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The Nightmare Begins: Hitler and the Nazis

An SA man stands guard outside a Jewish shop during the Boycott of April l, 1933. CL:National Archives and Records Administration. Wash.. D.C. (NARA)

"All Jews' businesses are closed. SA men are posted outside their entrances. The public has everywhere proclaimed its solidarity. The discipline is exemplary...The boycott is a great moral victory for Germany." Josef Goebbels, Diary. April 1, 1933

"My measures will not be hindered by any legal considerations or bureaucracy whatsoever. It is not justice that I have to carry out but annihilation and extermination." Hermann Goering, March 3, 1933

As the international economic crisis of the Great Depression spread in the early 1930s, the Nazis fed on the discontent of the lower and middle classes of Germany. In 1932, the German people who voted for the Nazis hoped for decisive leadership, economic revival, and a new national sense of pride and purpose. Most assumed Nazi extremism would be tempered by the responsibility and compromise necessary to govern. They were mistaken.

Immediately upon seizing power, the Nazis unleashed a frenzy of violence against their political opponents, many of whom were Jews. On April 1, 1933, a nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses was organized by the SA (Storm Troops) and SS (Elite Guard), who picketed Jewish-owned shops and businesses.

Hitler during a Nazi rally in Bueckeburg, 1934.
CL:Adolf Hitler. Bilder aus dem Leben des Fuehrers. (Hamburg, 1936)


In January 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor. By February 28th, constitutional guarantees of personal liberty, free speech and freedom of the press were suspended. The nightmare of the Nazi rule had begun.

"Jude!" (German for "Jew!") scrawled on Berlin Jewish stores in March and April 1933. CL:Kerbs Collection. Berlin

The SA confiscating literature for book burnings in Hamburg, May 15, 1933. CL:Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin (BPK)

Books written by Jews and those deemed subversive ideology were removed from public libraries. On May 10, 1933, the Nazis coordinated public burnings of "banned" books.

"During the time of my struggle for power. the Jewish race received my prophecies with laughter when I said that I would one day take over the leadership of the State...and that I would then, among other things, settle the Jewish problem." Adolf Hitler, January 30, 1939

German Catholic prelates on reviewing stand using the Nazi salute during a Catholic youth meeting in the Berlin-Neukoelln stadium, August 1933. CL:BPK

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