Aryanization of Jewish Businesses, Persecution, and Migration to America During National Socialism

Suggested framework for an extra unit with two sessions (two ninety-minute class periods) for a bilingual advanced history course (Sekundarstufe II, bilingualer Geschichts-Leistungskurs) on Inhaltsfeld 5: Die Zeit des Nationalsozialismus - Voraussetzungen, Herrschaftsstrukturen, Nachwirkungen und Deutungen

Objectives and Goals: Students will acquire a historical awareness of the magnitude of propaganda, anti-Semitic hatred, and violence perpetrated during National Socialism and will become familiar with different restrictions and laws regarding Jews. They will also become familiar with the terms “Jewish émigrés,” and “Aryanization,” and will be able to talk about the effects of National Socialist propaganda and “Aryanization” on Jewish businesses, Jewish life, and Jewish entrepreneurship in Germany. Within this extra unit, students will gather facts and detailed information on Jewish emigration from personal biographies (Sachkompetenz). They will read and analyze the genre of biography critically and generalize the historic situation of Jews under the Third Reich. In groups, students will create a presentation on individual Jewish entrepreneurs independently and will present it in class (Methodenkompetenz). By using examples from the texts and their own arguments, students will formulate a reasonable judgment on Jewish life and migration during National Socialism (Urteilskompetenz). Students will use their historical knowledge about Jewish emigration stories to discuss issues of (self-) representation and mythologizing, and will compare these historical issues with contemporary issues and reflect on their own lives (Handlungskompetenz).

(Prep 1) The instructor displays the essay Expulsion – Plunder – Flight: Businessmen and Emigration from Nazi Germany (1933-1939) on a large screen and hands out copies of this text. Brief discussion of students’ expectations about this text/unit.

(Prep 2) Homework: Students read the essay and answer the following questions:

  • Which two groups of refugees does the text identify and how do they differ?
  • What triggered emigration before 1933; what triggered emigration after 1933?
  • What did the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service entail and what was its significance?
  • Which other laws/restrictions were enforced from 1933 until the outbreak of World War II, and how did they influence the lives of Jews in Germany?
  • What factors made it difficult for Jews to emigrate from Germany to other countries?
  • What was the Reich Flight Tax and what impact did it have on Jewish capital?
  • Please explain briefly when and why the United States became the main destination for German émigrés.
  • Please explain the term “Aryanization,” and describe how it affected Jewish businesses.
  • How does the text explain the high percentage of businessmen amongst German emigrants in 1938?
  • The text briefly recounts a few success stories of German emigrants but what does the text say about the typical situation of émigrés in the United States?

Session 1: Expulsion—Plunder—Flight: German-Jewish Businessmen and their Emigration from Nazi Germany

(Step 1) Discussion and comparison of homework questions in small groups, followed by a brief review of homework questions in class.

(Step 2) The instructor displays a picture of SA members holding posters declaring the Nazi boycott of stores with Jewish owners, April 1, 1933. Brief discussion of the picture, and its relevance in respect to the Nazi boycotts described in the homework text.

(Step 3) Discussion of the July 1937 statement of Reinhard Heydrich from the essay in order to draw students’ attention further to propaganda measures that not only influenced Jewish life in Germany but also (international) emigration. Students answer the following questions in smaller groups:

  • What kind of statement was this and what was its purpose?
  • In a following paragraph the texts states that “The scope and intensity of “Aryanization” picked up considerably from the end of 1937. The NSDAP became more strongly involved, and a systematic census of Jewish entrepreneurs and businessmen was carried out by municipal authorities and the CICs”—do you see a connection between Heydrich’s statement and increasing Aryanziation in 1937?

(Step 4) The instructor shows the biography of Werner Frank (1929-) who immigrated to the United States in 1937 due to economic boycotts and Aryanization. Reading and brief discussion of introduction of the Frank essay.

(Step 5) Further reading: One half of the class reads the section on Family and Ethnic Background, and the other half of the class reads the section on Youth, Education, and Developing an Identity in America.

(Step 6) Group Work: Students pick out the most important information from their sections and later present their findings to the other half of the class.

(Step 7) Additional, important information from the unread portion of the biography is supplied by the instructor for a better overall comprehension of the biography.

(Step 8) General discussion of the historical situation of Jewish entrepreneurs (“Expulsion—Plunder—Flight”) and the personal story of Werner Frank. Guiding question:

  • What was special about this entrepreneur?
  • How did he become a successful entrepreneur despite his and his family’s fate in Germany during the Nazi regime?
  • (How) does he fit into the overall story of Jewish entrepreneurs?

(Step 9) Preparation for next session: The instructor divides class into five groups and assigns each group one of the following immigrant entrepreneurs for oral presentations[1]:

Session 2: Presentations and Critical Schlußdiskussion on Jewish Immigrant Entrepreneurship during National Socialism

(Step 1) Presentations: The student audience takes notes, while individual groups hold their presentations.

(Step 2) Discussion: General class discussion of differences and similarities between the six entrepreneurs, including critical questions of how representative these individuals may have been (why/why not), also touching on problem of self-representation, success story, mythologizing, and a comparison with contemporary stories of emigration during time of war/conflict.


[1] Students hold a formal presentation on individual Jewish immigrant entrepreneurs during the Nazi regime with the focus on their emigration account and on the establishment of business in the United States during and after the war. Each presentation ends with a reflection on and reasonable judgment about the historic situation of Jewish immigrant entrepreneurs in Germany and in the United States. Students prepare and practice their presentation at home. They create a PowerPoint presentation and notecards which they can use during their presentation. Students should not just read from their notecards but should speak freely. The time limit for each presentation is 10-15 minutes.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Aryanization of Jewish Businesses, Persecution, and Migration to America During National Socialism
  • Author
  • Keywords Simone, Willnath, Aryanization, Jewish, Businesses, Persecution, Migration, National, Socialism, America, Germany,
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
  • URL
  • Access Date April 22, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 16, 2018