In 1933, Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany as leader of the Nazi party. Over the six years following, he steadily brought in progressively drastic measures to limit the Jews in every section of their lives, bringing in legislation that limited their freedoms and took away many of their human rights. In this first section of my coursework, I am going to explore the gradual introduction of such laws and measures, looking at particular examples and analysing how they affected the everyday life of Jews. I will also try to rationalize why each law was introduced, identifying what the intended effect was.
This first section is going to look at some of the first measures that Hitler brought in. The first major thing Hitler did was to force Jews out of jobs in professions relating to law, the civil service (this was called the ‘Law for the restoration of the civil service’), dentistry, journalism, teaching, and farming. One reason for this action is that these are all jobs (with the exception of farming) of reasonably high social standing, so by excluding them they were limiting them to jobs of lower social standing thus reducing their worth.
Another reason behind this is that these are all jobs on which society is dependant, removing Jews from these professions means that the dependence of German society is taken away from them thus reducing their worth. I think that the main reason behind dentistry being one of the jobs Jews were excluded from is that the nazi’s did not want German people to be in a situation of vulnerability before the Jews so this avoided the problem.
Dentistry gave Jews power over their patients, the professions of teaching and journalism also give their workforce power and influence, but over peoples minds rather than their bodies, Hitler wished to be in complete control of moulding people’s minds to his own advantage, having Jews in these professions would prevent him from doing this. As well as all the individual reasons, I have mentioned for excluding the Jews from each of these jobs there is also one major general reason. If Jews were in secure, good jobs then they were quite unhindered financially.
The first thing the Nazis wanted to restrict was their economic freedom so that they were reliant upon them and could not survive properly unaided. Taking away the jobs would have also been to send out the message that the Jews were unnecessary; their talents were not needed. The reason that they really wanted to do this was that one of the reasons people held anti-Semitic views anyway was because they were good at earning money; they thought that taking away the secure jobs meant that Jews could not take jobs that belonged to Germans.
This idea progressed steadily throughout the six-year period between 1933 and ’39; the full extent of this strategy was in effect by 1938 when Jews were banned from running businesses, all of these were confiscated. The first attack specifically on Jewish businesses was in April 1933. As soon as the Nazis came into power the Nazi, party members went straight to work, intimidating individual Jews, with random acts of violence by Nazi thugs from which Jews were unprotected. Hitler realised that they could not do this so soon, otherwise no one would accept it but he also realised that he could not completely deny the wants of his party members.
He therefore put in place a boycott of all Jewish owned shops businesses as a compromise. This too, however ended up being called off after one day, it was still too much too soon, and there was a public outcry. This lack of detailed anticipation and forward thought shows that the Nazis’, so far, did not have any clear plans, and were quite disorganised The problems with the April boycott caused the nazis to quiet down their activities, only gradually bringing in regulations to provide the same effect over a longer timescale.
To prepare the minds of the German people for what they wanted to do to the Jews, the Nazis decided to bring in the propaganda machine so that next time the population would react, as they wanted them to. As I said in the introduction to this answer, every area of Jewish life was affected, not least religion. The fact that the Jewish people had a different religion was a major reason ordinary people felt alienated from the Jews and, obviously, was a big reason for the anti-Semitism that they felt.
A ban in the production of kosher meat was the first religious discrimination, which took place; this would have really provoked anger in the Jews since the belief in kosher meat is central to their religion. In 1934, the Nazis actually started formulating a plan; they wanted the Jews out of Germany. Emigration was proposed. Due to the patent attacks on Jews during the first year of Nazi rule this year the pace was slackened this year with few laws being put into place.
This meant that the Jews would have been lulled into a false sense of security, believing that the persecution would pass. However the beginnings of another type of persecution emerged this year, Jews were forced out of the theatre. Although this does not seem significant, it is the division of the Jewish culture from the German culture; segregation had begun. A major ban enforced in 1935 was that Jews were banned from the army, this is carrying on the same ideas about taking away careers from Jews, but it was also so that they did not have to owe the Jews anything.
So far, Jewish men who had served in the army had been respected and had been made exempt from many of the laws this ban meant that rules were now applicable to everyone no matter what they had done for their country. This devalued the Jews and isolated them. They were no longer “German” enough to be rewarded to fighting for Germany, they were now all in the same boat no matter how pro-Nazi/pro-Germany they had been. In 1935, also, ideas about segregation extended so far as to say that German Jews were no longer Germans, they were just Jews in Germany, a separate race, with no status of citizenship, they even lost their right to vote.
The loss of citizenship implies that the Jews were no longer wanted, they had had their right to stay in the country taken away from them; they were no longer to be German. The law stating this was the Reich citizenship law, one of the many Nuremberg laws, introduced at the Nuremberg rally. Another significant Nuremberg law was the law for the protection of German Blood and Honour, which prohibited sexual relationships between Jews and Aryans. “Mixed race” marriages between Aryans and Jews became legally invalid. These Nuremberg laws infringe basic human rights; there was no longer a free choice in these matters.
The discrimination had now gone beyond simple unfairness; laws were now very clearly anti-Semitic and were Darwinistic (Darwin’s ideas of “survival of the fittest” were applied by Hitler to humans); this demonstrates how the Nazis justified the hatred and discrimination by using science and other methods to their own advantage. Another basic right contravened this year was the right to freedom of speech. Jewish writers, editors, rabbis and other leaders were stopped from speaking or writing. Writers and editors were even imprisoned.
The idea behind this was isolation; the Jews would be powerless if they were unable to communicate to the wider Jewish community or the rest of the world. This idea carried on throughout the six years with many seeming trivial laws put in place for the same reason, to limit communication and travel. for example, bikes were taken from Jews so they couldn’t travel far to see people and passports were stamped so that Jews couldn’t travel, this mean loss of basic liberty and freedom, the Jewish community would have been separated, without means of pulling together, individual Jewish families would become isolated.
The halt of all obvious activity during the Berlin Olympics in 1936 demonstrates the same point; the Nazis did not want the rest of the word to know what was going on. It also again demonstrates how Nazi plans quickly changed to suit the situation. However at this point and up until 1938 the plan was still to transport the Jews elsewhere so the overall aim had not yet changed In 1938, however the whole situation changed.
The Nazis now went about generalising Jews; they changed the middle name of every Jewish man to Israel and every Jewish woman to Sara and stamping the passports of all Jews with a ‘J’, their identity was removed; they were just Jewish, nothing else. They also prevented them from leaving Germany, consequently negating their previous policy of emigration. Kristallnacht; a night of violence, destruction and murder of and against Jews was the major turning point in the discrimination.
It made sense of why the Nazis were contradicting their previous policies, the discrimination was now not just about making Jewish lives hell, it was about brutality and physical attack, and the foundations were now in place for the widespread use of concentration camps to “eliminate” the Jewish “problem”. The situation in 1939 really demonstrates what six years of tactful persuasion of the German people allowed the Germans to do; they could completely isolate a whole group of the society and were in control of their lives. Jews were not allowed out of the house after 8pm and could be evicted without notice or just cause.
Overall, the persecution of the Jews was not very organised. The nazis formulated their plans as they went along, working on a trial and error basis, changing policies to correspond to the circumstances. Even the Nazis did not know the “final solution” would be the holocaust; they progressed from simply wishing misery on Jews to wanting them out to wishing to kill them all in the space of six years. Introducing new ideas obviously worked because in the end, they nearly got away with genocide but it meant that even they could not see the next step in their plan.