The Situation of Jews in War-Time Germany (U.S. Embassy Berlin Report, March 6, 1940)

Published: 1940-03-06

Alexander Kirk made this amazing report from the US Embassy in Berlin and issued it to the US State Department on March 6, 1940. The value of this official US report comes in its non-emotional language and its authoritative understanding of the situation of the Jewish population in war-time Germany. Kirk includes statistics regarding emigration of Jews up to that time. Analysis of Kirk's statistics show the huge number of Jews who emigrated by 1940. Kirk's report shows that a full 54% of the Jewish population of the Old Reich emigrated by 1940 [281,900 / 522,700]. He similarly accounts for a 71% drop in Austria! [(191,481 - 56,000) / 191,481]. These and other statistics show the widespread emigration which occurred during the years of National Socialist rule. It is also important to note the 7% "natural" population drop (excess of deaths over births) for the period from 1933 to 1939 (38,400 / 522,700).

Kirk clearly does not shy away from recounting mistreatments of Jews in Germany. However he also clearly states the official position on emigration, "the German Government authorities instructed the various Jewish agencies that they should continue to promote emigration by every means possible." Kirk also makes mention of the general treatment of Jews in the Old Reich, "the treatment of the Jews in the Old Reich has not changed to any great extent since the beginning of the war. As a rule they receive the same food rations as the rest of the population..."

It is also interesting to note the numerous references to the "Baltic Germans" in this report. When Kirk discusses the forced deportation of the Jews of Stettin, he mentions the fact that the land that they occupied would be used to settle the Baltic Germans. Later in the report he mentions that the huge population transfers of Baltic Germans and Germans from Russian-occupied Poland provided an example for the removal and transfer of Jewish populations. Today we rarely hear of the expulsions of these Baltic Germans.

Richard A. Widmann

March 6, 1940

I have the honor to submit herewith, for the possible convenience of the Department, a recapitualtion of the situation of the Jews in Germany in war-time. This survey is based on information obtained in Berlin and while it touches upon conditions in Austria, in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and in Poland, it relates particularly to the status of the Jews in the territory formerly comprising the "Old Reich."

Shortly after the outbreak of the war the German Government authorities instructed the various Jewish agencies that they should continue to promote emigration by every means possible. This has proved, however, to be more difficult than formerly, owing to the closing of enemy countries as direct ares of reception, as well as owing to new obstacles arising from complications regarding transporation and the acquisition of foreign exchange. With respect to the emigration of German national Jews from the territory of the Old Reich, the Government has as yet imposed no restrictions based upon age or profession or other considerations.

There is presented below a table indicating the number of Jews (i.e., Jews in the sense of the definition mentioned above), still left in various German territories, following reductions brought about by emigration or flight. These statistics, which have been obtained from the central Jewish Association in Berlin, are more or less exact as regards the Old Reich, while with respect to the other districts they represent approximate estimates.

Jewish Population in the German Reich (Old Reich)
Number at beginning of 1933
in the census of June 16, 1933 - 499,682
plus in the Saarland                  - 5,000
Number at the end of 1939
Emigration from the beginning of 1933 to the end of 1939
Emigration since the beginning of the war:
  a) to the end of 1939
  b) January and February 1940 together
Excess of deaths over births from the beginning of 1933 to the end of 1939
Jewish Population in the Ostmark [Austria]
Number in 1933
Before incorporation in the German Reich
Present number
In particular in the City of Vienna:
  - Number in 1933
  - Before incorporation in the German Reich
  - Present number
Jewish Population in the Protectorate
Before affiliation with German Reich
Present number
Jewish Population in Danzig [Gdansk]
Fomer number
Present number

In general the treatment of the Jews in the Old Reich has not changed to any great extent since the beginning of the war. As a rule they receive the same food rations as the rest of the population, although they are subjected to petty discriminations in being compelled to call at the Government Food Offices for their ration cards and in being forced to make their purchases at specified hours. The Jews, moreover, do not receive supplementary rations for comestibles such as chocolate, honey and cakes, and extra meat rations, and futhermore they have for the time being been refused clothing ration cards. In certain sections of Berlin coal deliveries have not been made to Jewish families nor apartment houses predominantly occupied by Jews. During the recent severe weather several thousand Jews in Berlin were enlised for forced work for the cleaning of snow and for the loading and unloading of coal trucks.

The situation of the so-called "crossbreeds" and half-Jews, of whom there are perhaps a million in the Old Reich alone, would appear to vary locally. On the whole they are treated somewhat better than the fullblooded Jews, but in certain districts they are understood to suffer unofficially imposed disabilities.

With respect to Austria, the legal status of the Jews there is now practically assimilated to that prevailing in the Old Reich, and the same process is apparently under way in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The Reich Association of Jews in Germany is not permitted to concern itself with the welfare of Jews in either Austria or the Protectorate, and it is understood that, owing to the still comparatively unsettled state of National Socialist Party discipline in these areas, and particularly in Austria, the Jews are subjected to considerably severer extralegal persecution and restrictions than in the Old Reich .

Shortly after the conquest of Poland reports circulated that plans had been made for a general deportation of the Jews in Germany to the new Jewish "reservation" established in Eastern Poland in the district around Lublin. A detailed statistical survey carried out by the police of Jewish families in the Old Reich was thought to portend such a development. With the exception of Stettin, however, the Jewish populations of the various Reich German cities have so far been permitted to remain Germany.

In Stettin the entire Jewish population of some 1,200 including casual Jwish visitors to the city and Jews who had completed preparations to emigrate abroad, were assembled on seven hours' notice during the night of February 12 and were shipped off by special train to Poland. They were permitted to take with them only small quantities of baggage and, following their departure, their houses were sealed and it was officially stated that their belongings in Stettin would be liquidated and the funds thereby realized would be placed in a block account. It is learned that the Stettin Jews have arrive in Eastern Poland, with at least one death occuring on route, and they are now settled in the towns of Piaska, Biala, and Terespol in the Lublin district. They are being cared for by already existing Jewish communities in these cities and it is said that they are experiencing considerable hardship and distress.

The central Jewish [Reich] Association in Berlin was officially informed that this action had been initiated by the Gauleiter of the Stettin district, Herr Schwede-Coburg, and that although the Reich authorities were not "responsible" therefore, they could not rescind the action already taken. It was futhermore stated that the Stettin Jews would have to remain in Poland and that for the time being permission to leave could not be given to those who had completed their preparations for emigration abroad. On or about February 15 an order was issued in Schneidemühl, which is also within Herr Schwede-Coburg's district, that the Jews in that city should prepare for deportation within a week's time, presumably also for Eastern Poland. The Jewish authorities learned after inquiring in Berlin that Herr Schwede-Coburg planned that all Jews should be evacuated from the Grenzmark the region lying on the former Polish frontier and including Schneiemühl, and that their place here, as well as in Stettin, should be taken by returning Baltic Germans. The central Jewish authorities have apparently succeeded in obtaining a modification of the original plan to send the Jews from Schneidemühl to Poland and arrangements are now being considered whereby these Jews should be sent farther back into the Reich, where they will be settled in small towns and on Jewish-owned farms.

Information is not available as to how many Jews in all have been sent to the Lublin reservation. It is known that approximately 4,500 have been despatched from Vienna and 1,000 from Mährisch-Ostrau in the Protectorate. There have also been heavy deportations of Jews from the former Polish territories, in particular the Corridor and Posen areas, including Lodz, now formally annexed to the Reich; the Jews, together with a large number of Poles, are being removed from these districts to make room for Baltic Germans. Official intimations have also been given that some 1,400 Jews from Danzig, as well as the Jews in East Prussia, will be move to Poland in the early spring.

According to German official estimates there are some two million Jews within the former Polish territory now comprising the Government General. As far as can be ascertained there has as yet been no large scale transfer of Jews within the Government General to the Lublin reservation which, in addition to the Jews sent from Stettin, Austria and the Protectorated, comprises many Jewish communities which have been settled there for a long period of time. The Jews in the Government General are compelled to wear arm bands and are subject to forced labor obligation, as well as many restrictions. Although they have been forced out of leading positions in commerce and industry, they apparently still continue to be active in trade. Those Polish Jews who were caught in Germany at the outbreak of the Polish war were immediately imprisoned, some of them being confined in work camps from which they have been subsequently released to be be sent back to Poland, and some of them being detained in concentration camps, where a number estimated between one and two thousand still remain.

Although government officials in Berlin have assured the central Jewish Association that no plan is being entertained at present to deport Jews from the Old Reich to Eastern Poland, the Jewish authorities are apprehensive that steps along these lines may be taken in the course of this year. Among the factors which encourage such an apprehension are the following: 1) the recent completion of the already-mentioned statistical survey of Jewish families in the Reich, the exact purpose of which, although undefined, would appear to be adapted to just such an aim as mass deportation; 2) the possibility that other Gauleiter may be tempted to rival each other in following the precedent set in the district of Stettin; 3) reports concerning the construction of barracks in small towns in Poland whichare reputedly for the reception of Jews, who would be put to work on land improvement projects in the surrounding countryside; 4) the fact that an example for the removal and transfer of populations has been set in the case of the Baltic Germans and the Germans from Russian Poland, and the fact furthermore that the organization and equipment which would be necessary for the deportation of Jews has thus, so to speak, been tested and tried and would be ready for use. Although it is learned that pressure from radical Party circles is increasing in favor of a mass removal of the German Jews to Poland particularly in view of the slackened rate of emigration resulting from the war, no definite decision in the matter is known so far to have been taken, and it is thought likely that further consideration of possible action along this line may be postponed at least until the spring when a change in weather would be conducive to further transfers of populations.


  • The Holocaust, ed. by John Mendelsohn, vol. VIII, pp. 126-133.
  • Herbert A. Strauss, General Editor, "Jewish Immigrants of the Nazi Period in the USA", Jewish Emigration from Germany 1933-1942: A Documentary History, Vol. 4, K.G. Saur, New York 1992, pp. 580-583.

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Alexander Kirk
Title: The Situation of Jews in War-Time Germany (U.S. Embassy Berlin Report, March 6, 1940)
Sources: "The Holocaust", ed. by John Mendelsohn, New York : Garland Pub., 1982, vol. VIII, pp. 126-133
  • Richard A. Widmann: Comments
Published: 1940-03-06
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 1996, 7 p.m.
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