Poverty and Persecution: The Reichsvereinigung, the Jewish Population, and Anti-Jewish Policy in the Nazi State, 1939-1945
Based on a wide-scale investigation of new documents, the article examines the anti-Jewish policy and the changing conditions of Jewish welfare work in the Nazi State. After the Kristallnacht pogrom in November 1938, law blocked most of the means by which German Jews earned a living. Tens of thousands of Jews found themselves dependent on social welfare, while at the same time the Nazi regime excluded Jews from the public welfare system. This created a completely new situation for Jewish welfare, which traditionally had provided only supplementary aid to state benefits. The newly founded Reichsvereinigung, a compulsory organization for all German Jews, was obliged by Sipo to create a separate welfare system. A centralized structure replaced the former pluralistic network of Jewish aid. In contrast to previous opinions among historians, there was no simple demolition of Jewish welfare after Kristallnacht, but rather a controlled expansion of Jewish institutions took place. The officials and the staff of the Jewish welfare system faced the Sisyphean task of combating an ever-growing mass poverty, generated by new persecution measures. Using shrinking funds they had not only to cover basic care, but also to provide support for emigrants, forced laborers, homeless, prisoners and deportees. A long-term welfare policy was impossible. In 1941, the new welfare system was dismantled in light of the deportations to the east. The mass poverty among the Jews described in this article had a significant impact on various political decisions by the Nazi leadership, which affected every Jewish individual and the fate of the Jewish population as a whole.