- Widerstand in der Rosenstrabe: Die Fabrik-Aktion und die Verfolgung der "Mischehen" 1943
Early in the morning of Saturday, February 27, 1943, the Nazis undertook a massive roundup of the last Jews surviving in the Greater German Reich. In Berlin alone, uniformed police and SS-men arrested more than 9,000 people, including approximately 2,000 men married to "German-blooded" women. Because official guidelines specifically exempted intermarried Jews from the sweep, historians have wondered why the Gestapo targeted these intermarried men. The victims, most of [End Page 308] whom worked in industry, were incarcerated in various collecting centers—most famously in the Jewish welfare office on the Rosenstrabe. Within hours, wives and family members gathered to protest the "Factory Action," demanding the immediate release of their loved ones. Over the next several days, the number of protesting women increased to approximately 6,000. This turn of events alarmed Joseph Goebbels, who sought to make Berlin judenfrei but also feared the impact of resistance on overall morale in the Reich capital. After a massive Allied air raid on March 1 and a week of protests, he ordered the release of the detainees and the return of twenty-three others who had been deported to Auschwitz.
Wolf Gruner has devoted much effort to dismantling the consensus among historians that the wives and mothers gathered outside the Rosenstraβe saved the lives of their Jewish menfolk. In his latest book, Widerstand in der Rosenstraβe, he marshals "new" evidence to advance his argument that the women played little role in the release of their husbands, and that the Gestapo never intended to deport them in the first place. Rather, Gruner contends, the aim of the Factory Action was to select a number of intermarried Jews who could manage the one remaining Jewish organization in place of "non-protected" Volljuden who had been deported to Auschwitz.
Gruner divides his well-written monograph into four chapters. In the first, he provides a historiographical survey of the Rosenstraβe episode, tracing its discussion from obscure postwar magazine articles to scholarly studies that appeared in the 1980s and to the culmination of that scholarship in the publication of Nathan Stoltzfus's much-acclaimed 1996 work Resistance of the Heart. At this point, however, Gruner departs from his account to question Stoltzfus and other researchers' use of surviving participants' testimony as their main source. Gruner contends that the many contradictions and inconsistencies of memory have produced a distorted, erroneous portrait that can be corrected only by scrupulous examination of "overlooked" contemporaneous sources.
The detailed overview of the evolution of Nazi policy towards German Jewry that Gruner provides in his second chapter does not differ significantly from that of Stoltzfus. Both historians stress Hitler's decisive role in the deportation of German and Austrian Jews as well as the involvement of tens of thousands of Gestapo agents, police officers, financial officials, judicial authorities, and railroad personnel in the grisly process. They also emphasize the regime's vacillating attitudes toward Jewish forced laborers in munitions plants, concurring that in late 1942 Hitler finally endorsed SS proposals to dispatch them to Auschwitz. Gruner, however, devotes little attention to the thorny problem of intermarried couples and their offspring, despite the fact that Nazi bureaucrats and decision-makers wrestled endlessly with the issue. Gruner argues that in planning the final roundup, the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) intended to deport all "non-protected" Jews, but only to dismiss intermarried Jews from their jobs. Relying on a wide variety of sources including archival documents and [End Page 309] eyewitness reports, he proceeds to reconstruct the mass arrests of February 27 in Berlin, calculating that while 9,000 individuals fell prey to the Gestapo, 4,000 others managed to flee into the countryside. Gruner also reckons that within a few weeks the Nazis had transported a total of 10,948 Jews from throughout the Reich to the East.
Gruner's discussion of the experience of those incarcerated in the Rosenstraβe begins with...