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
Kahn & Arnold
The second generation of the entrepreneurial and respected Kahn & Arnold families in Augsburg fell victim to state-sanctioned persecution beginning in 1933. Like other Jews, family members were thrown off the boards of philanthropic organizations shortly after Hitler’s rise to power. Benno Arnold, who held a position on ad been on the Augsburg City Council since 1930, was forced out in April 1933. Benno also belonged to the Johannisverein (St. John’s Association), a charitable association that cared for people in need. In 1935, the association forced him out on under the pretense that he had not paid his membership dues.
The highly successful textile firm of Kahn & Arnold had in 1923 rescued another textile firm, Neue Augsburger Kattunfabrik (NAK), from financial ruin and became its major shareholder in exchange for its financial assistance. In 1938, the company employed hired 940 employees and had its own savings bank for its employees and childcare facilities. In the same year, however, Kahn & Arnold and its interest in NAK were confiscated in the guise of a “voluntary” sale to the NAK. Some members of NAK’s top management had joined the Nazi Party to win support for the “Aryanization” of Kahn & Arnold.
For more information about Glückel of Hameln see Shared History Project: https://sharedhistoryproject.org/object/hamburg-during-the-life-of-gluckel-of-hameln