From Everyday Life to a
State of Emergency: Jews in
Weimar and Nazi Germany
Trude Maurer Translated from the German by Allison Brown
After the experiences of World War I, in which all hopes for complete integration had been disappointed, and the collapse of the monarchy, which came as a surprise to most, Jews initially continued living in the Weimar Republic much as they had before. But the inflation and the Great Depression threatened middle-class lifestyles, and many had to cut back drastically, due to lost assets, business losses, and increased unemployment. On top of financial insecurity came contradictory experiences in Jews' social lives. While integration continued to develop in public as well as private spheres, antisemitism also continued to spread. In the later years of the republic, a certain caution in public seemed advisable to some, and relations between Jews and non-Jews began to erode.
Nonetheless, January 30,1933, represented a major break. The government forced Jews out of the civil service, independent professions, business, and higher education; it clearly intended to force them out of middle-class society altogether. Despite impoverishment and attempts at career restructuring, Jews held on to their bourgeois habits, seeking therein a kind of security. In the face of such social ostracism, the family took on renewed significance as the nucleus of middle-class life, and the Jewish community became the center of Jewish life, with its diverse offers of aid, both material and spiritual. But the increasing terror, the increasing strictures on normal life once the war started, and finally the deportations destroyed the constant attempts to adapt and survive. Everyday life was replaced by a permanent state of emergency.