Alonei Abba - History - Waldheim

Waldheim

Alonei Abba was formerly known as Waldheim (German: "Forest Home"), a colony founded in 1907 by German Christians affiliated with the Prussian evangelical church on land purchased from the fellaheen village of Umm al-Amed. The purchase price of 170,000 francs was financed by a Haifa-based bank Darlehenskasse der deutschen evangelischen Gemeinde Haifa GmbH (Loan Bank of the Haifa Evangelical Congregation Ltd.) and completely refinanced by the Stuttgarter Gesellschaft zur Förderung der deutschen Ansiedlungen in Palästina (Stuttgart-based Company for the promotion of the German colonies in Palestine). The colony comprised 7,200,000 square meters (7,200 dunams).

Most of the colonists came from the German Colony (Haifa), which was founded by the Templers. In 1874 the Temple Society underwent a schism and envoys of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia's older Provinces successfully proselytised among the schismatics. Thus the Haifa German Colony became home to two Christian denominations and their congregations. While in Germany the Templers were regarded sectarians, the Evangelical proselytes gained major financial and ideological support from German Lutheran and United church bodies. This created an atmosphere of mistrust and envy among the German colonists in Haifa. Due to population increase and the ongoing urbanisation of Haifa, they searched for land to found new monodenominational colonies. Thus the Evangelical Protestants founded Waldheim, while Templers settled in the neighbouring Bethlehem of Galilee.

The settlement was inaugurated on the occasion of Harvest Festival (German: Erntedankfest) on 6 October 1907. Then, the new Waldheimers still lived in the simple clay huts bought from the previous owners. The Haifa engineer Ernst August Voigt presented the plan of the streets and the 16 sites around a central site, reserved for a church. In 1909 the Jerusalemsverein (Association of Jerusalem), a Berlin-based organisation supportive of Protestant activities in the Holy Land, contributed money for the development of a water supply. By 1914, the Waldheimers planted vineyards of 5,000 square meters and more than 500 olive trees. In December 1913, the farmers of Waldheim and Bethlehem keeping dairy cattle founded a common dairy cooperative to pasteurise milk and deliver it to Haifa.

Most of the residents bore German citizenship. In 1932 the Nazi party won the first two members in Palestine. In the course of the 1930s some Waldheimers also joined the Nazi party, indicating the fading affinity to the Evangelical ideals. Until August 1939, 17% of all Gentile Germans in Palestine were enrolled as members of the Nazi party.

After the Nazi takeover in Germany, the new Reich government adapted foreign policy to Nazi ideals, based on the idea that Germany and Germanness were equal to Nazism. International schools of German language subsidised or fully financed with government funds were asked to redraw their educational programs and employ teachers aligned to the Nazi party. The teachers in Waldheim were financed by the Reich so that also here Nazi teachers took over. In 1933 Germans Gentiles living in Palestine appealed to Paul von Hindenburg and the Foreign Office not to use Swastika symbols for German institutions, without success. Some German Gentiles pleaded the Reich's government to drop its announced plan to boycott shops of Jewish Germans on 1 April 1933. Later the opposition of Gentile Germans in Palestine acquiesed. A Palestinian branch of the Hitler youth was built up by the help of German government subsidies. By 1935 the Nazis had succeeded to streamline the municipal bodies of the settlements of Gentile Germans in Palestine. On 20 August 1939, the German government ordered the Gentile German men for recruitment in the Wehrmacht. 350 followed the call.

After the start of the Second World War, all Germans in Palestine became enemy aliens. The British authorities decided to intern most of the enemy aliens. Sarona, Bethlehem of Galilee, Waldheim, and Wilhelma were converted into internment camps. Most enemy aliens living elsewhere in Palestine—comprising Gentile Germans, Hungarians and Italians—were interned in one of the settlements, while the inhabitants of the settlements simply stayed where they were. In summer 1941, 665 interned Templers, almost all young families with children, were released to Australia, where they could settle again. Many of the remaining Germans were either too old or too sick to leave for Australia, while a second group, mostly Evangelical Germans, did not want to go there. With the help of the interned Italians and Hungarians, the internees could maintain the agricultural production to feed themselves and supply surplus to market in return for supplies not available within the camps. In December 1941 and in the course of 1942, another 400 Evangelical and Templer internees, mostly wives and children of men, who had followed the calls for recruitment, were released, via Turkey, to Germany for family reunification.

After the Peace of Paris the Italian and Hungarian internees were released from Waldheim and the other camps. But the Britons refused to repatriate the remaining German internees to the British zone in Germany because the British zone was flooded with millions of war refugees and millions more expelled after the war from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and other countries previously conquered by Germany. Also, most of the internees did not want to go to Germany because there was no opportunity to gain untilled land in Germany to settle again as farmers. In 1947 the British authorities and Australia agreed to allow the remaining interned Templers to emigrate to Australia.

On 17 April 1948, armed entities of the Haganah entered Waldheim, with the few British soldiers under camp commander Alan Tilbury unable to impede them, killing two colonists and severely wounding a woman. This incident and the end of the mandate forced the Britons to hurry the resettlement, thus all the internees, 51 Germans and 4 Swiss, were transferred to Cyprus, first into a camp of simple tents near Famagusta. By 14 May 1948, when Israel became independent, only about 50 Gentile Germans, mostly elderly and sick persons, were living in the new state. They voluntarily left the country or were successively expelled by the government.

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