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Lisa Mullins: In mid 1930s Europe, the storm clouds of World War II were gathering and in Germany Adolf Hitler had begun his campaign of antisemitism. He was very effective at convincing Germans there was a Jewish menace. A holocaust museum in London is now displaying a chilling reminder of how that fear took hold. The Wiener Library recently relocated and it put on an exhibit in the new space: items that were formerly in storage. Among them, a board game. Think of it as a sinister version of Monopoly. Museum director Ben Barkow describes the game.
Ben Barkow: It’s called “Juden Raus” or “Jews out” and it is a bright yellow board. The board is in the form a town and you walk through the streets. You roll dice, you walk through the streets and you are hoping to land on circles which represent Jewish businesses or law firms or whatever, and the little wooden figures that you play with represent the Germans and the Jews are represented by small yellow cones, cardboard cones, with grotesque caricatures of Jewish faces painted on them. If the wooden figure lands on the Jewish circle, it “arrests” the Jew. The wooden figure goes back to his home base, puts the Jew into something called the “sammlung punktz” or the “collection point” and then goes back into the town to try to hunt down another one.
Mullins: So the more you collect. . .
Barkow: The first one to round up six Jews is the winner.
Mullins: Remind us when this game came out.
Barkow: This game was issued in 1936.
Mullins: And the timing represent what? In terms of treatment of the Jews.
Barkow: 1936, the year of the Olympic Games, two years before the November pogroms. By the mid 1930s, German society was absolutely saturated with anti-Jewish propaganda at every level. It started in the cradle. We have books for really tiny toddler, full of images of Hitler, full of messages that Jews are bad and so on. The regime was certainly trying to create a generation of willing executioners. That much is beyond doubt. So I think for a German family, the idea of the board game, maybe they thought, “Our children need to get into this mind frame to survive in this society.”
Mullins: Is it the Nazi regime that put out this board game?
Barkow: No. Interestingly, it wasn’t. It was a purely commercial product put out by a games manufacturer based in Dresden and so it demonstrates the commercial exploitation of the Nazi ideology and the Nazi antisemitism.
Mullins: So it was a commercial board game. Did people actually play it or is this kind of just a novelty?
Barkow: No. It is documented that it was a considerable commercial success and that many, many copies, possibly up to a million copies, of it sold at the time.
Mullins: And it was considered a family time activity?
Barkow: It was fun for all the family.
Mullins: I mean it was a commercial board game as you say, and it happened before the Nazi policy, the official policy of extermination. What does that tell you?
Barkow: Well, I think it points to the all-pervasiveness of their ideology and their anti-Jewish agitation on the one side and it points to, I think, the easy and cynical way in which the world of business and commerce was able to coexist and profit from this evil regime.
Mullins: We’re going to present a video of you showing how this particular board game works at theworld.org. Ben Barkow, director of the newly relocated Wiener Library in London, the world’s oldest holocaust museum. Thank you.
Barkow: Thank you.
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