Antisemitism or Competing Interests? An Examination of German and American Perceptions of Jewish Displaced Persons Active on the Black Market in Munich’s Möhlstrasse
In 1949 the Regional Association of the Bavarian Retail Trade and the Federation of Wholesale Trade joined together and wrote a series of letters to officials throughout Bavaria complaining about the “unfair” competition they faced on the Möhlstrasse, Munich’s main center of exchange. They argued that customers were lured away from their stores by the wares and prices of items sold in shops owned by Displaced Persons, mainly Jews. According to the German store owners, these Jews acquired cheaper and higher quality goods through illegal channels, allowing them to sell at reduced prices for cash instead of ration tickets. At first glance the letter appears harmless. However, a more thorough examination of the text combined with U.S. army reports on antisemitism and German newspaper articles from the time reveals that the letter writers chose to use couched antisemitic language about Jewish criminality, a common claim in Germany, in an effort to rid themselves of their main competitors.