2. Pre-War Nazi Persecution
After Adolf Hitler took power in January 1933, the Nazis implemented measures to give effect to their racial hatred of the Jews. On 1 April 1933, the regime organised a boycott of Jewish-owned shops and businesses. Jews in public sector positions and in certain professions were dismissed from their jobs. Some forms of Jewish life remained possible, though Jews were exposed to random brutality and cruel discrimination.
However, under the Nuremberg Laws of September 1935, Jews were officially degraded to the status of second-class citizens, and marriages between Jews and 'Aryans' were declared illegal. These laws provided the basis for the total exclusion of Jews from German society. In March 1938, the Nazis marched into Austria, unleashing an orgy of looting and violence against the Jews.
The Jews of Germany underwent a similar ordeal in November 1938, during the terrible state-inspired pogrom known as 'Crystal Night'. Jews now grasped in desperation at any means to escape abroad. Thousands tried to secure visas in a life-or-death bid to gain entry to any foreign country that would admit them.
The ship St Louis, for example, left Hamburg for Cuba with 907 Jewish refugees, but the Cuban authorities would not let them enter. Having repeatedly failed to land its passengers at various ports, the vessel on its nightmare voyage was heading back to Germany when the governments of Britain, France, Belgium and Holland eventually agreed to admit them.