Agricultural Training: Escape to the Kibbutz

The “Jüdische Jugendhilfe” (Jewish Youth Aid)  was founded on 30 January 1933 out of a group of Zionist youth organisations. It organised the emigration of young Jewish people to Palestine (Youth Aliyah). The “Jüdische Jugendhilfe” offered young Jewish people a paid education in kibbutzes, which made it possible for thousands to escape from Germany.

After a short preparatory period near Berlin, Ernst Loewy was also found suitable, and his parents signed the contract on 01 March 1936.


Contract between Jüdische Jugendhilfe e.V. Berlin and Ernst Loewy’s parents, 1936 © Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933-1945 der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek, NL Ernst Loewy, EB 95/075.

Ernst Loewy was a German-Jewish librarian, publicist and exile researcher. He was a co-founder and chairman of the “Gesellschaft für Exilforschung” (Society for Exile Research).

As a schoolboy, Ernst Loewy experienced anti-Semitism even before 1933. In autumn 1935, his parents decided that he should leave Germany. After a four-week preparatory period on an agricultural estate near Berlin in December 1935, he was accepted into the Youth Aliyah programme. In April 1936, he arrived at Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim near Jerusalem, where he lived until 1938. He kept in touch with his parents by letter. They were also able to flee to Palestine after the November pogroms.

The Youth Aliyah was founded in 1933 and goes back to the initiative of the resistance fighter and teacher Recha Freier. The aim of the organisation was to bring as many children and young people as possible from National Socialist Germany to Palestine and to involve them in building up the country. This project was based on a strictly religious world view, which was relaxed after the November pogroms due to the humanitarian emergency. From its official start in February 1934 until March 1939, the organisation was able to rescue around 12,000 young people to Palestine. There were also conditions attached to the aid: Parents could not accompany their children to Palestine and were obliged to pay part of the costs of their children’s departure, accommodation and education.

The young people were obliged to receive training in handicrafts, agriculture or horticulture as well as lessons in Palestinian geography and Hebrew. While still in Germany, the preparation of the young people for their later life in Palestine began in educational facilities. At the end of the preparation period, representatives of the Youth Aliyah determined the suitability of the young people. In Palestine, the young people were accommodated in children’s villages or kibbutzim (rural settlements), where they lived together in a large community, attended school or worked in agriculture or handicrafts during their training.


After the USA, Palestine (under the British Protectorate) was the most important host country for Jews from Europe. They were regarded there as citizens for the future construction of a Jewish state. The inclusion of the emigrants was difficult because of the great cultural differences and the fact that they could identify only to a small extent with the desired founding of a state. In addition, there were language barriers. Many immigrants were retrained in agricultural and craft fields, which meant a loss of status for some.

The country pursued a restrictive immigration policy that regulated immigration through quotas. Immigration permits were influenced by the profession, wealth and origin of the potential immigrant. But many also immigrated illegally to Palestine by sea on refugee ships.

By the end of 1938, more than 200,000 Jews had emigrated from Europe to Palestine.


Contract between Jüdische Jugendhilfe e.V. Berlin and Ernst Loewy’s parents, 1936 © Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933-1945 der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek, NL Ernst Loewy, EB 95/075.