The German Laws for Segregation vs. Dutch and Jewish Resistance

As the Nazi regime swept across Europe and up into the Netherlands they brought with them a deep hatred and many restrictions for the Jews. Countless laws and restrictions were put into place with intent of separating the Jews from the rest of the population through persecution and oppression. In the midst of these troubling times, the Jewish and Dutch populations rose up together determined to do everything they could in order to undermined these Nazi regulations. This assistance and support from non-Jews was helpful and appreciated by all the Jews when they were forced to deal with the harsh laws of segregation imposed and enforced by the Nazi regime. Their aid became most important as Jews, such as the Frank family, were tucked away into hiding in an attempt to avoid deportation. By studying the restrictions and limitations the Nazis placed on the Jewish people we can see how they were separated from society, how the Jews dealt with this persecution and why the Franks resorted to life in the annex. The separation from society by explicit identification and having to wear the yellow star were restrictions Jews were forced to deal with, but it was the threat of losing their lives in a concentration camp after deportation that pushed the Frank family into hiding from the Nazi regime.

The Nazi segregation techniques were evident as soon as they invaded Dutch soil, May 10, 1940; Jews were cleared out of smaller cities and crowded into Amsterdam and it suburbs. The Germans had prepared to do this through a ruling in January of 1941 that required all Jews residing in Holland to register with German authorities, and stated that failure to do so would be punishable by 5 years in prison or confiscation of property, or even both (Strobos). The Nazis figured that the first step to containing the Jews was to have them all in the same part of the country so that the enforcement of restrictions was not nationwide issue rather, than a local one. This process of limitation and confinement was so effective that in May of 1942 the Nazis decided that in order for the segregation to be complete all the Jews had to be further condensed into 3 ghettos (American Jewish Committee 1). These were fenced off areas where only Jews were allowed to live; the Germans thought that these areas were essential for complete segregation and they also simplified the procedures needed to ensure Jewish compliance to all special laws and regulations. The isolation that these ghettos created was just the beginning of the discrimination that Jews would receive from the Nazis in the following months.

More then two thousand laws or restrictions were passed to control the Jews, push them further away from the Dutch population (AJC 3), and to create a division between these two groups of people greater then any fence that man could build. The forms of segregation started small and simply frustrated the Jewish people. For example, in September of 1940 Jews were banned from acting as merchants alongside the Dutch in Amsterdam’s public markets, they could still sell their products but not in the same place that everyone sold and bought their goods. The restrictions and separation spread to all aspects of life, and by the spring of 1941 Germans had issued identification cards to the entire Dutch population and everyone was required to carry them at all times. This act wouldn’t have been a big deal except the cards given to Jews were specifically marked officially separating them from the rest of society. The registered Jews had their I.D. cards stamped with a large "J" for Jew, and then to distinguish between pure Jews and partial Jews a B-1 or B-II was added to their card if they just had a single Jewish grandparent (AJC 13). This not only separated Jews from the majority of the Dutch population, but it also began to divide families because children could now be classified as less Jewish then their parents and restrictions could be made that unequally affected their families. In August children were specifically targeted by the restrictions and Jewish children were banned from public and vocational schools. This removed the last means of consistent interaction between Jews and the Dutch population; children were deprived of the contact they had grown to count on with their friends. As a result of this new law, three Jewish schools were established and were used solely for the education of Jewish children and these classes were to be taught only by Jewish teachers. The Jewish schools were only used for a short period of time because deportation arose and began to steadily remove a large percentage of the Jewish population. The growing absence of Jewish children caused these schools became unnecessary and they were soon closed. In May, a mandate was given that read; every Jew must wear a yellow star on their left breast and on their back with the word "Jew" printed on it. This star was intended to identify Jews to the rest of the population, but it had even greater psychological affect because it caused them to feel like a tagged object wearing this badge of shame. This badge also established which side of the street an individual was supposed to walk on, Jews were assigned one side of the street while the rest of the population was supposed to walk on the other side (Frank 8). The most gruesome and harmful restriction came on July 21, 1943 when a ruling was made that "all Jewish people who had married non-Jews were to be sterilized" (Duell, Sloan, and Pierce 181). The Dutch doctors refused to perform this procedure so the German military doctors came in and sterilized 25,000 Jews. The sterilized Jews no longer had to wear the star because they weren’t a threat to the Nordic race and Hitler had successfully removed them from the perfect gene pool he was trying to create (AJC 17). As the year came to a close, the Germans had "successful" separated the Jews from the rest of Dutch society by enforcing countless restrictions and insuring compliance through brutal enforcement.

Many Dutch citizens were appalled at the treatment of the Jews, and many, especially the Christians, went out of their way to aid the persecuted peoples. One of the most visible and compassionate actions that was taken was when Non-Jews attached the Jewish Star to their clothes and wore it as if were a Jew (Strobos). This demonstrated to the Jews that the Dutch population wished to remain unified, and it also made it difficult for the German Gestapo to persecute the Jews because the yellow star did not guarantee Jewish ancestry. Other actions taken by non-Jews included walking on the Jewish side of the street, selling a Jew’s goods in the public market, housing/hiding Jewish property so that it would not be taken by the Germans, and they even supplying the Jews with radios or underground newspapers to keep their hopes alive. The biggest assistance offered to some Jews was the opportunity to receive a room in which to hide from the Germans and then to be brought food in order to survive. The Franks were one of these families who had prepared a place where they could hide and they went there as soon as Anne’s father received a call up, "everyone knows what that means. Visions of concentration camps and lonely cells" (Frank 18). By stowing themselves away in the attic, the "secret annex", the Franks, the van Daans, and later Mr. Dussel were able to avoid detection from the German Gestapo for most of the war.

By going into hiding, the Franks were hoping to avoid deportation, the most feared act of segregation among Jews, and live a life governed by the own restrictions instead of the Nazis. Life in the annex was not the ideal situation in which to live, but it was a sacrifice they were willing to make in order to maintain their own identity. This life in hiding was only possible with the aid from non-Jewish citizens, Mr. Keilman, Mr. Kugler, Miep, and Bep Voskuijl (Frank 27); they were the source of food, information, and hope for all the people in the annex. Life in hiding was not perfect, nor even easy, at times it was absolutely dreadful, "The drains are clogged again. We can’t run the water. We can’t flush the toilet, but we can manage for today" (Frank 301). Situations like this were overshadowed by the fact that when they went to bed at night they fell asleep in the own room, and when they woke up in the morning they weren’t set off to work. Life in the annex gave them a confidence that they were in control of their own life not a captive in a concentration camp. Life in the annex was not unrestricted, but the key was that it was now self-governed, they set their own schedule and lifestyle with care because their actions would determine how long they could remain undetected. Restrictions that were given in the annex was a direct result of what was happening outside of their hiding place. When Mr. van Hoeven was arrested for hiding Jews, Miep couldn’t carry the same amount of food into the building by herself without looking suspicious so they simply changed their rations, "we’ll skip breakfast, eat hot cereal an bread for lunch, and hot potatoes for dinner" (Frank 300). This supply of food they were getting was probably smaller then what they could have gotten in the ghetto, but the simple fact that they were able to set their own restrictions instead of merely complying to orders was well worth the sacrifice. Other adaptations they made were based on scheduling, as days went by in their confined living space a daily schedule began to develop (Frank 120). Limitations were put on times when they could use the bathroom and actions were even further restricted when people worked in the offices below, but the fact that their life was in their own control made all these restrictions bearable. How was this lifestyle any different the Nazis telling you when you can or can’t leave your house, shop, etc? The simple fact is that the people in the annex created their own schedule, systems, and there were not required actions demanded of them enforced by death and abuse. The annex was not only a place to stay and hide from the Nazis, but it was also the place were they could escape and retrieve their own identity as a people, something that the Nazis had gone to great lengths to strip from Jews in society.

The Nazi regime required complete compliance by Jews to all their restrictions and used deportation to concentration camps as punishment for those who did not comply. No one wants to live a restricted lifestyle and this is why the Dutch citizens came beside the Jews offering support and aid. However, the fear of death in a concentration camp was enough to push individuals to follow these restrictions, and as a result life in the annex was the last resort. This marked the beginning of self-imposed restrictions for the Franks, van Daans, and Mr. Dussel which they all felt were much better rules to live by then the limitations of the Germans. By hiding in the Annex Anne was able to escape the segregation enforced by the Gestapo, and with the willingness shown by the Dutch populations to aid the Jewish people, this persecuted people was able to maintain some sense of humanity. Life in hiding was far from perfect, but even the toughest life is a welcomed alternative to physical death in a concentration camp, or the psychological death of one’s individuality due to Nazi persecution.

 

Works Cited

American Jewish Committee. The Jewish Communities of Nazi-Occupied Europe. New York: Howard Fertig, Inc., 1982.

Duell, Sloan, and Pearce. The Black Book: The Nazi Crime Against the Jewish People. Ed. Anne L. Bloch, et al. New York: Stratford Press, Inc., 1946.

Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition. Trans. Susan Massotty. Ed. Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler. New York: Bantam, 1991.

Strobos, Tina. "Jewish Situation under the German Occupation of the Netherlands." Dutch Nazi Era Conditions (2000): 10 pars. Abstract. 3 March 2000 http://www.humbodlt.edu/rescuers/book/Strobos/Conditions. Holland.html.

 

Other Sources of Research

 Dawidowicz, Lucy S. The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1975.

Gellately, Robert. The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy 1933-1945. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.

Penkower, Monty N. The Jews were Expendable: Free World Diplomacy and the Holocaust. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988.