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1937: Quiet Before the Storm
 pg. 113 
  In 1937 some alternative actions were tried. On March 15 an anti-Nazi protest rally, sponsored by the American Jewish Congress (AJC) and the Jewish Labor Committee, took place in New York's Madison Square Garden. Inside Germany, David Glick, an American lawyer who had connections with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, successfully negotiated the release and emigration of 120 of the 300 Jews who were then prisoners in the Dachau concentration camp. In late December 1937 the official leadership of German Jewry publicly urged its people to carry on with resoluteness and self-confidence.

Noble though they were, such efforts were not strong enough to check the power they faced. They lacked support from a larger collective will--inside Germany and internationally as well--that would have been necessary to check the persecution of Jews, which had already begun to spread beyond Germany's borders. For example, 350 attacks on Jews were recorded in Poland during August alone. Earlier in the year, on June 11, 1937, one of the few remaining legal protections given to German Jews was further stripped away when Jews were prohibited from giving testimony in German courts. Five months later the German Interior Ministry required Jews to carry special identity cards for travel inside the country.

The Nazis also stepped up arrests to enforce the laws forbidding sexual relations between Germans and Jews. Those arrests often resulted in concentration camp sentences. That summer the Nazi camp system expanded, most significantly with the opening of Buchenwald, which became operational on July 16.

Three days later a Nazi exhibition of "degenerate art" opened in Munich. Ordered by Hitler himself, this exhibition denigrated innovative art, including many works by Jewish artists. The Nazis eventually destroyed some of this art, but much of it was auctioned off for foreign currency that the Third Reich needed to advance its ambitions. A few months later, on November 8, Munich witnessed the opening of another destructive exhibition, The Eternal Jew, an antisemitic art and poster show sponsored by the Nazis.

Nazi ambitions in 1937 included solidified relationships with Italy, which opened the way for German annexation of Austria the following year. Germany cultivated an alliance with imperial Japan and continued the rapid growth of its own military forces, which would be needed for the even larger territorial expansion to which Hitler's talk increasingly referred. Nazi ambition also embraced young Dr. Mengele's research. All too soon, it would take him from the Institute of Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene to the racially inspired experiments and "selections" that would destroy millions of Jews and other defenseless people who were branded less than fully human. In the twilight world of Auschwitz, there would be little concern for the "God-given rights" cherished by Pope Pius XI.

If 1937 was one of the Holocaust's quieter years, it was certainly ominous enough. The storm's full force was not far off. No papal encyclical, protest rally, or emigration project would be enough to keep it at bay. Churchill was right. The "hideous catastrophe" that he anticipated in 1937 was fast approaching.

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Policemen march for the Führer at the annual Nuremberg Party rally.
Photo: Wide World Photos/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive

Graffiti on a Frankfurt, Germany, window suggests that Jews should move to Palestine.
Photo: Archive Photos

1937: Quiet Before the Storm
 pg. 113 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.