Rezension Alan E. Steinweis
Alan E. Steinweis: Faludi, Christian (Hrsg.): Die „Juni-Aktion“ 1938. Eine Dokumentation zur Radikalisierung der Judenverfolgung, 420 S., Campus, Frankfurt a. M./New York 2013, in: Beiträge zur Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus 31 (2015), S. 193ff.
Over several days in mid-June 1938, authorities rounded up around 10,000 people and sent them to concentration camps. The »Juni-Aktion« was targeted primarily at Vorbestrafte and so-called Asoziale, but the arrested also induded around 2,000 Jews. Scholars have long recognized the role of the Juni-Aktion in the signiftcant radicalization of Jewish persecution during the year 1938, but the volume under review is the first major work devoted specifically to this ropic. Christian Faludi has produced an original and important contribution to our understanding of the chain of events that culminated in the November 1938 pogroms.
The work consists of 159 documents accompanied by an introductory essay, authored by Faludi, of about 100 pages. The documents are drawn from a large number of archives in Germany and Austria, as well as from the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the Sonderarchiv in Moscow, and the Wiener Library in London. Several of the documents – such as entries from the diaries of Joseph Goebbels – have been published previously. Faludi has appropriately annotated the documents only lightly, providing explanations for personal names, bureaucratic references, and markings found on the originals. The documents reflect multiple perspectives, including that of National Socialist officials, of Jews, and of the foreign press. Divided into 11 chapters, the documents cover not only the events of June 1938, but also the various contexts in which the Juni-Aktion must be set. These include National Socialist measures against Asoziale before June 1938, the impact of the Anschluss on Jews in Germany and Austria, and the competitions within the NS elite over the control of Jewish policy. One chapter documents the Berlin anti-Jewish program drafted by the Polizeipräsident, Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorff in May 1938, while a further chapter covers the anti-Jewish police raids on the Kurfürstendamm during the first week of June. The Juni-Aktion itself is documented in three chapters, one focusing on Berlin, one focusing on Bremen, and one dealing with the remainder of the Reich. A significant chapter is devoted to the hardships and abuses to which the arrested Jews were subjected in the concentration camps. A final chapter comprises documents relating to one specific case, that of Walter Neublum, a Jewish cattle dealer from Quakenbrück, a town in northwest Germany, near Osnabrück. Faludi’s extensive introductory essay parallels the organization of the documents, thus the reader can easily flip back-and-forth between the narrative and the sources on which the narrative is based.
Faludi locates the decision to expand the scope of the Juni-Aktion to include Jews to a dynamic of radicalization arising from a rivalry between two power centers within the NS-regime. On one side stood the security apparatus in the SS/SD, under Reinhard Heydrich, which advocated a uniform and »rational« approach to facilitating the emigration of Germany’s Jews. On the other side stood Joseph Goebbels, the Gauleiter of Berlin, and HelldorfF, his Polizeipräsident, who did not shirk from encouraging Radauantisemitismus and the use of the police to harass Jews in the Reichs capital city. Having visited Vienna during the af-termath of the Anschluss, when Austrian Jews were confronted with a plethora of discriminatory measures ranging from the bureaucratic to the violent, Goebbels and Helldorff returned to Berlin determined to intensify the persecution of Jews on their own turf. It was in this context that Goebbels tasked Helldorff with drafting a plan for the »solution to the Jewish Question in the Reichs capital city«. Heydrich torpedoed the plan before it could be implemented. Goebbels and Helldorff remained nonetheless determined to push parts of the plan through. They gave a green light for a campaign of anti-Jewish vandalism and intimidation, which reached a high point at the beginning of June, and induded large-scale police raids on locales along the Kurfürstendamm frequented by Jewish customers. Hundreds of Jews were arrested on the pretext of a crackdown on drug dealing and currency smuggling.
Heydrich criticized these measures and compelled the Berlin police to release the vast majority of the arrested Jews, against whom there was no real case. At the same time, however, Heydrich was in the process of notifying police agencies about the forthcoming »preventative« actions against criminality. Once again, Goebbels and Helldorff saw an opening. They would exploit the impending »vorbeugende Verbrechensbekämpfung« to seize back control of Jewish policy in their city. The police in Berlin, who were caught between Heydrich and Goebbels, received instructions to harass Jews »gegen jede Sentimentalität«. Precisely what this meant during the Juni-Aktion is illustrated in vivid detail in many of the volume’s documents and in the corresponding sections of Faludi’s essay. In Berlin, police conducted nighdy raids against Jewish locales, carried out mass arrests of Jews in cafes, cinemas, and hotels, and looked the other way while groups of SA men and Hitler-Youths engaged in acts of vandalism, intimidation, and violence. Faludi’s description of these events in Berlin is thorough and compelling, but this is less the case for other locations, which are examined in just. small number of pages.
While the Juni-Aktion is an important subject in ist own right, there is no denying that much of ist historical significance derives from ist role in the lead-up tot he November Pogroms. Faludi’s study is particularly valuable for the way in which it lays our in a systematic way a series of factors that would also contribute tot he events of November 1938. These would include, most notably, the determination of Joseph Goebbel’s to press for the radicalization of Jewish policy against the objections of those who preferred a more deliberate and legalistic approach; the ambiguous function of the police as a guarantor of order and as an agent of persecution; and the cynical use of violence to blackmail Jews into leaving Germany. As a result of Faludi’s efforts, we now have a deeper understanding of the continuities between June and November 1938.
Alan E. Steinweis, Burlington/Vermont