Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses


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The Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses (German: Judenboykott) in Germany began on April 1, 1933, and was claimed to be a defensive reaction to the anti-Nazi boycott,[1][2] which had been initiated in March 1933.[3] It was largely unsuccessful, as the German population continued to use Jewish businesses, but revealed the intent of the Nazis to undermine the viability of Jews in Germany.[4]

It was an early governmental action against the Jews of Germany by the new National Socialist government, which culminated in the “Final Solution”. It was a state-managed campaign of ever-increasing harassment, arrests, systematic pillaging, forced transfer of ownership to Nazi Party activists (managed by the Chamber of Commerce), and ultimately murder of Jewish business owners. In Berlin alone, there were 50,000 Jewish-owned businesses.

Earlier boycotts
See also: Antisemitism and Antisemitic boycotts
Antisemitism in Germany grew increasingly pervasive after the First World War and was most prevalent in the universities. By 1921, the German student union Deutscher Hochschulring barred Jews from membership. Since the bar was racial, it included Jews who had converted to Christianity.[6] The bar was challenged by the government, leading to a referendum in which 76% of the student members voted for the exclusion.[6]

At the same time, Nazi newspapers began agitating for a boycott of Jewish businesses, and anti-Jewish boycotts became a regular feature of 1920s regional German politics with right-wing German parties becoming closed to Jews.[7]

From 1931 to 1932, SA Brownshirt thugs physically prevented customers from entering Jewish shops, windows were systematically smashed and Jewish shop owners threatened. During the Christmas holiday season of 1932, the central office of the Nazi party organized a nationwide boycott. In addition, German businesses, particularly large organizations like banks, insurance companies, and industrial firms such as Siemens, increasingly refused to employ Jews.[7] Many hotels, restaurants and cafes banned Jews from entering and the resort island of Borkum banned Jews anywhere on the island. Such behavior was common in pre-war Europe;[8][9] however in Germany, it reached new heights.

Anti-Nazi boycott of 1933

Nameplate of Dr. Werner Liebenthal, notary and advocate. The plate was hung outside his office on Martin Luther Str, Schöneberg, Berlin. In 1933, following the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service the plate was painted black by the Nazis, who boycotted Jewish-owned offices.
Main article: Anti-Nazi boycott of 1933
The Anti-Nazi Boycott commencing in March 1933 was a boycott of Nazi products by foreign critics of the Nazi Party in response to antisemitism in Nazi Germany following the rise of Adolf Hitler, commencing with his appointment as Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. Those in the United States, the United Kingdom and other places worldwide who opposed Hitler’s policies developed the boycott and its accompanying protests to encourage Nazi Germany to end the regime’s anti-Jewish practices.

National boycott

Members of the SA boycotting Jews, April 1, 1933
In March 1933, the Nazis won a large number of seats in the German parliament, the Reichstag. Following this victory, and partly in response to the foreign Anti-Nazi boycott of 1933,[10] there was widespread violence and hooliganism directed at Jewish businesses and individuals.[6] Jewish lawyers and judges were physically prevented from reaching the courts. In some cases the SA created improvised concentration camps for prominent Jewish anti-Nazis.[11]

Joseph Goebbels, who established the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, announced to the Nazi party newspaper on March 31 of 1933 that “world Jewry” had ruined the reputation of the German people, and wanted to make this boycott a publicly propelled antisemitic action.[12]

On April 1, 1933, the Nazis carried out their first nationwide, planned action against Jews: a one day boycott targeting Jewish businesses and professionals, in response to the Jewish boycott of German goods.

On the day of the boycott, the SA stood menacingly in front of Jewish-owned department stores and retail establishments, and the offices of professionals such as doctors and lawyers. The Propaganda Ministry wanted to catch violators of this boycott, looking to German citizens to shame other Germans who ignored the announcement and continued using Jewish stores and services. [12] The Star of David was painted in yellow and black across thousands of doors and windows, with accompanying antisemitic slogans. Signs were posted saying “Don’t buy from Jews!” (Kauf nicht bei Juden!), “The Jews are our misfortune!” (Die Juden sind unser Unglück!) and “Go to Palestine!” (Geh nach Palästina!). Throughout Germany acts of violence against individual Jews and Jewish property occurred.


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