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peaceful protest

Rosenstrasse protest

The Rosenstrasse protest was a nonviolent protest in Rosenstrasse ("Rose street") in Berlin in February and March 1943, carried out by the non-Jewish ("Aryan") wives and relatives of Jewish men who had been arrested for deportation. The protests escalated until the men were released. It was a significant instance of opposition to the events of the Holocaust.

Events

Just after the German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad, Joseph Goebbels' Gestapo had arrested the last of the Jews in Berlin during Fabrikaktion. Around 1,800 Jewish men, almost all of them married to non-Jewish women, were separated from the other 6,000 of the arrested, and housed temporarily at Rosenstraße 2-4, a welfare office for the Jewish community located in Central Berlin. Before these men could be loaded onto the trains to be deported, their wives and other close relatives turned up on the street near the building. For a week, the protesters, mainly women, demanded their husbands back by holding a peaceful protest. The protesters appeared first in ones and twos; afterwards their number grew rapidly, and perhaps a total of 6000 participated at one time or another.

Not wanting to invite open dissent by shooting the women down in the streets, Goebbels, at that time Gauleiter of Berlin, released the prisoners, and ordered the return of 25 men already sent to Auschwitz. Almost all the released men survived the war.

Significance

This little-known episode in the dark history of the Holocaust is highly significant, because it was one of the few attempts by anyone during the Third Reich to peacefully and openly protest the Reich's actions. Another peaceful protest took place in Berlin's Große Hamburger Straße. Amazingly, the protesters and their arrested relatives were not harmed, and most survived until the end of World War II. This event is even more noticeable, because the women that protested were unarmed, unorganized, didn't have a leader, and confronted one of the most brutal of Hitler's establishments — the SS. Because of its success, the episode raises questions about the potential for civil disobedience in the Third Reich. At issue is the whether further, similar disobedience might have saved more lives, if only Germans had been willing to disobey more, or whether the success of the Rosenstrasse protests was a unique event, from which inferences cannot be drawn about either the Third Reich or about civil disobedience. However, no one disputes the courage of these women's efforts to save their husbands.

Remembrance

The building on Rosenstraße, near Alexanderplatz, in which the men were held was destroyed during an Allied bombing of Berlin at the end of the war. The original Rosenstraße location is now marked by a red Litfaß column 2-3 meters high, dedicated to the demonstration. Information about this event is posted on the Litfaß column.

In the mid-1980s, Ingeborg Hunzinger, an East German sculptor, created a memorial to those women who took part in the Rosenstrasse Protest. The memorial, named "Block der Frauen" (Block of Women), was erected in 1995 in a park not far from the site of the protest. The sculpture shows protesting and mourning women, and an inscription on the back reads: "The strength of civil disobedience, the vigor of love overcomes the violence of dictatorship; Give us our men back; Women were standing here, defeating death; Jewish men were free."

The events of the Rosenstrasse protests were made into a film in 2003 by Margarethe von Trotta under the title Rosenstrasse.

References

  • Nathan Stoltzfus, Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstrasse Protest in Nazi Germany, Rutgers University Press (March 2001) ISBN 0-8135-2909-3 (paperback: 386 pages)
  • Wolf Gruner, "Widerstand in der Rosenstraße. Die Fabrik-Aktion und die Verfolgung der „Mischehen“ 1943". fibu 16883, Frankfurt 2005, ISBN 3-596-16883-X

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