MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

The persecution of the Jews

A boycott of Jewish shops was organized in Germany as early as April 1, 1933. From then on, laws and regulations were regularly issued that systematically limited Jews’ civil rights and their part in economic life. The law on the reorganization of the civil service led to the dismissal of Jewish employees of the national and local governments; the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 introduced a ban on mixed marriages and tightened the definition of “Jew” in “racial-legal” terms; finally, a series of regulations in late 1938 sanctioned the “Aryanization” (in other words, the confiscation) of Jewish businesses. A plethora of separate rulings deprived Jews of the capacity to work as journalists and artists; the works of Jewish writers were burned publicly, and access to education for Jewish youth was limited. Characteristically, aside from the actions of the Nazi leadership, many German associations and organizations took matters into their own hands and passed bylaws that discriminated against Jews. Some of these restrictions had injurious practical consequences, while others clearly had the nature of malicious harassment. 

In this situation, German Jews could only resort to moral suasion, pointing out their shared language and culture, and citing as examples Jewish inventors, scientists, and soldiers who gave their lives for Germany during World War I. Any remaining illusions cherished by some Jews came crashing down during the Kristallnacht pogrom (November 9/10, 1938), when hundreds of synagogues and thousands of shops and dwellings were ransacked and torched, dozens of Jews were injured, and many thousands sent off to concentration camps.