Photo Of The Day

Four Nazi troops sing in front of the Berlin branch of the Woolworth Co. store during the movement to boycott Jewish presence in Germany, March 1, 1933.

Four Nazi troops sing in front of the Berlin branch of the Woolworth Co. store during the movement to boycott Jewish presence in Germany, March 1, 1933.

Nazis Singing To Encourage

A Boycott of Jewish Shops

 “Germans, defend yourselves! Do not buy from Jews!” With such demands directed to the address of so-called “people’s community” (Volksgemeinschaft), the country’s organized boycott of Jewish businesses, law firms, and medical practices began on 1 April 1933.

Joseph Goebbels Called for a Boycott of Jewish Businesses, in the Nazi worldview, “international Jewry” was the most dangerous racial enemy of the German people. Jews were supposedly responsible for the biological degeneration of the nation and for all the country’s crises and grievances. Before Hitler seized power, views informed by this sort of racist anti-Semitism, Social Darwinism, and paranoia were the exception rather than the rule among the general population.

For this reason, NSDAP election campaigns and propaganda initiatives during the late 1920s and early 1930s focused mainly on Germany’s economic and national problems and put the party’s hatred for Jews on the back burner. This changed after the Nazi takeover. The nationwide boycott of Jewish shops and businesses on April 1, 1933, was one of the earliest signs that state-directed anti-Semitism would be part of the new regime’s official policy.

On March 28, Hitler had told the NSDAP and the SA to prepare for this operation. His cabinet endorsed the measure the next day. Berlin was the main showplace for the Nazi boycott: SA men painted anti-Semitic slogans on building facades and planted themselves in front of Jewish shops, aiming to intimidate.

Additionally, workers and members of the Hitler Youth staged mass demonstrations in the capital to protest the alleged smear campaign being carried out against the regime in the “international Jewish press.” In his diary, Goebbels described the day as a great moral triumph for the German people in its efforts to resist Jewish exploitation and slander.

In 1933, about 600,000 Jews lived in Germany, less than one percent of the total population. Most Jews in Germany were proud to be Germans, citizens of a country that had produced many great poets, writers, musicians, and artists. More than 100,000 German Jews had served in the German army during World War I, and many were decorated for bravery.

Jews held important positions in government and taught in Germany’s renowned universities. Of the 38 Nobel Prizes won by German writers and scientists between 1905 and 1936, 14 went to Jews. Marriage between Jews and non-Jews was becoming more common. Although German Jews continued to encounter some discrimination in their social lives and professional careers, many were confident of their future as Germans. They spoke the German language and regarded Germany as their home.

When the Nazis carried out the first nationwide, planned action against Jews: a boycott targeting Jewish businesses and professionals. The boycott was both a reprisal and an act of revenge against Gruelpropaganda (atrocity stories) that German and foreign Jews, assisted by foreign journalists, were allegedly circulating in the international press to damage Nazi Germany’s reputation.

On the day of the boycott, Storm Troopers (Sturmabteilung; SA) stood menacingly in front of Jewish-owned department stores and retail establishments, and the offices of professionals such as doctors and lawyers. 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” and “The Jews Are Our Misfortune.” Throughout Germany, acts of violence against individual Jews and Jewish property occurred; the police intervened only rarely.

Immediately after the takeover of power by the Nazi party and also in the wake of the election, the “wild” actions against the Jews began, either by imprisonment, physical violence on the street, or calls for a boycott of Jewish shops. The current law gave police the right to take action against attacks on Jewish businesses, medical practices, and law firms. This would change, as Hermann Goering stressed on 10 March 1933, because he would “ruthlessly use the police force if someone would do harm to the German people,” and “refuse that the police keep on protecting Jewish stores.”

Although the national boycott operation, organized by local Nazi party chiefs, lasted only one day and was ignored by many individual Germans who continued to shop in Jewish-owned stores, it marked the beginning of a nationwide campaign by the Nazi party against the entire German Jewish population. A week later, the government passed a law restricting employment in the civil service to “Aryans.” Jewish government workers, including teachers in public schools and universities, were fired.

The unsuccessful boycott was followed by a rapid series of laws which robbed the Jews of many rights.

On April 7, “The Law of the Restoration of the Civil Service” was introduced which made ‘Aryanism’ a necessary requirement in order to hold a civil service position. All Jews holding such positions were dismissed or forced into retirement.

On April 22, Jews were prohibited from serving as patent lawyers and from serving as doctors in state-run insurance institutions.

On April 25, a law against the overcrowding of German schools placed severe limits on the number of young Jews allowed to enroll in public schools.

On June 2, a law prohibited Jewish dentists and dental technicians from working with state-run insurance institutions.

On May 6, the Civil Service law was amended to close loopholes in order to keep out honorary university professors, lecturers and notaries.

On September 28, all non-Aryans and their spouses were prohibited from government employment.

On September 29, Jews were banned from all cultural and entertainment activities including literature, art, film and theater.

In early October 1933, Jews were prohibited from being journalists and all newspapers were placed under Nazi control.

As the decade progressed, the Nazi regime continued to pass laws limiting the economic and cultural freedoms of Jewish people. On Nov, 9, 1938, Goebbels organized violence attacks on Jewish communities and the rounding up of an estimated 30,000 Jews to be sent to concentration camps. The pogrom, (a series of coordinated deadly attacks) known as Kristallnacht, removed Jews from German society and marked the start of the Holocaust.

  • The shop in the photo was owned by Woolworth, the company later fired all Jewish employees and got the “Adefa Zeichen”, a seal for companies who where “pure Aryan”.

Boycott of Jewish businesses, law firms, and medical practices

Hitler Calls for Boycott of Jewish Businesses


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