The Holocaust in Germany: Repression and Isolation


Figure 1.--German Jews were highly assimilated, but there were sections of Berlin with substanial Jewish populations. Here some Jewish children are are off to school in 1934. The NAZI repression of the Jews in 1933 and 34 was not as severe as some had anticipated. Jewisg children still attended state schools. The boy with his book satchel looks like any other German school boy. The schoolboy looks to be about 9-10 years old. His younger brothers and sister or perhaps school friends are playing with a top. He seems to be wearing a school cap with a peak although it is hard to be sure from the rear angle of the photograph. He wears typical schoolboy clothes for the period--a diagonally striped sweater (almost certainly worn over a shirt), gray flannel shorts, brown long stockings, and low cut leather shoes. These boys are all wearing overcoats and caps with peaks. The smaller boys mostly wear long stockings also, but one may be wearing knee socks.

It is not know with any certainty if Hitler conceived the murder of European Jews from the onset of his political career or if the Holocaust evolved over time after he seized power in 1933. We do know that Hitler spoke of the "extermination" of the Jews and described them as "racially unfit". This was not, however, widely seen in Germany as meaning he planned to murder German, let alone European Jews. President Hindenburg named NAZI leader Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany (January 1933). The first steps taken by Hitler was against the Cmmunists and Socialists, but actions against the Jews followed soon after. Hitler in his actions against Jews proceeded carefully, but relentlessy. There were three basic stages in NAZI policy. It is unclear to what extent these policies were conceived from the beginning as opposed to evolving overtime. The first stage was to restrict Jews ability to make a living in an effort to incourage them to emmigrate. Steps were taken to remove Jews from position of influence. The second stage was to segregate the Jews by denying their citzenship. Here the repressionn of Jewish children began when they were expelled from schools. The NAZIs also began confiscating Jewish property. The third stage was to deport Jews and incklude a more severe repression beginning with Kristallnacht. The fourth stage was the murder of the Jews. It is not precisely when Hitler made this decession.

NAZIs Seize Power (January 30, 1933)

Germany was becoming ungovernable because of the strength of the NAZIs and Communists in the Reichstag and growing street violence. An aging President Hindenburg was advised that Hitler could be controlled in a coalition government. President Hindenburg dislikes Hitler, but appoints him Reich Chancellor on January 30, 1933. After becoming Reich Chancellor, Hitler quickly moves to seize control of the Government. The Reichstag fire provides the pretext for mass arrests of Communists andother political opponents. The worst features of the right wing anti-Semetic groups soon became German government policy. Hitler proclaims himself Füehrer of the Third Reich after President von Hindenburg dies. (August 2, 1934.) This opened the way for Hitler's total mastery of Germany.

Concentration Camps

The NAZIs on March 4, 1933 open the first concentration camp at Dachau, near Munich. The first inmates are not Jews, but political opponents. The camps play an important role in Hitler's seizure of total political power so that he could persue his political and economic program without opposition. The camp at Dachau would be the blueprint for a massive system of camps that would eventually extend throughout Western Europe and include both work and death camps. The concentraton ca,ps were necesary for both Hitler's seizure of power and the Holocaust. They lead directly after the start of World War II to the Death Camps opened in occupied Poland.

Beginning of the Anti-Jewish Campaign (April 1933)

President Hindenburg named NAZI leader Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany (January 1933). Hitler almost immediately launched what was to become a comprehensive campaign to isolate and exclude Jews from German national life. The first major steps two months after seizing power. The NAZIs launched the national campaign against the country's Jews with a boycott of Jewish shops, businesses, and professionals (April 1, 1933). [Berenbaum, p. 21.] The boycott was the opening move in the NAZi assault on German Jews. It was also reprisal against Gruelpropaganda (atrocity stories) accounts by foreign jourrnalists darkening Germany's national image. This was a typical NAZI tactic, to blame Jews for the actiins taken. Sturmabteilung (SA Storm Trooperspositiined themselves in front of Jewish-owned department stores, small retail shops, and the offices of doctors, lawyers, and other profesiijals. Older Hitler Youth boys also participated. They painted Stars of David in yellow and black on shop windoiws and doors. Anti-semitic slogans also appeared. "Don't Buy from Jews" and "The Jews Are Our Misfortune." In addition Jews were attacked on the street and Jewish property damaged. The police now with NAZI bosses rarely intervened . The violence was not on the scale of Kristalnacht, but it made clear tht Jews no longer had the protection of German law. The boycott only lased one day, but it was just the beginning of a campaign to deny Jews the ability to make a living and steal their property. Hitler day later decreed a new Civil Service Law: Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums (The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service) (April 7). The law was drafted by the new Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick. As the law was originally drafted, all 'non-Aryans were to be immideately dismissed from the Reich (national), Länder and municipal govern,ents. President of Germany, Paul von Hindenburg objected to the draft ans insisted it be amended to exclude three classes of civil servants from dusmissal: 1) World War I veterans who had served at the front, 2) individuals who had been employed continuously since 1 August 1914 (the beginning of World War I), and 3) those who lost a father or son in combat during World War I. A as result, some Jews continued working for a brief period. There were, however, extra-legal ways of removing Jews. At many universities, NAZI students attacked Jewish professors and students. Some were killed, being thrown out windows and diwn stairs. The Law was the legal basis for dismissing Jews and anti-NAZIs from the the civil service, including not only emoloyees of givernmentagencies, but judges, school teachers, and university professors (April 7, 1933). The Law was not so much aimed at 'professional' civil service. Germany had one of the most professional sivil service in the world. What the law did was to fashion a more nationalist civil service. The Law allowed newly appointed NAZI administrators to dusmiss tenured civil servants. Thise targetted were civil servants not of 'Aryan descent (especially Jew noy only Jew and anti-NAZIs. A comparable law soon followed governing other professions, including lawyers, doctors, tax consultants, musicians, and notaries. The NAZIs in the following 6 years before launching World War II introduced over 400 different laws to percecute Jewish Germans. The laws were carefully crafted to isolate, excluded, degrade, rob, and disinfranchise German Jews.

Book Burnings (May 1933)

Books were one of the first casulties of the NAZI regime when Hitler seized power in 1933. The NAZIs organized mass burnings of books written by Jews or expressing objectional ideas. Virtually all books by Jewish authors were destroyed. Hitler Youth members enthusiastically committed masterpieces of the German language as well as many foreign texts to huge bonfires. The book burnings were carefully prepared. The NAZIS seized power in January 1933. Throughout the spring of 1933, NAZI student organizations, professors, and librarians compiled an extensive lists of books they determined to be "entartet" (degenerate) and should not be read by decent Germans. NAZI SA Stormtroopers and student groups armed with this list on the night of May 10, 1933, stormed into libraries and bookstores all over Germany. They organized Wagnerian spectacles, marching in longlines by torchlight, singing Party songs, and chanting the twelve "theses,"--their manifesto for the "purification" of German literature and thought.

Decrees and Regulations (1933-35)

The Book burings and Boycott of Jewish stores set the tone for what was to come. But it came step by step. At first while bad, many Jews belkieved that the NAZIs would pass, like other German Governments, But step by step over 400 NaZI decrees and regulatiins gradually restricted Jewish like in Germany. And this was just national actions. Conless tates and municipalities imposed a wide range of further restrictions. The first step was dismissing Jews from the civil service, after this scarcely a month went by without some new restruction. Some were minor initations or humilitions others were major actions which led to property being stolen and eventully virtually impossible for Jews to make a living in Germay. A major turning point was the Nuremberg Race Kaws (September 1935) which cancelled the citizenship of Jews, making them aliens in their own coyntry. With these laws, Jews lost all civil rights and protection of law in Germany. This ment that NAZI officials no longer had any constraints on their efforts to isolated Jews and totally remobe tham from German life. 'Juden Frei' signs began appearing throughout the Reich.

Jewish Property

The NAZIs upon seizing power in Germany could not act as they did in the countries they occupied. Germany had laws and unilt they were firmly in power they could not be all ignored. After the brief boycott of Jewish businesses and the dismisal of Jewish governmrnt employees, no major action was taken agauinst the Jews. Hitler had other priorities. Seizing Jewish priority was, howver, enticing. For the first few years this was done by seizing the property of Jews who emigrated. This was done primarily by restricting what the Jews leaving Germany could carry with them. Very strict limits were placed on the amount of cash and value of property. The mechanism was the Reichsfluchtsteuer (Reich Flight Tax). Jews leaving Germany had to pay stiff levys to obtain permission. This actually was not a NAZI invention. It was enacted duruing the last stage of the Weimar Republic in the eoression crisis (1931). The goal was to prevent capital fkifght--the draiun of cash and gold. The NAZIs did not create the Reichsfluchtsteuer, but they used it to a far greater extent and significantly raised the tax, after revisung it several times. The tax was increased to 25 per cent of domestic wealth, which had to be paid in cash or gold. By 1938, Jews had to most of their cash in a SS-controlled bank. Huge sums were collected. Before the NAZIs the Reichsfluchtsteuer did not even generate 1 million Reichsmarks (1932). This reached 342 million Reichsmarks (1938). Other avenues were pursued aginst against Jews still in Germany. SA Stormtoopers were posted outside Jewish businesses discouraged customers from entering. This adversely affected patronage, sales and revenue. The NAZIs also contacted suppliers and wholesalers and Jewish store owners found themselves without stock. NAZI officials who had contol of Governmnt raised taxes. Private individuals raised rentals. Thid led to bankruptsy or sales in desperation. Gradually laws were enacted which provided legal processes for Arayanization, stealing Jewish property. This was facilitated by the Nuremberg Laws (1935) which stripped Jews of their citizenship. The NAZI Four Year Plan gave the Government the authority to allocate raw material (1936). They were denined to Jewish businesses. As a result, of the approximately 100,000 Jewish-owned businesses in Germany when Hitker seized power, within 5 years onlybabout one-third were still in Jewish hands. This was not enough for most NAZIs. They wanted a total exclusion of Jews from German ecomomic life. NAZI officals applied the final pressure on Jewish business owners (Msrch 193). The Government nolonger sign contavts or do busineess with Jews businessmen. Jewish businesses were no longer able to qualify for public contracts, tax incentives, access to government services, raw materials, or foreign exchange. The result was that Jewuish busineesmen could nbonlonger function in Germany. They had to close or sell out for a pittence. Corporations expelled Jewish directors. Jews could not hold corporate stick. In June and July 1938, Jewish stores in German cities (Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Hanover, and other cities) were picketed and painted wuith anti-Jewish grafuitti and Stars of David, severely affecting their operatiomn (June-July 1938). Party officials demanded seizure and transfer to Party members. Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, wanted Jewish property given directly to Nazi Party members: “The transfer of Jewish businesses to German hands gives the Party the opportunity to proceed with a healthy policy… It is the Party’s duty of honour to support Party comrades who, because of their membership, have suffered economic disadvantages and to help them achieve an independent livelihood… It is the Party’s duty to ensure that the Jew does not receive an inappropriately high purchase price. In this way, Jewry will make reparation for part of the damage that it has done to the German people.” ReichMarshall Hermann Goering who controlled the economy through the Four Year Plan ordered all Jews to submit a detailed invnytity of all property worth mote than 5,000 Reichsmarks (April 1938). This had to be submitted by June. The inventories were used to compile a ‘register of Jewish wealth’. It was not just businesses, it als included personsl prooperty like realestate, art, and other assetts. And by this time the Austria had been annexed to the Reich. This approach Similar requirements were enacted in Nazified Austria and, later, in occupied Europe. The 1938 Kristallnact pogrom essenhtially removed Jews from German economic life. After Kridtallnscht the major assetts stillin Jewish hands were homes and househild gookds.

Emigration

Over 0.5 Jews lived in Germany at the time when Hitler seized power (January 1933). Thisxwas less than 1percent of Germany 67 million population. They were a largely urban population with one third The Jewish population was predominantly urban and approximately one-third lived in Berlin. Hitler and the NAZIs madevno secret about their feelings toward Jews. Many were terrified to learn that Hitler had been appointed Chancellor. There was an immediate wave of emigration, nerly 40,000Jews srreaned across the border to neighboring countries (France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, and Switzerland). Poland refused to llow many Jews to enter. They wre safe for a time, although many would fall into NAZI hands after Hitler and stalin launched World War II. Jews who had been politically active and outspoken about the NAZIs were especially likely to flee. Early NAZI actions (book burning, boycotts, and dissmissing civil servants all spurred emigration. Most Jews remained in Germny. When a brutal pogtrom and murder did not occur, ome of the first rmogrants retuned. There was never a steady flow of Jews from Germany. Rather emigration varied depending on the level of repression and implemetatiin of new regulations. Anotger major factor was the ability to obtain visas from countries willing to accept them. Another factor affecting who left was financial. Up until Kristalnacht, the NAZIs actually promoted emigration, happy to be rid of Jews. There was actually disappointment that more Jews did not leave. After the initial wave of emigration, the emogratiin rate actually declined. The political situation seemed to stabilize. There was no mass violence. Another problem was finding a country to accept them. Legal immigration was complicated. Most countries had immigration quotas and others did not want any Jews. Only about quarter of German Jews left (1933-38). NAZI actions against Jews came by drips abd drabs. One little action after another. Many German Jews unadjusted as best theybcould not wanting to leave family abd friends abd what they cinsidered their country. Starting a new life in another country was a daunting pospect. The NAZIs sought to steal the property of Jews fleeing Germany by levying increasingly heavy emigration taxes and severely restricting the amount of money that could be transferred abroad. Thus emigration meant impoverization. Even the issuabs of the Nuremberg Laws depiving Jews of citizenship abd legal rights did not cause surge of emigration (September 1935). Only gradually did many Jews come to realize that thy must leave Germny. It was Kristallnacht that changed everything. Relatively few Jews were actually killed by the NAZIs during Kristallnact, but the terror, destruction, and brutality shicked the Jewish community and the world. Most adult male Jews were arreted, humiliated, beaten, and interned in coincentration camps (November 1938). This finally convinced virtully all remaining Jews that they had to leave Germany, but by this time it proved too late for many. Desperte families began sending their chikdren abroad as part of the Kindertransport. The flood of emigrants created a major refugee crisis. While the numbers were small, most Jews seeking to emigrate were able to find some country to acceot them. This changed with Kristalnacht. No country still rrcovering from the Drepression was willing to accept large numvers of desperate, nowimpoverished Jews.

Youth Aliyah

Youth Aliyah (YA - עלית הנוער ) was a Jewish founded in Germany Recha Freier, a rabbi's wife (1933). The idea was establish pioneer training programs for young Jews who had finished primary school (children 13-13 years old and older) in Palestine and settle them there. She received support from the World Zionist Organization. Freier supervised the organization's activities, recruiting young peoplr in Germany. Henrietta Szold oversaw the program in Jerusalem which provided for the arivals. Szold was at first skeptical of Freier's proposal that German youngsters be sent to in Palestine. She believed that Germany offered better educational and employment opportunities for Jewish children than Palestine, but Hitler's rise to power and promotion of anti-Semitism soon changed her mind (1933). Hitler issued the Nurenberg Race Laws were issued (1935) stripping Jews of their citizenship and expelled from state schools. The children joining YA were given preliminary training in Germany before traveling to Palestine. There they were assigned to kibbutzim for 2 years to learn farming skills and Hebrew. Kibbutz Ein Harod in the Jezreel Valley was one of the first kibbutzim to host the youth. The NAZIs did not interfere with this effort, although as pressure on Jews increased, funding became increasingly difficult. Only after Kristalnacht and the approach of World War II did exit visas become difficult to obtain. The program was further impaired by British restrictions on Jewish immigration for Palestine. Youth Aliyah activists in London as a result of the deteriorating situation in the Reich organized training for the young people outside the Reich in preparatuion for immigration to Palestine. Some of the Kindertranport childre were from YA groups. YA saved an estimated 22,000 Jewish children from the NAZIs. After the defeat of the NAZIs in World War II (May 1945), YA sent representatives to Europe to locate surviving Jewish children Displaced persons camps. YA also organized the move of Jewish children's homes in eastern Europe to the Western Europe, anticipating that evacuation from Communist countries might eventually become difficult. YA opened an office in Paris to oversee its European operations. Eventually YA became a department of the Palestine Jewish Agency. YA continues to operate today. The organization brings young people to Israel from North Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Soviet Union and Ethiopia.

Eugenics

The NAZIs adopt legislation permitting the forced sterilisation of gypsies, handicapped, afro-Germans, as well as others considered inferior to the Aryan race. (July 14, 1933) The Law for the Prevention of Hereditary and Defective Offspring was the first step toward genocide and the Holocaust. This provided the legal basisfor the surgical sterilization of any and all mentally retarded, genetically deformed, alcoholic, and/or mentally ill people. This objective was to prevent the reproduction of undesirable people, especially those that were seen as non productive as the carriers of hereditary diseases. Genetics had not progressed at the time to really understand the the heritary aspect of many diseases, but that did not stp the NAZIs and the not inconsiderable number of doctors that helped provide the pseudo-scientific basis of NAZI racism. The NAZIs claimed that Jews were carriers of genetic diseases. Herritary Courts were established throughout Germany to issue sterilization orders for handicaped children brought to their attention by teachers and family doctors. This was not a measure aimed at the Jews, but applied to all German children. The NAZIs of course did not stop with sterilizations. Eventually doctors actually were kiling physically handicaped children and adults. For many NAZIs the slow birth rate in Germany and the large Slavic population to the East was a great danger. Thus one of the medical experiments authorized by Himmler in the Death Camps which the NAZIs built in occupied Poland after the start of World War II was non-surgical sterilizaion measures that were faster and cheaper and could be employed on large numbers of people. [Padfield] The central interest of the NAZIs in eugenics was to accomplish the sacred missions of the German people which Hitler spelled out in Mein Kampf and described as "... to assemble and preserve the most valuable racial elements ... and raise them to a dominant position".

Signs (May 1935)

Signs saying 'Juden nicht erlaubt' (Jews not allowed) or 'Juden sind nicht erwünscht' (Jews not welcomed) often with the name of the town added begin appearing throughout Germany. Some are posted outside towns and villages. These might be villages without any Jews or with only a few. The impact along with other harrasing actiins was to drive isolated Jewish families out of villages. The signs became a matter of civic pride. And municipal authorities could use these signs to emonstrate their loyalty to the regime. We evebtually begin to see signs 'Juden frei' (Jew free). Others in cities are placed on the windows and doors of restaurants and shops (May 1935). Signs are also placed on park benches as well as favcilities like beaches. Here the NAZIs were following practices common in the American South restricting the access of Blacks in public facilities. (American precedents were also important in the NAZI eugenics pogram.) Some signs had been posted before, but the number of signs posted in May throughout German show that this was a centrally organized campaign, although just what agency was organizing this were are not yet sure. The fact that many were temprarily taken down during the 1936 Summer Olympics (August 1936) shows that some central authority was involved. The public signs were erected by NAZI controlled municipal authorities. These were more than an effort to humiliate and belittle Jews, they were part of the process of marginalizing and separating Jews from German society. In addition, Jews who ignored the signs could be suject to arrest. Jewish children were inviting attacks by Hitler Youth or other childrenespecially when there were only a few Jewish children in a community or school.

NAZI Racial Policies (September 1935)

NAZI racial policies were at first difficult to enforce because they were no codified by law. Geman Führer Adolf Hitler at the Nuremberg Party Congress on September 15, 1935 announced three new laws that were to be cornerstones of German racist policies and the supression of Jews and other non-Aryans. These became known as the Nuremberg Laws The first 1935 law established the swastika as the official emblem of the German state. The second established special conditions for German citizenship that excluded all Jews. The third titled "The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor" prohibited marrige between German citizens and Jews. Marriages violating this law were voided and extra-marital relations prohibited. Jews were prohibuted from hiring female Germans under 45 years of age. Jews were also prohibuted from flying the national flag.

Shock

The Nuremberg Laws came as areat shock to many Jewish children. Many Jewish family were assiumilated into German life and were not practicing Jews. Some had converted to Christianity. Others had mArried partners ho were Christian. In some cases the childen were not even aware of theiur German heritage. Tne Nuremberg Laws made aewish identity no just a matter of religion, but of race. As a result, children over night had their lives irrecocably changed. The chance of professional carrers or even secondary education was closed off to them. They in many cases would be separated from their closest friends. Families of mixed marriage families would be sparated. Younger children could not even understand what was happening. [Crane]

Increasing Restrictions (1935-39)

After the adoption of the Nuremberg Race Laws, the NAZIs directed a steady stream of legal and quasi-legal actions the Jews. Eventually there would be over 400 such laws and regulations. Jewish children were expelled from German schools (1935). Many left the public schools earlier because they were attacked by other children. Non-Aryan teachers were prohibited from teaching in public schools (October 15, 1936). [HBC note: Here I am not yet positive about the specifics of this regulation because by 1936 virtually all Jewish teachers had already been dismissed.] Jews were prohibited as they were no longer citizens could no longer participate in parliamentary elections. Of course in NAZI Germany, parlimentary elections were not of any great significance. Jews were prohibitefd from working as pharmacists (October 29 1935). The NAZIs began taking increasing economic actions against Jews during the first half of 1938. Many laws were passed restricting Jewish economic activity and occupational opportunities. Slowly Jews were being deprived of making a living in Germany. Jews were proihibited from working as doctors (July 25 1938). Jews were expelled the Association of Art Historians. Jews were prohibited from working as lawyers (September 27 1938). A rash if new restriuctiins followed Krilstallnacht (November 1938). Further restrictions were enacted concerning universitie (November 15). Jews were prohibited from even entering university buildings. Jews were prohibited from operating or owning cars and other motor vehicles (December 5, 1938). A subsequebt editirial read,"With this defensive measure against Jewish usurpation, the National Socialist State gave expression to the healthy sense of justice of the German people. For a long time the German felt that it was a provocation and an endangerment of public life that Jews were driving their cars in the German streets or even that they were benefiting from the road system of Adolf Hitler, built with the labour of Germans. This situation that has long been borne with patience by the German people now too has come to an end. Jews in Germany have no place in the driver seat of a car. Instead, the working German will have more opportunity than before to see the beauty of his fatherland and refresh his forces for his work, seated in the car that is the creation of German spirit and German labour. The National Socialist State aspires that traffic in the streets will become a community of all German people who voluntarily submit themselves to the necessities and laws of traffic. The Jews does not belong in such a community … " " [VB, December 4.] Restricted areas (cinemas, ice sksting rinks, bathing facilities, lecture halls, parks, theaters, ect.) in Berlin were expanded (Decenber 5). Jews were prohibited from renting property (May 4 1939). Jews were prohibited from working in the travel agency business (May 11 1939). A new regulationm required all Jews to carry identification cards (July 1938). It became effective January 1, 1939.

Munich Olympic Games (August 1-16, 1936)

The Olumpic Committee befre Hitler seized power had assigned the 1936 Olympics to Munich. For the NAZIs it was an opportunity to show off the new Germany to the world. Because of the number of foreign visitor, the NAZIs in the late Summer began to temporarily take own many anti-Semitic signs. The anti-Jewish campaign, however, is only demphazied for a short time. Germany even fields one Jewish athlete--Helene Mayer. Germany with its state-supported atheletes were very successful at the Games. Hitler is offend, however, by the performance of Jesse Owens and other Black American atheletes. (Part of NAZI doctrine was that Aryans were stronger and phyically superior to other races.)

Obtaining Visas

Two visas were needed toleave Germany, a Germn exit visa and foreign entry visa. The Great Depression during the 1930s caused many countries, including the United States, to limit immigration. NAZI policy at the beginning was not set out to murder millions of Jews. The NAZIs were intent on stripping Jews of all their assetts and driving them penniless out of the country. Few Jews wanted to leave Germany when the NAZIs seized power in 1933. Gradually more Jews began attempting to leave, especially after the Nuremberg Race Laws were decreeed (September 1935). The NAZIs in 1937 begin to reconsider their policy of forcing Jews out of Germany. New regulations are issued allowing Jews to leave only under special circumstances (November 16, 1937). We do not know at this time just what prevented his change of policy. Certainly it enabled the Gestapo to extract bribes from Jews to obtain the needed exit dicuments. After Kristallnacht, a panic set in among the Germany community (November 1938). Jews were essentially free to leave Germany as long as they did not take any valuables and had a visa to enter another country. The problem for German and Austrian Jews was obtaining a visa. Anti-semitism and the job shortages created by the Depression in many countries, including the United States, created severe bars to immigration. Thus obtaining visas were very difficult. Jews were thus trapped in Germany when in the months leading up to the War. One of the most tragic incidents was the liner St Louis which left Hamburg with 927 Jewish refugees in May 1939 for New York. The United States refused to allow them to enter. Cuba allowed 22 to land, but refused entry to the rest. An appeal to President Roosevelt was unanswered. Other countries also refused to accept the refuggess. Finally the St. Louis returned to Europe and the refugees were landed in Antwerp on June 17. More than 600 were accepted by Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. Within months these countries overrun by the NAZIs. No one know for sure, but about 240 of these refugees are believed to have survided. Britain accepted 288 which did survive. The St. Louis reffugees were some of the last Jews to escape Germany. The NAZIs stopped allowing Jews to emmigrate. Some of the last Jews to get out of Germany were the children broughtout through the Kindertransport.

Heinrich Himmler

Heinrich Himmler referred to derisively by the British as a chicken farmer was in fact an organization genius. The SS created by him began as Hitler's personal body guard and developed into the most sinister pseudo-military criminal gang in European history. Himmler helped Hitler establish total dominance in the "Night of the Long Knives" (1934). The supression of the political oppoition was made possible by extra-legal killing and brutalities in he concenbtations run by Himmler's SS. There were many in Germany that objected to the excessesses of the SA ad SS against the Jews. Those that spoke outto loudly might be killed. Others have over a brief incarceration in the camps knew better than to speal out. For many others rumors of the cincentration camps was enough to enduce silence and allow the NAZIs to do as they wished with the Jews. After World War II began, the SS provided the corps of individuals ready and willing to conduct the Holocaust. Himmler himself was anot among the most anti-semetic of the NAZIs. He was among those most willing to carry out Hitler's instructions and to create a New Order where Europe was ruled by a Greater Germany populated by a ethnically purified Aryan race.

The SS

The Schutzstaffeln (SS) was initially organized as Hitler's personal bodyguard. Under Heinrich Himler it was organized as an elite group strongly enfused with German concepts of Volk and blood (race). The SS was Hitler's principal tool for carrying out the "Final Sollution". SS ReichFührer-SS in October 1939, following the invasion of Poland, set up a new SS section to deal with deportations and emigration. Himmler was obsessed with Arayanizing occupied Polish terrtories. Himmler had no quams about using force to accomplish this process. Himmler and the SS had considerable experience at killing and brutalizing Germans that opposed the NAZIs. Toward Jews and other peoples judged "subhuman," Himmler and the SS felt no compunction to act outside the normal rules of civilized behavior. And under Himmler's leadership, the SS emerged as the most powerful element in the NAZI Germany, essentially a state within a state. Just before Hitler launched World War II, all aggencies of state security were centalized within the SS, bluring the lines between a NAZI Party agency and a government police agency. . And after the War began, The SS developed a powerful military formation. Irionically as the NAZI fortunes of war declined, the SS formations became an increasingly important element if German combat strength. Ironically the SS which crushed the SA with the Reichwehr's assistance came in the final phase od\f World War the kind of Party army that they had so feared.

Lebensborn

Counterpoint to the NAZI program of exterminating Jews and other groups considered to be sub-human was the Lebensborn program, a sectret NAZI program to enrich German racial lines with pure Nordic Aryan blood. The Lebensborn program was a pet project of SS Reichsführer Himmler. The program was launched in Germany in a small way to incourage and assist German girls to give birth to racially pure children, even if they were unmairred. We have noted some diference of opinion about the Lebensborn homes. After the Germans launched World War II and occupied large streaches of Eastern Europe, they proceeded to kidnap thousands of children who were deemed to be Aryan. Himmler indicated that these children had to be Germanized or killed because he though Aryan populations outside of the Reich were a threat. The Lebensborn program also affected other countries such as Norway--albeit on a smaller scale. Estimates suggest that 0.20-0.25 million children, mostly Polish, were eventually involved in this program. Only a small number were ever returned to their parents.

NAZI Education

The NAZIs gave particularly attention to education and control of the German educational system. They were well aware that it would be difficult to convert many adults and only a minority of Germand had ever voted for the NAZIs in democratic elections. The children were a different matter. They were thus determined to mold the new generation to accept NAZI pinciples. As the leader of the NAZI Teacher's League, Hans Schemm, put it: "Those who have the youth on their side control the future." As a result, after the NAZIs seized power in 1933, they quickly began applying totalitarian principles to all aspects of the German education system. Private schools were taken over or closed. Great emphasis was attached on racial "science", often termed "racial hygine", in NAZI education and this was quickly introduced into the curiculum. NAZI idelogy and physical-military training became other important aspects of the school program. Many teachers embraced the new Germany, but others were fired or left teaching. It is difficult to assess the relative importance of the two groups. It is known that many teachers were fired or replaced with political hacks during 1933-35, but HBC has no details on the numbers. Some of the best educators fled abroad. The quality of German education, once the leading system in Europe, declined. Again, however, it is difficult to assess this in quantative terms.

Jewish Students

When the NAZIs seized power in 1933, most German Jews attended state schools. Only a small number of students attended Jewish religious schools. Through a varaiety of methods including the introduction of anti-semetic curriculum materials, verbalamd phyical abuse from teachers and other students, Jewish children began withdrawing from the schools. Conditiojs varied, but in some schools it was dangerous for Jewish children to continue attending classes. The Nuremburg Laws in 1935 took away German citizenship from Jews resulting in the expulsion of Jewish children from the state schools. These children enrolled in schools set up for them and staffed by Jewish teachers who had been fired by the NAZIs.

Shopping

We are not sure what shopping was like for Jews in the years before World War II. There was no rationoing before the Kristallnacht (November 1938) and World War II (September 1939). Thus the only requirement was the money. Certainly the NAZI racial measures had by 1938 impoverished many Jews so that large numbers were having difficulties affording even the bare necesities. Jews were after 1935 increasingly prohibited from public facilities likes parks and I think, theaters, museums and libraries. Jew did not until 1941 hsave to wear the yellow star badge, but violation of yhese municipal ordinances could invite a beating or even arrest. At this time we have few details about shopping. As far as I know, until the War Jews could shop where ever they wanted. I do not think many merchants refuse to serve them, but this is a subject thar requires further investigation. Hopefully readers with some insights will add to our understanding of this subject.

Hitler Youth

The Hitler Youth played an important role in bringing Hitler and the NAZIs to power. The orgnization played a major role in preparing German youth for both waging war and carrying out the Holocaust. I am less sure at this time to what extent the Hitler Youth was used to abuse Jewish children and adults as part of the various anti-Jewish campaigns waged by the NAZIs.

Anchluss (March 13, 1938)

There was considerable sentiment in both Germany and Austria after World War I to join the two German-speaking states. France adamently refused. Hitler after seizing power revived the issues. Austrain NAZIs were encouraged to promote the idea. Hitler and Austrian NAZIs throughout 1937 demanded an Anschluss with Austria. Belaegered Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg on March 9, 1938, announced plans to hold a plebiscite on the independence of Austria. Hitler used this opportunity to take action against the Austrian State. The NAZIs with the Wehrmacht on the border pressed Schuschnigg was pressed to resign. The NAZI surrogate, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, took over the chancellorship and formed a new government dominated by the Austrian NAZIs. The German Wehrmacht and the SS, armed with list of NAZI opponents, crossed the German-Austrian frontier. Hitler on March 13, speaking before a jubilent crowd in Linz, announced the "Anschluss" (Annexation) of Austria into the German Reich. Jouous celebrations occurred throught Austria. Even while the celebrations were going on, the SS and local NAZIs began rounding up those who had opposed the NAZIs. Violence occured against the Jews. Jewish students and [rofessors were attacked in universities. Jews at random were dragged into the streets to scrub the sidewalks on their hands and knees--surounded by taunting crowds. After the Anchluss, the fate of Austrian Jews became fused with German Jews, but they had much less time to escape.

Financial Sector (April 1938)

The NAZIs begin to give special attention to excluding Jews from the financial sectorn (April 1938).

Operation Anti-social (June 15, 1938)

The NAZIs launch Operation Anti-social. Jews in jails as wll as Jews with a criminal records are arrested and sent to concentration camps. Criminal records included both criminals and Jews who had violated the increasingly restrictive laws and regulations aimed at Jews.

Envian Confernce (July 6-15, 1938)

The anchluss had brought large numbers of Jews under NAZI control. The plight of the Austrian Jews was publivcized throughout Europe and Ameruc in the nespaprs. An internationl conference was organized, prompted espcially by Preident Roosevelt in America. There are 32 countries who send delegaions. At this time, the NAZIs almost certainly would have allowed Jew to leave Germany--once they had stripped them of all their belongings and property. The conference, however, failed because the participants were unwilling to accept large numbers of Jewish refugees. This outcomre was widely reported in the NAZI controlled German press.

Further Actions

The German government ordered Jews carry identity papers at all times (July 23, 1938). The NAZIs than require all Jews to take a middle name: Israel for men and Sarah for women (August 17, 1938). The Government began stamping Jewish passports with a red ‘J’ (October ).

Deportions (1938)

The NAZIs began deporting Jews in 1938. Most of those deported were technically non-Germam Jews. There weee quite a few Jews in Germany that did not have German passports. Many were families that had lived in Germany for years. Many Poles lived in Germany at the time of World War I. After the war some Poles returned to Poland. Others remained in Germany but either did not seek German citzenship or were from towns that were now part of an independent Poland. Many Jews of Polish ancestry did not want to return to Poland because under Imperial Germny and the Weimar Republic, anti-Semitism was more pronounced in Poland than Germany. Throughout 1938 the NAZIs deported Jews to Poland. The Polish Goverment objected to this and Polish border guards began refusing to allow them to enter. Small groups of Jews were thus stranded without food and water. They suffered horibly in the standoff. The situation got worse with the onset of winter and faced life threatening conditions. Learning about the fate of his family, a youthful German Jew, Herschel Grünzpan, assasinated a German diplomat at the German consulate in Paris (November 7, 1938). The NAZIs used this as an excuse to justify for Kristalnacht.

World War II (1939-45)

World War II changed everything. Jews in Germany lived under increasingly difficult conditions. The Nuremberg Laws deprioved them from citzenship and subsequent regulations made it virtually impossible for Jews to make a living in German. By the time of World war II. modt Jews had been reduced to poverty. Until the War approached, Jews were allowed to emigrate. They had to forfet their property, but they could leave if they obtained entry visas from foreign countries. As the War approsched, it becme inreasingly difficult for Jews to obtain exit visas from NAZI authorities. Very few German Jews were actually killed until Kristalnacht (November 1938). The Kindertransport was the last chance for many Jewish children. Even with the widespread brutality of Kristallnacht (November 1938), the numbers of Jews actually killed was limited in relation as to what was to come. We know from Mein Kampf that Hitler planned a new war from the very beginning. It also suggests that the extermination of Jews was also on Hitler's mind from the onset, but this is not entirely clear. The strteling success of German arms at the onset of the War, gave Hitler control over not only German Jews, but most of the Jews of Europe. The invasion and occupation of Poland massively increased the Jews under his control (September 1939)He now had the ability and the means to kill Jews in massive numbers. It was not until the victory in the West over France (June 1940), however, that plans for the the industrial killing of Jews were set in motion. And that killing began from the moment that Germn armies entered the Soviet Union (June 1941). The War also changed the lives of German Jews. As bad as it had been before the War, conmditions steadily deteriorated for Reich Jews. The final step was deportation to ghettos and death camps in the East. When the Allies finally entered the Reich, very few Jews had managed to survive.

Sources

Berenbaum, Michael. The World Must Know (Ed. Arnold Kramer. Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1993).

Crane, Cynthia A. "The plight of German children from Jewish-Christian 'mixed marriages': Often forgotten victims of the holocaust," Children and the Holocaust: Symposium, United states Holocaust Memorial Museum, April 3, 2003.

Goldhagen, Daniel

Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf.

Hobsbawm, Eric. Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life (Pantheon: 2003), 448p. Hobsbawm was born in Egypt of an English father and Austrian mother. He was raised in Vienna and Berlin. As a teenagr he became a Marxist and was recruited to a communist youth group. He engaged in anti-NAZI activities, but he and his parents left Germany within weeks of the NAZI take over. He writes that he remained a Communist in later years out of loyalty to his young friend who fought the NAZIs--few of who survived the Third Reich.

Nuremberg Tribunal. "Individual Responsibility of Defendants: Artur Seyss-Inquart," Nazi Conspiracy and Aggresion Vol. II. USGPO, Washington, 1946, pp.956-1004.

Padfield, Peter. Himmler: Reichsführer-SS (Henry Holt: New York, 1991), 656p.

Commentary of the Voelkischer Beobachter on the Prohibition for Jews to own and drive cars. Voelkischer Beobachter (December 4, 1938).






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Created: October 12, 2002
Last updated: 9:09 AM 7/29/2015