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."
"A few honest men are better than numbers."
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
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
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
streets like animals in the forest. It is the Jewish police who
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
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
July 14 Nazi party made Germany's one and only legal party. Political
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
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
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
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"
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
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
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.
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.
http://www.bitlink.com/~rsl/responses/america.html. Offline May