Neither Black Nor White: Intermarried Jews and Mischlinge during the Third Reich



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The Rosenstrasse Protest


Rose
(4)

The Third Reich often evokes images of a totalitarian police state, run with an iron arm and allowing no place for dissent, much less resistance. To some extent, this portrait of Nazi Germany is accurate. The Nazi party controlled many aspects of society, including communication (newspapers and radios), military service, and even day-to-day life.  The formidable Gestapo police force caused many people to continuously live in fear of being arrested.

    However, resistance efforts were present during Nazi Germany. Although some efforts such as the White Rose, organized by university students in Munich, were harshly stopped with executions, others made a great impact on the regime, and still others precipitated change.

    One of the most memorable resistance efforts that truly changed the original plans of Nazi officials occurred between February 27th and March 6th, 1943. This resistance effort is known today as Rosenstrasse.


    In the early months of 1943, Nazi officials in Berlin had been discussing, for yet another time, how the regime should treat intermarried Jews and Mischlinge.  A particular question was if such individuals should be included in the mass deportations that, by 1943, were quite common. The Third Reich was moving steadily closer to the Final Solution and yearned to make major cities and regions Judenfrei (free of Jews). To accomplish this in the nation’s capital of Berlin, plans were laid for a Final Roundup. At this time, the vast majority of Jews that remained in Berlin were either intermarried or Mischlinge.  Joseph Goebbels, the leader of propaganda efforts, made the decision to deport only intermarried Jews without children (Stoltzfus 195).

    On February 27, 1943, the Final Roundup of Jews in Berlin began.  Official Nazi vehicles raced through the streets, picking up any individual who appeared to be Jewish and roughly throwing them into the trucks. Whole city blocks were cordoned off in order to sweep each residence without the fear of Jewish escapees. In some instances, Nazi officers arrived at employment centers, arresting Jews as they worked. One such incident was remembered by Dr. Ernst Bukofer, who was surprised and apprehended by Nazi guards as he arrived to his workplace in the morning. He and his coworkers were taken to a holding center without any explanation (Stoltzfus 210).

    By the end of the first day, the Nazis had collected 5,000 Jews. These confused and distraught individuals were taken to Rosenstrasse 2-4 as a temporary holding place before the next step of being deported to concentration camps.  Ironically, the Rosenstrasse area was traditionally a center of Jewish community. Some Jews were unconcerned when they arrived there because they were in familiar surroundings (Stoltzfus 214). However, the Jews’ confinement at Rosenstrasse was a cause for concern, as it is undeniable that the Nazi’s ultimate intention was to deport all of the Jews in Berlin.

Rosenstrasse 2-4

    By the end of the second day of the Final Roundup, a small crowd of about 200 women and other protestors  had gathered outside of the one-entrance building of Rosenstrasse, armed only with the cry, “We want our husbands back” (Stoltzfus 215). This crowd, comprised mostly of Aryan women married to Jews, grew from day to day as more concerned wives and family members made the trek to Rosenstrasse in an attempt to free their loved ones.

    As the women outside protested, the conditions within the building worsened. Small portions of chopped cabbage made up the prisoners’ main diet, and unsanitary crowded living conditions were rampant (Stoltzfus 223). However, the prisoners drew hope from the sound of the women’s unrelenting cries of protest outside the building.

    Because massive public protests were not allowed under the Third Reich, Goebbels felt that it was necessary to terminate this protest as soon as possible to eliminate the chance of anti-Nazi sentiments spreading to other areas of Germany. Nazi officials were ordered to close the nearby train station of Bahnhof Borse in order to discourage potential protestors from joining the demonstration. However, the number of protestors only swelled. Often, the guards threatened to fire into the crowd, but this only succeeded in dispersing the women for a maximum of five minutes (Stoltzfus 227). On March 5, the Gestapo arrested ten women and took them to the Labor Bureau in a desperate attempt to intimidate the rest of the crowd.  These women were held in custody for one day and then released (Stoltzfus 238). However, no amount of intimidation thwarted the effort. By March 6, the crowd had grown to 1,000 people (Stoltzfus 243).

    On March 6, 1943, the protestors’ perseverance and determination was rewarded. Goebbels ordered the release of the 1,700 intermarried Jews and Mischlinge detained within Rosenstrasse 2-4 as a last-ditch effort to hide the fact that such a massive protest had occurred. The official explanation was that the Gestapo had abused its power by arresting German-Jewish families (Stoltzfus 248). For the thousands of families involved, however, it didn’t matter what the explanation was.  They simply considered themselves lucky to have a chance to be reunited.

For more information on the Rosenstrasse protest, see Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstrasse Protest in Nazi Germany by Nathan Stoltzfus .