On the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a new exhibition at the Wiener Library for the Study of the Nazi Era and the Holocaust at Tel Aviv University features an appalling children’s board game, “Jews out!” (Juden Raus!).
The game was manufactured in Nazi Germany by an obscure company called Guenther and Co. at the end of 1938, probably following the events of Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass, also called the November pogrom).
Prof. Emeritus José Brunner, the Academic Director and Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Wiener Library, explains that the game resembles an innocuous game that at the time was popular in Germany, but with an evil twist.
Players are tasked with quickly collecting six ‘Jew hats’ from Jewish residential and commercial areas in the city and bringing them to one of the roundup spots. The first player to do so wins the game. One of the captions on the board reads, “Go to Palestine!” (Auf nach Palästina!).
“‘Jews Out!’ is clearly the outcome of years of blatant incitement and antisemitism which prevailed in German society in the 1930’s – so much so that someone got the idea that driving out the Jews was a suitable theme for a children’s game,” Brunner points out.
“However, the game was considered an exception even at the time. Most children played games that taught them the story of the Nazi party, when it was established and how it had developed, while this game expressly teaches children to deport Jews.” Prof. Brunner adds that facts about the game’s history are in dispute, and some are even contradictory. We do know, however, that it was distributed by a food merchant named Rudolf Fabricius.
Prof. Dina Porat from the Department of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University adds, “In the 1930’s children in German schools and preschools who received their education from the Nazi party played many games that encouraged them to identify with the party’s institutions.
“The game on display at the exhibition should be seen in the overall context of study materials in Nazi schools and preschools, such as a special edition of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for children, or the scary children’s book Poisonous Mushroom.
“During WWII and the Holocaust, those who had received such an education from an early age could be clearly distinguished from older generations educated in a different Germany,” Porat says.
And yet, Brunner adds that though the game is clearly antisemitic, and even uses the Nazi slogan ‘Jews out!’, it was not well-received by the Nazi establishment.
“An article published on December 29, 1938, in the SS weekly Das Schwarze Korps severely criticized the game, claiming that it was disrespectful to the German policy of cleansing Germany of Jews, because it presented systematic hard work as a game of chance, while in fact the cleansing was a methodical, thoroughly considered plan.
“Nor was the game welcomed by the German public, and sales were evidently quite low. Though in economic terms the game was a failure and probably not many children played it, it provides evidence of the fact that where racial hatred reigns, there will be entrepreneurs who will try to profit from it,” Brunner says.
Tel Aviv University received the game in the 1970s together with the entire Wiener archive from London, containing tens of thousands of documents from the Nazi period.
The game immediately caught the attention of the Library’s directors, and over the years it was displayed from time to time to the Library’s visitors, mostly academic researchers.
To the best of their knowledge, the game owned by the Wiener Library is one of very few originals still remaining in the world. The Library’s collection also includes the SS weekly Das Schwarze Korps where the criticism of the game was published.