Before the Deportation
By 1940, Jews had been living in what is now German territory for 1,620 years. Over the centuries of coexistence there were recurring instances of persecution.
Despite this, by the 20th century the Jewish minority had become an integral part of German society. Nevertheless, years of frequent, and sometimes violent, instances of hostility corroded the bond that had developed between Jews and their Non-Jewish friends, neighbours and colleagues.
During the November Pogrom in 1938, National Socialists and their supporters defiled synagogues and Jewish cemeteries all across the country. They looted and wrecked tens of thousands of businesses, houses and apartments. 30,000 men were transported to concentration camps and more than 1,000 people were murdered. The situation also led to violent excesses in Edenkoben (Palatinate). Members of the SA forced Jews to board a postal service bus which showed a sign saying: “Free trip to Palestine.” The bus drove to Karlsruhe, from where some of the men were taken to Dachau concentration camps. This photo was used in a 1948 legal proceeding against the perpetrators.
After the boycotts that took place in April 1933 of businesses, doctor surgeries, and lawyer’s offices labelled as Jewish, local Nazi organisations put up antisemitic placards in many locations. The Baden State Chancellery voiced misgivings about this, as this document shows. The Minister-President was not concerned with the discriminatory content of the signs, but rather worried about the bad impression that might be made upon international visitors.
In 1933, there was a large exodus from Germany into the neighbouring countries. In 1938, the situation escalated. However, in a conference in the French commune of Evian, the 32 participating countries could not reach an agreement to take in a larger number of refugees. Poland threatened to strip the citizenship of all those who had been living abroad for a lengthy period of time. Consequently, Germany deported more than 17,000 Jews in October 1938 across the Polish border. Even French newspapers like L’Humanité reported on this “sudden expulsion.” The article indicates the difficulty in obtaining reliable information. The “Polish Action” was a form of ‘practice run’ for the deportations to Gurs.
As a communist, Anna Seghers was arrested by the Gestapo shortly after the Nazi seizure of power. The Jewish writer from Mainz consequently left Germany. At first, she fled, without her husband and children, to Switzerland. Her aim was Paris, which was known as the “capital of emigrants”. Here, Anna Seghers wrote the The Seventh Cross, a novel shaped by her own experiences that depicted the escape from a concentration camp. In 1941/42, she wrote Transit which was inspired by her experiences of fleeing to Mexico.