The Business of Emancipation

The German-Jewish struggle for legal equality and economic prosperity

1933 and beyond: From full-rights citizens to refugees and victims

Despite the promise of equal opportunity, Weimar revealed a troubling amount of popular prejudice against Jews. The economic disarray of the interwar period – hyperinflation and the Depression – encouraged conspiracy theories as explanations for these serious problems. Even mainstream politicians saw in Jews a convenient scapegoat for these economic disruptions.

After Hitler’s rise to power, the Nazis moved immediately to undermine the basis of economic life for Jews. In April 1933, the new regime attacked Jewish businesses and intimidated their customers. Less well-known measures taken by municipal authorities included canceling city contracts with Jewish firms, rescinding licenses for Jewish businesses, and encouraging the harassment of Jewish entrepreneurs. Nazi officials also pressured companies and organizations to remove Jews from management and executive boards and excluded businesses owned by Jews from umbrella organizations or participation in state finance.

Between 1933 and 1939, the state, corrupt party officials, or “Aryans” looking to profit from the forced sales of businesses dispossessed Jews and plundered their property. Jewish property owners were paid a fraction of the real value of their assets. Those who fled found it difficult or impossible to take any of their material possessions or savings with them. Those who remained behind were subject to increasing persecution and terror, and were robbed of all their belongings before they were eventually deported to labor or concentration camps. Ironically, many of those businesses formerly owned by Jews were integrated into the German war effort. Some of new owners even made use of forced labor to produce their goods.

From economic to political participation

Epilogue

Family stories

  Glückel of Hameln

  Glückel of Hameln

  Glückel of Hameln

  Glückel of Hameln

Israel

The Nathan Israel Kaufhaus worked only with its own capital, relying upon neither loans nor mortgages. Its frugality served the firm well in 1933, enabling it to continue operating without financial institutions pressuring the owners into dismissing Jewish employees or selling the store. In 1938, however, the family sold the store to Emil Köster AG. The firm soon reopened under a new name as "Das Haus im Zentrum", removing any association with the rightful Jewish owners. Following the takeover of N. Israel, Wilfrid Israel emigrated to England and his brother Herbert to the United States. 

For more information about Glückel of Hameln see Shared History Project: https://sharedhistoryproject.org/object/hamburg-during-the-life-of-gluckel-of-hameln

Early modern time

  Glückel of Hameln

  Glückel of Hameln

  Glückel of Hameln

  Glückel of Hameln