The Jews in Nazi Germany suffered appallingly after January 1933.Some rich Jews could afford to leave Nazi Germany (or were forced to) but many could not. Thugs in the SA and SS were given a free hand in their treatment of the Jews. The Jews were frequently referred to in “Mein Kampf” andHitler had made plain his hated for them. References to the “filthy Jew” litter the book. In one section, Hitler wrote about how the Jews planned to “contaminate” the blood of pure Germans:
In 1920, Hitler announced to the very small Nazi Party the Five Points of national Socialism. One of these stated:
Once in power, Hitler used his position to launch a campaign against the Jews that culminated in the Holocaust.
Hitler blamed the Jews for all the misfortunes that had befallen Germany
the loss of the First World War was the result of a Jewish conspiracy
the Treaty of Versailles was also a Jewish conspiracy designed to bring Germany to her knees
During the time when Weimar Germany was seemingly recovering under Stresseman, what Hitler said about the Jews remained nonsense listened to by only the few – hence his poor showing at elections prior to the 1929 Depression. During the impact of the Great Depression, though, when people became unemployed and all looked helpless, Hitler’s search for a scapegoat proved a lot more fruitful.
On buses, trains and park benches, Jews had to sit on seats marked for them. Children at schools were taught specifically anti-Semitic ideas. Jewish school children were openly ridiculed by teachers and the bullying of Jews in the playground by other pupils went unpunished. If the Jewish children responded by not wanting to go to school, then that served a purpose in itself and it also gave the Nazi propagandists a reason to peddle the lie that Jewish children were inherently lazy and could not be bothered to go to school.
In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were passed. The Jews lost their right to be German citizens and marriage between Jews and non-Jews was forbidden. It was after this law that the violence against the Jew really openly started. Those that could pay a fine were allowed to leave the country. Many could not and many shops refused to sell food to those who remained. Medicines were also difficult to get hold of as chemists would not sell to Jews.
In November 1938, a Nazi ‘diplomat’ was shot dead by a Jew in Paris. Hitler ordered a seven day campaign of terror against the Jews in Germany to be organised by Himmler and the SS. On the 10th November, the campaign started. 10,000 shops owned by Jews were destroyed and their contents stolen. Homes and synagogues were set on fire and left to burn. The fire brigades showed their loyalty to Hitler by assuming that the buildings would burn down anyway, so why try to prevent it? A huge amount of damage was done to Jewish property but the Jewish community was ordered to pay a one billion mark fine to pay for the eventual clear-up. Jews were forced to scrub the streets clean.
The Second World War – and the chaos this brought – gave Hitler even more freedom to bring death and destruction to Jewish communities throughout Europe.
Historians are still divided over whether the Germans supported these Nazi actions or whether fear made them turn a blind eye. In the immediate aftermath of Krystalnacht, an anonymous German wrote to the British Consul in Cologne stating that “The German people have nothing whatsoever to do with these riots and burnings.” Christopher Isherwood, a British writer living in Germany, witnessed the arrest of a Jew in a cafe by the SA where everybody simply looked away – but to create a scene would have provoked a violent response from those doing the arresting. The fear of the concentration camps was such that most felt compelled to remain silent despite the fact that they did not approve of what was going on.