All themes
The Jews as Scapegoats
Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany
Propaganda Against the Jews
Printable version
The Jews as Scapegoats
Anti-Semitism had existed for centuries. This print shows an attack on Jews in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in 1614. In those days Jews had to wear a yellow ring on their clothes.

Hitler and his Nazi party made use of anti-Jewish feelings that had existed for centuries in the German population. According to the NSDAP, Germany had lost the First World War because of the Jews, and democracy was a Jewish invention. According to the Nazis, the Jews were engaged in a conspiracy for world domination. Behind the scenes it was them who controlled society and made Germans suffer.

Another important myth that had dominated feelings about Jews for centuries was that it was the Jews who had killed Christ. Many German Catholics would hear this in Church and read about it in school books. So many people were already suspicious of Jews before the Nazis came to power.

Adolf Hitler and his supporters believed that things would get much better for Germany if only the Jews could be kicked out of the country.

Jewish and German

There were around 500,000 Jews living in Germany in 1933. That was less than 1% of the total population. Most Jewish people lived in big cities like Berlin, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg. Many of them belonged to the middle classes. They were small businessmen or academics. Most of the Jews identified as German.

Most Germans had never met a Jewish person before and they would have found it difficult to distinguish a Jewish person anyway. German Jews spoke the same language and wore the same clothes. But a long history of anti-Semitism and religious prejudice made them the perfect target. Since there were few Jews in the country and their political power was limited, they had a hard time defending themselves against the Nazi hate campaign.

More than 100,000 Jews fought in the German army in the First World War. 12,000 of them were killed. After the war, 30,000 Jewish German soldiers were awarded medals for their bravery.

Engraving by Matthäus Merian (1628). - Historisches Museum Frankfurt.
Anne Frank Guide
This day in history
Today: 11 December 2018
Then: 11 December 1941

Germany and Italy declare war on the United States; the U.S. respond in kind.

View the timeline