The Mandate-era Hebrew press watched with wonder mixed with concern at the unprecedented political phenomenon that surfaced in those years in Germany: the rapid gains of the Nazi party until it took over the government.
Ilana Novetsky-Bendet, a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is researching the Hebrew press’ attitude toward events in Germany from the time of the emergence of the Nazis as a significant political force, until World War II. In Bendet’s master’s thesis, which covers the period up until Hitler’s rise to power, she found that the Hebrew press showed an interest in and followed the growing strength of the Nazis as early as the late 1920s. However, the papers in Palestine had trouble discerning Hitler’s political power and the centrality of the racist component of the party’s ideology.
“The more the party’s electoral power increased, the greater the interest in it,” says Bendet, whose mentor for her doctoral thesis is Prof. Moshe Zimmerman. “But hardly any of the papers grasped the severity of Nazi anti-Semitism.”
Only one paper took a completely contrary position to Hitler’s ascendance: Hazit Ha’am, the journal of the right-wing of the Revisionists. “If the segments of our people draw the appropriate conclusions from the Hitlerism, then we will be able to say that something good came out of a bad situation,” the paper stated a few days after Hitler’s appointment as chancellor.
The paper even praised certain foundations of the Nazi ideology, primarily its fight against communism: “the anti-Semitic husk should be discarded, but not its anti-Marxist inside,” the paper’s editors wrote of Nazism. The praise of Nazism stopped only after the intervention of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who called for “a total end to this abomination.” Around two years later, in 1935, Hazit Ha’am folded.