This volume presents the first product of DFG German-Israeli Research project "Nationaljüdische Jugendbewegung und zionistische Erziehung in Deutschland und Palӓstina zwischen den Weltkriegen". It is published in the wake of the conference "Hachschara und Jugend-Alija in Deutschland und Palästina" held in Schulmuseum Steinhorst, accompanied by an exhibition.
The goal of the project is to explore the educational Zionist enterprise in Germany: To trace the transformative process, experienced among the German-Jewish-Zionist youth in Germany and Palestine. It grew out of dual integrated roots: The German Jugendkultur and the Zionist ideology. The research seeks to view the process within two education projects – Hachshara and Youth Aliya. Hachshara (Hebrew for training) has acquired a special meaning within the Zionist context, pertaining to physical and spiritual training in preparation for Aliya (Ascent; Hebrew term for Jewish immigration to Palestine) and agricultural settlement. Agriculture appeared on the Jewish agenda in Central and Eastern Europe in late 19th century with the goal to transform Jewish occupational structure. Zionism adopted agriculture as the key for national redemption in the Land of Israel.
In the wake of World War One, new horizons opened up for Zionist realization in the national home under the British mandate in Palestine. Growing pressure for Aliya by refugees from turbulent Eastern Europe, led to structuring mandatory and Zionist selective immigration policy favoring young adults prepared for settlement in Palestine. Hachschara became essential key for immigration, and the international Hehalutz (The Pioneer) movement was founded with the goal to establish Hachshara centers. During the 1920s, the bulk demand for hachshara and aliya centered in Eastern Europe. Unlike hachshara, Youth Aliya (Jugend-Alija) originated in Germany, later in time, with the rise of Nazism. It began as a program to prepare youth for Aliya and settlement, and expanded as a major world enterprise under the Jewish Agency for Palestine. Hachshara and Youth Aliya developed and were interwoven in Nazi Germany which justify the combined research presented here.
The volume consists of eight articles, based on vast volumes of newly discovered or first used sources in Germany and Israel. Hachshara is the subject of five articles. Two articles study the Youth Aliya. The last article presents the special exhibition created by the project in the Schulmuseum Steinhorst. Many photos accompany the texts, and a glossary for Hebrew terms is appended.
This volume is a pioneering step in the historiography of Zionism and in particular of German Zionism. Hachshara, Aliya, and Youth Aliya have been studied so far almost entirely from the perspective of the National settlement project in Palestine. The study of German Zionism had quite neglected the hachshara and Youth Aliya. Viewing the Zionist transformative pedagogical process from bottom up, through the prism of youth educational activity and experience, opens up new vistas of the Zionist role and power within German Jewry, and within the general Zionist enterprise. Particularly illuminating is the methodology of most articles, focusing on case studies.
A major achievement of this book lies in exploring hachshara in Germany in the 1920s, when it was marginal both from the Zionist and from the German points of view. It is surveyed in Knut Bergbauer’s article “’Auf eigener Scholle’ .Frühe Hachschara und jüidische Jugendbewegung in Deutschland”, and presented in two case studies: Bernhard Gelderblom in his article “’Ich kann schon nicht mehr die Zeit der Alijah erwarten’. Der Kibbuz Cherut in den Dorfern um Hameln 1926–1930" brings to the fore the many individual young devoted Zionists, scattered in various farms, but holding on to maintaining the group’s spirit, succeeding eventually to join in establishing Kibbutz Yagur. Marco Kissling in his article “Die Anfӓnge der religiösen Hachschara in Deutschland” reveals the persistence of young religious Zionists to establish a religious hachshara farm, against all odds and without much help “from above”. These early Hachshot, based on small independent initiatives by individuals or groups lend a unique mark on the hachshara and settlement project and were crucial in founding the basis for the expansion under the Nazi regime.
Another important innovation, is that the pedagogic enterprise of the Youth Aliya stemmed from German-Jewish pedagogic attitudes and experiences. In her article “Die Jugend-Alija als Herausforderung für das Kinder- und Jugenddorf Ben Schemen” Beate Lehmann reveals the initial step to transform communal social project for mostly Ostjuden orphan children into a pedagogical Zionist project. She hereby reveals the gallery of German Zionists that laid the basis for this transformation, in Germany and in Palestine, in particular Siegfried Lehman, the founder of the youth village Ben-Shemen in 1927. The initial needs and conflicts of the Youth Aliyah in the context of a kibbutz are dealt by Miriam Szamet, in “Das erste Jahr. Ideologische Grundlagen und Perspektiven der Bildung in der Jugend-Alija im vorstaatlichen Israel,” which focuses on the personal story of Ilse Michelsohn, one of a group of teenagers who immigrated to Kibbutz Ein Charod in 1934. This case reveals the conflicts between ideology and reality, between pedagogical considerations and kibbutz economic and social interests.
And last but not least important contribution of this volume relates to the crucial role of the educational initiatives during the hard times of the late 1930s. Hachshara enabled the trainees to spend their remaining time in Germany, before emigration or deportation, in an oasis of creative work, in learning and comradeship of young Jews. For the late historian Avraham Barkai, hachshara was “the happiest time of my life in Nazi Germany.”
What is missing in this volume is the context of give-and-take with the leaderships of the Zionist Organization, the Yishuv (the organized Palestine Jewish community), Labor Zionist and the Kibbutz movement. Leaving them out of the picture creates the wrong impression that hachshara and Youth Aliya in Germany lived and acted on an island.
While the production of the hard copy volume is all but “reader’s friendly” with tiny fonts and heavy paper material, the decision is welcome to put the volume online in a fully open access and free downloadable version. The German language, however, is an obstacle in the potential to reach broad interested audience. A translation would be highly welcome to open this innovative volume for the broad public and academic audience, as it well deserves.
 Hagit Lavsky, Jewish Agricultural Training in Germany: Its Context and Changing Role, in: Tal Alon-Mozes / Irene Aue-Ben-David / Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn (eds.), Jewish horticultural schools and training centers in Germany and their impact on horticulture and landscape architecture in Palestine / Israel, Munich 2020, pp. 13–22.
 Avraham Barkai, Jewish Self-Help in Nazi Germany, 1933–1939: The Dilemmas of Cooperation, in: Francis R. Nicosia / David Scrase (eds.), Jewish Life in Nazi Germany Dilemmas and Responses, New York 2010, pp. 71–88.