In the last third of the 19th century, well before the National Socialist era, a growing number of resort towns as well as some hotels and guest houses publicly declared themselves “Jew free” [judenfrei] in order to attract antisemitic guests. This “Bäder-Antisemitismus” [resort antisemitism], as it came to be called by contemporaries around the turn of the century, developed not only nor primarily in Imperial Germany, but was an international phenomenon present in many European countries yet also in the United States, where it was termed “resort antisemitism.” The advanced hostility towards Jews in some seaside resorts and spa towns was not merely an expression of political antisemitism, for it reflected anti-Jewish attitudes in everyday social life. In part, the exclusion of Jews from some resort towns had its origins in the socio-cultural history of early tourism among other things, but it was also a result of the upward mobility among the Jewish minority in many societies. Until World War I, vacations were a social and mostly bourgeois privilege, which only a tenth of Imperial Germany’s population were able to afford. Being able to travel for leisure documented one’s social ascent as well as one’s belonging among the upper echelons of society. In the last third of the 19th century, Imperial Germany’s Jewish minority, having ascended to the bourgeoisie relatively quickly, increasingly joined the circles of spa and resort town tourists, thus symbolically knocking on the doors of “respectable society.” While this inspired resentment among the traditional, noble and wealthy bourgeois clientele against the “nouveau riche” upstarts, resort antisemitism was most virulent among the lower middle class, who could not afford luxurious resort towns and hotels and thus projected their envy mostly onto the Jewish minority. This was one reason why it was not the established, traditional resorts (Baden-Baden, Norderney, Heringsdorf, Westerland) which positioned themselves as antisemitic, but mostly newer resorts such as Borkum or Zinnowitz, which were latecomers in the tourism industry and aimed at attracting a lower middle class clientele by appealing to their prejudices. Since resort antisemitism spread particularly in the seaside resorts on the North Sea and the Baltic, Hamburg’s Jews were especially affected by this phenomenon for geographical reasons, as they were more likely to spend their vacations in the north of Germany than to travel a long way to the Alps or the Mediterranean.
In legal terms, resort antisemitism was a grey area since the proprietors of hotels and guest houses had the right to choose their guests and couldn’t be held to accommodate everyone indiscriminately. At the same time, Jews enjoyed the right of free movement in Imperial Germany and therefore could not be legally prevented from entering certain towns. Aware of this, antisemitic resort towns sought to discourage Jewish visitors by means of constant and obvious marginalization. Anti-Jewish songs played daily by the resort band [Kurkapelle] which animated numerous anti-Jewish tourists to sing along played a major role in this attempt. This was particularly true of catchy refrains such as that of the Zinnowitz song: “...Fern bleibt der Itz – von Zinnowitz” [Away the kike will stay – from Zinnowitz]. It is not surprising that Jewish tourists did not feel like spending their few weeks of annual vacation among antisemites in this atmosphere. “It is disgusting that such hate speech is permitted,” an appalled Victor Klemperer, professor of Romance languages from Dresden, remarked in 1927 after having reached Zinnowitz during a walk along the shore and finding the “Zinnowitz song” (“imbecilic rhymes”) in many shops. The German-Jewish press in turn began publishing warning lists at the opening of the resort season which made sure that Jewish tourists did not even try to visit those towns that had publicly declared Jewish visitors unwelcome. The development of antisemitic songs was mostly influenced by the style of the “Borkum song” [Borkumlied] publicly sung as early as 1890. While Prussian Minister of the Interior Friedrich von Moltke in 1908 classified singing the song as a “grave insult,” he simultaneously stated that he could not take any legal measures against it. During the early period of the Weimar Republic in particular, numerous new rhymes and imitation songs were written, one of which was the “Zinnowitz song” discussed here, another one was the “Wangerooger Judenlied” [Wangerooge’s Jew Song]. The “Zinnowitz song” lyrics clearly show that it was written during the early days of the Weimar Republic: The specific mention of the colors “black, white, and red” – the flag of Imperial Germany, which had ceased to exist in 1918 – is a reference to the introduction of the black, red, and gold flag as symbol of the Weimar Republic. The greeting addressed to the “German Land of Borkum” makes reference to the controversy about the “Borkum song”, which had escalated during the early days of the Weimar Republic, and which served as model for the “Zinnowitz song” in both melody (the Imperial march “Hipp, Hipp, Hurra!”) and rhyme scheme. Both songs feature a refrain expressing an antisemitic message aimed at marginalizing Jewish tourists (Borkumlied: “And whoever approaches with flat feet/with hook noses and curly hair/shall not enjoy your beach/he must go away, he must go away! Away! ;” Zinnowitzlied: “And whoever approaches from the Tribe of Manasseh/Is not wanted/He will be turned away/We do not like foreign races!/Away the kike will stay – From Zinnowitz! ”) The swastikas printed on this postcard do not feature as NSDAP symbols in this instance since the party did not exist on Usedom in the early 1920ies, but instead are meant to symbolize German nationalist and antisemitic sentiment.
Overall, songs like this one testify to growing antisemitism in post-World War I society. At the same time, they also mobilized the opponents of antisemitism in the Weimar Republic, especially in Prussia, where Walter Bubert, the Social Democrat district administrator for the island of Borkum, and Jann Berghaus, left-wing Liberal district president, banned the “Borkum song” from being played, had the Borkum resort band arrested and their instruments confiscated. Consequently, the local administration in Zinnowitz initially acted more moderately, pointing out that the antisemitic agitation and the public singing and playing of the “Zinnowitz song” in particular was the work of tourists of that conviction against whom they were powerless. This was true insofar as antisemitism in Zinnowitz was mainly instigated by the “Zweckverband zur Freihaltung des Badeortes Zinnowitz für deutschblütige Kurgäste” [Association for the Preservation of the Resort of Zinnowitz for Visitors of German Blood] founded in 1920, whose members were almost exclusively tourists. Yet the town’s tourism board, when advertising the “German Baltic Sea Resort of Zinnowitz” in its 1926 brochure, expressly pointed out that “long-standing efforts have been made by the regular visitors to our beautiful resort to keep it free from Semitic spa tourists.” For communities and tourist boards, but mainly for the local proprietors of hotels and guest houses, resort antisemitism was a profitable business, so that attempts to curb it by legal or administrative means met with little success overall. Its long-term consequences consisted in establishing zones of tourist apartheid, thus reducing social contact between Jews and non-Jews and facilitating the Jewish minority’s exclusion during the “Third Reich.” Thus it is not surprising that spa and resort towns played a pioneering role in the public exclusion of Jews in Nazi Germany after 1933.
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Franz Bajohr, Prof. Dr. phil., born 1961, is professor at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and scientific director of the Centre for Holocaust studies at the Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich. His focus of research is: history of the Holocaust and the NS-period, history of antisemitism, German contemporary history, elites in the 20th century and history of tourism.
Frank Bajohr, The Zinnowitz Song: A Symbol of Resort Antisemitism (translated by Insa Kummer), in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, September 22, 2016. <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:article-86.en.v1> [December 07, 2023].