It was here in 1943 that the only public demonstration of resistance against German National Socialism took place. The Rosenstrasse Protest has made this street a symbolic location for the power of civil disobedience.
An administration building of the Jüdische Kultusvereinigung (Jewish Cultural Affairs Association) was located here in 1943. On 27 February 1943, the National Socialists led the largest wave of arrests for the deportation of non-privileged German Jews still in the territory of the German Reich and the registration of the so-called ‘half-Jews’ and Jews living in mixed marriages. More than one thousand Jewish forced labourers married to non-Jewish women were brought to the building in Rosenstraße 2- 4 and detained there.
SS soldiers threatened to shoot the women but the women kept returning
That same day the relatives of the Jews who had been arrested began to congregate in front of the building, an unprecedented protest action in the Nazi era. Contemporary witnesses reported up to six thousand protesters, mostly women, who persevered in vociferously demanding the release of their husbands. Demonstrations critical of the regime had been forbidden since 1933 and the SS guards (Schutzstaffel) threatened to shoot the women. Time and again the women had to seek refuge in the surrounding streets and time and again they returned.
On 6 March 1943 Jews in mixed marriages interned in Rosenstraße were released on the orders of the Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.
The Rosenstraßen Protest is regarded as the one single act of resistance against deportation ever to have taken place in national socialist Germany and the street has become a symbolic location for the power of civil disobedience.
The administration building in Rosenstraße 2-4 was later destroyed in an air raid. Today, a multipieced sculpture, Der Block der Frauen (The Women’s Block) by Ingeborg Hunzinger, exists as a memorial and a commemorative ‘Litfaßsäule’—a historic advertising column—stands in the same place where a similar column stood in 1943 and which contemporary witnesses reported served as a shield during the protest.
In the hotel Alexander Plaza Berlin, Rosenstraße 1, there is a small exhibition with photos and explanatory panels about the street’s history.
Food for thought: Which current places of resistance and civil disobedience do you know?