Institute for Historical Review
The National Socialist treatment of the German Jews prior to World War II must be considered in three main phases of which the second one was easily the most important. These would include: (1) the sometimes turbulent days of the period from Hitler's appointment until the National Socialist Party purge of June 30, 1934; (2) the following period, until the additional measures enacted after the assassination of Ernst von Rath in November, 1938; and (3) the period from November, 1938, until the outbreak of war in 1939. The second period was dominated by the Nuremberg laws of September, 1935, which deprived persons defined as Jews of their citizen status and proscribed sexual and marital relations between them and the German people.
During the first period there were occasional incidents of public violence involving Jews, although no Jews were actually killed, and a very considerable number of Jews were arrested and placed in concentration camps for short terms because of their Marxist affiliations. During the second period, from 1934 to 1938, the concentration camp population, as conceded by Gerald Reitlinger, The SS: Alibi of a Nation (London, 1956, pp. 253ff.), seldom exceeded 20,000 throughout all Germany, and the number of Jews in the camps was never more than 3,000. During the third period, in which several new measures were enacted against the Jews, the concentration camp population remained virtually stationary. There was an extensive exodus of Jews from Germany during the first, and especially during the third period; during the second period the Jewish population remained remarkably stationary, while a much larger number of Jews departed from Poland.
Lion Feuchtwanger, et al, Der Gelbe Fleck: die Ausrottung van 500,000 deutschen Juden (The Yellow Spot: the Extermination o~ 500,000 German Jews, Paris, 1936) presented a typical effort during the second phase to mobilize the forces of Jewish propaganda against Germany. The yellow spot on a black field was a medieval designation for Jewish establishments; the book derives part of its title from this source. The other part, concerning the alleged annihilation campaign, is asserted from the earliest pages. It is important to note that from the very start the Jewish opponents of National Socialism declared mere measures of discrimination against the Jews to be the equivalent of annihilation or liquidation. The term genocide was not introduced by Professor Rafael Lemkin until after the battle of Stalingrad in 1943.
This alleged annihilation in The Yellow Spot is conceived of in several different ways. On the one hand, simple emigration is regarded as the extermination of German Jewry as such in one special sense at least. On the other hand, sinister rumors are cited to the effect that there would be a gigantic Old Testament-styled Purim in reverse in the event of a foreign invasion of Germany, and that Jewish corpses would be prominently displayed in such a case. The existing concentration camps are also interpreted as a potential instrument of extermination, and the latter part of the book contains a list of prisoners who had allegedly died in the camps. Special note was made of the claim that there was still 100 Jews at Dachau in 1936 and that 60 of them had been there since 1933.
The authors explained the National Socialist campaign against the Jews as a Machiavellian maneuver to create jobs for loyal brown-shirted followers. They stated as a dogmatic fact that Hitler intended to start an "imperialist war" (note the Marxist- terminology) as soon as possible, and especially when he could accomplish something in his domestic program-ostensibly at the expense of the Jews-for which the people would sacrifice. The mass of the German people were described as friendly toward the Jews despite Hitler, and the otherwise loyal German Jews were considered -to have been forced into opposition by the measures directed against them.
Much was made of the Saturday, April 1, 1933, National Socialist boycott against the Jews, which was actually in response to the Jewish boycotts directed against Germany from New York and London during the previous months. The boycott was depicted as the prelude to a permanent policy of strangulation. The alleged increase in marriages between Germans and German Jews in 1934 was regarded as a major reason for the promulgation of the Nuremberg laws as early as 1935. The Nuremberg laws were presented as a state bulwark in support of an unpopular policy.
This story of Jewish grievances against Germany prior to World War 11 was fully supplemented in order to cover the whole period by F. R. Brenenfeld, The Germans and the Jews (N.Y., 1939). His emphasis was an economic and social discrimination against the Jews and on the alleged mistreatment of concentration camp inmates, of which the Jews were always decidedly in the minority.
A later Jewish historian, T. L. Jarman, The Rise and Fall of Nazi Germany (N.Y., 1956) noted that at the beginning of World War 11 the Germans had only six concentration camps: Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Flossenbürg, and Ravensbrück. There were 21,300 inmates in the camps, of whom less than 3,000 were Jews. Jarman pointed out that under National Socialism, terrorism unlike in Russia, was kept in the background. Jarman added that "Germany in the years 1933-9 was an open country in a sense in which Soviet Russia has never been" (P. 187). Jarman believed that the Germans were "stupid" in allowing themselves to be "drawn into war" in 1939, as in 1914, when they had everything to lose and nothing to gain. It is interesting to note that this interpretation was rendered possible because of the fact that the terroristic Soviet regime was far more popular in the West than the much milder German system.
As time went on it became more and more doubtful whether President Roosevelt's early assurance to the German leaders about the Jewish question would be kept. President Roosevelt bad told Germany's Reichsbank president, Hjalmar Schacht, on May 6, 1933, that he personally had no particular sympathy for the Jews, but a problem troubling German-American relations existed because of "the old Anglo-Saxon sense of chivalry toward the weak." Nevertheless, Roosevelt assured Schacht that "this hurdle would be cleared" without any lasting breach in German-American relations. Schacht met with New York Jews on May 12, 1933, and warned them that continued pressure from the outside could make matters worse for the German Jews. These matters are revealed in Documents on German Foreign Policy, Series C. vol. 1, nos. 214, 233.
Jewish propaganda against Germany made increasing headway during the months which followed, and on December 20, 1933, a conference at the German Foreign Office concluded with regret that the American press as a whole seemed to be "the strongest Jewish propaganda machine in the world" (Ibid., vol. 2, no. 139). Richard Sallet reported from the German Embassy in Washington, D. C. on August 3, 1934, that the sustained Jewish economic boycott of Germany continued to add fuel to the fire, and he noted, that Jewish propaganda was more strident than ever. The United States was seen to be positively flooded with anti-Gennan literature, and Sallet concluded that the ultimate objective of Jewry was a war of destruction against Germany (Ibid., vol. 3, no. 569). There was considerable relief in Germany in 1936 when President Roosevelt refused to accede to Jewish pressure to boycott the Olympic Games at Berlin. Hjalmar Schacht, 76 Jahre meines Lebens (76 Years of My Life, Bad Wörighofen, 1953, p. 416), was confident then that the Jewish question, despite the ever increasing spate of Jewish propaganda, would do no lasting harm to Germany's relations abroad.