Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses
The Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in Germany took place on 1 April 1933, soon after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor on 30 January 1933. The intial boycott was a reaction to the "declaration of war" against Germany by Jewish organizations world-wide immediately after Hitler became Chancellor. It was the first of many measures against the Jews of Germany, which ultimately culminated in the "Final Solution". It was a state-managed campaign of ever-increasing harassment, arrests, systematic pillaging, forced transfer of ownership to Nazi party activists (managed by the Chamber of Commerce) and ultimately murder of owners defined as "Jews". In Berlin alone, there were 50,000 Jewish owned businesses. By 1945 they all had "Aryan" owners.
Antisemitism in Germany grew increasingly respectable after the First World War and was most prevalent in the universities. By 1921, the German student union, the Deutscher Hochschulring, barred Jews from membership. Since the bar was racial, it included Jews who had converted to Christianity. The bar was challenged by the government leading to a referendum in which 76% of students voted for the exclusion.
At the same time, Nazi newspapers began agitating for a boycott of Jewish businesses and anti-Jewish boycotts became a regular feature of 1920s' regional German politics with right-wing German parties becoming closed to Jews.
From 1931-2 SA "brownshirt" thugs physically prevented customers from entering Jewish shops, windows were systematically smashed and Jewish shop owners threatened. At Christmas 1932, the central office of the Nazi party organized a nation-wide boycott. In addition, German businesses, particularly large organizations like banks, insurance companies, and industrial firms such as Siemens, increasingly refused to employ Jews. Many hotels, restaurants and cafes barred Jews from entering and the resort island of Borkum banned Jews anywhere on the island. Such behavior was common in pre-war Europe; however in Germany, it reached new extremes.
In March 1933 the Nazis won a large number of seats in the German parliament. Following the victory there was widespread violence and hooliganism directed at Jewish businesses and individuals. Jewish lawyers and judges were physically prevented from reaching the courts. In some cases the SA created improvised concentration camps for prominent Jewish anti-Nazis.
On 1 April 1933, the Nazis carried out their first nationwide, planned action against Jews: a boycott targeting Jewish businesses and professionals.
On the day of the boycott, the SA stood menacingly in front of Jewish-owned department stores and retail establishments, and the offices of professionals such as doctors and lawyers. The Star of David was painted in yellow and black across thousands of doors and windows, with accompanying antisemitic slogans. Signs were posted saying "Don't Buy from Jews!" (Kauf nicht bei Juden!), "The Jews Are Our Misfortune!" (Die Juden sind unser Unglück!) and "Go to Palestine!" (Geh nach Palästina!). Throughout Germany, rare acts of violence against individual Jews and Jewish property occurred.
The Nazi boycott inspired similar boycotts in other countries. In Poland, the head of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Hlond called for a boycott of Jews and the Endeks (founded by Roman Dmowski) organized boycotts of Jewish businesses across the country. The government stopped hiring Jews and promoted a boycott of Jewish businesses from 1935. Jewish ritual slaughter was banned in Poland in 1936 (in Germany it was banned from 1930).
In Quebec, French-Canadian nationalists organized boycotts of Jews in the thirties.
In the USA Nazi supporters such as Father Charles Coughlin (a Canadian immigrant) agitated for a boycott of Jewish businesses. Coughlin's radio show attracted tens of millions of listeners and his supporters organized "Buy Christian" campaigns and attacked Jews. Ivy League Universities restricted the numbers of Jews allowed admission.
In Austria an organization called the Antisemitenbund had campaigned against Jewish civil rights since 1919. The organization took its inspiration from Karl Lueger the legendary 19th century antisemitic mayor of Vienna who inspired Hitler and had also campaigned for a boycott of Jewish Businesses. Austrian campaigns tended to heighten around Christmas and became effective from 1932. As in Germany, Nazis picketed Jewish stores in an attempt to prevent shoppers from using them.
In Hungary, the government passed laws limiting Jewish economic activity from 1938 onwards. Agitation for boycotts dated back to the mid-nineteenth century when Jews received equal rights.[page needed]
The national boycott operation marked the beginning of a nationwide campaign by the Nazi party against the entire German Jewish population.
A week later, on 7 April 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed, which restricted employment in the civil service to "Aryans." This meant that Jews could not serve as teachers, professors, judges, or other government positions. Jewish government workers, including teachers in public schools and universities, were fired. Doctors followed closely behind. Jews were barred from claiming any rights as war-veterans (35,000 German Jews died in the First World War). In 1935, the Nazis passed the Nuremburg Laws, stripping all Jews of their German citizenship, regardless of where they were born. A Jewish quota of 1% was introduced for the number of Jews allowed to attend universities. In the amendment published on April 11 of Part 3 of the law, which stated that all non-Aryans were to be retired from the civil service, clarification was given: "A person is to be considered non-Aryan if he is descended from non-Aryan, and especially from Jewish parents or grandparents. It is sufficient if one parent or grandparent is non-Aryan. This is to be assumed in particular where one parent or grandparent was of the Jewish religion."
"Jewish" books were publicly burnt in elaborate ceremonies, and laws that clearly defined who was or was not Jewish were passed. Jewish-owned businesses were gradually forced to sell out to (non-Jewish) Germans.
After the Invasion of Poland in 1939, the Nazis forced Jews into ghettos and completely banned them from public life. But even this was not enough for the Nazis and by 1940, they had turned to genocide, resulting in what is now known as The Holocaust.
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- This article incorporates text from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and has been released under the GFDL.
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - Boycott of Jewish Businesses
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