Icon by Omar RamirezThe Effects of the Nuremberg Laws

Looking at the year 1935, the period immediately preceding the issuing of the Nuremberg laws, there were differences among party leaders, pressing for action against the Jews and state-run authorities. The anti-Jewish feeling had been weak among workers but the anti-Semitic feeling became more pronounced among small shopkeepers, who were in some regions threatened by Jewish-owned department stores (Marrus 89).

Nuremberg laws set the legal framework and a campaign of “Aryanization” organizing the confiscation of Jewish property. “Nazi Policy against the Jews came to resemble a pattern of interactions between private or personal initiative, semi-logical activities and finally government legislation” (92). Persecution of the Jews was directed from the center with the Nuremberg Laws. Jews were removed from government service, and pressured to leave Germany. Indifference was the main impression, but activity against Jews included arson, violence, boycotts, and discrimination. It was all the work of party members and agents rather than the general population. Jews were restrained from attending schools, in parks there were benches for Germans and rickety benches for Jews. The Nazi's called upon the general population to sever relations with Jews. It culminated in a violent anti-Jewish campaign in 1938.

Jews watch their synagogue burn on Kristallnacht. Photo from USHMM Archives.

Synagogues were torn down, Jewish shops were burned, and the star of David was painted on them. The riots of Kristallnacht were widely disapproved of, mainly because of the hooligan lawless character. No one believed Goebbels' boasts that the German people had risen “spontaneously” against the Jews. Nazi leaders were disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm for the pogrom. Thereafter the Nazis shielded their murderous policies from popular scrutiny in Germany. Looking at the Nuremberg laws, Jews were referred to as rabid, malignant, virulent, etc. They were used in biological metaphors. The only way to cure Germany of its disease was to get rid of the malignant. In Lyn Lifshin's The Blue Tattoo, a poem was written by an unknown Jew “After Kristallnatch.”

Yanking off a boy’s clothes to
see if he is circumcised, they
rip the cotton away. The father
wants to keep his underwear on
but they won’t let him:
they tear off his clothes and shoot him.

Corpses are coated with urine,
shit, sweat, and menstrual blood.
Children’s bodies fly through the air.
With hooks they pry mouths open,
with pliers and hammers break jaws
apart, to look for gold teeth.

Anti-Semitic graffiti on wall of Jewish cemetery: "The death of the Jews will end
the Saarland's distress."
Photo from the National Archives, courtesy of USHMM Archives.

Another poem in The Blue Tattoo gives the reader a view of what a Jew felt and saw.


"Father told me we couldn’t go to a certain bank"
Why? I asked
It’s closed to Jews.
But we’re not Jews.
Yes, we are.
That night was Kristallnacht.
My father avoided being captured
by a riding streetcar all night.
We rode by a synagogue on fire,
its windows smashed. My father
grabbed a mosaic tile, said to
me: keep it. Remember.

Works Cited

Marrus, Michouel R. The Holocaust in History. New York: Penguin Books. 1987.

Lifshin, Lyn. The Blue Tattoo. Hot Springs, CA: Irent Horizon Press. 1995.