In Israel, the name Friedrich Weinreb doesn't mean much to anyone, except for some Dutch people and a handful of historians. But in Holland itself his name has been causing a furor that started at the end of World War II, and continues even today. Books and newspaper articles are still being written about him, and the debate surrounding his activity in the Holocaust has not ended - a debate very reminiscent of the "Kastner Affair" in Israel. His accusers claim that he was a treasonous Jew who tricked thousands of his fellow Jews in order to take money from them, and later even handed over more than others in order to save his own life. His defenders claim that thousands of Jews owe their lives to his talent for tricking the Germans.
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In , shortly after losing his job due to anti-Jewish measures, he started a swindle, telling fellow Jews that the Nazis had permitted him to set up emigration destined for unoccupied France and Portugal.
Three to four thousand Jews paid him to be on his — unfortunately, only imaginary — emigration list. He also managed to deceive the Nazis, collaborating with them in a second imaginary emigration plan that helped the Nazis track down Jews and Jewish valuables. He went into hiding with his family in After the liberation Weinreb was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for swindling and betraying fellow Jews. Some sympathizers regarded him as a second Dreyfus and campaigned for his release.
Owing to Queen Wilhelmina's jubilee he was released in December The debate about his war past began in , when the Dutch-Jewish historian J.
Presser, basing his opinions mostly on Weinreb's voluminous memoirs, declared him an alternative hero who had resisted the Nazis with cunning and deceit. After the publication of Weinreb's memoirs in many journalists, politicians, historians, and critical intellectuals became involved in a public debate.
The dispute split society into Weinreb believers and non-believers, the latter being a minority. In particular, the novelist W. The report issued by the Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie Netherlands Institute for War Documentation determined that he was a fantasizer and swindler, whose memoirs were largely false, and that his collaboration had resulted in 70 deaths. His activities did contribute to some Jews' survival, but most Jews who fell for Weinreb's swindle were deported and killed.
The enigma of Weinreb's beguiling talents is the more interesting because he proved to be a charlatan in other spheres of life as well, conning high-ranking officials of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, leading a group of religious followers from , and being convicted in and for posing as a medical doctor and for sexual offenses. Eventually, to avoid imprisonment, Weinreb left the country in He settled in Switzerland, where he continued to be a religious guru until his death in Weinreb inspired extreme characterizations ranging from "messianic" to "the embodiment of evil.
For a small group of followers Weinreb remains a hero and a guru. In fact, he was both a villain and a victim, and his historical accounts proved a miscellany of fact and fabrication, hardly suitable as a reliable historical source. His memoirs cover the following: on World War II , Collaboratie en Verzet ; on the aftermath, De gevangenis, Herinneringen — ; on religion, De Bijbel als schepping and Ontmoetingen met mensen en engelen religious memoirs; Presser, Ondergang the paragraph on Weinreb was omitted in the English edition ; D.
Giltay Veth, A. Weinreb… ; R. Download our mobile app for on-the-go access to the Jewish Virtual Library.
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Friedrich Weinreb 18 November — 19 October was a Jewish Hassidic economist and narrative author. Weinreb grew up in Scheveningen , Netherlands , to which his family had moved in , and became notorious for selling a fictitious escape route for Jews from the occupied Netherlands in the Second World War. In his memoirs, published in he maintained that his plans were to give Jews hope for survival and that he had assumed that the liberation of the Netherlands would take place before his customers were deported. In an attempt to end this debate, the government asked the Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie Netherlands Institute for War Documentation to investigate the matter. In the institute issued a report of which a part already was leaked to the press in , which determined that his memoirs were "a collection of lies and fantasies,"  and that his collaboration had caused 70 deaths.
The Continuing Mystery of Friedrich Weinreb
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