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On the Road to Hating Jews: Photograph Album from a Journey in Germany, 1935

אלבום אנטישמיות 1935​In January 1936, a photo album arrived at the National and University Library. The album was sent by the head office of the Jewish News Agency in Amsterdam. It was not a large album – twenty-two photographs only, all documenting signs in condemnation of the Jews,  public declarations of anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews in Germany as documented in the autumn of 1935.

Photographer on a motorcycle documenting German anti-Semitism

The photographer, whose name did not appear in the album and was not preserved through the storms of history, was a Dutchman who rode by motorcycle from Bentheim on the Dutch-German border, through Hamburg and to Berlin, a distance of 500 km. He was sent by two Jewish journalists from Holland, Hans Reichmann and Alfred Wiener, who in 1929 established the Jewish Central Information Office in Amsterdam. Hans Reichmann was the lawyer  who headed the "Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith" ("Zentralverein"). Reichmann and Wiener were forced to emigrate from Germany in 1933, settling, after some difficulties, in Holland. The goal was to document the nature of Nazi Germany as it was beginning to be revealed at the time, and to make visible the Nazi's treatment of the Jews throughout the world. The staff of the Jewish Central Information Office hoped that disseminating the pictures would rally public opinion and remove any doubts regarding the nature of the racist regime under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.



The World did not Heed the Warning

But it seems that the mission failed. The photos indeed were publicized throughout the world, and a copy of the album even reached Eretz Israel, but the hoped-for resonance was not achieved and the world did not wake up. It was surely a naïve hope on the part of Reichmann and Wiener. In 1939 they were again forced to halt their activities, and consequently they emigrated from Amsterdam to London. There, Alfred Wiener donated his collections to an institution that later became the Wiener Library, now one of the most important documentation centers in the world for the study of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. A copy of the album now also resides at the Wiener Library, testifying to the attempt of a group of brave German Jews to arouse world public opinion against   Nazi crimes some three years before the outbreak of the war.



Homegrown German Anti-Semitism

Scanning  the photographs showing roadside signs and others posted at the entrances to small and large localities alike, reveals that the photographer did not merely document official Nazi policy. What becomes apparent from the photographs is that the residents of Germany themselves prepared the signs and placed them in their environment, expressing their sentiments towards the Jewish minority: "We do not want to see Jews, Jews are the source of our trouble, they feed off of our bodies"; "Jews are not wanted here"; "The local community wants no contact with Jews". "Recommendations" were also posted: "The road to Palestine does not pass through here," and "Jews: Immigrate to your land – in our land, we already know you." Not one such sign was required by law. All of them were posted as an expression of authentic local and national sentiment. Stated directly, without any reservation or apology, the hatred of Jews, the perspective that the Jew is a foreigner and from another land, the complete rejection of the Jews, indicated where Germany was headed.