these to Germany's recovery, and
participated in the first Zionist Con-
the results are well known— Ger-
gress in Basle in 1897 and began
many is again leading in Europe's
studying the problems of agricul-
economy,with the German mark as
ture in Palestine to adopt his ideas
to conditions prevailing there. The hard as the U.S. dollar.
Said Erhard on the jacket of this
difficulties were enormous: The
Merchaviah settlement was founded book: "I shall be very happy if the
in 1910 in the Emek Jezreel, but social market economy shall fur-
poor soil, Turkish bureaucracy and ther prove right the theories, spirit-
years of war interfered with his ual labor and thoughts of the late
ideas, some only applicable in Dr. Franz Oppenheimer . . ."
Europe, some mere book theories.
West Germany issued on Aug. 3,
The young pioneers were enthusi- 1964, a 9T--pfennig postage stamp
astic and worked voluntarily under bearing the great scientist's por-
the most frugal conditions, but trait, to honor the occasion of the
idealism could not compensate for 100th anniversary of his birth
their inexperience as farmers. (1864-1963).
Once an effendi from a nearby
Dr. Oppenheimer, one of the
Arab village was invited for coffee
many
stepchildren of Germany, got
as a gesture of good will. Next day,
the settlers found the fields tramp- only a postage stamp for his
led, the crops destroyed. "If I am trouble.

POSTWERTZEICI-TEN

N N

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DER DP, UERS

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53 /

Julius Behrendt
Diisseldol - rciserswerth

Przaressorz
Fnanz Oppertheimen

ERSTTAGSBRI EF

Fried , von Speestr. 30

14524 *

Tel. 40 22 8$

First Day's Mailing . . . Official Envelope With Franz Oppen-
heimer Stamp and Specially Issued Envelope.

chaos was likely to ensue, with all
its attendant great misery. Thus I
became, almost without my inten-
tion, the leading economist of the
movement . .
. . . My proposal was accepted,
first to spread a rough network of
cooperative settlements across the
country, and to promote trade and
industry only to the extent that
this newly-created market could
support them with the inclusion of
certain safe exporting trades. This
network was to be more densely
interwoven as men and funds be-
came available. This program of
course included the principles of
the so-called "land reform policy",
which implied that land was to be
made available only for permanent
occupancy and possession and not
as saleable property, in order to
preclude all speculation. This rule
has been the basis of the Jewish
"National Fund" right up to the
present time.
On behalf of the organization I
founded Merchaviah, the country's
first cooperative settlement, whose
fate I have discussed in the chap-
ter on "Settlements".
In the spring of 1926 I undertook
my third trip to Palestine and was

happy about the tremendous pro-
gress Zionism has brought to the
country. Excellent highways con-
nect all parts of the tiny country
where there used to be only awful
tracks threatening to engulf one in
drifting sand during the summer,
and water or mud during the win-
ter. The Jewish city of Tel Aviv,
near Jaffa, has grown into a large
community, the harbor of Haifa
is under construction, and Herzl's
prediction, that this small land was
destined to become a bridge and
crossroads for the three continents
of the old world, is coming ev
closer to fulfilment. This is whet
the great trans-continental railways
will have to cross. Whoever, in fu-
ture, will travel from the Cape of
Good Hope to London, or Peking,
or Calcutta will touch Palestine on
his travels. Already a new and
gratifying people is coming . into
being there: the children of the
country grow up in freedom and
self-respect; they are strong and
happy, without all those suppressed
complexes that trouble so many of
their co-religionists in Europe.

tives and did in fact adopt some
of his goals as my own. The situa-
tion of the Jews in Russia — to
which then belonged the main cen-
ter of that people in Poland—be-
came more intolerable day by day.
Under the circumstances the only
way of relieving this-situation on a
large scale was,. indeed, to create
a "national home" for this suffering
people, where it could unfold and
Translated from the chapter "Zionis-
mus", in "Erlebtes Erstrebtes Erreich-
develop undisturbed by the hatred
tes", by Franz Oppenheimer, Joseph
of others. And psychologically it
Melzer Verlag, Dusseldorf, 1964.
was absolutely -right to select as the
place for this colonization their
never - forgotten, never - renounced
ancestral homeland, the land of the
Bible. Not only the external pres-
sures of their present locations but
also the call of the heart, the
strongest motive to which one could
appeal in this deeply religious peo-
ple, would create the driving force
for the - mass movement to Pales-
tine. Every year, after all, prayers
included the fervent 'hope for the
Jewish people to be gathered:
"Next year in Jerusalem!".
I became part of this movement
without giving thought to the possi-
bility that I, myself, might one day
become a member of the commun-
ity to be newly formed, or would
want to become one. Nor was it in
any way my purpose—as the scof-
fers claimed of some of the move-
ment's leaders—to remain faithful
Novelist Elie Wiesel (left), who survived Auschwitz to write
to Europe as an ambassador to
Paris or London. I simply followed movingly of the holocaust's impact on the Jewish people, accepts
the urgings of my conscience that the $1,000 Bnai Brith Jewish Heritage Award for "excellence in
required me to put my shoulder Jewish literature." Wiesel is first winner of the annual prize given by .
the Bnai Brith adult Jewish education commission to an author
to the wheel wherever at least the
immediate objectives appeared "who makeS a positive contribution to contemporary literature by
worthwhile; without regard to dis- his authentic interpretations of Jewish life and values?' Dr. Louis
L. Kaplan, president of Baltimore Hebrew College, makes the
tant or ultimate objectives.
presentation to Wiesel, author of five novels, in New York.
Herzl's ideas about the actual
development of colonization were THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
1 •
equally vague. In fact, since he 48—Friday, March 25, 1966
T • 1 ••
• T
was not an economist, they were
still more confused than the con-
ceptions Theodor Hertzka had had
about the foundation of his paradise
in Kenya. He saw the goal, but not
the road towards its achievement.
trttp ,

Cite Wiesel for Excellence in Literature

T1 4 6 =rri 71;En

ri2 7 t5

. . . But he understood at once
when I made it clear to him that
this plan could not be carried out.
First an organization would have
to be set up that would be adequate
to the task of looking after the new
arrivals and to place them in pro-
ductive work. Otherwise terrible

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Hebrew Corner

TiV1.7

No Need to Work . .

An American tourist visiting the
Negev saw three Bedouins sitting on
the ground and smoking tobacco. Near
them stood a camel harnessed to a
wooden plow.
A few hours later, the tourist passed
by the Bedouins again and saw that
they were still sitting in the same
place and smoking.
The tourist asked the Bedouins,
"What work do you do?"
The Bedouins said, "We are culti-
vating (working) the land."
"And what are you doing now?"
"Resting, talking."
"Oh," said the tourist, "but you
started resting quite a long time ago."
The Bedouins said, "Why should we
hurry? There is (exists) always the
danger of drought, and no matter what
happens, whether we plow or don't
plow, we shall receive compensation
from the government."
The tourist said, "Listen to me,
friends: you must plow, sow, and reap
large crops. You will sell the crops
for a good price (money) and next
year you will be able to buy tractors
which will do the plowing for you."
"And then what will happen?" the
Bedouins asked.
"After a few years you will be able
to employ hired laborers who will work
for you, and you will be able to sit
and rest and talk all the time."
The Bedouins said, "If that is so, why
go to all that trouble? We are already
sitting, resting, and talking."
Translation of Hebrew column. (Pub-
lished by the World Hebrew Union with
the assistance of- the Memorial Founda-
' '
tion for Jewish Culture).

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