The Nazi Reign of Terror, 1933-38


Fall 2008

Hitler Comes to Power

      Barely in Office Hitler met with the Reichswehr generals who knew very little about him.

      Hitler assured them that he planned on rearming.

      And then expanding Germany in order to obtain “living space” in the East.

      Most professional officers realized that war was necessary to regain those lands lost in World War I.

      But first he had to destroy the “cancer of Democracy” in Germany.

      In its place establish “the tightest authoritarian State leadership.”

Collapse of Human Rights in Hitler’s Germany

       The first thing the Nazis did was to negate all legal rights under the Weimar Republic.

       The opening came Reichstag Fire on Feb. 28, 1933.

       Following the fire, Hitler persuaded the aging Hindenburg to agree to the “Decree for the Protection of Volk and State.”

       This remained until 1945.

Decree for the Protection of Volk and State

      Suspended the basic rights of German citizens.

      Allowed the Reich’s government to take over all powers of the German Land governments.

      Ordered the death penalty for a wide assortment of crimes.

      Including treason, assault on government officials, arson in government buildings, incitement to riot, and resistance to provisions of the law.

      Citizens could be placed in “protective custody.”

Protective Custody

       Suspects could be arrested solely for being “threats” to the state.

       The first victims were Communists and Socialists.

       Many were incarcerated in a Wilde Konzentrationslager or a Wild [temporary] Concentration Camp run by the SA.

Did This Intimidate the German Electorate?

      In the last free election in Germany, March 5, 1933, the National Socialists gained only 43.9% of the vote.

      Shortly thereafter, the Reichstag agreed to the Enabling Act on March 23, 1933, which allowed the Government to rule by decree for the next four years.

      The Reichstag renewed it in 1937.

      In 1943 it was made perpetual.

      On March 26, 1933, Heindrich Himmler opened the first permanent Concentration Camp at Dachau.

      There Political Prisoners were imprisoned and the SS was trained.

The Racial State

       Racism became a policy of the state.

       This included the Ministry of Interior, the Police, the Health officials, Medical Community, and the SS and SA.

       The initial attacks on Jews lacked direction.

       But the first efforts were directed at ownership of department stores and the legal rights of Jews.

The Attacks on German Jews Lack Direction


      The Party was split between two factions.

      The first included the “opportunists,” those who could gain from Jewish persecution.

      The other were the “radicals,” led by Hitler who wanted to make Germany “Judenein” or Jewish Free.

      But Hitler let the attacks on the Jews come from “below.”

      When Herman Goring stated that the Police simply protected the police, the SA saw this as license to attack Jewish property.

The Creation of the Gestapo

      The Gestapo had nothing to do with the rising level of official violence.

      Instead it was designed to intimidate the German public.

      Which stands for the Secret State Police (hence the Geheime Staatspolizei or Gestapo).

      Herman Goring was the first head of the Gestapo.

      And its HQ was Prinze-Abrecht Strasse 8 in Berlin.

      And was initially detached from the regular criminal police.

      No one who attacked Jews was ever punished.

Hitler Wanted Party Action directed against the Jews

      On March 26, 1933, Hitler told Goebbels that he was ready for a German-wide anti-Jewish action.

      This was organized by local Nazi Party officials.

      But in England and the U.S., the American and British Jewry called for Boycotts of German goods.

      Hitler and his entourage believed that the “International Jewish Conspiracy” was calling the shots.

      Goring called in German Jewish leaders and warned them to stop the secondary boycotts!

Hitler Authorized the Boycott

      This was made on March 28, 1933, and set for April 1.

      Julius Streicher was the Party organizer.

      It was supposed to last one day, but in reality it lasted for three days.

      German Conservatives warned Hitler to call it off because of the imagine of the Boycott outside of Germany.

      The Hitler Youth called for “Jews Out,” “Perish Judah,” etc.

German Jews Respond

      German Jews kept their businesses open.

      The German community sent letters to the Reich Chancellery.

      German Jewry warned of the damage done to Germany’s image throughout the world.

      It was obvious that Germany was clearly isolated by the Jewish persecution.

But the Attacks Continued

      With the failure of the boycott, the Nazis resorted to ex post facto laws to legitimatize anti-Jewish actions.

      Soon Jewish judges were driven from Prussian and Bavarian courts.

      On April 7, 1933, the Government decreed “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service.”

      This eliminated tenure and other safeguards for “non-Aryans.”

      This was followed by the “Law Concerning Admission to the Legal Profession.”

      Banned non-Aryans from the legal profession.

      Soon Jewish doctors were persecuted too.

Impact of the Nazi on Jewish Doctors

       In 1933, Germany had 5,500 Jewish Doctors.

       Which amounted to 11 percent of all doctors.

       By the “Aryan Paragraph” of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” was applied to the Medical Profession too.

       Soon this was applied to dentists and dental technicians.

       At least to medical insurance providers.

Then Purging Jews from Schools and Universities

      The Nazis than mobilized “traditional intellectual anti-Semitism” to drive Jews from educational facilities.

      Jews were restricted to 1.5 percent of all total enrollment in the gymnasium or high schools in Germany.

      Jews were restricted in applying to universities too.

      Twenty-seven German professors in Germany and Austria who won the Nobel Prize left too for America.

      Sometime this is called “Hitler’s Gift” to the West.

Hitler’s Gift

      Albert Einstein

      Leo Szilard

      James Franck

      Otto Frisch

      Rudolf Peierls

      Francis Simon

      All Leading physicists

      All would play a key role in building the Bomb

Impact of the Jewish Persecutions

      German academics, lawyers, and doctors replaced those purged.

      The German public did not object for the following reasons:

“Voluntary Aryanization”

       Since 1933, the wealth of German Jews was off limits to the persecutors at first.

       There were approximately 100,000 Jewish economic concerns in Germany when Hitler came to power in 1933.

       The value of those concerns was set at $4 billion.

       During the rearmament phase of the Nazis, those concerns were off limits to the Nazi radicals.

 The Impact of the Nazis on Jewish Business

      The major concerns were left alone for the most part.

      The smaller ones were taken to the mat by the Nazis.

      Clients refused to pay their debts and the boycott drove others into bankruptcy.

      Between 1933 and 1937, two-thirds of the small, mom and pop Jewish concerns went under.

      This was called “voluntary Aryanization,” in other words, non-state directed confiscation of Jewish business.

Going After Jewish CEOs

      Zealous Nazis demanded that German companies remove Jews from their board of directors.

      Sometimes they broke in and threatened board of directors to fire Jews or else.

      Even IG Farben, one of the world’s largest cartels removed Jews from their boards at will.

      Between 1933 and 1937, 30% of major Jewish firms had changed hands.

      Sometimes the German companies paid near the market price and other times not.

      But this was rare for a while for a number of reasons.

Why did Larger Jewish Firms With stood Aryanization?

       It would have jeopardized German recovery.

       German banks avoid heavy governmental pressures because of the loyalty of their clients.

       The Nazis initially only demanded that Jews leave boards of directors, but they maintained control of their companies.

       Looting a Jewish company led to Aryan unemployment.

But The Goal Was the Same

The Laws of 14 July 1933

      Proclaimed the NSDAP as the only legal party in Germany.

      Authorized the sterilization of those deemed unfit to work or reproduce.

      In time this would be expanded to the sterilization of those the Nazis disliked.

      From Jan. 1934 to 1939, the Germans sterilized somewhere between 350,000 to 400,000.

      In 1937, Hitler authorized the sterilization of 500 Black Children in the Rhine.

      These were the Rheinlandbastarde.

Victims of Forced Sterilization

      Gypsies or Sinti and Roma.

      Women and men who doctors considered unfit.

      Soon, it was possible to shift with the outbreak of World War II to kill many of those people the regimet thought unfit.

The Plight of German Jewry

      It was difficult to respond because of the incremental nature of the persecution.

      During 1933, about 40,000 German Jews left Germany.

      Soon Jews were being isolated and persecuted throughout Germany.

      German Jews did not think it was possible to totally isolate them.

      German Jews could not conceive that they would be totally deprived of their rights.

Isolation of German Jewry

      German Jews could not be pigeon hold into a monolithic group.

      Instead Jews were divided into assimilationists and Zionists.

      Also divided by Orthodox, Liberal, and Reform wings.

      For support, they looked to their religion and their community.

      They developed Jewish self-help groups to help those Jews in need.

Increased Violence in 1935

      By 1935, local Party officials organized new boycotts against Jewish business.

      Hitler for the most part wanted to curb those excesses because of the need for foreign currency for military expansionism.

      In May 1935, just when the Wehrmacht was expanding, Jews were barred from joining.

      This was followed by a general revival of boycotts of Jewish business interests.

      Which damaged Jewish business interests and gave Germany a black eye.

Hitler Had to Act

       Because the public was not actively behind the persecutions.

       The Middle Class complained of the deteriorating economic situation in Germany.

       Shopkeepers complained in drops in sales.

       Some Party officials wanted to use Anti-Jewish actions as a means of rallying the public.

       There talk of a military dictatorship to possibly replace the Nazis.


      Hitler announced that Sept. 15, 1935, the NSDAP would hold the Party Congress in Nuremberg.

      The Reichstag attended too.

      There they passed two anti-Jewish laws.

      The first was “The Law for Protection of German Blood and German Honor.”

      The Second was the “Reich Citizenship Law.”

      And adopted the Swastika as the official flag of the Third Reich.

The Law for Protection of German Blood and German Honor

       Banned marriages between Aryans and Jews.

       As well as extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans.

       Banned the employment of German women under the age of 45 from working  in Jewish homes.

       As well as flying the German flag by Jews.

Reich Citizenship Law

       This measure was strait forward.

       It said that only Germans of “kindred blood” could be German citizens.

       Thus denying that Jews, no matter how assimilated, could ever be German nationals.

       But what was their rationale?

Hitler’s Rationale for the Nuremberg Laws

      First of all it was done rather quickly to meet Hitler’s plans.

      Senior members of the Interior Ministry and the Justice Ministry had worked on these ideas since 1933.

      One of the key players was Bernhard Loesener of the Interior Ministry.

      A major problem was what do you do with those of mixed ancestry?

      Those were known as Mischlinge.

The Nuremberg Laws on Jewish Rights

      Not only did the Nuremberg Laws deprive Jews of their rights, but also removed those protected rights that the German Jews had after 1933.

      Especially for “non-Aryan” Veterans of World War I.

      Office Holders that held their posts since 1914.

      Likewise the laws served as the basis of additional persecutions that followed.

Need for a Definition

       The Nuremberg Laws did not define “Jew.”

       On Nov. 14, 1935, following exhaustive negotiations between the Ministries of Justice and Interior.

       The definition they used was:

       Anyone who had at least two Jewish grandparents, either who was married to a Jew or practice Judaism.

       This was done by “The First Decree to the Reich Citizenship Law.”

Racial Matters

Rationalizing the Persecutions

       Between 1936 and 1937 the regime formalized the persecution process.

       It all began when Himmler was appointed to head the German police as well as the SS.

       By this time, the SS was well on the way of becoming a state within a state.

       Himmler’s deputy was Reinhard Heydrich.

Organization of the SS

Heydrich Favors Forced Emigration

       Heydrich favored this for two reasons.

       First it removed Jews from Germany.

       Second it “weakened” the foreign countries where Jews settled.

       But this was only in his racist mind.

       Since the “national stock” would be diminished by “race mixing.”

       The goal was to make Germany free of Jews or Judenrein.

Eichmann’s The Man

       He became the Jewish Expert for the SS.

       He was an Austrian.

       He even went to Palestine in 1937 to explore the possibility of sending Jews there.

       During the Anschluss, the union between Germany and Austria, he was placed in charge of the process of removing Austria’s Jews.

       They left destitute.

       By developing a conveyor belt like process.

       Before they could leave they would have to surrender all their wealth.


      Jews were being persecuted by the Nazis for most of 1937 and 1938.

      In the summer of 1938, the Polish government fearing that Berlin would drive the Ostjuden into Poland, issued an Expatriates Law.

      Requiring all Poles living outside of Poland to renew their passports or loss their citizenship.

      The Germans beat the Poles to the punch and rounded up Polish Jews who arrived in Germany after November 11, 1918 and expelled them from the Reich.

The Case of the Grynzpans

       Like many others they were rounded up and deported hastily.

       But their younger son, Herschel, was living in Paris, he was nearly seventeen.

       He received notification of what had happened to his family and decided to act.

       He bought a gun and was determined to shot the German Ambassador in Paris.

The Act

       On November 7, Grynzpan acted acted.

       He went to the German Embassy and entered.

       He looked for the Ambassador and instead found the Third Secretary, Ernst Vom Rath.

       And shot him.

       Vom Rath lingered for two days and died on Nov. 9.

The Nazis Act

       Upon the urging of Goebbels, Nazi thugs went on a rampage throughout Germany on Nov. 9-10, 1938.

       The Police were not to interfere.

       In Vienna alone, the Nazis destroyed 40 out of the city’s 50 Synagogues.

       Looted over 4,000 stores.

       Arrested over 6,000 persons.

       And murdered 27.

       Hundreds of others committed Suicide.

       And this was just in Vienna!

       But who was going to pay for the damage?

Who Was Going to Pay for the Cost?

       German insurance companies would have gone belly up if they had to pay for the damage.

       So Goring came up with the brilliant idea of making the Jews pay a fine.

       A fine of 1 billion Reichsmarks.

       On 20 November 1938, Aryanization of Jewish property was hastened.

       Since the Jews were “the enemy of the people.”

The St. Louis Affair