862.502/83

The Chargé in Germany (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

No. 836

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy, and translation, of Reichsgesetzblatt, Part I, No. 84, of May 4, 1939,52 containing a statute which modifies existing rent laws for the purpose of separating Jews from “Aryans” in apartment houses.

The statute in question does not specifically compel Jews to vacate houses owned by “Aryans” nor does it, vice versa, compel “Aryans” to leave houses owned and inhabited by Jews, but the intent thereof is rather to deprive Jews of the right of protection against sudden denunciation of rent contracts in order to permit “Aryan” householders summarily to cancel their contracts and evict Jewish tenants. At the same time it is provided that a lessor can only denounce a rent contract with a Jew if he (the lessor) is furnished with a certificate by [Page 585]the municipal or communal authorities that some other quarters are available for the Jew in a Jewish-owned house. In this connection, rather extraordinary powers are vouchsafed the local authorities to enable them to find and make free alternative quarters for Jews. These authorities may compel Jewish householders, or Jewish tenants in a Jewish-owned house, to register with them vacant rooms, or space which they would not seem to require for their own needs. The latter may then be forced, even against their will, to lease these quarters to other Jews who are liable to eviction from “Aryan” houses. The local authorities may draw up the terms of these involuntary contracts and collect a fee for this service. It is provided that the law may be applied in Austria and the Sudetenland with necessary emendations.

The purpose of the law is, in short, to effect the widest possible withdrawal of Jews to houses owned by Jews and largely inhabited by Jews. In view of the current housing shortage in most German cities this will not be an easy matter to accomplish. This difficulty will in part be circumvented, however, by the solution indicated in a Deutsches Nachrichten Büro report of May 4, which points out that there are many wealthy Jews who occupy apartments and villas too large for their own needs; this report comments that it is only natural, as the new law so provides, that they should be forced to rent quarters to other Jews, whose dwellings in turn will be made available to deserving German “Aryans.”

Under the terms of the law, the definition of a Jew is that laid down in the Nuremberg racial legislation of September 15, 1935,53 namely, a person who has three or more Jewish grandparents or belongs to the Jewish faith. In the case of mixed marriages, the provisions will not be applied if only the wife is Jewish. On the other hand, if the husband is a Jew and there are no children by the marriage, the law becomes applicable irrespective of the fact whether the husband or the wife is the lessor or lessee of a dwelling. In general, a business undertaking defined as Jewish in accordance with the Third Decree to the Reich Citizenship Law of June 14, 1938 (see Embassy’s despatch No. 197 of June 23, 193853a), is to receive the same treatment as a Jewish private individual.

The law entered into effect the day following promulgation, that is, on May 6, and apparently cancellation of such rent contracts as come into question may be made from that date, provided that, as mentioned before, the municipal authorities certify that other quarters are available. Apparently the premises are to be vacated as soon as possible thereafter, but in certain cases it is provided that a delay may be granted if a certificate can be obtained from the local authorities that [Page 586]there are difficulties in the way of a Jew’s moving into other quarters, or if immediate removal would do “serious damage to the health of one of the parties affected.”

As first mentioned above, the law does not compel “Aryan” householders to evict Jews. That pressure from the Party may be brought to bear upon them to do so is indicated, however, in an article appearing in the Frankfurter Zeitung of May 10 which reports that the Reich Ministers of the Interior and of Labor have issued directive regulations to the local authorities that the cell and block leaders of the National Socialist Party are to be asked to assist in drawing up lists of “Aryan” dwellings inhabited by Jews, as well as of the extra rooms in other Jewish houses which might in turn be allotted to these Jews. While asserting that a “community of dwelling” (Wohngemeinschaft) is impossible between Jews and “Aryans,” the Frankfurter Zeitung article denies that the authorities have any intention of building up “undesirable ghetto districts.” It points out that Jews are free to make among themselves voluntary arrangements for the leasing of premises.

Inasmuch as no exception is specifically provided, the law apparently applies in principle to foreign Jews. On the other hand, according to the report of the Frankfurter Zeitung, the directive regulations issued by the Ministers of the Interior and Labor provide that before issuing a certificate that alternative quarters are available for foreign Jews living in German “Aryan” houses, the local authorities must first consult with the Minister of Labor. The same provision applies also in cases where the local authorities might wish to establish evicted German Jews in the quarters of foreign Jews.

Respectfully yours,

Alexander Kirk
  1. Not printed; in despatch No. 939, June 6, the Consul reported that the provisions of the law had been adapted and extended to Austria and the Sudetenland by decrees of May 10, promulgated in the Reichsgesetzblatt, Part I, No. 90, of May 13, 1939 (862.502/84).
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1935, vol. ii, pp. 405 412.
  3. Not printed.