Nazi Imposed Restrictions in The Netherlands

The Nazi Holocaust was one of the most horrific events in mankind’s history. This terrible crime took the lives of millions of Jews and other despised groups of people. Not all of the victims of the Holocaust were shipped away to concentration camps and killed however. In the years leading up to and during the actual Holocaust the lives of Jews in German occupied countries were seriously restricted by numerous laws meant to hinder the daily life of Jews. The laws varied from restrictions on transportation, the mandate of wearing the yellow star, the segregation of Jews from Non-Jews, and countless others meant to demoralize and weaken Jewish individuals. Two broad restrictions that are often overlooked in history in comparison with the actual Holocaust in general are the restrictions on the sports and culture of Jews during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Although these regulations did not directly translate into death for Jews, they did have a very severe psychological side effect on people, making them easier to be conquered later on. It was possible to persevere however, as seen by various passages in Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, through this cultural and psychological drought. By doing various activities, many of which are in the form of resistance to Nazi imposed restrictions, such as exercising, reading, and listening to music, the group of people hiding in the Annex were able to survive these tough restrictions, and were even able to lead a surprisingly normal life considering the political and social parameters of that time.

One of these parameters that limited life and demanded a change in daily activities for a Jew during this time was the restriction on Jews participating in a sport or recreational activity in public. One specific restriction in place on Jews at the time was the banning of them from public swimming pools. Although this ban originally started in Germany, it became common practice in the Netherlands in the 1940’s as Arthur Seyss Inquart sought to realize his goal of reducing the Jews of the recently conquered country of the Netherlands to the same low social status to which the German Jews had been reduced to since the implication of these restrictions there in the year 1933 (Jong 7). At first these bans were meant solely to demoralize and weaken the Jews, as it wasn’t actually until 1941 that the goal and logistics of the Holocaust were actually established in Berlin (Jong 7). To keep the Jews out of public pools and other recreational establishments, and to further demoralize them, a simple but forceful sign like the one found at Dortmund, Germany for example was probably posted: "Access to these Facilities is forbidden to Jews" (Friedlander 122).

Resistance to these restrictions on recreation was evident and feasible in Jewish society and was necessary to lead a somewhat normal life like that of the Franks after going into hiding in the Annex. Although information on these types of restrictions in the Netherlands is rather limited, one passage from the Diary makes it certain that these restrictions were common practice in German occupied countries as well: "Jews were forbidden to use swimming pools, tennis courts, hockey fields or any other athletic fields; Jews were forbidden to take part in any athletic activity in public," (Frank 8). Bans of this type were meant to separate Jews from Non-Jews, as some Germans feared contact of any kind between the two, and also to lessen the ties between Non-Jews and Jews to facilitate the later removal of the Jews. Such a restriction also serves to weaken Jews both physically and emotionally, as can happen in an environment which is void of recreation and physical exercise. (Friedlander 123). The Franks realized the danger that can come of this, so at the beginning of their time in the Annex, they made exercise a top priority in their schedule, as seen in Anne’s written schedule found in her diary: "Calisthenics: Daily" (Frank 69). Even though the groups makes an effort to exercise daily, this regiment quickly stops due to the quiet and secretive environment of the Annex and as a result the group feels the consequences: "But now we are paying the price for having had so little exercise; we’re so stiff we can hardly turn our heads. The real calisthenics fell by the wayside long ago" (Frank 119). This clearly shows how the people of the Annex tried to resist German restrictions even though they ended up being unsuccessful in the end.

Another restriction that had a negative effect on Jewish culture and even livelihood was the Nazi Ban of Jewish Cultural activities. More specific, the Nazis banned Jewish involvement in theatre, film, literature, music and any other cultural activities. In order to participate in any cultural activity or even to simply show a film, everybody involved in its production had to be a member of the "Chamber" assigned to each specific category of Art. The network of all the "Chambers", called the "Reich Chamber of Culture", was reserved for people possessing the necessary "reliability", which meant being Aryan (American Jewish Committee 96). This somewhat disguised tactic, as it didn’t explicitly state that Jews "couldn’t be a member", effectively eliminated Jews from the culture industry. It was so effective that in only one year after it was first mandated in Berlin in 1933, it was reported that over 2000 Jewish actors and musicians had lost their livelihood (American Jewish Committee 97). Jews were also banned from the field of Journalism in Germany during the mid 1930’s and 1940’s. At first however, those Jews who had either fought in the World War or who had either a son or father killed in the war were exempt from this ban (American Jewish Committee 161). This soon changed though in January 1934, as it was decreed that both Jews of any type and Non-Jews married to Jews were now completely banned from Journalism (American Jewish Committee 161). As was soon evident, this restriction and the more general restriction of banning Jews from any type of cultural event had an extreme impact on the Jewish culture of the time.

Besides just destroying the livelihood of Jews in the cultural industry, this ban also had a negative effect on Jews of all types in a more directly psychological way. Again, even though there is a limited amount of historical information on these bans taking place in the Netherlands as well as in Germany, if one examines the diary, they will find proof of the existence of these bans: "Jews were forbidden to go to the theatres, movies or any other forms of entertainment"(Frank 8). The Franks no doubt considered the demoralizing effect that a lack of culture and entertainment can have on people, and they clearly took certain steps to prevent this from happening. One activity in order to prevent this was the prodigious reading that the group in the Annex did on a daily basis: "Father has taken the plays of Goethe and Schiller down from the big bookcase and is planning to read to me every evening" (Frank 58). Although it is also to kill time, reading is an important activity in the fight against the German goal of demoralization, and the Franks realize the importance of this fact. Another activity used in this fight against Nazi restrictions on Jewish cultural activities was the act of listening to music by way of the radio. This simple activity was so important in the daily fight against depression and demoralization that members of the Annex were even allowed to listen to German Radio Stations to hear certain music: "No listening to forbidden broadcasts, with the exceptions, i.e. German stations may only be tuned in to listen to classical music" (Frank 69). These activities of listening to music by way of German radio and reading daily are simple yet utterly necessary forms of resistance and moral sustainment in the fight against Nazi control.

When most people think of the Holocaust, they focus on the concentration camps and the massive amount of people who lost their lives there. A not so initially impressive, but still completely central tactic to the Holocaust was the group of laws that restricted daily life for the Jews in Germany and German occupied countries. Two of these devastating restrictions were on Jewish sports and Jewish culture, both serving to isolate them from society in order to ease later removal and to demoralize the Jewish population. The group of people hiding in the Annex in the Netherlands, described in Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl however, were able to resist these Nazi imposed restrictions on daily life in order to live a somewhat normal life up to their eventual capture near the end of the war.