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.


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.


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

Events Related to Current Page
  • Hitler reconstitutes the Nazi Party

    Hitler, released after 9 months in prison for treason, declares the return of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) at Munich's Bürgerbräukeller, the site of the Nazi Putsch against the democratically elected government in 1923. Hitler, who aims to gain power through elections, and then establish a Nazi dictatorship, designates himself Führer (leader).

  • Henry Lowenstein born in Berlin, Germany

    Henry's parents, Max and Maria Loewenstein, name their son Ernst Heinrich Loewenstein. He is called Heinrich, and later changes his name to Henry.

  • Wall Street stock market crash

    The Wall Street Crash, or "Black Tuesday," is the most devastating stock market crash in U.S. history. The crash leads to the Great Depression, which affects the industrialized world and strikes the Weimar Republic particularly hard.

  • Jewish population of Germany is c. 523,000

    The c. 523,000 Jews living in Germany at the beginning of 1933 make up less-than 0.75% of the country's total population (67 million). Approximately 80% hold German citizenship; the next largest group are Polish citizens, many of whom are permanent residents of or were born in Germany. Some 70% of the Jewish population in Germany lives in urban areas; the largest community (c. 160,000 people) is in Berlin.

  • Adolf Hitler appointed chancellor of Germany

    President Paul von Hindenburg appoints Hitler chancellor on the recommendation of political advisers, who believe they can manipulate Hitler for their own political purposes. During the next 18 months, Hitler and his Nazi appointees consolidate power and take over all mechanisms of governance.

  • School quotas limit the number of Jewish students

    Quotas allow only 1.5 percent of high school and university students to be Jewish. Jews will be totally barred from German schools by 1938, and Jewish schools will be ordered closed in 1941.

  • Nuremberg Race Laws passed

    The "Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor" and the "Reich Citizenship Law"--known collectively as the Nuremberg Race Laws--prohibit marriage between Germans and Jews, and strip Jews of many civil rights, relegating them to second-class citizenship. Inspired by Jim Crow-era laws imposing racial segregation and prohibiting interracial marriage in the United States, these laws are later extended to the Roma people and to Black individuals.

  • Law requires registration of Jewish-owned assets

    Under the "Order for the Disclosure of Jewish Assets," Jews must register all property valued at over 5,000 Reichsmark. This law sets the stage for the expropriation of Jewish property and possessions.

  • Henry Lowenstein is accepted for Kindertransport to Great Britain

    The Loewensteins receive notification from the Hampstead Garden Suburb Care Committee for Refugee Children confirming Henry's place on the Kindertransport.

  • Registration of Jewish-owned businesses

    Businesses owned in whole or in part by those defined as Jews under the Nuremberg Race Laws must register, which allows for the further expropriation of Jewish property by the Nazis.

  • The Evian Conference is held in France

    Convened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Evian Conference is designed to address increasing numbers of mostly Jewish refugees fleeing the Reich. More than 30 countries attend, but no country--with the exception of the Dominican Republic-- significantly increases its immigration quota to meet the crisis of Jewish refugees.

  • Restriction of Jews from professions

    Nazi laws restrict Jews from employment in numerous professions, including: book-keeping, real estate, money-lending, and tour-guiding.

  • Decertification of Jewish doctors

    An amendment to the Reich Citizenship Law (Nuremberg Race Laws of 1935) decrees that Jewish physicians will be relieved of their accreditation to practice medicine as of September 30, 1938.

  • “Jewish name” regulations

    The law requires Jews to adopt a middle name--"Israel" for males, "Sarah" for females--identifying them as Jewish. Jews are required to carry identification cards documenting their heritage.

  • Invalidation of Jewish passports

    German and Austrian Jews are required to surrender their passports. Those Jews who receive permission to emigrate are granted a passport marked with the letter "J" for Jude, which expires 30 days after their departure from the Reich.

  • Kristallnacht Pogrom

    Kristallnacht--the "Night of Broken Glass"--begins the night of 9 November and continues through the next day throughout Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. Nazi leadership plans and coordinates the pogrom, during which more than 1,400 synagogues are burned, Jewish-owned businesses destroyed, and about 30,000 Jews are arrested and deported to concentration camps. The Jewish community is later required to pay "restitution" for the damage caused to their own property. Nazis claim Kristallnacht was a "spontaneous" response to Grynszpan's assassination of vom Rath.

  • Exclusion of Jews from German economic life

    The "Order for the Exclusion of Jews from German Economic Life" prohibits Jews from owning stores or engaging in any type of commerce with goods or services. Furthermore, Jews are prohibited from managing businesses of any kind and are forced to sell their businesses to Germans.

  • Jewish children banned from public schools

    Jewish attendance at German schools has been subject to a restrictive quota since April 1933. Though most Jewish students had already left German public schools due to antisemitism, this law formally expells Jewish children from schools.

  • British government approves the Kindertransport (1938-1940)

    After the Kristallnacht pogroms, refugee aid committees in Great Britain pressure the government to relax restrictions to allow refugee children from Germany and Germany-annexed territories into the country. The "Kindertransport," or children's transport, will bring about 10,000 children, most Jewish, from Nazi territory to Great Britain from 1938 until 14 May 1940.

  • US, Canada, and Cuba deny entrance of Jewish refugees on the St. Louis

    The US, Canada, and Cuba deny entrance to over 900 refugees aboard the St. Louis, though they possess Cuban visas. The passengers--nearly all Jewish--are forced to return to Europe. Belgium, France, Great Britain, and Holland accept the refugees, though many are later deported and murdered when the Nazis occupy Belgium, France, and Holland.

  • Great Britain restricts Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine

    Great Britain governs Palestine under an international mandate. Earlier, Mandate Palestine offered Jews an escape from Nazi-occupied Europe, but the British restrict their immigration under pressure from Arab leaders.

  • Henry Lowenstein leaves Berlin on Kindertransport to Great Britain

    Unaccompanied, the children on this transport leave Berlin on a train to Rotterdam, Netherlands. From Rotterdam they travel by ship across the English Channel to Harwich, where they board another train bound for London.

  • Nazi Germany invades Poland, sparking World War II

    Nazi forces invade and swiftly defeat Polish forces using the "Blitzkrieg"--a rapid and combined forces attack. Within days, Great Britain and France declare war on Germany, marking the beginning of World War II.

  • British government initiates Operation Pied Piper

    In anticipation of the impending war with Nazi Germany, the British government orders large-scale evacuations from urban areas that might be targets of Nazi air raids. More than half of the 1.5 million people evacuated from cities throughout Great Britain are children.

  • Nazis invade Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands

    Nazi Germany invades and quickly overwhelms Belgium, much of France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

  • Allied evacuation from Dunkirk

    Following Germany's rapid conquest of Belgium and the Netherlands, and with the French overwhelmed, approximately 300,000 Allied troops evacuate from Dunkirk to Great Britain.

  • Battle of Britain and the “Blitz”

    Great Britain under Prime Minister Winston Churchill remains defiant of Nazi aims to force British surrender. Great Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) battles the German Luftwaffe for months during a massive bombing campaign against British strategic and civilian targets. In nightly bombing attacks on London and other British cities, thousands are killed and millions terrorized.

  • German Jews must wear yellow star

    Nazi law requires all Jews in the Reich over age six to wear a badge on their clothing. This applies to Jews in Germany and all Jews living in territories annexed to Germany, including western Poland (the Warthegau), Bohemia and Moravia, and Alsace. The easily identifiable badge features a yellow six-pointed star with the word "Jew" written in the local language.

  • Wannsee Conference on the “Final Solution”

    Leading Nazi officials convene at Wannsee to plan and implement the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question." At this meeting, operational preparations for the extermination of European Jewry are outlined.

  • “Factory Action” raid and Rosenstrasse Demonstration in Berlin

    In the "Factory Action" of February 1943, the Gestapo conducts a major roundup of German Jews for deportation to Auschwitz. In Berlin, so-called “mixed marriage Jews” are held in special custody at the Jewish community center building at Rosenstrasse 2-4 in Berlin. A group of detainees' German/non-Jewish family members assembles outside of the building to demand information about their family members. Their protest continues until March 6.

  • D-Day: Allied invasion of France

    The long awaited invasion of Nazi-occupied France by Allied forces begins with the landing of some 175,000 US, British and Canadian troops on the beaches of Normandy.

  • Allied and Nazi forces engage in “Battle of the Bulge”

    Allied troops moving towards Germany are halted when Nazi forces in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium push back the US Army. The Germans' rapid advance creates a "bulge" in the front lines of combat, but their gains are only temporary.

  • Soviet occupation of Berlin

    The "Battle of Berlin" begins April 20. As the Soviets fight their way street by street into the city, Nazi forces and leadership collapse in disarray. Hitler commits suicide on April 28. After three days of fierce fighting, the Reichstag--and the city of Berlin--falls to the Soviets on May 2, 1945.

  • Unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany

    Nazi Germany's High Command unconditionally surrenders on 7 May to the Allies and 9 May to the Soviets. May 8 is proclaimed "Victory in Europe Day."

  • Emigration crisis for displaced persons (DPs) in Europe

    Two years after the end of the war, there are still around one million people in displaced persons camps in Europe. Approximately 250,000 are Jews awaiting further immigration, many of whom wish to emigrate to British Mandate Palestine. For many DPs, repatriation to their pre-war homes is unthinkable, but many countries--including the U.S.--still impose restrictive immigration policies.

  • Korean War begins

    After World War II, Korea is partitioned at the 38th parallel, creating a socialist state under Soviet influence in the North and a Western-style democracy in the South. In June 1950, North Korea invades South Korea, armed by the Soviet Union. Under the banner of fighting the spread of communism, the United States leads a UN coalition in the conflict against North Korea, which is backed by communist Russia and China. An armistice agreement in July 1953 puts an end to the military conflict, but the division of Korea persists until today.

View the Main Timeline »