From  "They Expected the Worst – They Did Not Expect the Unthinkable:"
Jewish Emigration from Germany,  1933-1941

by Aubrey Boag
his paper was a co-winner of the UCSB History Department's Stuart Bernath prize
for the best proseminar paper submitted in 2006-07

“Why didn’t Jews leave Germany sooner?” “Why did they not resist their deportation to the death camps more forcefully?” – Questions of this nature have been asked continuously throughout the last five decades. Hindsight can give the impression that the encounter between Jews and the Third Reich during the Holocaust had to unfold as it eventually did, prompting the question of why Jews failed to see the proverbial writing on the wall. However, if historians have found it troubling to determine precisely how the Nazi Regime planned to deal with German Jews at any given moment between 1933 and 1941, how much more challenging must it have been for the Jewish men and women living within Nazi Germany to do so at the time.[1] Those who inquire as to how German Jews could have missed the writing on the wall make their first fatal mistake when they assume there was writing left to be read. The reality is that Nazi Germany was as perplexing to Jews at the time as it still is to us today.[2] A detailed answer to the subject in question is available in the history of Jewish life before 1938. The earlier years of Nazi Germany are crucial for understanding Jewish responses to Nazism because these years shed light on the incremental nature of Nazi persecution. However, the daily lives of Jews before the November Pogrom of 1938 are often eclipsed by the later, horrific years of genocide. The following pages will push past the focus on the history of the Holocaust and offer a close examination of Jewish experiences and choices between 1933 and 1941 in Nazi Germany.


(From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
relates primarily to the USA.  Also covers  France, Belgium and the Netherlands)

Between 1933 and 1939, Jews in Germany progressively were subjected to economic boycott; the loss of civil rights, citizenship, and jobs; incarceration in concentration camps; and random violence.

Forcibly segregated from German society, some Jews turned to and expanded their own institutions and social organizations, but many chose to flee Germany. At first, the German government encouraged Jews to emigrate and placed few restrictions on what possessions they could take. Gradually, however, the Nazis sought to deprive Jews fleeing Germany of their property by levying an increasingly heavy emigration tax and by restricting the amount of money that could be transferred abroad from German banks.

By March 1938, Germany had annexed Austria (Anschluss) incorporating it into the German Reich. Nazi treatment of Jews in Austria immediately following the Anschluss was particularly brutal, and an office soon was established to facilitate the swift emigration of Austria’s Jews.

Following Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass"), the state-organized pogrom of November 9-11, 1938, the German government confiscated most of the remaining Jewish-owned property and entirely excluded Jews from the German economy. Emigration increased dramatically as most Jews decided that there was no longer a future for them in Germany; thus, individuals and entire families became refugees.

As the number of people fleeing Nazi persecution increased, more and more countries refused to accept refugees, and by 1939 the number of havens available to Jewish refugees dwindled. Switzerland feared that massive numbers of German Jews would cross their border, and the British government continued to restrict Jewish immigration to Palestine. Unfortunately, by 1940, emigration from Nazi Germany became virtually impossible, and in October 1941 it was officially forbidden by the German government.


Jewish Virtual Library