Photographs of German Jewish Life Prior to the Holocaust

According to the census of June 16, 1933, the Jewish population of Germany was approximately 537,000 out of a total population of 67 million, or somewhat less than one percent. However, the Nazis numbered the Jews at 566,000 based on racial criteria rather than religious affiliation. Some 80 percent (about 430,000) of the Jews in Germany held German citizenship. The rest were mostly Polish Jews who had been born in Germany and had permanent resident status.

Most Jews in Germany were proud to be Germans, citizens of a country that had produced many great poets, writers, musicians, and artists. Many Jews had served with distinction in the German Army during World War I. Jews also held important positions in government and in their communities. Although German Jews continued to encounter some discrimination in their social lives and professional careers, most were confident of their future as Germans. They spoke the German language and regarding Germany as their home. About 70 percent of the Jews in Germany lived in urban areas, with 50 percent of all Jews living in the ten largest German cities. The largest Jewish population center was in Berlin (about 160,000), followed by Frankfurt am Main (about 26,000).

This section will provide a brief look at German Jewish life before the Holocaust. These photographs particularly emphasize family life in the German Jewish community; in many cases, only one or two people in a group photograph of an extended family survived the war.