When the Nazis Twisted Zionist Leader's Words for Propaganda

Der Stürmer pounced on one of Ze’ev Jabotinsky's lines, took it out of context and used it to ‘prove’ that the Jews were set on war

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The picture of revisionist Zionism's forefather Ze’ev Jabotinsky in a 1943 issue of Der Stürmer.
The picture of revisionist Zionism's forefather Ze’ev Jabotinsky in a 1943 issue of Der Stürmer.Credit: Moti Milrod

Daniel Meshulam, a 31-year-old tour guide from Tel Aviv, recently had to rub his eyes in disbelief when he saw a picture of Ze’ev Jabotinsky staring out from one of the anti-Semitic newspapers in his historical collection. What was a picture of the spiritual father of the Likud movement doing in the midst of this Nazi propaganda? When he read the article that accompanied the photograph, he realized that he was holding rare evidence from 80 years ago of how the Third Reich made use of the writings of noted Jews.

Meshulam describes himself as something of a “Shoah fanatic.” His maternal grandparents survived the Nazi occupation of Poland. The grandfather survived the Czstochowa ghetto. The grandmother survived Auschwitz. His theoretical interest in the Shoah is joined by a practical side. Meshulam collects Holocaust-related items like bills of currency, greeting cards and periodicals with anti-Semitic characteristics that were issued in Nazi Germany. His “pride and joy” is a collection of dozens of issues of Der Stürmer, the infamous weekly that “with propaganda and incredible demagoguery sought to spread the notion that Jews are the number one enemy of the Germans and all humankind,” as the Yad Vashem website says.

Daniel Meshulam, a 31-year-old tour guide from Tel Aviv, showing an issue of Der Stürmer from his collection in his apartment in Tel Aviv, on February 14, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod

“In many places, it is forbidden to trade in items with Nazi characteristics, so you won’t find the editions of Der Stürmer on Amazon or eBay and hardly ever at public auctions either,” says Meshulam. So how did all these copies of the paper find their way to the apartment he rents in Tel Aviv? “I contacted collectors abroad,” he says, and like other professionals in the field, does not volunteer any further information.

The issue in which the Nazis wrote about Jabotinsky came out in 1943. The paper’s editors quoted excerpts from Jabotinsky’s book “The Jewish War Front” that was published three years earlier. In the book, Jabotinsky called on the nations of the world to add the Jews to the fight against Nazi Germany, as in World War I, when, together with Joseph Trumpeldor, he founded the Jewish Battalions that fought with the British to conquer Palestine from the Turks.

Issues from Daniel Meshulam's Der Stürmer collection in his apartment in Tel Aviv, on February 14, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod

“When the Nazis across the border… scream aloud or say in a whisper that this is a ‘Jewish war,’ they are absolutely right,” Jabotinsky wrote in the book. His aim was to call on the Allies to be sensitive to the plight of the Jews or, as he put it, to ensure that “the Jewish problem is included among the war’s objectives.” The editors of Der Stürmer pounced on this line, took it out of context and used it to “prove” that the Jews were set on war.

Under the headline, “The Jewish War – An Admission of Guilt,” the article found by Meshulam says: “Not only are the Jews the ones who caused war in the past, they are main party responsible for the genocides happening right now. … We cite admissions of guilt by the Jews themselves for this. And therefore this is a proven fact that can no longer be denied.”

Jabotinsky is described in the article as someone who “among world Jewry is almost on a par with Herzl.” It goes on to say: “Every Jew always boasts of his crimes, but when a leader of such standing openly says that the Jews are to blame for the war and admits this – that goes way beyond.” And the paper’s editors added: “In what normal people would you hear one of its great leaders admitting so openly and publicly and with such a lack of human sensitivity to responsibility for the killing of millions?”

Jabotinsky never saw how the Nazis twisted his words, as he died in New York in 1940 while working to promote his idea of a Jewish army to fight the Nazis. Meshulam will donate the issue of Der Stürmer to the Jabotinsky Institute.

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