The Physical Assault on Jews in Germany, 1938–1939

  • Steve Hochstadt
Part of the Documents in History book series (DH)


Words in documents lose their ability to convey the real meaning of historical events when those events become violent. Until 1938 a major mode of attack on Jews and other racial inferiors was through the power of language. Jews were constantly confronted with signs of their persecution, ranging from the crudely lettered ‘Don’t Buy from Jews’ placards of the SA on 1 April 1933, to the officially printed ‘Not for Jews’ signs which proliferated in public places, to ‘Jews Not Welcome’ affixed to sites of service, entertainment, and transport. The Nuremberg Laws were proudly published for all to read. Less open forms of persecution also affected the entire German Jewish community: loss of jobs in the public sector, government-sponsored humiliations, and occasional threats of violence. Other despised groups were attacked more physically in 1933 to 1937. First socialists and communists, then Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals were arrested and often brutalized in the system of concentration camps scattered across Germany. Jews were threatened in every way, but violence was only rarely directed towards them.


Physical Assault German Nationality Nazi Party Jewish Refugee Friendly Neighbour 
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  1. 17.
    Translated from Walter Grab, ‘Die Juden sind Ungeziefer, ausgenommen mein jüdischer Schulkamerad Grab’, in Jörg Wollenberg (ed.), “Niemand war dabei und keiner hat’s gewußt”: Die deutsche Öffentlichkeit und die Judenverfolgung 1933–1945 (Munich: Piper, 1989), pp. 45–50, excerpt on pp. 47–50.Google Scholar
  2. 18.
    Translated from a reprinted version in Hans Witek and Hans Safrian (eds), Und keiner war dabei: Dokumente des alltäglichen Antisemitismus in Wien 1938 (Vienna: Picus Verlag, 1988), pp. 63–4. The original is archived in Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstands, Vienna, Akt 5305.Google Scholar
  3. 21.
    Facsimiles of the memo from the British Embassy and a German reply are printed in John Mendelsohn (ed.), The Holocaust: Selected Documents in Eighteen Volumes, Vol. 5, Jewish Emigration from 1933 to the Evian Conference of 1938 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1982), pp. 141–8.Google Scholar
  4. 24.
    Translated from reprinted version in Joachim Meynert and Friedhelm Schäffer, ‘Die Juden in der Stadt Bielefeld während der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus’, Bielefelder Beiträge zur Stadt- und Regionalgeschichte, Vol. 3 (Bielefeld: 1983), pp. 159–60. Original is archived in Staatsarchiv Detmold, Regierung Minden, M 1 I P (Polizei), Bd. 1, Nr. 1714.Google Scholar

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© The Editor(s) 2004

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  • Steve Hochstadt

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