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WTHE INTERNATIONAL
HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE ALLIANCE (IHRA)

THE

INCREDIBLE

STORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE



KEY DATES IN PRREWAR GERMANY

Jews in Prewar Germany

CLICK ABOVE FOR PARAGRAPHS SHOWN BELOW



APRIL 1, 1933

NATIONWIDE BOYCOTT OF JEWISH-OWNED BUSINESSES

At 10:00 a.m., members of the Storm Troopers (SA) and SS (the elite guard of the Nazi state) stand in front of Jewish-owned businesses throughout Germany to inform the public that the proprietors of these establishments are Jewish. The word "Jude," German for "Jew," is often smeared on store display windows, with a Star of David painted in yellow and black across the doors. Anti-Jewish signs accompany these slogans. In some towns, the SA march through the streets singing anti-Jewish slogans and party songs. In other towns, violence accompanies the boycott; in Kiel, a Jewish lawyer is killed. The boycott ends at midnight. Boycotts organized at the local level continue throughout much of the 1930s.


SEPTEMBER 15, 1935

NUREMBERG LAWS ARE INSTITUTED

At their annual party rally, the Nazis announce new laws that make Jews second-class citizens and revoke most of their political rights. Further, Jews are prohibited from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of "German or related blood." "Racial infamy," as this becomes known, is made a criminal offense. The Nuremberg Laws define a "Jew" as someone with three or four Jewish grandparents or who is a practicing Jew. Consequently, the Nazis classify as Jews thousands of people who have converted from Judaism to another religion, among them even Roman Catholic priests and nuns and Protestant ministers whose grandparents were Jewish.


NOVEMBER 9, 1938

KRISTALLNACHT: A NATIONWIDE POGROM

In reponse to the murder of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a young Jew in Paris, German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels delivers a fiery speech to the Nazi party faithful in Munich; these party members are gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the abortive 1923 Beer Hall Putsch (Adolf Hitler's first attempt to seize power). The speech is a signal for an organized assault upon Jewish homes, businesses, and places of worship by members of the SA, SS, and other Nazi party organizations such as the Hitler Youth. Although Nazi officials later portray the pogrom as a spontaneous act of public outrage, the population's participation in the pogrom is limited. The violence against Jews lasts into the morning of November 10 and becomes known as Kristallnacht: the "Night of Broken Glass." At least 91 Jews are killed and up to 30,000 more are arrested and confined in concentration camps. "Aryanization," the transfer of Jewish-owned businesses to "Aryans," accelerates following the pogrom.


NOVEMBER 9, 1938

KRISTALLNACHT: A NATIONWIDE POGROM

In reponse to the murder of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a young Jew in Paris, German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels delivers a fiery speech to the Nazi party faithful in Munich; these party members are gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the abortive 1923 Beer Hall Putsch (Adolf Hitler's first attempt to seize power). The speech is a signal for an organized assault upon Jewish homes, businesses, and places of worship by members of the SA, SS, and other Nazi party organizations such as the Hitler Youth. Although Nazi officials later portray the pogrom as a spontaneous act of public outrage, the population's participation in the pogrom is limited. The violence against Jews lasts into the morning of November 10 and becomes known as Kristallnacht: the "Night of Broken Glass." At least 91 Jews are killed and up to 30,000 more are arrested and confined in concentration camps. "Aryanization," the transfer of Jewish-owned businesses to "Aryans," accelerates following the pogrom.


SEPTEMBER 1791

JEWS EMANCIPATED IN FRANCE

The term "emancipation of Jews" means the removal of all legal discrimination against Jews and the granting of rights equal to those of other citizens in a country. In September 1791, the National Assembly of France granted rights of citizenship to Jews who took a loyalty oath. France was in the vanguard of the emancipation movement. For example, Jews were only later emancipated in Greece (1830), Great Britain (1858), Italy (1870), Germany (1871), and Norway (1891). Although civil equality for Jews was thus guaranteed by law, European Jewry remained beset by antisemitism and social discrimination.


JUNE 24, 1922

JEWISH POLITICIAN ASSASSINATED IN GERMANY

Walter Rathenau, one of the most prominent Jewish political figures of the Weimar Republic, is assassinated by right-wing radicals. Rathenau, the president of the General Electric Corporation of Germany (AEG) since 1915, became foreign minister of the Weimar Republic in 1922. As a Jew, he was hated by right-wing groups particularly for his policy of fulfilling the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and his normalization of relations with the Soviet Union. His murder is indicative of the right-wing antisemitic campaign blaming Jews for Germany's defeat in World War I.


MARCH 9, 1936

POGROM IN PRZYTYK, POLAND

Violence erupts in Poland. Three Jews are killed and more than sixty wounded in the town of Przytyk, Poland. In the days following the attack, the pogrom spreads to neighboring towns. Before the pogrom is ended, almost 80 Jews are killed and over 200 wounded. Violence against Jews is widespread throughout central Poland between 1935 and 1937. Anti-Jewish pogroms take place, for example, in Czestochowa, Lublin, Bialystok, and Grodno.


1890S

A CONCOCTED JEWISH CONSPIRACY

In France, a member of the Russian secret police concocts the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Protocols promote claims that there exists a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. These forged documents are presented as the minutes of a supposed meeting of world Jewish leaders in which they finalized plans to dominate the world, and suggest that Jews have formed secret organizations and agencies through which they aim to control and manipulate political parties, the economy, the press, and public opinion. The Protocols are published in countries throughout the world, including the United States, and used by antisemites to reinforce claims of a Jewish conspiracy. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Protocols are used to gain support for Nazi party antisemitic ideology and policies.


1894

DREYFUS AFFAIR DIVIDES FRANCE

Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army, is arrested and falsely accused of handing over to Germany documents involving the national defense of France. After a summary trial before a military court, Dreyfus is found guilty of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island, located off the coast of French Guiana. This case divides the French nation into two opposing groups: those who insist that Dreyfus is guilty (conservatives, nationalists, and antisemitic groups), and those who insist that Dreyfus should receive a fair trial (liberals and intellectuals). In 1899, Dreyfus receives a new trial, but is again found guilty by a military court. However, the president of the French Republic intervenes, granting him a pardon. Shortly before World War I, Dreyfus is fully vindicated by a civilian court. The controversy surrounding the Dreyfus affair reflects latent antisemitism in the French officer corps and other conservative French groups.


APRIL 1897

KARL LUEGER, ANTISEMITIC MAYOR OF VIENNA

Karl Lueger is elected mayor of Vienna. He holds this position for 13 years, until his death in 1910. Lueger, co-founder of the Christian Socialist party, uses economic antisemitism to gain support from the small businessmen and artisans who are suffering after the surge of capitalism during the industrial revolution in Austria. He claims that Jews have a monopoly on capitalism and that they thus compete unfairly in the economic arena. This form of antisemitism is used by other right-wing parties in Austria and Germany in the early twentieth century as a means to broaden their popular appeal. Adolf Hitler, a resident of Vienna during Lueger's mayoral reign, is greatly influenced both by Lueger's antisemitism and by his ability to rally public support. Lueger's ideas are reflected in the Nazi party platform in 1920s Germany.


MARCH 1933

SA REIGN OF TERROR AGAINST JEWS THROUGHOUT GERMANY

The SA (Storm Troopers) attack Jewish-owned department stores in German cities in an attempt to segregate Jews from the rest of society. Local police, not yet under Nazi control, unsuccessfully attempt to stop the attacks. Members of the SA continue the rampage and enter courtrooms, dragging Jewish lawyers and judges into the streets where they are subjected to humiliating public acts. These attacks are publicized by international Jewish organizations and the press, which urge a boycott of German goods. In response, the Nazis organize a nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses in Germany, blaming Jews for anti-German tone of the international press.


APRIL 1, 1933

NATIONWIDE BOYCOTT OF JEWISH-OWNED BUSINESSES

At 10:00 a.m., SA and SS members stand in front of Jewish-owned businesses throughout Germany to inform the public that the proprietors of these establishments are Jewish. The word "Jude," German for "Jew," is often smeared on store display windows, with a Star of David painted in yellow and black across the doors. Anti-Jewish signs accompany these slogans. In some towns, the SA marches through the streets singing anti-Jewish slogans and party songs. In other towns, violence accompanies the boycott; in Kiel, a Jewish lawyer is killed. The official boycott ends at midnight.


APRIL 7, 1933

LAW DISMISSES JEWS FROM CIVIL SERVICE

The Nazi government enacts the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service. This law seeks to exclude those considered to be opponents of the Nazi state—Jews and political opponents. As a result, civil service employees are forced to prove their "Aryan" descent by documenting the religion of their parents and grandparents. If unable to do so, they are dismissed from service. Hitler reluctantly concedes to President Paul von Hindenburg's demand to exempt from dismissal those civil servants who are veterans of World War I or whose close relatives had fallen in that conflict. Similar laws passed in the following weeks affect Jewish lawyers and doctors.


SEPTEMBER 15, 1935

NUREMBERG LAWS ARE INSTITUTED

At their annual party rally, the Nazis announce new laws that revoke Reich citizenship for Jews and prohibit Jews from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of "German or related blood." "Racial infamy," as this becomes known, is made a criminal offense. The Nuremberg Laws define a "Jew" as someone with three or four Jewish grandparents. Consequently, the Nazis classify as Jews thousands of people who had converted from Judaism to another religion, among them even Roman Catholic priests and nuns and Protestant ministers whose grandparents were Jewish.


OCTOBER 18, 1935

NEW MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS INSTITUTED

The "Law for the Protection of the Hereditary Health of the German People" requires all prospective marriage partners to obtain from the public health authorities a certificate of fitness to marry. Such certificates are refused to those suffering from "hereditary illnesses" and contagious diseases and those attempting to marry in violation of the Nuremberg Laws.


NOVEMBER 14, 1935

NUREMBERG LAW EXTENDED TO OTHER GROUPS

The first supplemental decree of the Nuremberg Laws extends the prohibition on marriage or sexual relations between people who could produce "racially suspect" offspring. A week later, the minister of the interior interprets this to mean relations between "those of German or related blood" and Roma (Gypsies), blacks, or their offspring.


OCTOBER 28, 1938

GERMANY EXPELS POLISH JEWS

About 17,000 Polish Jews are expelled by Germany and forced across the border with Poland. Poland refuses to allow the Jews to enter. Most of the deportees are stranded in the no-man's-land between Germany and Poland near the town of Zbaszyn. Among the deportees are the parents of Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew living in Paris, France.


NOVEMBER 7, 1938

GERMAN DIPLOMAT SHOT IN PARIS

Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew living in Paris, shoots Ernst vom Rath, a diplomat attached to the German embassy in Paris. Grynszpan apparently acts out of despair over the fate of his parents, who are trapped along with other Polish Jewish deportees in a no-man’s-land between Germany and Poland. The Nazis use the shooting to fan antisemitic fervor, claiming that Grynszpan did not act alone, but was part of a wider Jewish conspiracy against Germany. Vom Rath dies two days later.


NOVEMBER 9, 1938

JOSEPH GOEBBELS DEMANDS RADICAL ACTION

German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels delivers a passionate antisemitic speech to the Nazi party faithful in Munich. The party members are gathered in commemoration of the abortive Nazi Putsch of 1923 (Adolf Hitler’s first attempt to seize power). After the speech, Nazi officials order the Storm Troopers (SA) and other party formations to attack Jews and to destroy their homes, businesses, and houses of worship. The violence against Jews lasts into the morning hours of November 10th, and becomes known as Kristallnacht—the "Night of Broken Glass." Several dozen Jews lose their lives and tens of thousands are arrested and sent to concentration camps.


NOVEMBER 12, 1938

NAZIS FINE JEWISH COMMUNITY

The Nazi state imposes a fine of one billion Reichsmarks ($400,000,000) on the Jewish community in Germany. Jews are ordered to clean up and make repairs after the pogrom. They are barred from collecting insurance for the damages. Instead, the state confiscates payments owed by insurers to Jewish property holders. In the aftermath of the pogrom, Jews are systematically excluded from all areas of public life in Germany.


6.  JEWS IN PREWAR GERMANY

According to the census of June 1933, the Jewish population of Germany consisted of about 500,000 people. Jews represented less than one percent of the total German population of about 67 million people. Unlike ordinary census-taking methods, the Nazi racist criteria codified in the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and subsequent ordinances identified Jews according to the religion practiced by an individual's grandparents. Consequently, the Nazis classified as Jews thousands of people who had converted from Judaism to another religion, among them even Roman Catholic priests and nuns and Protestant ministers whose grandparents were Jewish.


Eighty percent of the Jews in Germany (about 400,000 people) held German citizenship. The remainder were mostly Jews of Polish citizenship, many of whom were born in Germany and who had permanent resident status in Germany.


In all, about 70 percent of the Jews in Germany lived in urban areas. Fifty percent of all Jews lived in the 10 largest German cities, including Berlin (about 160,000), Frankfurt am Main (about 26,000), Breslau (about 20,000), Hamburg (about 17,000), Cologne (about 15,000), Hannover (about 13,000), and Leipzig (about 12,000).


APRIL 1, 1933

NATIONWIDE BOYCOTT OF JEWISH-OWNED BUSINESSES

At 10:00 a.m., members of the Storm Troopers (SA) and SS (the elite guard of the Nazi state) stand in front of Jewish-owned businesses throughout Germany to inform the public that the proprietors of these establishments are Jewish. The word "Jude," German for "Jew," is often smeared on store display windows, with a Star of David painted in yellow and black across the doors. Anti-Jewish signs accompany these slogans. In some towns, the SA march through the streets singing anti-Jewish slogans and party songs. In other towns, violence accompanies the boycott; in Kiel, a Jewish lawyer is killed. The boycott ends at midnight. Boycotts organized at the local level continue throughout much of the 1930s.


SEPTEMBER 15, 1935

NUREMBERG LAWS ARE INSTITUTED

At their annual party rally, the Nazis announce new laws that make Jews second-class citizens and revoke most of their political rights. Further, Jews are prohibited from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of "German or related blood." "Racial infamy," as this becomes known, is made a criminal offense. The Nuremberg Laws define a "Jew" as someone with three or four Jewish grandparents or who is a practicing Jew. Consequently, the Nazis classify as Jews thousands of people who have converted from Judaism to another religion, among them even Roman Catholic priests and nuns and Protestant ministers whose grandparents were Jewish.

7.  

JULY 6–15, 1938

REFUGEE CONFERENCE IN EVIAN

Delegates from 32 countries and representatives from relief organizations meet in Evian-les-Bains, a spa town in France, to discuss the German-Jewish refugees. The United States encourages all countries to find a long-term solution to the problem. However, the United States and other countries are unwilling to ease their immigration restrictions. Most countries fear that an increase of refugees will cause further economic hardships. The conference ends a week later. With the exception of the tiny Dominican Republic, no country is willing to accept more refugees. One result of the conference is the establishment of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR), which will continue to work on the refugee problem.


FEBRUARY 9, 1939

LIMITED REFUGEE BILL PROPOSED IN US CONGRESS

The Wagner-Rogers refugee aid bill is introduced in the United States Senate by Senator Robert F. Wagner (D-New York). This bill calls for the admission to the United States of 20,000 German refugee children under the age of 14 over the next two years, in addition to immigration normally permitted. The bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Edith Nourse Rogers (R-Massachusetts) five days later. Charity organizations across the country publicize the plight of German refugee children in an attempt to gain support for the bill. However, organizations favoring restrictive immigration strongly oppose the bill and claim that the refugee children would deprive American children of aid. After several months of debate, the bill is defeated in committee. The bill would have provided refuge for thousands of German Jewish children.


MAY 1939

BRITISH GOVERNMENT RESTRICTS IMMIGRATION INTO PALESTINE

An Arab-Palestinian revolt against the British mandate in Palestine in 1936 and continuing Arab unrest, especially regarding the status of Jews in Palestine, leads to a decisive change in British policy in the Middle East. In the White Paper of 1939, the British government announces its policies on the future status of Palestine. The British reject the establishment of an independent Jewish state and severely restrict future Jewish immigration to Palestine. In response to the British policy, illegal immigration of Jewish refugees to Palestine increases. The British intercept the illegal immigrants and intern them in camps. During the war, there is no attempt to relax the immigration policy. Restrictions on Jewish immigration remain in force until the establishment of Israel in 1948.