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One of the tools the Nazis used to discriminate against Jews and others in Germany were the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. Learn about these Laws, how they were used, and how they were ultimately dismantled.

The Persecution of the Jews

Can you imagine being a Jew living in Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s? We all know that the Nazis persecuted Jews under Adolf Hitler’s reign.

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The Jews were put into concentration camps, and then large numbers were killed. But did you know that the amount of Jews living in Germany around 1933-1935 only constituted less than one percent of Germany’s overall population (which at that time was 55 million)? Hitler, however, considered the Jews, despite the small number of them living in Germany, to be mortal enemies of the German population. As part of his agenda to control the Jews and weed them out of the German population, he instituted the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.

The Nuremberg Laws

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were adopted on September 15, 1935, by the Nazi-controlled German government under the direction of Adolf Hitler. The Laws served as the legal cornerstone of Jewish persecution by the Nazis. Hitler publicly presented the Laws at the Nazi party’s annual rally in Nuremberg, Germany. The Laws consisted of two directives: (1) Reichsb;rgergesetz, translated to mean Law of the Reich Citizen, and (2) Gesetz zum Schutze des Deutschen Blutes und der Deutschen Ehre translated to mean Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor.

Each part of the Laws controlled the Jewish population in a different way, which will be discussed in further detail below.

Law of the Reich Citizen

In short, this part of the Laws stripped Jews of their German citizenship. As such, each Jew was made a subject of the German state, meaning that such person was considered a second-class citizen and belonged to the state. Since a Jew belonged to the state, the state could decide what such person could do professionally and what he or she could own. Therefore, the Nazis were able to use the Laws to push Jews out of certain professions, such as those of doctors and lawyers. They were also able to dis-enroll Jews from educational programs that required its pupils to be German citizens.However, when the Laws were adopted, it caused confusion because the Laws did not define who constituted a Jew.

Therefore, two months after the Laws were adopted, the Nazi government issued a supplement setting forth the definition of a full Jew and a Mischlinge (translated to half-breed in English). A full Jew was defined as a person with at least three Jewish grandparents. Those individuals with fewer than three but more than one Jewish grandparent were considered Mischlinge and were dichotomized by degrees: a First Degree Mischlinge was a person with two Jewish grandparents; and a Second Degree Mischlinge was a person with one Jewish grandparent. In addition to laying out the specifications for the classification of Jews, the Nazi government published instructional charts illustrating how to determine if someone is a Jew and to what degree. As you can guess, the closer a person was to being a ‘full Jew’ the more he/she was discriminated against.

German chart illustrating how to determine if someone was Jewish

The effect of this portion of the Laws was that out of the approximately 503,000 Jews living in Germany in 1933, around 350,000 of them were classified as Mischlinge. Ironically, out of that 350,000, almost 50,000 of them did not even practice Judaism because they had converted to Christianity. Regarding the specific degree of Mischlinge, the law classified about 210,000 as First Degree Mischlinge and 80,000 as Second Degree Mischlinge. Although these classifications seem to you and me today to be unethical, a number of Jews in Germany at such time felt somewhat relieved by them.

At least the Laws told them where they stood in the Nazis’ eyes, which made them feel that they could move on knowing the diminished rights they had. This was true for a little while after the adoption of the Laws. However, in the years leading to World War II, as the Nazis grew in command and control, so did the persecution of the Jews.

Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor

This portion of the Laws made it illegal for Jews to marry or have intimate relations with persons of German blood. As a consequence of this portion of the Laws, in October 18, 1935, all persons desiring to get married in Germany were required to obtain a certificate of fitness to marry from the German public health department. Any persons desiring to get married in violation of these Laws were denied such certificate and were not allowed to marry.

Later in November 14, 1935, the Nazi government issued a supplement to the Laws that extended the marriage prohibition to individuals who might, if they procreated, produce racially suspect children. This meant that in addition to Jews, persons of German blood were forbidden to procreate with or marry persons who were considered Gypsies, blacks or any of their related offspring.

The Moscow Declaration of 1943

The Laws continued to reign in Germany leading up to and during WWII. In reaction to the atrocities committed by the Nazis under the Laws, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Marshal Josef Stalin banded together and issued the Moscow Declaration of 1943. This declaration acknowledged the atrocities perpetrated against the Jews and set out policies that major Nazi war criminals would be tried and punished by joint decision of the governments of the Allied Nations (i.

e. U.S., Britain, France, USSR, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Greece, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, and Yugoslavia). Allied forces overran Germany in April 1945, and on Hitler’s birthday, April 20, 1945, the Allied forces took over Nuremberg, Germany. A week later, Hitler committed suicide in Berlin, which ultimately led to the Nazis’ surrender a week later.

Due to the Nazis’ surrender, the Moscow Declaration was put into effect, and the process of Nazi criminal trials began. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were used by the prosecution against Nazi war criminals in their trials as blatant evidence of illegal persecution and war crimes against the Jewish people. Ironically, the Nuremberg trials were, as you can guess, held in Nuremberg, Germany, the city where the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were drafted and first announced as law.

Nazi defendants in Nuremberg trials
Nazi trial

Lesson Summary

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were the initial laws issued by Hitler that set forth the legal persecution of the Jews in Germany. The Laws had two main parts. The first part, the Law of the Reich Citizen served to strip the Jews in Germany of their citizenship and classified them into different degrees, i.

e. full Jews, First Degree Mischlinge and Second Degree Mischlinge. The second part, the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor made it illegal for Jews to marry or have intimate relations with persons of German blood. The Nazis persecuted the Jews in part based upon their classification pursuant to these Laws. These Laws were in effect in Germany until the Nazis’ surrender at the end of WWII in 1945.

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