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What remains of Nazi Berlin: Rosenstrasse

The Rosenstrasse near Alexanderplatz looks like an ordinary Berlin street. During the Second World War one of the biggest nonviolent protests against the nazis was held here.


Rosenstrasse Berlin today.


Protest at Rosenstrasse

After the nazis lost the important battle of Stalingrad in 1943, they arrested almost 2000 Jews. Of course the nazi’s had been arresting and deporting Jews for years at that time. However the Jews they arrested were so-called ‘privileged Jews’, for example because they were married to German / Aryan women or were part of the official Jewish organization to control other Jews. The privileged Jews  would not be harmed, arrested or deported the nazis had stated before.


Rosenstrasse 2-4 during the war (c) Manfred Brueckels

However, now they were arrested by the Gestapo (the secret state police of the nazis). It was called the Schlussaktion der Berliner Juden (The last action against Jews in Berlin). Apparently minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels had promised Adolf Hitler a birthday gift to make Berlin judenfrei (free of Jews). Hitler’s birthday was on the 20th of April. Hitler had been unpleasantly surprised that so many Jews were still living in Berlin.

The men were held at the Rosenstrasse 2-4. The building belonged to the Jewish community in Berlin. The same evening they were arrested (at 27nd of February) mostly their women (but also other relatives and friends) came to the Rosenstrasse. They demanded the freedom of their husbands and relatives. This was incredibly brave. To stand up against the nazis and protest during the war was very rare. The women scanted: ‚give us our husbands back’. They protested during the day and at night. The group grew larger every day. They were afraid when the guards of the building and later on the SS (nazi defense corps) threatened to shoot them, but they kept on protesting. If they really were threatened to be shot at, as some witnesses claim, is not clear according to historians.


Sculpture in Berlin to commemorate the Rosenstrasse protest (c) Manfred Brueckels

During the first weeks of March the jews were released. Goebbels decided it was the easiest way to end the protesting and increasing unrest. The so-called intermarried Jews kept on living (and working) in Berlin during the war. 25 men were already on their way to concentration camp Auschwitz, but they were send back and reunited with their women.

The women had shown how effective protesting could be, even against the nazis. During the battle of Berlin the building where the men were held was demolished. Today there is however still a column that provides information on what happened early 1943 in this Berlin street.

Not all Jews who were arrested on the 27th of February in Berlin were treated in the same way as the ‚privileged Jews’. 6000 more were arrested that evening. They were held at a different place and not released. They mostly ended up in concentration camps and were killed by the nazis.

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