German Ambassador 1933: “Hostility to Jews Aimed Mainly at ‘Immigrants'”

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Here are two newspaper articles from spring, 1933. They concern the issue of early Nazi policy toward Germany’s Jews. In the first, the German ambassador to the UK maintains that the issue isn’t Jews but Immigrants. In the second, it is clear that only a few weeks later German Jews with citizenship were nevertheless being forced out. Those Jewish residents of Germany with other passports or with no citizenship (like the Palestinians of today) were facing special problems. Many of those with citizenship hoped they could temporarily relocate in Paris or Antwerp until things settled down (big mistake). The Trump regime’s exclusion or expulsion of refugees without regard to the danger awaiting them on their return to their point of origin has some resemblance to this Nazi callousness in expelling stateless people who had nowhere to go and who lacked proper passports, having only a laissez-passer from Geneva.

I draw attention to these two because, of course, of the parallels to what happened this weekend. In particular, I see a similar logic at work, whereby a profound racial and religious animus against a minority was initially publicly denied in favor of a discourse of the nation. It was only non-national members of the minority who were, to begin with, objectionable– flotsam coming in from other countries because of foreign economic collapse. That these immigrants were members of the hated minority was only, it was asserted, an accident. They were hated because foreign, not because national-but-different. Why Fascists in power should have at first been reluctant to speak the truth is an interesting question. Apparently even they initially had some shame about being perceived as mere bigots, and took refuge in the hot issue of immigration (which had been exacerbated by the high joblessness of the Great Depression in the 1930s). Their sense of shame was fleeting.

Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor on January 30, 1933. The day after a fire at the parliament building, on Feb. 28, civil liberties were abolished. Political dissidents began being rounded up in March. On March 5 there were elections in which the National Socialists got 43% of the vote. On March 22, Hitler was made dictator of Germany by a pliant legislature. In early April, Jews were subjected to a boycott and then expelled from the civil service and professions.

I was not kidding when I said that I saw many similarities between the Trump / Bannon inaugural speech and Fascist ideology. We didn’t just elect a new government, Trump said, we provided an opportunity for a revolution in which power would be turned over from corrupt elites to “the people” by the white billionaires.

I suggest that the excerpts of these two newspaper articles below be read as allegories for our own moment, substituting Trumpism for national socialism and Muslims for Jews.

1.

“German Ambassador and the Nazi Terror: Replies to a Deputation; Hostility to Jews Aimed Mainly at ‘Immigrants'” The Manchester Guardian, March 23, 1933.

“Miss G. A. Coombs and mr. R. Bridgeman, representing the Anti-War Council, were recieved at eleven o’clock this morning by the German Ambassador (Herr [Leopold] von Hoesch) in response to a request by the council . . .

“The Ambassador then said that the world must realise that what had taken place in Germany was a complete revolution, or, rather, counter-revolution, and not merely a change of Government. It was the reply to the revolution of 1918 which in sweeping away the monarchy had inaugurated a period of Socialism. Since 1918 Germany had suffered complete national humiliation . . . While stressing the revolutionary character of the change of Administration in Germany, the Ambassador maintained that it had been supported by a majority of the people* . . . He said that the election was decisive because 90 per cent of the electors had voted. This was the highest percentage of any previous election in any country . . .

Herr von Hoesch said that very bitter feeling had been caused by the opening of large Jewish stores in all the big towns in Germany, which had swallowed up the small shopkeepers . . . Herr von Hoesch anticipated that in about a couple of weeks everything would have quietened down in Germany.

The Ambassador said that he had no anti-Semitic feeling himself. He regretted that the houses of Jews like Einstein who was his personal friend, should have been raided, and said that Herr Hitler was seeking to restrain his followers from maltreating the Jews. . .

The Ambassador agreed that those Jews who had been long established in Germany should be treated in every respect as Germans. It was only the Jewish immigrants who had recently come to Germany, chiefly from Poland, who were looked upon as aliens . . .

With regard to the pacifists, particularly Lehmann Russbuldt and General von Schoenaich, he said that he knew them both personally. They had been in prison not because they wee pacifists but because they had taken an anti-national line in foreign countries and were therefore considered to be guilty of treason+ . . .”


* Ed. note: This was a lie and fake news. The Nazis did not get a majority in the March elections.

+I believe the term Steve Bannon and the alt-Neo-Nazis now use for this is ‘snowflakes’ or perhaps ‘advocates of white genocide’.

2.

“10,000 Jews Flee Nazi Persecution,” New York Times, April 15, 1933.

“Ten thousand Jews have fled from Hitlerite terrorism in Germany . . . The refugees are divided into three categories: German-born citizens, nationals of other countries who have resided in Germany for many years, and those without any national status who are holders of Nansen passports. . .

“The nationals of other countries will be repatriated to their native lands, except those who wish to join relatives already settled in overseas countries.

“The refugees without any national status who have Nansen passports represent the greatest problem. Representations have already been made to the International Nansen Bureau in Geneva in their behalf, so as to assure their protection.

“Quite a number of the refugees have some means, but the larger number are virtually without funds . . .

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  1. Customs and Border Protection agents are not complying with judicial orders in some cases. Trump has named former anti-immigrant hate group leader Julie Kirchner to be the CBP’s new chief of staff. When Trump gets all his appointees in place, they may continue to ignore judges and congressmen. So, we have a constitutional crisis, or a coup.

    • A constitutional crisis has been opined by legal experts who have contended that the Founding Fathers would have considered the law enforcement community in its current form to be a de facto military occupation flying in the face of our constitutional rights:

      link to abajournal.com

  2. Thank you for the historical insights. I would just like to add that Herr Trump also failed to receive majority vote, and is blaming immigrants (“illegal” votes) for this as well.

  3. The similarities that you point out between the feeble justifications about the treatment of Jews in Germany in 1933 and the excuses made for the ban on Muslims entering America are truly amazing and sobering. We are living in difficult times. The huge demonstrations by people against Trump’s racist and Islamophobic policies all over America have been as impressive and heartwarming as Trump’s edicts have been chilling and disheartening.

    If we do not wish to see American values subverted by a man who came to power on the basis of a minority of votes, it is essential to show him and his racist supporters that present-day America is not Nazi Germany and that American people will not allow him to wreck what America has built over two centuries. There have been big demonstrations all over Europe too and more are planned. A petition that was launched 36 hours ago to cancel Trump’s state visit to Britain has already got over one million signatures.

    As Martin Luther King said:
    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
    The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
    The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.
    We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

  4. Remembering the final tv ad of the Trump campaign. It featured 4-5 major people making speeches, while the announcer whipped up hate and resentment about the purported deteriorating weakened state of the country. Each one of those speaking were prominent Jews. That was the final dog whistle to the klan/stormfront/alt-nazi/otherwise lunatic 10% that the time had finally come to begin the American counter-revolution. Muslims and Hispanics first, and then Jews. First they will try to accomplish their atrocities without the military. Then in the face of widespread revulsion and resistance, they will try to bring in the military. How will the military respond?

    That scenario would seem to be wacko fiction. No longer.

  5. A wonderful historical perspective Juan. Wreckless and irresponsible actions that have been taken by this administration, and I do not understand the silence of the GOP leadership. Are they not American too? Is this not their country too? Do they not have family, friends, relatives, whose lives are now in the crosshairs of a president who, on any human level, is visibly psychologically troubled? Do tax cuts and the gutting of the social safety net in the pursuit of some Randian dystopia mean more to them than the collective future of this country and perhaps humanity? Or has power so corrupted their spirit that they are willing to risk the very survival of the planet and species (and no, if you have remotely been paying attention to this man you will understand that this is not hyperbole)?

    If we survive this we must remember who stood shoulder to shoulder with a racist, a hate-monger, a bigot, a liar, a self-absorbed sociopath with no regard for truth, for justice, for decency, for any of the values that underpin the deep structures of our democracy. And theirs, as a historian I assure you, will be a legacy of shame; there will be no damnatio memoriae, but we will remember their names, their cravenness, their bowing before this uniquely destructive force that has, with their subvention, injected itself into our politics.

    We, as Americans, need to be ready to pour campaign contributions into anyone who will oppose a Republican seat – if the country survives until another round of elections. But at this late date, that really matters little. Unless Republicans and the leadership of their party make clear to their president that it is time to take his band of white supremacists back to the shadows from which they came, and impeach him or force his resignation. Of course, their party has had a mighty hand in his creation haven’t they? Ever since Nixon’s Southern Strategy, ever since Reagan’s starting his campaign in Philadelphia Mississippi, ever since the first Bush seized power with the help of Willie Horton.

    What will it take for their party to return to the roots of its commitment to racial justice, for which our 16th president, and subsequently the great Martin Luther King, gave their lives? What will it take to return to its commitment to national security, and the nexus of strategic economic and military alliances that have made us a strong and stable democracy? I find it unfathomable that they have not opposed this existential threat of Trump-Bannonism.

    Of course, at base, I know why: cupido dominandi cunctis affectatibus flagrantior est, says Tacitus. “Lust for power is the more inflaming than all other desires”. But like any flame, it can burn.

    • The elephant in the room is the growing awareness that Whites are demographically doomed to become a minority in maybe 30 years. Of course many states will have this happen before that, and state government is the historic favorite tool for racist governance.

      The logical purpose of the current campaign of dehumanization is to rig elections permanently in favor of “real” Americans. For a decade or more that has consisted of Republican attempts to make Blacks, in particular, face burdens tailored to their historical voting patterns, and fear that any discrepancy in their voting will lead to their arrest. Judges have struck down some of these measures.

      But now the preparation is being made for these judges to be overriden and removed. The far right has long harbored the dream of openly repealing the Lincoln amendments under the cover of States’ Rights. Even Jim Crow operated in the refusal of the Federal government to enforce those amendments. Eliminating them opens up a new cosmos of possibilities.

      Look out for right-wing talk about amendments or a Constitutional convention. They’ve gathered control of enough state legislatures to make it a possibility. The objective will at first appear to be the stripping of birthright citizenship from some Latinos. That simply culls enough from the electorate to enable the next phase: the creation of official 2nd-class citizenship in the fashion of Apartheid. This has been the Holy Grail of our far-right movement since 1964. Its poison has been extruded into every possible excuse to restore historic inequalities. It is the body whose hydra heads are the movements for not just White supremacy, but male supremacy, Christian supremacy, and the supremacy of the rich. All of these, though, lead back to the restoration of American patriarchy and its “understood” two-tiered citizenship.

      • Thanks Super390. Yes, I am deeply afraid of all of this – esp. the Constitutional Convention. I’m fearful of civil war in my lifetime – I don’t see the west coast signing on – they will want to go their own way, but I see no way how they do it.

        Don’t get me wrong – the west coast is a great economic power house; but they will be occupied by the feds or face nuclear blackmail from, well, everyone. We don’t need an independent nuclear armed Cascadia, but I don’t see how we live together any longer.

        That’s the thinking in my rural part of the woods anyway. Thank gods I have my own water, food, and yes, booze and weed – I just hope it’s all not glowing soon!

        • I have actually spent the last 34 years (God, has it been that long?) writing stories about a 2nd American civil war along the present factional lines. Of course, I have not found a publisher, because I’m not favorable to the right-wingers like say, “The Turner Diaries” or “Victoria.”

          Around 1992 I got tired of writing short stories about the aftermath of that war, which seemed a cliched cop-out in science fiction. I decided to do it the hard way. Write a book, “Warheads,” about the first incident that makes war inevitable. And then have it be about a bunch of kids fighting in a schoolbus going to the last public school in northern Houston.

          Some of the things I wrote about then have already happened. We’ve had the catastrophic Christian-Right president who led America to failure in the Middle East, we’ve had the Black president who has provoked a racist backlash but refuses to support armed resistance by his followers.

          Other things I wrote about seemed off-course. Given the Southernness of the right-wing movement, the use in my story of skinhead teenage gangs secretly protected by the Christian Right looked too “European”.

          Until the alt-Right spewed out of the Internet gutter.

          Anyway, the last section of the book is called Harper’s Ferry, because it’s about a catastrophic attempt by private mercenaries to rescue White hostages being held in a Black/Latino neighborhood, because the governments of Texas and the US are no longer on speaking terms.

          In the last few years I’ve finally resumed work on the next book, “Nation of Warheads,” where I can work out my ideas on how a revolution of Workers of Color can succeed under the horrible conditions resulting from the end of the 1st book. I’m glad I put it aside for 14 years. The technologies that have arisen in recent years show the path to a revolutionary economy that will be necessary to overthrow the now-openly fascist regime we see forming around us. But the strategy to carry it out is really heinous.

    • If president has 2 term limit, why Senators & Congressmen do not? There should be. Moreover, they should be ban for next 10 years to be lobbyists after leaving office.

      • The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, inspired by opponents to FDR, established the two-term limitation.

        In the early 1990s, the Republican leadership was instrumental in passing state laws barring U.S. Congress members from running for more than two terms – however the U.S. Supreme Court in the Thornton decision in 1995 struck down those laws as unconstitutional.

        The only was term limits that can be imposed on U.S. Congress members are those passed via federal constitutional amendment. That has not happened yet.

  6. Professor Cole thank you for the history lesson. This history telling is appropriate to what we Americans are dealing with today in our divided country, so good of you to tell this story of the 1933 German discrimination of the Jews.

    Between Trump’s vain insistence about his huge crowd who attended his inauguration, and the Mexician paid for wall, and now this Muslim ban, I think of how he is determined to make his self look good, while attempting to make President Obama look bad. Even though I have been very critical of some of what Obama did while in office, I find Trump’s approach to rivaling his predecessor, childish, immature, conceded, and utterly disgusting. Trump is petty, and it shows. He comes to DC with a vengeance to settle some scores. Not political scores which may help the American people, but scores to settle with those who have questioned his qualities along the way to be president, and much more.

    I will applaud him on what I think is good, but so far his first ten days are proving out to show that a vain and petty man now sits in the Oval Office, and with that I shrug my shoulders and pray our country will survive his rein.

    • It was said approvingly that Mussolini made the trains run on time. Thus, I think that Trump should not be lauded even when he manages to achieve a positive result. Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional acorn. Also, that approach works to normalize him. As a tactical political move for the safety of the country, he must be opposed consistently when wrong, and ignored when right.

      • Well, I wouldn’t advice to continue praising a guy like Trump, and yet I’d warn you not to upset him. When a guy leans on the podium and compliments himself on being in real life a really nice guy, and goes on to say, ‘just ask anyone who knows me’, it makes me stop and think of why didn’t he just say, let me prove it by my actions & yet no….but ask anyone who knows me is almost like if he had said how he has lots of black friends, ask any of them they all know me. In fact he may have said that stuff. If someone has to stop and tell you how nice they are, then I would advice to be on your guard, because they probably aren’t nice…I think my mother told me that, but Trump’s demeanor along with his apparent management skills isn’t something to get your hopes up about, or nothing.

        This country by my estimation needs not just a president, but a media, who wants to quit stoking the fires of discontent, and to start trying to pull this country together….that’s what we need, and the harder I squint I just don’t see this quality in President Trump.

  7. The Nazi leaders were not ashamed of what they did. They hid it from the German people too because they knew many Germans would be horrified. Institutions including governments and religions instigate racism and religious hatred because it helps them control their followers and divides the population. Eventually the little, powerless people pay the horrible price. The Germans learned this lesson. It’s what we need to teach Trump’s supporters.

  8. “The Nazis did not get a majority in the March elections……..”

    This is debatable as, while technically accurate, the Nazis on January 30th, 1933 formed a coalition with a German minority conservative party whose policies in large part mirrored those of the National Socialists. That coalition represented a majority of votes of the German popular electorate.

    That conservative party’s leader, Franz Von Papen, was later tried but eventually cleared of all war crimes charges following the end of WWII. Von Papen was certainly not a Nazi – but his right-wing party was the needed coalition partner that enabled Hitler to assume office as chancellor in early 1933.

  9. Some months ago I read “Is Tomorrow Hitler’s?” by H.R. Knickerbocker, written by the noted journalist in 1941 before the U.S. had entered WWII when the German blitzkreig had conquered all of the European continent save for Moscow and Stalingrad. Eight short years after coming to power with a minority of the popular vote. The historically ignorant of the American body politic can get a preview of things to come via a quick read of this fascinating book, and learn what history they have damned us to repeat. It is also illustrative of the precipitous decline in ability, knowledge and insight of journalists and publishers today. And, of course, of ALL members of both elected houses of Congress. Both are consummate disgraces to their competent predecessors.

  10. Note to producers of The Walking Dead: Please don’t bother with a prequel. The Orange Menace already has one under production. It’s called His Administration.

  11. I grew under a dictatorship that used the pretext of security to suspend the constitution; curtail the courts; muzzle the press; and eventually to rule with extreme brutality for over 50 years now. I will not even name that country for this is besides the point except to say that this method is the playbook of all who seek power for its sake. I left that country and came to the US in the early eighties and studied and worked and served this country proudly and on the day of my naturalization registered to vote. To me that right and privilege was and remains the true mark of my newfound liberty.
    I can share with my fellow Americans that fear; scapegoating; division; and propaganda are the universal tools of tyrants. In the name of security rights are trampled; a group or a minority is conveniently used to deflect attention and direct resentment; insinuation of unpatriotic citizens sows discord; and propaganda creates the cult of personality.
    I am not only referring to the all too familiar regimes that Americans defeated in the last century and liberated million of people around the world but to current regimes that continue this same methodology today. Ultimately there is no difference between registering Jews and forcing the wearing of the Yellow Star of David and registering this or that nationality or religion. It presupposes classes of citizens and is just one step closer to dehumanization: the first essential step to persecution.
    Therefore I am asking my fellow citizens and especially those that have strong emotions stemming out of despair of the gridlock in Washington; out of disgust at the income inequality; out of fear of seeing the future of their children worse off than their current status; to harken to this great document called the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence and continue to forge this Idea Nation. This Nation whose motto is e Pluribus Unum: from the many we are one. This Nation that is ruled by laws and not by men and with a government of the people, by the people, for the people, and that will rise above all attempts to undermine its values and principles and to divide its citizens.
    I urge you to read the Constitution and to remember that every official swears an Oath of Office that preserves protects and defends the Constitution of this great nation. I urge you to remind your representatives of whatever party that this is their highest and the ultimate call to duty. I would dare say that without our Constitutional Rights and Responsibilities we are ultimately no longer the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

    • With all due respect, blah blah, blah.

      We are past the point of what He might do to what He is doing, and with alacrity. I was thinking 8-10 weeks, being implemented through the AG. Wrong: its been 8-10 days through executive order. Those which VERY well have been signed in secret could become fatal, and very quickly.

      You, and this website, need to immediately encourage direct action, and in particular, LEAKS, through sites with robust defensive capabilities, such as the intercept.com

      The time is now, and the barricades are digital.

      • Please travis take it easy. Observer’s comment is just what more Americans need to hear, and dwell on while contemplating just exactly what Oberver is attempting to tell us. In Obsevers case the last will be first, with the attitude that Observer displayed here….so post Obsever’s comment, make your friends and family read it, and don’t be quick to say anything, just let Obsever’s words float around a little in your head, and then go fight the Trump world which we are all now being forced to live in. Funny how 46% just now became a majority….do it travis, but remember what Obsever had to say this day in January, and then go forward.

    • Observer, I am a third generation American who by reading your words am appreciative for your warning, and inspired by your encouragement for me to read the U.S. Constitution and other important American valued documents which created the America I grew up in.

      By your words this great land of America became a whole lot greater by having you work so hard to gain your American citizenship. One country’s loss, is our country’s gain….welcome aboard, you are a great American.

    • “…….[t]his Nation(sic) whose motto is e(sic) Pluribus Unum…..”

      Actually, “E Pluribus Unum” was replaced by “In God We Trust” as the national motto by an Act of Congress signed into law by Pres. Eisenhower in 1956.

      But the gist of your argument is well-taken – and I would further recommend to all to also acquire and read a copy of the state constitution applicable to your jurisdiction – it is a treasure trove of individual rights and limitations on the power of our respective state governments who all too often violate the rights of its citizenry.

  12. The Nazi definition of Jews was very different from ours. They recognized four categories depending on the number of your Jewish grandparents. Boys with one or two Jewish grandparents were drafted into the Wehrmacht until late 1941 early 1942 regardless of whether the Jewish community regarded that boy as a Jew. At least the children with one or two Jewish grandparents could be listed in the passport of their non-Jewish parent or-as in my case-even have their own passport. It was very useful when I was stopped in the streets of Amsterdam during the German occupation by a Dutch Nazi who thought that he had caught a Jewish boy who should be in a concentration camp.
    It is known what the plans for us were. After Germany had won the war and we were age 21 we would be given the choice of either castration or concentration camp.
    It is not true that so-called “Volljuden” (4 Jewish grandparents) could not get German Nazi passports. I know a few cases of Jewish boys and girls who were allowed to travel from Germany to visit family in the Netherlands before the war. They were not rich. One such boy whom I got to know well remained in the Netherlands but went back to Germany at least once to visit his parents. His sister got to England with the last children’s transport.
    Because of the difficulty and secrecy of the actions we will never get the full story of the German Jews smuggled abroad primarily with the aid of socialist labor unions and communist organizations. One of the preferred countries to go to was the Netherlands.
    The fate of the German Jews was probably much more complex than this article describes.

    • “…..German Jews smuggled abroad primarily with the aid of socialist labor unions and communist organizations……”

      One of the great ironies of WWII was that it was Joseph Stalin’s Red Army that was primarily responsible for ending the Holocaust by liberating the major SS concentration camps, beginning with Majdanek in 1944 and including Auschwitz and other major death camps in early 1945.

      The irony being that Stalin was perhaps a greater mass murderer than Hitler and had the Ukrainian genocide under his belt in the late 1930s and committed the Great Purge in that decade as well – placing millions in the deadly gulag system.

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