On April 1, 1933, at 10:00 a.m., the Nazis, who had come into power on January 30, 1933, initiated a nationwide economic boycott against Jewish businesses and professionals. The boycott only lasted one day due to pressure from German President Hindenburg. It marked the beginning of the national Nazi campaign to disenfranchise Jews socially, economically, and politically.
On March 28, 1933, the Nazi party announced the boycott as retaliation for the negative stories about Germany that the Nazis claimed Jews were putting in the foreign press. Julius Streicher, Chairman of the Central [Nazi] Committee, organized the boycott at the national level, while local Nazi parties formed Action Committees to enforce the boycott. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, held a rally to encourage the boycott and to promote hatred of Jews.
The boycott was planned to be total and complete throughout every city and village in Germany, from peddlers on dirt roads to major department stores in cities. Storm Troopers (SA) blocked entrances to Jewish businesses and professional offices, such those of doctors and lawyers. The Star of David was painted in yellow and black on doors and windows, often with antisemitic slogans. Storm Troopers carried or posted signs stating “Germans Defend Yourselves! Don’t buy from Jews!”
Though the boycott instructions included provisions not to harm Jews physically and to only target German Jews, the Storm Troopers committed violent acts against Jews. Poorer Eastern European Jews who had immigrated to Germany were more vulnerable to these attacks, because they were typically less assimilated into German society and lived together in neighborhoods.
Though many individual Germans did not participate in the boycott, it became a precursor for the legal persecution of Jews. On April 7, 1933, six days after the boycott, the government passed the “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” in which Jews were dismissed from state employment unless they were appointed prior to 1914, have served in World War I, or had fathers or sons who had died during service in World War I.
Boycotts have been used as a form of civil disobedience throughout history. In most cases, boycotts are directed against governments or entities deemed morally wrong by a group of people. In the case of the boycott of April 1, 1933, the reverse occurs. A government turns on its own people to incite hatred. Examine the anti-Jewish boycott in a timeline of events showing the economic, political, and social disenfranchisement of Jews. Have students discuss the possible economic and psychological impact of the boycott on an individual.