Reviews of Lenni Brenner's books

Edward Mortimer, "Contradiction, collusion and controversy,"
The Times (London), 2/11/84.

Zionism in the Age of the Dictators
by Lenni Brenner

Who told a Berlin audience in March 1912 that "each country can absorb only a limited number of Jews, if she doesn't want disorders in her stomach. Germany already has too many Jews"?

No, not Adolf Hitler but Chaim Weizmann, later president of the World Zionist Organization and later still the first president of the state of Israel.

And where might you find the following assertion, originally composed in 1917 but republished as late as 1936: "The Jew is a caricature of a normal, natural human being, both physically and spiritually. As an individual in society he revolts and throws off the harness of social obligation, knows no order nor discipline"?

Not in Der Sturmer but in the organ of the Zionist youth organization, Hashomer Hatzair.

As the above quoted statement reveals, Zionism itself encouraged and exploited self-hatred in the Diaspora. It started from the assumption that anti-Semitism was inevitable and even in a sense justified so long as Jews were outside the land of Israel.

It is true that only an extreme lunatic fringe of Zionism went so far as to offer to join the war on Germany's side in 1941, in the hope of establishing "the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis, and bound by a treaty with the German Reich." Unfortunately this was the group which the present Prime Minister of Israel chose to join.

That fact gives an extra edge of topicality to what would in any case be a highly controversial study of the Zionist record in the heyday of European fascism by Lenni Brenner, an American Trotskyist writer who happens also to be Jewish. It is short (250 pages), crisp and carefully documented. Mr Brenner is able to cite numerous cases where Zionists collaborated with anti-Semitic regimes, including Hitler's; he is careful also to put on record the opposition to such policies within the Zionist movement.

In retrospect these activities have been defended as a distasteful but necessary expedient to save Jewish lives. But Brenner shows that most of the time this aim was secondary. The Zionist leaders wanted to help young, skilled and able-bodied Jews to emigrate to Palestine. They were never in the forefront of the struggle against fascism in Europe.

That in no way absolves the wartime Allies for their callous refusal to make any serious effort to save European Jewry. As Brenner says, "Britain must be condemned for abandoning the Jews of Europe"; but, "it is not for the Zionists to do it."

[Note: Edward Mortimer is now Director of Communications, Executive Office of the Secretary General, United Nations.]

Politica Internazionale, (Italy), Spring 1985

The Iron Wall, Zionist Revisionism from Jabotinsky to Shamir
Lenni Brenner

This book is a historical document of Zionist revisionism seen in the light also of the personal vicissitudes of its inventor and major interpreter. The author, a Jewish-American historian, does not conceal his dislike for revisionism. Yet he tries to understand and explain its internal dynamics. The result is, undoubtedly, satisfactory. The inclusion in the book, at the side of Jabotinsky and Begin, of Shamir, whose historical role is decidedly secondary is perplexing. Obviously the author felt the need to find a representative and a leader for today's (and yesterday's) revisionism. Particularly interesting and penetrating appears the first part, that devoted to Jabotinsky. The biographical data, apart from facilitating reading, are warranted by the historic importance which is attributed to the character of the personage. In this sense, the socio-cultural humus of his childhood is of basic importance. But his personal vicissitudes, including his family misfortunes, are also useful.

Revisionism ends up by being presented almost as an outcome of Jabotinsky's anti-communism. And it is precisely from his anti-communism that one has to start to understand the contradictions of his practical action and of his ideology. One thinks, for instance, of his open-mindedness in the choice of alliances, which brought Herzl's noted attitude to paroxysm. Jabotinsky searched, in the early twenties, alliances with the white Ukrainians, led by Slavinsky, namely the slaughterers of tens of thousands of Jews. As to the ideology, it is remarked that revisionism did not presuppose the expulsion of the Arabs. If anything, being deeply reactionary, he intended the relations between Arabs and Jews to be according to the colonial scheme, with the former, the natives, in the role of the colonized (more or less to be civilized) and the latter in the role of civilizers.

The iron wall, which appears in the title, is, in fact, a metaphor to indicate the need to use arms (a wall of bayonets) against the local population.

David Lan, "Diary," London Review of Books, 4/2/87:

The High Court of Justice in London, 1967. Dr. Miklos Yaron, a Hungarian gynaecologist, is suing his former assistant Ruth Kaplan for libel. Kaplan has published a pamphlet accusing Yaron of collaboration with Nazi leaders in 1944....

Is there anyone in Britain interested in the theatre, in civil liberties or in Jews who can't identify this as a scene in Jim Allen's play Perdition? The successful lobbying by Jews in Britain to have its production cancelled has made it one of the most famous plays of the decade....

I'll start with a confession: I am the only Jew in England who is not an expert on Zionist politics, 1939-1945.... When I was growing up in South Africa I was totally uninterested in - not to say, embarrassed by - Zionism, or accurately, by Zionists. How I feel is captured by Lenni Brenner's account, in Jews in America Today, of the callow youth who are heard to say "I wouldn't be seen dead with those creeps." ....

The most passionate chapter, "Six Million Skeletons in the Closet," is a return to the themes of Brenner's earlier book, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, one of the key sources for Perdition. Here Brenner reviews the efforts of the Jewish establishment of the war years to play down, even to conceal, reports of the camps in Europe for fear of inciting anti-semitism at home. One of his prize quotations is also used by Jim Allen. It is from a letter sent by Rabbi Steven Wise, leader of the American Jewish Congress, to Roosevelt in 1942, the first year of the final solution: "I have had cables and underground advices for some months, telling of these things. I succeeded, together with the heads of other Jewish organizations, in keeping them out of the press."

"I wouldn't be seen dead with those creeps." As I watched Shoah, it came to me that of course in certain circumstances, whether I wished to or not, I would.

American Library Association Booklist, 9/1/1988

Lenni Brenner, The Lesser Evil

Muckraking is alive, kicking, red-faced with indignation, and unputdownably readable in this expose of the Democratic Party. Brenner shows that despite initially progressive leadership by Founding Fathers Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, the aggregation's base of support in the slave-holding South soon dragged it into immoral reaction and corruption under Jackson, the patron deity of the spoils system and, in his last years, a rabid advocate of slavery. And so it has been ever since, by Brenner's accounting, and he documents his case impressively. He reminds us that the Republicans began as the progressive alternative party; that up until FDR, progressives came more often from the GOP's ranks, despite its own post-Reconstruction depravity; that the programs that brought Roosevelt liberal support were balanced by his virulent racism against Blacks, Jews, and Japanese-Americans; and that the record of every major Democrat since reeks of legal and moral turpitude. Brenner's intent is to finally drive liberals from the party, to make them see that supporting the Democrats any longer is futile and stupid. If enough of them read him, he just might succeed. A brilliant polemic, and is it ever sarcastic!

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
September 2004


51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration With the Nazis
By Lenni Brenner, ed. Barricade Books, 2002
Reviewed by Sara Powell.

It's no secret that Zionism embraced political expediency to advance the cause of carving Eretz-Israel from the land of its native inhabitants. In his 1983 book, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, Lenni Brenner shows that 20th century Zionists observed shockingly few limits to that expediency. Not surprisingly, the book received little coverage in the American media. Now, in 51 Documents, Brenner has compiled a wide variety of letters, statements, articles, and judgements -- some of which appeared in his earlier book -- by a broad array of activists and authors, that documents Zionist cooperation with the Nazis. On the face of it, the notion seems absurd. However, Brenner presents the case -- made in many Zionists' own words -- that the Nazi agenda of expelling the Jews from Germany fit nicely with the Zionist plan for enticing those Jews into settling in Palestine and creating a new Jewish nation.

In addition to introductory and concluding chapters, the book is organized into five sections which lead the reader through early, pre-Zionist documents; pre-Holocaust ideological factions; the Holocaust era itself; and a chapter on the Stern Gang and the Nazis.

Readers should note that a few documents are not indicative of collaboration in and of themselves, but provide the background to others written in response. These latter do indicate levels of collaboration between Zionists and fascists, both the Nazis in Germany, and those in Mussolini's Italy. Brenner's brief explanatory notes at the beginning of each document are helpful, as are the glossary and index.

51 Documents assumes a certain knowledge of Zionist history, and requires a close reading and some deconstructive efforts on the part of the reader. Those willing to commit the time and effort, however, are rewarded with some stunning revelations. The reason some Zionists eschewed the boycott against Hitler's Germany, for instance, is that they had a financial deal -- Ha'avara -- with Germany allowing Jews to exchange their wealth for goods to be exported to Palestine at less of a loss, as an incentive to emigrate. Those wondering why Zionists today are so organized and experienced in their public relations efforts discover that these battles have been fought before. Moreover, the section on Nazi and Zionist understandings of "nationality" versus citizenship reveals how German and Israeli practices are based on the same concept.

51 Documents also sheds a whole new light on the term "Holocaust guilt," frequently understood to mean Western, non-Jewish guilt for not acting against the Holocaust earlier. However, these documents make it clear that Holocaust guilt began with those Zionists who made the undoubtedly difficult, but politically expedient choice to place Eretz-Israel at the top of their priorities, above the lives of their threatened European brethren.

From a Zionist Executive Meeting speech by Yitzhak Gruenbaum on Feb. 18, 1943:

And when some asked me: "Can't you give money from Keren Ha Yesod (Palestine Foundation Fund) to save Jews in the Diaspora?" I said: "No!" And again I say no.... And, because of these things, people called me an anti-Semite, and concluded that I'm guilty, for the fact that we don't give ourselves completely to rescue actions. (p. 211)

However difficult it may be, the reader must confront some rather disturbing conclusions. The most unsettling realization for this reviewer is that pre-Holocaust Zionists were able to politically align themselves with the Nazis because both groups fundamentally saw race as an important dividing line -- and, moreover, were determined to keep it that way. From Vladimir Jabotinsky to Albert Einstein, "assimilation" of Jews into the societies in which they lived was not an acceptable option. Rather, Jewish nationalism required equality on a national level, not a personal one. As Jabotinsky explained, "It is impossible for a man to become assimilated with people whose blood is different from his own" (p. 10); in Einstein's words, "Palestine is first and foremost not a refuge for East European Jews, but the incarnation of a reawakening sense of national solidarity" (p. 29). Finally, David Yisraeli, a member of the Stern Gang, wrote the following in late 1940, as part of a proposal to Hitler. It was delivered in 1941 to two German diplomats in Lebanon.

3. The establishment of the historic Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis, bound by a treaty with the German Reich, would be in the interest of a maintained and strengthened future German position of power in the Near East (p. 301).
Such beliefs, of course, were not limited to Nazis and Zionists. Scientific and philosophical constructs of the day considered such differentiation legitimate, and ideas of racial difference -- and, therefore, racial supremacy -- were practiced around the world.

Another disturbing conclusion a reader must inevitably face is that Zionists learned both tactical and political lessons from the Nazis and that, even today, these lessons are applied to further the Zionist cause. Although most likely known to potential readers of this book, another disturbing element is the cover-up of the less than savory roles of current Israeli leaders, including former prime ministers, in the terrorist Irgun and Stern Gang just before, during, and after the Holocaust. Likewise, the succumbing of various U.S. officials to Zionist pressure is a familiar, but distressing, story.

51 Documents seems to represent a renewed attempt by Brenner to bring information regarding Zionist collaboration with the Nazis to U.S. supporters of Israel, as well as to Jews and Muslims, in order to expand dialogue with knowledge, and save lives -- both Palestinian and Israeli -- in the process. Readers of 51 Documents will find it difficult not to remove the rose colored glasses that so many seem to wear when examining Zionism.

"Bookshelf," Conscience (Catholics for a Free Choice), Spring 2005

Jefferson & Madison On Separation of Church and State:
Writings on Religion and Secularism
Lenni Brenner (Ed.) (Barricade Books, 2004) (456pp.)

Perhaps the most complete recent collection of these two founding fathers' writings on this issue, and one that bears attention as the protections they supported between church and state are constantly assailed.