Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2005
Online Publication Date:September 2009
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511471063.012
Subjects: Twentieth century European history
At the beginning of the Second World War, Jews in Germany and in Austria, then annexed to the Third Reich, were almost totally deprived of their rights, impoverished, and excluded from society. Their condition became even more dramatic as most escape routes were cut off. Borders became frontlines, passenger ships no longer could cross the North Sea and the Baltic, and the powers at war with Germany denied admission to all persons living in territories under Nazi domination. The only remaining chances of escape were now remote destinations in North, Central, or South America or in Asia – which could be reached via neutral and nonbelligerent European countries that as a rule denied permanent residence – or illegal immigration to Palestine.
During the first two weeks of war, “enemy aliens” were interned in Germany, as they were in all other belligerent countries. This measure chiefly affected Polish citizens. At the end of 1938 there were 13,000 Jews with Polish citizenship still living in Germany, although their number had declined by the time the war began. On September 7, 1939, Gestapo headquarters in Berlin issued an order that all Jewish males over sixteen having Polish citizenship were to be taken into custody, while all women and children were to be registered. Jews were therefore arrested in their homes and taken to the concentration camps at Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and Buchenwald.