Nazi Policies Towards Jews Were Brutal but Erratic
In the years after the Machtergreifung in 1933, German Jews were
subject to fluctuation levels of violence and intimidation at the
hands of the Nazi Party and its supporters. The variations in
intensity were the result of a number of factors including the
occasion of the Berlin Olympics, and internal rivalries in the Nazi
party about the best way to proceed with Anti-Semitic policy.
‘Brutal’ is defined in the Oxford dictionary as Cruel, harsh or
savage,’ and in consideration of this, Nazi treatment of Jews between
1933 and 1939 was certainly brutal. The earliest example of this
brutality comes during the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, when Nazi SA
troops assaulted and murdered an estimated 45 German-Jewish citizens.
This type of random violence exemplified by the SA was carried out
daily in 1933, with victims being hauled into ‘Wild Camps,’ places of
torture and murder set up in abandoned factories and army barracks.
Michael Wildt, an author described random acts of such as ‘SA men
kidnapped theatre director Paul Barnay and beat him with rubber clubs
and dog whips so severely he was later hospitalised.’
These random attacks which characterized the years 1933 and 1935 were
not linked with any specific Nazi policy; however they were clearly
the consequence of Anti-Semitism within the party.
Nazi Anti-Semitic brutality reached new extremes on
Reichkristallnacht, a pogrom (organised massacre) organised by
Goebbels in response to the murder of the German ambassador in France
Von Rath. On the 9th of November 1938 over 20,000 Jews were assaulted,
murdered or detained in concentration camps whilst SA troops
vandalised Jewish owned shops and burned synagogues to the ground. The
physical brutality of Nazis on this night was unparalleled in Germany
at the time, with over 90 Jewish citizens being murdered in the random
violence that filled Germany.
A Jewish man clearing broken glass after Reichkristallnacht
Whilst this physical brutality is certainly horrific, it is on a much
smaller scale than other terror regimes of the era, such as Stalin’s
Russia, where hundreds of thousands of innocent soviet citizens were
sent to work camps and worked to death. Due to this, it could be
argued that Nazi policy towards Jews was not remarkably brutal however
the brutality of Nazi Germany also took on a much more extreme
psychological dimension against Jewish citizens.
These incidents of ‘legal anti-Semitism’ were common in Nazi Germany,
an example of which being the 1933 book burning, where, in a state
organised affair thousands of Jewish-authored books were burned in
public. This was immensely psychologically cruel, as firstly it served
to oppress and destroy Jewish culture by burning sacred texts such as
the Talmud. The...