Wolf Gruner

“The Germans Should Expel the Foreigner Hitler”
Open Protest and Other Forms of Jewish Defiance in Nazi Germany


Past research on Jewish resistance against National Socialism has focused very much on the occupied East, and when historians have dealt with Germany proper they have mainly treated organized group efforts. Only a few historians have called for research into the individual opposition of German Jews. Thus, resistance during the Holocaust is still mostly understood as an exceptional organized or armed group activity, while the overwhelming majority of the Jews allowed themselves to suffer persecution in passivity. A closer look at the micro level of German society challenges the common image of unresisting victims. Using hitherto overlooked archival sources such as local police journals, this research demonstrates for the first time that many Jews performed individual acts of defiance and even protest, which began in 1933 and continued well into the war. However, because most of the activists ended up in jail or concentration camps, the memory of these courageous acts has hitherto vanished.

That Jews in Nazi Germany openly expressed their individual anger and frustration in public and protested explicitly against persecution, even into the 1940s; that Jews of every age found many ways to circumvent or disobey anti-Jewish measures, a few even managing to hold on to their personal firearms; that representatives of Jewish organizations manipulated and played off Nazi institutions; that thousands of people took the decision to escape Nazi deportations, whether by flight or committing suicide, dramatically changes the popular picture of the German Jews’ compliance. Instead, many German Jews and their representatives emerge herewith as courageous historical actors.