Ken Livingstone is a former MP and London mayor in the UK, suspended from the Labour party for "bringing the party into disrepute" after making various historical claims about "real collaboration" between Zionists and Nazi.

The Guardian has a video of an interview where he claims that Nazi Germany's SS set up training camps for Jews

The SS set up training camps so that German Jews who were going to go there could be trained to cope with a very different sort of country when they got there.

Did this happen?


1 Answer 1



The context we are talking about is Nazi Germany before the final solution. At this point, Jews were legally and otherwise persecuted:

Whoever could or did not want to emigrate faced an increasingly difficult situation at the end of the 1930s and the beginning 1940s: the room to manoeuvre was dwindling with the imposition of forced labour, concentration into confined living spaces, financial plundering, public marking with badges etc., which for the majority meant the end of their economic existence. Moreover, emigration opportunities decreased dramatically.
source: Beate Meyer, Coping Strategies of the German Jews

In an atmosphere where one party holds so much power over the other, in a situation where one party actively and violently oppresses the other, it is difficult to call any coping mechanism "real collaboration".

The reaction to this threat varied across different Jewish organizations:

Even in hostile environments Jews were not only victims, but also active, assessing developments and events, interpreting them and considering how best to deal with the new situation.

After 1933, Jewish organisations had at first continued to pursue their earlier goals. To name but just two examples: the Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith (Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens: CV) continued to fight antisemitism and did everything it could legally and journalistically to prevent the dismantling of civil rights of Jews; in contrast, the Zionist Union for Germany (Zionistische Vereinigung für Deutschland) stepped up their efforts to facilitate the emigration of German Jews to Palestine.
source: Beate Meyer, Coping Strategies of the German Jews

Training Camps

There were Jewish training camps in Germany, but Livingstons description is highly misleading regarding the goal of the camps, and also who ran the camps (the sources I could find say that various Jewish organizations ran them, not the SS).

The motivation for these camps was not concern about Jewish ability to cope. Instead, these camps existed because the experience gained in them allowed Jews to obtain visas and thus to leave Germany, which was one of the goals of Nazi Germany before the Endlösung:

After Hitler came to power in 1933, thousands of Jews resident in Germany attempted to obtain visas to any country which would take them. However, many did not have the family, financial or professional connections to make this possible in the face of immigration restrictions around the world. This was particularly true of young persons. German Jewish organizations prepared guides on how and where to obtain visas; but it was evident that many prospective emigrants needed training in agricultural or technical skills in order to qualify. This, in turn, led to the establishment of "training" centers all over Germany.

Between 1934 and 1938, at least 29 centers were established. Some were run by Zionist organizations and focused on training persons for agricultural work in Palestine, but others trained people in various skills necessary to emigrate to any country. The centers had an average capacity of 40-50 young men and women, and trainees remained for anywhere from 3-6 months. Some even attended more than one camp.

Gestapo records seized by the Russians at the end of World War II, and recently filmed by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum [RG11.001M Reels 1-5], document Gestapo suspicions about the existence of these institutions. However, after some debate, it was decided to permit the centers to continue to operate since they facilitated the departure of Jews from Germany, a primary Nazi objective. Each center was required to submit monthly reports listing the trainees and training personnel. An incomplete collection of these reports for 13 centers is included in the USHMM collection, and I have computerized the roughly 1,800 names, which appear on these lists.
source: JewishGen

Another source differentiates Zionist camps - whose goal was to educate Jews so that they could leave - and non-Zionist camps - whose goal was to fight against anti-semitic stereotypes:

The Zionists ran Hakhshara camps [Document B06] and actively supported a realigning of professional profiles and training into skilled manual professions, crucial for the development work needed in Palestine. With the Haavara Agreement, which enabled Jewish assets and possessions to be transferred to Palestine as German exports, they gained an important success. This was something the “assimilated” Jews, who supported emigration mainly overseas, could not boast despite all their efforts. They, too, offered young people vocational training with a view to changing the hitherto academic-commercial occupational pattern in the direction of “manual” work. With this reorientation they sought to refute the argument put forward by antisemites that Jews were incapable of physical work while simultaneously enabling younger Jews to earn a livelihood in Germany as well as prepairing them for emigration.
source: Beate Meyer, Coping Strategies of the German Jews

  • 2
    And most of those 'training camps' were later used as traps to get Jews to congregate where they could be easily put on transport to the death camps...
    – jwenting
    Jun 23, 2017 at 6:01
  • 1
    @jwenting *citation needed
    – user11643
    Jun 24, 2017 at 18:42
  • 3
    @fredsbend “As emigration faded from Nazi policy and gave way to genocide, untold thousands of Jewish workers, including those from the Zionist Hachschara programs, would become part of Nazi Germany’s wartime ‘labor force’ prior to their mass murder.” (Nicosia, 2008: 244) algemeiner.com
    – tim
    Jun 24, 2017 at 19:14

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