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Based on medieval guild kassas, credit cooperatives were first founded in Germany as a means of self help for farmers and artisans in the nineteenth century. The principle was simple: credit cooperatives were founded by a certain group of farmers or artisans who jointly contributed to the starting capital to help each other out in case of dire straits. If others wanted to open an account with the cooperative they were be expected to contribute to the capital by buying membership shares. After the First World War, cooperatives became tools of the segregation of nationalist economies that developed in Eastern Europe. (1) It was these banks--especially those the American Jewish Committee had funded in Russia--that the Jewish cooperatives in Germany were modeled on. (2) They were an important manifestation (and tool) of Jewish self-assertion in the German economy that rapidly divided itself along racist fault lines in the 1920s. Yet, with the exception of one short article by Albert Fischer, the evolution of these micro banking institutes in Germany has been hitherto neglected by research. (3) The reasons for this are that the history of small and medium-sized businesses owned and run by Jews met with little interest until a few years ago. (4) If the history of Jewish businesses was touched on at all, usually the large and spectacular cases were brought to light. This did not only have to do with the public attention these cases attracted, but also with the matter of available documentation. The credit cooperatives, too, left hardly any traces in public archives. However, in the course of my research project on Jewish-owned businesses in Berlin, I found the files of the three Berlin-based banks in the cooperative register--which was situated in the cellar of an old cell house of the local court in Berlin Charlottenburg. These files were in a sad condition, but were brought to the safety of the State Archive of Berlin (Landesarchiv Berlin). (5) It is in the nature of official registry files that they do not show the daily routine of the business of the registered company. Still, they allow an analysis of certain aspects of their existence, such as membership and developments of the management and balance sheets, and--in the absence of other files--they form the basis of the following observations. As the development of Jewish cooperatives can only be explained against the backdrop of general developments in Germany, the analysis will have to start with a brief sketch of antisemitism in Germany since the end of the First World War--called the Great War then.

Concentrating on the three cooperatives set up in Berlin of course implies focusing on the German capital. Yet, in the late 1920s a third of the Jews in Germany lived here. Also, Berlin was not only the capital of Germany but also an economic metropolis. Approximately 50,000--half of all the businesses owned by Jews in Germany--were registered there. (6) In fact, the number and importance grew in the early 1930s, because it was to Berlin many businessmen retreated when antisemitic attacks became too much to bear elsewhere. (7)


The collapse of the global economy and political tensions after the First World War had grave repercussions for Germany's economy. As John Maynard Keynes had predicted, the call for "vengeance" followed the "impoverishment of Central Europe." (8) Rooted in old, established antisemitic notions, recession and inflation prepared the ground for a boom of racism in Germany. In 1919-1920 hunger riots took place all over this highly diversified, industrialized country, in the course of which Jewish shops were frequently plundered. (9) On February 28, 1921 the New York Times reported that Berlin had witnessed the first "pogrom in its history." (10) The arrival of the Ostjuden, even though they were relatively small in numbers, caused widespread fears of an inundation that were fueled by antisemitic propaganda, which exaggerated their numbers. In 1923, the labor market took another turn for the worse. As inflation spiraled out of control, many cities witnessed riots. This situation was the breeding ground for the pogrom of November 1923 in Berlin's poor district north of Alexanderplatz, where many Ostjuden lived. (11) As structural unemployment remained high in the "Roaring Twenties" the pressure did not ease. (12) One the one hand, this further promoted the age-old trend of self-employment. Looking at the results of the census of 1925, the prominent Jewish statistical expert Heinrich Silbergleit pointed out that nearly half of all the Jews registered in Prussia (the by far largest of the 18 states the Weimar Republic consisted of) were self-employed. (13) In many cases, formal independence went along with self-exploitation, since a lot of the self-employed worked in the five to six square meters they called home in sweatshop-like production lines. As early as 1925, Jewish economic expert Kurt Zielenziger saw in the diminishing size of companies and their shorter lifespan a sure sign of the imminent ruin of the Jewish mid-tiers (Mittelstand). (14) On the other hand, the antisemitic blockades and attacks reinforced the rural flight of Jews--especially out of the highly charged, politicized Eastern territories of Germany such as Eastern Prussia. (15)

With more than six million "on the street" (as the German expression for "unemployed" has it), the situation took yet another turn for the worse in the early 1930s. As a consequence, even more Jews tried to survive economically by becoming self-employed. (16) Yet at the same time, increasing antisemitic propaganda made out that this high level of self-employment was evidence of the allegedly overbearing economic might of Jews. In the wake of economic depression, amidst constant election campaigns and street fighting, these actions became more and more brutal in the early 1930s. "Country under Terror" the liberal newspaper Vossische Zeitung headlined, reporting on the blockade practices in North Germany in March 1932. The article concluded that "SA-columns, blacklists, boycott, and terror, are the prelude to the infernal music of the Third Reich." (17) On January 12, 1933, the Reich Minister of the Interior complained that political and "weltanschauliche" (i.e., political and racist) boycotts had reached a scope that posed a serious threat to law and order. He therefore asked the police to intervene in all cases and by all means. (18) Less than three weeks later, Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor and the ardent Nazi Wilhelm Frick the new Reich Minister of the Interior.

What happened next is well known. On March 27 the Manchester Guardian argued that "the antisemitic outrages of the last few weeks are far more horrible than could have reasonably been imagined at first. Nothing like it has been known in Germany for generations." (19) Hitler reacted to such reports by spontaneously deciding on a public campaign against Jews (or people regarded to be Jewish)--to be called a "boycott"--to keep his raging storm troopers off the street and to stem their violence for a while. (20) Initially, the newly appointed Minister for Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, claimed that the blockade of Jewish-owned businesses was aimed to counter a boycott of German goods abroad. It is telling that this narrative was changed a day later, when it was claimed that the measure was taken to counter the unjustified international press reports--the so-called "atrocity propaganda." (21) To sell their point of view to the international press, Goebbels had bilingual posters printed in Berlin, where most of the international press agencies and newspapers had their German headquarters. (22)

Even though most historians still refer to the blockade of businesses, law offices, and doctor's practices (allegedly) owned or run by Jews as a "boycott," it most certainly was not. After all, the picketing was often very violent and not a means to protest against economic or political misbehavior nor push for political changes. (23) Rather, calling the racist blockade of Jewish-owned shops a "boycott" was a clever PR trick of Goebbels, who successfully sold the start of the systematic persecution of Jews in Germany to the world in terms of a fairly common measure deployed in normal political struggle. Like so many other terms adopted by the Nazis--from "Aryanization" to "Final Solution"--"boycott" masks the violence that became part and parcel of the persecution of Jews and the destruction of Jewish commercial activities in Germany. In retrospect Alfred Wiener--the founder father of the famous Wiener Library--rightly pointed out that the 1933 "April boycott" was merely a "boycott of law" and thus "the writing on the wall." (24) The blockade on April Fools' Day, 1933, was the official starting point of the process of the destruction of Jewish commercial activity. The ensuing process of the destruction of the economic existence was, as Raul Hilberg pointed out long ago, an integral part of the whole process of the destruction and murder of Jews in Germany and in Europe. (25) The process found its destructive climax in and after the pogrom of November 1938--which marked the end of the Jewish credit cooperatives, too, but went on well into the early 1940s and--in some cases--coincided with the deportation of the Jewish business owners. (26)


Shortly after the end of the great inflation, brilliantly analyzed by Gerald D. Feldman, (27) the Central Association of Jewish Artisans in Germany called for the creation of Jewish loan societies to be run by Jewish communities. (28) The call was answered in June 1924, when Germany's first Jewish loan kassa (Darlehnskasse) was founded in Berlin by the local, liberal Jewish Community. Once it had entered the commercial register, the loan kassa began operations in October 1924 on the premises of the welfare office of the community on RosenstraBe 2-4. (29) The capital of some 60,000 reichsmarks was raised the community and some dedicated businessmen. The kassa was controlled by a working committee, in which the Berlin chapter of the Association of Independent Craftsmen of the Jewish Faith played a key role. (30) In keeping with the institution's purpose--"to guarantee loans to struggling Jewish small and medium-sized businesses based in Berlin so as to allow them to continue to exercise their profession or trade" (31)--the loan kassa handed out interest-free credits from 50 up to 500 reichsmarks (approx. $12 to $120 according to the official exchange rate at that time) from its funds, which was secured by assignment of merchandise or third-party guarantors. This "productive welfare" proved so successful that the funds ran out just months after the institution's launch. (32) As the kassa did not take interest and--of course--could not do any "real" (let alone speculative) banking business, it could not enlarge its capital and therefore could only hand out new loans when the old ones had been paid back. Still, the idea was taken up by other large Jewish communities in Germany. Heavily supported by the Joint Distribution Committee, these micro banking institutes became even more important in 1933. In that year twenty-two new loan kassas were established, bringing their total number in Germany to forty-seven. By the mid-1930s the figure had risen to sixty-eight, where after, measures to destroy Jewish commercial activity led to the closure of many of these institutes. (33) When the last of the loan kassas went into liquidation in 1939, their assets were used to facilitate emigration. (34)

The success of the loan kassas was a key factor for the establishment of Jewish cooperatives. (35) Founded on December 22, 1927, on the premises of the New Synagogue in Berlin, Iwria Volksbank was the first explicitly Jewish cooperative bank in Germany. (36) In an open letter, the bank's founders stressed that they were responding to long-standing calls within "wider Jewish circles" for such a bank because smaller Jewish business proprietors for "obvious reasons" were not able to join a single one of the one hundred existing cooperative banks in Berlin, while other banks showed little interest in their custom, given their low profits. (37) The bank's business direction was determined by Georg Kareski, (38) who became chairman of the Judische Volkspartei (Jewish People's Party) in 1929. Although this was essentially a Zionist party, it did not support the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine and enjoyed strong support primarily among Jews who had emigrated from Eastern Europe. (39) At first the Iwria was based in right in the middle of Berlin's banking district, but moved to Alexanderplatz--the old cities most vibrant square--in 1932.

Shortly after the Iwria the Judische Kreditvereinigung fur Handel und Gewerbe (Jewish Credit Association for Trade and Commerce) was founded in the synagogue in FasanenstraBe--in West Berlin. It opened its doors in the old city center in March 1928, before the Iwria had even been entered in the Register of Cooperatives. (40) The Credit Association was established on the initiative of Wilhelm Kleemann, chairman of the Jewish Community board. (41) A member of the board at one of Germany's largest high street banks, the Dresdner Bank, Kleemann had been in charge of the bank's city branches and ran Dresdner Bank's important cooperatives department between 1910 and 1916. (42) As he explained in a position paper in January 1932, he was firmly of the opinion that credit cooperatives were "the natural supports" of small and medium-sized business and that Jews needed to be prompted to embrace the principle of the cooperative. (43) In a bid to balance his influence, Kleemann was joined on the supervisory board by owners from small or medium-sized businesses or were self-employed or professionals. As he had at the loan kassa, the head of the chapter Association of Independent Craftsmen of the Jewish Faith, Wilhelm Marcus, served as deputy chairman and ensured close ties with his organization. (44) In an article published in the Gemeindeblatt in January 1928, the board laid out the reasons why "Jewish circles established an organization that emphasizes its Jewish character in the field of the wider, inherently inter-faith economy." (45) In June 1929, in its first annual statement, the board laid out the Credit Association's business philosophy: "The Jewish Credit Association is to be a tool of small and medium-sized business; it is not a welfare organization but an assistance office." (46) Citing check and bill transactions as the association's core business and their intention to steer clear of speculative dealings, the members of the board again gave reasons for the cooperative's founding with reference to general economic arguments--specifically, war and inflation--but made no mention whatsoever of either antisemitism or the association's rival, the Iwria Bank.

In May 1932 a third Jewish credit cooperative, the Leih- und Sparverein Esra (Esra Provident Loan Society), was founded in Berlin. A key role

in its creation was played by the Central Association of East European Jews in Berlin, which made its premises at Rosenthaler StraBe 55 available to Esra's free of charge. Even though the Chamber of Commerce and Industry was of the opinion that the Iwria was founded by "the East European Jews," (47) clearly not all the East European Jews living in Berlin felt it represented by it. (48)


Despite its ambitious agenda, the Iwria gained fewer than 300 cooperative members in the first year of its existence. (49) After a slow rise in the following year, the number of members shrunk in the great depression of 1931 and then stagnated. (50) However, the beginning of the systematic destruction of Jewish commercial activity led to a reversal of the trend, which the board addressed in its annual report:
The year 1933, an eventful one in the history of the Jewish people, was
also an unusual one in terms of our bank's development. Its founders'
goal of making Iwria the bank of choice for Jewish small and
medium-sized businesses, which was propagated with all the modern means
of advertising available, has only been achieved on a modest scale....
But the political turbulence of recent years has demonstrated the true
standing of Jews in Germany and awakened a sense of solidarity, which
serves as the basis for the philosophy of the cooperative bank in
general and the Jewish cooperative bank in particular. (51)

Although only 50 new members joined in 1933, balance sheet totals doubled. This shows that members had intensified their business dealings with Iwria and that the institute had begun, by the board's own admission, to make greater efforts to attract customers, especially among medium-sized Jewish businesses, since the microcredit market was already cornered by the loan kassa. (52) This entailed the opening of a branch in near the fashionable Kurfurstendamm in September 1933 and a transfer and goods department in 1934 designed to foster goods traffic with Palestine. (53) The staff rose from just 9 in 1932 to 22 in 1933. (54) By 1934, the number of members had risen again and balance sheets expanded by 50 percent to reach 1.5 million reichsmarks by the last day of trading in 1934. (55) Despite emigration, the bank also managed to attract 20 new members in 1935. Up by 100 percent to 3.48 million reichsmarks, the balance sheets rose even more rapidly than membership. (56) Presenting the balance to its members, the board was rewarded with "brisk acclaim." (57) What makes the advancement of the bank all the more astonishing is that from 1933 onward it faced systematic obstacles. In December 1933 the regional tax office warned that Iwria could channel funds out of the country. (58) In 1934 the bank had to conduct the legal battle about the term Volk (people) in its name and had to change its name in 1935. At the same time, Iwria--like all the other Jewish cooperative banks--was excluded from the auditing association of the German Cooperative Federation. (59)

In its annual report in 1935, the Iwria published a list of its members for the first time. It showed that 66.8 percent of them were business proprietors--many of whom were in the textile sector. (60) Of these, 26.5 percent were wholesalers, followed by craftsmen at 14 percent, factory proprietors at 13.5 percent, and retailers at 11.5 percent. (61) Interestingly, one-third of members were not business proprietors, as illustrated by the fact that the "bills of exchange" rose at a markedly slower rate than the rest of the balance sheets. (62) While 135,476 reichsmarks were attributed to bills of exchange in 1933, the figure in 1936 was 237,122 reichsmarks, representing a fall in the share of the total from 12.9 to 5.6 percent. (63) The bank's problem was that it collected the assets of small and medium-sized businesses, but hardly found ways to invest them. (64) Still, in early 1936 Iwria continued to grow, with the balance sheets rising to 4.2 million reichsmarks and membership to 458. However, the bank also had to adjust its valuation to the tune of 340,000 reichsmarks and turn to the Jewish community for support. At this point the supervisory board was, nevertheless, still confident "that our cooperative, after eradicating the losses incurred by those businesses within our remit, will in future continue to be able to fulfill its objective to serve small and medium-sized businesses." (65) This hope, however, proved to be unfounded.

Shortly after the annual report for 1936 was published, it became apparent that the board had granted some highly speculative credits, which could no longer be serviced and now had to be written off. The Jewish community had to step in and forced the board to step down. (66) The bank attempted to offset the losses by doubling the price of shares for members from 250 to 500 reichsmarks. (67) Although this measure was approved at the general meeting on August 30, 1937, it was subsequently rejected by the Reich commissioner for credit as insufficient, (68) and also caused much consternation among members. (69) As a result, the community's board announced that "in the interests of preserving numerous Jewish livelihoods, the community has made a fund of 1 million marks available to the Iwria Bank in order to reestablish liquidity, and acted as guarantor to depositors for over 300,000 reichsmarks, but is not in a position to guarantee the Iwria Bank further sums." (70) At the behest of the Reich commissioner, the Iwria was closed down on September 15, 1937. (71)

Just like the Iwria, the Credit Association had a slow start. Despite its efforts, the support given by Jewish institutions remained disappointing. In its second annual report the board stressed that "economic and political developments increasingly call for solidarity within the Jewish public. The prevailing hardship cannot be better tackled than with constructive financial assistance, which is the best defense against impoverishment. But sufficient financial assistance is only possible if all parties involved see it as their duty to contribute." (72) This renewed call for membership met with little success, however. (73) In the summer of 1931, the institute was also dealing with the repercussions of the banking crisis. Alfred Jaulus, co-owner of the private bank Veit, Simon & Co., switched from the supervisory board to the managing board, apparently because his skills were required in this time of economic turmoil. (74) Without further consultation, the bank raised the cooperative share contribution from 250 reichsmarks to 400 reichsmarks, in August 1931, sparking the ire of many members. (75) One member vented his indignation in a letter dated August 31, 1931, maintaining that the hike offended his business principles:
I cannot hide the fact that I simply cannot understand how members can
be forced into accepting a rise in fully paid contributions. If the
decision taken at the general assembly [on the raising of the
contribution] proves legally valid and it can be assumed that similar
unexpected decisions might become the norm, I cannot reconcile my
responsibilities as a prudent businessman with continued membership of
such an association. (76)

This prediction proved accurate, with many members of the association giving notice in subsequent months. In the wake of the economic crisis and in protest at the rise in membership contributions, even more members left in the course of 1932, (77) with the trend continuing in 1933 and 1934. At the end of 1934 only 246 members were left. The Credit Association's management was also affected, with three members of the supervisory board emigrating in 1933, (78) including the bank's mentor, Kleemann. Even before the announcement of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, he had been forced off the board of the Dresdner Bank and emigrated to Switzerland. (79) He was replaced by Heinrich Stahl, who took over as chairman of the board of the Jewish Community in June 1933. His appointment to the supervisory board of the Credit Association attested to its continued close ties to the community.

From 1935 the Credit Association's membership began to rise again, attracting a record high of 133 new members in 1936. In total, the association numbered 316 members with 385 share subscriptions. (80) The volume of business had meanwhile doubled, enabling the bank--which now employed a staff of 18 along with the board--to enlarge its premises considerably. (81) The number of members rose to 349 in 1937. (82) Growth continued into 1938, when the bank took in a number of former members of the Iwria Bank. On October 14, 1938, Arnold Lichtenstein, who owned a hat wholesaler's near Alexanderplatz, became the last to join. (83) Despite the losses due to emigration, the number of members had risen to 403 by this point.

An overwhelming majority of the Credit Association's members listed in the commercial register were also members of a Jewish lodge. A high percentage of members of the Jewish cooperatives were also members of the Association of Independent Craftsmen of the Jewish Faith or similar organizations. (84) Also, 80 percent of members ran businesses. (85) This ratio, which clearly distinguished the association from the Iwria, remained more or less constant. The members included a few private bankers, such as Albert von Goldschmidt (86) and Ernst Wallach, (87) but most were more modest. The Credit Association's balance position "bills of exchange" reflected this high proportion of businesspeople, as well as the bank's growing importance for them, increasing from 51,276 to 139,699 reichsmarks between 1933 and 1936, a rise from 10.6 percent of the balance to 28.7 percent. (88) The Credit Association met bureaucratic obstacles, too, and had to change its name to the Bank des judischen Mittelstandes. Kreditverein fur Handel und Gewerbe (Bank for Small and Medium-Sized Jewish Business) in April 1938. (89) Soon after, the bank was plunged into the maelstrom of persecution. The board assembled for a meeting on November 9, 1938 in order to discuss the disqualification of a total of 53 members. The bank no longer even knew the whereabouts of 37 of them. (90) Shortly after the board had sent minutes of the meeting to the Registry Court on November 10, Alfred Jaulus either fled or was arrested by the police. On November 14, 1938, the supervisory board called an emergency meeting in order to appoint Robert Gutheim to the board in place of Jaulus, who was "indisposed." (91) Given the new regulations, a decision to shut down the bank was reached at an extraordinary general meeting on December 29, 1938. Board member Max Gronemann and the attorney Bruno Gerson were appointed liquidators. (92) They were confident to be able to pay all creditors back. (93)

In terms of membership structure, the Esra did not differ significantly from either the Credit Association or--though to a greater degree--from the Iwria. Esra's membership was also made up primarily of businesspeople. Of a total of 259 natural and legal persons who joined the Esra between 1932 and 1940, only 32 (or 12 percent) were listed in the commercial register, indicating that Esra's members were mainly small traders or businesses. This assumption is underscored by the fact that the highest loan the bank would award was 500 reichsmarks, while shares in the cooperative could not exceed 25 reichsmarks. For this reason, the supervisory board estimated that it could attract a thousand members within a year. (94) But at the very first official general assembly, held in the well known Cafe Dobrin in July 1933, the chairman of the supervisory board, Dr. Boris Silbert, conceded that only 230 people had joined the bank. (95) Neither business volume nor membership increased significantly in subsequent years. By the end of 1936, Esra's balance was in the four digits (96) and it numbered only 256 members. In the wake of emigration and the expulsion of members who failed to pay the full cooperative contribution, membership dwindled to 121 by late 1937. (97) As a cooperative the Esra had to go into liquidation on January 1, 1939 and was removed from the commercial register on October 29, 1940. (98) Two years later, on July 27, 1942, the last Jewish cooperative, the Credit Association, was stricken from the register of cooperatives. (99) Shortly after the liquidators Gerson and Gronemann were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and murdered there. (100)


Following the example set in Berlin, in 1933 five more--independent--Iwria Banks were founded in Breslau (now Wroclav), Chemnitz, Gleiwitz (now Gliwice), Leipzig, and Stettin (now Szczecin). (101) The geographical distribution is noteworthy. Whereas Breslau and Leipzig--as well as Berlin--ranked among the cities with large Jewish communities, Chemnitz, Gleiwitz, and Stettin certainly were not known to be centers of Jewish (commercial) life in Germany. It is notable, too, that the cooperatives were all in the center and the east of Germany--and none in the west or the south. In his essay on Jewish cooperatives, Albert Fischer argues that cooperative banks were founded in the absence of efficient Jewish private banks. (102) Yet, the initiative came from Berlin, of all places, already home to numerous Jewish private banks. On second thought it looks as if there was a more complex background to the founding of Jewish cooperatives. Apart from the absence of private banks, most certainly the grade of hostility the non-Jewish banks displayed, as well as the strength and perseverance of the Association of Jewish Craftsmen, played decisive roles.

In Berlin, cooperative banks were founded because, on the one hand, private banks traditionally catered to a more upmarket clientele. On the other hand, the founders of the Iwria, at least, were deliberately seeking to build on the Jewish cooperative banking sector that had developed in Eastern Europe. It was almost as though the founding of the Iwria put the liberal and German members of the community under pressure to found their own cooperative bank. The founding of the Credit Association allowed the community to provide acceptance facilities the businesspeople needed. The cooperatives could also offer loans to a wider customer base than the loan kassa, which was basically a welfare institution that did not charge interest and was therefore unable to expand the capital basis it had obtained in the exceptional form of donations.

Given that the Iwria and the Credit Association were geared to the same customers, the Reich Economics Ministry considered a merger between the two banks in the wake of the banking crisis in July 1932. (103) However, this met with resistance from both parties because their respective supporters hailed from rival Jewish groups. The proposed fusion was rejected in August 1932. (104) The case demonstrated that the gulf between Jewish groups could not be bridged, which led to a fragmentation of resources. This was possibly one underlying reason why none of the main Jewish institutions--neither the Reich Deputation of the Jews in Germany founded in 1933 nor the Jewish Community--ever transferred their accounts to the Iwria or the Credit Association. Altogether, the both large cooperatives numbered 810 members at the height of their success in 1936, and balance sheets of less than 5 million reichsmarks. Taken that there were 50,000 Jewish-owned businesses in Berlin (even in 1938), this means that less than one percent of all the businesses were customers of the cooperatives. In other cities, such as Leipzig and Chemnitz, it is known that nearly all small and medium-sized Jewish businesses did business with the cooperatives. Why the situation was different in Berlin can only be guessed. But it is fair to assume that with the false start the Credit Association had destroyed some of the trust a new banking system needed. It seems the cooperative banks were more popular among businesspeople already bonded to Jewish organizations prior to 1933 than those who were not. This also explains why Jewish cooperative banks did not enjoy greater success. Customers tended to see switching banks as a risk, especially during times of crisis, and were concerned that existing conditions and borrowing limits might not be continued. Also, an account with a Jewish private bank had greater advantages than an account with a small cooperative bank. (105) One thing the cooperatives could not offer was experience in the complicated field of the transfer of assets abroad--necessary when it became more and more clear that emigration was the order of the day--out of Nazi Germany. This is why many businessmen (and women) who might have been inclined to become members of a credit coopreative turned to Jewish private banks like A. E. Wassermann and M. M. Warburg & Co instead--which, in the face of loosing their former core business, also lowered their standards. (106) Still, in terms of balance sheets, the Iwria's Berlin branch was only fractionally smaller than the independent, established sister institutions in Breslau, Chemnitz, Gleiwitz, Leipzig, and Stettin altogether. (107)


Albert Fischer is right in pointing out the "inverted correlation" between persecution and business of the cooperatives. (108) The German credit cooperatives were founded in response to the racism that had crept into business relations in the late 1920s. Even before Hitler seized power, the cooperatives had generally ceased to accept Jews as members, as the German Association of Cooperatives boasted in 1936: "In districts where they continued to be accepted, Jewish members must now be expelled. This process has already led to the founding of strictly Jewish loan cooperatives." (109) The cooperatives came as part and parcel of a very efficient self-help system the Jewish community organized, which mainly granted microloans, thereby supporting businesses that would otherwise not have been able to borrow funds. (110) The Jewish cooperatives therefore filled an important gap and provided short-term credits for the rising number of Jewish self-employed in a more and more hostile surrounding in a country basically stripped of reserves. While the Iwria went down in a crash in 1937, the other cooperative did business right until the pogrom of November 1938. In 1958, the local restitution office in Berlin decided that the assets lost by a Jewish customer of the Iwria Bank need not be restituted. The office argued that the bank went into bancrupcy in 1937 and that this bancrupcy did not constitute an act of illegal entziehung. (111) Homo economicus is but a frail concept. People are not rational. And while Adam Smith is certainly right in pointing out in The Theory of Moral Sentiments that "how selfish so ever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary," (112) the opposite is also true: Men and women are seemingly prone to derive happiness from rendering misery to others.


(1.) Bemd Robionek, "Ethnic-German Cooperatives in Eastern Europe between the World Wars: Influences and Intentions of an Ethnic Economy," in National Economies. Volks-Wirtschaft, Racism and Economy in Europe between the Wars (1918-1939/45), edited by Christoph Kreutzmuller, Michael Wildt, Moshe Zimmermann (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2015), 212-28.

(2.) Naomi Shepherd, Wilfrid Israel: German Jewry's Secret Ambassador (Berlin: Littlehampton Book Services, 1985), 71.

(3.) Albert Fischer, "Judische Genossenschaftsbanken im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland 1933-1938," Vierteljahreshefte fur Zeitgeschichte 54 (2006): 417-32.

(4.) See Benno Nietzel, "Die Vernichtung der wirtschaftlichen Existenz der deutschen Juden 1933-1945. Ein Literatur-undForschungsbericht," Archiv fur Sozialgeshichte 49 (2009): 561-613.

(5.) In the State Archive Berlin (Landesarchiv Berlin, LAB), the files were recently registered under the numbers A Rep. 342-43, 1-4. As I have consulted the files in their original finding place, I am going to use the original signatures.

(6.) Avraham Barkai, From Boycott to Annihilation: The Economic Struggle of German Jews 1933-1943 (Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press, 1989), 16.

(7.) Christoph Kreutzmuller, Final Sale in Berlin. The Destruction of Jewish Commercial Activity 1930-1945 (Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015). Forthcoming in paperback, June 2017.

(8.) John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (London, 1920), 251.

(9.) Hannah Ahlheim, "Deutsche, kauft nicht bei Juden."Antisemitismus und politischer Boykott in Deutschland 1924 bis 1935 (Gottingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2011), 157-59.

(10.) "Students Organize First Berlin Pogrom," New York Times, February 28, 1921.

(11.) Christoph Kreutzmuller, "'Le Marchand de Berlin.' Les commerces juifs a Berlin (1918-1942)," in Berlin et les Juifs. 19e-21e siecles, edited by Laurence Guillon and Heidi Knorzer (Paris: Foundation of French Judaism, 2014), 157-62.

(12.) Among the many reports on antisemitic incidents see, for example, "Terror," Central-Verein Zeitung, June 3, 1932.

(13.) Letter by the Arbeitsfursorgeamts der judischen Organisationen Deutschlands to police, Dec. 16,1921, Russian Military Archive, Moscow (Rossijskij Gosudarstvennyj Archiv, RGVA), 505/2/134a. See also Anne-Christin SaB, Berliner Luftmenschen. Osteuropaisch-judische Migranten in der Weimarer Republik (Gottingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2012), 94 ff.

(14.) "Der Untergang des judischen Mittelstandes," Central-Verein Zeitung, November 13, 1925. On Zielenziger, see Dorothea Hauser, "Economy as Fate: Erich W Abraham, Kurt Zielenziger, and the Liberal Fallacy of Weimar Jewry," in National Economies. Volks-Wirtschaft, Racism and Economy in Europe between the Wars (1918-1939/45), edited by Christoph Kreutzmuller, Michael Wildt, and Moshe Zimmermann (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2015), 47-61.

(15.) See Christoph Kreutzmueller, Ingo Loose, and Benno Nietzel, "Persecution and Strategies of Survival: Jewish Entrepreneurs in Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, and Breslau 1933-1942," Yad Vashem Studies 39 (2011): 31-70.

(16.) Kreutzmuller, Final Sale, 76-90.

(17.) "Land unter Terror," Vossische Zeitung, March 11,1932.

(18.) "Gegen Boykott," Vossische Zeitung, January 12, 1933. Letter of the Reich Minister of the Interior to Federal States, December 27, 1932, Federal Archive Berlin (Bundesarchiv Berlin, hereafter BArch), R 3101, 13859.

(19.) "Facts about the Nazi Terror," Manchester Guardian, March 27, 1933.

(20.) Barkai, From Boycott to Annihilation, 21; see also Christoph Kreutzmuller, '"Augen im Sturm'? Britische und amerikanische Zeitungsberichte uber die Judenverfolgung in Berlin 1918-1938," Zeitschrift fur Geschichtswissenschaft 62 (2014): 25-48; Stephanie Seul, "'Herr Hitler's Nazis Hear an Echo of World Opinion': British and American Press Responses to Nazi Anti-Semitism, September 1930-April 1933," Religion & Ideology 14 (2013): 412-30.

(21.) Elke Frohlich, ed., Die Tagebucher von Joseph Goebbels, Part I, Aufzeichnungen 1923-1941, vol. 2 (Munich: Walter de Gruyter, 2005), 156.

(22.) Kreutzmuller, Final Sale, 108-10.

(23.) See Christoph Kreutzmuller, "The Blockade of Jewish Owned Businesses in Nazi Germany--A Boycott?," in Boycotts Past and Present, edited by David Feldman (London, forthcoming).

(24.) "Vom Judenboykott zum Boykott des Rechts," Die Zeit, April 3, 1958.

(25.) Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (1959; New York: Holmes and Meier, 1985).

(26.) Kreutzmuller, Final Sale, 216.

(27.) Gerald D. Feldman, The Great Disorder, Politics, Economics and Society in the German Inflation 1914-1924 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).

(28.) "10 Jahre judische Darlehnskasse in Berlin," Judisches Gemeindeblatt Berlin, June 16, 1934.

(29.) In 1943 the building was in the center of a demonstration of non-Jewish women against the deportation of their Jewish men that they feared was impending. See Genot Jochheim, Frauenprotest in der RosenstraBe "Gebt uns unsere Manner wieder" (Berlin: Hentrich & Hentrich, 1993). For a critical review, see Katharina von Kellenbach, "The 'Legend' of Women's Resistance in the Rosenstrasse," in Protest in Hitler's National Community. Popular Unrest and the Nazi Response, edited by Nathan Stoltzfus and Birgit Maier-Katkin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 106-27.

(30.) Tables, Local District Court Charlottenburg (Amtsgericht Charlottenburg, hereafter AGC), HR B, 54854 (Judische Darlehnskasse). See "Wilhelm Marcus, 50 Jahre," Der judische Handwerker, April 1933.

(31.) Contract, 13 June 1924, AGC, HR B, 54854, 1940 (Judische Darlehnskasse).

(32.) Letter from Eugen Caspary to Georg Kareski, September 5, 1928, Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People Jerusalem (CAHJP), D/Be4, 325.

(33. "Zentralstelle fur judische Darlehnskassen," Informations blatter der Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland, April-May 1937. See also Adler-Rudel, Salomon, Judische Selbsthilfe unter dem Naziregime 1933-1939. Im Spiegel der Berichte der Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland (Tubingen: Mohr, 1974), 126.

(34.) Ibid, 128.

(35.) "Die erste judische Genossenschaftsbank Deutschlands," Gemeindeblatt der judischen Gemeinde zu Berlin, January 6, 1928.

(36.) Table, AGC, GR, 1741.

(37.) Volksbank Iwria open letter, January 9, 1928.

(38.) On Kareski, see Barkai, Avraham, "Wehr Dich!": Der Centralverein Deutscher Staatsburger Judischen Glaubens (C. V.) 1893-1938 (Munchen: Beck, 2002), 301; Francis R. Nicosia, "Revisionist Zionism in Germany (II): Georg Kareski and the Staatszionistische Organisation, 1933-1938," Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook 32(1987): 231-67; Herbert S. Levine, "A Jewish Collaborator in Nazi Germany. The Strange Career of Georg Kareski, 1933-1937," Central European History 8 (September 1975): 251-81.

(39.) Moshe Zimmermann, Die Deutschen Juden 1914-1945 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1997), 30.

(40.) Minutes of the Founding Meeting of January 16, 1928; Annual Report of the Credit Association for 1928, both in AGC, Genossenschaftsregister (GR), 1735c.

(41.) Annual Report of the Credit Association for 1933, AGC, Genossenschaftsregister (GR), 1735c.

(42.) Christoph Kopper, Zwischen Marktwirtschaft und Dirigismus, Bankenpolitik im "Dritten Reich" (Bonn: Bouvier, 1995), 221.

(43.) "Gemeindeabende," Gemeindeblatt der judischen Gemeinde zu Berlin, January 1932.

(44.) Minutes of the first meeting of the Supervisory Board, January 16, 1928, AGC, GR, 1735c.

(45.) "Die erste judische Genossenschaftsbank Deutschlands," Gemeindeblatt der judischen Gemeinde zu Berlin, 6 January 1928.

(46.) Annual Report of the Credit Association for 1928, AGC, GR, 1735c.

(47.) Letter from the IHK to the District Court, June 21, 1932, AGC, GR, 2159a.

(48.) Minutes of the General Meeting, September 10, 1935, AGC, GR, 2159a.

(49.) Letter from the Iwria Bank to the District Court, April 5,1929, AGC, GR, 1741a.

(50.) Accounts of the Iwria Bank at December 31, 1931, AGC, GR, 1741a.

(51.) Report of the Board for the financial year 1933, AGC, GR, 1741 a.

(52.) Ibid.

(53.) "Judische Genossenschaftsbanken," Central-Verein Zeitung, June 11,1936; Audit Report by the Treuhand-Vereinigung AG, August 30, 1937, Federal Archive Berlin (Bundesarchiv, BArch), R. 3101, 10520.

(54.) Audit report, March 2, 1934, BArch, R. 3101, 11528.

(55.) Report of the Volksbank Iwria for the financial year 1934, AGC, GR, 1741.

(56.) Report of the Volksbank Iwria for the financial year 1935, AGC, GR, 1741.

(57.) "Generalversammlung der Iwria Bank Berlin," Gemeindeblatt der judischen Gemeinde zu Berlin, August 16, 1936.

(58.) Letter from the president of the Berlin Tax Office to the Reich Economics Ministry, December 23, 1933, BArch, R. 3101, 11528.

(59.) Letter from the Reich Interior Ministry to the Reich Economics Ministry, December 11, 1936, BArch, R. 3101, 10520.

(60.) Audit Report by the Treuhand-Vereinigung AG, August 30, 1937, BArch, R. 3101,10520.

(61.) Report of the Volksbank Iwria for the financial year 1935, AGC, GR, 1741. See also Fischer, Judische Genossenschaftsbanken, 418.

(62.) Report of the Volksbank Iwria for the financial year 1935, AGC, GR, 1741.

(63.) Volksbank Iwria, Iwria BankAccounts for the years 1933 and 1936, AGC, GR, 1741.

(64.) Audit Report by the Treuhand-Vereinigung AG, August 30, 1937, BArch, R. 3101, 10520.

(65.) Report of the Volksbank Iwria for the financial year 1936, BArch, R. 3101, 10520.

(66.) "The Situation of the Iwria-Bank," Gemeindeblatt der judischen Gemeinde zu Berlin, October 3, 1937. See also The information sheet of the Hitach-duth Olej Germania, October 1937, Cental Zionist Archive, Jerusalem, A 339/138; the letter from the Jewish Community to Kareski, September 2, 1937, Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People Jerusalem (CAHJP), P 82, 21; and Levine, "A Jewish Collaborator," 277.

(67.) "General Meeting of the Iwria-Bank," Das Judische Volk, September 3, 1937.

(68.) "Neuordnung bei der Iwria-Bank," Gemeindeblatt der judischen Gemeinde zu Berlin, September 5, 1937.

(69.) Letter from the Berlin Mens' Overcoats Manufacturer Migol to the District Court, September 30, 1937, AGC, GR, 1741.

(70.) "Die Iwria-Bank Berlin schlieBt," Das judische Volk, September 24, 1937.

(71.) Letter from Reich commissioner for credit institutions to Economics Ministry, December 2, 1937, BArch, R. 3101, 10520; Berliner Chefbesprechungen, minutes, September 18, 1937, Foundation Warburg Archive Hamburg (Stiftung Warburg Archiv, SWA), IV 1.4,4-8-3.

(72.) Ibid.

(73.) Membership list of the Judischer Kreditverein fur Handel und Gewerbe, nos. 452 and 510, AGC, GR, 1735.

(74.) Letter from the Jewish Credit Association to the District Court, July 6, 1931, AGC, GR, 1735c.

(75.) Letter from the Jewish Credit Association to the District Court, August 19, 1931, AGC, GR, 1735c.

(76.) Letter from Felix Salomonis to the Jewish Credit Association, August 31, 1931, AGC, GR, 1735b.

(77.) Annual Reports ofthe Credit Association for 1932 and 1933, AGC, GR, 1735c.

(78.) Annual Report of the Credit Association for 1933, AGC, GR, 1735c.

(79.) Kleemann later emigrated via the Netherlands to the United States, where he died in 1969. See Thomas Weihe, Die Personalpolitik der FilialgroBbanken 1919-1945. Interventionen, Anpassung, Ausweichbewegungen, (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2006), 106.

(80.) Annual Report of the Credit Association for 1936, AGC, GR, 1735c.

(81.) Annex 5 to the Report on the Audit of the Credit Association accounts, February 20, 1937, Centrum Judaicum Archive (Berlin), 75 C, vol. 1.

(82.) Annual Report of the Bank des judischen Mittelstandes for 1937, AGC, GR, 1735c.

(83.) List of members of the Judischer Kreditverein fur Handel und Gewerbe, no. 916, AGC, GR, 1735.

(84.) My own conclusions on the basis of the DjGB.

(85.) Annual Report of the Jewish Credit Association for 1932, AGC, GR, 1735c. "Others" included, for example, the reknown actor Alexander Granach. See List of Members of the Judischer Kreditverein fur Handel und Gewerbe, no. 192, AGC, GR, 1735.

(86.) List of Members of the Judischer Kreditverein fur Handel und Gewerbe, no. 94, AGC, GR, 1735.

(87.) List of Members of the Judischer Kreditverein fur Handel und Gewerbe, no. 13, AGC, GR, 1735.

(88.) Accounts of the Kreditverein fur Handel und Gewerbe for 1933 and 1936, AGC, GR, 1735.

(89.) Letter from the Credit Association to the District Court, 14 July 1937; Copy of the Meeting of the General Meeting, 14 April 1937, both in AGC, GR, 1735c.

(90.) Minutes of the Board Meeting of November 9, 1938, AGC, GR, 1735b.

(91.) Copy of the minutes of a meeting of the Supervisory Board, November 14, 1938, AGC, GR, 1735c. Alfred Jaulus apparently emigrated to Belgium. After that country was occupied, he was deported and perished in March 1945 in Buchenwald. Memorial sheet for Alfred Jaulus by Charlotte Fernley, n.d. See Yad Vashem, The Central Database of Shoa Victim's Names, entry for Alfred Jaulus,

(92.) Letter from the Bank des judischen Mittelstandes to the District Court, December 31, 1938, AGC, GR, 1735b.

(93.) "Kreditverein fur Handel und Gewerbe," Judisches Nachrichtenblatt, January 3, 1939.

(94.) Letter from the IHK to the District Court, June 21, 1932, AGC, GR, 2159a.

(95.) Esra accounts at December 31, 1932, AGC, GR, 2159a.

(96.) Report of Esra's Supervisory Board for the financial year 1936, AGC, GR, 2159a.

(97.) Report of Esra's Supervisory Board for the financial year 1937, AGC, GR, 2159a.

(98.) Letter from the District Court to police headquarters, October 31, 1940, AGC, GR, 2159a.

(99.) Table of the Judischer Kreditverein fur Handel und Gewerbe, AGC, GR, 1735a.

(100.) Entry, Gerson, Bruno, born February 24, 1885 in Lissewo; Gronemann, Max, born June 3, 1886 in GroB-Wittfelde. See "Memorial Book of the Federal Archive of the Victims of the Persecution of Jews in Germany (1933-1945)," Das Bundesarchiv,

(101.) Fischer, Judische Genossenschaftsbanken, 418.

(102.) Fischer, Judische Genossenschaftsbanken, 431.

(103.) Letter from the Dresdner Bank to the Reich Economics Ministry, July 8, 1932, BArch, R. 3101, 11528.

(104.) Letter from the Dresdner Bank to the Reich Economics Ministry, 10 August 1932, BArch, R. 3101, 11528.

(105.) See Berlin Chief of Protocol Files 1 to 7, SWA, A-10027-10033.

(106.) Dorothea Hauser, "Too Involved and Too Engaged: The Warburg Bank's Late Surrender," in Dispossession. Plundering German Jewry 1933-1953, edited by Christoph Kreutzmueller and Jonathan Zatlin (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, forthcoming).

(107.) Letter from the Financial Auditor Hermann Berlak to the Reich commissioner for credit institutions, November 9,1937, BArch, R. 3101,10520. See "Judische Genossenschaftsbanken," Central-Verein Zeitung, June 11, 1936; Fischer, Judische Genossenschaftsbanken, 420.

(108.) Fischer, Judische Genossenschaftsbanken, 421.

(109.) Letter from the Deutscher Genossenschaftsverband to the Economics Ministry, July 14, 1936, BArch, R. 3101, 10520.

(110.) Annual Report of the Kreditverein for 1935, AGC, GR, 1735c.

(111.) Ruling by the Restitution Office, June 19, 1958, Landesarchiv Berlin, B Rep. 025-06, 2987/55.

(112.) Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (London, 1853), 3.
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