A 1938 Nazi Law Forced Jews to Register Their Wealth—Making It Easier to Steal


Protestor with sign saying “Don’t buy from Jews” – around 1938

From Smithsonian.com by Lorraine Boisseault:

The new law came mere weeks after the Anschluss, Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria. On April 26, 1938, the “Decree for the Reporting of Jewish-Owned Property” issued by Hitler’s government took effect, requiring all Jews in both Germany and Austria to register any property or assets valued at more than 5,000 Reichsmarks (around $2,000 in American currency of the period, or $34,000 today). From furniture and paintings to life insurance and stocks, nothing was immune from the registry. By July 31 of that year, German finance officials had collected paperwork from some 700,000 Jewish citizens—7 billion Reichsmarks-worth of wealth ripe for state-sanctioned theft known as “aryanization.”

“Aryanization was essentially a gigantic, trans-European trafficking operation in stolen goods,” writes historian Götz Aly in Hitlers Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State. As Nazi-occupied territory grew from Austria to Poland to more of Eastern Europe, so, too, did the number of Jewish families the Nazis could steal from. Jews had faced discrimination in Germany—and much of Europe—before the April 1938 edict, but that new law marked a turning point. One legal advisor for the Nazi Ministry of Economics deemed it the “forerunner to a complete and definitive removal of Jews from the German economy.”

When Adolf Hitler first came to power in 1933 thanks to the Enabling Act that gave him and his ministers all legislative control, the German economy was still reeling from the Great Depression. Hitler committed his government to two main economic policies: military armament and Autarky, or economic self-sufficiency. By promoting the use of German coal and putting taxes towards the military, Hitler steered his country towards a thriving economy. But even as the nation’s financial state recovered, he needed more money for the military, and so he created a fictional private enterprise to underwrite promissory notes, writes historian Aly. Somehow that fake money had to be made real so that various government entities, like the military, would actually have the capital to function without bringing down the economy, and that’s where Jewish wealth came to play.

Read the rest of the article at Smithsonian.com

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