Secrets and lies to protect Jews in Nazi Germany

Almost everyone in Germany now faced the threat of the bomber. Dresden, in the east, had been spared so far.  But nearby Leipzig had recently been hit so people were now more fearful.

Almost everyone in Germany now faced the threat of the bomber. Dresden, in the east, had been spared so far. But nearby Leipzig had recently been hit so people were now more fearful.

In Dresden former University professor Victor Klemperer just managed to eke out an existence, surrounded by threats on all sides. He was well aware that many of his friends and neighbours had been sent off to concentration camps after being denounced or for some minor infringement of the numerous laws that governed their lives. Periodically came news that one or other of them had died. As a Jew married to a gentile he had a measure of protection but it was a slender one.

He was required to work but there were a very limited number of places that were permitted to employ Jews. His former employer, Schluter, had got into trouble so he was lucky to find a new job working as an unskilled labourer in a paper and stationary factory. At the same time as he was being spat at in the street for being a Jew, he was employed by a member of the SS. Klemperer describes the unlikely set up in his diary for 11th December 1943:

Bauer said: ”It was a lot of trouble getting you here, because we have enough men, are supposed to hire women. We hit upon the expedient of lending you to the Mobius company. You are on our payroll, you are officially employed by us, no other companies apart from those already authorized to do so are to employ non-Aryans.

My friend Mobius also belongs to the SS, but you need have no fears because of that, his thoughts on these matters are even more radical than mine. Only I beg you, you must not say that you are well off with us. On the contrary, you must complain about bad treatment; otherwise we will get into trouble, and it will be to your detriment above all. Schluter essentially failed because he got a reputation for being favorably disposed to Jews…”

We went to Jagdweg; after a while Bauer also arrived; we were led to our employees’ room; a little later Mobius and Dr. Lang appeared. Mobius also a man in his thirties. When he spoke, he was even friendlier than Bauer; he shook hands with each of us, asked each one as to his profession, when he came to me, he said with a slight bow, that he already knew…

We are now, in all secrecy, given our food gratis, and in all secrecy, potatoes, which Mobius himself has fetched from the country. We get an hourly rate of 68 pfennigs, although we could and should get the 50 pfennigs of the women’s rate.

In this respect I liked Bauer even better than Schluter. Schluter said: ”I do not want my workers to suffer; I have paid them well.”

Bauer said more straightforwardly: “We would gladly pay you even more; perhaps a production bonus can be arranged later on. We are prevented from doing so by the price freeze. Otherwise – the high wages don’t hurt us! On the contrary, businesses do better out of them, because they can deduct the costs from taxes.”

It was a dangerous business to show support for Jews anywhere. As usual Klemperer was meticulous in recording the rumours and stories that he heard. All was not what it seemed in other spheres of life in Germany:

1) In a railway compartment an officer and a lady, reading. Two ladies get on and begin to complain loudly about the government. As the complaints become increasingly unrestrained, the officer says he’s had enough now, can they just shut up. The women show their Gestapo badges: “It’s bad enough that you as an officer listened so long without saying anything. And the lady there didn’t protest at all. You will both be charged.”

2) A star- wearing Jew is abused on the street, a small crowd gathers, some people take the Jew’s side. After a while the Jew shows the Gestapo badge on the reverse of his jacket lapel, and the names of his supporters are noted.

See To The Bitter End: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer 1942-45: v. 2.

Nazi propaganda was now proclaiming that they had installed warm water in some of the air raid shelters.

Nazi propaganda was now proclaiming that they had installed warm water in some of the air raid shelters.

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