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The Response of German Jewish Leaders

"Truely, a devil has broken loose from his leash in Germany-
ah, and none of us knows how we are to get him back on
the chain again."
-Theodore Haecker

"A few honest men are better than numbers."

-Oliver Cromwell

It is in Germany were the modern term anti-Semitism of the racist kind began.(Meltzer 3) Anti-Semitism was based on racial identity. It was the prejudice of Jews because they were believed to be cowardly and worthless, praising the Aryan race. The Aryan race was the race that Hitler considred to be perfect because they all had "pure blood". Hitler viewed the Jew as the universal enemy.(Meltzer 9) Concentration camps were formed in the early years, later to be labor and death camps. The Gestapo (secret police) by law was given the right to imprison any one they thought was 'dangerous'.(Meltzer 27) In these concentration camps many German Jews and others were placed.

During 1933 the population of German Jews hardly reached 1% of the entire population. It was half a million. In the late 1930's many Jews in Germany became rich and acheived better working positions. Many became merchants, scientists, lawyers, engineers.(Meltzer 31) Therefore many anti-Semites became envious of their rise in status. After Jewish boycotts and removal of Jews in work places, the Jews decided to leave Germany. By the end of 1933, over 30,000, about 7% of German Jews, had gone to other countries.(Meltzer 35) On September 15, 1935 the Nuremberg Laws were passed, laws that stripped the Jews many of their human rights. These laws did not consider the Jews citizens, and even humans. After the Nazis took over, Jewish groups began to plan a national organization called the Representative Council of Jews in Germany.(Meltzer 38) The organization was worked by Rabbi Leo Baeck, however the group was not politically successful. "...Germans opposition to Hitler was initially restricted to a small minority of people who either had a special instinct for recognizing the evils which lurked beneath the surface of Nazi drive, efficiency, vitality, patriotism..."(Prittie 42)

Chaim Kaplan wrote in his journal, "The Jews do not believe that it will come to pass", when he heard the news about the forced-labor decree.(Meltzer 95) By writing his thoughts in these secret diaries, responses referring to the atrocities are recorded. It is believed that Kaplan and his wife were killed in the Treblinka extermination camp.(Meltzer 95) Kaplan using his writing is the voice of thousands of Jews. He is a first hand account. He wrote about the feeling that many Jews had:

There is no room in our inner feelings for despair and depression. We greet every edict with a deprecating smile, although we are conscious that the creators and enactors of these cruel decrees are psycopaths..A poison of hatred permeates the blood of the Nazis, and therefore all their stupid decrees, the fruit of this hatred, are doomed to failure...Anything founded upon insanity must not last long.

Kaplan is informed of all the Jews that have been taken to these camps and he is absolutely terrified. Camps such like Auschwitz and Lubrin. He also wrote down what he saw when the mass expulsions occurred in the ghetto.(Meltzer 110)

The ghetto has turned into an inferno. Men have become beasts. Everyone is but a step away from deportation: people are being hunted down in the streets like animals in the forest. It is the Jewish police who are cruelest toward the condemned.

Gerhard Riegner, German Jew and sender of the famous Riegner telegram. In August of 1942 the Reigner telegram reaches the U.S. Department. In this telegram, Reigner informs Rabbi Steven Wise and Sydney Silverman that a Nazi plan has been planned to exterminate the European Jews on East European Soil. It stated how Hitler was implementing the "Final Solution". As a result of the telegram, Rabbi Wise wants U.S. citizens to know about the mass extermination, but the State Department does not want to reveal any of that until it can be verified. Rabbi was criticized heavily for siding with the Department, but he agreed that it should be verified by Americans. Therefore, they would be sure that it is not more Jew propaganda. Therefore the Reigner Telegram was essential in the U.S. and their acknowledgement.


Jan. 30 Germany's President Hindenburg appoints Adolf Hitler, Head of the Nazi party, as Reich Chancellor (Prime Minister)
Feb. 2 Political demonstrations are banned in Germany.
27-28 Reichstag fire. State of emergency declared. Constitutional rights suspended.
Mar. 5 Last general election to Reichstag: Nazis receive 44% of vote. First "individual acts" against Jewish citizens.
23 First concentration camps: Dachau opens.
Apr. 1 First official boycott of Jewish shops and businesses throughout Germany.
July 14 Nazi party made Germany's one and only legal party. Political opposition
punishable by law. Jews deprived of German citizenship.
Dec. 1 Hitler declares German state and Nazi party are one by law.

Jan. 2 Laws for sterilization of "unfit."
Aug. 2 On the death of Hindenburg, Hitler becomes Germany's Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces.

Sept. 15 Reichstag passes anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws: the "Reich Citizenship Law" defines "Jews" and "mixed-blood" status, and the "Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor" prohibits marriage
between Jews and Aryans.

Mar. 7 German troops occupy the Rhineland, violating the Versailles treaty.
Oct. 25 Hitler and Mussolini form Rome-Berlin Axis for war.
Nov. 25 Germany and Japan sign military pact.

July 16 Buchenwald concentration camp opens.
Nov. 5 Hitler discloses war plans at secret meeting.

Mar. 13 German army takes over Austria and applies anti-Jewish laws.
Apr. 22 Decree issued to eliminate Jews from Germany's economy and to take over their assets.
June 15 Arrests begin of all "previously convicted Jews," including those convicted of such minor offenses as traffic violations.
July 6 At international conference at Evian, France, participating nations fail to provide refuge for German Jews.
Sept. 29 In Munich pact, Britain and France agree to allow Hitler's annexation of
Czech Sudetenland.
Oct. 5 Passports of German Jews marked with letter "J."
28 Thousands of Jews in Germany expelled into Poland.
Nov. 7 Herschel Grynszpan shoots member of German embassy staff in Paris,
resulting in:
Nov. 9 "Night of Broken Glass", in which government organizes pogroms against Jews throughoout Germany.
Nov. 12 At Nazi conference on "Jewish problem," Goering orders "expiation payment" by Jews and their exclusion from economic and cultural life. About 26,000 Jews arrested and sent to concentration camps; 1,000 killed.
Nov. 15 Jewish children expelled from German schools.

Dec. Decree orders "Aryanization" (compulsory expropriation) of Jewish shops, industries, and businesses throughout Germany.

Jan. 1 German Jews compelled to use first name of "Sarah" or "Israel."
30 In Reichstag speech, Hitler prophesies "the extermination of the Jewish
race in Europe" in case of war.
Mar. 15 German troops occupy Czechoslovakia, without opposition from other nations.
Aug. 23 Germany and Soviet Union sign non-aggression pact.
Sept. 1 Germany invades Poland: WWII begins. SS and German army cooperate
in widespread pogroms and mass executions in Poland.
Sept. 3 Great Britain and France declare war on Germany
Sept. 27 Poland surrenders to Germany. Forced labor announced for Polish Jews.
Oct. 12 Nazis begin deporting Jews from Austria and Moravia to Poland.
Nov. Hans Frank made Governor General of occupied Poland: establishes first Polish ghetto; begins to set up a Jewish Council (Judenrat) in each city.

Works Cited

Hughes, H. Stuart and James Wilkinson. Contemporary Europe: A History. Prentice Hall. New Jersey: 1991.

Meltzer, Milton. Never to Forget: The Jews of the Holocaust. Harper & Row Publ. New York: 1976.

Prittie, Terence. Germans Against Hitler. Little, Brown and Comp. Boston: 1964. Offline May 2001.