Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Leo Liffman - May 15, 1985

The Rise of National Socialism

Did you have any non-Jewish friends?

I had one, yes. His father actually at that time...That's a good question. His father was a Social Democratic uh, politician and he and his brother were fairly friendly with me. Matter of fact, I went to their house and they come to our house. And uh, we went out together occasionally. And to jump a little bit ahead of time, they were the first ones after the Nazis took over who joined a anti-Semitic student association. I mean, it's, it's a joke but that's actually how things went, not only if it's a personal experience, but I'm not the only one that happened to, similar things happened to all over. It was not a question like our dear President tries to tell us, people were forced to join. They joined, they loved it, they ate it up. That was about the only real people I could say we were friendly with, up to nineteen hundred and thirty-three, then it stopped.

What else do you remember about the, the um, twenties, had you heard about the Nazis in the twenties?

We certainly did. Matter of fact, a lot of noise was made. There were quite a number of uh, anti-Semitic newspapers, rabblerousing papers, very badly built on pornographic situations, and I'd just like to mention one here. The Stürmer, the editor of it was I think Julius Streicher and the general public started...They don't fall into it but they started to get anti-Jewish feelings and utterances for the first time. People had not spoke about Jews before...You know, the German people had wanted to be left alone too. They did their job, they did their work, only those years things were bad but they weren't too bad. They wanted to be left alone. But all of a sudden, a new party came along, '22, '23, '24, and especially '23, the name Hitler all of a sudden made a headline because he tried to take over in Bavaria, the Hitler Putsch, the Beer Hall Putsch they called it because all his friends and parties and party comrades were heavy beer drinkers when they met, met in beer halls, and that's where he gave his big speeches. That was nineteen hundred and twenty-three, Hitler was...I mean, he lost uh, the, the attempt and was put into prison. Festungshaft they called it, which is a better word for high-ranking military man to be incarcerated. It's actually a citadel, a Festung, where they had him. He was supposed to be in there for five years, he got out after, I think, after eight months. Lots of noise was made by anti-Hitler people because he used his proceedings in the uh, courtrooms for actually propagan...propa...propaganda for the Nazi party and anti-Jewish utterances were made all the time by him saying the Jews and the Communists and the Communists and the Jews, that was an old repeat story, but if you repeat a story often enough, often enough, people eventually buy it and eat it. At that same time, it should be said, that uh, the internal situation in, in Germany had uh, very much deteriorated...Inflation was rampant. I remember my father coming home practically with a basket full of money, which wouldn't buy an egg the next day. The German mark compared to the pre-war mark was devalued to the one trillionth part of the old mark. So, it was upsetting and people were made...You know, Hitler was pretty shrewd politician to an extent too. Uh, everybody got a promise. The farmers got a promise, they would do well on the farms. The bourgeois was promised in the Mittelstand that means the middle group of the people. They were told business will be fine and you'll be okay and you'll get jobs. Then the uh, intellectuals were promised up to a certain point, professors said they would be in good shape, teachers, doctors. And the big thing was, what was advertised right at that time on, from that time on, "the Jews are our misfortune," "Die Juden sind unser Unglück." We have to get to separate the Jews out of Germany and uh, then the German race is going to be the leader of the world. I mean that was a big symbol.

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