Racial policy of Nazi Germany
1933 to 1940
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. The basis of all Nazi racial thinking was the idealized Volksgemeinschaft (People's Community) that was to exist in Germany. The entire population of Germany was divided in Nazi racial theory into categories: the Volksgenossen (National Comrades), those who in Nazi theory belonged to the Volksgemeinschaft and Gemeinschaftsfremde (Community Aliens), those who in Nazi theory did not belong to the Volksgemeinschaft. Belonging in the latter category included the entire Jewish population, the Roma population, the "work-shy", the "hereditary asocial" and those with mental and/or physical handicaps.
Between 1933 and 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. They blamed poverty, unemployment, and the loss of World War I all on the Jews. German woes were attributed to the effects of the Treaty of Versailles. 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 April 1, 1933, Jewish doctors, lawyers, police, teachers and stores were boycotted. Only six 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 August 2, 1934, President Paul von Hindenburg died. No new President was selected; instead the powers of the Chancellor and President were combined. This change, 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 complete power over the army.
The Nuremberg Laws
The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 employed a pseudo-scientific basis for racial discrimination against Jews. People with four German grandparents (white circles) were of "German blood," while people were classified as Jews if they were descended from three or more Jewish grandparents (black circles in top row right). Having one or more Jewish grandparents made someone a Mischling (of mixed blood). In the absence of discernible external differences, the Nazis used the religious observance of a person's grandparents to determine their "race."
However, between 1935 and 1936, persecution of the Jews increased apace. In May 1935, Jews were forbidden to join the Wehrmacht (the army), and in the summer of the same year, anti-Jewish propaganda appeared in Nazi-German shops and restaurants. The Nuremberg Laws were passed around the time of the great Nazi rallies at Nuremberg; on September 15, 1935 the "Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor" was passed, preventing marriage between any Jew and Gentile. At the same time, the "Reich Citizenship Law" was passed and was reinforced in November by a decree, stating that all Jews, even quarter- and half-Jews, were no longer citizens of their own country (their official title became "subjects of the state"). This meant that they had no basic citizens' rights, e.g., the right to vote. This removal of basic citizens' rights allowed harsher laws to be passed in the future against Jews. The drafting of the Nuremberg Laws is often attributed to Hans Globke. Globke had studied British attempts to 'order' its empire by creating hierarchical social orders.
In 1936, Jews were banned from all professional jobs, effectively preventing them from having any influence in education, politics, higher education, and industry. There was now nothing to stop the anti-Jewish actions that spread across the Nazi-German economy.
After the "Night of the Long Knives," the SS became the dominant policing power in Germany. Heinrich Himmler was eager to please Hitler, and so willingly obeyed his orders. Since the SS had been Hitler's personal bodyguard, they were even more brutal and obedient to Hitler than the SA had been. They were also supported by the army, which was now more willing to comply with Hitler's decisions than when the SA had still existed.
Hitler now had more direct control over the government and political attitude to Jews in Nazi Germany. In the period 1937 to 1938, harsh new laws were implemented, and the segregation of Jews from the German "Aryan" population began. In particular, Jews were punished financially for their "race."
On March 1, 1938, government contracts could not be awarded to Jewish businesses. On September 30 of the same year, "Aryan" doctors could only treat "Aryan" patients. Provision of medical care to Jews was already hampered by the fact that Jews were banned from being doctors or having any professional jobs.
On August 17, Jews had to add "Israel" (males) or "Sarah" (females) to their names, and a large letter "J" was to be imprinted on their passports on October 5. On November 15, Jewish children were banned from going to public 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 Nazi-German government, further reducing their rights as human beings; they were, in many ways, effectively separated from the German populace.
The increasingly totalitarian, militaristic regime that Hitler imposed on Germany allowed him to control the actions of the SS and the army. On November 7, 1938, a young Polish Jew named Herschel Grynszpan attacked and shot two German officials in the Nazi-German embassy in Paris over the treatment of his parents by the Nazi-Germans. Joseph Goebbels took the opportunity to impress Hitler, and ordered retaliation. On the night of November 9 the SS conducted the Night of Broken Glass ("Kristallnacht"), in which the storefronts of Jewish shops and offices were smashed and vandalized. Approximately 100 Jews were killed, and another 20,000 sent to concentration camps. Collectively, the Jews were made to pay back one billion RM in damages; the fine was collected by confiscating 20% of every Jew's property. Hitler in effect had made his policy of "The Third Reich" more effective for every nation he ruled.
Though the laws were primarily directed against Jews, other "non-Aryan" people were subject to the laws, and to other legislation concerned with racial hygiene. The definition of "Aryan" was imprecise and ambiguous, but was clarified over time in a number of judicial and executive decisions. Jews were by definition non-Aryan, because of their Semitic origins, but most European peoples were automatically included under the definition of Aryan as "Indo-European", except from, most notably, the Serbs, who were persecuted by the nazis in Croatia and througout ex-Yugoslavia. This in contrast to other South Slavic peoples like Bosniaks, Croats and Slovenians, who were considered to be members of the Aryan people, whereas the Serbs were told to be descendants of nomadic Asian tribes who "invaded Europe" during the 7th century. The fact that Aryan is essentially a linguistic rather than a racial category led to some difficulty reconciling Nazi-supported racial typologies with the Aryan concept. There was some dispute about the position of the Roma, who were Indo-European in origin, speaking an Indo-Aryan language. However, they were thought to "share certain racial characteristics with Jews." Roma were eventually declared to be non-Aryan.
Non-Indo-European Africans and Asians were automatically excluded. Of particular concern to the Nazi scientist Eugen Fischer were the "Rhineland Bastards": mixed-race offspring of Senegalese soldiers who had been stationed in the Rhineland as part of the French army of occupation. He believed that these people should be sterilised in order to protect the racial purity of the German population. At least 400 mixed-race children were forcibly sterilised in the Rhineland by 1938, while 400 others were sent to concentration camps. Despite this there was never any systematic attempt to eliminate the (very small) black population in Germany, though mixed marriage remained illegal.
Groups which were legally classified as non-Aryan could also be designated Honorary Aryans so that legal restrictions on non-Aryans no longer applied to them. The Japanese were given this status during the war.