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