It Wasn't a Mystery, It's Just Been Covered-Up

A Review of "The Flat"

by Stanley Heller

The most popular documentary in Israel last year was "The Flat" and it's now showing in many places in the U.S. I read some reviews of it and was immediately interested. The film begins by showing the film maker's family going through their grandmother's Tel Aviv apartment after she has died and finding a stack of Nazi newspapers. They discover letters showing that their grandparents had brought a Nazi SS man to Palestine in 1933. For the film maker, Arnon Goldfinger, this was a astonishing mystery. What were his grandparents, Kurt and Gerda Tuchler, doing with a Nazi?

To me it was no mystery. I had read about the Tuchlers twenty five years ago in Lenni Brenner's "Zionism in the Age of the Dictators". Kurt Tuchler was on the Executive of the German Zionist movement in early 1930's and he was carrying out the mad Zionist policy of trying to convert the Nazis to Zionism! While other German Jews were defending themselves against murderous attacks and insisting on their rights, the Zionists of Germany were trying to persuade the Nazis that since both movements wanted Jews to leave Germany they should work together. To cooperate the Zionists were even willing to oppose Jewish led efforts to tell about Nazi atrocities and sabotage any boycott of German goods.

That grandson Arnon Goldfinger knew nothing about this may seem astounding, but the Zionists have done their best to hide or minimize this disgraceful chapter. (You don't even learn about it in the liberal Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz's review of the film.)

Yet, despite finding the skeleton in the closet Goldfinger's movie ultimately continues hiding it. In the film you see him going to a historian who explains that for a short time the Nazis and Zionists worked together because for their own separate reasons both wanted to get the Jews out of Germany. Goldfinger apparently accepts this as perfectly reasonable and never really explores it. He doesn't even tell us that his grandfather was a Zionist leader who helped create the strategy of trying to get along with the biggest most violent Jew-haters on the planet.

Instead the film centers on trying to explain the mystery of why Goldfinger's grandparents became friendly with the SS man, Leopold von Mildenstein, and renewed the friendship after World War II. Goldfinger handles that small creepy mystery well, talking to his family who say they knew nothing about it and eventually interviewing von Mildenstein's daughter in Germany who claims that her father left the SS and was traveling during the war. Goldfinger digs deeper and finds things more disturbing on many sides.

However, the larger issue of Zionist collaboration with the Nazis in the '30's still cries out for its movie maker. Von Mildenstein stayed in Palestine for six months and was favorably impressed. He came back to Germany and writes 12 articles for the SS paper "Der Angriff". He describes how well things were going in Palestine and how putting Jews on the "land" was "the way to curing a centuries-long wound on the body of the world: the Jewish question". A medal was struck to mark Von Mildenstein's visit and he was appointed SS head of the Jewish Affairs department (where he recruits Adolph Eichman as his assistant). For a few years it appeared that the Nazis did see the solution to "the Jewish Question" as emigration. It might have seemed that the zionization of Nazism was a fact.

Yet this was not going to last, as any fool (except the Zionists) could realize. To say the least, the Nazis were not just a bunch of nationalists. Nazism was Hitlerism. The party was totally dominated by a psychopath who hated Jews, who really believed they were at the heart of an international conspiracy against the human race, who had caused Germany to lose World War I, who had created Communism, who were led by parasitic international bankers and on and on. As Hitler grew stronger he wanted Jews out not only of Germany, but of all of Europe. Even if the British were going to allow ten million Jews to go to Palestine can anyone imagine Hitler would be happy with the creation of a Jewish state? By 1936 von Mildenstein was out of favor. Two years later the Nazis launched Kristallnacht.

We do need a film showing how German Zionists imitated racial language, how they tried to woo Nazis via the von Mildenstein trip, how the World Zionist Organization sold German goods in Palestine, how this broke the powerful anti-Nazi boycott. We need someone to show the maddest of the mad, the Zionist group called the Stern Gang, who as late as 1941 offered to fight on the Nazi side in World War II.

Goldfinger broached the subject. Is anyone brave enough to explore it to the end?

Before seeing the film our committee (MECC) produced the flyer (below) which we passed out at a discussion of the film in Hartford. In the discussion several remarked on Arnon Goldfinger's understated but pointed criticism's of his parents generation, for their silences. They asked about Goldfinger himself, living in an intensely discriminatory and warlike nation which flowered on seized Palestinian land. What about his silences?

When the Zionists Brought
SS Men to Palestine

In the October 24 Los Angeles Times review of "The Flat," Kenneth Turan dismissed the fact that a family of German Zionists entertained an important Nazi in Palestine:

"For a brief moment in time during the 1930s, the Nazis and German Zionists shared what one historian calls 'temporary mutual interest': They both wanted to get German Jews out of Germany and into Palestine."

Except that it wasn't 'for a brief moment.' It went on for six years, contrary to the interests of millions of Jews.

In 1933, when Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, Jews worldwide were outraged and started a powerful boycott of German goods. They had support from many labor unions and the Left, and governments of threatened countries, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Zionists in Palestine took a different view. They decided that Germany's Jews were a lost cause, but Zionism's Palestine settlement could benefit if Zionists broke the boycott by making a deal with the Nazis and got a big percentage of German Jewish wealth.

In 1933, the World Zionist Organization (WZO) made the Ha'avara (Transfer) Agreement with the Nazis. German Jews would put money into a German account. That wealth would go to Palestine as German goods to be sold there and in the middle East. The WZO would keep a share of that income, but German Jewish emigrants to Palestine would get the rest, keeping a higher percentage of their wealth than Jews emigrating elsewhere.

With the WZO selling German machinery, a strong boycott of German goods was impossible. The American Yiddish daily, The Forward, declared that "Palestine thus becomes the official scab-agent against the boycott in the Near-East." Even Edwin Black, a modern Zionist scholar, agrees that the Transfer Agreement "pierce[d] a stake through the heart of the Jewish-led anti-Nazi boycott."

In 1933, the German Zionist Federation Executive Committee urged Leopold von Mildenstein of the SS (Schutz-Staffel - Protection Corps) to write a pro-Zionist piece for the Nazi press. He was eager to do so, but only after visiting Palestine. He went there with Kurt Tuchler a member of the Executive, and his wife, Gerda, as the WZO's guest for six months. Then von Mildenstein wrote "A Nazi Voyages to Palestine," twelve articles in "Der Angriff," a leading Nazi organ. To commemorate von Mildenstein's trip, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels had a medal created with a swastika on one side and a star of David on the other. Von Mildenstein headed up the SS 'Jewish Desk' and favored Zionists over 'assimilationist' Jews.

As the years passed, anti-Jewish measures multiplied, but the WZO didn't sour on its Nazi connection. On February 26, 1937, Feivel Polkes, an agent of the Haganah, the military arm of the WZO's Palestine Executive, went to Berlin and met Adolf Eichmann. A report on their conversation was found in SS files after the war. Eichmann wanted information about Jewish plots against Nazis (a Swiss Nazi had been assassinated in 1936). Polkes offered to help Germany find Middle Eastern oil in return for better trade terms for Palestine's Zionists.

On October 2, 1937, two 'journalists,' Eichmann and his superior, arrived in Haifa. Polkes took them to a kibbutz. Two days later the British expelled the SS men. Polkes followed them to Cairo and gave the Nazis information on underground Communist radio broadcasts to Germany and Arab leaders' ties to Communism.

The Transfer went on until Britain and Germany went to war in 1939 and London wouldn't allow German goods into its Palestine colony.

Edwin Black and other Zionists argue that, while all this looks bad, what really happened was that the WZO saved lives and built the future Israel. Certainly the Zionist project was helped and some Jews made it to the Middle East. But at what cost?

The Ha'avara pact was the first major act of appeasement of Nazi Germany. Had the WZO strengthened the boycott, the toll it would have taken on German business and jobs could have led to the Nazis' ouster by either Germany's military and industrialists or a popular revolution. Both possibilities were thrown away by the WZO's pact with Nazism. Instead the Zionist Transfer agreement provided a rationale for European governments' acts of appeasement. "If the Jews, i.e. the WZO, could make a deal with Hitler, why can't we?" Millions of Jews and gentiles paid the price.

To learn more about this period you can read Lenni Brenner's whole book "Zionism in the Age of the Dictators" at

You can see translations of the original documents that Brenner used in "51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis," edited by Lenni Brenner. To get a copy of the book, contact him at

Also take a look at "Could the Anti-Nazi Boycott Have Won" on
The Middle East Crisis Committee