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News :: Organizing
The Nazis once bowed to a public protest
30 Apr 2004
We have more power than we ever seem to realize. This is a story from the Nazi era – of a protest that saved 2000 lives.
Germans examine rare protest against Nazis
By Laura Himsworth
Friday, Apr 30, 2004
BERLIN (Reuters) - Fearing civil disorder, the Nazis once unexpectedly bowed to a public protest in Berlin and freed 2,000 Jewish husbands of Aryan wives, a U.S. historian says.
The 1943 "Rosenstrasse" (Rose Street) uprising outside a detention centre succeeded because the Nazi regime feared it would spread, Florida State University historian Nathan Stolzfus told a Berlin conference on Friday.
"The Nazi power was extremely sensitive to the popular morale and the events in Rosenstrasse underline aspects of the Nazi power structure," Stolzfus said of the only known public protest against the deportation of Jews during the Third Reich.
Laws enacted in 1933 by the Nazis banned open gatherings other than those they organised.
"The Nazis feared the way they were fighting for their families...was something that could unravel the system around Hitler," he added. "We are deeply indebted to the protesters."
After nine days and even though some of the Jewish husbands had been deported, propaganda minister Josef Goebbels, also governor of Berlin, ordered them freed and even had 25 men sent to Auschwitz returned to their wives in Berlin.
A film called "Rosenstrasse" about the poorly organised, non-violent protest by thousands of women, who shouted from the streets for the release of their Jewish husbands, won an award at last year's Venice Film Festival.
It's been screened in many nations, including the United States, and had a successful run in German theatres.
It is based on the true, but little-known, story about the thousands of Berlin women whose Jewish husbands were rounded up from their homes and jobs as part of Hitler's "Final Solution" and taken to detention at an office building on Rosenstrasse.
Before then, Jews married to Germans had been exempted from
deportation. But as attacks on Aryan women married to Jewish men increased, some 2,000 Jews in "mixed marriages" were arrested.
In the early 1930s there were 35,000 marriages between German-Jewish and German-Aryan couples. After 1935 the marriages were forbidden. Many Aryan men had abandoned their Jewish wives.
"That it took a film to move historians to discuss the issue is sad," Stoltzfus told the conference of about 150 people, including children of parents from the Rosenstrasse showdown.
"No historian here in Germany had written about it because it did not fit. Until now they dismissed Rosenstrasse as a fluke, not as an important example of resistance but as just an example of what married people do to fight for loved ones."
It also dispels the notion harboured by many Germans that they had no choice in the Nazi dictatorship, he added.
This work is in the public domain