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1933: German Jewish Life Before The Nazis
 
 
 
Track meet at the Berlin Jewish community athletic competition in early 1930s. CL:Leo Baeck Institute. NY (LBI/NY)

The aftermath of World War I created a threatening political atmosphere for German Jewry. Economic depression, radical nationalism, street violence, fear of communism and dissatisfaction with democracy drove many Germans towards fiercely antisemitic attitudes. Hostility mounted dangerously throughout the late 1920s.

By 1933, German Jews were largely urban, middle class, prosperous in business, and well represented in the professions (especially medicine and law). They were culturally integrated but represented less than 1 percent of the total population.


Albert Einstein and Sir Herbert Samuel, British High Commissioner for Palestine, in Jerusalem in 1923. CL:LBI/NY

This was in stark contrast to Eastern European Jews who were often poor, rural, socially isolated, religiously traditional and represented a much larger percentage of the total population.

"The Jew is no German. If you say that the Jew is born in Germany...has obeyed German laws has had to become a soldier --has fulfilled all his duties, has paid his taxes, too, then all that is not decisive for nationality, but only the race out of which he was born is decisive." Hermann Ahlwardt, Speech to Reichstag, 1895

Jewish soldiers in the German Army during World War I celebrate Yom Kippur in the Brussels synagogue, Oct. 7, 1915. CL:LBI/NY

In 1933, 600,000 Jews lived in Germany: 20 percent were immigrants from Eastern Europe and 80 percent were German citizens. Many were descendants of Jews who had settled in Germany for nearly 2,000 years. They were socially integrated and participated in German intellectual, cultural, economic, and political life. Nevertheless, they were seldom fully accepted as social equals in German society.

"There is great distress in German Jewry....New distress has overtaken us. Jewish people are torn away from their work: the sense and basis of their lives have been destroyed." Central-Vereins-ZeitUng. April 21, 1933


German-Jewish sports camp at Haus Berta near Frankfurt in mid-1930s. CL: LBI/NY
 

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