TAU’s Wiener Library exhibits 'Jews Out' Nazi board game

"Jews Out" was a game created in 1938 and required players to take pieces resembling Jews from residential areas to roundup spots.

 The appalling children's board game "Jews out!" (Juden Raus!). (photo credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)
The appalling children's board game "Jews out!" (Juden Raus!).
(photo credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)

On the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a new exhibition at the Wiener Library for the Study of the Nazi Era and the Holocaust at Tel Aviv University (TAU) features the appalling children’s board game “Jews out!” (Juden Raus!), manufactured in Nazi Germany by an obscure company called Guenther and Co. at the end of 1938, probably following the events of Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass, also called the November pogrom). 

Up to a million copies were produced, but only one reportedly still exists – at the Museum of Jewish Heritage at 36 Battery Place in Manhattan. It was created by businessmen at Guenther and Co. to make money from hate and persecution. 

Emeritus Prof. José Brunner, the academic director and chair of the scientific committee of the Wiener Library, explained: “The game resembles an innocuous game that at the time was popular in Germany but with an evil twist. Up to six players are tasked with quickly collecting six ‘Jew hats’ with painted ugly faces below, moving them from Jewish residential and commercial areas in the city and bringing them to one of the roundup spots. The first player to do so wins the game. One of the captions on the board reads: “Go to Palestine!” (Auf nach Palästina!).

“The game should be seen in the overall context of study materials in Nazi schools and preschools."

Prof. José Brunner

“The game should be seen in the overall context of study materials in Nazi schools and preschools – such as a special edition of the fabricated and antisemitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion for children, or children's books like the notorious Poisonous Mushroom that made children afraid of Jews,” Brunner continued. 

January 27 is designated by the UN General Assembly as International Holocaust Remembrance Day (IHRD). Since 2005, the UN and its member states have held commemoration ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and to honor the Six Million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism. 

 The Wiener Library team (Left to right): Dr. Laure-Line Yehuda, Prof. José Brunner & Michal Fisher. (credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY) The Wiener Library team (Left to right): Dr. Laure-Line Yehuda, Prof. José Brunner & Michal Fisher. (credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)

The Nazi establishment found the game to be disrespectful to the regime because it presented systematic hard work as a game of chance. They regarded cleansing Germany of its Jews as a methodical, thoroughly considered policy. 

“‘Jews Out!’ is clearly the outcome of years of blatant incitement and antisemitism which prevailed in German society in the 1930's – so much so that someone got the idea that driving out the Jews was a suitable theme for a children's game. But the game was considered an exception even at the time. Most children played games that taught them the story of the Nazi party, such as when it was established and how it had developed, while this game expressly teaches children to deport Jews.”

Brunner added that facts about the game’s history are in dispute, and some are even contradictory.

"We do know, however, that it was distributed by a food merchant named Rudolf Fabricius.”

Even 1938 Germans didn't like the game

The academic director of the library believes that although the game is clearly antisemitic and even uses the Nazi slogan “Jews out!,” it was not well-received by the Nazi establishment. An article published on December 29, 1938, in the SS weekly Das Schwarze Korps, severely criticized the game, claiming that it was disrespectful to the German policy of cleansing Germany of Jews because it presented systematic hard work as a game of chance, while in fact, the cleansing was a methodical, thoroughly considered plan. 

Nor was the game welcomed by the German public, and sales were evidently quite low. Though in economic terms the game was a failure and not many apparently children played it, it provides evidence of the fact that where racial hatred reigns, there will be entrepreneurs who will try to profit from it.  

The museum was named for Alfred Wiener, one of the leading politicians of the Central Association for German Citizens of the Jewish Faith, who founded the Jewish Central Information Office in Amsterdam, where he had taken refuge in 1933. He moved the collection, including the board game. to London in 1939, where it became known as the Wiener Library. 

Prof. Dina Porat from TAU’s department of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University commented: “In the 1930s, children in German schools and preschools who received their education from the Nazi party played many games that encouraged them to identify with the party’s institutions. The game on display at the exhibition should be seen in the overall context of study materials in Nazi schools and preschools, such as a special edition of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for children, or the scary children's book Poisonous Mushroom. During World War II and the Holocaust, those who had received such an education from an early age could be clearly distinguished from older generations educated in a different Germany.”

TAU received the game in the 1970s together with the entire Wiener archive from London, containing tens of thousands of documents from the Nazi period. The game immediately caught the attention of the library’s directors, and over the years it was displayed from time to time to its visitors, mostly academic researchers. The Wiener Library’s collection also includes the SS weekly Das Schwarze Korps where the criticism of the game was published.

A video of Prof. Brunner in English who explains the background of the game is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPSgvGfXfg4