[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman]
It is an unfortunate reality that, at times, well-meaning people help promote misinformation when trying to make a point. Recently, a Rabbi involved in Kiruv, Rabbi Yoseph Mizrachi, did just that and unleashed a fury by the misinformation he helped promote.
The Rabbi cited statistics that are grossly inaccurate about the assimilation rate in Europe prior to the Nazis. He claimed that there was an astounding 80% assimilation rate. Because of that inaccurate statistic he claimed that a good 5 million of the 6 million Jews that were murdered in the holocaust were not Jewish at all. He, therefore, put the number at 1 million halachic Jews and 5 million non-halachic Jews.
Although perhaps well-meaning, the damage that was wrought was significant as this type of inaccurate conjecturing in a public forum without research ends up vilifying the precious neshamos that were murdered in the holocaust. Holocaust deniers take perverse pleasure in minimizing the numbers and claiming that the Jews are always exaggerating.
Although the Rabbi is correct that assimilation existed, his numbers are significantly off.
The Nazis were notoriously accurate in their research and recordkeeping. According to their own statistics (1939 Reich Census) there were 442,000 Jews left in Germany. Of these Jews, 74.7% were fully Jewish. 16% were mixed of first degree, and a little less than 10% were mixed of second degree. If we assume that the genders intermarried equally, the number of non-halachic Jews were half of the 25 percent. About 12 and ½ percent of German Jews were not halachically Jewish.
Germany was the most assimilated country in Europe. Of the other countries, the assimilation was significantly less, probably less than half that of Germany.
So where did the Rabbi get his 80 percent figure? It is wrong, completely. Certainly, there was skyrocketing assimilation. But of those who married before 1914, only 21.5% of Jews were in a mixed marriage. Which translates to 10 percent of the children of Jewish families married before 1914 were halachically not Jewish. By the year 1932, this had surged to 65.1% – the all-time high. Assuming a standard rate of progression on average for the years between 1914 and 1932 the assimilation rate averaged 43 percent. Thus the amount of non-halachic Jews as a percentage of all German Jews was about 21 percent.
88,000 German Jews were not halachically Jewish if we extrapolate from the careful records of the Nazis themselves.
As the Nazis came to power in 1933, intermarriage in Germany plummeted. By 1939, only 20.6% of new marriages involving Jews were mixed, even less than before World War I. Cutting that in half we get about 10 percent again.
According to the 1939 Reich census, there were about 72,000 Mischlinge of the 1st degree, 39,000 of the 2nd degree.
In terms of the other 5.5 million Jews, we would be safe to assume a rate of less than 5% of Jews not being halachic Jews.
The Rabbi is definitely correct in assuming that a percentage of the six million were not halachically Jewish. The correct figure lies somewhere between three hundred and four hundred thousand who were technically not halachically Jewish. He is wrong on the percentage. He should retract his figures because it is a form of lashon harah on the kedoshim.
May Hashem allow the Rabbi to continue his work in Kiruv, and may we all realize that murder and genocide of any people must be stopped.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: D. Bankier, in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 3, Number 1 (1988); Married to Intolerance: Attitudes towards Intermarriage in Germany, 1900-2006 Nico Voigtländer, Hans-Joachim Voth.
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