April 1, 1933 — The German boycott of Jewish businesses

Yesterday marked the start of Genocide Awareness Month. April was selected because of all the genocides that started during that month and because of the number of other significant events that took place.

The boycott that started the Holocaust

About three months after Adolph Hitler took control of Germany, his government staged a boycott of all businesses owned by Jewish people. Starting at 10:00 am, German soldiers were stationed outside of all Jewish businesses. They tried to prevent entry but were often rebuffed as Germans ignored their pleas to shop or do business elsewhere. This was a mainly non-violent event but there were areas where Jewish businesses were vandalized and looted and a number of people in the Jewish business community were attacked. This is also when Jewish businesses were marked with yellow stars of David. The Nazis distributed signs that read “The Jews Are Our Misfortune and “Don’t Buy from Jews.”

Nazi Chief Strategist Joseph Goebbels led the effort. The German government alleged that the boycott was a response to the “horror propaganda” being spread by their opponents. Goebbels asserted that Jewish people were spreading lies to make them look bad. He blamed the anti-Nazi boycotts that were happening all over the world and the bad press the nation had been getting since Hitler’s rise to power.

The response to the boycott was swift and it lasted only one day but marked the start of the propaganda campaign that turned into the Holocaust.

Propaganda is a powerful tool used in every war. Goebbels said the boycott was because of anti-Nazi boycotts caused by the Jews. One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s excuses for invading Ukraine is to rid the nation of Nazis. The Myanmar junta claims they voter fraud in the 2020 election was a threat to national sovereignty. Rwandan President Paul Kagame silenced his political foe, Hotel Rwanda hero Paul Rusesabagina by kidnapping him and throwing him in prison for life.

Another reason to remember and reflect on this event is it is a good example of how a smaller event such as a one-day boycott led to the brutal murder of more than six million people. As the world seems more than ever to lean towards authoritarianism over democracy, it is more important than ever to pay attention to the world around us and the events unfolding everywhere.

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