The New Ghetto


“Cell 6: approximately 5 m. high, window approx. 40 × 70 cm. at a height of 4 meters, which gives the feeling of a cellar…. Wooden plank with straw mat and two blankets, a wooden bucket, a jug, a basin, soap, a towel, no mirror, no toothbrush, no comb, no brush, no table, no book from January 12 [1935] until my departure on September 18; no newspaper from January 12 to August 17; no bath and no shower from January 12 to August 10; no leaving of the cell, except for interrogations, from January 12 to July 1. Incarceration in an unlighted cell from April 16 to May 1, then from May 15 to August 27, a total of 119 days.”1

This was the Würzburg wine merchant Leopold Obermayer writing about the first of his imprisonments in Dachau, in a seventeen-page report, dated October 10, 1935, which he managed to smuggle out to his lawyer. It was seized by the Gestapo and found after the war in their Würzburg files. Obermayer had a doctorate in law (from Frankfurt University); and he was a practicing Jew and a Swiss citizen. October 29, 1934, he had complained to the Würzburg police that his mail was being opened. Two days later, having been ordered to report to headquarters, he was arrested. From then on he became a special case for the local Gestapo chief, Josef Gerum, a Nazi “old fighter” with a bad reputation even among his colleagues. Gerum accused Obermayer of spreading accusations about the new regime. Shortly afterward nude photographs of Obermayer’s male lovers were found in his bank safe. Both a Jew and a homosexual: For Gerum this was indeed a rewarding catch.

In his report Obermayer alludes many times to his tormentors’ boundless hatred of the Jews; they assured him that he would never be set free, and tried to drive him to suicide. Why didn’t they kill him? Writing about Obermayer’s story, Martin Broszat and Elke Fröhlich give no clear explanation. It seems, however, that murdering a Swiss citizen, albeit a Jewish one, was not yet done lightly in 1935, all the more so since the Swiss consulate in Munich, and later the legation in Berlin, were aware of Obermayer’s incarceration; the Ministry of Justice in particular was worried about the possibility of Swiss intervention.2

Under interrogation Obermayer was pressed to give details about his lovers; he refused and was beaten up. On May 15, as he was once more being taken to the camp commander’s office for interrogation, he asked an SS man named Lang, who had just threatened to shoot him, whether he had any compassion at all. Lang replied: “No, for Jews I have none.” Obermayer complained to the commander, SS-Oberführer Deubel, about the way he was being treated. “Thereupon the SS-Truppenführer standing at the window said: ‘You are not a human being, you are a beast!’ I started to answer: ‘Frederick the Great was also one….’ Before I could say another word, this Truppenführer hit me in the face: my upper middle tooth was knocked out and I started bleeding from the mouth and nose: ‘You Jewish pig, comparing yourself to Frederick the Great!’” Further retribution was immediate: unlighted cell, no straw mat on the wooden plank, arms tied behind the back, manacles left unopened for up to thirty-six hours, so that, Obermayer wrote, he had to defecate and urinate in his trousers.3

In mid-September 1935 Obermayer was transferred from Dachau to an ordinary prison in Ochsenfurt, pending court interrogation. In the meantime Obermayer’s lawyer, Rosenthal, a Jew, had also been arrested, and it was in his house that Gerum found the incriminating report about the conditions of Obermayer’s detention in Dachau. Rosenthal was released and later left Germany: His wife had committed suicide. The court in Ochsenfurt did not keep Obermayer for long. At Gerum’s insistence the Jewish homosexual was taken back to Dachau on October 12, 1935.4Obermayer will reappear in these pages.

At this time Germany and the world were witnessing a dramatic consolidation of Hitler’s internal and international power. The murder of Ernst Röhm and other SA leaders on the notorious Night of the Long Knives in June 1934 eliminated even the faintest possibility of an alternative source of power within the party. Immediately following Hindenburg’s death, the naming of Hitler as Führer and chancellor on August 2 made him the sole source of legitimacy in Germany. Hitler’s popularity reached new heights in 1935: On January 13 an overwhelming majority of the Saar population voted for return of the territory to the Reich. On March 16 general conscription and establishment of the Wehrmacht were announced. No foreign power dared to respond to these massive breaches of the Versailles Treaty; the common front against Germany formed at Stresa by Britain, France, and Italy in April 1935, in order to defend Austria’s independence against any German annexation attempt and preserve the status quo in Europe, had crumbled by June, when the British signed a separate naval agreement with Germany. On March 17 of that year, Hitler had been in Munich, and a report for the clandestine Socialist Party vividly captured the overall mood:

“Enthusiasm on 17 March enormous. The whole of Munich was on its feet. People can be forced to sing, but they can’t be forced to sing with such enthusiasm. I experienced the days of 1914 and can only say that the declaration of war did not make the same impact on me as the reception of Hitler on 17 March…. Trust in Hitler’s political talent and honest intentions is getting ever greater, just as generally Hitler has again won extraordinary popularity. He is loved by many.”5

Between 1933 and 1936 a balance of sorts was kept between the revolutionary-charismatic impulse of Nazism and the authoritarian-conservative tendencies of the pre-1933 German state: “The marriage of an authoritarian system of government with the mass movement of National Socialism seemed to be successful in spite of considerable friction over key points, and also [seemed] to have overcome the shortcomings of the authoritarian system,” wrote Martin Broszat.6 Within this temporary alliance Hitler’s role was decisive. For the traditional elites the new “belief in the Führer” became associated with the authority of the monarch. Basic elements of the Imperial state and of the National Socialist regime were linked in the person of the new leader.7

Such “belief in the Führer” led quite naturally to an urge for action on the part of state and party agencies according to the general guidelines set by Hitler, without the constant necessity of specific orders from him. The dynamics of this interaction between base and summit was, as British historian Ian Kershaw pointed out, “neatly captured in the sentiments of a routine speech of a Nazi functionary in 1934”:

“‘Everyone who has the opportunity to observe it knows that the Führer can hardly dictate from above everything which he intends to realize sooner or later. On the contrary, up till now everyone with a post in the new Germany has worked best when he has, so to speak, worked towards the Führer. Very often and in many spheres it has been the case—in previous years as well—that individuals have simply waited for orders and instructions. Unfortunately, the same will be true in the future; but in fact it is the duty of everybody to try to work towards the Führer along the lines he would wish. Anyone who makes mistakes will notice it soon enough. But anyone who really works towards the Führer along his lines and towards his goal will certainly both now and in the future one day have the finest reward in the form of the sudden legal confirmation of his work.’”8

Thus the majority of a society barely emerging from years of crisis believed that the new regime offered solutions that, in diverse but related ways, would give answers to the aspirations, resentments, and interests of its various sectors. This belief survived the difficulties of the early phase (such as a still sluggish economy) as a result of a new sense of purpose, of a series of successes on the international scene, and, above all, of unshaken faith in the Führer. As one of its corollaries, however, that very faith brought with it widespread acceptance, passive or not, of the measures against the Jews: Sympathy for the Jews would have meant some distrust of the rightness of Hitler’s way, and many Germans had definitely established their individual and collective priorities in this regard. The same is true in relation to the other central myth of the regime, that of the Volksgemeinschaft. The national community explicitly excluded the Jews. Belonging to the national community implied acceptance of the exclusions it imposed. In other words, adherence to “positive” tenets of the regime, to mobilizing myths such as the myth of the Führer and that of the Volksgemeinschaft, sufficed to undermine explicit dissent against anti-Jewish measures (and other of the regime’s persecutions). Yet, as we shall see, despite these general trends, there were nuances in German society’s attitudes toward the “outsiders” in its midst.

Hitler’s tactical moderation on any issue that could have negative economic consequences shows his conscious alignment with the conservative allies. But when it came to symbolic expressions of anti-Jewish hatred, the Nazi leader could barely be restrained. In April 1935 Martin Bormann, then Rudolf Hess’s chief of staff, inquired whether Hitler wished to remove the anti-Jewish placards that were sprouting up all over the Reich. Fritz Wiedemann, Hitler’s adjutant, informed Bormann that the Führer was opposed to their removal.9 The matter soon resurfaced when Oswald Leewald, president of the German Olympic Committee, complained that these signs were contributing to ongoing anti-Jewish agitation in such major Olympic sites as Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The Olympic Games will be dealt with later on, but with regard to the anti-Jewish notices, Hitler refused at first to act against the initiatives of the regional party chiefs; only when he was told they could cause serious damage to the Winter Olympics did he give the order to remove the offensive signs.10 Finally a general compromise solution was found. On June 11, 1935, the Ministry of Propaganda ordered that in view of the forthcoming Olympics, signs such as those reading JEWS UNWANTED should quietly be removed from major roads.11 This may have been asking too much, for a few days before the beginning of the Winter Olympics, Hess’s office issued the following decree: “In order to avoid a making a bad impression on foreign visitors, signs with extreme inscriptions should be taken away; signs such as ‘Jews Are Unwanted Here’ will suffice.”12


On January 1, 1935, a Tübingen Jewish merchant, Hugo Loewenstein, received a medal “in the name of the Führer and Reichskanzler” for his service during World War I.13 The same distinction was awarded to Ludwig Tannhäuser, a Stuttgart Jewish businessman, as late as August 1, 1935.14Yet, nearly a year and a half earlier, on February 28, 1934, Minister of Defense Werner von Blomberg had ordered that the Aryan paragraph be applied to the army.15 When the Wehrmacht was established, in March 1935, “national” Jews petitioned Hitler for the right to serve in the new armed forces.16 To no avail: On May 21 military service was officially forbidden to Jews.17 “Mixed breeds [Mischlinge] of the first and second degree” (these categories had already been in use at the Ministry of Defense before the Nuremberg Laws) could, however, be allowed to serve in the armed forces as individual exceptions.18

Earlier the army had attempted to help Jewish officers who were being dismissed. On May 16, 1934, a member of the Reichswehr Staff had approached a Chinese diplomat in Berlin with the suggestion that the Chinese Army find positions for some of the younger Jewish Reichswehr officers. Legation Secretary Tan expressed his personal interest in the idea, but was skeptical about its implementation: Nazi Party officials had already been in touch with the Chinese government to dissuade it from hiring German Jewish officers on the grounds that Jews were not representative of the German people, and thus the German Reich saw no value in any activity of theirs abroad.19

Goebbels could not lag far behind the military. Less than a month after Blomberg’s order, on March 24, 1934, the propaganda minister announced that, as a matter of general principle, all Jews would be excluded from membership in the Reich Chamber of Culture. Preparations started immediately, and in early 1935 the remaining Jewish members of the various specific chambers began to be dismissed.20 On November 15, 1935, at its annual meeting in Berlin, Goebbels was able to announce—somewhat prematurely, as will be seen—that the Reich Chamber of Culture was now “free of Jews.”21

The relentlessness of the efforts to segregate the Jews was unmistakable. In ideological terms the most crucial domain was that of physical—that is, biological—separation; much in advance of the Nuremberg legislation, mixed marriages and sexual relations between Germans and Jews became targets of unceasing, often violent party attacks. The party press spearheaded this campaign, and the flow of anti-Jewish abuse spread by a paper such as Streicher’s Der Stürmer did not remain without effect. On the other hand, however, contrary to the main thrust of party agitation, some groups of the population not only rejected anti-Jewish violence and hesitated to sever their economic ties with Jews, but even at times showed signs of sympathy for the victims. Beyond such reluctance to segregate the Jews completely, the “cleansing” of various areas of German life of any trace of Jewish presence encountered countless other difficulties. Thus, during this early phase of the regime, Jews still remained, in one way or another, in various domains of German life, although as a result of party agitation their situation worsened in the spring and summer of 1935.

The notion of race as such, defined as a set of common physical and mental characteristics transmitted within a group by the force of tradition or even in some biological way, had been used by Jews themselves from Moses Hess to Martin Buber, particularly in Buber’s 1911 Prague lectures, published as Three Speeches on Judaism. It had not disappeared in postwar Germany. Thus, in a February 1928 speech on the problems facing German Jewry, the director of the Zentralverein, Ludwig Holländer, after asserting that the Jews had been a race since biblical times as a result of their common descent and nonetheless expressing doubts whether the concept of race was applicable to the modern Jew, went on, however, to tell his listeners: “Extraction remains, that is, the racial characteristics are still present, albeit diminished by the centuries; they are present in external as well as mental features.”22 In 1932 a fierce internal Jewish controversy arose around the publication by the Zionist author Gustav Krojanker of a booklet entitled On the Problem of the New German Nationalism. According to Krojanker, the Zionist revolt against liberalism, which was in response to a will aroused by the imperatives of the blood, should allow for a deep understanding of the political developments in Germany.23

Such rather extreme positions were those of a small minority, but they show the influence of völkisch thinking on some German Jews.24 Here and there some Jewish voices even pleaded for “racial purity of the Jewish stock” and for investigations according to the rules of “racial science” for more ample and precise information regarding “the extent of miscegenation between Jews and Christians [sic], thus between members of the Semitic and Aryan race.”25 But these various statements had the connotation neither of racial hierarchy based on biological criteria nor of a struggle between races.

It seems, at the outset at least, that a widespread belief existed in the party that scientific racial criteria for identifying the Jew could be discovered. Thus, in a letter of September 1, 1933, to Baden’s minister of the interior (with copies to all relevant authorities in the Reich), Wilhelm Frick made it clear that the identification of the “non-Aryan” was not dependent on parents’ or grandparents’ religion, but “on descent, on race, on blood.” This meant that even if the religious affiliation of parents or grandparents was not Jewish, another criterion could be found.26 This was the line of thinking that guided the Jena racial anthropologist Hans F. K. Günther in his attempt to identify various external physical characteristics of the Jew, as it did his Leipzig colleague Paul Reche to pursue his yearlong research on racially determined blood types. But even Reche had to admit that “no single blood type was typical among Jews.”27 This failure, however, though soon recognized by most Nazi scientists,28 did not deter publications specializing in scientific vulgarization from announcing that, on this front as on all others, decisive breakthroughs had been achieved.

In the October 1934 issue of the Volksgesundheitswacht (People’s health guardian), a Doctor Stähle offered “new research results” concerning “blood and race.” He traced some illnesses specifically attributed to Jews (commenting ironically that these were “accumulative diseases”), referring mainly to the work of a Leningrad “scientist” named E. O. Manoiloff. This Russian claimed that, with an accuracy of 90 percent, he could distinguish Jewish from Russian blood by chemical means. Stähle conveyed appropriate enthusiasm to his readers: “Think what it might mean if we could identify non-Aryans in the test tube! Then neither deception, nor baptism, nor name change, nor citizenship, and not even nasal surgery could help…. One cannot change one’s blood!”29 Stähle was head of the local medical society in Württemberg.30

Despite Stähle’s optimism, biological criteria for defining the Jew remained elusive, and it was on the basis of the religious affiliation of parents and grandparents that the Nazis had to launch their crusade for racial purification of the Volk.

Almost three years before Hitler’s accession to power, the Nazis had unsuccessfully demanded an amendment of the Law for the Protection of the Republic so as to define “betrayal of the race” (Rassenverrat) as a crime punishable by imprisonment or even by death. Such an offender would be anyone “who contributes or threatens to contribute to the racial deterioration and dissolution of the German people through interbreeding with persons of Jewish blood or the colored races.”31

In September 1933 Hanns Kerrl, justice minister of Prussia, and his undersecretary, Roland Freisler, suggested to the party (in a memorandum entitled “National Socialist Criminal Law”) that marriages and extramarital sexual relations between “those of German blood” and “members of racially alien communities” be considered “punishable offenses against the honor of the race and endangerment of the race.”32 At the time these proposals were not followed up. After the establishment of the new regime, however, the situation started to change de facto. Officials increasingly referred to the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service in order to refuse, on the basis of the law’s “general national principles,” to perform marriage ceremonies between Jews and “those of German blood.”33 The pressure grew to such a point that on July 26, 1935, Frick announced that, since the legal validity of “marriages between Aryans and non-Aryans” would be officially addressed in the near future, such marriages should be “postponed until further notice.”34

The refusal to perform marriages was an easy matter compared to the other “logical” corollary stemming from the situation: the dissolution of existing mixed marriages. The Civil Code allowed for divorce on the basis of wrongdoing by one of the partners, but it was difficult to equate belonging to a particular race with the notion of wrongdoing.

Paragraph 1333 of the Civil Code did, however, stipulate that a marriage could be challenged if a spouse had been unaware, on contracting the marriage, of “personal qualities” or circumstances that would have precluded the union. But it could only be invoked within six months of the wedding, and racial identity could hardly be defined as a personal quality; finally it is unlikely that partners to a marriage were unaware of such racial identity at the time of their decision. Nevertheless, paragraph 1333 increasingly became the prop of Nazi legal interpretation, on the grounds that “Jewishness” was indeed a personal quality whose significance had become clear only as a result of the new political circumstances. Consequently, the six-month period could be counted from the date when the significance of Jewishness became a major element in public consciousness, that is, from January 30 (Hitler’s accession) or even April 7, 1933 (the Civil Service Law’s promulgation).35

As an increasing number of courts started basing their decisions on the new interpretation of the Civil Service Law, leading Nazi jurists, such as Roland Freisler, had to intervene in order to restore a semblance of order.36It was only with the law of July 6, 1938, that “racially” mixed marriages could in fact be legally annulled. The judges, lawyers, and registrars who were intent on the dissolution of mixed marriages were not necessarily members of the party; in their determination to segregate the Jews from society, they went beyond the immediate instructions of the Nazi leadership.

The anti-Jewish zeal of the courts regarding mixed marriages was reinforced by police initiatives and even by mob demonstrations against any form of sexual relations between Jews and Aryans: “Race defilement” was the obsession of the day. Thus on August 19, 1935, a Jewish businessman was arrested on that charge in Stuttgart. As he was brought to the police station, a crowd gathered and demonstrated against the accused. Shortly afterward, according to the city chronicle, a Jewish woman merchant who had had a stall in the market hall since 1923 lost her permit because she allowed her son to have a relationship with a non-Jewish German girl.37

Whether the demonstrators assembled in front of the Stuttgart police station were party activists, a mob drummed up by the party, or a random crowd of Germans is hard to say. The agitation against mixed marriages and race defilement reported from all parts of the Reich during the summer of 1935 offers no further clues. Thus a Gestapo report from Pomerania for the month of July 1935 indicates that Volksgenossen demonstrated in Stralsund on the 14th “because here various Jews had married Aryan girls,” and in Altdamm on the 24th “because here a Jew had committed race defilement with a married Aryan woman.”38

The party press spared no effort to fan the fury of the Volksgenossen against such pollution. Jewish race defilers must be castrated, demanded the Westdeutscher Beobachter on February 19, 1935. On April 10 the SS periodical Das Schwarze Korps called for dire punishment (up to fifteen years’ imprisonment even for the German partner) for sexual relations between Germans and Jews.39 All aspects of the witch-hunt that was to characterize the period following the passage of the Nuremberg racial laws were already visible.

The presence of Jews in public swimming pools was a major theme, second only to outright race defilement, in the Nazis’ pornographic imagination: It expressed a “healthy” Aryan revulsion at the sight of the Jewish body,40 the fear of possible contamination resulting from sharing the water or mingling in the pool area and, most explicitly, the sexual threat of Jewish nakedness, often alluded to as the impudent behavior of Jewish women and outright sexual harassment of German women by Jewish men. As could be expected, the theme surfaced in Nazi literature. Thus, in Hans Zöberlein’s 1937 novel Der Befehldes Gewissens (Conscience commands), which takes place during the years immediately after World War I, the Aryan Berta is molested by Jews in an open-air swimming pool in Bavaria: “These Jewish swine are ruining us,” she exclaims. “They are polluting our blood. And blood is the best and the only thing we have.”41

In most German cities the expulsion of Jews from public bathing facilities became a prime party objective. In Dortmund, for example, the party press harped on the danger posed by the presence of Jews in municipal swimming pools until it achieved its goal with the publication of an announcement on July 25, 1935, by the city’s mayor: “As a result of various unpleasant occurrences and due to the fact that the immense majority of the members of our German national community feels burdened by the presence of Jews, I have forbidden Jews the use of all public swimming pools, indoor public bathing facilities, and public sun-decks. At all these premises, warning signs will carry the following inscription: ACCESS TO THESE FACILITIES IS FORBIDDEN TO JEWS.42

The party press in Stuttgart initiated a similar campaign, the NS-Kurier reporting on July 8 that during the preceding week several Jewish women had had to be expelled from the city’s swimming pools because of “their impudent behavior.” The paper took the opportunity to point out that there were no signs forbidding access to Jews. With the city council divided on the issue, such signs were not finally posted in Stuttgart until after the 1936 Olympic Games.43

The process of exclusion seemed to follow a well-established pattern. Sometimes, however, minor hitches occurred. On August 1, 1935, the Bavarian Political Police reported an incident at the Heigenbrücken swimming pool on July 14, when some fifteen or twenty youths chanted for “the removal of the Jews…from ‘the German baths.’” According to the police report: “A considerable number of other bathers joined in the chanting, so that probably the majority of visitors were demanding the removal of the Jews. In view of the general indignation and the danger of disturbances, the district leader of the NSDAP, Mayor Wohlgemuth of Aschaffenburg, who happened to be in the swimming pool, went to the supervisor of the baths and demanded that he remove the Jews. The supervisor refused on the grounds that he was obliged to follow only the instructions of the baths’ administration and moreover, could not easily distinguish the Jews as such. As a result of the supervisor’s statement, there was a slight altercation between him and the mayor, which was later settled by the baths’ administration. In view of this incident, the Spa Association today placed a notice at the entrance of the baths with the inscription: ENTRY FORBIDDEN TO JEWS.”44

Among the newspapers spewing a constant stream of anti-Jewish abuse, Streicher’s Der Stürmer was the most vicious; its ongoing campaign and the wide distribution it achieved by means of public display may have been abhorrent to the educated middle class or even to educated party members, but its appeal among the general population, school youngsters, and the Hitler Youth, possibly because of its pornographic and sadistic streak, seems to have been quite widespread.

On May 1, 1934, Der Stürmer published its notorious special issue on Jewish ritual murder. The front-page headline, THE JEWISH MURDER PLOT AGAINST NON-JEWISH HUMANITY IS UNCOVERED, was graced by a half-page drawing of two particularly hideous-looking Jews holding a vessel to collect the blood streaming from the naked bodies of angelic Christian children they have just murdered (one of the Jews is holding a bloodstained knife). In the background stands a cross. The next day the National Representation of German Jews wired Reich Bishop Ludwig Müller: “We feel obliged to draw your attention to the special issue of the Der Stürmer of May 1. We have sent the following telegram to the Reich chancellor: ‘Der Stürmer has come out with a special issue which, using incredible insults and horrifying descriptions, accuses Jewry of ritual murder. Before God and humanity, we raise our voice in solemn protest against this unheard-of profanation of our faith.’ We are convinced that the deep outrage that we are feeling is shared by every Christian.” Neither Hitler nor Reich Bishop Müller replied.45

Along with great issues such as ritual murder, Der Stürmer also addressed more mundane items (although, in true Stürmer fashion, the mundane always led to the broader historical panorama), like one that came up in the summer of 1935. In its August 1935 issue (no. 35), Streicher’s paper took up a story previously published by the Reutlinger Tageblatt about a Jewish chemist, Dr. R.F., who had been accused of torturing a cat to death. According to Der Stürmer, in order to kill the cat, F. had tied it up in a sack, which he then threw onto the concrete in front of his door. “After that, he jumped with both feet on the poor animal, performing a true Negro dance on it. As he could not kill the animal in that way, although it bled through the sack, he took a board and hit the cat with the edge until he killed it.” Der Stürmer linked the killing of the cat to “the slaughter of 75,000 Persians in the Book of Esther” and to the killing of “millions of non-Jews” in “the most horrible way” in contemporary Russia. “The complacent bourgeois thinks far too little about what would happen in Germany if the Jews came to power once more,” Der Stürmer concluded.46 As could be expected, the Stürmer story aroused reader reactions. A woman from Munich addressed her letter to the culprit: “The opinion of all my female and male colleagues is that one should not treat you one hairsbreadth better [than the cat] and that you should be kicked and hit until you croak. In the case of such a wretched, disgusting, horrifying, flat-footed, hook-nosed dirty Jew, it would, by God, be no loss…. You should croak like a worm.”47

Streicher’s paper did not hesitate to attack the party’s faithful conservative allies when any kind of (usually false) information about assistance extended to a Jew reached the paper. Thus on May 20, 1935, Minister of Justice Franz Gürtner himself had to write to Hitler to clear a Stuttgart court of a Stürmer accusation that it had helped a Jew named David Isak to change his name to Fritsch (a double scandal, so to speak, given that Fritsch was the name of one of the “great forerunners of the anti-Semitic movement in Germany”). Gürtner went into details: The Isaks were of proven Catholic peasant stock going back more than two hundred years, for which parish records were available. In early 1935 David Isak had asked to change his name to Rudolf Fritsch, as his Jewish-sounding name made for growing difficulties in his work. Despite these easily established facts, Der Stürmer had launched a smear campaign against the Ministry of Justice, and Gürtner demanded that Streicher’s paper be compelled to recant publicly.48 A month later Chancellery head Hans Lammers informed the minister that Hitler had agreed to his demand.49 This incident had far-reaching consequences: the beginning of lengthy administrative debates about Jewish names, name changes, and special names for Jews.

Such complaints against Der Stürmer may have convinced Hitler that Streicher’s paper could damage the party’s reputation. On June 12, 1936, Bormann wrote to the Minister of Justice that, according to the Führer’s decision, “Der Stürmer is not a mouthpiece of the NSDAP.”50

The populace appears to have been mainly passive in the face of such ongoing party agitation: Although there was no resistance to it, outright anti-Jewish violence often encountered disapproval. An incident in the spring of 1935 is quite telling. Police interrogation of a man suspected of vandalizing a Jewish cemetery in the Rhineland revealed the following story: The suspect and his friends Gross and Remle had met at a tavern in Hassloch and, after hearing from the local SS leader, Strubel, that “the Jews were to be considered fair game,” they set out for the Jewish livestock dealer Heinrich Heene’s house. They hurled abuse at Heene and his family while unsuccessfully attempting to break into the courtyard. The people, who by now had gathered in front of Heene’s house, gave the three men no aid in their efforts to break down the gate. “When Gross saw…that the assembled crowd did not support him,” the police report went on, “he yelled at them: ‘You call yourselves men, but you’re not helping me bring out this pack of Jews.’ He then tried with great force to break down the door, kicking against it more wildly than before. The crowd, however, was not in favor of Gross’s deed, and one could hear voices growing louder with disapproval—that this was unjust.”51

Remle, Gross, and the suspect were party members who had taken their cues from the local SS leader and encountered signs of reluctance from a group of townspeople when they moved toward violence. This does not mean that sporadic (and traditional) anti-Jewish violence was unknown in all areas.52 In one case at least, in Guenzenhausen (Lower Franconia) in the spring of 1934, it led to the deaths of two local Jews.” But such occurences were rare.

The peasantry seemed unwilling to forgo the services of the Jew as shopkeeper or cattle dealer:54 “because of the economic advantages they gained from dealing with Jews who paid cash and sold on credit, they [the peasants] were reluctant to make the move to the Aryan cattle dealers whom the Nazis tried to encourage.”55 On more general grounds, the peasantry often “chose to buy almost solely in Jewish stores,” as was reported from Pomerania for the month of June 1935, “because at the Jew’s it is cheaper and one has a greater choice [of merchandise].”56 Probably for the same reasons, a sizable number of Volksgenossen still gave preference to Jewish stores and businesses in small towns no less than in large cities. When, according to Victor Klemperer s diary, non-Jews of Falkenstein, in Saxony, were forbidden to patronize local Jewish stores, they traveled to neighboring Auerbach, where they could still patronize the Jewish stores; in turn, non-Jews of Auerbach traveled to Falkenstein for the same purpose. For large-scale purchases, non-Jews from both towns traveled to Plauen, where there was a Jewish department store: “If you happened to know someone you ran into there, neither of you had seen the other. That was the tacit understanding.”57

What seems to have been most galling to party authorities was the fact that even party members, some in full uniform, were not deterred from doing business with Jews. Thus, in the early summer of 1935, the persistence of such reprehensible behavior was reported from Dortmund, Frankfurt an der Oder, Königsberg, Stettin, and Breslau.58 In short, while hordes of party activists were beating up Jews, other party members were faithfully buying at Jewish shops. Some party members went even further. According to an SD report, addressed on October 11, 1935, to the party district court in Berlin-Steglitz, party member Hermann Prinz had been seen, six months earlier, in the Bad Polzin area dealing in rugs in partnership with the Jew Max Ksinski; he had even been wearing party insignia while doing this business.59

In the summer of 1935, when Jews, as we have seen, were forbidden access to swimming pools and other bathing facilities in numerous German cities, and the very presence of Jews was not allowed in many small towns and villages, a surrealistic situation developed in some of the Baltic seaside resorts, where Der Stürmer was widely displayed. It seems that a number of popular guesthouses in these resorts belonged to Jews. In Binz, for instance, a Hungarian Jew owned the most prominent guesthouse, which, according to a Gestapo report, the local population was boycotting, when who should choose to stay there at Whitsuntide but Gauleiter and Reich Governor (Reichsstatthalter) Löper!60 And, adding insult to injury, a month later, in July, it was the Hungarian Jew’s guesthouse that was favored by officers and men from the Köln on the naval cruiser’s visit to Binz.61 This paradoxical situation lasted for three more years, coming to an end in the spring of 1938, when the director of the Binz office of Baltic Sea resorts announced that “the efforts of recent months have been successful”: All the formerly Jewish-owned guesthouses were now in Aryan hands.62

The clash between party propaganda against business relations with Jews and the economic advantages brought by such relations was only a reflection of the contradictory nature of the orders from above: on the one hand, no contacts between Jews and Volksgenossen; on the other, no interference with Jewish economic activities. This contradiction, which stemmed from two momentarily irreconcilable priorities—the ongoing struggle against the Jews and the need to further Germany’s economic recovery—found repeated expression in reports from local authorities. The president of the Kassel administrative district addressed the issue in very direct terms in his monthly report of August 8, 1934: “The Jewish question still plays a significant role. In business life the Jewish presence is still getting stronger. They again have complete control of the cattle market. The attitude of the National Socialist organizations in regard to the Jewish question remains unchanged and is often in conflict with the instructions of the Minister of the Economy, particularly with regard to the treatment of Jewish businesses. I have repeatedly been compelled, together with the State Police, to cancel boycott initiatives as well as other violations by local authorities.”63

Such contradictions and dilemmas were often particularly visible at the small-town level. On July 2, 1935, a report was sent by Laupheim town officials to the Württemberg Ministry of the Interior: “Under present circumstances, the Jewish question has increasingly become a source of uncertainty for the Laupheim authorities…. If the fight against the Jews…continues, one has to take into account that the local Jewish businesspeople will emigrate as fast as possible. The municipality of Laupheim will thereby have to expect a further acute loss of income and will have to raise taxes in order to meet its obligations.” The author of the report believed that the dying out of the older Jews and the emigration of the younger would cause the Jewish question to resolve itself within thirty years. Meanwhile, he suggested, let the Jews stay as they were, the more so since, apart from a few exceptions, they were a community of well-established families. If Jewish tax revenues were to disappear with no replacement, “the decline of Laupheim into a big village would be unavoidable.”64

This tension between party initiatives and economic imperatives was illustrated at length in a report devoted entirely to the Jews, sent on April 3, 1935, by the SD “major region Rhine” to SS-Gruppenführer August Heissmeyer in Koblenz. A “quiet boycott” against the Jews is described as having been mainly initiated by the party and its organizations repeatedly asking members in “closed meetings” not to patronize Jewish stores. The report then points to the fact that, “despite more limited possibilities of control in the cities, the boycott is more strictly adhered to there than in rural areas. In Catholic regions in particular, the peasants buy as they did before, mainly from Jews, and this turns in part into an antiboycott movement, which gets its support from the Catholic clergy.”

The report continues by describing the growing impact of Der Stürmer, “which is sometimes even used as teaching material in schools.” But when the paper openly incited its readers to boycott, there was counteraction by state authorities. According to the report, “The Jews conclude from this that the boycott is not wanted by the state. As a result one hears all kinds of complaints about Jewish insolence, which is again coming to the fore.”65


Sometimes genuine sympathy for the plight of the Jews and even offers of help found direct or indirect ways of expression. Thus, in a letter to the Jüdische Rundschau, the granddaughter of the poet Hoffmann von Fallersleben, author of the lyrics of the national anthem (the “Deutschlandlied”), offered to put a house on the Baltic shore at the disposal of Jewish children.66 A different and rather unexpected testimony to both Jewish resilience and Aryan sympathy reached the files of the Göttingen police in early 1935; signed by Reinhard Heydrich, it was a report sent to all Gestapo stations. Its subject: “Performances by Jewish Artists.”

“It has recently been observed,” Heydrich wrote, “that Jewish artists have attempted in their public appearances to deal, in a veiled way, with government measures as well as with the political and economic situation in Germany and, before an audience of mainly non-Aryans, to exercise by their mimicry and their tone an intentionally destructive criticism, the aim of which is to publicly ridicule the State and the Party.” So much for Jewish artists addressing a Jewish public. But there was more: “The State authorities were also provoked by the fact that police intervention resulting from the undesirable cooperation of Aryan with non-Aryan artists has been turned into an occasion for ovations for the non-Aryan artists.” And, as if struck by an afterthought, Heydrich added: “The appearance of non-Aryan artists before an Aryan public is fundamentally undesirable, as complications are to be feared.” In short the Gestapo was being asked to stop any such shows immediately, although in legal terms some Jews were still exempted from such a prohibition. For Heydrich non-Aryan artists had to limit themselves to a Jewish public. Moreover, in the event that non-Aryan artists were again to allude to the situation in Germany, they must be arrested, “as any interference by non-Aryans in German matters cannot be tolerated.”67

Repeated orders to party members and civil servants to avoid any further contacts with Jews are indirect proof that such contacts continued into 1935, and not only on economic grounds. On June 7 the mayor of Lörrach in Baden addressed a stern warning to all municipal employees: the Führer had freed Germany from the Jewish danger, and any German “who valued his racial honor” must be grateful to the Führer for this achievement. “If it still happens nonetheless that Germans express their attachment to this foreign race by keeping friendly relations with its members, such behavior shows an absence of sensitivity which must be denounced in the sharpest form.”68

The undercurrent of sympathy for the persecuted Jews must have been significant enough for Goebbels to address it in a speech that month. Goebbels “attacked those of his countrymen who…‘shamelessly,’ argued that the Jew, after all, was a human being too.” According to Robert Weltsch, who at the time was the editor of the Jüdische Rundschau, Goebbels’s wrath reveals that a whispering campaign was still going on, indicating some measure of indignation on the part of people whom Goebbels called bourgeois intellectuals. It was these Germans whom the Gauleiter [of Berlin, Goebbels] wanted to warn.”69

It may be difficult to prove how effective Goebbels’s speech was in intimidating the “bourgeois intellectuals,” but it surely had other consequences. In its July 2, 1935, issue, the Jüdische Rundschau published an article by Weltsch entitled “The Jew Is Human Too: An Argument Put Forward by Friends of the Jews.” It was a subtly ironic comment on the minister’s tirade, and it did lead to the banning of the paper.70 After a few weeks and some negotiating, a letter written in Goebbels’s name (but signed “Jahnke”) was sent to Weltsch: “The Jüdische Rundschau No. 53, dated July 2, 1935, published an article ‘The Jew Is Human Too,’ which dealt with the part of my speech of 29.6.1935 referring to the Jewish question. My refutation of the bourgeois intellectual view that ‘the Jew is human too’ was attacked in this article which stated that not only was the Jew human too, but had of necessity to be consciously human and consciously Jewish. Your paper has been banned because of this article. The ban on the paper will be lifted, but in view of the polemic nature of the article I have to reprimand you most severely and expect to have no further cause to object to your publications.”71

Why would Goebbels have taken the trouble to engage in these maneuvers regarding a periodical written by Jews for Jews? As Weltsch explains it, “One has to keep in mind that the Jewish papers were at that time sold in public. The pretentious main thoroughfare of Berlin’s West End, the Kurfürstendamm, was literally plastered with the Jüdische Rundschau—all kiosks displayed it every Tuesday and Friday in many copies, as it was one of their best-sellers, especially as foreign papers were banned.”72 This, too, could not last for long. On October 1, 1935, the public display and sale of Jewish newspapers was prohibited.

During these early years of the regime it was difficult entirely to suppress all signs of the Jewish cultural presence in German life. Thus, for example, a 1934 catalog of the S. Fischer publishing house had a front-page picture of its recently deceased Jewish founder and a commemorative speech by the writer Oskar Loerke on the following pages. The catalog also announced volume 2 of Thomas Mann’s tetralogy Joseph and His Brothers as well as books by the Jewish authors Arthur Schnitzler, Jakob Wassermann, Walther Rathenau, and Alfred Döblin.73

The first anniversary of Fritz Haber’s death was on January 29, 1935. Despite the opposition of the Ministry of Education, and the fact that the date was the eve of the second annual national celebration marking Hitler’s accession to power, Max Planck decided to hold a memorial meeting under the auspices of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the famous Jewish scientist.

A letter sent on January 25 by the Munich party headquarters indicates that the commemoration was also sponsored by the German Society of Physics and the German Society of Chemistry. Headquarters forbade party members to attend, but did not dare, it seems, to rely solely on the argument that Haber was Jewish. The explanation thus included three distinct arguments: “that never before had a German scientist been honored in such a way only a year after his death, and Prof. Dr. Haber, who was a Jew, had been dismissed from his office on October 1, 1933, because of his clearly antagonistic attitude toward the National Socialist state.”74 The special authorizations to attend, which Minister of Education Rust had promised to some of Haber’s colleagues, were never granted. Nonetheless the ceremony took place. A wartime coworker of Haber’s, a Colonel Köth, spoke, and chemist and future Nobel laureate Otto Hahn delivered the commemorative speech. The hall was filled to capacity with representatives of industry and the spouses of the academics who had been forbidden to attend.75

The campaign to cleanse German cultural life of its Jewish presence and spirit had its moments of internal Nazi high drama. In the bitter fight waged between Goebbels and Rosenberg throughout the first months of 1933 for control of culture in the new Reich, Hitler had at first given the preference to Goebbels, mainly by allowing him to establish the Reich Chamber of Culture. Not long afterward, however, an equilibrium of sorts was reestablished by Rosenberg’s appointment, in January 1934, as the “Führer’s Representative for the Supervision of the General Intellectual and Ideological Education of the NSDAP.” The struggle with Goebbels resumed, reaching its climax in “the Strauss case,” which lasted for almost a year, from August 1934 to June 1935.

Rosenberg opened hostilities in a letter addressed to Goebbels on August 20, 1934, in which he warned that the behavior of Richard Strauss, the greatest living German composer, president of the Music Chamber of the Reich, and Goebbels’s protégé, was threatening to turn into a major public scandal: Strauss had made an agreement that the libretto of his opera Die schweigsame Frau (The silent woman) would be written by “the Jew Stefan Zweig,” who, Rosenberg added, “was also the artistic collaborator of a Jewish emigrant theater in Switzerland.”76 At stake was not only ideological purity: Rosenberg was searching for any possible way of undermining Goebbels’s dominant position in the domain of cultural politics.

Goebbels, who had just received Hitler’s acquiescence to the performance of Strauss’s opera in the early summer of 1935 in Dresden, lashed out at the pompous ideologue: “It is untrue that Dr. Richard Strauss has let a Jewish emigrant write the text of his opera. What is true, on the other hand, is that the rewriter of the text, Stefan Zweig, is an Austrian Jew, not to be confused with the emigrant Arnold Zweig…. It is also untrue that the author of the text is an artistic collaborator of a Jewish emigrant theater…. A cultural scandal could develop as a result of the above-mentioned points only if in foreign countries the matter was treated with the same lack of attention which you display in your letter, which is hereby answered. Heil Hitler!”77

The controversy soon became more shrill, Rosenberg in his reply reminding Goebbels of the protection he was granting the Jewish theater director Curt Götz and the difficulties he was thereby causing National Socialist directors. The parting shot was aimed at Goebbels’s support of modern, even “Bolshevist,” art, particularly the artists belonging to the avant-garde group Der Sturm.78

Unfortunately for Goebbels in the spring of 1935 the Gestapo seized a letter from Strauss to Zweig in which the composer explained that he had agreed “to play the role of President of the Music Chamber only to…do some good…and prevent greater misfortune.” As a consequence Strauss was dismissed from his post and replaced by Peter Raabe, a devoted Nazi. Because of Zweig’s authorship of the libretto, Die schweigsame Frau was banned after a few performances.79

The total cleansing of the Reich Music Chamber of its Jewish members took more time, however, than Goebbels had hoped—and announced. Goebbels’s diaries repeatedly record his determination to achieve the goal of complete Aryanization. The battle was waged on two fronts: against individuals and against tunes. Most Jewish musicians emigrated during the first three years of Hitler’s regime, but to the Nazis’ chagrin, it was more difficult to get rid of Jewish tunes—that is, mainly “light” music. “[Arguments] that audiences often asked for such music,” writes Michael Kater, “were refuted on the grounds that it was the duty of ‘Aryan’ musicians to educate their listeners by consistently presenting non-Jewish programs.”80

Moreover, as far as light music was concerned, intricate commercial relations between Jewish émigrè music publishers and partners who were still in Germany enabled a steady flow of undesirable music scores and records into the Reich. Music arrived from Vienna, London, and New York, and it was only in late 1937, when “alien” music was officially prohibited, that Jew hunters could feel more at ease.81

Goebbels’s Herculean task was bedeviled by the all but insuperable difficulty of identifying the racial origins of all composers and librettists, and by the dilemmas created by well-known pieces tainted with some Jewish connection. Needless to say, Rosenberg’s services and related organizations, and even the SD, were unavoidable competitors in that domain. Something of the magnitude of the challenge and of the overall atmosphere can be sensed in an exchange of letters of August 1933 between the Munich branch of Rosenberg’s Kampfbund and the Reich Division of German Theaters in Berlin. The Munich people wrote on August 16:

“The Jewish librettists and composers have over the last fifteen years set up a closed circle into which no German author could penetrate, however good the quality of his work. These gentlemen should now be made to see the other side of the coin. A defense action is necessary because in foreign papers hate-filled articles have already been published saying that in Germany things would not work without the Jews.

“In the Deutsches Theater in Munich, the operetta Sissy is presently being performed (text by [Ernst] Marischke, music by [Fritz] Kreisler). Kreisler expressed himself in Prague in a most denigrating manner about our Führer. We have expressed a sharp protest against performance of the work, also with the Reich Central Party Office of the NSDAP, to the attention of Party comrade Hess. As we now hear, Director Gruss of the Deutsches Theater is ready to take the work off the program if another work can be found to replace it. We would be grateful to you if you could recommend another such work. It would have to fit a musical-type of performance, as the Deutsches Theater is actually a variety theater and has a concession for musicals only.”82

By August 23 the answer of the Division of German Theaters was on its way to Munich: The relevant Berlin people already knew about Sissy and were probably dealing with it. But other things had to be set straight: In the Munich letter, Franz Lehar and Künnecke had too quickly been cleared of any Jewishness: “Things are not yet clear, as the librettists of both these composers are almost all without exception Jews. I intend shortly to publish a list of all the operettas whose composers and librettists are not Jews.”83 In December of the same year the Division of German Theaters in Berlin received another query from the Munich Kampfbund branch about the Jewishness of Franz Lehar, Robert Stolz, Hans Meisel, Ralph Benatzki, and other composers. Again, the librettists surfaced with regard to Lehar, Stolz, and Benatzki (the other composers were Jews).84Hitler, it should be mentioned, was particularly fond of the Lehar operetta The Merry Widow. Was the librettist of the most famous of Lehar’s pieces by any chance a Jew? And if so, did Hitler know it?

Writing to the Prussian theater council on March 9, 1934, Schlösser cited “the joke about [Meyerbeer’s opera] The Huguenots: Protestants and Catholics shoot at each other and a Jew makes music about it. Given the unmistakable sensitivity of the wider population about the Jewish question, one has, in my opinion, to bear such an important fact in mind.” Schlösser adopted the same attitude toward Offenbach, but mentioned that, owing to contradictory (official) declarations on this issue, a theater in Koblenz had “dug up no fewer than three Offenbach operettas.”85

All in all, however, the confusion of the new regime’s culture masters did not stop the de-Judaization of music in the Reich. Jewish performers such as Artur Schnabel (who had emigrated soon after the Nazis took power), Jascha Heifetz, and Yehudi Menuhin were no longer heard either in concert or on the radio; Jewish conductors had fled, as had the composers Arnold Schoenberg, Kurt Weill, and Franz Schrecker. After some early hesitations, Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Offenbach, and Mahler were no longer performed. Mendelssohn’s statue, which had stood in front of the Leipzig Gewandhaus, was removed. But that was far from the end of it: Händel’s Old Testament oratorios lost their original titles and were Aryanized so that Judas Maccabeus turned into The Field Marshal: A War Drama or, alternatively, into Freedom Oratorio: William of Nassau, the first version rendered by Hermann Stephani, the second by Johannes Klöcking. Three of the greatest Mozart operas, Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, and Così fan tutte, created a special problem: Their librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, was of Jewish origin; the first solution was to abandon the original Italian version, but that did not help: The standard German performing version was the work of the Jewish conductor Hermann Levi. There was a last way out: A new translation into purer, nonpolluted German had to be hastily prepared. The new German translations of Da Ponte’s libretti of Figaro and Così were by Siegfried Annheiser, a producer at the theater in Cologne, and by 1938 they had been adopted by seventy-six German opera houses.86 To cap it all, two major encyclopedias of Jewry and Jews in music, Judentum in der Musik A-B-C and Lexikon der Juden in der Musik, were to ensure that no mistakes would ever be made in the future. But even encyclopedias did not always suffice: Judentum in der Musik was published in 1935; after the Anschluss, however, the new masters of Austria were astonished to discover that there were Jews in “Waltz King” Johann Strauss’s extended family, and his birth certificate disappeared from the Vienna archives.87

Section II 112 (the Jewish section) of the SD also had its eye on Jewish musicians, dead or alive. On November 27, 1936, it noted the fact that in the hall of the Berlin Philharmonic, the cast for a bust of “the Jew Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy” still remained among the casts of famous German composers. As the performance of music by Jewish composers had been forbidden, the note concluded, “the removal of the cast is absolutely necessary.”88 Sometime later the section noticed that a Jewish bass singer, Michael Bohnen, had “recently appeared again in a film.” To inform his addressees about Bohnen, the anonymous agent of II 112 quoted the singer’s biographical entry in the Encyclopedia Judaica.89

What would have been the use of cleansing all unseemly Jewish names from the German world of art if the Jews could camouflage their identity by borrowing Aryan names? On July 19, 1935, as a result of the case presented by Gürtner in his complaint against Der Stürmer, Frick (who had started to battle against name changes in December 1934) submitted a draft proposal to Hitler that Aryans who bore names commonly considered to be Jewish would be allowed to change them. Generally, Jews would not be allowed to change names unless their name was a source of mockery and insults; in that case another Jewish name could be chosen.90 On July 31, from Berchtesgaden, Lammers conveyed Hitler’s agreement.91 Frick did not rest with that, and in a communication of August 14, raised with Gürtner the possibility of compelling the descendants of Jews who in the early nineteenth century had chosen princely German names to revert to a Jewish name; this was done, he wrote, on the demand of a Reichstag member, Prince von und zu Loewenstein.92 It seems that no decision was reached, although Secretary of State Hans Pfundtner at that time ordered the Reich Office for Ancestry Research to prepare lists of German names chosen by Jews since the emancipation.93 Soon, as will be seen, the strategy was to change: Instead of being forced to abandon their German-sounding names, the Jews would have to take additional—and obviously Jewish—first names.

Hans Hinkel moved to Goebbels’s ministry in 1935 to become one of the three supervisors of the Reichskulturkammer. Soon afterward, an unusual title was added to those he already bore: Special Commissioner for the Supervision and Monitoring of the Cultural and Intellectual Activity of All Non-Aryans Living in the Territory of the German Reich.”94 The new title was accurate to the extent that Hinkel, apart from his repeated cleansing forays in the RKK, could now boast of having gently prodded the various regional Jewish Kulturbünde to abandon their relative autonomy and become members of a national association with its seat in Berlin. The decisive meeting, in which the delegates of the Kulturbünde were told in very polite but no uncertain terms that Hinkel considered the establishment of one national organization to be highly desirable, took place in Berlin on April 27 and 28, with Hinkel’s participation and in the silent presence of Gestapo representatives.

Hinkel was speaking to the Jewish delegates “in confidence,” he said, and any disclosure of the meeting could lead to “unpleasantness”; the decision to form a national organization would really be left to the delegates’ “free choice,” but the only way of rationally solving a host of technical problems was to establish a single organization. Kurt Singer, who at Hinkel’s behest had convened the meeting, was strongly in favor of such unification and seemingly at one with State Secretary Hinkel. He and Singer so briskly managed the meeting that at the end of the first session (the only one Hinkel attended), Singer was able to declare: “I hereby make the official announcement to the State Secretary and to the gentlemen of the State Police that the creation of an umbrella organization of the Jewish Kulturbünde in the Reich was unanimously agreed upon by the delegates present here.”95

In a 1936 speech Hinkel restated the immediate aim of Nazi cultural policy regarding the Jews: they were entitled to the development of their own cultural heritage in Germany, but only in total isolation from the general culture. Jewish artists “may work unhindered as long as they restrict themselves to the cultivation of Jewish artistic and cultural life and as long as they do not attempt—openly, secretly, or deceitfully—to influence our culture.”96 Heydrich summed up the utility of centralization in slightly different terms: “The establishment of a Reich organization of Jewish Kulturb¨nde has taken place in order to allow easier control and surveillance of all the Jewish cultural associations.”97 All Jewish cultural groups not belonging to the new national association were prohibited.


From the beginning of 1935, intense anti-Jewish incitement had newly surfaced among party radicals, with discontent and restlessness spreading among the party rank and file and SA members still resenting the murder of their leaders the year before. Lingering economic difficulties, as well as the absence of material and ideological compensations for the great number of party members unable to find positions and emotional rewards either on the local or the national level, were leading to increasing agitation.

A first wave of anti-Jewish incidents started at the end of March 1935; during the following weeks, Goebbels’s Der Angriff thickened the pogrom-like atmosphere.98 An announcement by the Ministry of the Interior of forthcoming anti-Jewish legislation and the exclusion of Jews from the new Wehrmacht did not calm the growing unrest.

The first city to witness large-scale anti-Jewish disturbances was Munich, and a carefully drafted police report offers a precise enough description of the sequence of events there. In March and April, Jewish stores were sprayed nightly with acid or smeared with such inscriptions as JEW, STINKING JEW, OUT WITH THE JEWS, and so on. According to the report, the perpetrators knew the police patrol schedule exactly, and could therefore act with complete freedom. In May the smashing of window panes of Jewish shops began. The police report indicates involvement by Hitler Youth groups in one of these early incidents. By mid-May the perpetrators were not only attacking Jewish stores in broad daylight but also assaulting their owners, their customers, and sometimes even their Aryan employees.

On Saturday, May 25, the disturbances took on a new dimension. By midafternoon the attacks had spread to every identifiably Jewish business in the city. According to the police, the perpetrators were “not only members of the Party and its organizations but also comprised various groups of a very questionable nature.” In the late afternoon there were clashes outside the central railroad station between police and a crowd of around four hundred people (mainly Austrian Nazis who were training at the SS auxiliary camp at Schleissheim); soon there were other such encounters in other parts of the city. At about six o’clock a crowd tried to attack the Mexican Consulate. Among those arrested there proved to be SS men in civilian clothes. It was not until about nine in the evening that some measure of order was reestablished in the Bavarian capital.”99

A second major outbreak, one more usually referred to, occurred in mid-July in Berlin, mainly on the Kurfürstendamm, where elegant stores owned by Jews were still relatively active. Jochen Klepper, a deeply religious Protestant writer whose wife was Jewish, wrote in his diary on July 13: “Anti-Semitic excesses on the Kurfürstendamm…. The cleansing of Berlin of Jews threateningly announced.”100 A week later Klepper again wrote of what had happened on the Kurfürstendamm: Jewish women had been struck in the face; Jewish men had behaved courageously. “Nobody came to their help, because everyone is afraid of being arrested.”101 On September 7 Klepper, who in 1933 had lost his position with the radio because of his Jewish wife, was fired from the recently Aryanized Ullstein publishing house, where he had found some employment. That day he noticed that the signs forbidding Jews access to the swimming pool were up, and that even the small street in which he took walks with his wife had the same warning on one of its fences.102

The exiled German Socialist Party’s clandestine reports on the situation in the Reich (the so-called SOPADE [Sozialistische Partei Deutschlands] reports), prepared in Prague, extensively described the spread of anti-Jewish violence throughout Germany during the summer months of 1935. As has been seen, the wrath of Nazi radicals was particularly aroused by Jews who dared to use public swimming pools, by Jewish shops and Jews in marketplaces, and of course by Jewish race defilers. Sometimes the wrong targets were chosen, such as the Gestapo agent from Berlin who on July 13 was mistaken for a Jew in the Kassel swimming pool and beaten up by SA activists.103 Mostly though, there were no mistakes. Thus, on July 11, for example, approximately one hundred SA men descended on the cattle market in Fulda (as previously mentioned, many cattle dealers were Jews) and indiscriminately attacked both dealers and their customers, causing some to suffer severe injuries. According to the SOPADE report, “The cattle ran aimlessly through the streets and were only gradually brought back together again. The whole of Fulda was in agitation for days on end.” The Jüdisches Familienblatt, tongue in cheek, said that the Jewish dealers had brought to the market cows that had not been milked for an entire day; this angered the population, causing it to side with the suffering cows and against their Jewish tormentors.104

Pressure, violence, and indoctrination were not without their effects. An August 1935 SOPADE report cited an impressive list of new, locally initiated, measures against the Jews: “Bergzabern, Edenkoben, Höheinod, Breunigweiler, and other places prohibit Jews from moving in and forbid the sale of real estate to them…. Bad Tölz, Bad-Reichenhall, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and the mountain areas of Bavaria do not allow Jews access to their health resorts…. In Apolda, Berka, Blankenstein, Suiza, Allstadt, and Weimar, Jews are forbidden to attend cinemas.” In Magdeburg, Jews were not allowed to use the libraries; in Erlangen the tramways displayed signs declaring JEWS ARE NOT WELCOME! The report lists dozens of other places and activities forbidden to Jews.105

Not all party leaders opposed the spreading of anti-Jewish violence. Gauleiter Grohe of Cologne-Aachen, for example, was in favor of intensifying anti-Jewish actions in order “to raise the rather depressed mood among the lower middle class [Mittelstand].”106This was not, however, the prevalent position—not because of potential negative reactions among the populace,107 but mainly because the regime could ill afford to give the impression inside and outside Germany that it was losing control of its own forces by allowing the spread of unbridled violence, particularly in view of the forthcoming Olympic Games. Repeated orders to abstain from unauthorized anti-Jewish actions were issued in Hitler’s name by Hess and others, but without complete success.

For Schacht the spread of anti-Jewish violence was particularly unwelcome. In the United States the economic boycott of German goods had flared up again. On May 3 the minister of the economy sent a memorandum to Hitler regarding “the imponderable factors influencing German exports,” in which he warned of the economic consequences of the new anti-Jewish campaign. On the face of it at least, Hitler fully agreed with Schacht: At that stage the violence had to stop.108

It was in this atmosphere that on August 20, 1935, a conference was called by Schacht at the Ministry of the Economy. Among those present were Minister of the Interior Frick, Justice Minister Gürtner, Prussian Finance Minister Johannes Popitz, Gauleiter and Bavarian Minister of the Interior Adolf Wagner, and representatives of the SD, the Gestapo, and the party’s Racial Policy Office.109

Frick opened the discussion by describing the additional anti-Jewish legislation, in line with the party program, that was being prepared by the ministry. On the other hand, he took the strongest possible stand against the prevalent unruly anti-Jewish attacks and recommended strong police action.110

Wagner concurred. Like Frick he favored further anti-Jewish legal measures, but mentioned that on this matter there were differences of opinion between party and state, as well as among various departments within the state apparatus itself. Not everything had to happen at once; in his opinion further measures had to be taken mainly against full Jews, not against mixed breeds (Mischlinge).111 Yet Wagner insisted that due to demands by a majority of the population for further anti-Jewish measures, new legal steps be taken against the economic activity of Jews.112 At that stage Wagner’s demands went unheeded.

The use of exclusively legal methods was obviously the line adopted at the meeting by the conservative Gürtner: It was dangerous to let the radicals get away with the impression that they were in fact implementing what the government wanted but was unable to do itself because of possible international consequences. “The principle of the Führer-state,” argued Gürtner, “had to be imposed against such initiatives.”113

As could have been expected, Schacht emphasized the damage caused by the anti-Jewish disorders and warned that the developing situation could threaten the economic basis of rearmament. He agreed that the party program had to be implemented, but that the implementation had to take place within a framework of legal instructions alone.114 Schacht s motives, we have seen, were dictated by short-term economic expediency. The meeting’s conclusions were brought to Hitler’s attention, and the measures laid out by Frick were further elaborated during late August and early September.115

Heydrich, at that time chief of the SD and head of the central office of the Gestapo in Berlin (Gestapa), attended the meeting. In a memorandum sent to all the participants on September 9 he reiterated the points he had made during the conference. In this document Heydrich outlined a series of measures aimed at further segregation of the Jews and, if possible, at the cancellation of their rights as citizens. All Jews in Germany should be subject to alien status. Contrary to what is often stated, however, Heydrich did not indicate that the emigration of all the Jews was to be the central aim of Nazi policy. Only in the last sentence of the memorandum did the SD chief express the hope that the restrictive measures he suggested would direct the Jews toward Zionism and strengthen their incentive to emigrate.116

On August 8 both Der Angriff and the Völkischer Beobachter had published, under the banner headline LAW AND PRINCIPLE IN THE JEWISH QUESTION, an announcement by the chief of the German Police, SS-ObergruppenFührer Kurt Daluege, that criminal statistics indicated a preeminence of Jews in all areas of crime. Both papers later complained of the lack of attention to this issue in the foreign press; papers abroad that had run the story had interpreted it as a preparation for new anti-Jewish measures, particularly nasty accusations, Der Angriff said.117


On the afternoon of September 15, 1935, the final parade of the annual Nuremberg party congress marched past Hitler and the top leadership of the NSDAP. The Party Congress of Freedom was coming to an end. At 8 P.M. that evening an unusual meeting of the Reichstag opened in the hall of the Nuremberg Cultural Association. It was the first and last time during Hitler’s regime that the Reichstag was convened outside Berlin. Nuremberg had last been the site of a German Reichstag (then the assembly of the German Empire’s estates) in 1543.118

In his speech Hitler briefly addressed the volatile international situation, which had compelled Germany to start rebuilding an army in order to defend its freedom. Ominously, he mentioned Lithuania’s control of Memel, a city inhabited by a majority of Germans. The threat posed by international Bolshevism was not forgotten: Hitler warned that any attempt by the Communists to set foot in Germany again would be quickly dealt with. Then he turned to the main topic of his address—the Jews:

The Jews were behind the growing tension among peoples. In New York Harbor, they had insulted the German flag on the passenger ship Bremen, and they were again launching an economic boycott against Germany. In Germany itself, their provocative behavior increasingly caused complaints from all sides. Hitler thus set the background. Then he came to his main point: “To prevent this behavior from leading to quite determined defensive action on the part of the outraged population, the extent of which cannot be foreseen, the only alternative would be a legislative solution to the problem. The German Reich Government is guided by the hope of possibly being able to bring about, by means of a singular momentous measure, a framework within which the German Volk would be in a position to establish tolerable relations with the Jewish people. However, should this hope prove false and intra-German and international Jewish agitation proceed on its course, a new evaluation of the situation would have to take place.”

After asking the Reichstag to adopt the laws that Göring was about to read, Hitler concluded his address with a short comment on each of the three laws: “The first and the second laws repay a debt of gratitude to the Movement, under whose symbol Germany regained its freedom, in that they fulfill a significant item on the program of the National Socialist Party. The third law is an attempt at a legislative solution to a problem which, should it yet again prove insoluble, would have to be assigned by law to the National Socialist Party for a definitive solution. Behind all three laws stands the National Socialist Party, and with it and behind it stands the nation.”119 The threat was unmistakable.

The first law, the Reich Flag Law, proclaimed that henceforth black, red, and white were the national colors and that the swastika flag was the national flag.120 The second, the Citizenship Law, established the fundamental distinction between “citizens of the Reich,” who were entitled to full political and civic rights, and “subjects,” who were now deprived of those rights. Only those of German or related blood could be citizens. Thus, from that moment on, in terms of their civic rights, the Jews had in fact a status similar to that of foreigners. The third, the Law for the Defense of German Blood and Honor, forbade marriages and extramarital relations between Jews and citizens of German or kindred blood. Marriages contracted in disregard of the law, even marriages contracted outside Germany, were considered invalid. Jews were not allowed to employ in their households female German citizens under forty-five years of age.121 Finally, Jews were forbidden to hoist the German flag (an offense against German honor), but were allowed to fly their own colors.

The preamble to the third law revealed all its implications: “Fully aware that the purity of German blood is the condition for the survival of the German Volk, and animated by the unwavering will to secure the German nation forever, the Reichstag has unanimously decided upon the following, which is thereby proclaimed.”122 This was immediately followed by paragraph one: “Marriages between Jews and citizens of German and related blood are forbidden.” The relation of the preamble to the text of the law reflected the extent of the racial peril represented by the Jew.

According to the September 17 Völkischer Beobachter, at a meeting later the same evening with leading party members, “the Führer took the opportunity to underscore the significance of the new laws and to point out that the National Socialist legislation presented the sole means for coming to passable terms with the Jews living in Germany. The Führer particularly stressed that, by virtue of these laws, the Jews in Germany were granted such opportunities in all areas of their own völkisch life as had not hitherto existed in any other land.”123 “In this connection,” the report continued, “the Führer renewed the order to the Party that it continue to refrain from taking any independent action against Jews.”124

In an interview granted on November 27, 1935, to Hugh Baillie, president of the American news agency United Press, Hitler, clearly aiming at the American public, linked the anti-Jewish laws to the danger of Bolshevik agitation.125

Taken at face value, the Nuremberg Laws did not mean the end of Jewish life in Germany. “We have absolutely no interest in compelling the Jews to spend their money outside Germany,” Goebbels declared at a meeting of propaganda officers held in Nuremberg on the morrow of the congress. “They should spend it here. One should not let them into every public swimming resort, but we should say: We have up there on the Baltic Sea, let’s say, one hundred resorts, and into one of them will go the Jews; there they should have their waiters and their business directors and their resort directors and there they can read their Jewish newspapers, of all of which we want to know nothing. It should not be the nicest resort, but maybe the worst of those we have, that we will give them (amusement in the audience)—and in the others, we’ll be among ourselves. That I consider right. We cannot push the Jews away, they are here. We do not have any island to which we could transport them. We have to take this into account….”126

Two different testimonies from the days following the congress report Hitler’s own intentions regarding the future of the Jews. According to Fritz Wiedemann, who was to become his adjutant, the Führer depicted the forthcoming situation to a small circle of Party members: “Out of all the professions, into a ghetto, enclosed in a territory where they can behave as becomes their nature, while the German people look on as one looks at wild animals.”127 From the perspective of 1935, this territorial isolation of the Jews would have had to take place in Germany (this is confirmed by the remark about the German people as onlookers). Thus Goebbels was probably repeating what he had heard from Hitler. The second testimony was quite different.

On September 25, 1935, Walter Gross, head of the party’s Racial Policy Office, reported to the regional chiefs of his organization the interpretation to the Nuremberg Laws that Hitler gave him, and, mainly, how he saw the next steps of the anti-Jewish policy.

It is worth noting that, once again, after taking a major step in line with his ideological goals, Hitler aimed at defusing its most extreme consequences on a tactical level. In the meeting with Gross, he warned the party not to rush ahead either in extending the scope of the new laws or in terms of direct economic action against the Jews. For Hitler the aim remained the limitation of Jewish influence within Germany and the separation of the Jews from the body of the nation; “more vigorous emigration” from Germany was necessary. Economic measures would be the next stage, but they must not create a situation that would turn the Jews into a public burden; thus carefully calculated steps were needed. As for the Mischlinge, Hitler favored their assimilation within a few generations—in order to avoid any weakening of the German potential for war. In the last words of the conversation, however, the pragmatic approach was suddenly gone. According to the Gross protocol, Hitler “declared furthermore, at this point, that in case of a war on all fronts, he would be ready [regarding the Jews] for all the consequences.”128

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