The History Place - The Triumph of Adolf Hitler

Nazis Boycott Jewish Shops

Just a week after the Enabling Act made Hitler dictator of Germany, a national boycott of Jewish shops and department stores was organized by Nazis under the direction of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.

The boycott was claimed to be in reaction to unflattering newspaper stories appearing in Britain and America concerning Hitler's new regime. The Nazis assumed most journalists were either Jewish or sympathetic to Jews and thus they labeled the bad publicity as "atrocity propaganda" spread by "international Jewry."

A temple in Düsseldorf defaced in 1933 with a swastika and message saying "Jew perish." Below: Munich lawyer Dr. Michael Siegel who had sought police help in March 1933 is instead forced by Nazis to walk through the streets barefooted and with a shaved head - carrying a sign saying "I will not complain to the police anymore."
Below: April 1, 1933 - The Nazi boycott is underway as a dress shop in Berlin now has a sign on its window saying "Germans! Defend Yourselves! - Don't buy from Jews!"
Below: Beyond the boycott - Berlin police and their Nazi auxiliaries comb through a Jewish neighborhood - on the lookout for communists and "annoying" foreigners in April 1933.

The boycott began at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 1st, 1933, and lasted only a day. Nazi Brownshirts, the SA storm troopers, stood at entrances to Jewish shops, department stores, professional offices and various places of business. They held poster signs saying: "Germans, defend yourselves against the Jewish atrocity propaganda, buy only at German shops!"

Most Germans ignored them. They were more interested in a bargain or in getting their Saturday shopping chores out of the way. And since it was Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, most of the smaller neighborhood shops owned by observant Jews were already closed.

In addition to the SA activities, Propaganda Minister Goebbels appeared before several thousand persons gathered in the Berlin Lustgarten and delivered a tirade "against the atrocities of world Jewry." His speech was broadcast nationally on all German radio stations. Goebbels asserted that if the Jews of Germany could not stop their fellow Jews around the world from dishing out anti-Nazi propaganda, then the Nazis would be forced to deal out justice to Germany's Jews.

Goebbels, the little man (five feet tall) with a big voice would become the most influential anti-Semite in the Nazi hierarchy, second only to Hitler, in calling for continued persecution and eventual extermination of the Jews. This propaganda genius, who had sometimes been teased in his youth about his own Jewish looks, would subject the people of Germany to a never-ending barrage of anti-Jewish slander on the radio, in the cinema, and in newspapers.

"Propaganda," Goebbels once wrote, "has absolutely nothing to do with truth."

In contrast to the Nazi caricature of them, most Jews in Germany were actually quite cosmopolitan in nature and considered themselves to be Germans by nationality and Jews only by religion. They had lived in Germany for centuries but constituted only about one percent of the overall population. Before Hitler, over half of the Jews in big German cities married non-Jewish Germans.

Politically, Jews in pre-Hitler Germany occupied the entire spectrum. Some were radicals on the left who would have welcomed a Russian-style revolution on the streets of Munich or Berlin. Others had been staunch supporters of Kaiser Wilhelm and the old German monarchy dating back to the days before World War I. Some of these conservatives might have even supported the Nazis were it not for the anti-Semitism so avowed by Hitler. Most Jews were middle-of-the-road politically. They wanted the same things for themselves and their families that everyone else wanted – a good place to live, a good job, quality education for their children and so forth.

During World War I, German Jews by the tens of thousands fought bravely for the Fatherland, earning numerous medals and serving as officers. One of the Army officers in command of Hitler during the war was a Jewish lieutenant who recommended young Corporal Hitler for the Iron Cross 1st Class, a rarity for a common foot soldier. To his dying day, Hitler wore that Iron Cross, passing on all other Nazi decorations and paraphernalia with the exception of his gold Party membership pin.

However, for the new dictator, Adolf Hitler, no amount of patriotism or love of country by the Jews could overcome the very fact that they were Jews, and thus in Hitler's mind, the "eternal enemies" of the German Volk (racial community).

The boycott of Jewish stores in April 1933 marked the beginning of a downward spiral for Jews that would eventually end in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. The boycott was followed by a series of laws and decrees which robbed the Jews of one right after another. There would be, in the twelve years of Hitler's Reich, over 400 laws and decrees targeting Jews alone.

Six days after the boycott, "The Law of the Restoration of the Civil Service" was introduced which made "Aryanism" a necessary requirement to hold a civil service position. All Jews holding such positions were dismissed or forced into early retirement. On April 22nd, Jews were prohibited from serving as patent lawyers and from serving as doctors in State-run insurance institutions. On April 25th, a law against the overcrowding of German schools limited the number of Jewish children allowed to enroll in public schools. On June 2nd, Jewish dentists and dental technicians were prohibited from working with State-run insurance institutions. On May 6th, the Civil Service Law was amended to close loopholes in order to keep out honorary university professors, lecturers and notaries. On September 28th, all non-Aryans and their spouses were prohibited from government employment. On September 29th, Jews were banned from all cultural and entertainment activities including literature, art, film and theater. In early October, Jews were prohibited from being journalists and all German newspapers were either shut down or placed under Nazi control.

In better times, the creative spark of the Jewish community in Germany had helped propel the country to unprecedented heights of scientific achievement, academic scholarship and artistic vision. Under Hitler, the vitality of the once-thriving Jewish academic and artistic communities in Berlin, Frankfurt and other cities was quickly snuffed out via endless rules, regulations, restrictions, prohibitions, and outright bans. The time was coming when a Jew would be forbidden even to share a park bench with a non-Jew, let alone marry one.

Seemingly within days of Hitler's coming to power in 1933, Germany began a rapid evolution into a police state where individual freedoms were permanently lost for everyone. Jews and Germans alike were living under what would become one of the most violent and repressive regimes ever known. The principle terror mechanism would be a new secret organization, whose name to this day can still send a shudder through anyone who remembers Hitler's Germany – the Gestapo.

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