The date was Friday, March 5, 1943. The place Berlin, capital of the Greater Reich. The event…1,800 Jewish prisoners of the feared SS & Gestapo began to be released to their freedom from a building at Rosenstrasse 2-4 after over a week of protests by German women. 25 Jews who had been sent already to Auschwitz were retrieved by the SS & also released. Ever since this stunning victory of freedom, people have been groping for an explanation, & disagreeing amongst themselves about what may have happened. Many of the stunned prisoners, who never expected to see their families or liberty again survived the war.
SAT. 27 FEB 1943. The Gestapo & SS working together were rounding up the last of Berlin’s Jews. About 10,000 were picked up. Many were taken out of factories where they were working hard under the illusion their valuable work would spare them. (This is why this SS operation was called Fabrik-Aktion—“the factory action”.) The destination of many would be Auschwitz. However, the SS separated out Geltungsjuden (decorated vets from WW I), Mischehe (Jews married to Germans), and Mischling (part-Jews) and sent them to a building at Rosestrasse 2-4. The German wives of these Jews managed to follow the route they were taken & the women began gathering outside of the building. A spontaneous protest began to take place, and the women began chanting over & over, “Gebt uns unsere Männer wieder!” (“Give our husbands back!”) No one knows how many women gathered, but it was around 1,000, and they stayed there in protest for 2 weeks until the SS began releasing all the Jewish inmates. During that time, they were smuggling food & supplies to the inmates, and blocking the route for SS trucks trying to get to the building. Occasionally, the SS guards would threaten to shoot them all, and they would scurry into side streets, only to come back a few minutes later. They screamed for their husbands day in day out, and stayed there like a wall hour after hour through the nights yelling for their men. The protest could be heard blocks away. As the women increased in agitation, the SS had to increase their reinforcements.
When the women first arrived at the building, many did not know the fate of their men, because they had simply disappeared from work. Asking the guards at the building about their husbands only got commands, “Move on!” But the women figured out ruses. They would ask the guards for the food ration cards of their men, & when they got the cards, they would know these men were alive & inside.
Did the heroic 2-wk. protest by these women change the Nazi hierarchy’s mind?? Or did the Nazis already have other plans for these 1,800 Jews? Everyone has an opinion, no one knows for sure! I remember reading something similar (although not as dramatic) happening in Castro’s Cuba.
By the way, in a time period when protest or criticism of the Nazi regime could mean the death penalty, one trick to make a public protest was to start talking to some stranger in an interesting conversation, and then give them a big valedictory encouraging pat on the back and send them on their way down the street. It would only be later that the person would discover they had been turned into a walking anti-Nazi sandwich board; because when they had been slapped, they had had a paper with a message of protest stuck on their back! Sounds like a trick that might work in the future too! Perhaps you know of some other successful tricks. Have a great day!