Thursday, August 1, 2019

How Evil Flourishes When Good Men Do Nothing

by Cindy K. Stewart

Last month, I shared how Hitler came to power and took dictatorial control of Germany in 1933, and I described the state of the Jews in Germany during the interwar period (WWI - WWII). Here's the link to the post if you missed it: "How Did Evil Men Take Power in Germany?" Today we will examine how Hitler and the Nazis gradually subjugated their opponents and the Jewish people prior to WWII.

Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

In April of 1933, the German government sponsored a two-day boycott of Jewish businesses. Political opponents of the Nazis and all Jews who hadn’t fought in WWI were dismissed from civil service. New laws pushed Jews out of other government jobs, including Jewish doctors who worked in government-financed healthcare programs.

In 1933 . . . 37,000 Jews emigrated from Germany.

In 1934 . . . another 23,000 Jews fled the country. 

But during these early years of Nazi control, many Germans, including the Jews, thought that Hitler wouldn’t last long. 

Not even everyone in his own movement agreed with his policies.

Röhm & Hitler - 1933
Courtesy of Creative Commons
via Wikipedia
The three-million-men-strong, brown-shirted, street-fighting SA Stormtroopers, who’d been instrumental in bringing the Nazis to power, now threatened the party’s power and existence. Hitler’s close friend Ernst Röhm headed the SA. He and the other SA leaders were unhappy with Hitler’s slow implementation of the radical policies the Nazis had advocated from the beginning. Also, Röhm wanted Hitler to combine the Reichswehr, the German military, with the SA and replace the officer corps. The German military leaders fought back by threatening to topple the Nazi regime if the too-powerful SA wasn’t eliminated.

Between June 30 and July 2, 1934, and under Hitler’s direction . . . 
Heinrich Himmler and the SS arrested the SA leaders and shot them to death, including Hitler's buddy, Ernst Röhm

This operation became known as the "Night of the Long Knives."

As a result, the German Army leadership formed an alliance with Hitler and supported him when he declared himself Führer on August 19, 1934, less than three weeks after the death of President Hindenburg. Most of these military leaders remained loyal to Hitler for many years to come.

In September of 1935, Hitler reduced the Jews to the status of second-class citizens and stripped them of their civil rights. Despite this, many thought the worst was over. Indeed, the Jews felt a sense of calm for two years, and . . . 

10,000 Jewish emigrants returned to Germany from neighboring 
countries in 1935.

By 1938, Germany had rebounded from the economic instability created by WWI and the Great Depression. Firmly in control of the country, Hitler and his regime set their sights on territorial expansion, and Jewish policies took a radical turn.

The German Army occupied Austria in March, 1938. 

There were 185,000 Jews (3% of the country’s population) living in Austria, and 170,000 of them lived in Vienna (10% of the city’s population). Sixty-two percent of all lawyers in Vienna were Jewish, and a similar percentage held positions in finance and commerce. Almost 50% of all Viennese doctors were Jewish, and Jews dominated trade and were quite visible in cultural enterprises. 

Before the occupation, the Nazi Party was very active in Austria, promoting the unification of Germany and Austria and stirring up anti-Semitism. After the annexation, anti-Jewish laws were put in place and enforced immediately. The Jews quickly came under attack and were even assaulted in the streets. Jews lost their businesses and their apartments from the start. 

In August of 1938, SS Lieutenant Adolph Eichmann set up an emigration office in Vienna to help speed the exit of Jews from the country, and . . .

150,000 Jews left during the following eighteen months. 

Ernst vom Rath
Courtesy of Wikipedia
The Nazis forced them to give up their property and their wealth before leaving Austria, but the Jews were thankful to be alive. 

Violence against the Jews increased in Germany and Jewish businessmen were pressured to sell and leave. Jews who had previously immigrated from Poland were sent back; however, the Polish government didn't allow them to return and left them to fend for themselves in the frontier zone. An angry young Jewish man in Paris whose Polish parents resided in the frontier zone retaliated by shooting Ernst vom Rath, a German officer stationed at the German Embassy in Paris. The Nazis used this incident to accelerate Jewish persecution in Germany and Austria.

On the nights of November 8-10, 1938, SS and SA men, dressed as ordinary citizens, “set fire to 1000 synagogues, smashed up 7500 Jewish-owned businesses, invaded and ransacked the homes where Jewish people lived, and fatally assaulted over 90 Jewish men. Police herded 30,000 male Jews into concentration camps until they could be ransomed out by their terrified families” (Cesarani).

This event became known as Kristallnacht, or "Night of Broken Glass."

In addition, the Nazis charged the German Jewish community one billion Reichsmark (approximately 400 million U.S. dollars at that time) for the damage done on Kristallnacht. This spared the German insurance companies from paying.

November 10, 1938 - Results of Kristallnacht
Courtesy of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Into the Arms of Strangers, by Mark Jonathan Harris & Deborah Oppenheimer (from the Introduction by David Cesarani)

Wikipedia Website - "Kristallnacht," "Ernst vom Rath," "Ernst Röhm" 

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Website - "Kristallnacht"


Cindy Stewart, a high school social studies teacher, church pianist, and inspirational historical fiction author, placed second in the 2019 North Texas Romance Writers Great Expectations contest, semi-finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest, and won ACFW’s First Impressions contest in the historical category. Cindy is passionate about revealing God’s handiwork in history. She resides in North Georgia with her college sweetheart and husband of thirty-eight years and near her married daughter, son-in-law, and four adorable grandchildren. She’s currently writing a fiction series set in WWII Europe.


  1. What happened to the Jews is atrocious. It's hard to understand how someone like Hitler got in control of the country. I read somewhere that he was elected by one vote.

    1. Hi, Vickie. Hitler actually was appointed chancellor by President von Hindenburg and was never elected. Hindenburg was afraid of Hitler and the Nazis, but he legitimized them when he elevated Hitler to this newly created position. After Hindenburg's death, Hitler took complete control of the government.