WWII: The Jewish Diaspora in Afghanistan

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A recent investigation by the present author into plans by, or with, individuals in the Far East, principally relating to Shanghai, and the non-mercenary Dr. Ho Feng-Shan, led to the discovery of others involved in various ideas, mostly for the advantage of those who entertained them, for the settling European Jews in that area of the world.  Sharing the discoveries of this investigation in a new form – as there is nothing original in itself, and it is thus the presentation which becomes important – is contemplated for the near future at the time of this writing.

It was a surprise to find a supposed document relating to the question of saving Jews from the Nazi death machine from a most unexpected source – the Royal Legation of Afghanistan in Berlin.  The letter we have seen, supposing it to be authentic, was directed to a woman in Vienna with a surname possibly etymologically related in the Hebrew language to that of the undersigned, though we confess to not having found 100% proof. However, due to the historical significance of the letter (written in German), we render it into English, leaving out the personal details, for this is a little fragment of history without much related information on the Internet.

It might also be of some significance that instead of stamps with the dictatorial head of the German state, those of Paul von Hindenburg were used.

In the image below, the following should be noted:

The size of the original sheet used has been foreshortened, and empty spaces removed. The line below “Frau” extending upward toward the right was added to suggest that a part [the name and address of the recipinet] has been removed.  The stamps at the bottom left-hand corner were added onto the image, in order to save space.   Upon the stamps is a recruiting message for the “Reichsluftschutzbund”, a paramilitary league associated with defense questions related to the aviation.  It may be noted that the “7” of the year on the post-mark is not clear.  Click on the image to enlarge.

1937 letter from the Royal Afghani Legation in Berlin to a Visa Holder in Austria of Jewish Descendency

1937 letter from the Royal Afghani Legation in Berlin to a Visa Holder in Austria of Jewish Descendency

The letterhead is in French.

Berlin, October 25, 1937.

No. 1415/37

Mrs. M——-, Vienna, —–

The Royal Afghani Legation informs you, with regard to your question of the 23rd of the current month, that the Afghani visa which was entered into your passport, is valid until September 20, 1938, but only if you enter Afghanistan through British[-controlled] India.  If Afghanistan is entered through the U.S.S.R., the visa must be changed.  Since the journey through India would not present any passport issues, and since this route would be more amenable than the route through the U.S.S.R., this legation brings to your notice that it would certainly be preferable for you to take the route via Bombay to Peshawar.

On behalf of,

E. Siebrecht

Our attempts to contextualize the above is rather mixed, and definitely limited.  Reactions to the role of Afghanistan in the life of Jews before the current Islamification of the country, range from, in our opinion, from sad to exaggerated. One specific mention is made of help from Germany, equally, there is mention of France, and, difficult to believe, Iran.  The page in question mentions Afghanistan as a transit point on the way to Israel, but, although some reference is made to 1933, the country under question is mentioned under the year 1943.  It is for this range of years that the title to this article refers to World War II – it was the Nazi ideology which started the final decline of Jewish population in this “Graveyard of Empires”.

A look at a map would show that the visa holder referred to in the above letter, if she had intended to travel to Israel, would not first go to Bombay, unless the route to the then still British Mandate of Palestine was to be a very long one – Austria, perhaps to Hamburg, or south to Italy, directly over the Mediterranean, or first through the Strait of Gibraltar, then through the Suez Canal, on to Bombay, Peshawar, Afghanistan, and overland through Iran. Once out of India, it seems that railroads were lacking, and the trip would have to be made by more primitive methods.

The cities of Herat and Kabul are mentioned as homes to many Jews in more tolerant times. [Feigenbaum, Hafizullah, Gargy, et. al., Schreiber. All except Feigenbaum include Balkh as a city with a Jewish population, while the Encyclopedia specifically  mentions a short period of tolerance after 1914, before German technicians entered the country in the early 30s.]

The reference to help through Germany speaks of an uncle Hakim of a writer, who was at the Afghan Embassy in Berlin, and provided Jews who with false papers, and even transport to the Swiss border [Sasson, p. 72].  Hakim’s niece describes this Afghan family as one in which the education of women was encouraged [ibid., p. 73].

Estimates of the Jewish population in Afghanistan from about the year 1000 to 2005 are in the following table:

Jewish Population in Afghanistan, based on the Shengold Encyclopedia and Aaron Feigenbaum.

Jewish Population in Afghanistan, based on the Shengold Encyclopedia and Aaron Feigenbaum.

Some of the numbers in the above table are rough interpretations from the data, for example, the population between 1000 and 1100 was said to vary between the numbers given, then in 1222, the population was decimated, for which reason we show 10% of the previous figure.  The surge in 1930 is not quite explained, except perhaps by an influx from neighbouring countries. The final numbers, unfortunately, seem to be correct.

The population has held steady until at least the year before this article was written.  An article by Reuters is often found copied, or referred to, in the few months following its November, 2013 appearance.

The most that can be said is that there was a long history of Jewish presence in Afghanistan which was snuffed out by fanaticism.   It was once a much-different country, which could have become on par with some European nations, as the can be seen in the following couple of links: here, in The Atlantic, and here, in some pictures this author originally saw several years ago on the Foreign Policy website – notice the Western culture. Comparing the images of the 60s with the 50s, we already notice a decline, never mind the presence of Eisenhower and Kennedy visiting the country.

December 10, 2015, Paul Karl Moeller.


Bar Levav, Avriel, ed. Pe‘amim, Studies in Oriental Jewry 136 Bukhara and Afghanistan (synopsis) https://www.ybz.org.il/_Uploads/dbsAttachedFiles/Peamim136_eng.pdf

Bataween “The Guardian’s Afghan sugar-coat Point of No Return: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries” February 29, 2012. http://jewishrefugees.blogspot.com.ar/2012_02_01_archive.html

Bousfield, Tom, and Nye, Catrin “The Muslims who saved Jews from the Holocaust” BBC, 17 April 2013 http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-22176928

Donati, Jessica, and Harooni, Mirwais. “Last Jew in Afghanistan faces ruin as kebabs fail to sell”. Reuters, 12 November 2013.

Feigenbaum, Aaron “The Jewish History of Afghanistan” September 6, 2014  Aish.com http://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-Jewish-History-of-Afghanistan.html

Gargy, A., Yehoshua-Raz, B. D., Shamsiev, D., &  Abrams, Z. “European Jews finding refuge in Afghanistan during WWII” Afghan Jewish Heritage  http://www.afghanim.org/page.asp?page_parent=894

Hafizullah Emadi Culture and Customs of Afghanistan.  Westwood, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group,  2005.  https://books.google.com/books?id=bY8ck6iktikC&hl=es&source=gbs_navlinks_s  [p. 12]

Heller, Aron Afghan “Genizah Manuscripts Revealing Jewish Presence Unveiled At Israeli Library” 01/03/2013 TheHuffingtonPost.com. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/03/afghan-genizah-manuscripts_n_2403893.html

Landler, Mark “Kabul Journal; 2 Jews Outlast Taliban […]” New York Times. January 18, 2002 http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/18/world/kabul-journal-2-jews-outlast-taliban-maybe-not-each-other.html

Sasson, Jean For the Love of a Son: One Afghan Woman’s Quest for her Stolen Child. London: Random House, 2010 https://books.google.com/books?id=CigIkcdU6OAC&hl=es&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Schreiber, Mordecai “Afghanistan” The Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia. Taylor Trade Publications, 2011.  https://books.google.com/books?id=dwICJoLCfhQC&hl=es&source=gbs_navlinks_s



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