Career and Employment
The two major economic crises of the Weimar Republic, the inflation at the beginning and the Depression at the end, accelerated the stagnation and economic decline that had already begun before World War I. As early as 1933, a social worker predicted that German Jews would experience such grave restrictions in their "economic sphere" that their standard of living would be reduced to the point of ending their "middle-class existence."1 Sadly, this prediction came true, with the onslaught of discrimination, boycotts, and ultimately "Aryanization"—a euphemism for the Nazi expropriation of Jews.
In the Weimar Republic, Jews active in trade and commerce made up 61 percent of all wage earners. The next largest group, 24 percent, worked in industry and the trades; and members of the civil service and independent professionals amounted to almost 10 percent. Moreover, the percentage of those who were "independent without an occupation," that is, those who lived from pensions, savings, or the like, was significantly higher among Jews than in the population at large; the figure was 15 percent in 1925 and even 20 percent in 1933.2 However, when these figures are compared with those for groups in similar living situations—essentially urban residents—rather than with the total German population, Jewish occupational structures more closely resemble those of the general population.
Jews' concentration in trade and commerce corresponded to the higher percentage of Jews who were self-employed. This status, independent of an employer, was the only way for some Jews to observe religious law. The long