Could German citizens visit Japan during the Nazi era? And if so what would the locals think of them?

Could German citizens visit Japan during the Nazi era? And if so what would the locals think of them?

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Germany and Japan in WWII were BFF's, with Japan continuing to fight to the bitter, nuke-filled, end.

Now, let's say a German citizen wanted to check out Japan, for whatever reason:

Firstly, could they do so at a time when both countries were otherwise suspicious of foreigners? If so, how would they get there, and would they have been restricted to some formal travel program? And if not, what about the two nations relationship would prevent this trip from happening and why?

Secondly, if Germans did manage to get to Japan in a legal way, what would the locals be like? What would they have thought of this gaijin having come to their country? Would their open or (more likely) quiet natural distrust of foreigners be overcome by the fact that their two peoples were brothesr in arms against their nations common enemies?

I've been studying Japan recently, so I'm vary curious as to if/how something like this would play out.

The anti-Comintern pact was signed in 1936, so I guess it depends on how you define "brothers in arms". Also, the trip could have been made predominantly by rail, without going through Russia - mostly the British-dominated Middle East, then India, and north to Manchukuo. There's a multi-year window where a citizen of Nazi Germany (1933 through 1939) could go through British lands. But you said German citizen, so it's a bit vague.

Of course, these journeys were far more common in Agatha Christie novels than in real life and it would have been a rich German, regardless of time frame or politics.

It's worth pointing out that there was active propaganda in Japan well before the war, encouraging the people to feel fraternal towards the Germans. An example is the 1937 Japanese/German propaganda film, The Daughter of the Samurai.

A television programme I saw years ago mentioned that Japan having been on the Allied side in the First World War, a number of German servicemen became prisoners of War of the Japanese when the latter took the opportunity to seize German possessions in China and the Pacific.

These Germans were sufficiently well treated that a number of them chose to stay on in Japan afterwards, some opening beer halls. I do not know if they remained there permanently.

This was cited as evidence that there had, perhaps due to indoctrination that becoming a prisoner was shameful, been a cultural change by World War II when the Japanese treated their prisoners of war vastly less well.

A lone man refusing to do the Nazi salute, 1936

The photo was taken at the launch of a German army vessel in 1936, during a ceremony that was attended by Adolf Hitler himself. Within the picture a lone man stood with arms crossed as hundreds of men and women around him held up their arms in salute and allegiance to the Nazi Party and its leader, Adolph Hitler. Everyone in attendance is showing their undying support for Der Führer by throwing out their very best “Sieg Heil”.

August Landmesser, grimacing with arms crossed, stood strong and defiant as he showed his disapproval by not displaying support for the Nazi Party. What made this photo and Landmesser’s defiance unique is that it represented the protest of one man, in its most sincere and pure form. The source of Landmesser’s protest, like many great tragedies, starts with a love story.

The story of August Landmesser’s anti-gesture begins, ironically enough, with the Nazi Party. Believing that having the right connections would help land him a job in the pulseless economy, Landmesser joined the Nazi Party in 1931. Little did he know that his heart would soon ruin any progress that his superficial political affiliation might have made. In 1934, Landmesser met Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman, and the two fell deeply in love. Their engagement a year later got him expelled from the party, and their marriage application was denied under the newly enacted racial Nuremberg Laws.

August and Irma had a baby girl, Ingrid, in October of the same year, and two years later in 1937, the family made a failed attempt to flee to Denmark, where they were apprehended at the border. August was arrested and charged for “dishonoring the race” under Nazi racial law. He argued that neither he nor Eckler knew that she was fully Jewish, and was acquitted on 27 May 1938 for lack of evidence, with the warning that a repeat offense would result in a multi-year prison sentence.

The source of Landmesser’s protest, like many great tragedies, starts with a love story.

The couple publicly continued their relationship and a month later August Landmesser would be arrested again and sentenced to hard labor for two years in a concentration camp. He would never see his beloved wife again. Eckler was detained by the Gestapo and held at the prison Fuhlsbüttel, where she gave birth to a second daughter Irene. Their children were initially taken to the city orphanage. Ingrid was later allowed to live with her maternal grandmother Irene went to the home of foster parents in 1941.

Later, after her grandmother’s death in 1953, Ingrid was also placed with foster parents. A few letters came from Irma Eckler until January 1942. It is believed that she was taken to the so-called Bernburg Euthanasia Centre in February 1942, where she was among the 14,000 killed. In the course of post-war documentation, in 1949 she was pronounced legally dead.

August would be released in 1941 and began work as a foreman. Two years later, as the German army became increasingly mired by its desperate circumstances, Landmesser would be drafted into a penal infantry along with thousands of other men. He would go missing in Croatia where it is presumed he died, six months before Germany would officially surrender. His body was never recovered. Like Eckler, he was declared legally dead in 1949.

Believing that having the right connections would help land him a job in the pulseless economy, Landmesser joined the Nazi Party in 1931.

In 1934, Landmesser met Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman, and the two fell deeply in love.

The first and only photo of the family, June 1938. Although it was forbidden for them to meet, they appeared together in public and put themselves at exceptional risk.

By Andrew Holter

A few years ago I was working on the second story of a rowhouse in the Woodbourne-McCabe neighborhood, east of York Road, when a coworker shouted over the din of a reciprocating saw to come see what she had found written behind the wall. This house had been vacant for many years—decades, maybe—and it was only a shell the day we were running around inside it, hopping over holes in the floor and keeping our eyes on the groaning roof above. The last bits of lath and framed wall had just been removed from one section of what had once been a bedroom, exposing a large patch of plaster stuck to the bricks. There on the plaster was a Nazi swastika drawn in black pigment, dated the year 1940 and signed with a name I can't remember except that it was German-sounding, like mine. We covered it up with a coat of mortar, a coat of latex paint, a new wall with Sheetrock, a coat of primer, and then two coats of interior matte white paint.

We know very well the type of person who would draw a swastika today someone in your area code may be doing the equivalent and much worse on the Internet right now. Who would do it in Baltimore on the eve of World War II, though? Someone, a German-American like me, who spent the past 7 years watching events overseas with the feeling that things might be going their way for a change, who felt like they belonged, finally, to a winning team.

This month is a good time to revisit the 1930s in Baltimore, years of incredible volatility, uncertainty, passion, and optimism in politics. Imagine every vacant rowhome you've ever seen here but with a light on and a family inside: That was the size of the city in the 1930s. Among large numbers of people, faith in liberal democracy and market capitalism to solve the problems of the day was evaporating by the hour. Thousands of Baltimoreans identified themselves with constituencies of race, class, and nationality that extended far beyond the boundaries of their neighborhoods their connection to the country of their parents' birth, say, or their feelings of kinship with people they had never met in Russia or Ethiopia, deeply colored the American lives they led here. Nearly all the immigrants in Baltimore were from Europe—the various tribes of white America—and while they benefited from the city's Jim Crow regime that oppressed 145,000 of their black neighbors, they also challenged the boundaries of what it meant to be an American in complex ways. This became truest of all in the 1930s for German-Americans, forced by events in Europe to choose carefully where each of their two identities ended. But the choice was given to them.

The accounts that follow—assembled from archival materials—are just a handful of days from that decade in Baltimore, barely within living memory, and the names mentioned are only a few of the ones that were written down. We live in the same city as these people, walk their same streets, and sleep in their same houses. At this moment we might find it useful to strip back the paint and plaster left on top of them and look at what they did in their time.

In a sense, German-Americans were the original model minority. (Baltimore Sun)

March 23, 1933

With most civil liberties already suspended in Germany, today its parliament approves the Enabling Act ( Ermächtigungsgesetz ) to legalize Adolf Hitler's dictatorship over the country and confirm the fears of conscientious people the world over who hoped it would all just go away.

The same day in Baltimore, the local branch of the American Jewish Congress calls for a meeting with representatives of various Jewish groups in the city “to determine a joint course of action,” while a coalition of Protestants and Catholics gathers to “make plans for a citywide protest meeting of Christians” against German anti-Semitism.

And the Socialist Party, under the leadership of Elisabeth Gilman—of the Hopkins Gilmans, who three years earlier became the first woman to run for governor in Maryland (4,178 votes)—resolves to launch a “movement of protest” against the regime that “has abolished democracy, suppressed all radical and liberal thought, and reverted to mediaeval savagery in its persecution of the Jews.”

Rabbi Edward L. Israel of Bolton Street Temple (Baltimore Sun)

At the end of the month, 5,000 people join a rally at the still segregated Lyric Opera House: Jews and Christians and Germans and even a few U.S. Senators voice their outrage against Nazism. Led by rabbis of extraordinary energy and commitment to social justice, like Morris Lazaron of Madison Avenue Temple and Edward L. Israel of Bolton Street Temple, the city is abuzz for the rest of the year with efforts to raise money and awareness in support of German Jews. The gentile-led German Society of Maryland, one of the oldest immigrant-aid groups in the country, sends a cablegram to Hitler himself urging the Führer “to exercise toward the German Jews a spirit of justice, humanity and mercy”—a gesture that “will long be remembered by the Jewish community here,” says the head of the American Jewish Congress, “and will serve to strengthen the sentiments of mutual respect and good will between our respective groups.”

By the 1930s, the Germans had made the city their own. (Baltimore Sun)

No swastika flags are flown at this year's massive German Day festival in September, and for the first time in its 31-year history no diplomats from the Fatherland show up—worried, probably, that they'll be met with protests.

It's a dark year for the world, no doubt, but in Baltimore an unusual spirit of collaboration and resolve seems to take hold across political, religious, and ethnic lines in response to the ascension of Hitler. There's profound worry, but also confidence that cooler heads are going to prevail.

At an April meeting in Reservoir Hill, Leon Rubenstein, a Jewish lawyer in the city, argues that America must “raise the bars of immigration for those whose oppression in other lands has become unbearable.” At the same time, he says, the threat posed to the Jews by Hitler, while dire, will eventually be brought under control “by the inherent stability and deep consciousness of the German nation.”

“The center of German-American life as a whole in Baltimore”: Fritz Evers of Zion Church (Baltimore Sun)

Jan. 10, 1934

According to some accounts, the executioner is dressed in white gloves and a top hat this evening in Leipzig as the Nazis sent 24-year-old Rinus van der Lubbe to the guillotine for (maybe) setting the German parliament building on fire 11 months earlier.

This has nothing to do with Baltimore except that the Reverend Fritz Evers of Zion Church would have heard about it while he was visiting Germany that month. (In 2017, Zion Church is still located next to the Real News Network and City Hall, still puts on a fantastic Sour Beef dinner every year, and still offers a Sunday service in German every week.) When Pastor Evers returns to Baltimore in February, he speaks to reporters eager to hear from the figurehead of the most prominent Lutheran congregation in the city and institutional cornerstone of the German community at large.

“Hitler has given Germany a sense of security it had not known and there is gratitude everywhere,” Evers tells them. Besides the van der Lubbe execution, his visit to Germany coincided with the enforcement of new sterilization laws and the mass defection of Lutheran pastors across the country from the authority of Ludwig Müller, the state-appointed Reichsbischof . Müller's nazification of Christianity was causing a minor schism that would end up sending many German clergymen to concentration camps (including Martin Niemöller, author of the famous poem that begins: “First they came for the communists/And I did not speak out. ”)

In Pastor Evers' estimation, the Führer is also “a fanatic and obsessed.”

Born in Berlin, Fritz Evers trained at the seminary at Kropp in Schlesweig, famous in the Lutheran world for producing pastors to send to North America. In the years before World War I, he had ministered to German immigrants at Ellis Island in the last hours of their umlauts. The pastorate of Baltimore had belonged to his late predecessor for nearly 40 years when he arrived here in 1928, but his flock took quickly to the refinement and natural authority he emanated as a representative of the Mother Church. “The pastor is a gentle, kindly man with a sweep of long gray hair that distinguishes him in the midst of any company,” wrote the German emigre historian Dieter Cunz. “Alone in his Sakristei, in a velvet housecoat, a long cigar in his fingers, he is definitely a part of Zion Church.” His visit to Germany in 1934 was his first vacation in 20 years. “From the day of his arrival in Baltimore,” according to Cunz, “he became not only the pastor of Zion Church but also the center of German-American life as a whole in Baltimore.”

In the mid-'30s, German-American lives were being lived in Baltimore by the tens of thousands: 13,000 fresh off the boat, like Evers, another 53,000 second-generation and loads more third-generation who had grown up in some version of Kleindeutschland on the Patapsco, like one Henry Louis Mencken (more than a lapsed Lutheran, to be sure), who wrote and believed: “My grandfather made a mistake when he moved to America, and I have always lived in the wrong country.”

The Germans had been building Zion in Baltimore for generations. They were established in all types of industry across the city, from shipping and watch-making to baking Berger Cookies and brewing beer. They enjoyed a varied and only semi-assimilated cultural life centered around places like the Lehmann Hall on Howard Street, which hosted singing societies like the Junger Männerchor and the Deutscher Theater-Verein. The annual German Day at Gwynn Oak Park drew crowds of more than 15,000 as a matter of course. Newspapers like the Deutsche Correspondent and the Bayerisches Wochenblatt lived on the kitchen tables of rowhomes across the city, and there were entire German soccer teams and gymnastics squads and even a German orphanage (for children “without regard to creed, of German ancestry”).

An unhinged, rabid patriotism ruled the day: Baltimore during World War I (Baltimore Sun)

The Germans had made the city their own, and with the notable exception of the mob that trashed the offices of a German abolitionist newspaper as part of the first bloodshed of the Civil War, the city's WASP oligarchs and nativist crackers tended to give them the benefit of the doubt. That changed with America's entry into the First World War in 1917, of course, along with sauerkraut (renamed liberty cabbage), hamburgers (liberty sandwiches) and German Street downtown (renamed Redwood Street after the first officer from Baltimore killed in the war). An unhinged, rabid patriotism ruled the day. But German-Americans' humiliation was short-lived, like a time-out compared to what Japanese-Americans would endure later on. And anyway, by the mid-' 30s they had earned their keep twice over in the minds of many by producing Babe Ruth from Ridgely's Delight.

It had become routine on German Day in Baltimore for local politicians to address the crowd like they were working for tips, flattering the Germans' work ethic, prudence, and civic-mindedness to excess. “Of all the people in Maryland, none is more law-abiding than the German,” State's Attorney Herbert O'Conor told them 1933. “No group ever gave more generously of its talent and energy.” President Hoover sent a telegram that year declaring that their contributions “to the educational, cultural, spiritual and civic life of the United States are so large in number and so valuable in effect as to have earned the gratitude of the nation.” Politicians appealed directly to the Baltimore Germans' own sense of their Germanness, holding a mirror up to them that cast their reflection in redder, whiter, and bluer tones than any other group. They did this in large part because the Germans made up a sizable voting bloc. Any politician seeking a lift in support during the years of Prohibition, for example, needed only to locate a hall full of beer-parched Baltimore Germans and say the magic word: repeal.

In a sense, German-Americans were the original model minority. Whether they arrived in 1720 or 1920, Germans achieved safety and prosperity in America with relative ease compared to other groups, because theirs was always a shorter distance to cross racially and religiously. Decade after decade the Germans kept coming to Maryland—this author's family among them—and they kept finding a country that had room for them with very few questions asked. Even as late as the mid-1930s, a provision remained on the books mandating the translation and publication of all state laws and Baltimore City ordinances in at least one German-language newspaper—an unbelievable measure of bilingual accommodation. To the Anglo-Saxon establishment, largely blind to the plight of black and brown people, the Germans' middle class success and loyalty could be taken as the supreme validation of the American experiment, especially after World War I. That “liberty sandwich” business? Just part of keeping a clean house.

“Even the discrimination by the Nazi[s] against the Jews, while deplored by all the German people, is considered by them to have been an economic necessity,” Fritz Evers explains to reporters when he gets back from Germany in February 1934. “I could not find anyone who believed that there had been actual cruelties practiced.”

“In effect,” he continues, “the discrimination has been somewhat the same as the German-American knew fifteen or sixteen years ago in the United States.”

The Ku Klux Klan march along Roland Avenue, 1925. (Baltimore Sun)

Jan. 17, 1934

Three hundred people gather at the recreation center in Hampden's Roosevelt Park to hear the chairman of the American League Against War and Fascism speak on the prospects for a regime like Hitler's to take over in the United States.

“Although there is no immediate danger, a sudden change for the worse could be brought about by inflation or any other deepening of the economic crisis,” he says. “The effects of inflation on the lower middle classes and wage workers is that it makes them potential fascist material.”

If the crowd doesn't know it, they are only blocks away from the main spawning ground of the Hampden Ku Klux Klan, around where Rocket to Venus and Café Cito are today. Membership in the Klan is a shadow of what it had been in the 1920s (when in Hampden alone, by one estimate, there may have been upward of 800 vassals of the Invisible Empire), but the last lynching ever carried out in the state of Maryland had happened only three months earlier on the Eastern Shore. The man's name was George Armwood, and how many of those 300 at Roosevelt Park know his name?

The Harlem Renaissance poet Esther Popel Shaw writes a poem about Armwood, staggering the details of his killing with lines from the Pledge of Allegiance:

“With Liberty—and Justice”—
They cut the rope in bits
And passed them out,
For souvenirs, among the men and boys!
The teeth no doubt, on golden chains
Will hang
About the favored necks of sweethearts, wives,
And daughters, mothers, sisters, babies, too!
“For ALL!”

April 27, 1934

Forty of the 1,400 girls at Western High School sign a letter to their principal in protest of a talk given at the school two weeks earlier by the Rev. Fritz Evers on the subject of Germany.

“In the face of the established fact that Hitler finds increasingly more brutal measures necessary to suppress the opposition which is rising against him in Germany,” the girls write, “the Rev. Evers made the statement that the Germans were happy and satisfied. . . . In spite of the mountains of authoritative data proving that the Hitler government is one of the most backward and barbaric in history, the Rev. Evers spoke approvingly of some of its work, and tacitly approved the rest by failing to attack it.”

The principal is dumbfounded by the petition, admitting he couldn't find “anything that could be called offensive” in the pastor's speech.

Asked for comment, Evers says that he meant no offense and that the girls must be “supersensitive.”

June 25, 1934

Three hundred members of the Finnish Federation of Baltimore meet at their clubhouse in Highlandtown to write letters of protest: one to Hitler and one to Dr. Hans Luther, the German ambassador to the United States. Their demand? Immediate release of all political prisoners in Germany.

Elisabeth Gilman stumping for governor on the Socialist ticket, 1930. (Baltimore Sun)

Time to celebrate! It's the 300th anniversary of the founding of Maryland and that means a grand pageant in Baltimore the likes of which we've never seen: a cast of thousands in costumes, dancing, singing, a whole program of praise for the Free State and its history of toleration.

After receiving a thoughtful and angry letter from Elisabeth Gilman, the organizer of the pageant asks the delegation from Germany to please not bring the Nazi flag with them during their part of the parade. The Germans refuse, so offended they instead withdraw themselves from the pageant altogether and beget a small shitshorm of public relations.

Asked for comment, the Reverend Fritz Evers of Zion Church decries the unfairness of singling out the Germans over their flag as a grave slight to German Marylanders. Taking out the swastika, he says, would be like “severing the stripes from the stars in the flag of the United States.”

“A year ago, not a German in Baltimore was for Hitler,” he continues, “but on account of the Jewish propaganda against him, nearly all of them now are for Hitler. But I hold no brief for Hitler, don't misunderstand me there.”

Jan. 22, 1935

The German Society of Maryland hosts an address on the subject of Germany by the Dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Dr. William F. Notz. The mayor is present and so is Fritz Evers, who gives a brief address in German.

“In spite of the wrongs accompanying Hitler's movement,” says Dr. Notz, “he will stand out as a great man to whom future generations of Germans will pay tribute.”

On the question of Hitler's treatment of the Jews, Dr. Notz, who is an economist by trade, relates an anecdote from his own meeting with the Führer two years earlier in Germany. “If your country,” Hitler told him, “was flooded with Japanese, fomenting strikes and plotting against the government, what would the citizens of your country do?”

According to its website, Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service still awards a William F. Notz Medal every year to the student “whose academic attainment in the field of International Economics has been judged outstanding.”

May 18, 1935

Back at the Lehmann Hall on Howard Street, some 250 members of the Baltimore chapter of the Friends of New Germany hold a flag-dedicating ceremony with five American flags, five of the old imperial German flags, and five big red swastika flags. Men onstage are “dressed in uniforms approximating those of the Nazi Storm Troopers—boots, dark riding breeches and shirts with the swastika brassard [armband] upon the sleeve.”

After a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the leader of the group shouts “Heil Roosevelt!” And so everyone Heil's Roosevelt.

Then, a lot louder, comes “Heil Hitler.” Two hundred and fifty voices at once.

One attendee, writing to the editor of The Sun, takes exception to the event's coverage in the paper as a Nazi rally. Has anyone else noticed, he writes, that “it seems to be common practice to call every German-American who dares to have left a spark of feeling and love for his old Fatherland a Nazi, it, of course, making good copy.”

The anti-German sentiment that gave us liberty sandwiches two decades ago begins to creep back into public discourse in Baltimore. The silence of German gentiles on the issue of Hitler and the Nazis directs suspicion and anxiety back their way. This month, the letters to the editor in The Sun really blows up:

“Throughout the length and breadth of this glorious country, German patriotic organizations, most of them under the guise of shooting, gymnastic and choral societies, are taking their orders from Berlin,” writes one W.H. Pendergast. “In the opinion of many Americans such societies are one hundred per cent more of a menace to our peace and safety than all the Communists. What is our government going to do about it?”

And from someone named N. Stahler: “If they [German-Americans] continue to form such societies as the Friends of New Germany, they must be regarded as blind, fanatical patriots who care neither for their own welfare nor for the welfare of workingmen of any nation and are pawns in the hands of the class to which the furtherance of such ideas is of great importance.”

And George E. Lofthouse of Cockeysville: “All persons, regardless of race, creed or nationality . . . are watching and waiting for some word and an overt act from the Germans in this country by which they will openly disclaim any sympathy with the civilization-destroying propaganda adopted by Herr Hitler and his henchmen.”

German-Americans themselves are giving evidence for conspiratorial thinking with stories of indoctrination. “My experience after I came to this country from Germany was that I was immediately made a member of a national German society,” writes Henry Luther Strohmeyer. He later resigned from “all societies that taught obedience to Berlin and which demanded that Germans be ever ready to take up arms, even against this country,” suggesting that societies like that really did exist in Baltimore in the past, and so why not now?

How many have already been radicalized? How do we tell them apart from the good ones?

Oct. 12, 1935

The very same day that jazz music is outlawed in Nazi Germany for being too black (and Jewish), the white station managers of WCAO in Baltimore refuse to air an NAACP-sponsored radio drama written by the local journalist Ralph Matthews.

The program tells the story of Ossian Sweet, a black physician in Detroit who 10 years earlier had been charged with murder after a gun fired from inside his house killed a white man standing outside, where a violent mob had gathered to protest his family's move into a white neighborhood. In a case celebrated in civil rights circles, Sweet was acquitted in 1926. The station managers of WCAO are afraid that the local Klan, their sympathizers, and even respectable white folks are going to flood their station with complaints, or worse, if it gets played.

A few days later, a fundraiser and live performance of the play is held at Bethel AME Church in one night, the NAACP raises the equivalent of $17,000 in today's money.

Jan. 18, 1936

Before it was a FedEx Office, the Hansa House—that German-ass-looking building at the corner of N. Charles and Redwood streets—was headquarters of the North German Lloyd Shipping Company that ran freight and passengers to Germany beginning in the 19th century. During the First World War, the head of that company also helped run an espionage ring out of the Hansa House responsible for an act of pro-German sabotage that killed several people and damaged the Statue of Liberty (but that's another story).

By January of 1936, the Hansa House is being used as the consulate of the German government. And if you walk by it on the 18th, like you would in 2017 if you were going to make copies, your eyes will rise to take in a big swastika flag waving in the breeze over the sidewalk.

April 22, 1936

Baltimore's largest anti-Nazi demonstration happens today on Thames Street just west of Broadway. Two thousand people are gathered to protest the arrival of the Emden, a German cruiser docked at the foot of Fells Point that is visiting Baltimore on a baldfaced propaganda mission to sow good feeling toward the Nazi regime. “Bring your sticks with you,” three hundred Baltimore Police were told the day before, most of them now at the protest but others keeping an eye on German spots around town for troublemakers.

“Bring your sticks with you”: Baltimore police at the Emden protest (Baltimore Sun)

The previous summer in New York City, a diplomatic crisis began after a few good men carrying the spirit of Bree Newsome climbed the mast of a similar ship, the Bremen, and threw its red swastika flag into the Hudson before anyone could stop them.

The Emden protest, Thames Street (Baltimore Sun)

During their stay in Baltimore, the crew of the Emden are treated with extraordinary hospitality from city leaders and from the German-American community here. Besides an official welcome from the mayor, thousands of Baltimoreans come to Fells Point over several days to see the blue-eyed boys of the Kriegsmarine and tour the ship. “Girls crowded among the sailors getting autographs and giggling over language difficulties,” the Sun reports, “while older visitors, most of them speaking German, chatted with the crew and took many of them in tow for entertainments ashore.”

The Emden docked in Fells Point. (Baltimore Sun)

In the evenings, the sailors are the toast of German Baltimore, the guests of honor at receptions and balls at the Vorwaerts Hall on West Lexington Street, the Germania Club, and the Lehmann Hall. During the day little groups split off to tour the city: They take in an Orioles game, field a soccer team to scrimmage against some locals, attend German-American gymnastics shows and singing recitals and luncheons and the cornerstone-laying of the German Aged People's Home in Irvington. In Annapolis, the ship's captain shakes hands with the governor and sailors walk the grounds of the Naval Academy, surrounded by Mids who a few years later might do their best to drown them. On Sunday some of them go to Zion Church for Fritz Evers' service in German.

Opposition to the Emden had been mobilized from the jump: The mayor was inundated with pleas to refuse an official welcome, but he insisted that anything less would be impolite. Rabbi Edward L. Israel probably got to closer point when he postulated that the mayor's decision boiled down to “a question of figuring out by which action one would gain or lose more votes.”

Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in the year of the Emden's visit (Baltimore Sun)

Forty thousand leaflets were prepared in advance of the rally on April 22, and that was before Twitter or a FedEx Office downtown. The organizers come from a wide coalition of anti-fascist and civil rights groups, churches, and labor unions 28-year-old Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP is one of them, so is the head of the Urban League, Edward S. Lewis, and the MICA-trained painter Mervin Jules. And so is Angela Bambace, organizer of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in Baltimore, a lifelong champion of working people and civil rights.

Brazilian-born, New York-raised union organizer Angela Bambace, shown at her desk in Baltimore, 1968. (Baltimore Sun)

Police arrest only one person during the protest: a German-American from Clifton Avenue named Joseph Muller, brought in for disorderly conduct as the police advance on the crowd to keep the anti-Nazis far away from the ship.

We're with the German People—Against Hitler
Don't Let It Happen Here
Congratulations on Destroying Democracy
Congratulations on Murdering Labor Leaders
Congratulations on Persecuting Minorities
Congratulations on Burning the Books

When the ship leaves 10 days later for Montreal and then Spain, the captain issues a statement of thanks to the city:

“We leave Baltimore with the sincere wish that our German-American friends and all the people of Baltimore may look forward to a happy future.”

The Hindenburg as seen from Redwood Street, named German Street before World War I (Baltimore Sun)

It's a Saturday afternoon and Baltimoreans are shopping, laying bricks, picking crabs, sitting on their stoops, and looking for change in the street. At Oriole Park on Greenmount Avenue and 29th Street, the Baltimore Police Department's baseball team is warming up for a game against a squad of visiting cops from DC. Officer Koenig in left field, Hammen on first base, Graff on second, Schroll in right field, Swingler in center field, and Runge, Nuth, and Huff sharing the mound. And then—up in the air!—one of the strangest 15 minutes to ever pass in Baltimore begins as an 803-foot long, hydrogen-filled silver balloon called the Hindenburg appears low and slow over downtown, the gigantic Nazi swastikas on its tail higher than any Calvert-Baltimore family heraldry or star-spangled banner.

“Coming into view about 2:30 P.M.,” the Sun reports, “the Nazi Zeppelin swung twice around the city, straightened out after the second circle and pointed her nose toward Philadelphia.” After 15 minutes it was gone. In photographs from that day, the Hindenburg looks unreal, pasted-in, a UFO above Key Highway and then Charles Street, about to crash into the Bromo Seltzer Tower like a bullet incoming from the shiny Aryan future.

That same Saturday, Jesse Owens' right arm is cramping from signing too many autographs at the Olympics in Berlin. In Spain, “advisors” sent from the Wehrmacht are busy teaching their fascist counterparts in General Franco's army how to blitzkrieg.

Completed in March of 1936, the Hindenburg is a commercial liner and one of the Third Reich's greatest public relations tools. It made headlines in Baltimore wherever it went that spring and summer Carl G. Hilgenberg, owner of the Carr-Lowrey Glass Company in Cherry Hill and resident of Guilford, had taken it across the Atlantic with his family over the Fourth of July weekend. Included among its 50 or so passengers on Aug. 8 are Douglas Fairbanks, famous for playing Robin Hood in the movies, and the German boxer Max Schmeling, who had knocked out Joe Louis that June in a match cast as a proxy race war, a match that Langston Hughes remembered made grown men weep on Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Baltimore Police had spent the night of Schmeling's win responding to reports of street fights and general “disorder” across the city. In German neighborhoods, they rang bells and car horns and fired pistols into the morning, while “the Negro sections were comparatively quiet.”

Also that Saturday the 8th, the World Jewish Congress convenes in Geneva, Switzerland, “to consider the problems of Jewry.”

Rabbi Stephen S. Wise of New York, who had spoken in Baltimore many times, tells the assembly:

“If Hitlerism had been faced by the world when it was little more than an anti-Semitic election expedient, it is doubtful whether the entire civilized world would be called upon as today to face the ever-growing peril of the increasing barbaric power of Nazi Germany.”

He adds: “We need offer no explanation to the world of our reasons for meeting here. The world does not ask or have the right to ask.”

Sept. 22, 1936

At their home inside 2102 Maryland Ave., a few doors down from iBar, the parents of Dr. Randall Sollenberger open a letter from their son postmarked Spain. Randall is a graduate not just of the Boys' Latin School of Maryland but also of West Point and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Scotland, with a year at Johns Hopkins and another at the University of Vienna for good measure. Enclosed, Mr. and Mrs. Sollenberger find a photograph from a Barcelona newspaper that shows Randall with his Red Cross unit preparing to head to the front. “The workers of Spain are almost unarmed,” he writes them, “but we will win.”

The doctor whose parents lived on Maryland Avenue was one of several Baltimoreans who volunteered to help the Spanish Republic in its war against General Francisco Franco and his fascist allies, who went on to victory in 1939. “Out of sight, out of mind” was the official U.S. policy on the war, but Dr. Sollenberger went anyway. He may never have met Nicholas Doggendorf, who lived on Decatur Street in Locust Point Wesley Howard, a Kentuckian from Beauford Avenue near Pimlico Leopold Rivera, a Puerto Rican who lived on Spring Street north of Lombard Bernard Ades, a Jewish lawyer whose defense of an accused murderer on the Eastern Shore secured important legal precedents for black defendants in America or Charles Oliver Ross, who worked at Bethlehem Steel and was one of about 90 African-Americans who took up arms in Spain under the banner of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

Baltimoreans who read the Afro-American would have learned about the war from its correspondent Langston Hughes. Later, Hughes writes a poem in the voice of a black volunteer whose unit captures a wounded North African soldier conscripted against his will to fight for the fascist side:

As he lay there dying
In a village we had taken,
I looked across to Africa
And see'd foundations shakin'.
Cause if a free Spain wins this war,
The colonies, too, are free —
Then something wonderful'll happen
To them Moors as dark as me.

Dedicating the Luther Statue in Druid Hill Park. (Baltimore Sun)

Oct. 31, 1936

Local sculptor Hans Schuler and 7,999 others are in Druid Hill Park for the unveiling of a new statue of Martin Luther. (As of 2017, it stands across 33rd Street from Lake Montebello.) The mayor gives a short speech and Fritz Evers makes “a brief address in German.” Also present is a distant relative of the real Martin Luther, Dr. Hans Luther, Adolf Hitler's ambassador to the United States.

Money for the statue had been put up by Arthur Wallenhorst, a prominent German-American jeweler who three years earlier went to Germany and wrote back home with glowing reviews. Hitler “seems to be bringing the German people out of all their trouble,” he beamed. “The Jews in America would do better to keep their money in America, as they all seem to be doing fine here. … I can see improvements everywhere the German people say they now have something to look forward to they seem more contented than they have for many years they are all happy, with smiling faces. … Hitler's idea is a good one business is improving everywhere.”

Fritz Evers standing before an image of Martin Luther, whose 1543 treatise “On the Jews and Their Lies” was reprinted and widely circulated by Nazis (Baltimore Sun)

Just one year before the Luther statue, a monument to Italian-Americans' hero, Christopher Columbus, had been dedicated in Druid Hill Park with similar fanfare. Baltimore's Italian community is grappling with fascism, too in 1928, for example, the Italian consul opened a school on Stiles Street in Little Italy to train local boys in the Balilla movement, Benito Mussolini's equivalent of the Hitler Youth. The day of the Columbus statue's dedication in Druid Hill Park —Columbus Day, 1935—was celebrated in New York City with actual street violence between anti-fascists and supporters of Mussolini. But in Baltimore in 1935 and 1936, city leaders know how to sooth a group of people whose loyalties seem just a little up in the air: Let 'em have a statue. It works around here—a little more than a decade later, the Lee-Jackson Monument would go up in Wyman Park.

Nov. 27, 1936

If you take a ruler and draw a straight line from Baltimore across the Atlantic Ocean, you reach a city called Alicante on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. It's a Friday afternoon and the people of Alicante are shopping, laying bricks, eating paella, sitting on their terraces, and looking for pesetas in the street when they notice a German sailor wandering around their city holding a camera. He's come ashore from the Emden, one of those same blue-eyed boys who wined and dined at the Lehmann Hall last May.

The next night, a correspondent reports, “planes coming from the sea started to fly over Alicante, dropping bombs with remarkable accuracy. Obviously they knew the exact positions of oil and gasoline depots….”

“OH, THE HUMANITY!” cries the radio announcer as the Hindenburg bursts into flames above the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey. It's a miracle that there are survivors at all, and a smaller miracle that it doesn't happen above Glen Burnie: Reps from the German Zeppelin Transport Company had been talking to the mayor of Baltimore and local officials about making the Hindenburg's new docking spot somewhere around Marley Creek. “Listen, folks,” says the announcer. “I—I'm gonna have to stop for a minute because I've lost my voice. This is the worst thing I've ever witnessed.”

July 26, 1937

Deciding to ignore the Red Cross emblems, a sniper for the fascist side of the Spanish Civil War ends Dr. Randall Sollenberger's life today as he tends to a wounded man along the road between Villanueva and Quijorna. And so, no more letters come to 2102 Maryland Avenue.

Charles Scarpello, who lived near what is today the Smile Carryout at the corner of Harford Road and Cliftview Avenue, arrives back from Spain in April, 1938 with a silver watch lifted from the corpse of one of General Franco's finest. As a sailor Scarpello goes on to survive the torpedoing of two different ships by the Nazis during World War II. He dies at home in Timonium in 1991, having lived long enough to hear the judgment of one former B-movie actor that the Americans who went to Spain on behalf of the anti-fascist cause had “fought on the wrong side.” President Reagan said that in 1985, so Charles Scarpello lived long enough to think about it, too.

Sept. 6, 1937

At an Andover, New Jersey rally of the pro-Nazi German-American Bund, Baltimorean Donald Shea is in his element, whipping up the crowd in a cap that says “American Fascist.”

Shea is head of a Baltimore group called the National Gentile League that never amounts to anything, but the Bund has given him a big platform today. His call for Jewish businesses to be boycotted and Jews themselves to be deported from the United States gets massive cheers from the Jersey brownshirts. “The issue,” he tells them, “is Jewism versus gentilism, forced on us by a challenge of the Jews.”

Like at many of these rallies, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is sung. For the Bund, open goose-steppers, there is no contradiction in being a good American and a good fascist. “We stand fast for American principles, America for Americans,” says Fritz Kuhn, national leader of the Bund, who will later go to jail for subversion. “We are warring against the enemies of America.”

The swastika flies at German Day in Gwynn Oak Park, 1937. (Baltimore Sun)

Sept. 12, 1937

Swastika flags fly side by side with American ones at the biggest German Day yet recorded: 23,000 people at Gwynn Oak Park. Four years earlier the swastika was verboten, The Sun recalled, “but now it is tacitly accepted, being the official emblem of Germany.”

About one hundred in the crowd raise their arms in salute after singing the old Nazi anthem, the “Horst-Wessel-Lied.”

Raise the flag, stand rank on rank together
Storm troopers march with firm and valiant tread
Comrades gunned down by Red Front and reaction
March on in spirit, swelling our ranks

As always, the Attorney General of Maryland and the Baltimore State's Attorney talk like they're working the poles at Scores both “spoke of the law-abiding character of the German people, remarking that they have had no part in the lawlessness which has afflicted this nation from time to time.”

The Duchess of Windsor in Timonium, 1941 (Baltimore Sun)

Oct. 22, 1937

Today the Duchess of Windsor, formerly Bessie Wallis Warfield of 212 E. Biddle St., becomes probably the last person from Baltimore to shake Adolf Hitler's hand. Simpson and her husband, who likes her so much he gave up being the King of England just to marry her, meet Hitler at his headquarters in Bavaria, exchange pleasantries, and have tea. Her husband likes Hitler so much he's photographed on more than one occasion Sieg Heil'ing (and this was before cell phone cameras, so who knows how many times he really did it).

As the couple leaves, rumor has it Hitler sighs to some bastard that our Bessie “would have made a great queen.”

Max Schmeling knocked out Joe Louis that June. (Baltimore Sun)

June 22, 1938

At long last, possibly the most anticipated sporting event in American history up to this point or since: the Joe Louis - Max Schmeling rematch at Yankee Stadium.

Louis breaks the shit out of Schmeling.

Puts him up in the hospital for 10 days.

That night, according to reports, Chicago's South Side becomes “a sea of smiling faces” while Seventh Avenue in Harlem is “a solid mass of celebrants from one end to the other.”

Maya Angelou hears the fight at her family's general store in Stamps, Arkansas, and later remembers: “People drank Coca-Colas like ambrosia and ate candy bars like Christmas.”

In Baltimore, the German sections are comparatively quiet.

June 25, 1938

The Baltimore branch of the German-American League for Culture organizes itself tonight “to fight by all means the un-American activities of the German Nazi in the United States.”

The “law-abiding character of the German people” is on full display tonight across Germany as mobs smash and burn Jewish businesses, homes, and synagogues. Perhaps a hundred Jews are murdered outright and an unknown number raped 30,000 are rounded-up for concentration camps.

Two weeks later in Baltimore, organizers move a performance of the German Boys' Choir at Peabody to Zion Church after “recent events in Germany” leave them “fearing a demonstration or some other manifestation of anti-Nazi sentiment.”

Aug. 18, 1939

Knew it! After German-American Bund leader Fritz Kuhn testifies before Congress that a secret chapter of the group meets in Baltimore, the anti-Nazi German-American League for Culture tells it on the mountain to anyone who will show up for a meeting (and there aren't many).

Word is, there are four Nazi-sympathizing groups in the city and one of them must be the secret Bund. Everyone asked is tight-lipped. Maybe it's the similarly-named Kamaradschaftsbund that meets at the Deutsches Haus on the corner of Cathedral and Preston. “What if the Bund does have a secret chapter here,” one of their lot says. “It doesn't do America any harm.”

The truth about the Bund in Baltimore never quite comes out, but anyone who claims to know anything about it gets to meet a real-live FBI agent a few years later.

Not a good time to visit Poland: Cecilia Mecinski (Baltimore Sun)

Sept. 1, 1939

War in Europe begins as the Nazis invade Poland. Cecilia Mecinski, of 1974 Bel Air Road, says a fast farewell to relatives and grabs the last train from Warsaw to Riga that's not blown apart by German bombs. She makes it home safe.

The English poet W.H. Auden, who gives a reading one year later inside the church at Read and Cathedral, takes the date as the title for a poem that includes these lines:

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

April 7, 1940

Decked in swastikas, the Lehmann Hall hosts a crowd of 1,000 tonight to hear an address of the German consul, a flat-out propaganda speech delivered by the representative of a soon-to-be enemy nation in the heart of Baltimore. The Sun estimates half those present give the Nazi salute and shout “Sieg Heil” when called upon.

April 25, 1940

Evidently wanting to listen—wanting to be good allies, maybe—the German-American League for Culture invites local groups from the Scandinavian, Czechoslovak, and Polish communities to join them for a mass meeting to organize against Nazi sympathy in Baltimore.

“Only if the German-Americans show openly their love and loyalty for American democracy, only if the German-Americans are willing to work together with other minorities . . . will they succeed in counteracting the waves of hatred aroused against them because of Hitler's acts in Europe,” reads the meeting's announcement.

“If we German-Americans are not going to move in that direction, disavowing Hitler and all the evil he stands for, we will be acting as cowards without honor, and the American people, too, will justly charge us with having betrayed their hospitality.”

At the meeting three days later, the Scandinavians and Poles are nowhere to be found. Neither are the mayor and other expected guests of honor. One attendee says that several of the politicians invited had quietly told her “that they were afraid to take part in a German-sponsored meeting for fear of giving the impression they were pro-Nazi,” even though this is the main anti-Nazi German group in the city. One Danish group had already sent out a public notice making clear its members would have nothing to do with it.

For a meeting organized by Germans, hardly any of them show up either.

The camp at Fort Meade, Maryland where both POWs and “enemy aliens” were interned during World War II (Baltimore Sun)

Early this morning, the FBI and Department of Immigration launch a roundup across the city that nets 71 foreign-born Baltimoreans, some of them sent to the City Jail for safe keeping and others to locations undisclosed for questioning. Most of those taken in are Italians and Germans, including a local travel agent and German-language radio host who allegedly agreed to an offer from the Reich to spread Nazi propaganda on Baltimore airwaves. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor two days earlier yesterday America entered World War II.

The FBI also grabs Harry H. Sekine, manager of the I. Sekine Company's brush factory in Reservoir Hill. The factory employs 140 people, none of them Japanese save for him. For the 20 years Sekine has lived here, there have been no Japanese singing societies or baseball teams for him to join, no saké halls to frequent, no Japanese Days at Gwynn Oak Park, no conversation in his native language except at home on Wilkins Avenue. The FBI lets him go almost immediately but the factory isn't allowed to reopen until Christmas, when Sekine sees to it that his employees are paid back their lost wages in full. According to the company's lawyer, during the month of closure Sekine's workers “showed more concern for his fate than for their jobs.”

Harry Sekine lived with his wife, Cherry Blossom Sekine, until he died in Catonsville in 1975, too soon to see President Reagan sign the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that formally recognized the injustice of Japanese internment and began a program of reparations. And though he himself was spared the fate of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast during the war, that thought could never have been far from him as he lived out the rest of his life in Baltimore. Close, too, must have been the thought of what could have been if he had never left Japan in the first place. He must have wondered, now and again, what he had gotten himself into coming to a city like ours.

Next summer, the Reverend Fritz Evers will appear before a Federal Court in Hartford, Connecticut, after his name arises in the espionage-conspiracy case brought against his friend Kurt Molzahn, the pastor of Zion's sister church in Philadelphia. Molzahn had told an FBI informant that Evers was a good man to talk to if one wanted the ear of the German Embassy. Molzahn will spend three years in prison before his sentence is commuted by President Truman at the end of the war. Evers denies any wrongdoing and is never charged with a crime, but at the Sour Beef dinner at Zion Church last October, I didn't notice his portrait anywhere on the wall.

Roosevelt and Churchill: A Friendship That Saved The World

FDR and Churchill at the Casablanca Conference

June 1940. Britain and its new prime minister, Winston Churchill, stood alone as the last bastion against the Nazis and their domination of Europe. World War II had begun on September 1, 1939. In less than one year, the German war machine had engulfed Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, and France and was poised on the shores of the English Channel to invade Great Britain.

May 1940 witnessed the defeat of British and French forces by the Nazis at the Battle of Dunkirk. Despair and resignation about becoming yet another conquered nation began to spread among the people of Britain. Winston Churchill would have none of it. He raised the battle cry, giving one of the greatest speeches in history on June 4 in an effort to rally British spirits. He said, “Even though large tracts of Europe…have fallen or may fall into…all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be…” At the conclusion of the speech, he reportedly said to a colleague, “And we’ll fight them with the butt ends of broken beer bottles because that’s bloody well all we’ve got.” The German Luftwaffe air force began to rain bombs on London and nearby areas, hoping to force a quick surrender. British ships were being sunk regularly on the Atlantic Ocean.

As Britain stood alone, Churchill knew that the only hope for the nation’s survival and the rest of Europe lay in the hands of the president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR).

By 1940, FDR had been president for two terms. Historically, no other person who held that office had served for more than eight years. FDR was giving serious thought to running for an unprecedented third term mainly because of the events unfolding in Europe as well as in the Pacific, since the Japanese government had signed a pact with Germany and Italy. The relationship between the United States and Japan had grown tense after the Japanese began military aggression against China in 1938. The Japanese government had their eye on dominating the Chinese mainland and the Pacific Islands.

Living through World War I and the events leading up to it, FDR felt that US involvement in the current conflict was inevitable. It was just a matter of time. He wanted to be the commander-in-chief of the country when that occurred. While the British and Churchill were battling the Nazis over 3,000 miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean, FDR was fighting against the forces of isolationism that were gripping the American people. When FDR made the decision to run for the presidency in 1940, he promised the American people that the country would be kept out of war. He made no promises to Winston Churchill. Churchill wrote to FDR, after the November election, “…I prayed for your success…We are entering a somber phase of what must inevitably be a protracted and broadening war…” FDR gave no response. But he subtly engaged in preparing the American people for the possibility of future entrance into the conflict.

Less than two months after the presidential election, FDR addressed the American people through one of his radio fireside chats. It became known as his "Arsenal of Democracy" speech. He began by saying, “This is not a fireside chat on war. It is a talk about national security. If Great Britain goes down, the Axis powers will be in a position to bring enormous military and naval resources against this hemisphere.” Knowing that Americans were opposed to getting involved in the war, he focused on the importance of assisting the British, who were doing the fighting and keeping the Nazi threat away from our shores. FDR said, “We are the Arsenal of Democracy. Our national policy is to keep war away from this country.” The implication was that the best way to accomplish this was to send military aid to the country that was keeping the enemy at bay.

Beginning in March 1941, massive amounts of military supplies, including ships and planes, were given to Great Britain under FDR’s Lend-Lease program. Nine months later, on December 7, 1941, Japanese war planes attacked the American fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The United States immediately declared war at that point, Winston Churchill and the British people were convinced the world would now be saved.

During the course of the war, FDR and Churchill met on several occasions to plan war strategy. The British prime minister visited the United States four times between 1941 and 1944. Some of these meetings were at FDR’s home in Hyde Park. Arguably, the most historically significant of these was held in the study at President Roosevelt’s home on September 14, 1944. In that small room, FDR and Churchill initialed a document called the Hyde Park Aide Memoire that outlined the collaboration between the United States and Great Britain in the development of an atomic bomb, then called Tube Alloys and later known as the Manhattan Project. In the document, it was stated that this project would be kept secret, especially from the Russians, and included the possibility of using the bomb against the Japanese.

When FDR died in office on April 12, 1945, Winston Churchill wrote, “It is cruel that he will not see the Victory which he did so much to achieve.” The war in Europe ended in May of that year. The war with Japan concluded in August after FDR’s successor, President Harry Truman, decided to use the atomic bomb against the Japanese to help shorten the war.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill forged a bond that surmounted what seemed an unsurmountable enemy and saved the world. In his eulogy to the president, the British prime minister said, "In FDR there died the greatest American friend we have ever known.”

Nazi Germany Quotes

Not knowing the title of this bureaucrat, I addressed him incorrectly as Meine Herrschaften. With this silly fabricated title, I simply tried to explain to him that the corporal was a brave Frontsoldat. My efforts were in vain since he was intent on finding out the corporal’s name, and my stalling only made matters worse. “What’s his name?” he shouted again and again, this time hitting my breasts and punching me in the stomach, which caused me to vomit all over the floor. It didn’t matter to him that my husband was a German soldier fighting for das Vaterland. He continued to beat me and threatened to put me into the terrible prison camp at Schirmeck. Having passed by there recently, the crying and moaning sounds from inside the gates of this prison were still very vivid in my mind. He reached for his telephone and said, “With one call you’ll be there if you don’t answer me!” “Please, I won’t be able to live with myself if I’m the cause of an innocent person’s death,” I sobbed. I remember him saying, “I remember you! You’re the woman from Bischoffsheim who helped with the kindergarten class and did the art work there. You have two little girls, don’t you?” How could this man know so much about me? He continued his threats by saying that he would beat my little girls at 3 o’clock every afternoon in the Village center, until I gave him the names he wanted. I formed a mental image of this cruel act, however in spite of this, I firmly told him that I would never talk and that the only Etappenhase was the man standing in front of me. The last thing I can remember was him using the telephone to hit me. His last blow struck me above my right eye…. With this I fell down into my own vomit and lost consciousness!&rdquo
― Captain Hank Bracker

&ldquoAntanas eased up on the accelerator and pulled the truck onto the shoulder. The sound of the soldiers' footsteps crunching in the snow made Maria sit up straight. The truck had driven about thirty metres past the patrol, but none of the soldiers had fired upon them. Antanas hoped fervently that the transport documents that Peter had furnished him would pass inspection. Maria reached down and touched a metal pipe concealed beneath her seat. She was prepared to use it.

Jadwyga continued to pray quietly. "Mother Mary, spare me, Maria, and the other women from rape, and Antanas from death."

As a sergeant approached the truck, Jadwyga's stomach cramped, sweat broke out on her forehead, and her arms began to shake. Then she fainted. Maria propped Jadwyga up to make it look as though she was sleeping, and then smiled at the sergeant who was rapping on the glass.

Antanas rolled down his window.&rdquo
― Mark Creedon, Caught Between Two Devils

Nazi Germany 1933-1939: Early Stages of Persecution

The Swastika’s Origins

My Jewish Learning is a not-for-profit and relies on your help

&ldquoPropaganda tries to force a doctrine on the whole people&hellip Propaganda works on the general public from the standpoint of an idea and makes them ripe for the victory of this idea.&rdquo Adolf Hitler wrote these words in his book Mein Kampf (1926), in which he first advocated the use of propaganda to spread the ideals of National Socialism&mdashamong them racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Bolshevism.

Following the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Hitler established a Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda headed by Joseph Goebbels. The Ministry&rsquos aim was to ensure that the Nazi message was successfully communicated through art, music, theater, films, books, radio, educational materials and the press.

Propaganda slide (circa 1933-1939) entitled &lsquoThe Jewish spirit undermines the healthy powers of the German people.&rsquo (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Marion Davy)

There were several audiences for Nazi propaganda. Germans were reminded of the struggle against foreign enemies and Jewish subversion. During periods preceding legislation or executive measures against Jews, propaganda campaigns created an atmosphere tolerant of violence against Jews, particularly in 1935 (before the Nuremberg Race Laws of September) and in 1938 (prior to the barrage of anti-Semitic economic legislation following Kristallnacht). Propaganda also encouraged passivity and acceptance of the impending measures against Jews, as these appeared to depict the Nazi government as stepping in and &ldquorestoring order.&rdquo

Real and perceived discrimination against ethnic Germans in east European nations which had gained territory at Germany&rsquos expense following World War I, such as Czechoslovakia and Poland, was the subject of Nazi propaganda. This propaganda sought to elicit political loyalty and so-called race consciousness among the ethnic German populations. It also sought to mislead foreign governments &mdash including the European Great Powers &mdash that Nazi Germany was making understandable and fair demands for concessions and annexations.

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Nazi propaganda stressed to both civilians at home and to soldiers, police officers, and non-German auxiliaries serving in occupied territory themes linking Soviet Communism to European Jewry, presenting Germany as the defender of &ldquoWestern&rdquo culture against the &ldquoJudeo-Bolshevik&rdquo threat and painting an apocalyptic picture of what would happen if the Soviets won the war. This was particularly the case after the catastrophic German defeat at Stalingrad in February 1943. These themes may have been instrumental in inducing Nazi and non-Nazi Germans as well as local collaborators to fight on until the very end.

Films in particular played an important role in disseminating racial anti-Semitism, the superiority of German military power, and the intrinsic evil of the enemies as defined by Nazi ideology. Nazi films portrayed Jews as &ldquosubhuman&rdquo creatures infiltrating Aryan society. For example, The Eternal Jew (1940), directed by Fritz Hippler, portrayed Jews as wandering cultural parasites, consumed by sex and money. Some films, such as The Triumph of the Will (1935) by Leni Riefenstahl, glorified Hitler and the National Socialist movement. Two other Riefenstahl works, Festival of the Nations and Festival of Beauty (1938), depicted the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games and promoted national pride in the successes of the Nazi regime at the Olympics.

Newspapers in Germany, above all Der Stürmer (The Attacker), printed cartoons that used anti-Semitic caricatures to depict Jews. After the Germans began World War II with the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the Nazi regime employed propaganda to impress upon German civilians and soldiers that the Jews were not only subhuman, but also dangerous enemies of the German Reich. The regime aimed to elicit support, or at least acquiescence, for policies aimed at removing Jews permanently from areas of German settlement

Propaganda slide (circa 1936) entitled &lsquoThe Jews Have Always Been Race Defilers.&rdquo (US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

During the implementation of the so-called Final Solution, the mass murder of European Jews, SS officials at killing centers compelled the victims of the Holocaust to maintain the deception necessary to deport the Jews from Germany and occupied Europe as smoothly as possible. Concentration camp and killing center officials compelled prisoners, many of whom would soon die in the gas chambers, to send postcards home stating that they were being treated well and living in good conditions. Here, the camp authorities used propaganda to cover up atrocities and mass murder.

In June 1944, the German Security Police permitted an International Red Cross team to inspect the Theresienstadt (Terezin) camp-ghetto, located in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (now in the Czech Republic). The SS and police had established Theresienstadt in November 1941 as an instrument of propaganda for domestic consumption in the German Reich. The camp-ghetto was used as an explanation for Germans who were puzzled by the deportation of German and Austrian Jews who were elderly, disabled war veterans, or locally known artists and musicians &ldquoto the East&rdquo for &ldquolabor.&rdquo In preparation for the 1944 visit, the ghetto underwent a &ldquobeautification&rdquo program. In the wake of the inspection, SS officials in the Protectorate produced a film using ghetto residents as a demonstration of the benevolent treatment the Jewish &ldquoresidents&rdquo of Theresienstadt supposedly enjoyed. When the film was completed, SS officials deported most of the &ldquocast&rdquo to the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center.

The Nazi regime used propaganda effectively to mobilize the German population to support its wars of conquest until the very end of the regime. Nazi propaganda was likewise essential to motivating those who implemented the mass murder of the European Jews and of other victims of the Nazi regime. It also served to secure the acquiescence of millions of others &mdash as bystanders &mdash to racially targeted persecution and mass murder.

Reprinted with permission from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum&rsquos Holocaust Encyclopedia.

51 Powerful Propaganda Posters And The People Behind

War Propaganda Posters are well known. But at its core, it is a mode of communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position, and that doesn&rsquot have to be a bad thing. Although propaganda is often used to manipulate human emotions by displaying facts selectively, it can also be very effective at conveying messages and hence can be used in web design, too.

Notice that propaganda uses loaded messages to change the attitude toward the subject in the target audience. When applied to web design, you may experiment with techniques used in propaganda posters and use them creatively to achieve a unique and memorable design.

Further Reading on SmashingMag:

In this article, we look at various types of propaganda posters and the people behind it, people who are rarely seen next to their work. You will also see how the drive for propaganda shaped many of the modern art movements we see today. Notice that this post is more than an ultimate showcase of propaganda artists. Something or somebody is missing? Please let us know in the comments to this post!

William Orpen: England, 1917

Orpen studied at the Slade School in London alongside the likes of Augustus John and Wyndham Lewis. He produced some of his best work while at the school and became known for his portraits. A friend of Orpen then arranged for him to paint the pictures of senior military officials, such as Lord Derby and Churchill. In 1917, he was recruited by the government&rsquos head of War Propaganda to the Western front to paint images of war-torn France. It was there that Orpen painted his most famous piece, &ldquoDead Germans in a Trench.&rdquo

Dimitri Moor: Russia, 1917–1921

Dimitri Moor (or Dmitry Stakhievich Orlov) changed the face of graphic design in Soviet Russia back in 1918. His work dominated both the Bolshevik Era (1917–1921) and the New Economic Policy (1921–1927). The main theme of Moor&rsquos work is the stark contrast between the oppressive evil and the heroic allies. A lot of pressure was put on Russian workers to rise up against imperialism.

A lot of Moor&rsquos artwork was restricted to black and red. Black was generally used for the main part of the poster, and all of the solid colors for the capitalists. Red was used for socialist elements such as flags and workers&rsquo shirts.

This is a lesser known poster by the artist, appealing for help for those staving from the Russian famine in 1920. It features the single word &ldquoPomogi,&rdquo meaning help. The drawing is of an old man who is just skin and bone. The last stalks of barley are barely visible in the background.

El Lissitzky: Russia, 1920

El Lissitzky spent his whole career absorbed by the belief that the artist could be an agent for change and good, and his work in a lot of respects shows this. He himself was a huge agent of change in the artistic movements of the time. He was one of the fathers of suprematism, along with Kazimir Malevich and along with many of his peers, he changed the look of typography, exhibition design, photo montage and book cover design. Most of the modern techniques we see today and that appear in film and modern Kenetic typography are the product of Lissitzky&rsquos work.

Beat the Whites With the Red Wedge, 1920

One of his most famous pieces, shown below, really embodies Lissitzky&rsquos work. It is so avant garde that even a lay person could recognize the style. The abstract geometric shapes and clear color pallet scream of modernist art, and yet the poster has a real message. It describes the Russian revolution that took place in 1917. The white circle represents the royalists from the old regime, and the red triangle represents the communists moving in and changing opinion. It has been described as a stylized battle plan for communist victory.

You might also recognize it from Franz Ferdinand&rsquos album cover:

Then in 1921, El Lissitzky accepted a job as the Russian cultural ambassador to Germany. His work influenced a lot of the iconic designs of the Bauhaus and De Stijil movements. His last poster, seen below, was a return to propaganda, with a poster encouraging the Russian people to help Russia build more tanks to win the war against Nazi Germany.

Strakhov Braslavskij: Russia, 1926

Braslavskij was known for his posters that promoted the emancipation of women. During this time in Russia, the idea of gender equality was growing. Emancipated women were seen to be supporters of the communist agenda, and so they needed to be freed from their so-called duties as wives and mothers.

The emancipation of women and the socialist movement went pretty much hand in hand. In the poster below, we see almost a confluence of the sexes. The woman is drawn somewhat androgynously, wearing masculine clothing that hides her female figure, and a cold hard stare that hides her emotions. Behind her is her place of work, showing that women can do the same hard labor as men, and she carries the red flag of the communist movement.

The curious thing is that the image shows not so much the emancipation of women as it does a way to turn women into men, dressing them in men&rsquos clothing, showing them as working in factories, and hiding their femininity. It seems the real reason to emancipate women was simply to increase the workforce and thus strengthen the communist movement.

Hans Schweitzer: Germany, 1930s

In Germany in the 1930s, propaganda was in full swing and being used by Hitler&rsquos advisers to call the German people to arms and spread lies about the Jews. One of the most famous artists behind Nazi propaganda was Hans Schweitzer, known as &ldquoMjolnir.&rdquo This poster by Hans Schweitzer shows the typical pro-Nazi theme of the German army&rsquos strength, depicting an S.A. man standing next to a solider. The text reads, &ldquoThe guarantee of German military strength!&rdquo

This next poster by Mjolnir, titled &ldquoOur Last Hope: Hitler&rdquo was used in the presidential elections of 1932, when Germany was suffering through its great depression. Nazi propagandists targeted the German people who were unemployed and living on the breadline, and they suggested Hitler as their way out, their savior.

The propaganda then used the scapegoat of the Jews, blaming them for all of Germany&rsquos problems and the war. Many posters were entitled, &ldquoHe is guilty for the war.&rdquo This was the key message of Hitler to start his campaign of terror and for the ethnic cleansing that ensued. Almost the entire campaign from beginning to end was driven by the artist Mjolnir. Just as the media molds public opinion today, Mjolnir most definitely molded the opinion of the German people through his designs. There is no doubts about the immorality and emotional deception of these designs they are still worth mentioning because they were extremely powerful and effective at the time.

Valentina Kulagina: Russia, 1930

Kulagina was one of the few female poster artists to emerge from the 20th century. Her art was heavily influenced by suprematism, and you can see the similarity between her work and that of El Lissitzky. This poster, called &ldquoTo Defend USSR&rdquo was created by Kulagina in 1930. It takes a cubist perspective in its multi-dimensional shapes, and it shows the Red army as huge almost robotic figures, marching from the factories to fight the war. They are surrounded by the tiny white airplanes of the royalists, which appear to have no effect on them at all and in fact seem to be flying through the figures.

Phillip Zec: England, 1930

Phillip Zec was probably best known for his depictions of Nazis as snakes and vultures. At the time, Nazis were usually drawn as bumbling clowns or buffoons. But Zec brought out the more sinister side of the German regime in his drawings. Hitler reportedly hated Zec so much that he added him to his black list and ordered his arrest following the invasion of Britain. He blamed Zec&rsquos Jewish ancestry for his extreme ideas.

This poster by Zec was a call for women to join the war effort by working in the munitions factories.

This ugly toad is former Prime Minister of France Pierre Laval, who decided to work closely with the Nazi command during World War II.

This illustration is about the French Resistance, telling Hitler that it was very much alive.

Gino Boccasile: Italy, 1930

Gino Boccasile was a supporter of Benito Mussolini and produced a lot of propaganda for him. His posters became increasingly racist and anti-semitic as his support for the German puppet state increased. After the war, Boccasile was sent to prison for collaborating with the fascist regime. The only work he could find after his release from prison was as a pornographic artist and working in advertising for Paglieri cosmetics and Zenith footwear.

He became well known for his advertising and pornography.

Pablo Picasso: Spain, 1937

Picasso painted Guernica in response to the bombing of the town by Germany and Italy, which were following orders from Spanish Nationalist forces, on 26 April 1937. It must be said that it was commissioned to Picasso long before the bombing of the town und was supposed to be a classic painting first after the bombings, Picasso changed his drawing to respond to the recent bombing. The giant mural shows the tragedy of war, using innocents civilians as the focal point. It became a huge symbol of anti-war, and upon completion it was exhibited worldwide to spread the message. The piece also educated other countries about the horror of the Spanish Civil War, which till then most people had never heard of.

Norman Rockwell: US, 1939

Norman Rockwell is probably one of the best known of the propoganda movement. He admitted that he was just a propaganda stooge for the Saturday Evening Post. The newspaper paid many artists and illustrators to whitewash American news with patriotism and propaganda for around 50 years.

His work has often been dismissed as idealistic or sentimental. His depiction of American life included young boys running away from a &ldquoNo swimming&rdquo sign, and happy-go-lucky US citizens going about their business unaware of the crumbling world around them.

Rockwell&rsquos famous Rosie the Riveter poster is shown below, representing the American women who worked in the munitions and war supplies factories during World War II. This was a call to arms for the women of America to become strong capable females and support the war effort.

J. Howard Miller&rsquos &ldquoWe Can Do It!,&rdquo commonly mistaken to depict Rosie the Riveter, conveyed the same message:

Rockwell was always unhappy with the politics of the Saturday Evening Post, so in his later years, he took up the controversial subject of racism in America. He became respected as a painter for these hard-hitting pieces of American culture, much more so than for his work for the Saturday Evening Post. The piece below is called &ldquoThe Problem We All Live With.&rdquo It is not known whether this painting is based solely on the Ruby Bridges story, because it was also thought that the idea came from John Steinbeck&rsquos book Travels With Charley.

The subject was the integration of black children in American schools. Little Ruby Bridges was filmed making her way into the William Franz School at 8:40 am. At this time, a gigantic crowd of 150 white women and male youth had gathered. They threw tomatoes and shouted vile comments at the tiny girl. It is hard to look at this picture without being affected.

Xu Ling: China, 1950

It is hard to find details on these Chinese artists, but we can focus on what they intended to convey with their artwork. This piece is a caricature of the American commander in Korea at that time, General MacArthur. It shows the US as an aborrent evil, and Macarthur is shown stabbing a Korean mother and child. Bombs labeled US are being dropped on cities in China in the background as the US invades Korea.

Ye Shanlu (. ): China, 1952

Again, little is known of the artist, but we do know this piece told people to get immunized against any epidemics to combat germ warfare. The Chinese were convinced that the US was planning to use bacterial weaponry against them, so they set about organizing massive inoculation drives to protect the Chinese people.

Ning Hao: China, 1954

Along the lines of Rosie the Riveter, this Ning Hao piece reflects women being asked to work in the factories alongside men, partially to support their emancipation, but mostly to increase the labor force in China.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Ireland, 1968

Jim Fitzpatrick was a well-known Irish Celtic artist of his time, but he is probably best known for his Che Guevara poster in 1968. It is said that Fitzpatrick took the death of the revolutionary personally. He had once met him when Guevara flew into Ireland in 1963 and checked into the Marine Hotel pub in Kilkee. Fitzpatrick was only a teenager at the time and had been working there over the summer. The poster became a global icon during the anti-Vietnam war protests and is now the symbol of F.A.R.C. in Columbia, a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization, which is involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict. Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN), a revolutionary group based in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, uses this symbol as well.

The image was also used during the violent Paris student riots in 1968. Across the rest of the West, the Marxist Che Guevara image is overused by any kid suffering from teenage angst.

Huynh Van Thuan: Vietnam, 1972

I could not find any information about Huynh Van Thuan, but I found this piece reminiscent of 1960s movie posters about the Vietnam war and so decided to include it.

Micah Ian Wright: US, 2003

After Micah Wright graduated, he worked a while for Nickelodeon and wrote for The Angry Beavers cartoon. Then in 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq, Micah published his anti-war protest book. The book was filled with satires of old war propaganda posters that Micah had reprinted with modern war messages.

Brian Lane Winfield Moore: US, 2009

Brain Moore is a modern propaganda artist who exhibits his work on his blog. He lives in Brooklyn and is probably best known for his promotion of net neutrality and his work during the 2009 Iranian election protests. The posters are based on old WWII propaganda posters but updated in their message to match today&rsquos technology and Web culture.

This poster was a comment on the 2009 Iran election protests. He borrowed the old &ldquoloose lips&rdquo refrain and replaced it with tweets.

This next one was about the proposed Internet regulation that would supposedly curb illegal activities on the &lsquonet and help fight the &ldquowar on terror.&rdquo

Unknown artist: UK, 2010

I could not identify the artist behind this one but had to include it for its clever use of old Tory values and the play on the Scooby Doo gang&rsquos unveiling of the monster. The Tory party now occupies 10 Downing Street, and David Cameron is now Prime Minister of United Kingdom. This poster shows the lack of faith in Cameron&rsquos promise to be a force for change and not just another Thatcher.

Last Click

Nick Griffin is not an artist, he is the chairman of the British National Party (BNP). Just as most other national parties across the globe, BNP is a good example of propaganda techniques being used to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. BNP has used them to build their hate-filled ranks for years. BNP is extremely good at speaking to people in plain, emotional language and affecting those who experience personal problems and want to find someone who can be blamed for these problems.

Just like many other national parties, BNP is blaming foreigners for these problems and uses strong religious metaphors to deliver the message. Very powerful, yet extremely unethical. This is an example of propaganda being used to manipulate people in a very deceptive, unfair manner.

Related Articles

The Holocaust: Facts and figures

Holocaust facts: Prominent museums, archives and research institutions

Merkel first German chancellor to visit Dachau

Where did the number six million come from? And considering the amount of original research that has been done in recent decades, is it still considered accurate by scholars of the subject?

The number seems to have first been mentioned by Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl, an Austrian-born official in the Third Reich and a trained historian who served in a number of senior positions in the SS.

In November 1945, Hoettl testified for the prosecution in the Nuremberg trials of accused Nazi war criminals. Later, in the 1961 trial in Israel of Adolf Eichmann, he also submitted to a lengthy series of questions from the prosecution, speaking under oath from a courtroom in Austria.

On both occasions, he described a conversation he had had with Eichmann, the SS official who had principal responsibility for the logistics of the Jewish genocide, in Budapest in August 1944. In the 1961 testimony, Hoettl recalled how &ldquoEichmann &hellip told me that, according to his information, some 6,000,000 Jews had perished until then -- 4,000,000 in extermination camps and the remaining 2,000,000 through shooting by the Operations Units and other causes, such as disease, etc.&rdquo

On its website, Yad Vashem, Israel&rsquos principal Holocaust research center, quotes the Eichmann reference, and then says that both early and more recent estimates by a variety of different scholars have fallen between five and six million.

Such estimates are arrived at by comparing pre-war census data with population estimates made after World War II. The Germans, though they treated their plan for annihilation of the Jews as a state secret of the highest order, also kept scrupulous records of deportations and gassings, which also serve as a vital source of data.

One of the earliest researchers, Raul Hilberg, came up with a figure of 5.1 million in his 1961 classic &ldquoThe Destruction of the European Jews.&rdquo In the third edition, from 1985, he provides a lengthy appendix explaining how he calculated the estimate.

Lucy Dawidowicz, in her &ldquoThe War Against the Jews&rdquo (1975), used prewar birth and death records to come up with a more precise figure of 5,933,900. And one of the more authoritative German scholars of the subject, Wolfgang Benz, offered a range of 5.3 to 6.2 million. Each used his or her own method to arrive at the totals.

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Yad Vashem itself also has its Names Database, an ongoing project in which it attempts to collect the name of every Jewish victim of the Nazis. It relies on testimony from family and friends of those who perished, official archives from the period, and local commemoration projects. As of early 2012, Yad Vashem estimated that the database contained the names of a little over four million different individuals (an exact number is not yet possible because it believes that some hundreds of thousands of people appear in multiple records).

Beyond comprehension

One of the largest sources of uncertainty concerns the number of Jews murdered in the Soviet Union. Whereas the Jews of the countries of Europe occupied by the Germans were for the most part deported to death camps, where fairly good records were kept, the murders in the USSR were carried out by Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units), as the German army made its way east. Their records were far less comprehensive, so that it is possible only to make a rough estimate of the numbers of Jews killed &ndash generally between 800,000 and 1 million.

The overall death and destruction that took place during World War II may well be beyond human comprehension. Historians estimate that military casualties on all sides, in both the European and Pacific theaters, reached up to 25 million, and that civilian casualties ranged from 38 million to as high a figure as 55 million &ndash meaning that somewhere between 3 and 4 percent of the world&rsquos total population died in the conflict.

Nonetheless, the murder of the Jews of Europe is in a class by itself &ndash not because of the numbers, but because of the ideology behind it, which placed the elimination of an entire people and their culture from the earth as one of its primary goals. It was unique because Nazi propaganda focused so intently on the Jews as an almost supernatural cause of evil, and the German war machine remained devoted to killing Jews up to the very last day of the war, long after it was clear that that war was lost.

That is to say: Murdering the Jews was an end in itself, and it was used to motivate the German nation to great sacrifices of its own.

That being said, there were other groups and peoples that were singled out by Nazi eliminationist ideology. Most notable among these were the Roma, or Gypsies, with estimates of the number killed ranging from 90,000 to 1.5 million. (One reason estimates vary so widely is attributed to a traditional secrecy and silence among the Roma regarding what they endured.) Proportionally, these numbers are as high or higher than the fraction of Jews who were killed. But it was the nomadic way of life, rather than their supposed racial background &ndash which was Aryan &ndash that made them enemies of the regime. And indeed, by late 1943, Nazi policy centered upon non-sedentary nomadic Gypsies, and declared those Roma who had settled in a single place to be considered like citizens of that place.

&ldquoSix million&rdquo is not, and was never intended to be, a precise accounting. But the number, which has now been part of the public consciousness for more than 50 years, would never have continued to be cited if it did not mirror the scholarly tallies that have followed in the succeeding decades, and confirmed that rough figure.


The German Resistance movement consisted of several disparate political and ideological strands, which represented different classes of German society and were seldom able to work together – indeed for much of the period there was little or no contact between the different strands of resistance. A few civilian resistance groups developed, but the Army was the only organisation with the capacity to overthrow the government, and from within it a small number of officers came to present the most serious threat posed to the Nazi regime. Γ] The Foreign Office and the Abwehr (Military Intelligence) also provided vital support to the movement. Δ] But many of those in the military who ultimately chose to seek to overthrow Hitler had initially supported the regime, if not all of its methods. Hitler's 1938 purge of the military was accompanied by increased militancy in the Nazification of Germany, a sharp intensification of the persecution of Jews, and daring foreign policy exploits, bringing Germany to the brink of war and it was at this time that the German Resistance emerged. Ε]

The Resistance members were motivated by such factors as the mistreatment of Jews, harassment of the churches, and the harsh actions of Himmler and the Gestapo. Ζ] In his history of the German Resistance, Peter Hoffmann wrote that "National Socialism was not simply a party like any other with its total acceptance of criminality it was an incarnation of evil, so that all those whose minds were attuned to democracy, Christianity, freedom, humanity or even mere legality found themselves forced into alliance. ". Η]

One strand was the underground networks of the banned Social Democrats (SPD) and (KPD), such as the SPD activist Julius Leber, who was an active resistance figure. There was also resistance from the anarcho-syndicalist union, the Freie Arbeiter Union (FAUD) that distributed anti-Nazi propaganda and assisted people in fleeing the country. ⎖] Another group, the Red Orchestra (Rote Kapelle), consisted of anti-fascists, communists, and an American woman. The individuals in this group began to assist their Jewish friends as early as 1933.

Another strand was resistance came from members of the Christian churches, Catholic and Protestant. Their stance was symbolically significant. The Churches, as institutions, did not openly advocate for the overthrow of the Nazi state, but they remained one of the very few German institutions to retain some independence from the state, and were thus able to continue to co-ordinate a level of opposition to Government policies. They resisted the regime's efforts to intrude on ecclesiastical autonomy, but from beginning, a minority of clergymen expressed broader reservations about the new order, and gradually their criticisms came to form a "coherent, systematic critique of many of the teachings of National Socialism". ⎗] Some priests - such as the Jesuits Alfred Delp and Augustin Rösch and the Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer - were active and influential within the clandestine German Resistance, while figures such as Protestant Pastor Martin Niemöller (who founded the Confessing Church), and the Catholic Bishop August von Galen (who denounced Nazi euthanasia and lawlessness), offered some of the most trenchant public criticism of the Third Reich - not only against intrusions by the regime into church governance and to arrests of clergy and expropriation of church property, but also to the fundamentals of human rights and justice as the foundation of a political system. ⎘] Their example inspired some acts of overt resistance, such as that of the White Rose student group in Munich, and provided moral stimulus and guidance for various leading figures in the political Resistance. ⎙]

A third strand might be called the "unorganized resistance" individual Germans or small groups of people acting in defiance of government policies or orders, or in ways seen as subversive of the Nazi system. Most notably, these included a significant number of Germans who helped Jews survive the Nazi Holocaust by hiding them, obtaining papers for them or in others ways aiding them. More than 300 Germans have been recognised for this. ⎚] It also included, particularly in the later years of the regime, informal networks of young Germans who evaded serving in the Hitler Youth and defied the cultural policies of the Nazis in various ways.

Finally, there was the resistance network within the German Army, the Foreign Office and the Abwehr, the military intelligence organisation. These groups hatched conspiracies against Hitler in 1938 and again in 1939, but for a variety of reasons could not implement their plans. After the German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942, they contacted many army officers who were convinced that Hitler was leading Germany to disaster, although fewer who were willing to engage in overt resistance. Active resisters in this group were frequently drawn from members of the Prussian aristocracy.

Almost every community in Germany had members taken away to concentration camps. As early as 1935 there were jingles warning: "Dear Lord God, keep me quiet, so that I don't end up in Dachau." (It almost rhymes in German: Lieber Herr Gott mach mich stumm / Daß ich nicht nach Dachau komm.) [2]. "Dachau" refers to the Dachau concentration camp. This is a parody of a common German children's prayer, "Lieber Gott mach mich fromm, daß ich in den Himmel komm."

Life in Nazi-controlled Europe

What happened in May

On 10 May 1933, university students supported by the Nazi Party instigated book burnings of blacklisted authors across Germany.

On 1 May 1935, the German government issued a ban on all organisations of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Image courtesy of USHMM.

On 10 May 1940, German forces invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Luxembourg.

On 29 May 1942, the German authorities in France passed a law requiring Jews to wear the Star of David.

On 16 May 1944, inmates of the Gypsy camp in Auschwitz resisted the SS guards attempting to liquidate the camp.


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