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Persecution
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The Persecution of the Jews
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The persecution of the Jews

This photo shows two SA members blocking the entrance to a Jewish-owned shop so that no customers can go inside. The banner reads: "Germans beware! The owners of this shop are parasites and gravediggers of German trade. They pay their German workers starvation wages. The owner is the Jew Nathan Schmidt." A boycott of Jewish shops, department stores, lawyers and doctors started on 1 April 1933. It was one of the first anti-Jewish measures that the Nazis took after they came to power.

A history of persecution

Jews have been discriminated against in the western world for more than 2,000 years. They have been excluded from society and forced to live separately on many occasions. In especially bad times they have been hunted, tortured and killed. But many Jews felt safe in Germany and considered Germany their home. There was definitely anti-Semitism in Germany in the first part of the Twentieth century. But it was worse in places like the Soviet Union, Poland and France. Germany was considered a modern and civilized society.

There was also a good deal of anti-Semitism in the United States before the Second World War. The Catholic Church was still preaching that Jews should be held responsible for the death of Christ and some famous Americans were known to be very anti-Semitic. These included famous industrialist Henry Ford and aviator Charles Lindberg. Henry Ford constantly spoke out against "the Jewish plan to control the world."

Hitler and the Jews

Hitler and the Nazis took the persecution of Jews further than anybody had dared before. The Nazis used Jews as a convenient scapegoat: they were blamed for all of Germany’s problems. According to the Nazis, there was a Jewish conspiracy to destroy Germany and all it traditionally stood for. Therefore, this enemy of the "German Race"’ needed to be eliminated.

With his political opponents behind bars, the Nazis had a free hand to attack the Jewish community. The first major action against Jewish-German citizens was the nationwide boycott of German shops. Soon after the boycott, Jewish workers were dismissed and Jewish businesses were confiscated. Increasingly, Jewish schoolchildren were excluded and bullied. Nazi teachers even ridiculed their Jewish students in front of other students. The German Jews who could not, or did not, want to flee from Germany, despite the increasing discrimination, became isolated from other Germans. Gradually all the rights that the Jews had were taken away from them. The measures affected all areas of life. They were not even allowed to have pets anymore. The persecution of the Jews reached a low point on Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass") in November 1938. Jews were arrested, beaten and killed throughout Germany. Businesses and synagogues were burnt to the ground.

Mass murder

Kristallnacht was a horrible event and traumatized the Jewish community of Germany. But it was only the beginning. The anti-Jewish measures continued and became worse. The start of the Second World War signaled the darkest chapter in Jewish history. The Nazis occupied 19 European countries during the Second World War. At the so-called Wannsee conference in January 1942, the Nazis decide that the only solution to the "problem with the Jews"’ is the Final Solution. This meant the murder of every Jewish man, woman and child in Europe. The Nazis killed more than 6 million Jews between 1933 and 1945. This mass murder of the Jews is known as the Shoah or Holocaust.
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Photo credit: USHMM.
Anne Frank Guide
This day in history
Today: 20 September 2017
Then: 17 September 1944

Start of Operation Market Garden, Allied airborne assault on the Netherlands.

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