The Via Dolorosa of German Jewry
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The Via Dolorosa of German Jewry

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(Dr. Bernhard, one of the most famous journalists of the German Republic era and editor-in-chief of the Vossische Zeitung, is now an exile from Germany living in Paris where he edits the Pariser Tageblatt. The following is the last of three articles by him which will appear in the Jewish Daily Bulletin.)

The idea of the boycott which had in the early part of the National Socialist regime penetrated but gradually into the cities and the large towns, began to make enormous strides in these places after May 1, as a consequence of the more rigid method of organization. The turnover figures of the department stores and other big businesses owned by Jews, as given in their balancesheets, show that very clearly. In the cities and the large towns, the Jews have by closing up their own ranks, been able to alleviate the situation to some extent, and have succeeded in setting up some sort of self-defence organization. A movement was started that in times of need Jews must buy from Jews. Jewish artisan enterprises in the towns even increased their activities.

But this was not possible in the smaller towns and the villages where there were not enough Jews for any effective organization. At first the boycott made no headway in the small places. Most of the Jewish shopkeepers there are men and women whose families have lived in the district for centuries and have intimate ties with the non-Jewish population. The men all fought at the front during the War, and were members of the local war veterans’ associations and often their leaders, members of the committees and chairmen.

The boycott ordered by the leaders had to be carried on in these places, too. So pickets were stood outside the Jewish shops, most of them men who were close friends of the shopkeepers they were picketing. The local population good-humoredly put off their purchases till the next day, and then it was business as usual. This happy state of affairs did not last, however. Storm Troops were drafted into these places from outside who had no sentimental attachments to the local Jews, and stolidly carried out orders, often influencing the younger people to join in the anti-Jewish activities. Then there were local people who had a private feud with some Jew, and sought to satisfy it. These became an anti-Jewish nucleus, and soon the situation underwent a complete change in the small places as well.

The Jewish shopkeepers, who were more easily kept under observation than in the cities, because there were so few of them, and who depended also much more on local goodwill, were only too glad to sell their businesses at a loss and clear out. If they were stubborn, and refused to give in, or if their non-Jewish friends stood by them and refused to obey the boycott orders, the wholesalers were forced to stop supplies. They had no alternative, so they sold their shops and went into the cities; which made the situation in the cities worse. The Jewish communities had to assist not only their own impoverished members, but also those Jews who had come from other places, Jewish businessmen who had been ruined.


It is this boycott that is in full swing in Germany today. And it shows no sign of ebb; on the contrary, it is on the flood. Its effect can be gauged, generally speaking, only by the lists of firms who have stopped payments. The real figures we cannot know. For we have no means of telling how many Jews just close down quietly, or sell their businesses to Christians. The boycott is being enforced not only against private businesses, but also against public companies, from which all Jewish directors are being squeezed out. This is all part of a concerted movement to expel all Jews from every branch of business life, including the banks and the factories.

The original plan of the Nazi boycott organizers included a demand that even Jewish business people must dismiss their Jewish employees, and pay all their Christian employees two months’ salary in advance. They did not want these Christian employees to lose if the anti-Jewish boycott smashed these Jewish concerns. But this demand was withdrawn shortly before the boycott day, because the Reichsbank declared that it could not raise all the extra money that would be called for to pay these advance salaries. I am glad to say that many big Jewish businessmen refused to consider the demand. The free Trade Unions had not yet been suppressed, and the National Socialists did not trust themselves to insist on their demand. Nevertheless, when the day of the boycott arrived, a large number of Jewish employees were dismissed.

The next step was to disclaim official responsibility for these activities. An effective method was discovered. A series of protest strikes, apparently unconnected with each other, broke out in various concerns, the employees declaring that they refused to work with Jews, and demanding their dismissal. They demanded not only that Jewish employees should be dismissed, but also those Jews who had important executive positions, and most of all the Jewish directors. The procedure in all cases was the same. When the firm complained to the Nazi district leaders, or even to the proper economic authorities, the action of the workers was condemned, and often the strike was actually ordered to be called off, but in the end it always came about that after a time both the Jewish directors and the Jewish employees had disappeared.

The movement was very carfully organized. The strikes were not, as the National Socialist press contended, spontancous outbursts of feeling that had long been dormant in the minds of the Christian employees. The strikes had been ordered by the National Socialist economic cell in the particular concern. Every non-Jewish employee had to obey the order, even if he hated doing it, unless he wanted to lose his job, and maybe go into a concentration camp as well. And the Nazi cell did not act on its own account either, but obeyed secret instructions from headquarters.


These roundabout methods were adopted because Hugenberg, the German National leader, was still at the time Minister of Economic Affairs, and he stood out agianst the wholesale dismissal of Jews, and the National Socialists did not yet feel strong enough to remove him. Then Herr Schmitt, who had been director of the Alliance Insurance Company, took Hugenberg’s place. Herr Schmitt agrees as little as Hugenberg did with this movement to throw all Jews out of employment. He had even had individual National Socialist cell leaders and economic commandants put into prison for dereliction of duty by undertaking aggressive action against Jewish enterprises in contravention of Hitler’s official orders. But meanwhile half the Jewish employees in the country have already lost their employment. It goes merrily on below the surface.


The notorious officials law has been extended to all business concerns which are in direct or indirect contact with the governments of the Reich, or the States, or any public bodies. To realize the effect on the employment of Jews we must bear in mind that there are in Germany an exceptionally large number of stock companies and limited companies, apparently private concerns but actually belonging to the governments of the Reich, the States, the Provinces, or to the Municipalities. There are others that are subsidized directly or indirectly by public bodies. The Dresdner Bank, for example, and several other banks were stabilized in July, 1931, by an issue of shares taken up by the Reich which assumed certain guarantees. All these concerns have had to dismiss most of their Jewish employees, except those few who are exempt under the provisions of the officials law. It will give an idea of what is happening if it is recalled that 150 Jews were dismissed in one single day from the Berlin branches of the Dresdner Bank alone. It is estimated that the Dresdner Bank itself has been responsible for throwing 500 Jews on the streets.


The phrase, thrown on the streets, is the correct term to use. For their claims to unemployment insurance were ignored, and though it was the rule in all these concerns that employees must have reasonable notice, these Jews were simply given their money and told to go. There were a few exceptions where there were legal contracts or provisions for pensions, but there were not many such. And apart from these compulsory dismissals, there were private businesses that would normally never have thought of dismissing their Jewish employees, who were afraid that if they retained them, at least in positions where they were conspicuous, they would not be able to keep their concerns going for very long.

In industry, the process is more gradual and less thorough. There are certain branches of industry, like the fur trade and tailoring, which are traditionally Jewish, and it will be very hard to get rid of the Jews there. But even in these trades roundabout methods are being employed to achieve the same results, as for instance, by refusing to allow Jewish firms to tender for supplies to any public bodies. There is no doubt that here, too, there is the deliberate intention to bring about a hundred per cent,climination of Jews. And we may depend on it that the Nazis will continue to work for this aim with the same unscrupulous callousness that distinguishes all their activities ignoring all sentiments of humanity and in the long run also the interests of German trade and German industry.

(Copyright, 1934, Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

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