Original image

Did Nazis and Zionists Temporarily Join Forces?

Original image

Ed. note: Because the article covers a controversial topic, and a rightfully emotional subject, many readers have been asking for our editorial sources. While we've double-checked many of the facts in multiple places, the primary sources for the text are listed below the body copy. 
By Erik Sass

Cue The Odd Couple theme song. During the 1930s, Nazis and Zionists joined together with a common goal—getting the Jews out of Europe.

The Nazi agenda always included ridding Germany of its Jews, but it didn't always include mass murder. Prior to 1939, before the outbreak of World War II, the plan was to get Germany's 500,000 Jews to leave voluntarily.

This task fell primarily to Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Schutzstaffel (SS), Hitler's security guard. Initially opposed to the idea of mass murder, Himmler once described genocide as "un-Germanic and impossible." In search of an alternative, Himmler and his colleagues brainstormed locations to send the Jews. But due to widespread anti-Semitism at the time, welcoming nations were in short supply.

In 1936, Himmler received counsel from Edler von Mildenstein, a well-educated member of Germany's covert intelligence service. A Nazi who rejected anti-Semitism, von Mildenstein had connections in the Zionist movement, which encouraged Jews worldwide to "return" to Palestine—then a de facto British colony. Von Mildenstein believed Zionism offered a perfect solution to Germany's "Jewish Question."
On the surface, the Zionists and Nazis couldn't have been more at odds. Zionism was an attempt to rescue Jews from a long history of European persecution, while the Nazi movement represented its most barbaric manifestation. Yet, they shared some surprising common ground. Extremists in both groups believed Jews were a separate race that shouldn't mix blood with non-Jews. In other words, they believed Jews would be better off living separately, without the temptation of intermarriage. Also, they both loathed the British. During World War I, Great Britain defeated Germany and took control of Palestine—and then blocked Jewish immigration there.
But the real trick wasn't overcoming British resistance, it was convincing German Jews to go to Palestine in the first place. Even in the face of unrelenting persecution, most Jews were hesitant to flee Germany for Palestine. So, the Nazi party teamed up with the Zionists to launch a coordinated propaganda campaign. Zionists from Palestine came to Germany to teach Hebrew and display the blue-and-white Zionist flag. And an editorial in the Schwarze Korps, the official newspaper of the SS, proudly proclaimed, "Before long, Palestine will again be able to accept its sons who have been lost for over 1,000 years. Our good wishes and official goodwill go with them."


By 1937, only about 24,000 German Jews had left for Palestine, prompting the Nazis to double their efforts. To help coordinate the Nazi-Zionist project, von Mildenstein recruited 30-year-old Adolf Eichmann, who'd been spinning his wheels in the SS.
Eichmann wasn't the sharpest tack in the Nazi drawer, but he was a hard worker who knew how to get people's attention. He reached out to the top leadership of the Hagana, the real power behind the Zionist movement. Founded by the first Zionist settlers in 1920, the Hagana smuggled Jews past British patrols and actively (sometimes violently) sought to protect Jewish interests.

In February 1937, Eichmann arranged a meeting in Berlin with Feivel Polkes, a high-level Hagana commander. In exchange for encouraging Jews to leave Germany, Polkes asked the Nazis to relocate Jews to Palestine. Eichmann agreed. During this period, the harsh truth is that both sides felt increased persecution of the Jews would benefit their causes. During a second meeting later that year in Cairo, Polkes confirmed that the Hagana leaders were pleased with Nazi policies because more Jews were coming to Palestine. By 1939, another 36,000 Jews had moved there from Germany.

Friends Become Enemies

Of course, the strange partnership was doomed from the beginning. Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939 launched World War II and, as fighting spread throughout Europe, Jewish emigration became impossible.
Meanwhile, the Nazis explored other ways to rid themselves of the Jews. With Eichmann in charge, they began herding the Jewish population into ghettos to await the death camps. Serving as the head of transportation during the war, Eichmann played a key role in finding and deporting Jewish communities from all across Europe.
Picture 232.pngAfter World War II, the U.S. military captured Eichmann, but he managed to elude authorities long enough to escape in 1946 and flee to Argentina. In 1960, however, the Israeli secret service (composed of former Hagana members) captured Eichmann and smuggled him back to Israel. There, he was put on trial and found guilty of crimes against humanity. On May 31, 1962, Eichmann was hanged in Israel—the country he helped create for all the wrong reasons.

Editorial sources:

Hohne, Heinz. The Order of the Death's Head. The Story of Hitler's SS. Penguin, 1966, reprint 2000: pgs. 324-352 (chapter 13)

>> (In his book, Hohne cites the following microfilm copies of Nazi correspondence, including letters and reports by Eichmann and his colleague Herbert Hagen to their superiors in 1937, which can also be found at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.: "Records of the Reich Leader of the SS and Chief of the German Police [RFSS]. Microfilm Publication T-175. 678 rolls.")

State of Israel Ministry of Justice. The Trial of Adolf Eichmann: Record of Proceedings in the District Court of Jerusalem. Jerusalem: Trust for the Publication of the Proceedings of the Eichmann Trial, in cooperation with the Israel State Archives and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, 1992-1995.

>> (Hannah Arendt also recounts Eichmann's testimony in Jerusalem, in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. At his trial, Eichmann recounted the meetings with Polkes and his journey to Palestine and Egypt in 1937. The judges believed him but said it was an "espionage" mission.)

Eichmann Interrogated: Jochen von Lang, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1983. Contains the full transcript of his interrogation by the Israeli police, which lasted 275 hours. Eichmann was interrogated by Captain Avner W. Less, a German Jew who had survived the Holocaust.

Relevant parts of these are available online via Google Books:

Cesarani, David. Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes, and Trial of a Desk Murderer. Da Capo Press, 2006: pgs. 7-10.

Lozowick, Yaacov. Hitler's Bureaucrats: The Nazi Security Police and the Banality of Evil. Translated by Haim Watzman. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003: pgs. 26-27.

Nicosia, Francis R. The Third Reich & the Palestine Question. Transaction Publishers, 2000: pgs. 62-64.

Original image
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Original image
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
Original image
Getty Images
40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
Original image
Getty Images

Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


More from mental floss studios