Visual History of the World
The World Wars and Interwar
The first half of the 20th
century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with
an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a
purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and
the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and
shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of
Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict
through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The
war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and
cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the
systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an
unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.
Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937
Under the Swastika: Nazi Germany
With Hitler's takeover of power, a twelve-year totalitarian regime began
in Germany. In 1939 it brought war and racist terror to the world. The
"Fihrer"-led dictatorship attempted to reform state and society to
conform to National Socialist ideology. Despite the Nazis' brutal
suppression of the opposition and single-minded removal of the Jewish
population from national life, the world underestimated the nature of
the regime and its contempt for human life, and thus World War II
The Persecution of European Jewry
Through a gradual progression of steps up to 1939, German Jews lost
their rights, were dispossessed, and were forced to emigrate.
"The Jewish youth lies in wait for hours on end.......spying on
the unsuspicious German girl he plans to seduce..........He
wants to contaminate her blood and remove her from the bosom of
her own people. The Jew hates the white race and wants to lower
its cultural level so that the Jews might dominate."
"Was there any form of filth or crime...without at least one Jew
involved in it. If you cut even cautiously into such a sore, you
find like a maggot in a rotting body, often dazzled by the
sudden light - a Jew."
After the takeover by the Nazis, there were uncontrolled outbreaks of
violence in many places against the Jewish population by gangs of SA
thugs incited by the anti-Semitic newspaper Dei" Stiirmer. In response
to protests from business and the old elite, the Nazi leadership tried
to steer the persecution of the Jews onto a more regulated track through
centrally directed actions and sham legislation.
In April 1933 Propaganda Minister Goebbels organized a
boycott of Jewish businesses.
1 SA men hang up posters appealing to Germans to boycott Jewish
businesses, April 1, 1 933
The "Law to Restore Career Civil Service"
of April 7, 1933, launched a flood of discriminatory decrees that forced
Jewish people out of their professions and by 1939 had completely
isolated them socially.
Along with government service, the Jews were
banned from cultural professions and forbidden to work as physicians
Eventually every contact with the "Aryan" population was forbidden.
4 race laws of 1935 deprived Jews of all political rights.
4 (left) Chart purporting to
show genetic relationships between the races;
4 (right) Chart from Nazi Germany used to explain the Nuremberg Laws. The
Nuremberg Laws of 1935 employed a pseudo-scientific basis for racial
discrimination against Jews. People with four German grandparents (white
circles) were of "German blood," while people were classified as Jews if
they were descended from three or more Jewish grandparents (black
circles in top row right). Having one or more Jewish grandparents made
someone a Mischling (of mixed blood). In the absence of discernible
external differences, the Nazis used the religious observance of a
person's grandparents to determine their race.
Nazism and race (Aryan race)
Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor
September 15, 1935
Thoroughly convinced by the knowledge that the purity of German
blood is essential for the further existence of the German people
and animated by the inflexible will to safe-guard the German
nation for the entire future, the Reichstag has resolved upon the
following law unanimously, which is promulgated herewith:
SECTION 1 1. Marriages between Jews and nationals
of German or kindred blood are forbidden. Marriages
concluded in defiance of this law are void, even if, for the
purpose of evading this law, they are concluded abroad. 2.
Proceedings for annulment may be initiated only by the
SECTION 2 Relation outside marriage between Jews
and nationals for German or kindred blood are forbidden.
SECTION 3 Jews will not be permitted to employ
female nationals of German or kindred blood in their
SECTION 4 1. Jews are forbidden to hoist the Reich
and national flag and to present the colors of the Reich.
2. On the other hand they are permitted to present the
Jewish colors. The exercise of this authority is protected
by the State.
SECTION 5 1. A person who acts contrary to the
prohibition of section 1 will be punished with hard labor.
2. A person who acts contrary to the prohibition of section
2 will be punished with imprisonment or with hard labor.
3. A person who acts contrary to the provisions of section 3
or 4 will be punished with imprisonment up to a year and
with a fine or with one of these penalties.
SECTION 6 The Reich Minister of the Interior in
agreement with the Deputy of the Fuehrer will issue
the legal and administrative regulations which are required
fro the implementation and supplementation of this law.
SECTION 7 The law will become effective on the day
after the promulgation, section 3 however only on 1 January,
Nuremberg, the 15th day of September 1935 at the Reich
Party Rally of Freedom.
The Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor Adolph Hitler
The Reich Minister of the Interior Frick
The Reich Minister of Justice Dr. Goertner
The Deputy of the Fuehrer R. Hess
of the Reich had to prove his or her "German-bloodedness." A Jew was
defined as anyone who was "descended from, according to race, three
full-blooded Jewish grandparents." The whole absurdity of the Nazi race
ideology is shown by the criterion for being a "full-blooded
Jew" as membership in the Jewish religion.
The Nazi leadership used an attempt to assassinate a German diplomat as
a pretext to stage a full-scale 5 pogrom against the Jews in November
5 Reichskristallnacht 1938:
a burning synagogue
All across Germany on the night of November 9-10,1938, synagogues
were set afire and 6 Jewish businesses destroyed.
6 The day after: passersby in front of a vandalized Jewish shop
German history, also called Night of Broken Glass or
(German: “Crystal Night”)
The night of November 9–10, 1938, when German Nazis attacked
Jewish persons and property. The name Kristallnacht refers
ironically to the litter of broken glass left in the streets
after these pogroms. The violence continued during the day
of November 10, and in some places acts of violence
continued for several more days.
The pretext for the pogroms was the shooting in Paris on
November 7 of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a
Polish-Jewish student, Herschel Grynszpan. News of Rath’s
death on November 9 reached Adolf Hitler in Munich, Germany,
where he was celebrating the anniversary of the abortive
1923 Beer Hall Putsch. There, Minister of Propaganda Joseph
Goebbels, after conferring with Hitler, harangued a
gathering of old storm troopers, urging violent reprisals
staged to appear as “spontaneous demonstrations.” Telephone
orders from Munich triggered pogroms throughout Germany,
which then included Austria.
Just before midnight on November 9, Gestapo chief
Heinrich Müller sent a telegram to all police units
informing them that “in shortest order, actions against Jews
and especially their synagogues will take place in all of
Germany. These are not to be interfered with.” Rather, the
police were to arrest the victims. Fire companies stood by
synagogues in flames with explicit instructions to let the
buildings burn. They were to intervene only if a fire
threatened adjacent “Aryan” properties.
In two days and nights, more than 1,000 synagogues were
burned or otherwise damaged. Rioters ransacked and looted
about 7,500 Jewish businesses, killed at least 91 Jews, and
vandalized Jewish hospitals, homes, schools, and cemeteries.
The attackers were often neighbours. Some 30,000 Jewish
males aged 16 to 60 were arrested. To accommodate so many
new prisoners, the concentration camps at Dachau, Buchenwald,
and Sachsenhausen were expanded.
After the pogrom ended, it was given an oddly poetic
name: Kristallnacht—meaning “crystal night” or “night of
broken glass.” This name symbolized the final shattering of
Jewish existence in Germany. After Kristallnacht, the Nazi
regime made Jewish survival in Germany impossible.
The cost of the broken window glass alone came to
millions of Reichsmarks. The Reich confiscated any
compensation claims that insurance companies paid to Jews.
The rubble of ruined synagogues had to be cleared by the
Jewish community. The Nazi government imposed a collective
fine of one billion Reichsmarks (about $400 million in 1938)
on the Jewish community. After assessing the fine, Hermann
Göring remarked: “The swine won’t commit another murder.
Incidentally…I would not like to be a Jew in Germany.”
The Nazi government barred Jews from schools on November
15 and authorized local authorities to impose curfews in
late November. By December 1938, Jews were banned from most
public places in Germany.
Almost 100 persons
were murdered and about 30,000 were carried off to
7 Jews arrested during Kristallnacht line
up for roll call at Buchenwald, 1938; Arrested Jewish men in Baden-Baden, November 9, 1938
An "atonement payment" of a billion reichmarks ($400 million) was
imposed on the German Jews. All Jewish capital assets were confiscated;
real estate, stocks, and jewelry were sold under duress. The liquidation
of all Jewish businesses and enterprises followed. The economy was thus
The Nazi leadership next moved on to a program of forced emigration and
established a Head Office for Jewish Emigration in 1939. However,
financial straits and the restrictive immigration regulations of foreign
nations made leaving the country difficult. Emigration was finally
banned in 1941 after the new strategy of exterminating the Jews was
adopted. The organized mass murder of Jews—along with Sinti and Roma
(gypsies), homosexuals, and other minorities—began in Poland.
A total of almost a million people, the vast majority of them Jewish,
were forced or went voluntarily into exile from Germany after 1933.
However, the formation of a united, powerful opposition was
put a face to "the other Germany"
with his critical speeches from the United States.
Many exiles joined
the armies of their host countries during World War II.
THOMAS MANN (left) with his family
in American exile, 1940
German Jewish Refugees,
German Jews crowd the Palestine Emigration Office in an attempt to
Germany. Berlin, Germany, 1935.
Arrival of Jewish refugees from Germany. The Joint Distribution
Committee (JDC) helped Jews leave Germany after the Nazi rise to power.
A Jewish passenger prays on board a refugee
ship from Germany bound for
Argentina in 1938.
Jewish refugee children from Nazi Germany.
The Netherlands, February 12,
Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria arrive at the port of Shanghai.
Jews from Germany are transported to a refugee camp in Shanghai.
German Jews try to emigrate to Palestine; long lines in front of the
Palestine and Orient Travel Agency. Berlin, Germany, January 22, 1939.
A group of German Jewish refugee children
arrives in New York.
New York, United States, June 3, 1939
German Jewish refugees look through the
windows of the "St. Louis,"
in Havana harbor. Cuba refused to let the
Cuba, May or June, 1939
Passengers aboard the "St. Louis." These
refugees from Nazi Germany
were forced to return to Europe after both
Cuba and the U.S.
denied them refuge. May or June 1939
Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, passengers
on the "St. Louis,"
disembark in the port of Antwerp. Cuba and the
United States denied
entry to these refugees. Belgian police guard the
Antwerp, Belgium, June 17, 1939.