Since there were a lot of Jews pre WW2 in Germany, and Germany was responsible for the many deaths of Jews during the Holocaust, it seems logical to suggest, that a new Jewish state should maybe be created in Germany. Arab leaders, like the house of Saud at the time seem to have suggested this specific solution (citation: The documentary The House of Saud).

Was something like that ever discussed? Did it gain any traction? Why / Why not?

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    "Arab leaders, like the house of Saud at the time seem to have suggested this specific solution." - [citation needed]
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 10:13
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    Citation: the documentary The House of Saud Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 10:25
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    @Evargalo Absolutely. Such European Jews as had escaped the Holocaust had almost all fled to Britain or America. It would have taken something quite extraordinary to persuade them to go back to Germany which, in any case, lay in ruins.
    – WS2
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 19:26

4 Answers 4


It seems that at least some Western leaders have thought about it, but no such proposal came to the fore because Zionist and Jewish leaders were not interested at all.

According to Jonathan Frankel:

In London in the summer of 1941 to meet with Lord Moyne, the newly appointed secretary of state for the colonies, Ben-Gurion made the question of the millions of Jewish refugees the focus of his discussions. Lord Moyne suggested allotting the refugees a territory in East Prussia once the German were expelled in the wake of victory over Hitler. Ben-Gurion, arguing that, "the only way to get Jews to go [to East Prussia] would be with machine guns", insisted that the only real solution to the problem of the Jewish refugees was to bring them all to Palestine.

Indeed, the statement in the question that "there were a lot of Jews pre WW2 in Germany" isn't correct: about 500.000 Jews were living in Germany in 1933, which amounts to about 3% of worldwide Jewish population at the time, and most of them emigrated before 1939:

Only roughly 214,000 Jews were left in Germany proper (1937 borders) on the eve of World War II.

On the other hand, most Jewish leaders were already tied to Palestina (see Dan Lenski's answer).

  • @Evargalo: Remember that to the Nazis, Jewishness was a matter of ancestry, not an individual's religion or culture. So a person could be tainted as "Jewish" simply because one or more grandparents were. So the non-Jewish Jewish refugees probably had little incentive to move to Israel, or to any other proposed Jewish state.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 17:55
  • @jamesqf I don't think we should make Nazis' definitions ours. AFAICT, the 1933 census that counted 523.000 Jews in January 1933 in Germany defined Jewishness based on religion, not ancestry. There is a possible discussion about how non-Jewish people living in Jewish household were counted (in case of mixed families for instance). I don't know how much non-Jewish people considered Jewish by Nazis would have been interested in the creation of a Jewish state, whether in Palestina, Germany, or anywhere - most probably they are just outside the scope of this question.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 8:03
  • @Evargalo: I don't suggest adopting the Nazi definition, just that we should remember how they thought of things. Though I will note that a lot of politically-correct people seem to adopt similar definitions - people must have certain opinions & behave in certain ways because of their ethnic background.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 16:24

As Evergalo says, Jewish leaders were not at all interested in this idea. Even if they had been (which makes no sense), such a hypothetical state would have been treated as an enemy by the Germans.

There was a common belief in Germany during the latter part of WWII that the Allied bombing was purely revenge for German treatment of the Jews (Source: Germany and the Second World War, volume IX/I, pp. 364-8). This was completely incorrect, but widely believed. Expelling the German population from a significant area of Germany and populating it with Jews would have confirmed that belief in the view of the Germans, making denazification more or less impossible.

There would also have been a continuous conflict, much like the historical Israel-Palestinian conflict, between the Jewish state and the Germans expelled from its territory. Those Germans would have seen an underground Nazi party as their saviours. Really, this wasn't a good idea at all.

The reason that the expulsions of Germans from the east didn't cause such a conflict was that the conflict would have been between German partisans and the Soviet bloc. The partisans would have faced the same fate as the Anti-communist resistance in Poland, but with no potential help from the west.

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    In late 45 "expelling Germans" was standard procedure in quite a few areas of geography, denazification did not depend on German sentiment at all, and "senseless": well, between 250000 and 300000 refugees (I am unsure whether they were all Jewish) did flee to Germany. The disinterested leaders part is key, though! Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 17:16
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    @LangLangC: Few, if any, of those refugees were Jewish. Some were Germans who had been settled in the countries from which they were expelled by the Nazis; some were ethnic Germans who had lived in other countries for years, sometimes generations, the largest group were inhabitants of areas that were being removed from Germany and swarded to other countries. Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 17:39
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    An element in denazification was the demonstration that the Nazis' policies had been wrong from top to bottom. Giving them credibility with a Jewish state on formerly German territory would have given the Nazis credibility. Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 17:42
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    I've read a good deal about this. It's a horrible story. The areas transferred to Poland and the USSR were large (here's a map where the parts marked "Polish" and "Soviet" are the main areas transferred). That was quite a chunk of Germany. The German occupation in the East had been savage, far worse that in the Western areas US/British/French/Canadian troops liberated. The death camps and the Holocaust were the worst part, but there was a lot that was not much less awful. Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 20:13
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    Maybe 15k German Jews survived WW2 in one form of hiding or another. Another 10-15k actually came to settle in Germany after WW2 (in some cases, they were fleeing communist takeover of their former home countries, or because it was too dangerous due to resurgent antisemitism, especially in Poland). The vast majority of surviving German Jews emigrated, mostly to Palestine.
    – Dan Lenski
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 6:47

I'll take a slightly different tack on the second part of your question…

Did [the idea of setting up a Jewish state in defeated Nazi Germany] gain any traction? Why / Why not?

One of the reasons why this idea could not have gained much traction is because Palestine had already become a major center of Jewish population, society, and power by the time the Nazis came to power in Germany.

There was significant demographic momentum and political will to establish a Jewish state in Palestine before World War II and the Holocaust, and these only increased with the flood of survivors who wanted to get the hell out of Europe during and immediately after the war.

Per demographer Sergio DellaPergola (screenshotted from this Wikipedia article), the Jewish population of Palestine had reached about 175,000 in 1931, before the Nazi takeover:

enter image description here

At the end of WW2, Tel Aviv (founded 1909) had an overwhelmingly Jewish population of about 200,000, the ancient port city of Haifa was almost 50% Jewish, and Mandate Palestine was dotted with kibbutzim and moshavim — many of them founded during a wave in the 1920s, but some older.

Basically all of the prominent political and military leaders of post-independence Israel had roots in Palestine extending well before WW2: David Ben-Gurion immigrated to Ottoman Palestine in 1906, Levi Eshkol immigrated in 1914, Moshe Dayan was born on a kibbutz in 1915, BenZion Netanyahu — father of Bibi — immigrated in 1920, Yitzhak Rabin was born in Jerusalem in 1922, Ariel Sharon was born on a moshav in 1928, Shimon Peres immigrated in 1934… and President Yitzhak Navon's ancestors had lived in Jerusalem for 2-300 hundred years before he was born there in 1921. I point all of these out as evidence that there was a well-established power structure and political establishment of Jews in Palestine before WW2. If there hadn't been, we would expect to see a lot more wartime and post-war immigrants to Israel among its early leaders… but we simply don't.

Obviously, no one was talking about establishing a Jewish state in Germany as Jews were being murdered en masse by Nazis. It's hard to figure out exactly how many Jewish refugees immigrated to Palestine during the war, but 100-200,000 seems like a good guess. The British Mandate severely restricted Jewish immigration starting in 1939, leading to armed rebellion by Jews in Palestine and organized, clandestine networks to bring Jews there.

Following the liberation of the Nazi death camps (1944-1945) and V-E Day (May 1945) still nobody was thiking about establishing a Jewish state in Germany. The western allies, to a large extent, were consumed with finishing off the war in the Pacific, and confronting Soviet expansion. Many survivors of the Holocaust returned to their homes in Eastern Europe, but were soon confronted with renewed violence at the hands of their erstwhile neighbors; this was particularly severe in Poland, culminating in the 1946 Kielce pogrom in which over 40 Jews were killed. After these events, Jewish survivors felt unsafe throughout Europe, and immigration to Palestine accelerated, aided by the clandestine Bricha movement which brought around 250,000 Holocaust survivors to Palestine in 1946-48.

So, to summarize, no one with a significant stake in the outcome or political clout considered setting up a Jewish state in defeated Nazi Germany because…

  1. Jewish immigration to Palestine was moving at a steady clip before the Nazis came to power, as was the political movement to found a Jewish state there (the Balfour Declaration had been signed in 1917).
  2. Hundreds of thousands of European Jews fled the Nazi regime and the Holocaust between 1933 and 1945. Few countries would accept them, especially once the war began, and Palestine was a logical place to attempt to flee to.
  3. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, renewed antisemitic violence in Europe convinced hundreds of thousands of surviving Jews to flee. Zionist settlers in Palestine had become organized and strong enough to defy the British Mandate authorities and bring hundreds of thousands of Jews there.
  4. During the Nazi era (1933-1945), the Jewish population of Palestine increased by several hundred thousand through immigration, while the Jewish population of Germany decreased by almost half a million through emigration and mass murder. The "momentum" for founding a Jewish state was towards Palestine, and away from Germany, in every possible respect.
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    I would go a bit further on one point. Not only was no one talking about setting up a Jewish state in Germany, no one other than the Jews seemed to be talking about setting up a Jewish state at all. As you say, they had other things on their mind. There's also the question of whether the Jews who wanted a Jewish state would have found any place other than Israel acceptable, for obvious historical reasons. Those Jews who didn't care about statehood often emigrated from Europe to other countries on their own.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 5:28
  • Mostly agree… Britain had been talking about setting up a Jewish state since the 1917 Balfour Declaration, however. Pretty much every identifiable, stateless national/ethnic/religious group in the last 150 years has tried to get its own state, typically without anyone much caring other than claimants to the same land. Mostly, Jewish refugees who emigrated to places other than Israel were the ones who had the money, luck, and connections to do so; I've heard of extraordinarily few who avoided going to Palestine simply because they were indifferent or opposed to Zionism.
    – Dan Lenski
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 6:36
  • To be absolutely precise: the Balfour declaration mentions a "national home", not a "state".
    – fdb
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 11:49
  • @fdb, true. In practice, over the course of the 20th century pretty much all nationalism steadily turned into desires, demands, and plans for nation-states specifically. I don't think the movement for a Jewish state was particularly novel in this regard. Even as late as the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Zionist leaders in principle accepted that the key city of Jerusalem would be internationalized and would not be part of a nation-state.
    – Dan Lenski
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 15:47
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    @Dan Lenski: As I understand it (though I admit I'm no expert) the original vision of a Jewish homeland in Israel (the Israel of antiquity) included the Palestinian inhabitants as equal partners, thus the rather utopian vision of Jerusalem as an international city. That vision foundered on Arab hostility...
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 19:26

This is more a comment, but the question is vague and it's hard to discuss things which did not happen.

Such a state built on grief and revenge would have been incredibly weak and would have soon fallen prey to the Soviet Union. The scenario is similar to the Morgenthau plan which was already dismissed in 1944 because of this.

In contrary, the Western Allies needed a strong, heavily millitarized front state against communism. That was the motivation to rebuild West Germany as quick as possible, promote the local weapons industry and make it join the Western Allies as quickly as 1952.

The Soviet Union mirrored the move and ended their revenge politics on East Germany shortly after the war for the very same reason. They also needed a strong front state.

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    creating a front state to oppose the USSR was NOT a motivation for the UK and USA to enter WW2. Please stop trying to spread revisionist history like that.
    – jwenting
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 9:08
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    "That was the motivation for WWII after all." Seriously ? citation needed, to the very least.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 9:08
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    The edit improves things a little, but 1. Germany started WWII two years before Operation Barbarossa 2. Even the motivations for the war against USSR were more complex than "to stop the spread of communism".
    – Evargalo
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 13:31
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    @Janka : your statement is still debatable, but even if we were to accept that "German elites helped Hitler to gain power for fear of communism" this is not the same as "fear of communism was the German motivation for WWII" as in your answer. If anything, German elites had little to gain and a lot to lose in a war. And "West German (...) military had been ridiculously big during the cold war." is another very surprising statement that you offer without any source.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 14:28
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    @JMS The very active military role the Bundeswehr did play was preparing to die first in World War III; as an "army in being" during the cold war. // But that has nothing to do with the actual question here. I'd much prefer to chat about this or perhaps spin off this into a separate question on this site? Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 17:43

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