The Holocaust is viewed as the exemplary model of a genocide and is often used as a comparison for judging the different defining characteristics of a genocide. Even the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was passed on the 09th December 1948 under the motto “Never again” in response to the Nazis’ destruction of the Jews. Since the Holocaust plays a central role in genocide research, you can find various articles about this subject on our blog.
We will begin with the persecution and discrimination of the Jews between 1933 and 1941.
Photo: Thomas Matthias
#Discrimination of Jews 1933-1939
When Adolf Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor on the 30th January 1933, an anti-Semitic stance had been a European tradition for centuries. The Nazis, however, exacerbated the hate against Jews again and promised the German population that the separation of the Jews from the national community would lead to the solution of all the German Reich’s problems.
On the 7th April 1933, the Reich government unlawfully passed the Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums (Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service) which was aimed at political opponents and undesirable individuals in the public sector. Civil servants of Jewish descent were particularly affected since the “Aryan paragraph” prohibited the employment of all “non-Aryans” and demanded their immediate dismissal. “Non-Aryans” were people with at least one Jewish grandparent. Approximately 5,000 Jewish civil servants lost their jobs.
However, it was the religious affiliation of the suspect’s grandparent’s that was decisive in this law, and not the suspect’s current religious affiliation. The Nazis didn’t view Judaism as a religion, but as a race:
Jew = 3 or 4 Jewish grandparents
Half-Jew = 2 Jewish grandparents
Quarter-Jew = 1 Jewish grandparent
Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-N0619-506 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de
The “Aryan paragraph” targeted many professional unions and organisations – such as those in medical and legal fields – and caused the systematic exclusion of all Jews. In April 1933 it was followed by the Gesetz gegen die Überfüllung der deutschen Schulen und Hochschulen (Law against the overcrowding of German schools and universities), which restricted the proportion of Jews in educational institutions. Later that year, all people of Jewish descent were excluded from working for the press in accordance with the Schriftleitergesetz (Editor law) and, in May 1935, they were excluded from military service.
Through the passing of the Nuremberg Laws (a composition of various separate laws and regulations) on the 15th September 1935, life became unbearable for the Jewish population in the German Reich. The Reichsbürgergesetz (Reich Citizenship Law) degraded all Jews to second class citizens and was supposed to regulate all relations between Aryan and non-Aryan citizens. The law took away the Jews’ equality, curtailed their political rights and impinged on their economic, social and cultural lives.
The following Gesetz zum Schutz des deutschen Blutes und der deutschen Ehre (Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour) prohibited marriage between Jews and non-Jews. The resulting illegitimate sexual relationships were called Rassenschande (race disgrace), and were severely punished. On the basis of the Reich Citizenship Law, countless implementation rules and provisions were passed over the years, increasingly impinging on Jewish rights.
Photo: Bild 183-R99993 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de
From March 1936, Jewish families with many children no longer received any allowances and Jewish teachers were not allowed to privately tutor non-Jewish children from October 1936. From April 1937, Jews were prohibited from obtaining their doctorate from a German university. From September 1937, all Jewish doctors lost their approval from health insurance companies, followed by the withdrawal of medical licences in July 1938. Not long after that, Jewish lawyers and other occupational groups lost their work permits. These provisions caused many Jewish families to descend into poverty.
In addition to the threats to their existence through the loss of work permits and the repression of Jewish scientists, the Nazi regime tried to oust all Jews from the country’s economy: on the 1st April 1933, the Nazis invoked a boycott of all Jewish shops. In the course of the so-called “aryanisation”, the NS economic authority forced all Jewish retailers to give up or sell their shops. This had a huge impact on the Jewish economic existence, since approximately 60% of the community were engaged in trade in goods.
In July 1938, specific identity cards for Jews were introduced and from August, men, women and children had to take on the first name Sara or Israel to identify them as Jews. From October 1938, a red “J” for Jew was stamped in their passports and from November, Jewish children were no longer allowed to go to German schools.
In addition to all these national prohibitions, countless local harassments were established. “Jews not welcome” signs were raised at the entrances to many towns and villages. Park benches were also marked as “For Aryans only”.
Photo: “Deutsche! Wehrt Euch, kauft nicht bei Juden!” Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-14468 / Georg Pahl / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de
#November pogrom 1938
The so-called Reichskristallnacht on the 9th and 10th November 1938, was not a spontaneous act of rage, but a perfectly staged chaos.
In the autumn of 1938, the Polish government threatened to close their borders to Jews with Polish citizenship living in the German Reich. Consequently, the Nazi government ordered the expulsion of all Polish Jews – through the use of violence if necessary. Because of that, many people couldn’t cross the borders and didn’t know where to go. In protest against the violent exclusion and expulsion of his family, Polish Jew Herschel Grynszpan shot the German ambassador Ernst von Rath in Paris; the Nazis didn’t hesitate to make that incident look like the cause of the November pogrom. Joseph Goebbels took the opportunity to propagate an anti-Semitic press campaign about the conspiracy of “world Judaism”. Only a few nights later – during the night of the 9th November to the morning of the 10th November – members of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the Schutzstaffel (SS) burned down thousands of Jewish shops and synagogues. They humiliated, ridiculed, abused and robbed the Jewish population. According to fairly recent approximations, roughly 7,500 shops and 1,000 synagogues and houses of prayer were destroyed during these riots. Hundreds of deaths were caused by murder, abuse and suicide.
Photo: Berlin Synagog By Hitler’s War Against the Jews (1975) by Lucy Dawidowicz, p. 61.
In the following days, approximately 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and deported to the Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. Many of them were only released after pledging to leave the country. If they did this, their belongings and assets would be seized anyway. The Jewish community were also held responsible for the destruction caused during the Kristallnacht riots and were supposed to pay 1.2 billion Reichsmark. Insurance payouts were of course held back by the government.
Many Jews thought their situation couldn’t get any worse, but then the Nazis passed the Verordnung zur Ausschaltung der Juden aus dem deutschen Wirtschaftsleben (Constitution for the Elimination of the Jews from the German economy) on the 12th November 1938. Jews were now prohibited to own shops and handicraft businesses, as well as offer goods and services at markets and festivals. The “aryanisation”, or the elimination of Jewish shops, was promoted ruthlessly. Jewellery, jewels and antiques were sold below value and Jews were not allowed to own stocks and shares. The proceeds were confiscated by the German Reich through the use of so-called blocked accounts.
Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-86686-0008 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de
#Complete deprivation of rights 1938/39 – 1941
From 1939, an almost invariable occupational ban was in effect and Jews were mandated to carry out forced labour. Jewish newspapers and organisations were prohibited, and public Jewish life came to a standstill.
On the 30th April 1938, the Gesetz über Mietverhältnisse mit Juden (Law for the Tenancy with Jews) was passed: Aryan citizens were expected to not live in the same houses as Jews. With this law, the basis for the creation of ghettos was founded, making the control and deportations easier. With the start of World War II on the 1st September 1939, a curfew for Jews was introduced: Jews were not allowed to leave the house after 9pm in summer, and not after 8pm in winter. At the same time, they were not allowed to be in possession of radios (20th September 1939) and telephones (19th July 1940). From December 1938, they were prohibited to drive or own any vehicles. It was also forbidden for them to take trams or to cycle, to own pets, to use public libraries or baths. They were allocated particular grocery shops and were only allowed to shop at certain times. Additionally, their food was severely rationed.
On the 1st September 1941, a police regulation “for the marking of Jews” was passed forcing all Jews over the age of 6 to wear a yellow star on their clothing. From July 1943, all Jews lived under police law, meaning that no other legal authority was responsible for them. Germany was officially seen as judenfrei (free of Jews) at this stage.
# Benz, W. (2008) „Der Holocaust“, 7.Auflage, C.H. Beck oHG Munich, pp. 23-36.
# Brakel, A. (2008) „Der Holocaust – Judenverfolgung und Völkermord“, Be.bra GmbH Berlin-Brandenburg, pp. 37-60.
# Prof. em. Dr. Herzig, A. (2010) „1933-1945: Verdrängung und Vernichtung – Jüdisches Leben in Deutschland“, available in German at: www.bpb.de/izpb/7687/1933-1945-verdraengung-und-vernichtung (Accessed 08.04.2018)
# Prof. Dr. Knopp, G. (2001) „Holocaust“, Wilhelm Goldmann Munich.