Shortly after Germany’s new Nazi government held a boycott of Jewish businesses on April 1, 1933 (primarily to test the public and international reaction to state-sanctioned discrimination), Georg Riegel, a clothier in the Konfektion (ready-to-wear) industry, invited colleagues to establish an association of German clothing manufacturers. Within a year, the organization was registered as the Working Association of German-Aryan Manufacturers of the Clothing Industry, known by its German language acronym ‘ADEFA’. The approximate 200 founding member firms began placing ADEFA labels in their clothing to identify their association. This was part of the campaign to encourage the purchase of Aryan-made products and purge the German clothing industry of Jewish ownership, workmanship, or influence.
ADEFA publicized in 1937 that Jewish firms were still clothing 14 million Germans, so to speed the process of aryanizing the garment industry an additional organization was founded by many of the same members in January 1938. The Working Association of German Firms of the Weaving, Clothing, and Leather Trades, or ADEBE, was founded to further the cause in the textile and leather industries, as well as the retail and wholesale trades. The Ministry for the Economy temporarily banned this new organization on the grounds it would interfere with the economy, especially as German clothing exports were dropping, but Nazi ideology overrode economic interests and the ban was lifted.
By 1938, ADEFA had more than 600 member firms and was actively funding the buy out of existing Jewish businesses. Beginning 1 April 1938, members of ADEFA were forbidden any business dealings with Jews, as defined by the Nuremberg race laws of 1935, and were required to display signs in their shop windows that stated, ‘Ware aus arischer Hand’ (made by Aryan hands). This statement also appeared on the labels which were now required in every garment made by an ADEFA member.
After the ‘Ordinance on the Exclusion of Jews from German Economic Life,’ on November 12, all Jews were compelled to sell their enterprises. Magda Goebbels, wife of the minister of propaganda and well known fashionista, realized her favourite Jewish couturiers would have to close and was heard to say “Elegance will now disappear from Berlin along with the Jews.” On August 15, 1939, the director of ADEFA announced that the goal of aryanizing the German garment industry was complete and declared that the organization of ADEFA was now dissolved.