EUROPA PLAN


EUROPA PLAN, code name for a large scale rescue plan to exchange European Jews for money, developed in the autumn of 1942 by the "Working Group" in Slovakia, an unusual alliance between Zionists and ultra-Orthodox Jews headed by a Zionist and a woman, Gisi *Fleishmann, at the suggestion of Rabbi Michael *Weissmandel, the ultra-Orthodox leader who was the son-in-law of the spiritual leader of Slovakian Jewry, Rabbi Samuel David Halevi Ungar, the rabbi of Nitra, and a cousin of Fleishmann. Between March 26 and the end of July 1942 some 50,000 Jews had been deported to Poland. Another 7,000–8,000 Jews had escaped to Hungary, which was an indication that the Jews had internalized their peril even before they had become aware of the *Final Solution. At Weissman-del's initiative but with the group's support an offer was made to Dieter *Wisliceny, Eichmann's emissary to Slovakia, to ransom Jews for money and an initial bribe, whose sum total is still a matter of historical dispute but was between $20,000 and $55,000, was accepted. Soon thereafter the deportation of Slovakian Jews was halted. The Working Group believed that the bribe had brought the deportations to a halt and that larger sums would indeed save a larger number of Jews. They had few options and this desperate action was perceived to be effective. It certainly had the sanction of Jewish tradition with its detailed teachings regarding the redemption of captives. In his posthumous memoirs edited by his brother and disciples Weissmandel bitterly criticizes the Jewish leadership in the West for not being forthcoming with the required sums of money and for their unwillingness to support such unusual, nonlegal actions. It was part of his attack against the Zionists and against assimilated, Westernized, secularized Jews. However, no evidence has been uncovered that link the bribe to the halt in deportations. Contemporary historians agree that internal Slovakian concerns over the impact of the deportation of Jews on the economy was the reason for halting the deportations. Even the Vatican had protested, which had additional impact, since Jozef Tiso, the president of Slovakia, was a priest. Wisliceny was a secondary official and could not have stopped the deportations on his own accord. It is known that Wisliceny, who received an advance payment from the Working Group, forwarded $20,000 to the WVHA (Main Economy Administration Office of the SS). The negotiations dragged on until August 1943 with Himmler's consent, perhaps as a way of feeling out Jewish power, but then broke off on Himmler's order (according to Wisliceny). Why did Germany consent to the halt in deportations? From the German perspective, Slovakia was an ally of Germany and the Slovakian Jews were comparatively small in number and could be dealt with after the massive deportations from Poland were completed. Indeed, they were deported to Auschwitz in 1944.

The financial means, fixed at $2–3 million, were to be provided by Jewish organizations in the free world, and mainly by the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Saly Mayer, the JDC representative in Geneva, proposed to deposit the money in blocked accounts in Switzerland until the end of the war, according to the transfer regulations of the Allied countries, because the Joint was unwilling to break the Allied transfer regulations and to send money directly to the enemy, which clearly would have jeopardized its legal standing in the United States. The Germans were well aware of the difficulties that the Jews had in raising the promised sums though the Jews did not know that the Germans were informed about their communications with Switzerland. It is assumed that the main idea behind the apparent German willingness to discuss the plan lay in Nazi counterpropaganda. The Europa Plan served later as a basis for the negotiations between *Eichmann and the "Relief and Rescue Committee" headed by Rezsö *Kasztner in Budapest in the summer of 1944 and the so-called offer of one million Jews for 10,000 trucks.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

L. Rothkirchen, Ḥurban Yahadut Slovakia (1961), includes Eng. summary, passim; O.J. Neumann, Be-Ẓel ha-Mavet (1958), 160–5; M.D. Weissmandel, Min ha-Meẓar (1960), passim; A. Weissberg, Desperate Mission: Joel Brand's Story (1958) passim; N. Levin, The Holocaust (1968), 535–40; Y. Bauer, Jews for Sale: Nazi Jewish Negotiations 1933–45 (1994); S. Aronson, "The 'Europa Plan,'" in: W. Laqueur (ed.), Yale Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (2001).

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.