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Betty Scholem to her Son Gershom on the Situation in Germany (February-March 1933)

After Hitler was appointed chancellor, Jews in many German towns became the target of random violence carried out by members of the SA and the NSDAP. In addition, Jewish homes and stores were vandalized. But Betty Scholem foresaw little of the even more radical policies that the Nazis would soon implement to marginalize and eliminate Jews.

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Berlin, February 20, 1933

Dear children,

[ . . . ]

With us here, political changes appear first of all as a shock to business. This is, unfortunately, an old experience of ours. Business came to a standstill after Hitler became chancellor. Some people even canceled contracts retroactively, and Annchen Sussmann bought, of all things, a sack of flour! Phiechen asked whether it wouldn’t be wise to put something by. “Of course,” replied Erich. “A clever thing to do would be to get yourself fifty loaves of bread.” Each change in the cabinet almost automatically raises the specter of strikes and food shortages. Hitler blabbers incessantly on the radio, without saying anything positive. Though the ban on newspapers that only prattle is very positive indeed. There has also been a mass dismissal of republican-minded civil servants, from top to bottom: district magistrates, high police officials – they’re all being given the boot. Since all of these people will be entitled to full pensions, our civil service budget will only balloon again. Newspapers are not allowed to complain, even mildly. An Ullstein publication, a supplement of the Berliner Zeitung, was banned because it carried an article in its economic section claiming that the prevailing conditions here have thrown the stock market off! And the highly respected Catholic paper Germania also got closed down, even though it was closely allied with Herr von Papen. It goes without saying that the same fate befell the Communist papers. Soon we won’t have any other newspapers but the Nazi ones. Hitler does things with violence. For the time being, the Jews have nothing to fear. There are few Jews in the civil administration and the civil service, and special laws won’t be enacted so quickly. [ . . . ]

I went to see a marvelous production of Faust II, magnificent and sublime. It lasted from 7:00 to 11:45 P.M., and I sat through it without the least effort. I treated myself to a good seat: second balcony, first row.

We’re buried in snow, and with a bit of imagination I can envision the clouds surging up over the white rooftops to be mountains. It’s beautiful, even if the cold is awful. Why don’t I live in Santa Margherita, by the blue sea?!

Warmest kisses, Mum

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