Jews had lived in Germany and Austria since Roman times. By 1871, Jews were emancipated and granted most rights of citizenship. A period of assimilation, including intermarriage and conversion, followed. Jews made vital cultural and economic contributions and many served alongside their countrymen in the First World War.

By the 1930s, there were 566,000 Jews in Germany and 185,000 in Austria. Most Austrian Jews lived in the capital city of Vienna and contributed greatly to cultural, scientific and economic life. The community was divided between middle and upper class Central European Jews who adhered to Liberal/Reform observance and more recent immigrants from Eastern Europe who tended to be working class and Orthodox.

German Jews constituted less than one percent of the population. Historically prohibited from many professions, Jews were disproportionately represented in commerce, law, medicine, journalism, academia and the arts. Germany was also home to a vibrant Jewish culture, which included Jewish educational institutes, rabbinical seminaries, and Zionist and other youth groups.

During the interwar Weimar Republic, German Jews were able to ad Read More
Jews had lived in Germany and Austria since Roman times. By 1871, Jews were emancipated and granted most rights of citizenship. A period of assimilation, including intermarriage and conversion, followed. Jews made vital cultural and economic contributions and many served alongside their countrymen in the First World War.

By the 1930s, there were 566,000 Jews in Germany and 185,000 in Austria. Most Austrian Jews lived in the capital city of Vienna and contributed greatly to cultural, scientific and economic life. The community was divided between middle and upper class Central European Jews who adhered to Liberal/Reform observance and more recent immigrants from Eastern Europe who tended to be working class and Orthodox.

German Jews constituted less than one percent of the population. Historically prohibited from many professions, Jews were disproportionately represented in commerce, law, medicine, journalism, academia and the arts. Germany was also home to a vibrant Jewish culture, which included Jewish educational institutes, rabbinical seminaries, and Zionist and other youth groups.

During the interwar Weimar Republic, German Jews were able to advance in politics within the democratic and socialist parties. But economic and political instability in the 1930s contributed to the rise of fascism and a resurgence of antisemitism in Germany.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Have students explore this page of the website or pre-assign Reading: The Life That Was. Explain to students that they are going to examine pre-Second World War photographs belonging to Jews who lived in Germany and Austria.

In pairs or small groups, students examine the photographs in Dossier: The Life That Was and respond to the following questions:

•    When do you think these photographs were taken? What do you see in the pictures that might reveal when they were taken?

•    What do the photographs reveal about the people depicted?

•    How do these photos compare to your own family and school photographs? How are they similar and how are they different?

•    How do the photographs relate to what you learned in your reading about prewar Jewish life in Germany and Austria? What do they convey about the prewar Jewish communities of Germany and Austria?

•    What questions do these photographs raise?
Have students explore this page of the website or pre-assign Reading: The Life That Was. Explain to students that they are going to examine pre-Second World War photographs belonging to Jews who lived in Germany and Austria.

In pairs or small groups, students examine the photographs in Dossier: The Life That Was and respond to the following questions:

•    When do you think these photographs were taken? What do you see in the pictures that might reveal when they were taken?

•    What do the photographs reveal about the people depicted?

•    How do these photos compare to your own family and school photographs? How are they similar and how are they different?

•    How do the photographs relate to what you learned in your reading about prewar Jewish life in Germany and Austria? What do they convey about the prewar Jewish communities of Germany and Austria?

•    What questions do these photographs raise?

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Four members of the Josephy family seated in their elegant living room.

The Josephy family, Rostock, Germany, 1926.

Courtesy Josephy Family

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Fred Kaufman with backpack, taken outside.

Fred Kaufman on his first day of school, Vienna, 1930.

Courtesy Fred Kaufman

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Gideon Rosenbluth with brother Eli, parents Martin and Mizzi and sister Raja seated together, wearing bathing suits, in the s

Gideon Rosenbluth (second from left) with brother Eli, parents Martin and Mizzi and sister Raja in Northern Germany, circa 1927.

Courtesy Gideon Rosenbluth and Vera Rosenbluth

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


A sepia toned photograph of two young boys holding teddy bears.

Gideon Rosenbluth (left), and his older brother Eli, Berlin, 1924.

Courtesy Gideon Rosenbluth and Vera Rosenbluth

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Wolfgang Gerson (third from left) with Rolf Duschenes (first on right), 1921.

Wolfgang Gerson (third from left) with Rolf Duschenes (first on right), 1921. Both Gerson and Duschenes would go on to be interned in Canada.

Courtesy the Gerson Family

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of young Peter Oberlander with his mother, seated, and his father standing behind.

Peter Oberlander with his parents, Fritz and Margaret, Vienna, 1930.

Courtesy the Oberlander family

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Young Jack Hahn holding a candy cone.

Jack Hahn’s first day of school, Vienna, 1925.

Courtesy Jack Hahn

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Walter Kohn, his sister Minna, his mother Gittel and his father Salomon, Vienna, circa 1932.

Walter Kohn, his sister Minna, his mother Gittel and his father Salomon, Vienna, circa 1932.

Courtesy Walter Kohn

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Explain that students will be viewing testimonies of people who were teenagers during the rise of Nazism in Germany and Austria.

As a class, lead a discussion about testimony, using the following questions as prompts:

•    What is an eyewitness?

•    What is a testimony?

•    What forms does testimony take?

•    Why would somebody leave a testimony?

•    What can testimony tell us about a past event that other sources might not? What are the limitations of testimony?

•    Compare the value of testimony, artefacts (such as documents and photographs) and textbooks as sources for understanding the past.
Explain that students will be viewing testimonies of people who were teenagers during the rise of Nazism in Germany and Austria.

As a class, lead a discussion about testimony, using the following questions as prompts:

•    What is an eyewitness?

•    What is a testimony?

•    What forms does testimony take?

•    Why would somebody leave a testimony?

•    What can testimony tell us about a past event that other sources might not? What are the limitations of testimony?

•    Compare the value of testimony, artefacts (such as documents and photographs) and textbooks as sources for understanding the past.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Students work individually to summarize Reading: The Nazi Racial State, noting the steps taken by the Nazis to persecute Jews after coming to power in 1933.

In pairs (or, as computer access permits, individually or in groups), students view Video: Nazism in Germany & Austria, which features recollections of former internees about how life changed for them, their families and their communities after the Nazis’ rise to power in Germany and Austria. Students should watch the video twice; on the first viewing, students watch and listen carefully, while on the second viewing, students should note the incidents of persecution as described by the interviewees.

As a class, students discuss their notes generated in response to the video.

•    How did life change for the interviewees after the Nazis’ rise to power?

•    How did your understanding of the rise of Nazism change after viewing the video?

•    What did the video testimony reveal that the readin Read More
Students work individually to summarize Reading: The Nazi Racial State, noting the steps taken by the Nazis to persecute Jews after coming to power in 1933.

In pairs (or, as computer access permits, individually or in groups), students view Video: Nazism in Germany & Austria, which features recollections of former internees about how life changed for them, their families and their communities after the Nazis’ rise to power in Germany and Austria. Students should watch the video twice; on the first viewing, students watch and listen carefully, while on the second viewing, students should note the incidents of persecution as described by the interviewees.

As a class, students discuss their notes generated in response to the video.

•    How did life change for the interviewees after the Nazis’ rise to power?

•    How did your understanding of the rise of Nazism change after viewing the video?

•    What did the video testimony reveal that the reading did not? What did the reading reveal that the video did not?

•    The videos offer recollections of individuals who were young at the time of the events described. How does this affect their accounts? How did this affect your response to these accounts?

•    Based on the interviewee’s comments, why would Jews seek to leave Germany and Austria during the 1930s?

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in April 1933, he swiftly took over all mechanisms of government and functions of state, turning the fragile democracy into a dictatorship. The new regime targeted “racial enemies” and political opponents for persecution.

Antisemitism was a central tenet of Nazi ideology. From 1933 until the outbreak of war in 1939, the Nazis implemented more than 400 decrees and regulations that restricted all aspects of Jewish life. The first wave of legislation excluded Jews from professions, public organizations and educational institutions. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 classified Germans with three or four Jewish grandparents as Jews, regardless of their religion, and deprived Jews of German citizenship.

Anschluss, the incorporation of Austria into Germany in March 1938, was followed by widespread antisemitic actions and political violence. On Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” of November 9–10,1938, Jewish homes, synagogues and institutions throughout Germany and Austria were attacked and 30,000 male Jews were arrested. Most were imprisoned in Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and other c Read More
When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in April 1933, he swiftly took over all mechanisms of government and functions of state, turning the fragile democracy into a dictatorship. The new regime targeted “racial enemies” and political opponents for persecution.

Antisemitism was a central tenet of Nazi ideology. From 1933 until the outbreak of war in 1939, the Nazis implemented more than 400 decrees and regulations that restricted all aspects of Jewish life. The first wave of legislation excluded Jews from professions, public organizations and educational institutions. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 classified Germans with three or four Jewish grandparents as Jews, regardless of their religion, and deprived Jews of German citizenship.

Anschluss, the incorporation of Austria into Germany in March 1938, was followed by widespread antisemitic actions and political violence. On Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” of November 9–10,1938, Jewish homes, synagogues and institutions throughout Germany and Austria were attacked and 30,000 male Jews were arrested. Most were imprisoned in Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and other concentration camps. Hundreds of thousands were desperate for refuge. Some western countries relaxed their immigration policies; most looked the other way.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Students explore the section of the website titled “Emigration” and “Canada’s Closed Doors.” Using what they learned from their readings and the video, students write a letter from the perspective of one of the individuals featured in the video to the Canadian or British government asking to be granted admission.
Students explore the section of the website titled “Emigration” and “Canada’s Closed Doors.” Using what they learned from their readings and the video, students write a letter from the perspective of one of the individuals featured in the video to the Canadian or British government asking to be granted admission.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

Use Primary Source Evidence
Students respond to the prewar photographs of former internees and consider what they reveal about prewar Jewish life in Germany and Austria. Students also respond to former internees’ testimony about the rise of Nazism and consider what these accounts reveal about changes to Jewish life during this time.
Establish Historical Significance
Students respond to the testimonies of former internees and consider the changes that the internees discuss during these recollections. What do these experiences reveal about the early stages of the Holocaust?
Analyze Cause & Consequence
Students consider how the Nazis’ early persecution of Jews contributed to the Holocaust. How did these policies contribute to the former internees’ decisions to flee Nazi Germany and Austria?
Analyze Continuity & Change
Students learn about how the rise of Nazism affected the Jewish communities in Germany and Austria.
Take Historical Perspective
Students consider the perspective of an individual trying to flee Nazism.

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