A Jewish leader responds to the Nazi boycotts (1933)

In April 1933, three days after the Nazi boycotts of Jewish businesses in Germany, Zionist leader Robert Weltsch published this article in a Jewish weekly newspaper:

“The first of April, 1933, will remain an important date in the history of German Jewry—indeed, in the history of the entire Jewish people… Gone is the fatal misapprehension of many Jews that Jewish interests can be pressed under some cover. On April 1st, German Jews learned a lesson which penetrates far more deeply than even their embittered and now triumphant opponents could assume… [But] April 1st 1933 can become the day of Jewish awakening and Jewish rebirth. If the Jews will it. If the Jews are mature and have greatness in them.

They accuse us today of treason against the German people: The Nationalist-Socialist Press calls us the “enemy of the Nation,” and leave us defenceless. It is not true that the Jews betrayed Germany. If the Jews have betrayed anyone, it was themselves. Because the Jew did not display his Judaism with pride, because he tried to avoid the Jewish issue, he must bear part of the blame for the degradation of the Jews.

Despite all the bitterness that we must feel in full measure when we read the National-Socialist boycott proclamations and unjust accusations, there is one point for which we may be grateful to the Boycott Committee. Paragraph Three of the Directive reads: “The reference is… of course to businesses owned by members of the Jewish race. Religion plays no part here. Businessmen who were baptized Catholic or Protestant or Jews who left their Community remain Jews for the purpose of this Order.”

This is a (painful) reminder for all those who betrayed their Judaism. Those who leave the [Jewish] community in order to benefit their personal position should not collect the wages of their betrayal.

In taking up this position against the renegades there is the beginning of a clarification. The Jew who denies his Judaism is no better a citizen than his fellow who avows it openly. It is shameful to be a renegade, but as long as the world around us rewarded it, it appeared an advantage. Now even that is no longer an advantage. The Jew is marked as a Jew. He gets the yellow badge.

A powerful symbol is to be found in the fact that the boycott leadership gave orders that a sign “with a yellow badge on a black background” was to be pasted on the boycotted shops. This regulation is intended as a brand, a sign of contempt. We will take it up and make of it a badge of honour.

Many Jews suffered a crushing experience on Saturday. Suddenly they were revealed as Jews, not as a matter of inner avowal, not in loyalty to their own community, not in pride in a great past and great achievements, but by the impress of a red placard with a yellow patch. The patrols moved from house to house, stuck their placards on shops and signboards, daubed the windows, and for 24 hours the German Jews were exhibited in the stocks, so to speak.

In addition to other signs and inscriptions, one often saw windows bearing a large Magen David, the Shield of David the King. It was intended as dishonour. Jews, take it up, the Shield of David, and wear it with pride!”