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"Three Personal Letters Concerning the Sale of German Goods by Department Stores in the United States"

The Brooklyn Eagle
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Sparked by Hitler's appointment as German chancellor in January 1933 and the outbursts of anti-Jewish violence that followed, a boycott of German businesses in the United States began two months later. For some Jewish-owned American companies, the decision to remove German goods from their shelves was not always a simple one.1

The boycott had been underway for more than six months when this correspondence between a Macy's customer and the company's president Percy S. Straus was published in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle on October 2, 1933.2 The letter to Straus explains that the sale of German goods in American stores was equivalent to support for a country "ruled by a bloody gang of maniacs." The customer therefore vowed to stop shopping at Macy's. 

In his response, Straus suggests that no customer "need buy" clearly labeled German goods. He also reasoned that carrying a small selection of German goods—which he claimed were impossible to obtain from other countries—was necessary to support German-Jewish firms.3 For manufacturers of German goods who were in fact German Jews, Straus suggested that a boycott would not make the "present unbearable lot of the Jews more presently tolerable." As a "loyal Jew," Straus stood against the boycott.

Nazi propaganda labeled such economic boycotts as the work of the German Jewry against the German state. The Nazi government's campaign to boycott Jewish businesses in Germany began on April 1st, 1933—a response in part to the American boycott of German goods—marked the first nationwide action against Jews.4

In the 1930s, other major American corporations such as Coca-Cola, IBM, the Ford Motor Company, and General Motors had deep ties to the German economy. See Bradley W. Hart, Hitler's American Friends: The Third Reich’s Supporters in the United States (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2018), 116–139. 

For more details on the boycott, see the related item in this collection Boycott of Nazi Goods. For more on Straus, see Barry Trachtenberg, The United States and the Nazi Holocaust: Race, Refuge, and Remembrance (New York: Bloomsbury: 2018), 26–28.

In 1933, the Nazi regime's seizure of Jewish assets and businesses—a policy known as "Aryanization"—had only recently been introduced. German-Jewish business owners still retained control of their enterprises. 

Activism by American Jews was closely observed by German officials: the Nazi regime responded to the March 1933 New York City rally against the treatment of German Jews with a fresh wave of anti-Jewish propaganda and persecution in Germany. 

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Date Created
October 2, 1933
Page(s) 4
New York, USA
Document Type Newspaper Article
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