The Nuremberg Laws
In 1933, less than 1% of the German population was Jewish. Jews
contributed significantly to German culture. Many served in World
War I and thought of themselves as Germans first and Jews second.
They considered Germany a home; their passionate ties and blind
loyalty to Germany caused them to be blind to the harsh reality
of anti-Semitic measures (Refugee Crisis 5).
Before the war, Hitler used the law to effectively remove
Jews from public life. Under the excuse of ensuring racial "purity,"
numerous decrees were passed allowing harassment, imprisonment,
and murder. These decrees were aimed at not only Jews, but anyone
defined as "non-Aryan" (5). More than 400 specifically
anti-Jewish decrees were enacted based on the Nazi definition of
"non-Aryan" ("Final Solution" 3).
After the Enabling Act, violence against Jews escalated. On April
1, the Nazi regime called for a national boycott of all Jewish business.
Lists of specific businesses and individuals to be boycotted were
published. German Jewish leaders were ordered to deny reports of
Nazi atrocities committed against Jews. The boycott lasted three
days and revealed the efficiency of Nazi intelligence on Jewish
economic life. The idea that it was permissible to destroy life
without impunity was strengthened ("Final Solution" 2).
Most of the Jewish leaders believed that the Nazi regime would be
short-lived. German Jews who began to feel the stigma of isolation
had no centrally organized spokesman or organized representation
to protest. On April 4, 1933, the first law specifically dealing
with Jews was passed (Refugee
Jews were barred from civil service and on April 7; the German
government issued an order firing all civil servants not of "Aryan"
descent. This was the first instance of discrimination based on
"race" which was consistent with German law. These actions
created thousands of jobs for "Aryans." On April 11, a
decree was issued defining "non-Aryans" as those who descended
from "non-Aryan" grandparents ("Final Solution"
2). The Nazis issued instructional charts to help distinguish Jews
from Mischlinge (Germans of mixed races) and Aryans. The white figures
represent Aryans; black figures represent Jews; shaded figures represent
Mischlinge (Race Laws 1). This law provided precedent for the concept
of racial inequality. Differences between non-Jewish Germans and
Jewish Germans became an issue of legal interpretation. This laid
the foundation for a method of legalizing persecution (Refugee Crisis
5). On April 26, the state police came under the control of the
Nazi government. The Gestapo had unlimited police powers; they could
follow, arrest, interrogate, and detain without outside authority.
Still ignorant of the reality around them and hopeful that the Nazi
regime would collapse, Jews went to their local police for help.
They appealed to the courts for protection or payment for damages
caused by Nazis. Most could not believe that basic civil rights,
due process under the law, and the right to a defense and appeal
were no longer applicable (6).
Book burnings became common in pre-war Germany. On May 10, 1933,
in Berlin, the first of a series of book burnings took place. The
effort was aimed at erasing literary and scientific contributions
of intellectuals, specifically of Jewish scholars (6). On September
28, Jews were excluded from all artistic, dramatic, literary, and
film enterprises. On September 29, Jewish farmers, or those with
Jewish ancestors, could no longer own farmland and were denied rights
to family property inheritance. 37,000 or more Jews left Germany
in 1933, but many stayed hoping the terror would pass (6).
1934 was marked by an increase in anti-Semitic actions and crushing
all opposition. After the consolidation of power in 1934, the path
was cleared for Hitler and the NSDAP-the National Socialist German
Workers' Party (National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei)
or Nazi Party- to implement its program of anti-Semitism throughout
The period between 1933-35 was marked with inconsistent policies.
Days of physical violence would be followed by weeks of relative
calm that allowed Nazis to assess world reaction. When there was
none, more persecutions followed. The overall confusion made it
impossible for the Jewish community to grasp the intentions of the
government; false optimism was fostered. Underneath these contradictory
policies was the common thread of Jews being steadily deprived of
their livelihood and legal status. Each of these regulations had
the full support of the non-Jewish public and legal establishment.
By the end of 1935, more than 75,000 German Jews had fled Germany
On September 15, 1935, at the Nuremberg NSDAP party convention,
new laws which embodied Hitler's racial visions in Mein Kampf were
passed. The purpose of these new racial laws, known collectively
as the Nuremberg Laws, was to eliminate random discrimination and
introduce a comprehensive body of laws aimed at excluding Jews from
mainstream German life. The Reich Citizenship Law, Reichsburgergesets,
was the most serious; the status of German citizenship was decreed
to belong only to 'a national of German or related blood' ("Final
Solution" 5). It excluded Jews from any rights as citizens
with race as a determining factor. Loss of citizenship was the most
important step in the process that lead to the ultimate exclusion
and murder of German Jews. Citizenship, at that time, was the only
status that conferred specific rights and privileges on individuals
before International Law asserted that people have rights regardless
of whether or not they have citizenship under a nation state. Mistreatment
of Jews became normal under a legal system based on extreme prejudice
and violence. German Jews could now be expelled from the Reich without
warning. Without being able to hold public or civic positions, a
large part of the German Jewish population had no means of financial
survival. Legalization of Nazi policy meant that there was nothing
illegal about the inhumane treatment of the Jews in the Reich. The
Convention on Genocide in 1947 was a crucial turning point because
it specified Genocide as a 'crime against humanity;' invoking a
universal principle in the judgment of nations. It was deemed necessary
to appeal to a law higher than that of any individual state in such
cases (Genocide 1).
The second law, the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor,
Gesetz zum Schutze des deutschen Blutes und der deutschen Ehre,
forbade marriage and sexual contact between Jews and Aryans. This
law, also known as the Blood Protection Act or Blutschutzgesetz,
had two more prohibitions: Jews were not allowed to carry the German
flag or employ Aryans in their households (Laws of Nuremberg 1).
Jews were stripped of all basic civil rights and classified as a
separate race of subjects rather than citizens ("Final Solution"
5). The first amendment to the citizenship law defined a "full
Jew" as a person with three Jewish grandparents. Jewish persons
from mixed races were those who descended from one or two fully
Jewish grandparents. "Halfjews" were defined as people
with two Jewish grandparents. A "Quarterjew" was a person
with one Jewish grandparent (Laws of Nuremberg 1).
The Law for the Protection of Genetic Health of the German People
soon followed. It required all persons wanting to marry to submit
to a medical examination, after which a "Certificate of Fitness
to Marry" would be issued if they were free of diseases. The
certificate was required for a marriage license (Race Laws 1).
From the time the Nuremberg Laws were passed until 1938, sporadic
legislation resulted in further severity against Jews. Street names
that sounded Jewish were changed and Jews whose first names did
not sound "Jewish" had to add "Israel" or "Sarah"
to their names. Passports and identity cards were marked with a
"J" for Jude. To enforce these laws, the SS increasingly
began to take power over the Jews. The result of the Nuremberg Laws
and the regulations which followed was to bring together the various
policies toward Jews, which had been inconsistent and contradictory
(Refugee Crisis 7).
The Nuremberg Laws were an important step toward the Nazi goal to
exterminate all Jews. The Nazis now had a definition that was escalating
in severity and leading to the destruction of European Jewry. Once
Jews could be defined and identified, they could be segregated socially,
politically, and economically from other Germans. Jews were now
outside the protection of a state they had placed their confidence
in for generations.
"The Refugee Crisis and the Persecution Years." Holocaust
Documentation and Education Center (Florida International University).
Lesson 4, pgs. 5-7.
Offline May 2001.
The First Steps Leading to the "Final Solution"
The Nuremberg Race Laws
The Nazi Genocide of the Jews, 1935-45: A Brief Introduction
to the Holocaust
The Laws of Nuremberg
http://www.mtsu.edu/~baustin (This site links to the Holocaust/Shoah
The Nuremberg Laws, by Ben S. Austin