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Everyday Antisemitism in Pre-war Nazi Germany: the Popular Bases

Michael H. Kater

  1. The first view has been succinctly stated by Thomas Nipperdey, “1933 und Kontinuitaet der deutschen Geschichte,” Historische Zeitschrift 227, 1978: 98. An example of the second view is in William Sheridan Allen, The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town 1930–1935, Chicago, 1965, p. 77, who writes that the inhabitants of the small North German town of Northeim (“Thalburg”) were drawn to antisemitism because they were drawn to Nazism, not the other way around.'
  2. Hajo Holborn, “Origins and Political Character of Nazi Ideology,” Political Science Quarterly 79, 1964: 546; Eva G. Reichmann, Die Flucht in den Hass: Die Ursachen der deutschen Judenkatastrophe, Frankfurt am Main, n.d., especially pp. 279–82. For a recent, sympathetic criticism of Reichmann's view, see Michael R. Marrus, “The Theory and Practice of Antisemitism,” Commentary, August 1982: 38.
  3. See especially Ian Kershaw, “Antisemitismus und Volksmeinung: Reaktionen auf die Judenverfolgung” (hereafter–Kershaw, “Antisemitismus und Volksmeinung”) in Martin Broszat and Elke Froelich, eds., Bayern in der NS-Zeit II: Herrschaft und Gesellschaft im Konflikt, Teil A, Munich and Vienna, 1979, pp. 291–308; idem , “The Persecution of the Jews and German Popular Opinion in the Third Reich,” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 26, 1981: 261–89; idem , “Alltaegliches und Ausseralltaegliches: Ihre Bedeutung fuer die Volksmeinung 1933–1939,” Detlev Peukert and Juergen Reulecke, eds., Die Reihen fest geschlossen: Beitraege zur Geschichte des Alltags unterm Nationalsozialismus, Wuppertal, 1981 (hereafter–Peukert and Reulecke), pp. 273–92. Kershaw also underestimates antisemitism as a factor in the pre– 1933 rise of National Socialism, in his “Ideology, Propaganda, and the Rof the Nazi Party,” in Peter D. Stachura, ed., The Nazi Machtergreifung, London, 1983, pp. 167–68. To a lesser extent Falk Wiesemann's remarks in M. Broszat et al., eds., Bayern in der NS-Zeit: Soziale Lage und politisches Verhalten der Bevoelkerung im Spiegel vertraulicher Berichte, Munich and Vienna, 1977, p. 430. Such interpretation is supported, from the contemporary view of the 1930s, by judgements in the reports of the exiled SPD. See, for example, Deutschland-Berichte der Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands (Sopade) 1934–1940 , Salzhausen and Frankfurt am Main, 1970, 2 (1935): 925; and ibid. 7 (1940): 260. A balanced assessment of the problem is given in Lawrence D. Stokes, “The German People and the Destruction of the European Jews,” Central European History 6, 1973 (hereaft–Stokes), especially pp. 173–74, 182, 190.
  4. See the relevant chapters in Max L. Margolis and Alexander Marx, A History of the Jewish People, New York, 1974. See also Wanda Kampmann, Deutsche und Juden: Studien zur Geschichte des deutschen Judentums, Heidelberg, 1963 (hereafter–Kampmann), pp. 13–34; Leo Sievers, Juden in Deutschland: Die Geschichte einer 2000-jaehrigen Tragoedie, Hamburg, 1979 (hereafter–Sievers), pp. 21–56.
  5. Reinhard Ruerup, Emanzipation und Antisemitismus: Studien zur “Judenfrage” der buergerlichen Gesellschaft, Goettingen, 1975 (hereafter– Ruerup), pp. 11–73; Kampmann, pp. 35–224; Sievers, pp. 83–224. For Stuttgart, see Maria Zelzer, Weg und Schicksal der Stuttgarter Juden: Ein Gedenkbuch, Stuttgart, n.d. (hereafter–Zelzer), pp. 20–60. For the example of Gerson von Bleichroeder, see Fritz Stern, Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichroeder, and the Building of the German Empire, New York, 1977 (hereafter–F. Stern), pp. 461–93; for the example of Albert Ballin, see Lamar Cecil, Albert Ballin: Business and Politics in Imperial Germany 1889–1918, Princeton, 1967, pp. 3–142.
  6. George L. Mosse, Germans and Jews: The Right, the Left, and the Search for a “Third Force” in Pre-Nazi Germany, New York, 1971, pp. 3–76; Peter G. J. Pulzer, The Rise of Political Antisemitism in Germany and Austria, New York, 1964 (hereafter–Pulzer), pp. 76–126. See also Ruerup, pp. 74–114; F. Stern, pp. 494–531; Gordon A. Craig, Modern Germany 1866–1945, New York and Oxford, 1978, pp. 83–85, 204; Richard S. Levy, The Downfall of the Antisemitic Political Parties in Imperial Germany, New Haven and London, 1975; and the pre–1914 chapters in Brewster S. Chamberlain, “The Enemy on the Right: The Alldeutsche Verband in the Weimar Republic, 1918–1926,” PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, 1972.
  7. Donald L. Niewyck, The Jews in Weimar Germany, Baton Rouge and London, 1980 (hereafter–Niewyck), especially p. 12; Egmont Zechlin, Die deutsche Politik und die Juden im Ersten Weltkrieg, Goettingen, 1969 (hereafter–Zechlin), pp. 554–55; Heinemann Stern, Warum hassen sie uns eigentlich? Juedisches Leben zwischen den Kriegen, ed. Hans Ch. Meyer, Duesseldorf, 1970 (hereafter–H. Stern), p. 163; Wolfgang Scheffler, Judenverfolgung im Dritten Reich 1933–1945, 2nd ed., Berlin, 1964, p. 15.
  8. Undoubtedly, this is why many Russian and Polish Jews came to Germany after 1918, even though some of them went on to France and the USA. See S. Adler-Rudel, Ostjuden in Deutschland, 1880–1940: Zugleich eine Geschichte der Organisationen, die sie betreuten, Tuebingen, 1959, pp. 64– 150. For Heilbronn, see Hans Franke, Geschichte und Schicksal der Juden in Heilbronn: Vom Mittelalter bis zur Zeit der nationalsozialistischen Verfolgungen (1050–1945), Heilbronn, 1963 (hereafter–Franke), pp. 106– 107.
  9. This is ably shown in Monika Richarz's introduction to the book she edited, Juedisches Leben in Deutschland: Selbstzeugnisse zur Sozialgeschichte 1918–1945, Stuttgart, 1982, esp. pp. 28–30, 37. Also see first-hand accounts by survivors, ibid., pp. 77–227. Further, see the balanced judgements rendered in a volume of essays edited by Werner E. Mosse, Entscheidungsjahr 1932: Zur Judenfrage in der Endphase der Weimarer Republik, 2nd ed., Tuebingen, 1966 (hereafter–W. E. Mosse). The blending of pro-Nazi and Nazi impulses of antisemitism is most ably described in Niewyck, pp. 46–54. 
  10. Pulzer, p. 289; Zechlin, pp. 517–53; H. Stern, pp. 96–97, 106; Paul Sauer, Die juedischen Gemeinden in Wuerttemberg und Hohenzollern: Denkmale, Geschichte, Schicksale, Stuttgart, 1966 (hereafter–Sauer), p. 196.
  11. Theodor Abel, Why Hitler Came To Power, New York, 1966; first printing, 1936, p. 156; George L. Mosse, Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism, New York, 1978, pp. 177–78.
  12. Julius Wissmann, “Zur Geschichte der Juden in Wuerttemberg 1924–1939” (hereafter–Wissmann) in Sauer, p. 200; Max P. Birnbaum, Staat und Synagoge 1918–1938: Eine Geschichte des Preussischen Landesverbandes juedischer Gemeinden (1918–1938), Tuebingen, 1981 (hereafter–Birnbaum), p. 85.
  13. For the demography and social conditions of German Jews, see Heinrich Silbergleit, Die Bevoelkerungs- und Berufsverhaeltnisse der Juden im Deutschen Reich, Berlin, 1930; Esra Bennathan, “Die demographische und wirtschaftliche Struktur der Juden,” in W. E. Mosse, pp. 87–131; Gerhard Schulz, Aufstieg des Nationalsozialismus: Krise und Revolution in Deutschland, Frankfurt am Main, 1975 (hereafter–Schulz), pp. 615–17. As an impressionistic account of Jews in Frankfurt, see Valentin Senger, No. 12 Kaiserhofstrasse, New York, 1980, pp. 9–53.
  14. Kaete Frankental, Der dreifache Fluch: Juedin, Intellektuelle, Sozialistin: rztin in Deutschland und im Exil, Frankfurt am ִLebenserinnerungen einer Main, 1981 (hereafter–Frankethal), p. 99. Also see the examples in G. L. Mosse, Final Solution, pp. –79; Niewyck, pp. 55–81; Franke, p. 110; Stern, pp. 104–05, 163–80; Michael H. Kater, Studentenfreundschaft und Rechtsradikalismu in Deutschland 1918–1933: Eine sozialgeschichtliche Studie zur Bildungskrise in der Weimarer Republik, Hamburg, 1975, pp. 146–47; Franz Hundsnurscher and Gerhard Taddey, Die Juedischen Gemeinden in Baden: Denkmale, Geschichte, Schicksale, Stuttgart, 1968, p. 22. In more general terms: Zechlin, p. 565; Alex Bein, Die Judenfrage: Biographie eines Weltproblems, Stuttgart, 1980 (hereafter–Bein), Vol. 1, p. 371.
  15. H. Stern, p. 168. As in this case, all translations of original German texts into English are by the author.
  16. This connection is explained in Michael H. Kater, The Nazi Party: A Social Profile of Members and Leaders, 1919–1945, Cambridge, Mass., 1983 (hereafter–Kater, Nazi Party ), pp. 19–71. See also Peter H. Merkl, Political Violence under the Swastika: 581 Early Nazis, Princeton, 1975, passim.
  17. John Farquharson, “The NSDAP in Hanover and Lower Saxony 1921–26,” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 8, No. 4, October 1973, p. 110.
  18. Niewyck, p. 53, Karl A. Schleunes, The Twisted Road to Auschwitz: Nazi Policy Toward German Jews 1933–1939, Urbana, Ill., 1979 (hereafter– Schleunes), p. 70.
  19. See the reference to Unsittlichkeit (immorality) in an anti-Jewish flyer, “Wohnungsnot und Juden-Einwanderung,” n.d. [appr. 1929], Staatliches Archivlager Goettingen, Gauarchiv Ostpreussen, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, microfilms Niedersaechsisches Staatsarchiv Bueckeburg (hereafter–SAG), SF 6826, GA/101. Examples of rabid antisemitism among German women of the upper classes are to be found in Guida Diehl, Die Deutsche Frau und der Nationalsozialismus, Eisenach, 1933, pp. 15, 56; Hildegard Passow, “Juedische Greuelpropaganda,” Informationsdienst der NSF (Deutscher Frauenorden), No. 11, Munich, April 8, 1933, Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford, NSDAP Hauptarchiv, microfilm 13/254.
  20. Correspondence of Der Stuermer with NSDAP chapter Koenigsberg, December 1932, SAG, SF 6818, GA–29.
  21. See Kater, Nazi Party, pp. 67–68, 110–11.
  22. The antisemitism of the lower-middle-class members in the Weimar Republic is treated in Heinrich August Winkler, Mittelstand, Demokratie und Nationalsozialismus: Die politische Entwicklung von Handwerk und Kleinhandel in der Weimarer Republik, Cologne, 1972 (see, for instance, p. 177). See also Schulz, p. 618.
  23. Enclosure with letter from Beil to Gauleitung Ruhr, Krefeld, January 14, 1928, Hauptstaatsarchiv Duesseldorf, RW 23/NSDAP, Gauleitung Ruhr.
  24. Brettschneider to Heidrich, Elbing, January 23, 1931, SAG, SF 6819, GA–35.
  25. The Nazis argued wrongly, but, according to lower-middle-class shopkeeper mentality, utterly convincingly, when they said: Cheap merchandise, manufactured under the personal direction of Jews, is flooding the Christmas market. The golden calf is playing the role of the Christ child! With typically Jewish cynicism one rabbi says: Too bad that Mary did not bear two Jesus boys. Had she done so, our people could now double their Christmas sales!!!' (flyer, “Die Christus ans Kreuz schlugen, machen das Weihnachts-Geschaeft!” Koenigsberg, n.d. [shortly before December 12, 1930], SAG, SF 6826, GA–101). See also Thomas Childers, The Nazi Voter: The Social Foundation of Fascism in Germany, 1919–1933, Chapel Hill and Lon, 1983.
  26. Frankenthal, p. 237. See also Franke, p. 108; Birnbaum, p. 186.
  27. The background for the above is in Hans Mommsen, “Der nationalsozialistische Polizeistaat und die Judenverfolgung vor 1938,” Vierteljahreshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte 10, 1962: 68–77; Schleunes; Uwe Dietrich Adam, Judenpolitik im Dritten Reich, Duesseldorf, 1979 (hereafter– Adam); and Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of European Jews, Chicago, 1967, pp. 18–105. Also see Mommsen, “Die Realisierung des Utopischen: Die Endloesung der Judenfrage' im Dritten Reich,'” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 9, 1983: 381–420.
  28. Partial text is in Gerd Ruehle, Das Dritte Reich: Dokumentarische Darstellung des Aufbaues der Nation, Berlin, 1933, pp. 112–13, and cf. p. 145. The most exhaustive interpretation of this law is still that in Hans Mommsen, Beamtentum im Dritten Reich: Mit ausgewaehlten Quellen zur nationalsozialistischen Beamtenpolitik, Stuttgart, 1966, pp. 39–61. See also Adam, pp. 51–64. See Gerd Ruehle, Das Dritte Reich: Dokumentarische Darstellung des Aufbaues der Nation: Das dritte Jahr 1935, Berlin, 1935, pp. 254–58, 277–82; Schleunes, pp. 120–32; Adam, pp. 114–44.
  29. A contemporary Nazi interpretation of Reichskristallnacht and its consequences is provided in Gerd Ruehle, Das Dritte Reich: Dokumentarische Darstellung des Aufbaues der Nation: Das sechste Jahr 1938, Berlin, 1938, pp. 394–404. Critically and in the context of other official antisemitic measures: Karl Dietrich Bracher, The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure, and Effects of National Socialism, New York and Washington, 1972, pp. 366–68; Hermann Graml, Der 9. November 1938: “Reichskristallnacht,” Bonn, 1958; Helmut Genschel, Die Verdraengung der Juden aus der Wirtschaft im Dritten Reich, Goettingen, 1966, pp. 177–217; Schleunes, pp. 214–54; Adam, pp. 204–16. For local examples of how the destruction was organised see, in the case of Mannheim, Hans Joachim Fliedner, Die Judenverfolgung in Mannheim 1933–1945, Stuttgart, 1971 (hereafter–Fliedner), pp. 199–204; in the case of Stuttgart, Zelzer, pp. 194– 96.
  30. In 1933 and even later, there was a sizeable number of German Jews who either did not believe Hitler's judeophobic utterances or – worse – pretended to identify themselves with them by pointing their fingers at “bad” Germans or allegedly inferior Eastern Jews. For the period before April 1, 1933, see the evidence in Peter Hanke, Zur Geschichte der Juden in Muenchen zwischen 1933–1945, Munich, 1967 (hereafter–Hanke), pp. 106–108; Frankenthal, p. 235; entry for March 28, 1933, in Erich Ebermayer, Denn heute gehoert uns Deutschland. Persoenliches und politisches Tagebuch: Von der Machtergreifung bis zum 31. Dezember 1935, Hamburg and Vienna, 1959, p. 49. See also Fliedner, p. 45; Carl J. Rheins, “Deutscher Vortrupp, Gefolgschaft deutscher Juden 1933–1935,” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 26, 1981: 207–29; Hans-Joachim Schoeps, “Bereit fuer Deutschland”: Der Patriotismus deutscher Juden und der Nationalsozialismus: Fruehe Schriften 1930 bis 1939: Eine historische Dokumentation , Berlin, 1970, pp. 9–166; example Toni Ullstein in Hermann Zondek, Auf festem Fusse: Erinnerungen eines juedischen Klinikers, Stuttgart, 1973, p. 171. Especially telling is the telegram by the Jewish Centralverein functionary Dr. Julius Brodnitz to Hitler [Berlin], March 23 [1933]: “Zusammenstellung der Schritte, die der Centralverein Deutscher Staatsbuerger Juedischen Glaubens e.V. gegen die Greuelpropaganda des Auslandes [!] unternommen hat,” n.d. [1933], SAG, SF 6818, GA–29. For Goering's role in this see Birnbaum, p. 225, n. 3. The examples of the Jewish Professor Otto Lubarsch, at the medical faculty of the University of Berlin, and (honorary) Professor Paul Nikolaus Cossmann, in Munich, are particularly tragic. Both were hyper-nationalistic and on the verge of antisemitism. Lubarsch greeted Hitler's rise to power with enthusiasm. He died in April 1933 before the Nazis could touch him, but Cossmann was deported and killed in Theresienstadt (1942). On Lubarsch, see Walter Stoeckel, Erinnerungen eines Frauenarztes, ed. Hans Borgelt, Munich, 1966, p. 180; Otto Lubarsch, Ein bewegtes Gelehrtenleben: Erinnerungen und Erlebnisse, Kaempfe und Gedanken, Berlin, 1931, pp. 539–68. On Cossmann, see George F. W. Hallgarten, Als die Schatten fielen: Erinnerungen vom Jahrhundertbeginn zur Jahrtausendwende, Frankfurt am Main, 1969, pp. 67–76; Else Behrend-Rosenfeld, Ich stand nicht allein: Erlebnisse einer Juedin in Deutschland 1933–1944, 2nd ed., Frankfurt am Main, 1963 (hereafter–Behrend-Rosenfeld), pp. 118–19, 159–60, 171; Rolf Hochhuth's introduction to Joseph Goebbels, Tageböcher 1945: Die letzen Aufzeichnunsen, Hamburg, 1977, p.26. For the mind-boggling example of a few Stuttgart Jews who wished to join the NSDAP after 1933, see Zekzer, p.161 (see also pp. 99-105).