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Anti-Semitism Before Hitler

(Continued from last week)

Part 7

At the same time when the National Assembly in Weimar was discussing how to bring together all the parties in the coalition, the leaders of the people were organizing all anti-Semitic and anti-republican groups. Various groups from different parts of the country formed a unified Bund and by the end of 1920 had around 110,000 members, and by the end of June 1922 about 200,000. The name of that organization was “Deutschvölkischen Schutz und Trutz Bund” (German People Protection and Defensive Club). Often, during meetings of the club, those who disagreed with anything being presented were beaten up. The hate in those meetings often resulted in a pogrom against Jews and others who had opposed the leaders. One of the many brochures circulated by the Bund was “Judas Guilt Book,” which was no more than a collection of all the hate publications against the Jews that had been issued during the war. It was henceforth used by academicians as a reference book.

In mid-1919 a book called “The Sin Against the Blood” appeared, of which 200,000 copies were sold, and it is estimated that about one-and-a-half million readers were attracted to it. At the same time “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was also published and distributed.

Since the new government completely failed to take action against these groups, it found itself now being accused of having created a “Jew Republic.” Actions were threatened again against the “Jews from the East,” and immediate shipment to concentration camps was proposed.

Concentration camps obviously were not an invention of the Hitler group.

After the assassination of Rathenau on June 24, 1922, the government forbade the activities of the Bund, in accordance with the laws for the protection of the Republic.

Already in early 1919 the military officers, who to a great degree had always been anti-Semitic, agitated in favor of the hate groups and often protected them. During the Kapp-Putsch in 1920 when soldiers took Berlin and tried by a coup d’état to overthrow the fledgling Weimar Republic, soldiers marched into Berlin with the Hakenkreuz (swastika) on their helmets and vehicles. The coup d’état failed since the people did not support it.

Shortly after the attempted coup d’état, a young member of a crack regiment sent a letter to the Bavarian Ministry president that could easily be described as the forerunner of the resolutions of the Wannsee Conference of 1942. He proposed a radical but practical solution to the Jewish question free of any humanitarian considerations. Within 24 to 48 hours Jews were to assemble at designated collection stations with necessary clothing, for transport from there to concentration camps. Furthermore, any Jews who tried to avoid this internment through flight or bribery should immediately be sentenced to death. Germans who helped the Jews should receive the same punishment. If the transports were blocked, the Jews should be left to die of hunger. The internment should last as long as there are internal or external enemies of Germany. If any Jews outlive this period they should immediately be shipped off to Palestine after all property and monies have been taken from them. A return to Germany would be considered a crime punishable by death.

Hitler only needed to update the above and make it fit the 1942 circumstances.

Students who had been active while in school were floundering from group to group, many anti-Semitic, others anti-Republican or both. Groups that were closed by the government reformed under a different name. The true German-thinking students were only too ready to unite under a Führer who would show them a goal and lead them in the fight against the Democracy. They created the pronouncement, “Whoever in the new Germany has the youth on its side, to him belongs the future.”

That saying was picked up by Hitler years later.

The organizational weaknesses of the anti-Semitic groups, and the opposition within each were the cause of the Jews underestimating the dangers that were ahead for them and the Republic. The majority of the people had been gripped by the haters, but the political parties either were carried along with the anti-Semitic flood or remained totally inactive since they did not want to risk going against those powers.

When the disturbances of 1922 resulted in damages to synagogues, attacks, dynamite explosions and outrages and murder, many decent people complained for the first and only time against these extreme actions. But they were in a small minority.

The Prussian government in November 1920 and again in February 1921 carried out the resolution to direct all “undesirable Eastern Jews” to the concentration camps Stargard and Cottbus, and in many towns and cities, innocent Jews were arrested in their homes or workplaces and interned. In Bavaria an attempt was made in April 1922, unsuccessfully, to evict all Jews who had settled there after 1914. In a new attempt in 1923 numerous eastern Jews who had lived there for many years were evicted from the country.

(To be continued next week)

By Norbert Strauss


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