Anti-Nazi boycott of 1933

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The Anti-Nazi Boycott of 1933 was a boycott of German products by foreign critics of the Nazi Party in response to antisemitism in Nazi Germany following the rise of Adolf Hitler, commencing with his appointment as Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. Those in the United Kingdom, United States and other places worldwide who opposed Hitler's policies, developed the boycott and its accompanying protests to encourage Nazi Germany to end the regime's anti-Jewish attitude.

Events in Germany

Following Adolf Hitler's appointment as German Chancellor in January 1933, critics responded with worldwide calls for protest and boycotting; for example, an editorial in The Harvard Crimson in 1933 states that "The role of the neutral nation will be, as always, a difficult one. But those nations sincerely desirous of European peace still have an opportunity to preserve it. An economic boycott of Germany to force its government to terms would so multiply its target as to make a shot impractical."[1]

However, the Central Jewish Association of Germany, denied that the Nazi government was deliberately provoking anti-Jewish pogroms. It issued a statement of support for the regime and held that "the responsible government authorities [i.e. the Hitler regime] are unaware of the threatening situation," saying, "we do not believe our German fellow citizens will let themselves be carried away into committing excesses against the Jews."[2] Nevertheless, even though vandalism of Jewish businesses and property across Germany occurred, prominent Jewish business leaders wrote letters in support of the Nazi regime calling on officials in the Jewish community in Palestine, as well as Jewish organizations abroad, to drop their efforts in organizing an economic boycott.[3]

In March 1933, the international critics, usually Jewish organizations, transformed their verbal protests into a worldwide, organized economic boycott against German goods. The Nazis in turn responded back with a boycott of their own, against all Jewish stores in Germany.[4]

Events in the United States

Mass meetings

The boycott started in March 1933 in both Europe and the US.[5] It continued until the entry of the US into the war.[6]

In a contentious four-hour meeting held at the Hotel Astor in New York City on March 20, 1933, 1,500 representatives of various Jewish organizations met to consider a proposal by the AJCongress to hold a protest meeting at Madison Square Garden on March 27, 1933, as an additional 1,000 people attempting to enter the meeting were held back by police. New York Supreme Court Justice Joseph M. Proskauer and James N. Rosenberg spoke out against a proposed boycott of German goods that had been introduced by J. George Freedman of the Jewish War Veterans. Proskauer expressed his concerns against "causing more trouble for the Jews in Germany by unintelligent action", protesting against plans for mass meetings and reading a letter from Judge Irving Lehman that warned that "the meeting may add to the terrible dangers of the Jews in Germany". Honorary president Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise delivered a rejoinder to Proskauer and Rosenberg, criticizing their failure to attend previous AJCongress meetings and insisting that "no attention would be paid to the edict" if mass protests had been rejected by the group. Wise noted that "The time for prudence and caution is past. We must speak up like men. How can we ask our Christian friends to lift their voices in protest against the wrongs suffered by Jews if we keep silent? … What is happening in Germany today may happen tomorrow in any other land on earth unless its is challenged and rebuked. It is not the German Jews who are being attacked. It is the Jews." The group voted to go ahead with the meeting at Madison Square Garden.[7][8]

In a meeting held at the Hotel Knickerbocker on March 21 by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, former congressman William W. Cohen advocated in support of a strict boycott of German goods, stating that "Any Jew buying one penny's worth of merchandise made in Germany is a traitor to his people." The Jewish War Veterans planned a protest march in Manhattan from Cooper Square to New York City Hall, in which 20,000 would participate, including Jewish veterans in uniform, with no banners or placards allowed other than American and Jewish flags.[9]

A series of protest rallies were held on March 27, 1933, with the New York City rally held at Madison Square Garden with an overflow crowd of 55,000 inside and outside the arena and parallel events held in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and 70 other locations, with the proceedings at the New York rally broadcast worldwide. Speakers at the Garden included American Federation of Labor president William Green, Senator Robert F. Wagner, former Governor of New York Al Smith and a number of Christian clergyman, joining together in a call for the end of the brutal treatment of German Jews.[7][10][11] Rabbi Moses S. Margolies, spiritual leader of Manhattan's Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, rose from his sickbed to address the crowd, bringing the 20,000 inside to their feet with his prayers that the antisemitic persecution cease and that the hearts of Israel's enemies should be softened.[12] Jewish organizations — including the American Jewish Congress, American League for Defense of Jewish Rights, B'nai B'rith, the Jewish Labor Committee and Jewish War Veterans — joined together in a call for a boycott of German goods.[7]

Nazi counter-boycott

File:SA Jews.jpg
SA paramilitaries in Berlin on April 1, 1933, with boycott signs, blocking the entrance to a Jewish-owned shop. The signs read "Germans! Protect yourselves! Don't buy from Jews!"

The Nazis and some outside Germany saw the boycott as an act of aggression, with the British newspaper the Daily Express going so far as to use the headline: "Judea Declares War on Germany".[5] Nazi officials countered the protests as slanders against the Nazis perpetrated by "Jews of German origin", with Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels proclaiming that a series of "sharp countermeasures" would be taken against the Jews of Germany in response to the protests of American Jews. Goebbels announced a one-day boycott of Jewish businesses in Germany of his own to commence on April 1, 1933 that would be aimed by Aryan Germans against Jewish-owned businesses, which would be lifted if anti-Nazi protests were suspended.[5] which was the German government's first officially sanctioned anti-Jewish boycott. If the protests did not cease, Goebbels warned that "the boycott will be resumed... until German Jewry has been annihilated."[7][13][14]

The Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses threatened by Goebbels came to pass, with brownshirts of the SA standing menacingly in front of Jewish-owned department stores, retail establishments and professional offices. The Star of David was painted in yellow and black on store entrances and windows, and placards stating "Don't Buy from Jews!" (Kauf nicht bei Juden!) and "The Jews Are Our Misfortune!" (Die Juden sind unser Unglück!) posted. Despite physical violence against Jews and Jewish-owned property, the police intervened only rarely.[15]


The Haavara Agreement, together with lessened dependence on trade with the West, had by 1937 largely negated the effects of the Jewish boycott on Germany.[16] According to a December 1936 book review in Time, an author called Robert Gessner had met with the then-already dissolved[17] Association of German National Jews. This marginal group,[18] which had supported Hitler, had been fighting against the Jewish boycott of German goods.[19]

The boycott (which lasted until the entrance of the US into WW2) did nothing to stop the harassment of Jews in Germany; in fact it provoked the first official anti-Jewish sanctions by the new state, which eventually culminated in the Holocaust. Rabbi Wise, however, characterized the boycott as morally imperative expression, stating, "We must speak out," and "if that is unavailing, at least we shall have spoken."[7]


  1. The Harvard Crimson, October 24, 1933. Quoted in Kravetz, Melissa (May 2003). "Giving Youth a Voice: U.S. Student Perceptions of Adolf Hitler, 1933–1939". UCSB History Department Senior Honors Thesis.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "U.S. Policy During World War II: The Anti-Nazi Boycott". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 3 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "The Jews Who Opposed Boycotting Nazi Germany".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. The Anti-Nazi Boycott of 1933, American Jewish Historical Society. Accessed January 22, 2009.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Berel Lang, Philosophical Witnessing: The Holocaust as Presence, p.132
  6. Marc Dollinger, Quest for Inclusion: Jews and Liberalism in Modern America (Princeton University Press, 2000), p.48. ISBN 9780691005096
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Staff. The Anti-Nazi Boycott of 1933, American Jewish Historical Society. Accessed January 22, 2009.
  8. Staff. "NAZI FOES HERE CALMED BY POLICE; Hotel Congested by Delegates Seeking to Join in Protest of Jewish Congress. NATIONAL ACTION PLANNED Resolution for Rallies Throughout Country to Protest Against Hitler Policies Is Adopted.", The New York Times, March 20, 1933. Accessed January 23, 2009.
  9. Staff. "BOYCOTT ADVOCATED TO CURB HITLERISM; W.W. Cohen Says Any Jew Who Buys Goods Made in Germany Is a 'Traitor.'", The New York Times, March 21, 1933. Accessed January 22, 2009.
  10. Staff. "250,000 JEWS HERE TO PROTEST TODAY; More Than 1,000,000 in All Parts of Nation Also Will Assail Hitler Policies. JEWISH CONGRESS TO ACT Four Demands to Be Presented to German Envoy Urging End of Anti-Semitism. BERLIN JEWS IN DISSENT National Organization There Asks That Garden Mass Meeting Be Called Off.", The New York Times, March 27, 1933. Accessed January 23, 2009.
  11. Staff. "35,000 JAM STREETS OUTSIDE THE GARDEN; Solid Lines of Police Hard Pressed to Keep Overflow Crowds From Hall. AREA BARRED TO TRAFFIC Mulrooney Takes Command to Avoid Roughness -- 3,000 at Columbus Circle Meeting. 35,000 IN STREETS OUTSIDE GARDEN", The New York Times, March 28, 1933. Accessed January 23, 2009.
  12. Staff. "RABBI MARGOLIES DIES OF PNEUMONIA; Dean of Orthodox Synagogue Heads, 85, Zionist Leader and Jewish educator. FOUNDER OF RELIEF GROUP Rose From Sickbed in 1933 to Address Meeting of Protest Against Anti-Semitism.", The New York Times, August 26, 1936. Accessed January 22, 2009.
  13. James, Edwin L. "THE NAZIS BEGIN TO DODGE ANTI-SEMITIC BOOMERANG; Hitlerites Weaken on Jewish Boycott in Face of World-Wide Protests and Peril to German Trade. PROPAGANDA DRIVE CONTINUES Minister of Enlightenment Announces That All Now Depends on Quick Cessation of 'Campaigns Against Germany.'", The New York Times, April 2, 1933. Accessed January 23, 2009.
  14. Feldberg, Michael. "Blessings of Freedom", p. 79, American Jewish Historical Society. KTAV Publishing House, 2001. ISBN 0-88125-756-7. Accessed January 23, 2009.
  15. "BOYCOTT OF JEWISH BUSINESSES", United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Accessed January 23, 2009.
  16. Francis R. Nicosia, The Third Reich and the Palestine Question , p.150
  17. Sarah Ann Gordon, Hitler, Germans, and the "Jewish question", p.47
  18. Thomas Pegelow Kaplan. Review of Hambrock, Matthias, Die Etablierung der AuÖŸenseiter: Der Verband der Nationaldeutschen Juden 1921-1935. H-German, H-Net Reviews. September, 2005
  19. Books: Vicious Circle. Robert Gessner, Some Of My Best Friends Are Jews (Farrar & Rinehart), Time, Monday, December 21, 1936. "But after he visited a famed rabbi in Munich, wandered through the ghetto in Berlin, talked with Zionists, Jewish workers, capitalists, he found himself appalled at the conduct of the Association of German National Jews. This organization supports Hitler, fights the Jewish boycott of German goods."