A Jewish settlement in Australia

Material Information

A Jewish settlement in Australia
Steinberg, Isaac Nachman, 1888-1957
GAster, Theodor Herzl, 1906-
Place of Publication:
New York City
Freeland League
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
15 p. : map ; 22 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Jews -- Australia -- Kimberley (W.A.) ( lcsh )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


General Note:
Cover title.
Statement of Responsibility:
by I.N. Steinberg ; translated by Theodore H. Gaster.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
029735407 ( ALEPH )
31917711 ( OCLC )
AEJ8205 ( NOTIS )

Full Text
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The project of establishing a Jewish settlement in Australia
is of twofold origin. Partly, it is a continuation of the old-time
Jewish Territorialist movement-the movement with which the
name of Israel Zangwill was so closely identified and of which
the Freeland League is a further development. Partly-or per-
haps mainly-it springs from the tragic present situation of
the Jewish people and from the desperate necessity of pro-
viding some means of escape for the millions who have been
affected by the Hitler regime.

This is not the place to enter into a general discussion of
the Territorialist philosophy. It is sufficient, for present pur-
poses, to refer to the abject terror in which the broad masses
of European Jewry are today living under the New Order, and
to the uncertainty and instability which surrounded their
existence in places like Poland even before the emergence of
Hitler. Everywhere the crying need has been for the possibility
of emigration; the watchword has been "visa".



In the past, Jews have emigrated in two ways. On the one
hand, they have left their homelands as individuals, and sought
admission to countries where the economic order was already
well-developed. In that case, however, they have had to face
the factor of competition and usually to put up a hard fight in
order to establish themselves and their families. To be sure,
they are willing to do so again but they need passports.
Countries must be willing to receive them.
The second method is' that of organized, collective coloniza-
tion in Palestine. To a large extent, this method has proved
successful. The immigrants have been received in friendly
fashion, and a Jewish mode of life has been systematically
built up. The problems of the individual immigrant have been
largely eliminated. Nevertheless, at the present moment the
prospects of further development along these lines are bleak
indeed; the Palestinian sky, as everyone knows, is politically
Comes the problem, therefore, of finding some open space
in the world, some undeveloped but not unpromising land, where
Jews can settle with some hope for the future, a land whose
economic system has still to be built up, where competition is
at a minimum and opportunity at a maximum. It is this prob-
lem which the Freeland League seeks to solve. It seeks to end
the old, inadequate method whereby the only escape for millions
of oppressed Jews was by way of individual passports, permits
and certificates. It seeks to create a Jewish land.

The Freeland League was inspired, in the first place, by
the situation of the Jews in Poland immediately before the
present war. Small groups of young "pioneers" were founded
in Warsaw; and in 1988 a Jewish colony was established at
Vilna on the model of the 'Chaluzim settlements. At that time,
however, although everyone was dreaming of some ultimate
Jewish land, no one was yet in a position to say where it might
be located, though even then Australia was sometimes men-
tioned as a possibility. One thing, at any rate, was clear: the
persecuted Jewish masses were not interested in abstract terri-
torialist ideas; what they wanted was that someone 'should
point out to them a definite territory to which they could emi-
grate and where they might have the possibility of building an
economically and culturally healthy Jewish life.

After careful investigation, it appeared to the Freeland
League that such a territory existed in East Kimberley, a
province of Western Australia. There were several factors
which influenced this choice. First, the area in question is wide
enough to absorb large numbers of immigrants, if necessary.
Second, it is but sparsely populated, so that there would be no
question of friction or conflict with established inhabitants.
Third, it offers possibilities of sound economic development with
a decent standard of living; it possesses sufficient water and
fertile soil, and the climate (political as well as physical) is
propitious. Last, but by no means least, the government is
democratic and progressive.
The territory under consideration occupies some seven
million acres (about 10,800 square miles). It is roughly the
size of Belgium, and is merely one portion of the huge province
of East and West Kimberley, an area which comprises al-
together 135,000 square miles. At the present moment, the area
in view serves as pastureland for some 40,000 heads of cattle;
but its population is sparse, consisting of a handful of white
persons and a few hundred colored natives. The climate is
tropical, but mild and not torrid, and water-as stated-is
plentiful. In a word, it is a region which cries out for
Stimulated by preliminary reports and aided by a council
of prominent British Jews, the Freeland League decided to
send out a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the economic
possibilities of the region and the attitude of the government
and the people towards the project of Jewish settlement. (The
former, it was noted, had issued favorable pronouncements on
the subject after the German pogrom of 1938.) Accordingly,
in May, 1939, the writer proceeded to Perth, capital of Western
The first thing that struck him as he started to survey the
field, was the sympathy with which the project was greeted by
the working class. The Labor government of Western Australia
was likewise well-disposed. At his very first interview, Premier
Willcock stated explicitly that they had "no prejudices" against
a Jewish settlement in their country, provided only that settlers
would be self-supporting and not subsequently become a public

charge. The government requested, further, that the writer,
together with experts, conduct a thorough investigation of the
Kimberley area with a view to determining the possibility of
maintaining a stable existence there.
The survey was duly conducted over a period of several
weeks, and the conclusion was reached that "the land would
take care of its inhabitants." It possesses, to be sure, its own
peculiarities and is different, both in setting and climate from
the more familiar European countries. Nevertheless,. it is a
fertile and-as the estate agents would say-"highly desirable"
plot. All it needs is labor, capital, scientific planning and the
inspiration of corporate endeavor.

The first question is naturally that of climate and health
conditions. The very mention of the phrase "tropical" is apt
to create misgiving. How, it is asked, can white men expect to
live in a tropical climate? The answer is that "tropical" does
not mean what the man-in-the-street thinks it means. Tropical
climates vary so much from country to country, that one has
to pose one's question not generally, but specifically. If, then,
it be asked whether the particular tropical climate of East
Kimberley is suited to white colonization, the answer is un-
equivocally, yes. And this is not a snap judgment, made for
partisan reasons. On the contrary, it is based on the practical
experience of men who have lived in the country, and on the
sober opinion of experts. Thus, on December 16, 1941, Dr. A.
P. Davis, who had spent many years in East Kimberley, de-
clared at Perth that a community of white men there would
have for its home "a country which is free from all the major
tropical diseases and which, from the point of view of health,
will bear favourable comparison with any other tropical coun-
try in the world." Similarly, Professor J. A. Prescott, head of
the leading institute for agricultural research in Australia,
reported in 1940, after a personal inspection of the area in
view, the following: "I have no doubt that Europeans could
adapt themselves to such climatic conditions. This area is
exceptionally well placed with respect. to the distribution of
useful soils."
The writer had the same impression. He was enchanted by
the landscape that stretched for hundreds of miles before his
eyes. Grasses as high as man'; thousands of cattle grazing
freely; countless swarms of birds above our heads and grace-
fully jumping kangaroos around us; streams teeming with fish

and crocodiles-all this was proof of the limitless abundance
of life. As a matter of fact, the soil is well-irrigated by the
Ord and Victoria rivers; and while it is true that for a few
months in the year (from November to March), during the
season of the summer rains, the atmosphere is very hot and
humid, this does not mean that all life then withers. On the
contrary, it is at this time of year that nature flourishes.
During these months, for instance, working hours have to be
changed, to start at 5:00 A.M., allow for a siesta between
eleven and four o'clock and resume until 7:00 P.M. Houses
would have to be built on special architectural patterns, and
there would also have to be changes in clothes and habits.

Mutatis mutandis, the situation is no worse than in Siberia.
There it is a question of cold, here of heat. But just as in
Siberia man has reconciled himself to nature by such devices
as "central heating," so can he also reconcile himself in East
Kimberley by systems of "central cooling."


On the basis of its combined inquiry and experience, the
Freeland League commission drew up, in due course, a con-
sidered plan for the prospective settlement. The plan envisaged
what is known technically as mixed colonization, looking to-
wards the creation of a varied many-sided and all-embracing
economy and to the concomitant development of tropical agri-
culture and pastoral industry. What was envisaged was an
agro-industrial colonization.

The main article of food would be maize, rather than
wheat; while the abundance of cattle would make dairy-farming
a profitable venture. Moreover, on the basis of the primary
industries and their raw materials, it would be possible to build
up a quite extensive secondary industry, so that settlers would
not be forced, as the only implied condition of their immigra-
tion, to "go on the land." In this last connection, the proximity
of the area to the Indian Ocean, Java and the densely popu-
lated continent of Asia is a factor which should be taken
especially into account.

Obviously, this plan can be best accomplished on cooperative
lines, and the cooperative principle would therefore play a
salient role. Moreover, it would at the same time serve the
secondary end of promoting the necessary spirit of joint

The government of Western Australia adopted the plan
submitted to it. The following are its chief points:
1-The proposed settlement should not become a separate
political entity. On the contrary, its inhabitants would
become Australian citizens and it would be integrated
both politically and economically with the political and
economic structure of the Commonwealth.
2-Apart from the superior powers as may be vested in the
Government, the colonists shall exercise control over their
economic and cultural affairs, it being understood es-
pecially that the settlement shall be free to develop such
spiritual and religious forms of life as shall be in
accord with its cultural traditions.
3-The initial pioneering phases of the proposed coloniza-
tion shall be conducted under the auspices of the Free-
land League or of a special Jewish Colonization Society.
The League shall be responsible for the selection of the
colonists and for the development of the settlement in
such an effective way that there should be no serious
incentive for leaving it.
4-The economy of the settlement shall be scientifically
planned for several years in advance, to the end that
successive contingents of colonists shall be engaged at
once in clearly defined and determined programs of
work. The planning shall be directed towards the two-
fold objective of
a) avoiding waste of manpower and materiel within
the settlement, and
b) avoiding harmful competition with the existent
population of Australia.

Following its adoption of the plan, the government of
Western Australia suggested that the next step be taken of
approaching the Commonwealth Government in Canberra with
a view to obtaining its endorsement of the project. The Free-
land League decided, however, that such official overtures
should be preceded by a canvass of public opinion. Australia

is a democratic country, with a democratic press which watches
vigilantly its government's every move. It therefore appeared
both useless and dangerous to seek government approval of so
novel a project without first testing the reaction of the masses.

In practice this involved a long-term campaign of system-
atic propaganda directed towards every section of the popula-
tion. It had to be brought home to the ordinary people of the
Commonwealth that this was not only a humanitarian plan for
helping an oppressed people, but at the same time a construc-
tive economic project which would be of benefit to themselves.
An appeal had to be made not only to their charity, but also to
their self-interest. In Perth, in Melbourne, in Sydney, and in
Tasmania, workers, merchants, manufacturers, scholars and
clergymen had to be shown that the proposed settlement would
be of value not only to the Jews but to the country itself. Only
thus would the road be clear to Canberra.

In order to understand the purely Australian aspect of the
Kimberley project it is necessary to review briefly certain
cardinal changes which have occurred during recent years in
that country's world-position. Under the combined influence ot
the capitalist and working classes, the Australian masses have
attained an enviable economic position. Since the beginning of
the present century, the government, under pressure of the
workers, has pursued a policy of restricted immigration, limit-
ing the number of whites and altogether excluding colored per-
sons; while at the same time progressively increasing tariffs
have served to arrest the competition of foreign industry. These
two measures have provided effective protection both employer
and worker alike, and have helped to create a high standard
of living throughout the country.

Today, however, Australia is in a peculiar position. On the
one hand, she fears lest the expansion of her industry which
has occurred as a result of the war be not maintained in the
future, and lest some branches may have to close down for
want of a foreign market. Until comparatively recent times she
enjoyed a fairly secure position in the world of international
commerce as an essentially agricultural country, exporting such
things as wheat, meat and wool. Today,. however, even this is
of doubtful tenure. Other countries-especially England-have
meanwhile developed an agricultural economy of their own
rendering them less dependent upon Australian exports.

On the other hand, however, Australia is looking forward
to the day when after the defeat of Japan, she may emerge as
one of the major powers of the Pacific area and exercise pro-
tective control over this portion of the globe. Such ideas were
expressed in a recent speech of Dr. V. Evatt, Minister of
External Affairs, before the Australian Parliament. He stressed
the fact that "from now on Australia must partake in the
shaping of international events, not only in the Pacific but also
in Europe. Australians have now realized how intimately their
security is bound up to all of South-West Asia, and how her
future peace depends on the islands around her North Coast
becoming barriers against aggressors."
Thus, whichever way one looks at it, Australia's problem
is one of under-population. The country needs millions more
inhabitants before it can build up a domestic market sufficiently
strong to ensure security for industry, labor or rural life. The
more she loses her insularity and isolation, the more she is
absorbed into the general stream of international politics, the
more she requires internal development-and at a rapid pace,
since time is of the essence, and the menace of eventual Japa-
nese competition will remain even after the war.
But how is she to secure these necessary millions? Obvious-
ly, she cannot rely on mere natural increase, nor on large-scale
immigration of "pioneers" from England. Australia can write
off British immigration here and now, while the admission, in
any large degree, of nationals of other states, like Germany,
Italy or China, appears to her to be fraught with the danger
of potential imperialist ambitions. There is thus but one ele-
ment to which the country may look for replenishment of its
manpower-the European refugees, and particularly the Jews.
Today the whole question of immigration stands in a different
light from, say, five years ago. As Professor Copeland, finan-
cial adviser to the Commonwealth Government, has recently
observed: "Australia may need a break with certain traditions,
and the surrender of certain cherished beliefs which belong to
the time when Australia felt she had sufficient security to
insist upon a policy to which the rest of the world did not
readily subscribe. That feeling of security has been shattered
by recent events, and she would have to make some revision
of her external responsibilities."
In point of fact, the Australian people has proved by no

means insensible to these needs. The proof of this is the warm
welcome which it has given to the Kimberley project-a wel-
come which is not entirely due to humanitarian considerations.
Especially striking, in this respect, has been the attitude of the
trade unions, the backbone of the national life. On April 6,
1943, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions (Central
organization of the Trade Unions in Australia), one of the
mainstays of the present Labor government, declared in the
name of its million members, that "it has had many conferences
with Dr. Steinberg and has supported the Kimberley project
for the transference of refugee European Jews to the settle-
ment. We might point out (the official statement added) that
the Kimberley area lies in the temperate zone of the country,
so that the success of the colony is reasonably assured."

Similar was the declaration of the Sydney Labor Council,
representing some 300,000 workers: "We wish you every suc-
cess in the endeavors to establish in the Kimberleys a haven
for the victims of Fascist ferocity that compelled them to leave
their homelands, and we hope the settlement will be an estab-
lished fact in the very near future."

Other social circles took up the same attitude. On February
27, 1943 the leaders of the three Christian denominations in
Australia addressed an open letter to Prime Minister Curtin
idrging "a decision from the government in answer to the re-
quest that a considerable area in Australia be set apart as soon
as circumstances permit for a Jewish refugee settlement." "The
matter," said these churchmen, "is immediately urgent in view
of the recent threats of the German government." Particularly
noteworthy in this connection are the words of Bishop Pilcher:
"More important than anything else are the moral and Chris-
tian aspects of the Jewish Kimberley project. Australia has
now an opportunity before all the world, of alleviating in some
measure the indescribable sufferings of those many thousands
whom Hitler has rendered homeless."

Expressions of sympathy were received also from univer-
sity professors, lord mayors of the larger cities, and presidents
of the chambers of commerce; while the leading press also was
markedly favorable to the project. In the earlier part of 1943
special "Committees of friends of the Kimberley plan" were
established at Sydney and Melbourne. In their public appeals
they stated:

"Today, more than ever before, Australia should ac-
knowledge her increased moral and political responsibilities
to the world at large, and extend all possible aid to perse-
cuted peoples. Patriotism can no longer be confined to one
country; it has a higher and'wider implication, which in-
cludes every activity calculated to rebuild justice and
order The opportunity to help in the rehabilitation of
homeless people will be as great in Australia as in any
country in the world; and the approval by the Federal
Government of the proposal to form a Jewish. settlement in
the Kimberleys would be an indication that we are not
unmindful of that opportunity."
It is pertinent to add in this place that Australia is singu-
larly free of the antisemitic virus. This does not mean, of
course, that all of its inhabitants are lily-white paragons of
virtue, or that sporadic expressions of antisemitism do not occa-
sionally break out here and there. There is, however, no such
thing as an organized antisemitic movement. The reason is very
simple. For the 150 years of its existence the country has
suffered neither war, revolution nor counter-revolution within
its border, and has thus escaped one of the major causes of
internecine bitterness and strife. Moreover, it is so large and
so obviously capable of economic expansion, that the fear of
competition-another potent source of antisemitism-is fortu-
nately absent. The moment is thus peculiarly auspicious for the
Jewish migrants to unite with the other elements of the popu-
lation on a basis of mutual help and interest. It would be a
major historical blunder if they failed to do so.
Following an initial campaign of propaganda, the Kimber-
ley project was finally submitted to the Federal Government at
the end of 1941, but military considerations have temporarily
postponed action upon it. It seems, however, that it ties in
well with larger plans of post-war reconstruction now being
envisaged by the administration. During the elections of August
1943, for instance, Prime Minister Curtin declared significantly,
in speaking of the northern portions of the country, that "Aus-
tralia could not discharge its important role without population.
We have to double or treble our present seven millions. Even
that will not be sufficient because it will be relatively small in
number to the millions which are so close to us." Nevertheless,
it must be realized clearly that the Kimberley project involves

effort; it will not develop automatically. It must be backed by
the solid weight of public opinion, non-Jewish as well as Jewish,
if it is ever to be included in the general plan of world-recon-
struction. But at least the ground has been laid.
And here we would stop, but for certain obvious objections
which would seem to demand an answer.
It has been objected, for instance, that the Kimberley pro-
ject might envisage a settlement of only 50-100,000 Jews and
that this can scarcely be expected to exercise any appreciable
influence on Jewish life in general. The answer, however, is
crystal clear: there is no telling in advance to what extent the
Settlement may ultimately grow. Who would have guessed, fifty
years ago, that Jewish Palestine would ever have developed to
what it is today? And who could have envisaged that within the
same brief space of time the most prosperous Jewish community
in the world would have developed, here in the United States,
out of the homeless and dispossessed multitudes of Eastern
European Jewry? Moreover, it must be remembered that after
the war there will be considerable development in the Pacific
area, so that migration to Australia will be a very different
thing from what it was in the past. Australia is the one white
country in what will be a thriving new portion of the globe,
alive with infinite possibilities, as was America when it first
attracted immigrants.
Again, it is objected that the Kimberley plan plays into the
hands of those who would reject Jewish claims to Palestine.
This argument, however, is scarcely valid. The whole question
of Jewish claims to Palestine has already become a major issue
of international politics, and quite other considerations will
determine its solution. Moreover, it should be emphasized that
the Kimberley project is by no means exclusive; it does not
exclude the creation of a Jewish state in the other part of the
world. It seeks rather to answer an immediate need, and that
need can no longer wait upon the uncertainties of the Palestine
situation. Even if a Jewish state should ultimately be estab-
lished in the Holy Land, thousands upon thousands of Jews will
need a haven before that time.
Lastly, it has been objected that the Kimberley project
demands an idealism which cannot be expected. How, it is
asked, can a region like Kimberley awaken such romantic na-
tional feelings, such a wiillingness for self-sacrifice, as can
Palestine. or as could the rejuvenation of Jewish life in Poland.

To be sure, it cannot; but that does not mean that it cannot
inspire hopes and aspirations of another kind. After all, settle-
ment in Kimberley would offer a man the chance not only of
saving his life, but also of building an active and creative,
Jewish future. It would hold out to him the hope of building
a communal life on a basis of political freedom and social co-
operation, of laying the groundwork for a galvanization of the
Jewish spirit and genius. Surely these are possibilities enough
to set the imagination afire.
A people's idealism does not spring from a single source.
That, indeed, is our consolation today. It manifests itself
equally among the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto and among
those who defend the Jewish colonies in the Holy Land. And
when the time comes to bind up our wounds, and to restore the
wreckage of our lives, this deep-seated idealism will well to the
surface among all elements of Jewry, among the settled and
established communities and among those that roam the earth
in search of home. For in a heroic people idealism is indivisible.

The FREELAND LEAGUE is an organization with one

specific aim: to create, by means of large-scale, concentrated

colonization, a Jewish settlement in some unoccupied area;

a settlement for all those Jews, who are forced to seek a new

home, or who do not want to remain in their present homes.

The Jewish people need a large place, a territory, where

the Jewish wanderer would be admitted freely and where- he

could build a Jewish life on healthy foundations.

The FREELAND LEAGUE has already contacted the

government authorities in AUSTRALIA to receive permission

for a concentrated Jewish colonization in the EAST KIM-

BERLEY region of Western Australia.

It is essential that men and women of all sections of the

Jewish population in this country should become members of

the FREELAND LEAGUE and work for the realization of its




Cut out application on (other side) and send it in immediately.

To the Freeland League for Jewish Territorial Colonization
1819 Broadway, New York 23, N. Y.

Date ......... ...................

I agree with the aims and purposes of the FREELAND
LEAGUE and desire to become a member with an annual

subscription of $... ..........................

I am enclosing the sum of $.......................................

N A M E ..................................................................................................................

A D D R E SS .... ...........................................................................................

CITY ...................... ... ............... ... ............................................

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