The Jewish Community and Its Response to Jewish Businesses

The first reaction to the Nazi boycott of Jewish companies in Germany was, of course, a boycott. But this did little to save German Jewry from the advancing tide of National Fascism. On April 1, 1933 the first official boycott was declared by the Union of Jewish Communities of Germany. This came after several months of rumors and attacks on the German Jewish community, culminating with the storming and murder of the Jewish Ghetto in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Jewish Businesses

The Nazi boycott of Jewish firms in Germany was sparked by the anti-Jewish boycott, which was begun in March 1933, as an act of protection against the rise of the National Socialist Party into power. The Union of Jewish Communities of Germany declared the immediate termination of all Jewish firms in Germany. This, it was hoped would induce more Jews to emigrate to the German empire, or, more importantly, remain in Europe and avoid the prospect of a blood thirsty extermination. Many hundreds of Jews from German Jewish areas (as well as from occupied Europe) would ultimately do just that.

The anti-Semitic campaign in Germany also included attempts to get more Jews to leave the country, either by traveling by ship, or by force. Several hundred Jews would be killed in the process. Many more would be put to death in the ovens of the homicidal gas chambers of the German concentration camps. Only a fraction of the total number of Jews who would perish at the hands of the German Nazi regime ever made it to safety, either through the massive network of death camps, or the “resistance”, that lasted decades.

The United States similarly faced an impending boycott against Jewish businesses until the outbreak of the Second World War. Unlike Germany, the United States had a thriving Jewish community, numbering in the tens of thousands, with many of them having been involved in some way in the building of the US economy. As the US began to develop its own economy, more Jewish entrepreneurs were able to take advantage of it, starting their own businesses. Some of these were successful enough to eventually find a national following and make their way into the American economy. Others were not as lucky. As they began to find their way into US markets, some of the older and established Jewish communal organizations (Reconstruction of Jewish Communities and synagogues) found themselves facing potential closure, while others simply went out of business.

For years after the boycott was lifted, the anti-semitic sentiment still lingered in Europe. Anti-semitism was on the rise, with European Jews being targeted not only for their religion but also for their nationality. Many Jews who had emigrated to America sought to return to their homelands, where they felt safer and worse after the boycott. In response to this situation, American Jews took up the task of promoting the boycott again, in order to show their support for the Jews who had emigrated to America. Many rabbis, as well as American Jews, strongly opposed the idea of restarting the boycott, with some rabbis even going so far as to call upon the European governments to halt their boycott of Jew.

Ultimately the US government relented and once again allowed the European Jews to come to America. The European Jews also enjoyed relative freedom of movement in America, unlike their earlier experience in Germany. Although the boycott did not last very long, it did serve to remind America and the rest of the world just how deep was the anti-Semitic sentiments in Germany, causing German Jews to look to America for refuge.