Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Attack Was Intended to Be Made on Synagogues During Service but Hitlerists Came Late So Jews Were Se

September 15, 1931
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The intention was to attack the synagogues during service, it is stated to-day, and to create a panic among the worshippers inside the buildings. The time was misjudged. however, and the Hitlerist storm troops arrived too late, when the worshippers were already in the streets, where the attacks took place instead.

The Federation of Jewish ex-Soldiers, when it found out what was happening, sent the alarm to its self-defence, but by the time it arrived the police, though late, were already on the spot, and were acting vigorously, so that the Jewish self-defence did not need to intervene. The Jewish self-defence is organising a strong defence troop, however, for the next Jewish High Holy Days.


Berlin has been the scene of several serious anti-Jewish excesses. Exactly a year ago was “Black Sunday”, when the Hitlerists secured their great success in the Parliamentary elections of September 14th., obtaining 107 Deputies in the new Reichstag, and a month later, on October 13th., when the new Reichstag was opened, the occasion was made the signal for a big anti-Jewish outbreak in Berlin. Making their way to the Leipzigerstrasse, one of the most fasionable shopping centres, the Hitlerist mob began bombarding with stones a number of shops and business-houses owned by Jews, shouting “Out with the Jews”, and “Down with Judea”. They smashed the large plate-glass windows in the famous Wertheim Store; in the Tietz Store, the Dobrin cafe, and other places owned by Jews. After nightfall fresh attacks were made, but the police acted with great firmness and promptitude. Mounted police and motor-lorries carrying armed police swept through the streets, rounding up the rioter, and 108 Hitlerists were arrested.

The next day, which was the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles, passed without incident. Big patrols of police were out in the streets, and the Union of Jewish ex-Soldiers organised a strong self-defence corps to stand by to beat off any anti-Jewish agression. Several thousand men had enrolled in the Self-Defence under the leadership of Jewish ex-officers, it was stated. The police and the authorities managed, however, to retain complete control of the situation, and there were no fresh disturbances.

In November, 1923, there was an actual pogrom in Berlin. A mob of over 10,000 swarmed into the Jewish quarter shouting “Kill the Jews”. Jewish shops and houses were stripped bare, rolls of cloth were cut up and distributed among the mob. After nightfall the police barricaded off the Jewish quarter, but in the darkness a mob of about 30,000 broke their way into it and continued the excesses. Many Jews were beaten senseless, and blood ran in streams. Jews were stripped naked in the street and maltreated. The Jewish quarter was described as being like an inferno. The darkness was filled with the cries of the wounded and their assailants. Everywhere were shouts of “Death to the Jews”; “Kill the Jews”. Anyone who looked like a Jew was knocked down and stripped. Women and children were trampled on. Even the poorest cellar shops were broken into and the stock passed out to the mob. Shutters and barred doors were smashed down.

President Ebert, the first President of the German Republic, who was still alive then, threatened to proclaim martial law, and the military were ordered out. When quiet was restored, the Jewish quarter had been completely sacked and looked as if it had been wrecked by an explosion. All doors and windows were shattered. Shutters were up everywhere and the inhabitants had barricaded themselves in their houses. Large numbers fled and took refuge in other parts of the city. Non-Jewish shopkeepers displayed a sign reading: “This shop is owned by a Christian”.


Complaints were made that the police had made no attempt to stop the anti-Jewish outbreak. Instead of dispersing the rioters, they were said to have demanded the papers of the Jews, and a number of Jews whose documents were not in order were arrested. The leaders of the Jewish Self-Defence, ex-Captain Dr. Loewenstein (who is now among the injured), Dr. Hugo Bernhardt, a medical man who served for four years at the front and was seriously wounded in battle, being awarded the Iron Cross, First Class, for valour, and several others, were arrested by the police for defending the Jews who were being attacked. Dr. Bernhardt declared that the police had illtreated the arrested Jews. He himself, he said, had been forced to hold his hands over his head, head, and his knuckles were broken by a blow from a rifle, and he had heard a police officer shouting “Kill the Jews”.

When the trial came on the following May, the court acquitted the leaders of the Jewish Self-Defence, declaring: In the view of this court, the accused Toller, Bernhardt and Goldlust, committed an act of defence under provocation. The police were not sufficient to cope with the situation that day. It being a question of self-defence under provocation, the accused are acquitted. With regard to the charges against the other two accused, ex-Captain Loewenstein and Thal, of illegal possession of firearms, no action will be taken against them, there having been only a slight breach of the law.

The 1923 pogrom was not carried out by Hitler, who at that time was busy in Munich, where the Hitler-Ludendorff rising took place the same week. Hitlerism was still confined then to Bavaria, and the Berlin operations were led by Richard Kunze, known as Knueppel (Cudgel) Kunzl, whose organisation was known as the German National Labour Party, since eclipsed by Hitler’s organisation, which calls itself the National Socialist Party. Kunze was described as the Hitler of Prussia, and his followers carried out numerous attacks on Jews in Berlin and other towns. In his capacity as a mob orator he visited most German cities, advocating violence against the Jews. He also established a branch of his organisation in Danzig, but the Danzig Senate suppressed it and forced him to leave the Free City. He also took a prominent part in the anti-Jewish campaign in Upper Silesia.

Recommended from JTA