Under the shadow of the Nazis

Henry Lowenstein

Henry Lowenstein

Henry starts school in 1930 at the age of five. Since the Wall Street crash of 1929, Germany’s economy is in shambles and the crisis provides fuel for Hitler, who blames the crisis on political enemies, the leftist parties (Social Democrats and Communists), and Jews. The chaos of the early 1930s is punctuated by violent altercations between leftists and Nazis, led by members of the NSDAP’s paramilitary arm, the Sturmabteiling, or SA (“Stormtroopers”).

Nazi race theories are codified into law at the annual Nazi party rally held in Nuremberg in 1935. The so-called “Nuremberg Laws” revoke the citizenship of Jews in Germany and declare marriage or sexual relations between Jews and people of “German or related blood” a criminal offense.

Transcript

Henry Lowenstein: And I started school in 1930, when I was five years old. And I loved it. In those days the – you know – the Nazi thing was already brewing, but it wasn’t imminent. And I felt no problems in those days on that issue at all. But if we can – perhaps if I can elaborate on that a little bit – obviously the Nazi Party was growing, the influences were growing, and we were certainly aware of it. And I can remember very well that we would get – one of my earliest memories, and this is still in the early 30’s, before Hitler was elected. Going into restaurants, and watching Communists and Nazis fight it out. And beating each other, and street fights were quite common between the two parties. And obviously it was terribly disturbing to be there and watch people bloody themselves and these very awful fights. And the Nazi Stormtroopers were a brutal bunch, and you know, it always seemed like there were three of them against one of someone else who was not one of theirs, and they were beating them.

“The Nazi thing was already brewing, but it wasn’t imminent.”

USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, Interview 11470

Hitler is appointed chancellor in January 1933 and consolidates political power. He eliminates opposition and establishes a dictatorship by March. The atmosphere in Berlin and throughout Germany becomes aggressively antisemitic, and even children are subjected to persecution. The psychological burden is difficult to bear.

Transcript

Henry Lowenstein: I was 5 years old when I started school; I was 8 years old when he came to power. And I vividly remember the Stormtroopers marching up and down the street, carrying torch – torchlight parades, and carrying the flags, and the attacks on Jews…

[…]

One of my earliest memories after the Nazis came to power, was that, I would be playing with my buddies on the street, and with all of this negative propaganda about Jews, one really had to ask one’s self, “Am I really as bad as they say? Am I really a second-rate person compared with these others?” And it was very hard to keep one’s—to keep a belief in one’s own being. Because, I mean, it was drummed into us morning and night how the Jews were at the root of all the problems and how the Jews were bad, and everything that went wrong could be blamed on the Jews, and Jews were creatures—second rate creatures, and so on… and it really got one to question whether it was, whether we really were as bad as they said they were, because, after all, here this was coming at you from all sides. And the other thing was you see that the more they beat on us with these—this propaganda, the more this was … the more this became part of everyday life, the more Jewish I became…

“With all of this negative propaganda about Jews, one really had to ask one’s self, ‘Am I really as bad as they say?'”

USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, Interview 11470

Henry Lowenstein's Timeline

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Events Related to Current Page
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  • Nuremberg Race Laws passed

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  • Decertification of Jewish doctors

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  • “Jewish name” regulations

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  • Kristallnacht Pogrom

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  • British government approves the Kindertransport (1938-1940)

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