The beginning of the end of German Jewry


< 20 OCTOBER 1933
21 OCTOBER 1933 >

20 October 1933

Bill for the costs of "protective custody," issued to Julius Lebell by Kehl district council

In the first year of Nazi rule, tens of thousands of people were arbitrarily arrested and detained for days or weeks without judicial process. As if that were not enough, many detainees were later billed for each day of "protective custody" they had endured. In this example, the district of Kehl in Baden, southern Germany, charged 1.50 reichsmarks per day.

This was the usual rate. A circular issued on 4 April 1933 by the Prussian Ministry of the Interior specified the same amount: 20 pfennigs for breakfast, 50 for the midday meal, and 40 for the evening meal, plus 40 pfennigs for accommodation. For seven days of detention, this added up to 10.50 reichsmarks. Because Kehl district council had no preprinted invoice for this purpose, the council official made do with the standard form for billing administrative charges. In the space for "other expenses," the official entered a sum of 5.25 reichsmarks—since he was only charging Lebell a "1/2 share." It is not known who paid the other half.

The collection of supposed "protective custody costs" was just as arbitrary as the imposition of "protective custody" itself. Starting from 20 May 1933, these costs were supposed to be borne by the public purse all across Germany, but in fact practices differed between prisons and from one province to another.

This particular bill was sent to businessman Julius Lebell (1880–1968), born Julius Levy in Diedelsheim in the north of Baden. Lebell, who had lived in New York since 1910, visited his younger brother Oscar (1890–1967) in Germany every year, and 1933 was no exception. On the evening of 31 March, he arrived at his brother‘s home in Rheinbischofsheim. Early the next day—the day of the April Boycott of Jewish businesses—he was arrested on the grounds that the police wanted to prevent any harm coming to him as an American. In reality, "protective custody" served no protective purpose at all. Moreover, Julius Lebell was not even an American (he only acquired U.S. citizenship some years later). On 8 April, he was released after seven days of arrest.

Six months later, when the district council wrote this bill, Julius Lebell had probably long since left Rheinbischofsheim, though apparently he had not yet returned to the United States: according to passenger lists, he sailed from Southampton to New York as late as 21 December 1933. The bill was thus presumably sent to his brother Oscar instead. Not wanting to expose himself and his brother to further harassment, Oscar Levy paid up. He had ten days to credit the money to the district council‘s account. Five years later, Oscar Levy also immigrated to the United States.

Jörg Waßmer

Categorie(s): captivity | emigration | merchants
Bill for the costs of "protective custody," issued to Julius Lebell by Kehl district council, Kehl, 20 October 1933
Leo Baeck Institute, Jules Lebell Collection, AR 976