From the establishment of his first political party (German
Labor Party) in 1923, Adolf Hitler publically expressed his
implacable hatred for the Jewish people and his desire to
remove the Jews from German life. Thus it was hardly surprising
that within weeks after he became Chancellor of Germany on
January 30, 1933, the German government, headed by the Nazis,
began to pass laws to limit Jewish participation in all spheres
of endeavor, a development which was accompanied by sporadic
outbursts of anti-Jewish violence, arbitrary arrests of Jews,
and the expulsion of Jews from their jobs.
The first public anti-Jewish act was a boycott of all
Jewish businesses, which took place on April 1, 1933. Six
days later, the first anti-Jewish decree was passed which
barred Jews from serving in the civil service (with the
exception of those who served as frontline soldiers in
World War II). It was followed shortly thereafter by decrees
which severely restricted Jews from practicing medicine
and law, limited the number of Jewish students in educational
institutions, and totally excluded Jews from journalism
and German cultural life. Besides these legal measures
numerous Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps,
where many were singled out for particularly harsh treatment
which often resulted in death.
In the wake of the return of the Saar district to Germany
in January 1935, a new wave of localized terror began which
was accompanied by a high-level campaign of incitement
against Jews in the press and in mass rallies orchestrated
by Joseph Goebbels and Der Stirmer editor Julius Streicher.
This was followed by the infamous Nuremberg Laws of September
1935 which deprived Jews of their German citizenship (Reich
Citizenship Law), forbade marriage and/or sexual relations
between Jews and non-Jews and defined the Jews on a racial
basis (Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor).
The passage of these laws was followed by a period of relative
quiet during which the Aryanization of Jewish businesses
With the annexation of Austria (March 1938) and the Sudetenland
(September 1938), more than two hundred thousand additional
Jews came under the Nazi yoke. On October 28, 1938, fifteen
to seventeen thousand Polish Jews living in Germany were
expelled to Poland. When the Poles refused to admit them,
they remained trapped between the two countries. On November
7, Herschel Grynspan, whose parents were among the expellees,
shot Ernst Vom Rath, the third secretary of the German
Embassy in Paris, and his murder served as the pretext
for the infamous “Night of the Broken Glass” (Kristallnacht)
pogrom, which took place throughout the entire Third Reich
on the night of November 9-10, 1938. More than a hundred
Jews were murdered and more than a thousand synagogues
were set on fire by the Nazis who also deported approximately
thirty thousand Jewish men to the concentration camps at
Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. The Jewish community
was forced to pay a collective fine of one-billon marks
to cover the damage. In the same month, laws were passed
to eliminate the Jews from the German economy, expel all
Jewish pupils from German public schools and restrict the
Jews’ movement in public places.
Following the outbreak of World War II in September 1939,
additional anti-Jewish directives were instituted which
made the lives of those Jews still in Germany (117,000
Jews had emigrated in 1938 and 1939 and at this point the
Nazis were still encouraging Jews to leave) even harder.
Jews were forbidden to leave their homes after dark, were
completely barred from certain areas, were given reduced
food rations, had to restrict their food purchases and
were forced to turn over their jewelry, radios, cameras
and electrical appliances.
Jews were isolated from the general population by being
forced to live in Judenhausen (Jewish buildings), in which
only Jews were allowed to reside. Those Jews who were considered
fit for work were taken for forced labor and the arbitrary
arrests of Jews who were sent to concentration camps continued.
In September 1941, all Jews over the age of six were required
to wear the yellow star and were forbidden to use public
Following the outbreak of World War II, the Nazis launched
a mass euthanasia program to liquidate the handicapped,
and the mentally and chronically ill which claimed the
lives of at least several hundred Jews.
In February 1940, the first deportation of Jews from Germany
began in Stettin and Schneidemuhl and their environs. They
were followed that summer by the expulsion of all the 7,500
Jews of Baden, the Palatinate and the Saar district to
France, where most were sent to the Gurs concentration
camp (and later to the death camps in Poland). In October
1941, the mass systematic deportations of Jews from the
Reich began. The majority of the initial transports were
sent to the ghettos of Warsaw and Lodz in Poland, Riga
in Latvia, Kovno in Lithuania and Minsk in Belarus, all
of which were already under Nazi occupation and where the
systematic implementation of the Final Solution had already
begun. In some cases the German Jews were immediately murdered
upon arrival at their destination, others shared the fate
of the Jews in the ghettos to which they were sent.
In 1942 and 1943, the Jews deported from Germany were
sent directly to death camps in Poland, primarily to Auschwitz.
Approximately 42,000 German Jews, mostly the elderly and
those with privileged status, were sent to the Thereseinstadt
ghetto, where most died or were subsequently deported to
the death camps. In July 1943, with the deportation process
completed, the Nazis announced the liquidation of German
Jewry and all remaining Jewish organizations were closed
down. At this point only about 15,000 Jews, the large majority
of whom were married to non-Jews, remained alive in Germany.
Of the approximately 566,000 Germans identified as Jews
by the Nuremberg laws, the Nazis and their collaborators
murdered some 140,000. This figure includes several thousand
Jews who committed suicide or were killed in the euthanasia
program launched in September 1939. The vast majority of
those who survived immigrated to countries which were not
occupied by the Third Reich. A total of approximately 20,000
Jews survived in Germany, three-quarters of whom were living
openly as Mischlinge (those of mixed origin) and about
5,000 of whom were Jews who escaped deportation by hiding.
An additional 5,000 Jews survived in the Thereseinstadt
ghetto /concentration camp.