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Holocaust Encyclopedia

According to the census of June 16, 1933, the Jewish population of Germany, including the Saar region (which at that time was still under the administration of the League of Nations), was approximately 505,000 people out of a total population of 67 million, or somewhat less than 0.75 percent. That number represented a reduction from the estimated 523,000 Jews living in Germany in January 1933; the decrease was due in part to emigration following the Nazi takeover in January. (An estimated 37,000 Jews emigrated from Germany during 1933.)

Some 80 percent (about 400,000) of the Jews in Germany held German citizenship. The remainder were mostly Jews of Polish citizenship. Many of the Polish Jews had been born in Germany and had permanent resident status.

About 70 percent of the Jews in Germany lived in urban areas, with 50 percent of all Jews living in the 10 largest German cities. The largest Jewish population center was in Berlin (about 160,000 in 1925), representing less than 4 percent of the city's entire population. Other large Jewish population centers included 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). Nevertheless, in 1933 one in five German Jews still lived in small towns.

Holocaust Encyclopedia

In the context of the economic depression of the 1930s, the Nazi Party gained popularity in part by presenting "Jews" as the source for a variety of political, social, economic, and ethical problems facing the German people.  The Nazis used racist and also older social, economic, and religious imagery to this end. After seizing power, they continued to used the same means to gain legitimacy.

Inspired by Adolf Hitler's theories of racial struggle and the "intent" of the Jews to survive and expand at the expense of Germans, the Nazis, as a governing party from 1933-1938, ordered anti-Jewish boycotts, staged book burnings, and enacted anti-Jewish legislation. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws defined Jews by race and mandated the total separation of "Aryans" and "non-Aryans." On November 9, 1938, the Nazis destroyed synagogues and the shop windows of Jewish-owned stores throughout Germany and Austria (Kristallnacht). These measures aimed at both legal and social segregation of Jews from Germans and Austrians.

Kristallnacht, the initiation of World War II in 1939, and the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 marked the transition to the era of destruction, in which genocide would become the key focus of Nazi antisemitism. To justify the murder of the Jews both to the perpetrators and to bystanders in Germany and Europe, the Nazis used not only racist arguments but also arguments derived from older negative stereotypes, including Jews as communist subversives, as war profiteers and hoarders, and as a danger to internal security because of their inherent disloyalty and opposition to Germany.


After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany on January 30, 1933, the Nazi leadership decided to stage an economic boycott against the Jews of Germany. Local Nazi party chiefs organized the national boycott operation. Although it lasted only one day and was ignored by many individual Germans who continued to shop in Jewish-owned stores, it marked the beginning of a nationwide campaign
by the Nazi Party against the entire German Jewish population.
Holocaust Encyclopedia

After the Nazis came to power in Germany on January 30, 1933, the Nazi leadership decided to stage an economic boycott against the Jews of Germany.


In 1933, about 600,000 Jews lived in Germany, less than one percent of the total population. Most Jews in Germany were proud to be Germans, citizens of a country that had produced many great poets, writers, musicians, and artists. More than 100,000 German Jews had served in the German army during World War I, and many were decorated for bravery.

Jews held important positions in government and taught in Germany's renowned universities. Of the 38 Nobel Prizes won by German writers and scientists between 1905 and 1936, 14 went to Jews. Marriage between Jews and non-Jews was becoming more common. Although German Jews continued to encounter some discrimination in their social lives and professional careers, many were confident of their future as Germans. They spoke the German language and regarded Germany as their home.


On April 1, 1933, the Nazis carried out the first nationwide, planned action against Jews: a boycott targeting Jewish businesses and professionals. The boycott was both a reprisal and an act of revenge against Gruelpropaganda (atrocity stories) that German and foreign Jews, assisted by foreign journalists, were allegedly circulating in the international press to damage Nazi Germany's reputation.

Members of the Storm Troopers (SA), with boycott signs, block the entrance to a Jewish-owned shop. One of the signs exhorts: "Germans! Defend yourselves! Don't buy from Jews!" Berlin, Germany, April 1, 1933.

On the day of the boycott, Storm Troopers (Sturmabteilung; SA) stood menacingly in front of Jewish-owned department stores and retail establishments, and the offices of professionals such as doctors and lawyers. The Star of David was painted in yellow and black across thousands of doors and windows, with accompanying antisemitic slogans. Signs were posted saying "Don't Buy from Jews" and "The Jews Are Our Misfortune." Throughout Germany, acts of violence against individual Jews and Jewish property occurred; the police intervened only rarely.

Hanne Hirsch Liebmann
describes harassment and
anti-Jewish sentiment
in Germany

Click here for
video and soundtrack

Hanne's family owned a photographic studio. In October 1940, she and other family members were deported to the Gurs camp in southern France. In September 1941, the Children's Aid Society (OSE) rescued Hanne and she hid in a children's home in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Her mother perished in Auschwitz. In 1943, Hanne obtained false papers and crossed into Switzerland. She married in Geneva in 1945 and had a daughter in 1946. In 1948, she arrived in the United States.


Although the national boycott operation, organized by local Nazi party chiefs, lasted only one day and was ignored by many individual Germans who continued to shop in Jewish-owned stores, it marked the beginning of a nationwide campaign by the Nazi Party against the entire German Jewish population. A week later, the government passed a law restricting employment in the civil service to "Aryans." Jewish government workers, including teachers in public schools and universities, were fired.


In the first six years of Adolf Hitler's dictatorship, Jews felt the effects of more than 400 decrees and regulations on all aspects of their lives. The regulations gradually but systematically took away their rights and property, transforming them from citizens into outcasts. Many of the laws were national ones issued by the German administration, affecting all Jews. State, regional, and municipal officials also issued many decrees in their own communities. As Nazi leaders prepared for war in Europe, antisemitic legislation in Germany and Austria
paved the way for more radical persecution of Jews.
Holocaust Encyclopedia


Nazi leaders began to make good on their pledge to persecute German Jews soon after their assumption of power. During the first six years of Hitler's dictatorship, from 1933 until the outbreak of war in 1939, Jews felt the effects of more than 400 decrees and regulations that restricted all aspects of their public and private lives. Many of those laws were national ones that had been issued by the German administration and affected all Jews. But state, regional, and municipal officials, on their own initiative, also promulgated a barrage of exclusionary decrees in their own communities. Thus, hundreds of individuals in all levels of government throughout the country were involved in the persecution of Jews as they conceived, discussed, drafted, adopted, enforced, and supported anti-Jewish legislation. No corner of Germany was left untouched.


The first wave of legislation, from 1933 to 1934, focused largely on limiting the participation of Jews in German public life. The first major law to curtail the rights of Jewish citizens was the "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service" of April 7, 1933, according to which Jewish and "politically unreliable" civil servants and employees were to be excluded from state service. The new Civil Service Law was the German authorities' first formulation of the so-called Aryan Paragraph, a kind of regulation used to exclude Jews (and often by extension other "non-Aryans") from organizations, professions, and other aspects of public life.

In April 1933, German law restricted the number of Jewish students at German schools and universities. In the same month, further legislation sharply curtailed "Jewish activity" in the medical and legal professions. Subsequent laws and decrees restricted reimbursement of Jewish doctors from public (state) health insurance funds. The city of Berlin forbade Jewish lawyers and notaries to work on legal matters, the mayor of Munich disallowed Jewish doctors from treating non-Jewish patients, and the Bavarian Interior Ministry denied admission of Jewish students to medical school.

At the national level, the Nazi government revoked the licenses of Jewish tax consultants; imposed a 1.5 percent quota on admission of "non-Aryans" to public schools and universities; fired Jewish civilian workers from the army; and, in early 1934, forbade Jewish actors to perform on the stage or screen.

Local governments also issued regulations that affected other spheres of Jewish life: in Saxony, Jews could no longer slaughter animals according to ritual purity requirements, effectively preventing them from obeying Jewish dietary laws.


At their annual party rally held in Nuremberg in September 1935, the Nazi leaders announced new laws which institutionalized many of the racial theories prevalent in Nazi ideology. These "Nuremberg Laws" excluded German Jews from Reich citizenship and prohibited them from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of "German or German-related blood." Ancillary ordinances to these laws deprived them of most political rights. Jews were disenfranchised (that is, they had no formal expectation to the right to vote) and could not hold public office.

The Nuremberg Laws did not identify a "Jew" as someone with particular religious beliefs. Instead, the first amendment to the Nuremberg Laws defined anyone who had three or four Jewish grandparents as a Jew, regardless of whether that individual recognized himself or herself as a Jew or belonged to the Jewish religious community. Many Germans who had not practiced Judaism or who had not done so for years found themselves caught in the grip of Nazi terror. Even people with Jewish grandparents who had converted to Christianity could be defined as Jews.

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 heralded a new wave of antisemitic legislation that brought about immediate and concrete segregation: Jewish patients were no longer admitted to municipal hospitals in Düsseldorf, German court judges could not cite legal commentaries or opinions written by Jewish authors, Jewish officers were expelled from the army, and Jewish university students were not allowed to sit for doctoral exams.

Other regulations reinforced the message that Jews were outsiders in Germany; for example, in December 1935, the Reich Propaganda Ministry issued a decree forbidding Jewish soldiers to be named among the dead in World War I memorials.


Government agencies at all levels aimed to exclude Jews from the economic sphere of Germany by preventing them from earning a living. Jews were required to register their domestic and foreign property and assets, a prelude to the gradual expropriation of their material wealth by the state. Likewise, the German authorities intended to "Aryanize" all Jewish businesses, a process involving the dismissal of Jewish workers and managers, as well as the transfer of companies and enterprises to non-Jewish Germans, who bought them at prices officially fixed well below market value. From April 1933 to April 1938, "Aryanization" effectively reduced the number of Jewish-owned businesses in Germany by approximately two-thirds.


In the weeks before and during the 1936 Winter and Summer Olympic Games held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Berlin, respectively, the Nazi regime actually toned down much of its public anti-Jewish rhetoric and activities. The regime even removed some of the signs saying "Jews Unwelcome" from public places. Hitler did not want international criticism of his government to result in the transfer of the Games to another country. Such a loss would have been a serious blow to German prestige. Likewise, Nazi leaders did not want to discourage international tourism and the revenue that it would bring during the Olympics year.


In 1937 and 1938, German authorities again stepped up legislative persecution of German Jews. The government set out to impoverish Jews and remove them from the German economy by requiring them to register their property. Even before the Olympics, the Nazi government had initiated the practice of "Aryanizing" Jewish businesses. "Aryanization" meant the dismissal of Jewish workers and managers of a company and/or the takeover of Jewish-owned businesses by non-Jewish Germans who bought them at bargain prices fixed by government or Nazi party officials. In 1937 and 1938, the government forbade Jewish doctors to treat non-Jews, and revoked the licenses of Jewish lawyers to practice law.

Following the Kristallnacht (commonly known as "Night of Broken Glass") pogrom of November 9–10, 1938, Nazi leaders stepped up "Aryanization" efforts and enforced measures that succeeded increasingly in physically isolating and segregating Jews from their fellow Germans. Jews were barred from all public schools and universities, as well as from cinemas, theaters, and sports facilities. In many cities, Jews were forbidden to enter designated "Aryan" zones. German decrees and ordinances expanded the ban on Jews in professional life. By September 1938, for instance, Jewish physicians were effectively banned from treating "Aryan" patients.


The government required Jews to identify themselves in ways that would permanently separate them from the rest of the population. In August 1938, German authorities decreed that by January 1, 1939, Jewish men and women bearing first names of "non-Jewish" origin had to add "Israel" and "Sara," respectively, to their given names. All Jews were obliged to carry identity cards that indicated their Jewish heritage, and, in the autumn of 1938, all Jewish passports were stamped with an identifying letter "J".

As the Nazi leaders quickened their preparations for the European war of conquest that they intended to unleash, antisemitic legislation in Germany and Austria paved the way for more radical persecution of Jews.

“Aryanization” (in German, Arisierung) refers to the the transfer of Jewish-owned property to non-Jews in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. It aimed to transfer Jewish-owned economic enterprises to “Aryan,” that is, non-Jewish ownership.

There were two distinct phases of “Aryanization”:  


Under “voluntary Aryanization,” the Nazi German state encouraged Jewish businessmen, who were already facing economic and social discrimination, to sell their businesses in Germany at radically reduced prices.

In early 1933, there were about 100,000 Jewish-owned businesses in Germany. About half of these were small retail stores dealing mostly in clothing or footwear. The rest were factories or workshops of various sizes or professional offices for lawyers, physicians, and other independent professionals.

By 1938, the combination of Nazi terror, propaganda, boycott, and legislation was so effective that some two thirds of these Jewish-owned enterprises were out of business or sold to non-Jews. Jewish owners, often desperate to emigrate or to sell a failing business, accepted a selling price that was only 20 or 30 percent of the actual value of each business.


Immediately following the violent nationwide pogroms on November 9-10, 1938 (Kristallnacht), “Aryanization” entered its second phase: the forced transfer of all Jewish-owned businesses to non-Jews.

In the aftermath of the November pogroms, the Nazi German state issued new regulations that prohibited Jews from undertaking most economic activities in the country. The regime assigned every remaining Jewish-owned enterprise a non-Jewish trustee to oversee its immediate forced sale to non-Jews. The trustee’s fee for this required service was often only slightly less than the sale price and it was paid by the former Jewish owners. Some of the profits from the sale also went to the Office of the Four Year Plan, headed by Hermann Göring, which was preparing the German economy for war.  

The funds needed to start large scale armament production were raised in part through the confiscation of property and valuables from the Jewish population. German Jews who wished to emigrate were forced to forfeit much of their property. The Reich government charged an exorbitant “Flight tax” on Jews leaving Germany.

Further, after Kristallnacht, Göring imposed a one billion Reichmark (RM) fine on the Jewish population in Germany. The fine was a direct personal tax on every Jewish taxpayer who had assets over 5,000 RM. The state also confiscated all the insurance payments that should have been paid to Jewish property owners, who were then made responsible for property repairs after the pogrom. View This Term in the Glossary After payment of these fines and extra taxes, any remaining funds were paid into blocked accounts at German banks. The Nazi German state strictly supervised these accounts. The owners could draw only a fixed monthly sum, the minimum required for their living expenses.

During the war, the Nazi German state seized the remaining monies in these blocked accounts. Personal effects, property, and other assets from Jews who were deported to eastern Europe as part of the so-called “Final Solution” were confiscated and usually auctioned or simply distributed to bombing victims who had lost property during the Allied bombing of German cities.


No precise figures are available for the total value of property taken from Jews in Germany under the Nazis. But it is clear that Jews who emigrated from Germany were able to take only a small fraction of their property with them. Those who were deported during the war lost everything; most also lost their lives.    

It was becoming more and more evident that, um, that Jews, uh,
should leave if anybody at all would have them,
and not very many countries would have them.

—Kurt Klein

Several factors determined the ebb and flow of emigration of Jews from Germany. These included the degree of pressure placed on the Jewish community in Germany and the willingness of other countries to admit Jewish immigrants. However, in the face of increasing legal repression and physical violence, many Jews fled Germany. Until October 1941, German policy officially encouraged Jewish emigration. Gradually, however, the Nazis sought to deprive Jews fleeing Germany of their property by levying an increasingly heavy emigration tax and by restricting the amount of money
that could be transferred abroad from German banks.
Holocaust Encyclopedia

Kurt Klein describes some of the difficulties involved in emigrating from Germany.  (Click on link above to see video and hear sound track)

As Nazi anti-Jewish policy intensified, Kurt's family decided to leave Germany. Kurt left for the United States in 1937, but his parents were unable to leave before the outbreak of World War II. Kurt's parents were eventually deported to Auschwitz, in German-occupied Poland. In 1942, Kurt joined the United States Army and was trained in military intelligence. In Europe, he interrogated prisoners of war. In May 1945, he took part in the surrender of a village in Czechoslovakia and returned the next day to assist over 100 Jewish women who had been abandoned there during a death march. Kurt's future wife, Gerda, was one of the women in this group.

In January 1933 there were some 523,000 Jews in Germany, representing less than 1 percent of the country's total population. The Jewish population was predominantly urban and approximately one-third of German Jews lived in Berlin. The initial response to the Nazi takeover was a substantial wave of emigration (37,000–38,000), much of it to neighboring European countries (France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, and Switzerland). Most of these refugees were later caught by the Nazis after their conquest of western Europe in May 1940. Jews who were politically active were especially likely to emigrate. Other measures that spurred decisions to emigrate in the early years of Nazi rule were the dismissal of Jews from the civil service and the Nazi-sponsored boycott of Jewish-owned stores.

During the next two years there was a decline in the number of emigrants. This trend may partly have been due to the stabilization of the domestic political situation, but was also caused by the strict enforcement of American immigration restrictions as well as the increasing reluctance of European and British Commonwealth countries to accept additional Jewish refugees.

Despite the passage of the Nuremberg Race Laws in September 1935 and subsequent related decrees that deprived German Jews of civil rights, Jewish emigration remained more or less constant.

The events of 1938 caused a dramatic increase in Jewish emigration. The German annexation of Austria in March, the increase in personal assaults on Jews during the spring and summer, the nationwide Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogrom in November, and the subsequent seizure of Jewish-owned property all caused a flood of visa applications. Although finding a destination proved difficult, about 36,000 Jews left Germany and Austria in 1938 and 77,000 in 1939.

The sudden flood of emigrants created a major refugee crisis. President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened a conference in Evian, France, in July 1938. Despite the participation of delegates from 32 countries, including the United States, Great Britain, France, Canada, Australia, no permanent or comprehensive solution to the refugee crisis was found. The plight of German-Jewish refugees, persecuted at home and unwanted abroad, is also illustrated by the voyage of the St. Louis.

During 1938–1939, in an program known as the Kindertransport, the United Kingdom admitted 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children on an emergency basis. 1939 also marked the first time the United States filled its combined German-Austrian quota (which now included annexed Czechoslovakia). However, this limit did not come close to meeting the demand; by the end of June 1939, 309,000 German, Austrian, and Czech Jews had applied for the 27,000 places available under the quota.

By September 1939, approximately 282,000 Jews had left Germany and 117,000 from annexed Austria. Of these, some 95,000 emigrated to the United States, 60,000 to Palestine, 40,000 to Great Britain, and about 75,000 to Central and South America, with the largest numbers entering Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Bolivia. More than 18,000 Jews from the German Reich were also able to find refuge in Shanghai, in Japanese-occupied China.

At the end of 1939, about 202,000 Jews remained in Germany and 57,000 in annexed Austria, many of them elderly. By October 1941, when Jewish emigration was officially forbidden, the number of Jews in Germany had declined to 163,000. The vast majority of those Jews still in Germany were murdered in Nazi camps and ghettos during the Holocaust.


Many who sought a safe haven from persecution during the 1930s and 1940s found their efforts thwarted by the United States’ restrictive immigration quotas and the complicated, demanding requirements for obtaining visas. Public opinion in the United States did not favor increased immigration, resulting in little political pressure to change immigration policies. These policies
prioritized economic concerns and national security.

(This is the attitude of one country. An example of the problems faced by
Jews wanting to emigrate from Germany is given below.

The more than 900 passengers of the M.S. St. Louis were denied entry by immigration authorities in multiple countries in the lead-up to the Holocaust.
History. Erin Blakemoor, Jun 4, 2019

Another example is described in Kindertransport.


In 1924, the United States Congress passed the Johnson-Reed Act, revising American immigration laws around individuals’ “national origins.” The act set quotas, a specific number of visas available each year for each country. The quotas, inspired in part by American proponents of eugenics, were calculated to privilege “desirable” immigrants from northern and western Europe. They limited immigrants considered less “racially desirable,” including southern and eastern European Jews. Many people born in Asia and Africa were barred from immigrating to the United States entirely on racial grounds.

The United States had no refugee policy, and American immigration laws were neither revised nor adjusted between 1933 and 1941. The Johnson-Reed Act remained in place until 1965.

Potential immigrants had to apply for one of the slots designated for their country of birth, not their country of citizenship. After Great Britain, Germany had the second highest allocation of visas: 25,957 (27,370, after Roosevelt merged the German and Austrian quotas after the Anschluss). The total allowed was approximately 153,000.

The quota was the maximum number of people who could immigrate, not a target that State Department officials tried to reach. Unused quota slots did not carry into the next year.


Most potential immigrants to the United States had to collect many types of documents in order to obtain an American immigration visa, to leave Germany, and to travel to a port of departure from Europe. Prospective applicants first registered with the consulate and then were placed on a waiting list. They could use this time to gather all the necessary documents needed to obtain a visa, which included identity paperwork, police certificates, exit and transit permissions, and a financial affidavit. Many of these papers—including the visa itself—had expiration dates. Everything needed to come together at the same time.

At the beginning of the Great Depression in 1930, President Herbert Hoover issued instructions banning immigrants “likely to become a public charge.” Immigration fell dramatically as a result. Though Franklin D. Roosevelt liberalized the instruction, many Americans continued to oppose immigration on economic grounds (that immigrants would “steal” jobs). Immigrants therefore, had to find an American sponsor who had the financial resources to guarantee they would not become burden on the state. For many immigrants, obtaining a financial sponsor was the most difficult part of the American visa process.

Potential immigrants also needed to have a valid ship ticket before receiving a visa. With the onset of war and the fear that German submarines would target passenger vessels, shipping across the Atlantic became extremely risky. Many passenger lines stopped entirely or at least reduced the number of vessels crossing the ocean, making it more difficult and expensive for refugees to find berths.


This document from the American Consul-General in Vienna certifies that the Trost family applied for American visas on September 15, 1938. It states that the family (Josef, Alice, Dorrit, and Erika) were placed on the waiting list for visas with the numbers 47291-47294.

US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Charles & Herma Ellenboghen Barber

View Archival DetailsAs the refugee crisis began in 1938, growing competition for a finite number of visas, affidavits, and travel options made immigration even more difficult. In June 1938, 139,163 people were on the waiting list for the German quota. One year later, in June 1939, the waiting list length had jumped to 309,782. A potential immigrant from Hungary applying in 1939 faced a nearly forty-year wait to immigrate to the United States.

In quota year 1939, the German quota was completely filled for the first time since 1930, with 27,370 people receiving visas. In quota year 1940, 27,355 people received visas. The fifteen unused visas were likely the result of a clerical error. It is difficult to estimate how many of these were refugees escaping Nazi persecution. Until 1943, “Hebrew” was a racial category in American immigration law. In 1939–1940, more than 50% of all immigrants to the United States identified themselves as Jewish, but this is likely a low number, since some refugees probably selected a different category (such as “German”) or did not consider themselves Jewish, even if the Nazis did.


In spite of the urgency for refugees to escape, American popular opinion was against accepting more new arrivals. A Gallup poll taken on November 24–25, 1938, (two weeks after Kristallnacht) asked Americans: “Should we allow a larger number of Jewish exiles from Germany to come to the United States to live?” 72% responded “no.”

After war began in Europe in September 1939, and especially after the German invasion of Western European countries in the spring of 1940, many Americans believed that Germany and the Soviet Union were taking advantage of the masses of Jewish refugees to send spies abroad. The State Department cautioned consular officials to exercise particular care in screening applicants. In June 1941, the State Department issued a “relatives rule,” denying visas to immigrants with close family still in Nazi territory.


Despite public antipathy to revising American immigration laws, some private citizens and refugee aid organizations stepped in to assist the thousands attempting to flee. Jewish and Christian organizations provided money for food and clothing, transit fare, employment and financial assistance, and help finding affidavits for prospective immigrants without family in the United States. These private organizations enabled thousands to escape who otherwise would not have been able to compile their paperwork and pay for their passage.


On July 1, 1941, the State Department centralized all alien visa control in Washington, DC, so all applicants needed to be approved by a review committee in Washington, and needed to submit additional paperwork, including a second financial affidavit. At the same time, Nazi Germany ordered the United States to shut down its consular offices in all German-occupied territories. After July 1941, emigration from Nazi-occupied territory was virtually impossible.

Between 1938 and 1941, 123,868 self-identified Jewish refugees immigrated to the United States. Many hundreds of thousands more had applied at American consulates in Europe, but were unable to immigrate. Many of them were trapped in Nazi-occupied territory and murdered in the Holocaust.

Yad Vashem

This page provides these teaching aids



Imperial War Museum, London, Holocaust Exhibition

Antisemitism - hatred of the Jews - was central to the Nazis' world -view.  They believed that  the world was locked in a great struggle between two races, the 'Aryans 'and the 'Semites'.

Everything the  Nazis hated - Communism, liberalism, Jewish and Christian ideas  of tolerance and humility- was in their view due to the influence of the 'Semitic race', the Jews.  They claimed that the 'Aryan race' - white Europeans - once noble warriors, had been weakened and corrupted by this influence, whose elimination they saw as their most important task


The Nazis' built on an ancient tradition of antisemitism that was already very widespread.  They found supporters throughout Europe.  

Most European Jews lived in Eastern Europe, where violence often took the form of violent riots called pogroms.  Waves of pogroms struck the Russian Empire between 1903-7 and again in 1920-1921, killing tens of thousands of Jews.  Later Hungary, Romania and Poland passed anti-Jewish laws.

Anti-Semitic movements flourished in most countries.  Riots had accompanied the Dreyfus affair in France.  In Britain famous writers such as Rudyard Kipling, GK Chesterton and TS Eliot expressed anti-Jewish prejudice.  In the 1930's Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists carried out violent attacks on Jews.


The Nazis funded their state on the idea that there was a Master Race superior to all others.

The Master Race' (Herrenvolk)  was made up of the Germans and their neighbours in northern Europe, especially the blond and blue-eyed  'Nordics' .  The dark haired people of southern Europe were considered inferior, though still 'Aryans'.  Below them were  people regarded as 'subhumans'  (Untermenschen):  the Slavs to the  east, Gypsies and non-whites.  At the very bottom - inferior, yet powerful, the eternal enemy of the  'Aryan race' - were the Jews.

The Nazis claimed that 'inferior races' threatened to subvert  'Aryan' culture'  and pollute 'Aryan' bloodlines.  They wanted to cleanse Germany - and Europe  of such supposedly alien influences.

UCL Centre for Holocaust Education   By Paul Salmons March 2014

Antisemitism  was a familiar part of European political life in the 1800s. Political antisemitism was preceded by centuries of religious persecution of Europe's Jews. There is evidence as early as 1919 that Hitler had a strong hatred of Jews. As Chancellor and later Reichsf�hrer, Hitler translated these intense feelings into a series of policies and statutes which progressively eroded the rights of German Jews from 1933-1939.

At first, the Nazis boycotted Jewish businesses for one day in April 1933. Then legislation excluded Jews from certain professions. The Nuremberg Laws created very detailed Nazi definitions of who was Jewish. Many people who never considered themselves Jewish suddenly became targets of Nazi persecution.

The world accessible to German Jews narrowed. Jews were no longer allowed to enter cinemas, theaters, swimming pools, and resorts. The publishing of Jewish newspapers was suspended. Jews were required to carry identification cards and to wear Star of David badges. On one night, Nazis burned synagogues and vandalized Jewish businesses. The arrests and murders that followed intensified the fear Jews felt. Next, Jewish children were barred from schools. Curfews restricted Jews' time of travel and Jews were banned from public places. Germany began to expel Jews from within its borders.

Germany's invasion of Poland in late 1939 radicalized the Nazi regime's policy toward Jews. Hitler turned to wholesale death of the European Jewish population. He swept Jewish populations into ghettos in eastern Europe. Simultaneously, mobile squads killed millions. The next step was to send Jews to squalid concentration and death camps. Approximately six million died for one reason: they were Jewish.

(See Holocaust)
Time Magazine, Oct 9 2014  Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington and author of
How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization.

The recent increase in attacks against Jews reminds us to stay vigilant against antisemitism

From the murderous pogroms of the 1930’s to the chanting mobs calling for “death to the Jews” in a slew of European cities today, antisemitism and violence have historically gone hand in hand. It’s no surprise, then, that the rise of born-again terrorist groups marching in lockstep with al-Qaeda—chief among them the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS)—has been accompanied by an increase in Europe of boycotts, protests, beatings, firebombed synagogues and other attacks on Jews.

That’s unnerving news in more ways than one. For decades, most people in Europe have believed the monster of antisemitism to be all but buried for good. Not quite. Across the continent, physical as well as verbal attacks on Jews are shocking the consciences of people who never thought they’d see such displays there again. Against this backdrop, and with ISIS and its supporters rooting openly on social media for a new Holocaust, it’s worth meditating for a moment on a historical milestone just ahead.

November 24 marks the 70th anniversary of Heinrich Himmler’s 11th-hour attempt to hide the Nazi genocide. With the Red Army practically at the gates of Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi concentration camps, Himmler—chief overseer of the so-called Final Solution—ordered the crematoriums at the camp destroyed and the killing of Jews throughout the Reich to cease.

Himmler’s attempted cover-up failed miserably. Seventy years of trials, books, museums, documentaries, memoirs, testimonies and articles have so powerfully borne witness that one can only wonder whether, by 2014, there is anything at all left to say.

The answer from all directions continues to be not only yes, but also plenty.

For one thing, there’s the fact that writers of stature continue to mine the signature horror of the 20th century. Today’s prominent example is British novelist Martin Amis, who grappled with the Nazi genocide in earlier fiction too. Amis’ new book, The Zone of Interest, is a satire set in a fictionalized version of Auschwitz.

The novel has become the object of impassioned—largely positive—reviews in both the U.S. and Europe (though it has yet to secure a German publisher). The sheer amount of international attention goes to show that in literature at least, there’s no such thing as the last word on the Holocaust.

Amis isn’t the only current writer of fiction who dares to take up the subject. British novelist Philip Kerr is the author of a series of Berlin-based noir procedurals in which a Marlowe-esque protagonist, detective Bernie Gunther, is repeatedly enmeshed in major episodes of Nazi history. In addition to fiction written for adults, Holocaust-themed literature for children and teenagers is also flourishing and often assigned in classrooms, at least in the U.S. Among the most popular: Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

This fall has seen two other new commentaries destined to leave their marks. One is the English translation of researcher Bettina Stangneth’s Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer. Already well known in Germany, the book challenges Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” thesis via new documentation from Eichmann’s years in Argentina that reveal him repeatedly as an anti-Semitic braggart, a proud Nazi and a master manipulator. At the same time, a new film called Night Will Fall—about a rarely seen Holocaust documentary created in 1945 by a team including Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein—is playing in theater’s across Great Britain.

In September, coincidentally, German prosecutors charged a former member of Hitler’s SS named Oskar Gröning with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. This so-called accountant of Auschwitz is 93 years old. What will happen when the last camp guard finally dies off, the last survivor ceases to tell the tale? Will the world then forget about the death camps at last, and move on?

Even seven decades after Himmler’s attempt to conceal the Nazis’ crimes, that’s impossible to believe. No one can erase the collected, recorded knowledge of what happened. Auschwitz remains what it has been since the Nazis first set boots in the place: the inescapable moral Rorschach test of our time and of foreseeable times to come.






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