In 1943, Joseph Goebbels promised Adolf Hitler that Berlin would be Judenfrei – Jew free – in time for Hitler’s birthday. On February 27th, without warning, Jews were snatched off the streets and from workplaces, and held in buildings temporarily before being loaded onto trains to be sent to their deaths in the concentration camps. This was the fate of nearly 6,000 Jews in Berlin. Another group, the 1,800 Jews with non-Jewish German wives, were rounded up according to a separate list, and held in a building on Rosenstrasse, Rose Street. The German women, upon discovering their husbands were gone, raced to the location and began an impromptu unarmed, nonviolent demonstration demanding the release of their husbands. For a full week, hundreds to a thousand women protested night and day, defying orders to disperse, withstanding threats of being shot to death. The German Gestapo office sat within earshot; the women persisted despite the danger. On March 6th, as thousands of other Jews were being sent to Auschwitz, the husbands of these Berlin women were released. Even the thirty-eight who had already been sent to the camps were returned to Berlin. It is said that the Rosenstrasse protest also halted the plans to round up the intermarried Jews in France, a change that saved thousands of lives. The German government felt that the dissent and visible signs of resistance would be detrimental at this time, and that releasing the men was easier than risking more uprisings.
Today, as Islamophobia and anti-refugee rhetoric is whipping the American populace into a frenzy of fear, we need not wait until the eleventh hour to see where this type of discrimination leads. Before politicians allow bigots to require Muslims to register (like the Jews in the 1940s), or wear a symbol (like the yellow star), or be deported to concentration camps, let us take a chapter out of German history – the Rosenstrasse chapter, that is. If the threatened registry appears, let us protest it, or sign it en masse as an act of protest. If the parallel to the yellow star occurs, let us all, as citizens, resist the labels unanimously. Let us remember the words of Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me
And if they come for any of us, let us be prepared to use nonviolent action, like the women of Berlin, to rescue not just our loved ones, but all of our human brothers and sisters, so that the tragedy of the Holocaust can never be repeated. With courage and preparation and knowledge, we can stop the dangerous cycle of history from repeating in the context of our contemporary lives.
Read more about the Rosenstrasse protests here. http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/german-wives-win-release-their-jewish-husbands-rosenstrasse-protest-1943
Photo Credit: Skulptur “Block der Frauen” von Ingeborg Hunzinger in in der Rosenstraße in Berlin-Mitte, Teilansicht. Das mehrteilige Denkmal erinnert an den Protest Berliner Frauen gegen die Verhaftung ihrer jüdischen Angehörigen 1943. By Manfred Brückels – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8058920
This article is from Rivera Sun’s book of nonviolent histories that have made our world. Click here for more information.
Rivera Sun is a change-maker, a cultural creative, a protest novelist, and an advocate for nonviolence and social justice. She’s a love-based revolutionary and the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, The Way Between and ten other fiction, non-fiction and poetry books. Her essays and writings are syndicated by Peace Voice, and have appeared in over a hundred journals nationwide. Rivera Sun speaks and facilitates workshops in strategy for nonviolent change across the country and around the world. She connects the dots between the issues, shares solutionary ideas, and inspires people to step up to the challenge of being a part of the story of change in our times. www.riverasun.com