the Holocaust and the Progression of German anti-Semitism

    Issue Number 21, May 1999          
Search the Jewish Magazine Site: Google
Holocaust and the Progression of German anti-Semitism


Search our Archives:

Opinion & Society

the Progression of anti-Semitism in Germany

By Chaim Lazerson

The terrible destruction of European Jewry could possibly have been prevented had the major European and American powers taken an interest in the treatment of Jews during the Nazi regime. Based on historical studies, a pattern of increased Germany butchery corresponded to the level of frustration of the Germans in their ability to rid Germany of the inherent Jewish population. Many historians note the various stages of development in the Nazi attitudes and actions taken towards the Jews.

When Hitler ascended to power on January 30, 1933, waves of state instigated brutality towards Jews, as well as other persona-non-grata was implemented. Foreign governments did protest, but the result was that the Nazi's blamed Jewish international propaganda to step up anti Jewish measures. Thus began a full-scale defamation of German Jewry.

By April 1, 1933, a large scale state boycott of Jewish stores and businesses was introduced. Armed guards from the SS picked Jewish shops to insure compliance with the ban on buying and supporting any Jewish establishment. The Jewish German citizens, many of whom had served with honor in the German army during World War I and others who were influential in politics felt that the situation would change for the better. Instead, additional anti Jewish laws were passed.

The purpose of the anti Jewish laws was to give credibility to the legality of the measures being taken by the Nazi's. Hence, all of their actions were "legal".

Slowly, the Jews were deprived of their legal and civil rights. They were excluded from the German economy. Social barriers were erected to prevent social contact. During this time, many Jews were dismissed from public office and the German army. The press, the arts, and the universities excluded Jews from participating and promoted those who expoused anti Semitic views. Many Jews were deported from Germany during this period.

Ironically, the German Jews met a better fate than their Polish Jewish neighbors did. During the initial period of anti-Semitism, many German Jews left Germany. But with the passage of time, the nations offering refuge began to close their doors. Hence when Germany invaded Poland, the Polish Jews had no where to escape. Of the 3.5 million Polish Jews before World War II, 3 million were exterminated. Of the half million German Jews living in Germany during the time Hitler came to power, some 300,000 managed to immigrate.

This stage reached its climax in 1935 with the infamous "Nuremberg Laws" which clarified and crystallized the Nazi's "legal" view of the Jew. This law forbade the union between Jews and Germans. From these laws, many other "legal" actions were based. Abroad, Hitler found many sympathetic ears to support his extreme form of Anti-Semitism. During this period, which lasted up until 1939, and the beginning of World War II, the "Jewish problem" was seen mostly as an internal German problem.

To solve this problem, the Madagascar plan was drawn up in 1940, to evacuate the Jews to Madagascar. The purpose of this plan was to collect all financial assets from the Jews, and secondly, to rid Germany of the Jews by sending them to a place where many would die from the environment. This plan was reportedly approved by Hitler, but because of other considerations, it was never carried out. It was only in March of 1941, during the war with Russia, that Hitler finally decided on the complete destruction of European Jewry.

Between the coming to power of Hitler, in 1933 and 1939, those persons deemed dangerous to the security of the state were incarcerated in work camps. The Gestapo had broad power to arrest and retain anyone who in their eyes was suspect. Through early legal maneuvers, the Gestapo was put in a position not answerable to the course of law. In the course of time, arrests rapidly increased and soon the prisons and interment camps were grossly over populated. It must be noted that at this time, these camps were slave-work camps and not extermination camps.

Up until this period the killing of Jews was a local operation. Groups of Jews could be summarily gathered and marched to an area where they were murdered. Later, a specialized group of soldiers, called the Einzatzgruppen, who were mobile troops, followed the main army through the conquested European countries, and together with auxiliary troops from the local general population, carried out mass murders of local Jews in the local towns.

mass murder of Jews
Mass Murder of Jews - circ 1940

This kind of cruel butchery had a harmful effect of the German soldier. Although the mass murders were supposed to be secret, nevertheless, there was seen a negative impact on much of the local population. A new method was tried. That was to load the Jewish population into trucks for deportation, and on the road to the concentration camps the exhaust from the motor was piped into the stuffed cargo area. This was not deemed completely effective.

Finally, the erection of camps of massive murder was constructed to deal with the problem of extermination. "Zykon B", a poisonous gas was used at Auschwitz. The people were brought to the camp in the guise of being laborers. They were forced to strip for a de-lousing shower. In place of water, the poisonous gas was introduced.

The bodies were examined for valuables and gold teeth were taken from the victims. Afterwards the bodies were burnt in a massive crematorium. Due to the German's exactness in methodology, the number of Jews murdered during the period of the Nazi's is placed above six million. This of course does not include other ethnic and political groups.

The Crematorium used by the Nazi murders
The Crematorium used by the Nazi murders

The holocaust is a broad subject, much too broad for a short article such as this. However, it may be noted, that the basic silence of the world, in spite of ever growing anti-Semitic actions by the Nazis, aided the terrible consequences that resulted. Had the world shown it's concern by vigorously protesting the Nazi treatment, many lives would have been spared. Similarly, had the various nations, including America and Great Britain extended their policies for immigrant absorption, many more would have been spared.

With out support, hate mongers like Hitler propagate and spread their venom. However, those who stand idly by, share in the blame.



from theIssue Number 21, May 1999 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

Please let us know if you see something unsavory on the Google Ads and we will have them removed. Email us with the offensive URL (