Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Backwaters of History: Rosenstrasse

    I've put up posts about the Rosenstrasse protest before so this is basically me recycling the old posts. That said it is an incident that, in my view, deserves to be far better known. A minor footnote in the world's bloodiest conflict it may be but the Rosenstrasse protest demonstrates the effectiveness of non-violent action even in the face of the very worst tyranny.

    By early 1943 there were still thousands of Jews living in Berlin, including around many men who were married to gentile wives. Up to the men married to gentile wives were not deported to death camps. However, in February 1943 the plan to remove Germany's last Jews was put into action. This was known as the Fabrikaktion (
    also called Großaktion Juden and Evakuierungsaktion).

    In addition, Goebbels, who (as well as to his propaganda duties) was Gauleiter of Berlin, had promised Hitler that the German capital would be judenfrei by the time of his (Hitler's) 54th birthday in April. 

    Starting on on 27 February 1943 and taking approximately a week, about 10,000 Berlin jews were arrested. This figure included around 1700 of those married to gentile wives. The latter were rounded up and taken to Rosenstrasse 2-4(the welfare office for the Jewish community in central Berlin) pending deportation to extermination camps. The wives and relatives, learning of their spouses detention, appeared at Rosenstrasse, at first in small numbers but then in ever larger groups.

    The women were unarmed and unorganised but they were determined to see the release of their husbands. Goebbels, was aware of the consequences of shooting the women down in cold blood. Moreover he was fearful that it would compromise the secrecy of the Final Solution. The men were released, including a number that had already been deported to Auschwitz

    The great majority of them lived to see the end of the war.

    Whichever way you look at it the protest was astounding. I am under no illusions that a similar protest by a group of  "non-aryans" would have been successful (or have any result other than  a lot of dead and hurt protestors). That said it still shows  that non violent protest can work even at the heart of an evil regime.  

    In 2003 German director Margarethe Von Trotta made a fictional account of the protest. I have the DVD of  Rosenstrasse . It is not of the same calibre of of the calibre of Downfall or Sophie Scholl – the Final Days. Sadly there wee a number of fictional elements that detracted from the story (It was utterly uneccessary for her to have on of the protestors to sleep with Goebbels!). That said it wasn't a bad film and did not deserve the panning it got from some critics including the New York Times.

    This link from the German website The Topography of Terror provides further information including personal accounts of those taking part and extracts from Goebbels own diary. 
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