Anti-Semitism in the Weimar Republic
A scapegoat for the loss of the war, losses of territory and the change of the political system was quickly found in the troubled postwar years: the Jews. Concepts such as “Jewish revolution”, “Jewish Bolshevism” and “Jewish republic” became crowd-pleasing political slogans. Antidemocratic and völkisch anti-Semitic groups enjoyed great popularity.
The “German National People's Party” (DNVP), established in 1918, and the “German Völkisch Defense and Protection League” (DSTB) especially stood out among them. They used stamps, flyers and handbills to bring anti-Semitic thought to every corner of Germany. Published in 1919, the German edition of the “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, a work of the Czarist secret police which propagated the thesis of a Jewish world conspiracy, sold several hundreds of thousands of copies. Anti-Semitism became radicalized.
The nascent NSDAP began campaigning against Jewish businesspeople, attacking prominent Jews and desecrating Jewish cemeteries und synagogues in Munich in 1921. The DSTB threatened violence and published lists of “vermin”. The DSTB was banned in most German states in 1922 following the assassination of Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau.
Anti-Semitic violence also appeared in segments of the population in the young Weimar Republic. As inflation caused the impoverishment of the middles class, unemployment and hardship, “Jewish speculators” were quickly identified as the culprits. Anti-Jewish riots erupted in 1923, above all in Berlin. Anti-Semitism was supported by white-collar workers and civil servants as well as groups of professionals that saw Jews as competitors: the independent middle class, merchants, small businesspeople and tradespeople, freelance academics and students.
Anti-Jewish violence subsided during the Weimar Republic’s calmer years between 1924 and 1928 but the conservative bourgeoisie’s silent ostracism of Jews did not. Anti-Semitism thrived again in the 1930s against the backdrop of the Great Depression and became a significant political phenomenon.
As the NSDAP rose, the DNVP intensified its anti-Semitic course: It excluded Jews from the party and started harsh anti-Semitic propaganda. When the NSDAP experienced success in elections, it restarted anti-Jewish attacks and boycotts, which were primarily incited by the SA. At the same time, a list of political actions against the Jews had been developed within the NSDAP as well. The Nazis’ terrorist attacks in the civil war-like phase of the summer of 1932 targeted Jews, too.
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