Monday, January 17, 2011


I recently hit upon the idea of making bookmarks from images available on the Internet that relate to the subject of the book I'm reading at the time. The project has possibilities, but I have already found they can be more than one bargained for.

I'm reading Zoo Station by David Downing, the first in a series of books featuring an English journalist living in pre-war Berlin. It's an historical spy novel. One of his ways of making ends meet is tutoring German children in English, especially Jewish children. I began looking around for images of identification papers required in Nazi Germany.

Some especially compelling images can be found at German History in Documents and Images (GHDI) "a comprehensive collection of original historical materials documenting German history from the beginning of the early modern period to the present." The website includes a large section on the Nazi period. The materials I used are in the racial politics section. The descriptions are verbatim from the GHDI.

Figure 1 Front and Back Covers of a Compulsory Identification Card for Jews, Issued in Berlin (1939)

The “Third Proclamation on Compulsory Identification Cards” [3. Bekanntmachung über den Kennkartenzwang] was issued on July 23, 1938. According to this new regulation, Jews were obliged to apply for an identification card before the end of the year. Starting on January 1, 1939, they were to present this card, without being asked, whenever they visited government offices or had dealings with authorities. In August 1938, the Reich Ministry of the Interior issued a list of officially approved "Jewish" forenames. According to the “Second Decree on the Execution of the Law regarding the Changing of Surnames and Forenames” [Zweite Verordnung zur Durchführung des Gesetzes über die Änderung von Familiennamen und Vornamen] of August 17, 1938, Jews whose names failed to appear on the government-approved list had to adopt either "Israel" or "Sara" as additional forenames. This decree also took effect on January 1, 1939.

Inside of a Compulsory Identification Card for Jews, Issued in Berlin (1939)

Aryanization of a Jewish-Owned Business (c. 1938)
© Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz

The Nazi regime exploited the Jewish population economically through an increasingly systematic program of expropriation. Under pressure, Jewish owners sold their shops, factories, and land to "Aryan" businessmen at prices far below market value. After the Night of Broken Glass [Kristallnacht], the Aryanization of Jewish property entered its final phase. On November 12, 1938, Göring issued the “Decree on the Exclusion of Jews from German Economic Life," according to which Jews were forbidden to own retail stores and workshops and to sell merchandise and services. Jewish businesses were confiscated by the state, closed, or transferred to "non-Jewish" ownership. This photograph shows one such “Aryanized” business, a rubber goods store in Frankfurt am Main. As the sign indicates, the store was formerly called “Gummi Weil” (or “Weil Rubber Goods”), but now went by Stamm & Bassermann, presumably the names of its new “Aryan” owners.

Photographer: o .Ang

© Bundesarchiv

Bild 146-1993-051-07

Table of Colored Classification Symbols for Prisoners in Concentration Camps (1939-1942)

In 1935-36, individual commanders of various concentration camps began forcing newly admitted groups of prisoners to wear badges indicating the alleged grounds for their incarceration. Starting in the winter of 1937-38, these classification symbols were standardized for all camps.
Additionally, colors were introduced to differentiate different prisoner groups: red for political prisoners, green for criminals, blue for emigrants, purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses, pink for homosexuals, and black for “asocials” [Asoziale] or “work shirkers” [Arbeitsscheue]. Inmates wore triangles of fabric in the assigned color on their prison uniforms (left side of the shirt, right pant leg) along with their number and any required additional markings (e.g., potential escapee). Jewish prisoners also wore a yellow triangle that formed a Star of David when placed over the other badge (see below). The origin of non-German prisoners was indicated by the first letter of the German name of their native country (e.g., “P” for Polen [Poland] or “T” for Tschechoslowakei [Czechoslovakia], as shown in the photo,). The cynical social Darwinist classification and hierarchical ranking of the prisoners by the SS intensified the competition among prisoners in the daily struggle for survival.

© Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz

Deportation to Theresienstadt: Air Mail Communication Sent through the Foreign Service of the German Red Cross (September 15, 1942)

In this air mail communication from September 15, 1942, Max Jacobson, a Jewish resident of Leipzig, informs his daughter and son-in-law in New York City of his “departure” for Theresienstadt. Apparently, his daughter had emigrated to the U.S. early enough to avoid the Holocaust. Nothing is known of Jacobson’s fate, but it must be assumed that he was murdered in Theresienstadt. It is unclear how much he knew (or suspected) about his coming fate. Likewise, the question of whether he actually believed that he would see his family again – as he writes in his note – remains open. In many cases, people destined for deportation had no chance to tell their families where they were being sent. Often, relatives only learned of their fate years after the end of the war.

This communication was sent through the foreign service of the German Red Cross, which hid its knowledge of the concentration camps and fell silently in line with the Nazi regime. For this reason, the organization has been strongly criticized in recent historical studies.

Jacobson’s message to his family reads: “Dear Children! Before my departure to Theresienstadt in Bohemia, I send you warm greetings and wish all of you all the best. In the hopes that we will see each other again. Father.”

 The following document, Hitler's "Decree on Euthanasia", is on the University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies website.

Adolf Hitler's "decree on euthanasia", Berlin 1939
Written on his private stationary

"Officially "the systematic killing of inmates of psychiatric hospitals in the German Reich began with Hitler's "Decree on Euthanasia ". Mass killing of sick people had, however, taken place before in Pomerania and Western Prussia. The debates on the implementation of the "extermination of life unworthy of life "did not start later than July 1939. Only in October of the same year did Hitler sign the authorisation as a secret decree on his private stationary, thereby evading all legal rules and governmental agencies. Upon his urging, a copy of this document was handed to Dr. Franz Gürtner, Reich Minister of justice, only on 27th August 1940 by T4 leader Philipp Bouhler.

Dating back the "decree" to 1st September 1939 was done on purpose: since the war was also the beginning of the extermination of European Jewry, it was easier to trigger a "campaign" against sick and disabled persons for whom there should be no room in the victorious Reich. The "decree "did not have any legal force. It is true that there were debates on a law concerning "euthanasia in the case of incurably sick persons" until the autumn of 1940. However, the proposal was then rejected by Adolf Hitler who wanted total secrecy in this matter. Although this killing operation was illegal according to Nazi law, the courts - with the exception of a few courageous but unsuccessful judges - did not intervene.

The following image is located at, a website about slave laborers in Nazi Germany.

All Ostarbeiters had to have an employment identification document, called an "Arbeitsbuch" (work book) in German. Persons from Ukraine were classified as subhuman or "untermenshen" under Nazi racial ideology. The Ostarbeiters were required to wear the 'OST' sign on the right lapel.

I never did get around to making that bookmark.

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