Thursday, June 26, 2014

Templers and Nazis in the Holy Land


This is a memorial in the Templer cemetery in Jerusalem, on Emek Refaim St. It is dedicated to the over 450 dead from the Templer communities who fell in the wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. The Templers were a group of German Protestants who originally came to Ottoman Palestine from 1869 to 1906 and established seven colonies. Their Jerusalem colony was established in 1873 and many of the buildings still exist in their original location in the neighborhood still known as the German Colony (המושבה הגרמנית). A number of the Templer men went to fight for Germany in the First World War, and 24 died in the war.


During the period of the British Mandate, the Templers remained living in their colonies, but things changed after the Nazis took over Germany in 1933. Here is a report by a woman who grew up in Jerusalem.
Rosemarie Hahn, who was born in the Jerusalem colony in 1928, recalls the period with a deep sense of nostalgia. 
"I have only happy memories," she says, her German accent, like Kurt's, still discernible. "For us as children it was like living in our own homeland - we didn't know anything else. We were friends with everybody - my best friends in kindergarten were a Jewish girl and an Arab girl. English, Jewish, Arab, Armenian - everybody was accepted into our school. 
"But that changed after 1934. My Jewish friend was taken out of school, and my brother had a Jewish friend who never came back - because of the politics."
A BBC article on the Templers reports that many of them in Palestine became members of the Nazi Party.
By this time, the Nazi party had risen to power in Germany and the ripples had spread to expatriate communities, including in Palestine. A branch was established in Haifa by Templer Karl Ruff in 1933, and other Templer colonies followed, including Jerusalem.
While National Socialism caught the imagination of many of the younger, less religious Templers, it met resistance from the older generation. 
"The older Templers were afraid that the Fuehrer would overtake Jesus ideologically," says Mr Kroyanker. "Many of the young people were easily influenced by Nazism - there were many young Templers who studied in Germany at the time... and when they came back they were very excited about Nazism." 
"At the beginning there was some sort of disagreement between the older generation and the newer generation, and in the end the newer generation won the battle." In Jerusalem, a teacher at one of the Templer schools, Ludwig Buchhalter, became the local party chief and led efforts to ensure Nazism permeated all aspects of German life there. 
The Nazi party gained a foothold in Templer communities across Palestine 
(Ludwig Buchhalter circled)
The British Boy Scouts and Girl Guides which operated in the German Colony were replaced by the Hitler Youth and League of German Maidens. Workers joined the Nazi Labour Organisation and party members greeted each other in the street with "Heil Hitler" and a Nazi salute. 
Under pressure from Buchhalter, some Germans boycotted Jewish businesses in Jerusalem (while Jews did the same in return). 
Buchhalter's house - now the site of a luxury apartment block - on Emmanuel Noah Street served as the Nazi party headquarters and Buchhalter himself drove with swastika pennants attached to his car. He later recalled how he once forgot to remove them while driving through a Jewish area and was stoned and shot at. 
The extent to which the Templers as a whole adopted Nazism is a matter of historical debate. While some were enthusiastic followers, others were less committed, and among others still there was defiance and resistance. 
"You can find dozens of those who were really active and you can find those who were going with the stream and others who were afraid not to go into the party, exactly as you could find in Germany," says Dr Eisler. 
Figures vary, but according to Heidemarie Wawrzyn, whose book Nazis in the Holy Land 1933-1948 is due to be published next week, about 75% of Germans in Palestine who belonged to the Nazi party, or were in some way associated with it, were Templers.
She says more than 42% of all Templers participated in Nazi activities in Palestine.
Curiously, Nazi chief Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Final Solution, cultivated a legend that he was born in the Templer colony of Sarona just north of Jaffa - though this was untrue. 
As war loomed in Europe, once again the position of the Templers in Palestine became insecure. In August 1939, all eligible Germans in Palestine received call-up papers from Germany, and by the end of the month some 249 had left to join the Wehrmacht.
On 3 September 1939, when Britain (along with France) declared war on Germany, all Germans in Palestine were, for the second time, classed as enemy aliens and four Templer settlements were sealed off and turned into internment camps. 
Men of military age, including the fathers of Kurt and Rosemarie, were sent to a prison near Acre, while their families were ordered into the camps. 
For the next two years at least, the Templers were allowed to function as agricultural communities behind barbed wire and under guard, but it was the beginning of the end.
In July 1941, more than 500 were deported to Australia, while between 1941 and 1944 400 more were repatriated to Germany by train as part of three exchanges with the Nazis for Jews held in ghettos and camps. 
A few hundred Templers remained in Palestine after the war but there was no chance of rebuilding their former communities. A Jewish insurgency was under way to force out the British and in 1946 the assassination by Jewish militants of the former Templer mayor of Sarona, Gotthilf Wagner, sent shockwaves through the depleted community.
Contemporary reports say Wagner was targeted because he had been a prominent Nazi. Sieger Hahn, Wagner's foster son, says Wagner was killed because he was an "obstacle" to the purchase of land from the Germans. 
With the killing of two more Templers by members of the Haganah (Jewish fighting force) in 1948, the British authorities evacuated almost all the remaining members to an internment camp in Cyprus. 
The last group of about 20-30 elderly and infirm people was given shelter in the Sisters of St Charles Borromeo convent in Jerusalem, but in 1949 some of them too were ordered to leave the country - now the State of Israel - accused of having belonged to the Nazi party. The last Templers left in April 1950.
In recent years, a right-wing Israeli group has been trying to remove the memorial to those who died in both WWI and WWII, because they believe that it is glorifying those who murdered six million Jews. The following article is from Haaretz, April 29, 2011.
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, a right-wing group, has been working in recent years to have the monument removed. In a letter from the forum to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein about a year ago, attorney Hila Cohen wrote: “We believe that it is inconceivable that within the State of Israel, not to mention in its capital city, such a monument exists, glorifying figures who are war criminals, partners to the most grievous attempt in history to wipe out the Jewish people.” 
According to Cohen, the monument is an “unacceptable contradiction to the law mandating prosecution of Nazis and their collaborators.” 
Attorney Michael Blass, Weinstein’s aide, responded at the time that no legal basis existed for the removal of the monument. 
And so the forum began to work toward legislation of a bill with regard to the monument, along the lines of the law against the erection of monuments to terrorists, enacted to prevent the construction of a memorial to Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Muslims at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994. 
The law against the Templer monument, proposed by MK Uri Ariel ‏(National Union‏), would add an amendment the law mandating prosecution of Nazis that would read: “No monument will exist that commemorates, either explicitly or implicitly, the Nazis and their collaborators.” 
The amendment also states that any person who has been made aware of the existence of such a monument must report it to the police. 
The forum is also considering getting expedited passage of a municipal by-law in Jerusalem to ensure the monument comes down.

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