Nazis in Brazil Celebrate Founding of Blumenau, City Named for a Jew
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Nazis in Brazil Celebrate Founding of Blumenau, City Named for a Jew

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The more than 72,000 inhabitants of the all-German city of Blumenau, large industrial center of the state of Santa Catharina, in the south of Brazil, are now commemorating the eightieth anniversary of the founding of the city. But at no time in the course of the celebrations has anyone mentioned the fact that the founder of Blumenau was a German Jew, Herman Blumenau, for whom the city was named.

Herman Blumenau first came to Brazil about 1848, in the company of Fritz Miller, famous naturalist. Here Blumenau met the great explorer, Friedrich Humboldt, who was then on one of his exploratory tours of South America. Blumenau, who had earned his Ph.D. degree in 1846, became interested in the new continent and devoted himself to the study of Brazil’s primeval forests.


The present Santa Catharina region attracted him, and in 1853 he founded what is today the largest German industrial center in southern Brazil. Dr. Blumenau is rightfully regarded as the builder of the city, for he lived there thirty years, a record equalled by no other early settler of the town. About 1887 Dr. Blumenau returned to Germany, where he died. The model city he had tried to build was officially named Blumenau in his honor.

The Germans living in the south of Brazil today are all strongly influenced by the Nazi movement, which is flourishing there as it is in the rest of Brazil. It is therefore not surprising that the newspapers of the region, as if by one accord, make no mention of the fact that Blumenau was a Jew. On the contrary, they go out of their way to evade the fact. Thus the Urwalds Bote, a Nazi newspaper, writes: “Blumenau has become such a large city because no Jews interfered in its growth…. Blumenau has been and will remain free of Jews…” The article quoted is accompanied by a photograph of Herman Blumenau showing his characteristically Jewish nose and other typical Jewish features.


The Germans of Santa Catharina found themselves between the horns of a dilemma. They wished to celebrate the birthday of Blumenau. But they had no intention of reminding anyone that its founder was a Jew. They arranged a very imposing program in which governmental and army leaders of the various neighboring states participated, and even unveiled a tablet to the founder of Blumenau in the Blumenau municipal building.

But in all the accompanying pomp the emphasis was upon the greatness of the German spirit, which made it possible to build up so many German centers in Brazil.

Despite these precautions, however, various Nazi leaders raised a protest against the “Jewish” celebration, and the case went to the imported Nazi “instructors” for decision. These removed from office Consul Volbeck, who helped arrange the program, in which a few Jewish officials of other Brazilian states participated, and which, when al was said and done, did honor to a Jew. Moreover, the Nazi press is silent about the reasons for the dismissal of Volbeck, and disavows any Nazi participation in the celebration of “Blumenau’s anniversary, although the swastika was much in evidence at the various functions Nor were photographs of the “leader” absent.

Although the case of Blumenau is not singular in Jewish history, it does not seem amiss to mention, at a time when hatred of the Jew is rife among Germans, that the pride of the German settlement in Brazil is the work of a Jew and bears his name.

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