Jewish Journal

Research Supplier to the Nazis Now Main Data Source about American Jewry

by Pini Herman

April 11, 2012 | 5:29 pm

GfK Kept Their IBM

Recently, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) publicized: “The 2012 Jewish Values Survey, a new national of survey 1,004 Jewish Americans – the first of its kind conducted by a non-Jewish research organization.”  It used a panel of 1,004 Jews also used by the Cohen Center Brandeis for their 6.4 million (mistaken) estimate of Jews in the U.S.  PRRI, rented the Jewish panel for this survey from GfK’s Knowledge Networks and found a quick inexpensive way to piggyback on an existing 50,000 household panel survey. 

The same Knowledge Networks panel is owned by Gfk, a German company whose early years were intertwined with Nazi government data needs. A finding from the recent survey: More than 8-in-10 Jews say that the experiences of the Holocaust (87%) and having opportunities for economic success in America (85%) are somewhat or very important for informing their political beliefs and activity.

Recent news coverage highlighted that the GfK owned survey found that two-in-three Jews will vote for President Obama in the upcoming U.S. presidential election.  I found it especially interesting that the survey mechanism created by an organization which was dependent on German Nazi sponsored research during World War II is being used to ask about the Holocaust and its importance to contemporary Jews political beliefs and activities in 2012.

It turns out that GfK, the organization that owns the survey mechanism has, in its early days, served as a research organization for Nazi government in its creation of a conquered “New Europe.” GfK [Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (Society for Consumer Research)] and is Germany’s oldest market research company, established 77 years ago at the University of Erlangen-Nurenberg in 1934/35.

The GfK entered Vienna in 1938 at the time of the German Anschluss as a research branch office and in 1941 the organization took the form of “The Vienna Institute for Economic Research” (Weiner Institute fur Wirtschaftsforshung—Vienna Institute or IfW) while GfK retained its management and income.  German economics minister, Walter Funk, (found responsible for transferring Jewish assets to the SS and was later found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nuremberg Nazi trials) put GfK run IfW under the control of a body created by the Reich Ministry of Economy, the Sudosteuropa-Gesellschaft (SOEG, South Eastern Europe Society) which was funded and tasked by the Nazis as an agency that would establish and administer a new Nazi Europe. 

The SOEG’s president, Baldur Von Shirach, had been the head of Hitler Youth in 1940 and was Gualeiter of Vienna where he was responsible for the movement of Viennese Jews to concentration camps. The SOEG was tasked with making Southeast Europe the breadbasket and buyer of manufactured consumer products of Germany.  Herman Goering highlighted the findings of the IfW research on south eastern Europe in his presentation of his Four Year Plan that gave him wide economic powers in Nazi Germany.  So, it appears GfK and its Viennese branch IfW were integrally intertwined and financially dependent on the Nazi party and government. In GfK’s sanitized published history: Georg Bergler, a founder and later chairman of GfK, sifted through a bombed out office in Nurenberg and he found a real treasure with which he could make a new start: an IBM collator.

It’s ironic that Jewish panel is owned by Gfk a prime research supplier to the Nazis and is now the main data source about American Jewry.

I once asked my mom how the Nazis knew whom to roust in Vienna at night when she had to go to scrub the graffiti off the streets and she replied, “They used the addresses from a recently conducted census.”

Just something to ponder.  Even if we Jews can’t bring the resources to bear to do our own research, non-Jews still find us interesting enough to do it for us.

Pini Herman, PhD. has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography,  Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work,  Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position (I was recently notified that with 40,000 visitors this year the 15 year old study of the LA Jewish populationwas third most downloaded study from Berman Jewish Policy Archives in 2011) and is immediate past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com To follow Pini on Twitter:

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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