The "Judenboykott" of 1st April 1933.


The "Judenboykott" of 1st April 1933, directed at Jewish businesses, began the process of eliminating Jews from German business life. Immediately following their takeover of power the leadership of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) began to spread propaganda targetted against the Jewish population. Their purpose was to intimidate and make defenceless; their objective was the expropriation and ultimate elimination of Jews from German business life. Since the mid 1920s, boycotts had been repeatedly used against individual Jewish businesses by members of the commercial middle class, the majority being National Socialists. The inflationary period at the end of the 1920s and the World depression at the beginning of the 1930s had disasterous repercussions on business life. The middle class, whose economic survival was threatened, were only too ready to blame competition from Jewish businesses as having caused the economic and political plight of the country. The modern and economically successful "ready-made" clothes stores and emporiums, with their attractive range of goods became to symbol this fear and envy of competition. This applied especially to department stores owned by Jews. At the same time threats and boycotts were carried out against small retailers, and Jewish members of the professions, principally doctors and lawyers. During the Weimar Republic the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Organization of German Jews) had taken assertive action against this "business war" with legal and publicized means, but this became practically impossible after the rise to power of the Nazis. Already in 1931, Hans Lazarus, the lawyer engaged by the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens in the case against the boycott established: "Im Wirtschaftskampf ist der Boykott eine erlaubte Waffe, soweit seine Zeilsetzung oder seine Mittel nicht gegen die guten Sitten verstoßen. ....
Germeingut der Rechtsprechung ist es, daß der Boykott nicht die Vernichtung des Gegners bezwecken darf. Letzteres jedoch ist das offen eingestandene Ziel des völkischen Boykotts gegen die Juden. Die Juden werden wegen einer außerhalb des Wirtschaftslebens liegenden Tatsache verfolgt und mit Boykott bedroht. Und diese Tatsache können die Juden niemals ändern" ("The boycott is a permitted weapon in this business war so long as its objective, or its means, do not contravene common decency. ...
Common law states that the aim of a boycott may not be the elimination of the opponent. But, this is the openly confessed objective of this völkish boykott against the Jews. The Jews are being persecuted for reasons not connected with business life. And the Jews can do nothing about this").

In the Spring of 1933, National Socialist aligned newspapers in Hamburg, presented the NSDAP organized "Judenboykott" as a so-called "Volksaktion" ("Peoples Campaign"). It was allegedly to be a "Abwehrkampf gegen die jüdische Greulhetze im Ausland" ("defence against the Jewish atrocity propaganda abroad"). In fact, newspaper headlines read: "Marschbefehl gegen die Juden!" ("Marching orders against the Jews!"), and "Boykott die Juden!" ("Boycott the Jews!"), and "Der Kampf ist unvermeidlich" ("The fight is unavoidable"). This aggressive propaganda was to reach and effect as many people as possible from all sections of society. Already on 12th March 1933, the Hamburg department stores of Hermann Tietz, Karstadt, EPA and Woolworth were targetted, and temporary boycotted by Nazi pickets. The first stage was the publishing of Julius Streicher's "Richtlinien für den Boykott" (Guidelines) on the front page of the Hamburger Tageblatt newspaper, under the headline "Die Judenboykott beginnt - Morgen Schlag 10 Uhr!" ("The Jewish Boycott begins - this morning at the stroke of 10!").


Fritz Wolff's letter of dismissal from Karstadt, Berlin following the "Judenboykott". Click to enlarge.

(Julius Streicher (1885-1946) was the founder of the antisemitic propaganda paper "Die Stürmer", and remained its editor until the end of the Nazi dictatorship. In the Spring of 1938, Streicher was NSDAP Gauleiter of Franken (head of the administrative district), and was head of the national "Zentral-Komitee zur Abwehr der jüdischen Greuel- und Boykotthetze". In 1946, he was sentenced to death by the war crimes tribunal of the Nuremberg Trials).

Hamburger Tageblatt newspaper, Friday 31st May 1933.

The 1st April 1933, was a Saturday, and consequently the Sabbath for religious Jews. The small Jewish retailers and businesses in the Grindel quarter were closed, the larger businesses, especially the department stores in the city centre were open for custom as usual. Around 10 a.m. the propaganda squads had moved into the streets of the city centre; NSDAP members and SA members (SA = Sturmabteilung, the Nazi terrorist militia) were posted in front of businesses to provoke passers-by and customers to boycott Jewish stores. The verbal threats and the distribution of handbills were very effective. The small retailers in the Grindel quarter were not spared the pickets and hooligans. Many shop windows and facades were bedaubed with antisemitic words and covered with propaganda bills.

Boycott pickets outside No. 79 Grindelallee, 1st April 1933.

The NSDAP nationwide organized "Judenboykott" was the precursor to the State measures of occupational and social ostracism that soon followed. Six days later, on 7.04.1933, the "Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums" (the Act applying to civil servants with tenure, which included an "Arierparagraph" ("Aryan Paragraph"), was enacted. With the re-establishment of a "national" civil service with tenure, civil servants could be dismissed. Civil servants who were not of "Aryan" descent, i.e. Jews (by Nazi definition), were compulsorily retired from work. Jewish civil servants and judges were dismissed. A corresponding regulation concerning lawyers, notaries public, doctors and tax consultants followed shortly thereafter.
In the summer of 1935 a new wave of incitments to antisemitic agitation began with staged rampages and economic boycotts. It was probably the intervention of the Reich Minister for Trade and Commerce, Hjalmar Schacht, that initially prevented the plans for the implementation of Aryanization in the economic sphere. On the 15th September 1935, the day of the NSDAP party conference, the "Nuremburg Laws" were enacted. These laws made Jews second class citizens and, as a result, set them apart from the rest of the population. Jews were at the mercy not only of persecution by the state and the NSDAP, or Gestapo, but also at the mercy of their own non-Jewish fellow citizens. There was always the threat of prosecution for "Rassenschande" ("racial shame"). This followed from the second "Nuremburg Law" i.e. the "Blutschutzgesetz" ("Blood Protection Act"), the act of 15.09.1935 to "protect German blood and German honour", in which marriages were forbidden between "Jews" and "German" nationals or those with "generically related blood". Extramarital contact between these groups of people was also forbidden. The accusation of "Rassenschande" was a frequent ground for denunciation.



Struan Robertson