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On the Threshold of the Holocaust

Anti-Jewish Riots and Pogroms in Occupied Europe: Warsaw – Paris – The Hague – Amsterdam – Antwerp – Kaunas


Tomasz Szarota

In the early months of the German occupation during WWII, many of Europe’s major cities witnessed anti-Jewish riots, anti-Semitic incidents, and even pogroms carried out by the local population. Who took part in these excesses, and what was their attitude towards the Germans? Were they guided or spontaneous? What part did the Germans play in these events and how did they manipulate them for their own benefit? Delving into the source material for Warsaw, Paris, The Hague, Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Kaunas, this study is the first to take a comparative look at these questions. Looking closely at events many would like to forget, the volume describes various characters and their stories, revealing some striking similarities and telling differences, while raising tantalising questions.
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Chapter 1 Warsaw


Anti-Jewish excesses after the German invasion

Emanuel Ringelblum, the legendary creator of the Warsaw Ghetto Archives who later tried to save his life hiding on the “Aryan” side, wrote bitterly in his study, Polish-Jewish Relations During the Second World War, in the autumn of 1943 and the winter of 1943–4:

After the German invasion, there was a revival of anti-Semitism in the full sense of the term. It was manifested in the relief work carried out by the NSV (Nationalsozialistische Volkswolhlfahrt – National Socialist Social Welfare). In the public squares, enormous NSV trucks distributed free bread and soup (made from commandeered Polish produce) to the starving population of Warsaw. For the first few days, the Jews were not excluded from this relief. But this was primarily for the sake of the films that were being made in the newly conquered capital. On Muranowski Square I witnessed how the Jews who had been given free bread and soup for the sake of the filming were immediately afterwards beaten by the German soldiers and how the queue, which the Germans themselves had caused to be formed, was made to disperse. The anti-Semitic mob would pick out the hungry Jews standing in line before the NSV trucks and would point out who was a Jude – the one German word the hooligans learned at once.

Very soon round-ups began for the various military formations that needed skilled workers for jobs of various kinds. As the Jews...

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