Anti-Nazi boycott of 1933
The Anti-Nazi Boycott of 1933 was a boycott of Nazi products by foreign critics of the Nazi Party in response to antisemitism in Nazi Germany following the rise of Adolf Hitler, commencing with his appointment as Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. Those in the United States, the United Kingdom and other places worldwide who opposed Hitler's policies developed the boycott and its accompanying protests to encourage Nazi Germany to end the regime's anti-Jewish practices.
Events in Germany
Following Adolf Hitler's appointment as German Chancellor in January 1933, an organized campaign of violence was undertaken by Hitler's Nazi Party against the Jews of Germany. Jewish stores were picketed and shoppers at these stores were harassed. Protests by the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (the Jewish communal organization) against these systematic tactics were ignored, with Hermann Göring stating that "I shall employ the police, and without mercy, wherever German people are hurt, but I refuse to turn the police into a guard for Jewish stores".
Events in the United States
After seeing no improvement in the situation in the weeks following the first protests, representatives of the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress and B'nai B'rith met in New York City and established a joint committee to monitor the plight of German Jewry. At that point they were in agreement that any current public protests might well further harm the Jews of Germany.
The unrelenting Nazi abuse of Jews in Germany in the subsequent weeks led the American Jewish Congress to reconsider its opposition to public protests. In a contentious four-hour meeting held at the Hotel Astor in New York City on March 20, 1933, 1,500 representatives of various Jewish organizations met to consider a proposal by the AJCongress to hold a protest meeting at Madison Square Garden on March 27, 1933, as an additional 1,000 people attempting to enter the meeting were held back by police. New York Supreme Court Justice Joseph M. Proskauer and James N. Rosenberg spoke out against a proposed boycott of German goods that had been introduced by J. George Freedman of the Jewish War Veterans. Proskauer expressed his concerns against "causing more trouble for the Jews in Germany by unintelligent action", protesting against plans for mass meetings and reading a letter from Judge Irving Lehman that warned that "the meeting may add to the terrible dangers of the Jews in Germany". Honorary president Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise delivered a rejoinder to Proskauer and Rosenberg, criticizing their failure to attend previous AJCongress meetings and insisting that "no attention would be paid to the edict" if mass protests had been rejected by the group. Wise noted that "The time for prudence and caution is past. We must speak up like men. How can we ask our Christian friends to lift their voices in protest against the wrongs suffered by Jews if we keep silent? … What is happening in Germany today may happen tomorrow in any other land on earth unless its is challenged and rebuked. It is not the German Jews who are being attacked. It is the Jews." The group voted to go ahead with the meeting at Madison Square Garden.
In a meeting held at the Hotel Knickerbocker on March 21 by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, former congressman William W. Cohen advocated in support of a strict boycott of German goods, stating that "Any Jew buying one penny's worth of merchandise made in Germany is a traitor to his people." The Jewish War Veterans planned a protest march in Manhattan from Cooper Square to New York City Hall, in which 20,000 would participate, including Jewish veterans in uniform, with no banners or placards allowed other than American and Jewish flags.
A series of protest rallies were held on March 27, 1933, with the New York City rally held at Madison Square Garden with an overflow crowd of 55,000 inside and outside the arena and parallel events held in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and 70 other locations, with the proceedings at the New York rally broadcast worldwide. Speakers at the Garden included American Federation of Labor president William Green, Senator Robert F. Wagner, former Governor of New York Al Smith and a number of Christian clergyman, joining together in a call for the end of the brutal treatment of German Jews. Rabbi Moses S. Margolies, spiritual leader of Manhattan's Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, rose from his sickbed to address the crowd, bringing the 20,000 inside to their feet with his prayers that the antisemitic persecution cease and that the hearts of Israel's enemies should be softened. Jewish organizations — including the American Jewish Congress, American League for Defense of Jewish Rights, B'nai B'rith, the Jewish Labor Committee and Jewish War Veterans — joined together in a call for a boycott of German goods.
Nazi officials countered the protests as slanders against the Nazis perpetrated by "Jews of German origin", with Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels proclaiming that a series of "sharp countermeasures" would be taken against the Jews of Germany in response to the protests of American Jews. Goebbels announced a one-day boycott of his own to commence on April 1, 1933 that would be aimed by Aryan Germans against Jewish-owned businesses, which would be lifted if anti-Nazi protests were suspended. If the protests did not cease, Goebbels warned that "the boycott will be resumed... until German Jewry has been annihilated."
The Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses threatened by Goebbels came to pass, with brownshirts of the SA standing menacingly in front of Jewish-owned department stores, retail establishments and professional offices. The Star of David was painted in yellow and black on store entrances and windows, and placards stating "Don't Buy from Jews!" (Kauf nicht bei Juden!) and "The Jews Are Our Misfortune!" (Die Juden sind unser Unglück!) posted. Despite physical violence against Jews and Jewish-owned property, the police intervened only rarely.
The boycott did nothing to curtail the harassment and atrocities against Jews by the Nazis, which actually increased until they culminated in the Holocaust. Wise, however, characterized the boycott as morally imperative expression, stating, "We must speak out," and "if that is unavailing, at least we shall have spoken."
- Staff. The Anti-Nazi Boycott of 1933, American Jewish Historical Society. Accessed January 22, 2009.
- Staff. "NAZI FOES HERE CALMED BY POLICE; Hotel Congested by Delegates Seeking to Join in Protest of Jewish Congress. NATIONAL ACTION PLANNED Resolution for Rallies Throughout Country to Protest Against Hitler Policies Is Adopted.", The New York Times, March 20, 1933. Accessed January 23, 2009.
- Staff. "BOYCOTT ADVOCATED TO CURB HITLERISM; W.W. Cohen Says Any Jew Who Buys Goods Made in Germany Is a 'Traitor.'", The New York Times, March 21, 1933. Accessed January 22, 2009.
- Staff. "250,000 JEWS HERE TO PROTEST TODAY; More Than 1,000,000 in All Parts of Nation Also Will Assail Hitler Policies. JEWISH CONGRESS TO ACT Four Demands to Be Presented to German Envoy Urging End of Anti-Semitism. BERLIN JEWS IN DISSENT National Organization There Asks That Garden Mass Meeting Be Called Off.", The New York Times, March 27, 1933. Accessed January 23, 2009.
- Staff. "35,000 JAM STREETS OUTSIDE THE GARDEN; Solid Lines of Police Hard Pressed to Keep Overflow Crowds From Hall. AREA BARRED TO TRAFFIC Mulrooney Takes Command to Avoid Roughness -- 3,000 at Columbus Circle Meeting. 35,000 IN STREETS OUTSIDE GARDEN", The New York Times, March 28, 1933. Accessed January 23, 2009.
- Staff. "RABBI MARGOLIES DIES OF PNEUMONIA; Dean of Orthodox Synagogue Heads, 85, Zionist Leader and Jewish educator. FOUNDER OF RELIEF GROUP Rose From Sickbed in 1933 to Address Meeting of Protest Against Anti-Semitism.", The New York Times, August 26, 1936. Accessed January 22, 2009.
- James, Edwin L. "THE NAZIS BEGIN TO DODGE ANTI-SEMITIC BOOMERANG; Hitlerites Weaken on Jewish Boycott in Face of World-Wide Protests and Peril to German Trade. PROPAGANDA DRIVE CONTINUES Minister of Enlightenment Announces That All Now Depends on Quick Cessation of 'Campaigns Against Germany.'", The New York Times, April 2, 1933. Accessed January 23, 2009.
- Feldberg, Michael. "Blessings of Freedom", p. 79, American Jewish Historical Society. KTAV Publishing House, 2001. ISBN 0-88125-756-7. Accessed January 23, 2009.
- "BOYCOTT OF JEWISH BUSINESSES", United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Accessed January 23, 2009.