Anti-Nazi boycott of 1933
The Anti-Nazi Boycott of 1933 was a boycott of German products by foreign critics of the Nazi Party in response to an organized campaign of violence and boycotting undertaken by Hitler's Nazi Party against the Jews of Germany following his appointment as Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. Those in the United Kingdom, United States and other places worldwide who opposed Hitler's antisemitic policies developed the boycott and its accompanying protests to encourage Nazi Germany to end the regime's often-expressed anti-Jewish attitude.
Events in Germany
Following Adolf Hitler's appointment as German Chancellor in January 1933, an organized campaign of violence and boycotting which was undertaken by Hitler's Nazi Party against the Jews of Germany, to which critics responded with worldwide calls for protest and boycotting.
However, the Central Jewish Association of Germany was of the opinion that the Nazi government was not deliberately provoking anti-Jewish pogroms. It issued a statement of support for the regime and held that "the responsible government authorities [i.e. the Hitler regime] are unaware of the threatening situation," saying, "we do not believe our German fellow citizens will let themselves be carried away into committing excesses against the Jews." Nevertheless, even though vandalism of Jewish businesses and property across Germany was already occurring, prominent Jewish business leaders wrote letters in support of the Nazi regime calling on officials in the Jewish community in Palestine, as well as Jewish organizations abroad, to drop their efforts in organizing an economic boycott. In point of fact, the Nazi anti-Jewish boycott was supported by the regime, 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".
In March 1933, the international critics, transformed their verbal protests into a worldwide, organized economic boycott against German goods.
On March 24, 1933, The London tabloid newspaper The Daily Express printed an issue with the headline "Judea Declares War on Germany" detailing the Jewish boycott of German goods. Because of the wording of the headline, Holocaust deniers have exploited the article in order to claim the Jews declared a literal war on Germany, when in fact what was described was an economic boycott.
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 American Jewish Congress 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.
The Nazis and some outside Germany portrayed the boycott as an act of aggression, with the British newspaper the Daily Express using the headline: "Judea Declares War on Germany" on March 24, 1933. Nazi officials countered the protests as slanders against the Nazis perpetrated by "Jews of German origin", with their 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 Jewish businesses in Germany of his own to commence on April 1, 1933 that Aryan Germans would aim against Jewish-owned businesses, which would be lifted if anti-Nazi protests were suspended. This was the German government's first officially sanctioned anti-Jewish boycott. 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 occurred. Brownshirts of the SA were placed outside Jewish-owned department stores, retail establishments and professional offices. The Star of David was painted in yellow and black on retail entrances and windows, and posters asserting "Don't Buy from Jews!" (Kauf nicht bei Juden!) and "The Jews Are Our Misfortune!" (Die Juden sind unser Unglück!) were pasted around. Physical violence against Jews and vandalism of Jewish-owned property took place, but the police intervened only rarely.
The boycott (which lasted until the entrance of the United States into World War II) did nothing to stop the harassment of Jews in Germany. Rabbi Wise characterized the boycott as morally imperative expression, stating, "We must speak out," and "if that is unavailing, at least we shall have spoken."
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