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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


Family stories

  Glückel of Hameln

  Glückel of Hameln

  Glückel of Hameln

  Glückel of Hameln


The economic power and wealth of the Arnhold family initially cushioned it from the effects of antisemitism in Germany in the early 1930s. In 1934, Nazi officials began a long-term investigation into the financial practices of the bank and Arnhold family members, thereby damaging both the institution and the family’s reputations, causing them to lose customers and connections, include many of Adolf, Hans, Heinrich and Kurt Arnhold's placements on supervisory boards. Eventually, the seizure of Jewish properties and businesses reached the Gebr. Arnhold Bank in late 1935, marking the beginning of the “Aryanization” of major banks. The company was among the five largest private banks, all owned by Jews. A major portion of the German banking industry disappeared, along with these institutions’ assets. By 1938, most banks owned by Jews had been expropriated, and less than one-fifth continued operation – but only in non-Jewish hands.

For more information about Glückel of Hameln see Shared History Project:

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