Protest against Nazis outside of Germany
December 6, 2019 5:34 AM   Subscribe

From casual mentions in memoirs and in Orwell, I know that there were left-wing publications, meetings and protests against Hitler and concentration camps outside of Germany, but I'm not having a lot of luck searching for more information about this. Do you have any recommendations or search terms?

Orwell mentions a book or pamphlet (but doesn't give a title) published in the UK about the early anti-Jewish campaigns/stripping people of rights/etc. I expect that a lot of this stuff was relatively ephemeral, just judging from how ephemeral a lot of US activist materials that I literally remember turn out to have been.

A lot of times, you feel like it just isn't doing any good to protest or volunteer against detention camps or for immigrant rights - the forces aligned against us are too powerful. And similarly, it's obvious that whatever activists did to try to draw attention to Naziism didn't do much good. But I still think it's worthwhile to leave a trace in history so that future people will know that not everyone was just cool with detention camps and genocide.
posted by Frowner to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The painter Alice Neel had a painting in 1936 of a protest in New York, titled "Nazis Murder Jews." Link; another.

That protest might not have changed things, but that she documented it makes it that much harder for anyone to say "oh, but we didn't know what was happening" -- what you are saying as "leave a trace in history."
posted by Dip Flash at 6:20 AM on December 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

When Nazis had a big rally at Madison Square Garden, NY in 1939 there were 100,000 protesters outside.

I found this from the Holocaust Museum too -- anti-nazi protest in madison square garden in 1933(!). This was a protest of a book burning in Germany.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:57 AM on December 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

Christie Pits riot in Toronto; 6 Feb 1934 crisis in Paris.
posted by plep at 7:14 AM on December 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Meyer Lansky's activities in opposition to the German Bund?
posted by LizardBreath at 7:32 AM on December 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I work at the Holocaust Museum and helped with our new(ish) exhibit about Americans and the Holocaust, which explores what information Americans of all walks of life had access to and what they did with that information. One thing our research shows is that there were hundreds of protests and petitions across the country in 1933 in response to the initial Nazi boycott of Jewish-owned businesses and the expulsion of Jewish professionals from certain jobs. There was also a movement to boycott German goods, led by American Jewish leaders like Stephen Wise. The Nazis backed off a little from the overt boycotts and persecutions (not entirely, of course) for a couple of years, and most Americans--not all, of course, especially among Jewish communities--focused their attention to other things, like trying to get out of the Depression. The treatment of Jews in Germany became a topic of interest again with the discussion on whether to boycott the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. There were also protests against the presence of Nazism in certain communities in the U.S., such as Southbury, CT.

The Kristallnacht pogroms brought the persecution of Jews back to the front pages of American newspapers, and many Americans responded with protests; while there were many expressions of sympathy for what what happening to the Jews in Germany, there was little appetite among most of the public for increased immigration that may have helped more people escape.

Once the U.S. joined the war in 1941 Americans were focused on the larger war, not necessarily the stories of what we now call the Holocaust--though unverified news of these events did reach the U.S. regularly. Confirmation of the "Final Solution" reached Americans in November 1942 with the publication of news relayed in the Riegner telegram, but aside from general protests and promises of postwar justice for the persecutors there was not a whole lot that Americans could have done to stop the killings at that moment. (The real time to make a major difference in people's lives was much, much sooner, though things like relaxing the immigration quotas in the 1930s.) Still, throughout 1943 some groups--most notably the groups led by activist Peter Bergson--held major protests, including a march of hundreds of rabbis on Washington, calling for the government to take bold action of some kind. The combination of this public pressure and internal intrigue between the State Department and the Treasury Department led to the creation of the War Refugee Board, the official United States response to the Holocaust. By the end of the war, the Board had taken actions that saved the lives of tens of thousands of people.

I'm skipping over a lot here, and I encourage you to explore the online exhibit or come to the Museum if you are able. We have lots more information in our library and archives on this subject, and the broader subject of protests against the Nazis around the world. If you're interested specifically in news coverage, I encourage you to explore the History Unfolded project, a crowd-sourced effort to document coverage of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in newspapers across the country.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions!
posted by arco at 7:48 AM on December 6, 2019 [22 favorites]

Follow the Working Class History instagram, they often post about working class action against fascism in the 20th c.

That’s how I learned about the Battle of Cable Street linked above. V. satisfying stuff.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:15 AM on December 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I asked a very similar question, for what I suspect are very similar reasons, here, and went through a lot of the books that were suggested, so you might start there. (I didn't notice that nikaspark also says "I've been reading a lot about the Weimar Republic and fascism this summer", so I guess its a trend.)

One book that's not mentioned that I thought was very good was Wiliam Shirer's memoirs, appropriately titled Nightmare Years. They give a sense of what it was like for a journalist trying to understand what was going on at the time, including all the various misteps and misjudgements, so felt like it really resonated with the present.

Finally, I also wanted to recommend the exhibit at the Holocaust Museum which I found both informative and incredibly moving.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 12:34 PM on December 6, 2019

In case you're interested but unable to make it to Washington, a smaller traveling version of the Americans and the Holocaust exhibit will be visiting 50 libraries across the country starting in 2020. It's not as comprehensive as the exhibit at the Museum, but explores many of the key themes of the main exhibit. Each library will be doing public programs in conjunction with the exhibit, also.
posted by arco at 12:42 PM on December 6, 2019

It's not a protest but the British Unitarians passed a motion in 1933 criticising the treatment of Jews by the German government as an "offence against common human nature". It passed a further motion in 1943 about persecution of Jews, which appears to be mainly reference to people escaping via Spain and Portugal.

Both can be found on p39 of this document.
posted by plonkee at 12:46 PM on December 6, 2019

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