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Victor Klemperer’s Diary Entry on the Impending Boycott of Jewish Businesses (March 31, 1933)

The picture of the world propagated by Hitler and the NSDAP interpreted the history of humankind as a constant, bitter struggle between superior and inferior races. The regime regarded Jews as the most dangerous enemy of the German people [Volk]. According to the Hitler government, Jewish “infiltration” had been poisoning the nation for a long time. They were therefore held accountable for Germany’s military, geopolitical, and economic weakness. Hitler took it as his personal historical duty to reverse what he saw as the biological pollution of the German Volk, and he aimed to eliminate its racial enemies, especially the Jews. Racial anti-Semitism quickly became the characteristic feature of the Nazi regime, which put all state and party institutions in the service of its racial politics. The first centrally-organized measure against Germany’s approximately 500,000 Jews – who, according to Hitler, were part of a destructive world conspiracy – was the countrywide boycott of Jewish stores and businesses organized by Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. This action also served to mollify the SA and NSDAP’s most impatient supporters, who were calling for a quick solution to the so-called Jewish question. The Dresden writer and philologist Victor Klemperer (1881-1960) was among those threatened by the new Nazi racial policy. Klemperer had been born into a Jewish family, but converted to Protestantism back in 1912. On account of his marriage to an “Aryan woman” and his service in the First World War, he enjoyed certain “privileges” during the Nazi period and was thus protected from the most dangerous measures employed in the state persecution of the Jews. (In 1935, however, he was "relieved" of his professorship at the Technical University of Dresden in accordance with the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service.) In the following excerpt from a diary entry dated March 31, 1933, Klemperer comments on the imminent boycott of Jewish shops and offers general impressions of the new realities of life in Germany.

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From I WILL BEAR WITNESS VOLS 1 & 2 by Victor Klemperer, translated by Martin Chalmers, copyright © 1998 by Martin Chalmers. Used by permission of Random House, Inc. For on line information about other Random House, Inc. books, and authors, see the Internet Web Site at http://www.randomhouse.com.


March 31, Friday evening

Ever more hopeless. The boycott begins tomorrow. Yellow placards, men on guard. Pressure to pay Christian employees two months salary, to dismiss Jewish ones. No reply to the impressive letter of the Jews to the President of the Reich and to the government. [ . . . ] No one dares make a move. The Dresden student body made a declaration today: United behind . . . and the honor of German students forbids them to come into contact with Jews. They are not allowed to enter the Student House. How much Jewish money went toward this Student House only a few years ago!

In Munich Jewish university teachers have already been prevented from setting foot in the university.

The proclamation and injunction of the boycott committee decrees "Religion is immaterial," only race matters. If, in the case of the owners of a business, the husband is Jewish, the wife Christian or the other way around, then the business counts as Jewish.

At Gusti Wieghardt's yesterday evening. The most depressed atmosphere. During the night at about three—Eva unable to sleep—Eva advised me to give notice on our apartment today, perhaps renting a part of it again. I gave notice today. The future is quite uncertain. [ . . . ]

On Tuesday at the new Universum cinema on Prager Strasse. Beside me a soldier of the Reichswehr, a mere boy, and his not very attractive girl. It was the evening before the boycott announcement. Conversation during an Alsberg advertisement. He: "One really shouldn't go to a Jew to shop." She: "But it's so terribly cheap." He: "Then it's bad and doesn't last." She, reflective, quite matter-of-fact, without the least pathos: "No, really, it's just as good and lasts just as long, really just like in Christian shops—and so much cheaper." He falls silent. When Hitler, Hindenburg, etc. appeared, he clapped enthusiastically. Later, during the utterly American jazz band film, clearly with a touch of Yiddish at points, he clapped even more enthusiastically.

The events of March 21 were shown, including passages from speeches, Hindenburg's proclamation laborious, his breath short, the voice of a very old man who is physically near the end. Hitler declaiming like a pastor. Goebbels looks uncommonly Jewish [ . . . ]. We saw a torchlight procession and a great deal of marching awakening Germany. Also Danzig with the swastika flag. [ . . . ]



Source of original German text: Victor Klemperer, Ich will Zeugnis ablegen bis zum letzen. Tagebücher 1933-1941. Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 1995, pp. 16-17.

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