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Racial policy of Nazi Germany

1933 to 1939

Nazi racial policy changed extensively in the years between 1933 and 1939. The Nazi Party became increasingly extreme in its treatment of the minorities of Germany, particularly Jews.

During the years 1933-1934, Nazi policy was fairly moderate, not wishing to scare off voters or moderately-minded politicians. Jews had been disliked for years before, and the Nazi Party used this anger to gain votes. The blame for poverty, unemployment, and the loss of World War I were all placed on the Jews. In 1933, persecution of the Jews became active Nazi policy, but laws were not as rigorously obeyed and were not as devastating as in later years.

On 1 April 1933, Jewish doctors, shops, lawyers and stores were boycotted. Only 6 days later, the "Law for the Restoration of the professional Civil Service" was passed, banning Jews from Government jobs. These laws meant that Jews were now indirectly and directly dissuaded or banned from privileged and superior positions reserved for "Aryan" Germans. From then on, Jews were forced to work at more menial positions, beneath other non-Jews.

On 2 August 1934, President Hindenburg died. No new President was appointed; instead the powers of the Chancellor and President were combined. This, and a tame government with no opposition parties, allowed Hitler totalitarian control of law making. The army also swore an oath of loyalty personally to the Führer, giving Hitler power over the army also. This allowed Hitler to easily create more pressure on the Jews than ever before.

However, in the years 1935-1936, persecution of the Jews increased apace. In May 1935, Jews were forbidden to join the Army, and in the summer of the same year, anti-Jewish propaganda appeared in German shops and restaurants. The Nuremberg Laws were passed around the time of the great Nazi rallies at Nuremberg; On 15 September 1935 the "Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour" was passed preventing marriage between any Jew and non-Jew. At the same time the "Reich Citizenship Law" was passed, and was reinforced in November by a decree, stating the all Jews, even quarter- and half-Jews, were no longer citizens of their own country. They were merely guests. This meant that they had no basic citizens' rights, e.g., to vote. This removal of basic citizens' rights allowed harsher laws to be passed in the future against Jews.

In 1936, Jews were banned from all professional jobs, effectively preventing them having any influence in education, politics, higher education and industry. Because of this, there was nothing to stop the anti-Jewish actions that spread across the German economy.

After the "Night of the Long Knives", the SS became the dominant policing power in Germany. Goering was eager to please Hitler, and so willingly obeyed his orders. Since the SS had been Hitler's personal bodyguard, they were far more loyal and professional than the SA had been. Because of this, they were also supported by the army, which was now more willing to agree with Hitler's decisions than when the SA had still existed.

All of this allowed Hitler more direct control over the government and political attitude to Jews in Nazi Germany. In the period 1937-1938, harsh new laws were implemented, and the segregation of Jews from the true German "Aryan" population was started. In particular, Jews were punished financially for their race.

On 1 March 1938, Government contracts could not be awarded to Jewish businesses. On 30 September of the same year, "Aryan" doctors could only treat "Aryan" patients. This was ridiculous, since Jews were banned from being doctors or having any professional jobs. This severely limited the doctors Jews could go to for healthcare.

On 17 August, Jews were to be called "Israel" and "Sarah" respectively, and a large letter "J" was to be imprinted on their passports on 5 October. On 15 November Jewish children were banned from going to normal schools. By April 1939, nearly all Jewish companies had either collapsed under financial pressure and declining profits, or had been persuaded to sell out to the German government. This further reduced their rights as human beings; they were in many ways officially separated from the German populace.

The increasing totalitarian, militaristic regime that was being imposed on Germany by Hitler allowed him to control the actions of the SS and the army. On 7 November 1938, a young Polish Jew attacked and shot two German officials in the German embassy in Paris. He was angry about the treatment of his parents by the Germans. Goebbels took the opportunity to impress Hitler, and ordered retaliation. That night, the SS conducted the Night of Glass ("Kristallnacht") in which, the SS smashed and vandalised the storefronts of Jewish shops and offices. Approximately 100 Jews were killed, and another 20,000 sent to the newly formed concentration camps. Many Germans were disgusted by this action when the full extent of the damage was discovered, so Hitler ordered it to be blamed on the Jews. They were, incredibly, sued for the damage done to their own properties.

In conclusion, we find that German racial policy grew increasingly violent and aggressive through the years 1933 and 1939. This, in many ways, was Hitler's aim; he wanted the German populace to accept and support his outrageous theories and, in order for this to happen, he had to implement the regime of terror gradually. It worked fantastically, and the vast majority of Germans essentially agreed with his policies. Those who disagreed were prevented from occupying prominent positions in politics and industry through laws and decrees passed during these years. Possibly the most important action that Hitler undertook was the Reich Citizenship Law, in which Jews were stripped of all Citizens' rights and officially segregated from German society. It also paved the way for other laws to come in the near future.



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