Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Part 1 - Persecution (1933-1936)

After 1933 it was just accepted that if you were a Jewish child you were liable to be beaten up, bullied, or whatever else they chose to do with you. It was no use appealing to policemen or teachers because they're not supposed to interfere or even be interested in helping you because you are perceived to be an enemy of the state.


Hitler's racism and hatred against the Jews and other groups began well before the Nationalist Socialist Workers Party- the Nazi Party - came to power on 30 January 1933. Nazi ideology outlining the worldwide conflict between 'Aryans' and Jews was a major theme of Hitler's Mein Kampf. Jews, along with Communists, with whom they were closely identified, were regarded as threatening the very basis of German and 'Aryan' (Caucasian of non-Jewish descent) culture, and Hitler's stated mission was to alert Germany and the world to this threat, and to destroy it.

Although the first fatal Jewish victims of the Nazi era can be dated as early as 1 January 1930, when the eight Jews were killed by Nazi storm troopers (Sturmabteilungen, SA), it was not until the Machtergreifung - Hitler's seizure of power - in January 1933 that the impact of anti-Jewish measures was felt. German Jews, increasingly isolated by Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda and segregated by the various laws, were the main victims during the years 1933-1936. There was, however, a certain amount of spillover of anti-Semitism into neighbouring countries.

During this period, the increasing violence against Germany Jewry was of a relatively sporadic character compared with the mass campaigns which came later, although there were indications of what was to come. For instance, on Saturday, 1April 1933, a one-day boycott of Jewish shops occurred, when windows were daubed with anti-Jewish slogans and armed SA guards prevented Aryan customers from entering Jewish shops. A purge of German Jewish, Communist and other books considered to be 'disruptive influences' was also undertaken, culminating in the mass book burnings of 10 May 1933 - both events organised by Joseph Goebbels and his Nazi cohorts.

On 1 April 1933 the first boycott of Jewish shops, lawyers and doctors took place all over Germany. Members of the SA and SS stood outside Jewish stores and reminded each would-be shopper of the boycott slogan: "Germans protect yourselves. Do not buy from Jews."

Shop windows are broken and goods are looted
Shop windows that are labeled "Jude" to indicate that it is a Jewish-owned shop

Mass Jewish book burnings and Nazi salutes

One of the first tasks the Nazi Party set itself on achieving power was to establish the concentration camp system. Dachau concentration camp was opened in March 1933, the first prisoners consisting mainly of Communist, Social Democrats and other political enemies of the Nazis. In 1934, an Inspectorate of Concentration Camps was created by the Schutzstaffel (SS) chief, Heinrich Himmler, under the command of Theodor Eicke, the SS Lagerfuhrer of Dachau. The aim was to restructure the camp system. All units henceforth operated uniformly under a central command with strict training of guards who were organised into the Totnkopfverbande
- an SS unit. Total organisation of prisoners' lives, backed up wit a brutal regime of punishment, was the order of the day.

It was during this phase that legislation was formulated and implemented restricting economic and professional activity as well as social contact with 'Aryans'. On 11 April 1933, the publication of the Law for the Restortion of the Professional Civil Service and the law establishing numerus clauses on Jews for admission into the legal profession was published. More than fifty other decrees were enacted between this date and September 1935, each of which covered a different profession. On 15 September, the so-called Nuremberg Laws, pssed by a special sitting of the Reichstag during the massive, dramatic Nazi Rally held in the city, brought shockwaves to German and European Jewry. The Nuremberg Laws defined who was considered a Jew and revoked what few rights Jews still possessed. All these measures were backed up with an increasing vitriolic anti-Jewish and racial propaganda campaign by the Nazi-controlled media, led by Julius Streicher's rbid anti-Semitic paper, Der Sturmer.

Throughout this time, Jews were encouraged to emigrate and, despite all the problems of gaining admission to safe havens, just over 35,000 Jews left for Palestine, Western Europe, Britain and the United States in 1933.

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