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February 27: German Wives Protest

February 27, 2016

[caption id=“attachment_40851” align=“alignright” width=“300”]Memorial at the Rosenstrasse site today Memorial at the Rosenstrasse site today[/caption]

On this date in 1943, the Nazi Gestapo began arresting more than 10,000 Jews in the city of Berlin. Those who were intermarried (primarily men) and some children of those intermarriages were imprisoned at Rosenstrasse, a Jewish community center. The next morning, many of the men’s wives congregated at the building and shouted for the release of their husbands, with the protesting crowd swelled to several hundred. These protests went on for days, despite threats and warning shots from SS troops and roadblocks in the area surrounding Rosenstrasse. Nonetheless, on March 1, SS troops deported over 1,700 Jews from holding centers all over Berlin, including Rosenstrasse, to Auschwitz. That same evening, Berlin was bombed for the first time by the British. The women continued to protest at Rosenstrasse until March 6, when Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, with Hitler’s assent, released the remaining intermarried Jews and even returned thirty-five from Auschwitz in order to keep the women’s spirit of protest from spreading among other Germans.

“This was not the first time many of these women had voiced dissent. For over a decade they and their families had challenged Nazi racial policies through letters and small demonstrations, insisting that the regime would be hurting fellow Germans by persecuting their Jewish spouses. Hitler and his circle had always tried to minimize unrest and avoid the kind of domestic opposition... that had crippled the German effort during World War I. Until this point the regime had largely managed to keep the genocide against the Jews a secret. But when it affected a group who were unafraid to speak out against Nazi policies, that secrecy was jeopardized.” —Denmark, the Netherlands, the Rosenstrasse: Resisting the Nazis