Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Berlin Anti-Jewish Riots of 1935 (2nd of 3)

The foregoing reports match up perfectly with dispatches issued during the spring and summer of 1935 by William E. Dodd, U.S. Ambassador to Germany. Dodd--pictured above with his wife in Berlin in 1935--wrote several lengthy reports for Secretary of State Cordell Hull. The gist of his communications was that the situation for Jews in Germany was then taking a turn for the worse. Ever since the early part of 1933, when Hitler and the Nazi party came to power and forced many Jewish professionals from their positions, the status of German Jews had actually stabilized. But now things were different. On April 1, Dodd wrote to Hull:

. . . there have been signs of an intensification of pressure upon the Jews in Germany. Fresh outbursts against the Jews in public speeches, additional discriminatory ordinances, and finally undercover work by the police all seem to furnish evidence that the State, profiting by the period of internal calm and by the strengthening of its hand through the declaration of military subscription, is engaged in a new anti-Jewish drive. [1]

Dodd noted, however, that compared to the obvious terror of 1933, the new campaign was being carried out, for the most part, “unobtrusively.” Furthermore, the recent measures seemed “to be directed at a further restriction of Jews’ legal rights.” Dodd said that he had no idea how far the regime might take the new measures, but he thought it was worth mentioning that an announcement had been made “of an early codification of the German citizenship laws and that in this connection many Jews here fear the worst.” By the end of April, things were much clearer. Dodd wrote to Hull:

Reichsminister of the Interior Frick, in an interview published in the Berlin Nachtausgabe of April 27, briefly outlined some of the details of the forthcoming citizenship law which, if they are ultimately incorporated in that law, will undoubtedly make it unique of its kind, inasmuch as it may be inferred from his remarks that citizenship shall be denied all non-Aryans and furthermore may only be acquired after the taking of a solemn oath to the Nazi State. [2]

By May 17, the situation had worsened. On that date, yet another dispatch from Dodd reported the following:

As the anti-Jewish campaign proceeds with official encouragement, it is only natural that, as is being continually reported by our consulates in various German cities, the instances of persecution should multiply in acts of personal humiliation of the Jews, press attacks against individuals, appeals to boycott Jewish stores, the changing of Jewish-named streets, and so forth. . . . The Consul General in Frankfurt has submitted a summary, enclosed as of possible interest, prepared by the National Society of Baptized Jews, showing the professions and callings barred to non-Aryan Germans. It will be seen that the disqualifications extend over practically the whole field of German life. . . . [3]

From these and other messages prepared for the U. S. Secretary of State and sent from Berlin, one can easily gather that the Nuremberg Laws, promulgated on September 15, 1935, had been in the planning for several months. What also seems clear enough is that the intensification of anti-Jewish measures that same year—even the ones blamed on rowdies or the public—were in fact well-coordinated. In yet another one of his communications to Hull, Dodd provides what appears to be independent evidence that the Berlin riots were not spontaneous. On July 17, two days after the outbreak of violence, Dodd wrote that the anti-Jewish campaign in the German press had “prepared the public mind” for the subsequent atrocities. Moreover, “[a]ccording to the best eye-witness accounts, outbreaks occurred at various times and places, but with a precision and common purpose evincing some sort of advance plan. . . .” [4] Significantly, Dodd’s communication was dispatched from Berlin on July 17, but was not received until July 26, nine days later. Moreover, it was apparently never answered. [5]

[1] Moshe Gottlieb, “The Berlin Riots of 1935 and Their Repercussions in America,” American Jewish Historical Quarterly 59, No. 3 (March 1970), 309. For the Dodd correspondence, Gottlieb quotes from Foreign Relations of the United States, 1935, Vol. II: Germany, 392-95.

[2] Gottlieb, 310.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 311.

[5] Ibid.


Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Frank my heart aches. You have done a "wonderful" job taking us back to this sad episode.

Frank Bellizzi said...

It so bothers me too, Bobby. I appreciate your comment.