Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstrasse Protest in Nazi Germany
In February 1943, the Gestapo arrested approximately 10,000 Jews remaining in Berlin. Most of them died within days in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Two thousand of those Jews, however, were locked into a temporary collection centre on a street called Rosenstrasse, in the heart of Berlin. These two thousand had non-Jewish, German husbands, wives, and children. As news of the arrest spread, hundreds of Gentile spouses, mostly women, hurried to the Rosenstrasse in protest. For a week the Berlin police and uniformed SS dispersed the women with threats to shoot them down, but they advanced again and again until the Gestapo backed down and freed their loved ones. Who were these intermarried Germans who dared to disobey history's most ruthless regime? Why did they choose to suffer the stigmas of intermarriage? And why did Hitler and Goebbels give in to the protesters and release two thousand Jews? If more Germans had protested, might the Holocaust have been slowed or even stopped? This work is a response to these questions. The history of the Rosenstrasse protest demonstrates the courage--and compromise--of self-protective resistance. Using interviews with survivors and Nazi records, this text reconstructs the Rosenstrasse story.
"A faithful, painstaking reconstruction of an amazing event in the history of Nazi Germany, a case of successful protest against the Gestapo in the middle of the war in Berlin. This incident has been overlooked by historians and Professor Stolzfus deserves our gratitude...."
--Professor Walter Laqueur
"Stoltzfus (history, Florida State Univ.) has written about an unusual and striking episode of the Holocaust. In February 1943, the remaining 10,000 Jews of Berlin were rounded up by the Gestapo; of these, about 2000 were married to non-Jews. These 2000 were herded to a collection center on the Rosenstrasse, the street that was a former center of Jewish life. Word spread quickly among the Christian spouses and relatives, and a public protest ensued, lasting a week. The author's work is groundbreaking in documenting the sensitivity of the Hitler regime to public opinion. After initial vacillation, a decision was made to release the prisoners. Stoltzfus has done an impressive job of presenting this unusual episode. He emphasizes that if the church had protested against the treatment of the Jews as it did, successfully, against the euthanasia program, the Holocaust would not have occurred. He examines issues pertaining to, among other things, intermarriage between gentile and Jewish Germans and adds an extra dimension to his account with poignant, compelling interviews with survivors, which provide the backbone of the book and make it very readable for generalists. Highly recommended for large public and academic libraries."
--Paul Kaplan, Library Journal
"In early 1943, the Gestapo rounded up most of the Jews remaining in Berlin, the majority of whom were married to German gentiles, and interred them in a facility on Rosenstrasse, a street in the heart of the city. In the following days, their non-Jewish spouses congregated spontaneously on Rosenstrasse and demanded the return of their mates. Despite threats from the SS to shoot anyone gathering around the building, the spouses held their ground, and eventually Joseph Goebbels agreed to release the 1700 intermarried Jews. Stoltzfus, who teaches history at Florida State University, has written a powerful, exhaustively researched report on that rare episode of open, successful resistance to the regime and reaches a telling conclusion: the Nazi state was so concerned with popular acceptance that public protest could have stopped many of its murderous policies. For a significant example, he cites the Catholic Church's successful opposition to the Nazi's euthanasia program: '[I]t seems beyond any doubt that if the churches had opposed the killing... of the Jews as they opposed the killing of the congenitally insane and sick, there would have been no Final Solution.' Interwoven here are the poignant, compelling histories of couples from mixed marriages who opposed the Nazis and survived the regime."
"Stoltzfus draws on archival research and oral history in a study of the 1943 Rosenstrasse protest--a week of street demonstrations by German Gentile spouses (primarily wives) of Jews interned at the Jewish Community welfare administrative center in Berlin before deportation to concentration camps. Attempting to finesse the intermarriage issue by encouraging divorce, the Nazis "temporarily exempted" intermarried Jews and their Mischlinge children from the Final Solution, an ideological compromise whose roots Stoltzfus finds in Hitler's theory of power and his fear of social unrest. Stoltzfus focuses on specific couples in sketching courtship, marriage, and parenthood in pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany, as intermarried families were, like other Jews and "enemies of the state," progressively isolated from the larger community. But the Rosenstrasse protest "worked": this "singular instance of mass German protest against the deportation of German Jews" protected the demonstrators' family members and, by war's end, "intermarried Jews constituted 98 percent of the surviving Jewish population." A careful exploration of what this often ignored event implies about the potential for resistance in Hitler's Germany."
--Mary Carroll, Booklist
"Stoltzfus is a careful and subtle historian and the result of his labors is no less sensational and thought-provoking."
--Richard J. Evans, The Sunday Telegraph
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. Hitler's Theory of Power
2. Stories of Jewish-German Courtship
3. The Politics of Race, Sex, and Marriage
4. Courage and Intermarriage
5. Mischlinge: "A Particularly Unpleasant Occurrence"
6. Society versus Law: German-Jewish Families and Social Restraints on Hitler
7. Society and Law: German-Jewish Families and German Collaboration with Hitler
8. Kristallnacht: Intermarriages and the Lessons of Pogrom
9. At War and at Home: Mischlinge in Hitler's Army
10. Racial Hygiene, Catholic Protest, and Noncompliance, 1939–41
11. The Star of David Decree: The Official Story and the Intermarried Experience
12. The Price of Compliance and the Destruction of Jews
13. Plans to Clear the Reich of Jews—and the Obstacles of Women and "Total War"
14. Courageous Women and Rosenstrasse
15. Protest, Rescue, and Resistance
Notes on Sources and Discovery
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