The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Subject: Holocaust Almanac: The Political Climate
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Archive/File: people/f/fogelman.eva/climate.002
Last-Modified: 1994/12/22

   "Luitgard Wundheiler remembered how her father, a judge in Marburg,
   Germany, weighed the matter. In 1936, her father had just received
   the letter sent to all German civil servants asking him to join the
   Nazi Party by signing a loyalty oath. He discussed it with his wife
   and then called the fourteen-year-old Wundheiler into his study. He
   gave her the letter to read and asked her if she thought he should
   sign. To her, his choice was clear: he should not sign it because
   to do so would be a lie and he never lied. Fifty-seven years later,
   Wundheiler still remembered the judicial clarity with which her
   father presented exactly what was at stake:

      "Before you say yes or no so clearly and so spontaneously, I also
      want you to know what the possible consequences are. I don't
      know what the consequences will be definitely, but there will be
      some consequences. Under the best of circumstances, I will lose
      my job. Under the worst of consequences, you will never see me
      again in your whole life because they will do away with me.
      There are a number of possibilities in between. Maybe they will
      put me in a concentration camp and sometime later release me,
      but there will be some consequences, and I want you to know
      that.

   "As it happened, her father, who was stubbornly honest and
   passionately committed to justice, refused to join the Nazi Party.
   He was summarily dismissed from the judicary but managed to land a
   job as a court messenger. For the remaining years of Nazi rule, he
   and his family existed barely above the poverty level.

   "For most Germans the choice between personal beliefs and national
   policies actually came earlier. In April 1933, the Nazis called for
   a boycott of Jewish businesses. It was the first instance of
   state-supported antisemitism, an organized and official attempt to
   stamp Jews as "other." Guards stood outside stores and doctors' and
   lawyers' offices owned by Jews to intimidate callers. This was a
   key moment. Would it work? Would Germans refuse to be bullied into
   singling out their neighbors and friends?

   "A few individuals defied the boycott, but most stayed away.
   Significantly, 'the universities were silent, the courts were
   silent; the President of the Reich, who had taken the oath on the
   Consitution, was silent,' Leo Baeck, Berlin's preeminent leader of
   the liberal Jewish community, wrote. To Rabbi Baeck, this was 'the
   day of the greatest cowardice. All that followed would not have
   happened.'<4>" (Fogelman, 23-24)

   <4> Baker, L. (1978). Days of sorrow and pain: Leo Baeck and the
       Berlin Jews. New YorkL Macmillan.

                             Work Cited

   Fogelman, Eva. Conscience & Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the
   Holocaust. New York: Anchor Books, 1994

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