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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776
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The German Women Who Stood Up to the Nazis

In cases where the Nazi regime judged that protest could spark attention from the broader German public, the decision was made for tactical reasons to appease rather than quell with brute force.


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The Rosenstrasse area of Berlin, where Jewish husbands of non-Jewish German wives were held.

The Rosenstrasse area of Berlin, where Jewish husbands of non-Jewish German wives were held.
Photo Credit: Adam Carr



Of course, appeasement of protest was by no means the routine response of the Nazi regime. Rather, it was a tactic Hitler resorted to when protests emanated from long-term German traditions and practices, such as the sanctity of marriage and cohesion of family. In cases where the regime judged that protest could spark attention from the broader German public, the decision was made for tactical reasons to appease rather than quell with brute force.

Nevertheless, the Rosenstrasse and other public protests are extremely significant. They demonstrate that, contrary to commonly accepted views, Hitler sometimes compromised in order to consolidate his power. His compromises with “racial” Germans illustrate the limits of Hitler’s use of terror to control the very Germans whose support he needed to win the war. As a result, in certain instances successful protest was possible.

Perhaps one implication of the story of the brave women of Rosenstrasse that still holds for us today is to guard a sense of right and wrong and to take whatever action each of us can to defend fundamental freedoms and human rights.

Nathan Stoltzfus

About the Author: Nathan Stoltzfus, a historian, is associate professor at Florida State University, and author of “Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstrasse Protest in Nazi Germany.” He is currently working on a book about Hitler’s practice of power and the role of compromise.


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