The Situation of the Jews
in Germany in the Summer of 1941

(August 18, 1941)


From a report dated August 18, 1941, by Robert Prochnik, Vienna Jewish Community official in charge of Emigration, in which capacity he was sent temporarily to Berlin.

At present, the number of Jews taken for labor service in Berlin is approximately 26,000 (possibly as many as 28,000); of these 55 percent are males and 45 percent females. In the remainder of the Altreich (Germany before 1938) an addition of probably 25,000 Jews have been conscripted for labor service.

Those employed are men aged 14-60 years and women aged 16-50 years. Where persons are physically fit these age limits are sometimes exceeded; in most cases such older persons, together with members of the regular age groups of reduced working capacity, are used for so-called short hours (i.e., low-level auxiliary work for approximately 40 hours a week), unless they are qualified or specialist workers who can be used in their trade....

In general, these workers are used only in enterprises in which it is possible to keep them separated from the Aryan workers, as required by law, which is mainly in industry. A large part, particularly of the women workers and youth, are employed in the various Siemens enterprises, in several chemical works and enterprises of the wood industry. In part (as at Siemens) the employment is on the assembling and adjusting, etc., of apparatus and instruments for airplanes, etc., and in part sorting, packing, loading, etc.

In addition, a fairly large number of men is employed on the building of roads and laying of railway tracks. Auxiliary workers of both sexes are used to handle goods for forwarding agents and in enterprises for the treating and re-use of scrap materials, etc.

Only in special cases is use made [of Jews] in small places of work, and usually only specially trained workers. Recently the City Administration has taken on Jews for street-cleaning.

The working time depends on the occupation and averages 40-55 hours for women and youth per week, and up to 60 hours for men....

The supply of foodstuffs is carried out within the framework of the War Economy Organization on the basis of the ration cards generally used in the Reich (marked with the letter J); it is regularly announced in the Juedisches Nachrichtenblatt when the ration cards intended for Jewish households must be collected from the various offices concerned. There is no central office for the issuing of ration-cards to Jews, and this would be difficult to carry out owing to the large distances involved and the wide scattering of Jewish residences. Jews are permitted to visit the ration-card offices for other purposes only once a week (for several hours set in the late afternoon). Purchases may be made in any retail store between 16.00 and 17.00 hours daily....

There are no other restrictions concerning sources of supply, but, particularly in certain parts of the city (such as the West, which is heavily populated by Jews), the number of stores is constantly increasing that will not sell to Jews, with the result that there is an automatic concentration on some (usually large) stores. It is increasingly common for announcements to be displayed in food stores that goods not on ration or in short supply are not sold to Jews. As regards the re-soling and repair of shoes, which is linked to the Reich Clothes Ration-Card for the rest of the population, an arrangement has been made to the effect that Jews may apply only to one enterprise (Repair Station ALSI), which has branches in all parts of the city....

The Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland set up by the Implementation Order to the Reich Citizenship Law created an organization for the Jewish population which, on the one hand, established obligatory membership in place of the former customary voluntary adherence to local religious associations; and, on the other, extended the organization to the total stratum of persons who are to be considered as Jews in the sense of the Reich Citizenship Law, and is thus in a position to operate as an organization representing all Jews. At the same time there are clear indications of a maximum possible centralization of Jewish organizations. Where the predecessor of the Reichsvereinigung, the Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland, was a federal roof organization for Jewish organizations in the Laender, the former separate bearers of the Reichsvertretung now become branches of the Reichsvereinigung....

The number of places of religious accommodation has not been greatly reduced in the recent period. At present there are 11 synagogues and prayer houses available in Berlin; in addition, most closed institutions (in particular the Old Age Homes) have synagogues, but these are intended only for the inmates. As in other areas of Jewish settlement in the Altreich, Berlin also has representatives of the various types of rites formerly common (Conservative, Liberal, Reform, etc.). The synagogues have in part remained in their former locations, and in part halls in school buildings or other public institutions of the Jewish community are used.

The religious personnel has been given up completely as a result of economy measures. Some are employed in other administrative departments of the Community, so that the performance of their religious functions has now become an additional occupation. Others, younger volunteer functionaries (including rabbis), have been taken for labor service.

Expenditure for religious purposes is minimal, consisting of RM 7,000 per month...for the whole Altreich.

Leo Baeck Institute, Jerusalem.


Source: Yad Vashem