The Yellow Star: The Persecution of the Jews in Europe, 1933-1945

By Gerhard Schoenberner | Go to book overview

IN HITLER’S GERMANY

Anti-Semitism, just as anti-Communism, was a fundamental part of Hitler’s program. AntiSemitism was the magic formula he used to explain all social ills and gain the support of the politically disoriented petty bourgeoisie. Anti-Semitism was the means by which he smashed the legal system, established his dictatorship, and implicated the German people in his crimes.

On January 30, 1933, Hitler came to power. The suppression of all opposition began. The Reichstag fire was followed by open terror. Communists and Social Democrats were the first victims. On them all the rituals of public humiliation were rehearsed, all the techniques of psychological and physical terror that would very soon be employed against the Jews. Chanting bands of stormtroopers forced judges to break off court proceedings; professors could no longer deliver their lectures; passersby were knocked down in the open street.

In reply to the shocked reports that appeared in the world press, the government redoubled the terror. As a “countermeasure against Jewish atrocity propaganda,” they organized the first official boycott of all Jewish doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. Stormtroopers were stationed in front of shops and offices. Anybody who ignored the warnings risked being beaten up and publicly pilloried. The boycott was soon extended to all spheres of cultural life. There was no longer room in Germany for the poetry of Heine, Mendelssohn’s music, the works of Sigmund Freud, Einstein’s formulae, Liebermann’s painting, or Reinhardt’s theater.

The “cleansing” of Jewish authors from public libraries developed into a campaign against contemporary German literature and intellectual freedom in general. Two hundred fifty writers—Jews and Gentiles—were banned. Among them were such well-known names as Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Arnold Zweig, Anna Seghers, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Franz Werfel, Erich Kaestner, and Kurt Tucholsky. Once Nazi propaganda had succeeded in popularizing the absurd theory that the Jews were to blame for everything, any undesirable trend of thought, or any opposition at all, had only to be described as being under Jewish influence to justify its elimination and the physical persecution of its supporters. In this sense, anyone who opposed Hitler was a Jew and, if he were not a Jew, then he was a “stooge of the Jews.” Every violent measure, from the banning of democratic parties and free trade unions to the campaign against the League of Nations, was carried out under the slogan of anti-Semitism.

The wild terror that anticipated the law was followed by new laws that legitimized the terror. Jewish citizens were barred from one profession after another. The government supplemented all these measures with an ever-mounting anti-Jewish smear campaign. They accused their

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The Yellow Star: The Persecution of the Jews in Europe, 1933-1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Introduction xi
  • In Hitler’s Germany 1
  • Poland — ExperimeΝtal Field 33
  • In the Ghettos 55
  • Mass Executions 93
  • The Deportations 123
  • The Extermination Camps 159
  • Resistance 203
  • Liberation 227
  • Epilogue 263
  • Chronological Table 269
  • Military Ranks 280
  • Abbreviations 281
  • Sources 282
  • Bibliography 287
  • Resistance 290
  • Acknowledgments 291
  • The Yellow Star Project 293
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