The period from 1933-1938 served as the consolidation of Nazi power in Germany and the beginning of the implementation of their vision for the country. They gradually restricted the rights of Jews and other perceived enemies of Nazism, such as Communists. A wave of state-sponsored violence pulsated throughout the country. Hitler's police officers arrested, beat, and killed people they considered enemies of the state, including communists and Jews. They created prisons and torture stations in places like basements and garages. 

The government placed the press under its control with near total censorship.

 

The Nazis passed multiple laws during this period to prohibit Jews from actively participating in the country, in schools, and in the economy. They reframed the notion of German citizenship with laws such as the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. All of this led to increased persecution and discrimination from average German citizens. 

 

Over time, the atmosphere became tenser, like a town awaiting a hurricane. The nation seemed infected with fear, a fear that was beginning to affect all interactions. Nazi newspapers began urging readers to be on the lookout for Jews and report any of their failures or shortcomings.

 

Judges granted permission to men to divorce their wives because the women were Jewish, reasoning that such marriages would yield mixed offspring that would only weaken the Aryan race.

 

Walking the streets, people encountered squads of uniformed young people marching and singing. Banners with the red, white, black insignia of the Nazi Party hung from balconies.

 

The atmosphere changed in the schools. The Hitler Salute began every school-day. Everyone was expected to salute, except Jewish students who were prohibited from doing so. The teachers no longer said “Good morning” – they said “Heil Hitler.” 

After a few years, the web of restrictions only increase. Jews were no longer allowed to teach in public schools. They were no longer allowed to attend schools and universities. A few months later, Jews were excluded from being citizens of Germany.  Then, Jews could not marry Germans, or have sexual relations with Germans. Jews could not even hire German women to work in their homes. 

 

The very public persecution only disappeared for a short period of time, during the Berlin Olympics of 1936, so as to show the rest of the world that the news of Jewish persecution was false.

 

The tightening web of oppression came to a climax with Kristallnacht in 1938, an event that you will examine in the next gallery, which served as a crucial turning point in the Holocaust.

Click here for a 1933-1938 Timeline

Here are some specific questions you may want to think about as you peruse the Early Nazi Rule exhibit:

  • How did life change in Germany soon after the Nazi victory? 
  • What were some of the earliest persecutions of Jews? What messages were they meant to send to Germans and Jews?

  • What strategies did Hitler and the Nazis use to consolidate their power?

  • What questions does this raise for you about the Holocaust?

 

Now, move on to examine at Joseph and Myra's life in Lithuania and Latvia during their young adulthood and then the various artifacts which look at the Reichstag fire, boycotts of stores, book burnings, and more in Germany.

JOSEPH'S YOUNG ADULTHOOD
MYRA'S YOUNG ADULTHOOD
DECREE OF THE REICH PRESIDENT

ARTIFACT 1

February 28, 1933

Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. Thus, restrictions on personal liberty...

Guiding Questions:

  • The Reichstag was the German parliament. After it burned down in February 1933, how did Hitler take advantage of the Reichstag fire to consolidate his power?

  • How did the Reichstag Decree work to prohibit possible opposition to Hitler's new government?

  • How is this decree an example of one of the techniques of fascism (identifying enemies, appealing to the in-group, smashing truth)? 

SA MEMBERS ARREST COMMUNISTS

ARTIFACT 2

March 6, 1933

After using the "Reichstag Fire Decree" to practically abolish basic civil rights, Hitler began subjecting his political opponents – whom he depicted as "Bolshevist" bogeymen – to overt persecution.

Guiding Questions:

  • What do you see in the photograph? Be specific.

  • The Reichstag was the German parliament. After it burned down in February 1933, how did Hitler take advantage of the Reichstag fire to consolidate his power?

  • How did the Reichstag Decree work to prohibit possible opposition to Hitler's new government?

  • How is this decree an example of one of the techniques of fascism (identifying enemies, appealing to the in-group, smashing truth)? 

SA MEMBERS IN FRONT OF JEWISH STORE

ARTIFACT 3

April 1, 1933

On April 1, 1933, during the boycott of Jewish shops called for by Goebbels, SA members eagerly posted boycott notices and planted themselves in front of Jewish shops...

Guiding Questions:

  • What do you see in the photograph? Be specific.

  • This was the first major Nazi action against Jews after they took over Germany's government. What message do you think it was trying to send?

  • One of the signs says "Germans, defend yourselves against Jewish atrocity propaganda." How does that show all three of the standard fascist techniques (identifying enemies, appealing to the in-group, smashing truth)?

Victor Klemperer's Diary Entry

ARTIFACT 4

March 31, 1933

Ever more hopeless. The boycott begins tomorrow. Yellow placards, men on guard. Pressure to pay Christian employees two months salary, to dismiss Jewish ones...

Guiding Questions:

  • What is the tone of the diary entry?

  • This boycott was the first major Nazi action against Jews after they took over Germany's government. How did Jews respond emotionally? What was the impact on Jews?

  • What does the conversation between the soldier and his girlfriend reflect about different perspectives among Germans toward the boycott?

Letter of the Jewish firm Schwab 

ARTIFACT 5

March 28, 1934

The school children spit on customers entering our shop. One lady was pushed along the street with a rain of verbal abuse. The result? A complete cessation of business and total inability on our part to pay our bills. 

Guiding Questions:

  • What does this letter reveal about the social pressures surrounding whether or not to shop in Jewish stores?

  • What are two arguments that the Jewish business owners of Schwab attempt to make to try to convince the German Ministry of Economics to intervene to prevent discrimination against Jewish store owners?

  • Read the government's response. How does the government respond to the petition?

The prelude to the elimination of all “un-German elements” from the entire cultural arena can be found in the National Socialist German Students’ League (NSDStB) action “Against the Un-German Spirit,” which lead to a series of public book-burnings in May and June of 1933. The largest of these events took place on May 10, 1933, on Berlin’s Opera Square [Opernplatz], where approximately 20,000 books by "Jewish", "Bolshevik," and "Socialist" authors were consigned to the flames. Goebbels delivered a speech on the occasion, making the totalitarian goals of the Nazi regime perfectly clear. 

BOOK BURNING CEREMONY IN BERLIN

ARTIFACT 6

MAY 10, 1933

Guiding Questions:

  • What do you see in the photograph? Be specific.

  • This book burning was the first major Nazi action against Jews after they took over Germany's government. What message do you think it was trying to send?

  •  How does this event show all three of the standard fascist techniques (identifying enemies, appealing to the in-group, smashing truth and replacing it with power)?

To realize his long-term expansionist goals, Hitler had to have absolute control of the armed forces. According to the Weimar Constitution, the armed forces were subordinate to the Reich President. On the day of Hindenburg's death, Hitler had the Reichswehr swear an oath of allegiance to him personally and made it pledge its unconditional loyalty: “I swear to God this holy oath, that I will offer unconditional obedience to the Führer of the German Reich and People, Adolf Hitler, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and that I am prepared as a brave soldier, to lay down my life at any time for this oath.”  

OATH OF ALLEGIANCE

ARTIFACT 7

August 2, 1934

Guiding Questions:

  • What do you see in the photograph? Be specific.

  • How was this meant to consolidate Hitler's power and prevent opposition?

  •  How does this event show one of the standard fascist techniques (identifying enemies, appealing to the in-group, smashing truth and replacing it with power)?

ARTIFACT 8

Mass Rally in Berlin

August 15, 1935

Mass rallies were among the NSDAP's most important and effective propaganda tools. They were supposed to symbolize the individual’s solidarity with – or better yet, complete subordination to – the national community [Volksgemeinschaft].

Guiding Questions:

  • What do you see in the photograph? Be specific.

  • The photograph shows signs such as "The Jews are our Misfortune" and "Women and girls, the Jews are out to ruin you." What seems to be the purpose of this rally?

  •  How does this event show all three of the standard fascist techniques (identifying enemies, appealing to the in-group, smashing truth)?

"For Aryans Only"

ARTIFACT 9

1935

From 1934 on, signs proclaiming “Jews not wanted” [“Juden sind nicht erwünscht”] could be seen on the doors of public libraries, swimming pools, theaters, and cinemas, as well as certain restaurants and shops, and park benches like the one shown below bore the inscription “For Aryans Only” [“Nur für Arier”]. 

Guiding Questions:

  • What do you see in the photograph? Be specific.

  • What was the purpose of this policy?

  • What effect do you imagine this type of policy would have on Jews and Germans?