Pictured above is the large crowd that gathered at Stone and Pitkin avenues in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn on March 27, 1933, as part of a nationwide protest in response to the persecution of Jews by the Nazi government in Germany.
Adolph Hitler had been appointed chancellor of Germany just a few months earlier, in January of 1933. A month later the Reichstag (German Parliament) building burned, and the Nazis, who many historians believe were actually responsible for the fire, used the burning as an excuse to retract civil liberties and to crack down on Communists and Jews, who they depicted as being at the center of society’s ills.
By March 23 of that year Hitler had claimed dictatorial powers over the country through the Enabling Act.
The March 27 protest in the U.S. was organized by the American Jewish Congress. Close to 100 cities around the country participated. The New York protest was centered at Madison Square Garden, with smaller protests sprinkled around the city, such as the one in Brownsville. Brownsville was known as “Jerusalem in America” and had been home to a large Jewish population since the beginning of the 20th century, when many Jewish immigrants fled from persecution in Russia and Poland.
Speakers at Madison Square Garden included not only Jewish leaders, but also Christian ones, including several bishops, and politicians as well, who all condemned the anti-Semitic actions of the Nazis. More than 35,000 people spilled out onto the streets surrounding the Garden to listen to the speeches, which were amplified outside through loudspeakers as well as broadcast on the radio.
Just a few days after the protest, on April 1, Hitler ordered a nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses in Germany. It was only the beginning of the atrocities that would be meted out against the Jewish population of Europe during Hitler’s horrific 12-year reign.