History according to Ken

Where is the veteran left-winger getting his information on Hitler and Zionism from? And how much truth is there in his claims?

Over the last week, former London mayor Ken Livingstone has again been making a number of eye-catching claims of “real collaboration” between the Nazi government and Jewish groups in the 1930s.

He repeated his claim that Hitler had supported Zionism; the belief in the establishment of a Jewish state.

But he also went further, saying the Nazi paramilitary group the SS had set up training camps to help Jews move to Palestine and that Hitler’s government has passed a law allowing “the Zionist flag” to be flown in Germany.

Asked where the evidence was for this, Mr Livingstone cited a 1978 Chicago University paper by an academic whose name “begins with N”.

That academic is Professor Francis R. Nicosia, a historian who has authored and edited several books on Zionism, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

So what exactly does Professor Nicosia say?

‘Hitler supported Zionism’

On the question of whether Hitler supported Zionism, Professor Nicosia wrote in his Chicago University paper that in the 1920s there was “some evidence that Hitler… was prepared to encourage Zionist emigration from Germany to Palestine”.

But speaking today, he says this was not a “sympathy or support for Zionism as such”.

“The Hitler regime saw Zionism and its movements and organizations as useful mechanisms for facilitating the removal of Jews from Greater Germany and Europe,” he said.

Or as Holocaust historian Professor Dan Stone puts it, “if you believe Jews represent a threat to the Aryan race and that they run the world, then that’s not really compatible with believing they should have their own state”.

‘SS training camps’

Professor Nicosia and the website Jewish Gen both refer to training programmes and centres to help German Jews obtains skills before moving to Palestine.

But neither claims the SS set up these camps, as Ken Livingstone suggests.

Rather, both say they were run by German Zionist organisations and allowed to operate by the SS – as they helped facilitate the movement of Jews out of Germany.

Professor Nicosia says that while these centres were allowed to operate, there was a ban on “Jewish meetings of a political nature”.

‘The Zionist flag’

Ken Livingstone’s claim that Nazi Germany passed a law allowing the “Zionist flag” to be flown also has some basis in reality.

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 permitted Jews to display “the Jewish colours” but banned them from displaying the Swastika or the German national colours.

Professor Dan Stone says any suggestion that the Nuremberg laws put the Jewish flag and the Swastika on an equal footing is false.

“The laws did not mandate that the swastika and the ‘Zionist flag’ were the only flags that could be flown in Germany”, he says. 

‘Partial truths’

Throughout the last week Ken Livingstone has stood by his remarks on Hitler and Zionism, pointing those with questions to the work of Professor Francis R. Nicosia.

Today, Professor Nicosia has said that while Hitler and the Nazis “encouraged the Zionist movement in Germany” they were not supporters of the Zionist cause.

“For Nazis, as for anti-Semites in general, there was no such thing as ‘good Jews’ but there were ‘useful Jews’”, he says.

Professor Dan Stone calls claims of ‘real collaboration’ between the Nazis and Zionists “a misunderstanding of the nature of the situation”.

“Human life involves shades of grey, there were always very small numbers of Jews who collaborated with the Nazis in order to try and save their own skins. Usually to no avail,” he says.

Israeli historian Professor Yehuda Bauer sums up the row by saying “much of what Livingstone says is true, but at the same time distorted”.

“Partial truths are more dangerous than outright lies!” he says.


1 Comment

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One response to “History according to Ken

  1. Steve

    Although this story was of little interest to me, it’s good to see a decent account and I question why the BBC news can’t do the say. Thanks!

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