65.The Nazi crisis

All the events of taking place in the 1930s were leading to major adversity, a crisis for the Jewish people. In 1933, the Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler seized power in Germany.

Adolf Hitler

On 30 January 1933, Hitler ascended to power, and within no time from this event, the Jews staying in Germany started to feel the heat of this. Many times in the past, the Jews endured adverse conditions with their hard-working and entrepreneurial qualities. Same was the case with the ‘German Jews’. After the First World War, the victorious Allied countries imposed derogatory terms and conditions on Germany. With these sanctions, they were exploiting Germany so that it would not be able to again stand on its feet in the near future. The oppression ruined the German economy. However, even in these circumstances the Jews persisted and were braving the situation well.

Hitler realized that the German Jews were doing well despite the German economy in the doldrums. Moreover, he also comprehended that the Jews held their religion of ‘Judaism’ closer to them than the nation of Germany, and internationally they were regularly helped by their Jewish brethren even by those from the Allied countries. These observations made him bear a grudge against the Jews. In addition to this, there were other reasons as well.

At many places, the Jews held the purse strings, and thus Hitler labeled them ‘Capitalists’. At the same time, ‘Communism’ that was hated by the western world, had many Jews as its contemporary leaders. Thus, Hitler also began to equate ‘Judaism’ with ‘Communism’. Communism and Capitalism were two opposing systems. Thus, the question naturally arises here as to how the Jews could be both – capitalists and communists at the same time. However, no one dared to ask this question to Hitler during those times, and he too ignored the contradiction in his both assertions. Hitler thus held the Jews responsible for the two completely opposing ideologies of the ‘Capitalism’ as well as the ‘Communism’ facing the human race.

All in all, Hitler held the Jews responsible for everything that was plaguing the world. Moreover, he also convinced himself about the Jews plotting a ‘world domination’ plan.

Hitler then began to systematically implement policies to eject and boycott the Jews from German society, economy and political system. Incidents of intimidation and various types of harassments of the Jews gradually started to rise.

The Jews protested against this by announcing a boycott of the German businesses, but it was withdrawn within no time.

Capitalizing on the Jewish decision, a nation-wide law was passed in Germany by which the Jewish businesses were to be boycotted. While supporting the passing of the law, it was claimed to be in response to the embargo the Jews had placed on the German businesses. However, the law did not prove to be effective as the Germans maintained business ties with the Jews, openly in some cases while in a clandestine manner in others.

Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses (1933)

Hitler also passed many racial and oppressive laws to target the Jews. One of these laws banned the inter-marriages between the Germans and the Jews.

Hitler himself classified the global population into ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ classes. He doggedly believed that the ‘upper classes’ were meant to rule over the world while those from the ‘lower classes’ were meant to be slaves. Again among them, there were some who were not even fit to live, and as per him, the Jews were among these, while the Germans belonged to the ‘upper’ or the ‘superior’ classes. Hitler was so obstinate on his belief that for the superior (German) blood to remain pure he ordered profiling and ‘culling’ of the Germans with genetic disorders and permanent disabilities.

A cruel tyrant like Hitler ascending to power in Germany meant an onset of adversities for the Jews. During Hitler’s times, the Jews in Germany lived under extreme terror. In their efforts to save their lives, numerous Jews secretly migrated overnight or stayed in underground cellars for months together, completely cutting off contact with the outside world. Many among these were caught either unknowingly or due to treachery by someone and killed by the Nazi German police.

Jewish Ghetto in Lwow, Poland set up in 1941 by Nazi Germany

Later, with start of World War II, all the resources of the nation were to be used only for war. All the anti-Semitic acts were committed taking advantage of the situation under the title of the ‘war emergency’. Taking a house into possession, taking over a business too was termed ‘war emergency’!

Most of the times, when the Jews were displaced from their dwelling places, the Nazi regime would take them away to relocate them to specially created settlements or the ‘ghettos’, but many of them would actually end up at concentration camps, poisonous gas chambers or other similar places or would directly be shot dead. The number of the Jews killed during the period in Germany is bone chilling.

The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank

The tales from this deadly and dangerous period that later came to light still bring goosebumps. Out of these, the diary of a 13-year-old Jewish girl named ‘Anne Frank’ became globally famous. Weary of the terror of the Nazi police, her father, Otto Frank secretly immigrated with his family to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Later, in 1942, during World War II, when Hitler captured the Netherlands, the Frank family went into hiding. For the next two years, with the help of Otto Frank’s secretary, their family secretly hid in a backroom in the rear of a building. Anne penned down their experiences during the years of hiding in a diary. Someone betrayed them, and the Frank family was arrested by the Nazi German police. They were sent to a concentration camp where Otto Frank was separated from his family. Later, when the Nazis surrendered before the Soviet forces, Otto Frank was freed from the captivity. However, on his release, he learnt about his entire family had perished at the concentration camp. Later, when Otto returned to Amsterdam, his secretary handed over to him Anne’s diary, which he had somehow managed to save from falling into anybody’s hands. Otto Frank published the diary of his daughter in the form of a book named, ‘The diary of a young girl’. To the world, it brought many things to light. In the times that followed, many movies too were released based on her diary.

The unending retribution and reprisal that was directed against the Jews ever since Hitler took over the power ended only after Nazi Germany lost at the World War II.(To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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