Radio Appeal for an Anti-Jewish Boycott

Michael Grüttner

Source Description

This radio address by Karl Kaufmann, NSDAP Gauleiter in Hamburg, which was broadcast on March 29, 1933 by Norddeutscher Rundfunk, was part of a nationwide campaign which culminated in the “boycott against Jews” of April 1, 1933. His address provides insight into the National Socialist image of “the Jews.” They are characterized as an internationally operating minority who knew no national loyalties but instead acted in a manner that was “treasonous against the fatherland." In his address Kaufmann justifies the call for a boycott of Jewish businesses by portraying it as a defensive reaction to the “horror propaganda” spread by “international Jewry.” In contrast to the general tenor of the campaign, Kaufmann not only attacks the Jews but also devotes a considerable part of his airtime to Social Democrats, whom he characterizes as internationally operating “traitors of the fatherland,” just like the Jews. In order to prove his accusation of “horror propaganda” being spread, Kaufmann refers to critical remarks made by Albert Einstein about National Socialism, to an inquiry made by an MP in the British House of Commons, and to a flyer printed by Czechoslovak Social Democrats. Other passages of the address attack German Jews and especially Jewish lawyers, physicians, and department store owners, who—Kaufmann suggests—were responsible for the existential problems faced by young academics and small businesses. Kaufmann’s address ends with a call for discipline directed at his fellow party members and with threats directed at the press as well as at potential “rabble-rousers.” The entire address was more than 22 minutes long. The excerpts selected here mainly show Kaufmann legitimizing the antisemitic policy implemented by the National Socialist regime while it established itself.
  • Michael Grüttner

The medium of radio broadcasts


In the early 1930s, radio was a relatively new and expensive medium which had only existed in Germany for a decade and thus had not become part of the usual fixtures in each home. In 1933, only a quarter of all households owned a radio. The National Socialists realized the political potential of radio broadcasts as a means of indoctrination early on. Only weeks after Hitler had been appointed Reich Chancellor, the new regime managed to largely monopolize broadcasting companies. Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels estimated that use of the radio during the election campaign had a “60, 70, 80%” share in the right wing coalition’s victory in the election of March 1933. The NSDAP made extensive use of the new medium on the local and regional levels as well, as the excerpts from this speech by its Hamburg district leader [Gauleiter] Kaufmann show.

[00:16-00:50]

Biographical note on Karl Kaufmann


Karl Kaufmann was one of the younger high-level officers within the NSDAP. As a member of the so-called “generation of war youths” [Kriegsjugendgeneration], he belonged to an age group who were too young to become frontline soldiers during World War I yet old enough to have experienced the war—and particularly the end of it—as a major break in their lives. Unable to find long-term employment after leaving school, he managed to quickly rise through the political ranks of the NSDAP, then a relatively minor party. In 1929, Hitler appointed him, a junior politician who had just turned 28, to NSDAP district leader [Gauleiter] of Hamburg. In the years between 1933 and 1939, Kaufmann also held several government offices: As Reich Governor [Reichsstatthalter] (since 1933), head of Hamburg’s government (since 1936), and Reich Defense Commissioner [Reichsverteidigungskommissar] (since 1939), he was by far the most influential Hamburg politician during the period of the National Socialist dictatorship.

The anti-Jewish boycott


In his radio speech, Kaufmann seeks to justify the NSDAP’s Jewish boycott of April 1st. This campaign had been prompted by “horror propaganda spread abroad” (Goebbels) or, put differently, the foreign news media’s critical coverage of the violence by which the National Socialists reinforced their rule and intimidated their critics. The official goal of this campaign was to end the supposed “horror propaganda” by means of a wide-ranging boycott of all Jewish businesses in Germany.

[03:58-06:17]

In order to decry the foreign news media, Kaufmann paints a picture of a peaceful Germany where “no one laid a finger” on the Jews and no Social Democrat “agitator” had been held responsible. It is true that during the first phase of National Socialist violence neither Social Democrats nor Jews were the main targets of SA [Storm Division] raids, but the communists. Yet there were violent attacks against other opponents of the NSDAP as early as spring 1933—for example in Kiel, where attorney Wilhelm Spiegel was murdered on March 12. A Jew and a Social Democrat, he inspired National Socialist rancor for more than one reason.

[10:32-12:47]

Kaufmann demands “equality”


The second leitmotif in Kaufmann’s speech is his demand for “equality” between Germans and Jews, which takes it for granted that German citizens of Jewish faith are not considered Germans. In a tactical maneuver, the aggressive National Socialist actions against the “Jewish guests of our nation” are thus fashioned into an act of self-defense against Jewish dominance. In order to make his demand for “equality” sound plausible, Kaufmann mainly refers to Jewish representation in the medical profession and the justice system, which, according to him, was “disproportionate to the Jewish population in Germany”. Jews were traditionally well represented in these professions and—in relation to their share of the population – their number was indeed disproportionately high. Nevertheless, Kaufmann gives inaccurate figures in his speech. For example, it is wrong that 43% of all attorneys in Hamburg were Jews, as he claims. In fact, 134 of Hamburg’s 646 attorneys were members of the Jewish congregation (21%). Even if one includes those attorneys who were converts or part Jewish (baptized Jews and so-called Mischlinge [mixed-blood] ), the percentage of so-called non-Aryans was no higher than 32% and thus still far below the numbers given by Kaufmann.

[13:24-17:10]

Kaufmann’s polemic against the Jews’ disproportionately high representation in certain professions and industries picks up on widespread existential fears among young academics and mid-size business owners. In contrast to the campaign against the supposed “horror propaganda,” this line of argument appealed to material interests and promised a solution to existing problems by excluding Jewish competition. It foreshadows the mass expulsion of Jews from academic and legal professions which began only days later with the anti-Jewish legislation passed that April.

Reactions to the boycott


On April 1st, 1933, members of the SA stood outside Jewish owned shops, law offices, and doctor’s offices in order to intimidate their potential clients. In many cases, antisemitic slurs were written on shop windows; there were a few instances of violence. For those affected by it, the boycott was a traumatic experience since it was the first time they had been publicly excluded from mainstream society.

Many Jewish business owners resigned in the face of the intimidating effect the SA thugs had on their potential clients and closed their shops and offices in the course of the day. Others felt encouraged by the open show of solidarity by their patients and clients. Among them was physician Henriette Necheles-Magnus from Wandsbek, who later remembered about this day: “Patients kept coming with flowers, with small gifts: “We want to show you what we think of this policy.” “I am not ill, doctor, I have come to see how you are.” [...] My neighbor across the street had the same experience, she said she had never sold as many single eggs as on this day, since the poor people only had enough extra money to buy one egg and they wanted to demonstrate a feeling of solidarity to her somehow [...] Overall, the boycott was unpopular.”

The boycott officially ended after one day, but that was not entirely true. In fact, the NSDAP and SA merely withdrew their uniformed men from their posts outside Jewish businesses on April 2 while numerous local chapters of the NSDAP quietly continued the boycott. Party members who patronized Jewish stores or frequented restaurants owned by “non-Aryans” faced a party tribunal. In rural areas in particular, even those “national compatriots” who weren’t NSDAP members were pressured to avoid Jewish owned shops. In countless cases, those not giving in to the pressure were publicly shamed.

Selected Bibliography


Hannah Ahlheim, „Deutsche, kauft nicht bei Juden!“. Antisemitismus und politischer Boykott in Deutschland 1924 bis 1935, Göttingen 2011.
Frank Bajohr, Hamburgs „Führer“. Zur Person und Tätigkeit des Hamburger NSDAP-Gauleiters Karl Kaufmann (1900–1969), in: Frank Bajohr/Joachim Szodrzynski (eds.), Hamburg in der NS-Zeit. Ergebnisse neuerer Forschungen, Hamburg 1995, pp. 59–91.
Volker Jakob, Wilhelm Spiegel, Jude – Anwalt – Sozialist. Das erste Mordopfer der antisemitischen Gewalt, in: Gerhard Paul/Miriam Gillis-Carlebach (eds.), Menora und Hakenkreuz. Zur Geschichte der Juden in und aus Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck und Altona (1918-1998), Neumünster 1998.
Heiko Morisse, Jüdische Rechtsanwälte in Hamburg. Ausgrenzung und Verfolgung im NS-Staat, Hamburg 2003.
Michael Wildt, Volksgemeinschaft als Selbstermächtigung. Gewalt gegen Juden in der deutschen Provinz 1919 bis 1939, Hamburg 2007.

This text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Non commercial - No Derivatives 4.0 International License. As long as the work is unedited and you give appropriate credit according to the Recommended Citation, you may reuse and redistribute the material in any medium or format for non-commercial purposes.

About the Author

Michael Grüttner, Prof. Dr. phil., *1953, is professor for Contemporary History at the Techincal University of Berlin. His focus of research: German and European history of the 19th and 20th century, history of Nationalsocialism, history of scholarship and higher education.

Recommended Citation and License Statement

Michael Grüttner, Radio Appeal for an Anti-Jewish Boycott (translated by Insa Kummer), in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, September 22, 2016. <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:article-99.en.v1> [May 28, 2017].

This text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Non commercial - No Derivatives 4.0 International License. As long as the work is unedited and you give appropriate credit according to the Recommended Citation, you may reuse and redistribute the material in any medium or format for non-commercial purposes.