The 20Individual 20and 20the 20State 20in 20Nazi 20Germany by 6W5Sdx8u


									                                        Section 2

                        Citizenship through History

    ‘Justice removed, then, what are kingdoms but great bands of robbers?

           What are bands of robbers themselves but little kingdoms?’

                  Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Fifth Century AD

The following extended case study investigates the impact of the Nazi regime on people in

Germany, 1933-39. Use the material and the activities that follow to research, investigate and

discuss important issues connected with citizenship today. The following materials look at

how the Nazis arrived at unique and destructive interpretations of the relationship between

the individual and the state, political ideology and process, and ‘society’ and ‘community’.

What important lessons should we learn from this epoch of History? Read the material that

follows, complete the activities, and think about the relevance of these issues to citizenship


             The Individual and the State in Nazi Germany

                Ideas in Action: Eugenics and Biopolitics

          By what stages and why did the Nazis persecute

                       non-Jewish minorities, 1933-39?
Citizenship Reflection Activity B1

In pairs read and discuss whether you agree or disagree with the following

statements. Be prepared to give your reasons why.

   National characteristics help to define a person

   Differing nationalities display differing characteristics.

   Too many immigrants and asylum seekers could weaken the nation economically

    and/or physically.

   Human beings are made up of differing races.

   Differing races display differing mental characteristics.

   Some races are more valuable than other races.

   Travellers bring crime with them. They would not be welcome near where I live.

   Life is a struggle for existence in which only the fittest survive.

   The strong are under no obligation to support the weak.

   Humans are little more than sophisticated members of the animal kingdom.

   Human life is more important than animal life.

   The state can decide who should live and who should die.

   Human life does not begin at conception, but at a subjective moment.

   Euthanasia of those with physical or mental defects is justifiable.

   The incurably mentally and physically ill are a burden on taxpayers; taxes should go

    to support the healthy.

   Foetuses that are handicapped or deformed should be destroyed if a parent or the

    parents wish it.

   The state should sterilize the physically and mentally ill for their own good and the

    good of the state.

                                 Eugenics Timeline
1933:   Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring (compulsory sterilization for

        the mentally ill and physically ill.

        Vagrants’ Registration Book

        Law Against Dangerous and Habitual Criminals.

1936:   Himmler appointed as Chief of the German Police in the Reich Ministry of the Interior.

        Reich Central Office for the Combatting of Homosexuality set up.

        Reich Central Office for the Fight Against the Gypsy Nuisance set up

1937:   ‘Preventive custody’ ordered for those who ‘offend against public decency’.

1938:   December Decree on the ‘Final Solution’ of the Gypsy Question

        Herr Knauer letter to Hitler

        Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious Hereditarily and

        Congenitally Based Illnesses.

1939:   Aktion T4

Background Information

Non-Jewish minorities in Nazi Germany comprised of the physically and mentally ill, vagrants

(asocials and the workshy), homosexuals, gypsies and mixed race children born of French

colonial occupiers in 1923. Between 1933 and 1939 a series of increasingly harsh measures
was directed against them. They were viewed as a burden on the Volksgemeinschaft. In line

with many other European and westernised countries, Hitler and his fellow racial hygienists

and eugenicists wanted these purged from the Volksgemeinschaft. Persecution intensified

particularly in response to the onset of war: valuable resources were needed to support the

injured troops returning from the front. The role of the medical profession, with Doctors in

particular, was decisive in marking the shift from a healing role to a killing role by 1939. This

was done against a background of widespread consent or indifference.

Look at the source that follows. What message is it communicating about Nazi attitudes to

the mentally ill?

Fig B1
Propaganda slide featuring a chart produced by the Reich Propaganda Office showing that in

1936 the total cost of caring for 880,000 people ill with hereditary disease was 1200 million

Reichsmarks, which was almost double the 713 million RM spent on the administration of the

national, state, and local government. [Photograph #07672]

Fig B2
Propaganda slide produced by the Reich Propaganda Office entitled "The Fearful Legacy of

an Alcoholic." According to the chart, an alcoholic will have 894 descendants in 83 years and

of these 40 will live in extreme poverty, 67 will be hardened criminals, 7 will be murderers,

181 will turn to prostitution, and 142 will be beggars. [Photograph #07673]

Stage 1: The appointment to power of convinced social Darwinists (Hitler and the Nazi

Party) led to official measures against non-Jewish minorities. These built on a

backdrop of general consent that had been widespread in Europe and the USA since

the early 1920s.

With Hitler’s appointment to the Chancellorship in 1933, racial hygienists raced to attach

themselves to the new regime. As recently as August 1929 Hitler had been remarking that

the removal of 700-800,000 of the most physically and mentally vulnerable would be a

positive boon for Germany. Here at last, it seemed, was an uncompromising social Darwinist

prepared to use the full force of the state to intervene in strengthening the racial and eugenic

stock of Germany. Having attained power, the implementation of a racial hygiene programme

was now high on the political agenda of the Nazis.

Building on the 1920s eugenicist theories of Binding, Hoche and Alfred Plotz, Interior Minister

Frick announced that henceforth spending would be targeted at those deemed racially

valuable to the regime, whilst the worthless would be selected and eradicated. Within 6

months this view had hardened into the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased

Offspring. Compulsory sterilisation was ordered for a series of supposed hereditary

illnesses, ranging from deafness and alcoholism to manic depression and schizophrenia. As

part of this law, power to decide on such matters was entrusted to Hereditary Health Courts,

which were staffed with physicians and associated members of the medical profession.

Indeed, such views were considered widely acceptable, especially in the context of the severe

economic depression which made the cost:benefits calculations of keeping the ‘unfit’ alive in
asylums appear particularly burdensome. What gave this law an additional sinister character

was its compulsory and arbitrary nature. Members of the medical profession were

empowered to pronounce on the fitness or otherwise of the various patients. Between 1933

and 1939 up to 360,000 individuals had been gruesomely sterilized, some with significant

damage to their health. The vast majority (75%) of the compulsory sterilizations were made

on the grounds of ‘congenital feeble-mindedness’. This term became a catch all for all kinds

of perceived social deviancy, including prostitution and alcoholism. Devices such as mental

tests and implements for measuring the circumferences of heads and the shape of earlobes

began to be used to classify the hereditarily degenerate. Sterilization was used as a means

to push patients back into the community and so reduce the overheads of running mental

asylums on increasingly restrictive budgets. Against a backdrop of general consent, the state

intruded in the most intimate and sensitive aspects of human identity.

Although the law did not extend to the sterilization of those deemed to be ‘habitual criminals’,

such individuals were sterilized on other grounds of social deviancy. From 1933 a series of

police raids rounded up 100,000 vagrants and beggars and put them in what was ominously

entitled ‘protective custody’. As part of the process of registration, a Vagrants’ Registration

Book was established with the aim of tracking ‘orderly wanderers’. Those classified as

‘disorderly wanderers’ were arrested and impounded in the newly constructed ‘concentration

camps’. Following a familiar pattern of semi-official harassment, classification and

discrimination a Law Against Dangerous and Habitual Criminals was introduced in late

1933. Criminality was henceforth explained as a result of scientific-biological reasons.

Experts would decide on the castration of such deviants.

The physically handicapped had long been a discriminated constituency in Germany.

Discrimination in terms of who was entitled to care had already been contracting in the

context of the economic constraints from 1927, such that only children capable of recovery

received attention. Although they were not necessarily compulsory sterilized, they were

considered to be marginal to the main interests of the Volksgemeinschaft. In response to this,
many families withdrew their children from institutions. Eugenicist theories throughout the

USA and Europe would have found nothing unacceptable in the policies advocated by the

Nazis towards the hereditarily ill. Twenty eight US states had sterilization laws and, of

particular note for the Nazis, were the laws against ‘anti racial miscegenation (sexual

relations)’ in the Deep South. Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland all had

compulsory sterilization programmes. Throughout the 1930s, there was little to differentiate

the policies of these countries, apart from the vigour with which the Nazis implemented them.

Stage 2: Official propaganda against non-Jewish minorities.

Nazi propaganda against the hereditarily ill also began to find its way into school textbooks.

Questions such as: ‘The construction of a lunatic asylum costs 6 million RM. How many

houses at 15,000RM could have been built for that amount?’ highlight the cynical

utilitarianism with which the Nazi Party viewed care for those deemed ‘unfit’. Throughout the

mid-late 1930s the Nazis authorised films that labelled the mentally ill. Films such as ‘I

accuse’ were carefully constructed pieces of propaganda in which audience sympathy was

manipulated to side with the killing of incurably ill patients. Up to 18 million saw the film.   By

1939, viewing figures for films of this nature were as high as 40 million. According to the

underground opposition reports, the films were poorly received in Roman Catholic areas,

where the clergy exercised influence over their flocks to prevent them from viewing films that

were in opposition to fundamental aspects of Catholic teaching.

Fig B3
Propaganda slide featuring two doctors working at an unidentified asylum for the mentally ill.

The caption reads, "Life only as a burden."

Stage 3: SS control of non-Jewish minorities policy, from 1936

Other, equally disturbing movements were also afoot behind the scenes as the Reich moved

towards a war footing from 1936. SS leader Heinrich Himmler’s appointment as Chief of the

German Police in the Reich Ministry of the Interior in June 1936 was especially significant first

for the persecution of non-Jewish minorities in Germany, then, by 1939 for the persecution of

Jews. As head of the SS, Himmler was an ideological fanatic coldly committed to purging the

Volksgemeinschaft of ‘non-German’ elements. Unlike the SA, the SS leadership had the cold,

rational intellect and organisational wherewithal to implement their policies.

Himmler established subdivisions that targeted ‘habitual criminals’, homosexuals and gypsies.

In each case, SS control of the project intensified persecution. Under SS leadership the

Reich Central Office for the Combatting of Homosexuality justified homophobia on racial-

pathological grounds. As a result, the SS vigorously enforced existing legislation (Paragraph

175) to imprison between 10-15,000 homosexuals in concentration camps, where they were

forced to recognise their ‘crime’ by wearing a pink triangle. Moreover, on Feb 1937 he
ordered that ‘2,000 professional or habitual criminals and those who offend against public

decency should be taken into police preventive custody’, ie concentration camps. This SS

enterprise met with resistance from justice authorities, who resented his appropriation of an

area they considered under their authority. Himmler regularised the situation in December

1937, with a circular which enabled the Criminal Police to take into ‘preventive custody’, and

hence to send to concentration camps, persons who had not been concretely charged with a

criminal or political offence (an unwillingness to conform to the ‘natural discipline of a National

Socialist State’).

Existing prejudices against the Sinti and Roma (‘gypsies’) also intensified under SS

leadership. In 1936 Himmler established the Reich Central Office for the Fight against the

Gypsy Nuisance as a subsection of the Reich Criminal Police of Berlin. Dr Robert Ritter,

specialist in ‘criminal biology’, contributed significantly to the classification and location of Sinti

and Roma. This was a crucial phase in their persecution. His research was financed by the

SS. He argued that their racial characteristics made them congenitally asocial and criminal.

His research came under Himmler’s umbrella. The familiar pattern of classification,

discrimination and centralisation was re-emerging for the non-Jewish minorities.

By 1938, Himmler was eager to tighten control of gypsies, and thus elevated regional systems

of control into a Reich co-ordinated policy. On 8 December 1938, in line with increasing

radicalisation of policy towards non-Aryans, Himmler issued a decree on the gypsies. This

Decree, which purported to be ‘the final solution of the Gypsy question’ subjected them to

both registration and racial-biological examination. Gypsies were to be classified according to

whether they were a Gypsy, a mixed race Gypsy, or a non-Gypsy itinerant. This information

was then recorded on an identity card, which had to be produced on demand. The Reich

Health Office, under the direction of Dr Robert Ritter was to carry out the work of

classification. Ritter was particularly diligent in his work and, by 1939, he had a record of

20,000 individuals, classified and logged onto his system. Ritter argued that Gypsy

miscegenation with Germans had lead to the emergence of a flaky underbelly of criminality

that could now be found in the slums of Germany. Such contamination, he argued,
introduced potentially subversive blood contamination into Germans – this would proliferate
and continue to undermine Germany’s strength. The 8 December Decree restricted the

movements of Gypsies and gave the police powers to arrest. This was extended in March

1939, as Himmler ordered that racial mixing between Gypsies and Germans was prohibited.

Since the treatment of the gypsies had become a hereditary criminal issue, the regional

Criminal Police forces set up sub groups to deal with them.

Stage 4: Onset of war intensified persecution

With war looming Hitler set about implementing plans for the hereditarily ill that he had been

mulling over since 1935. According to the Leader of the Reich Physicians’ later testimony,

Hitler remarked in 1935 that ‘in the event of war he would take up the question of euthanasia

and enforce it’, because ‘such a problem would be more easily solved in war time.’ Amidst

economic motivations that had rearmament as paramount amongst them, the SS intensified

raids on those considered to be the able-bodied ‘asocial’ from 1938. These were impounded

in concentration camps, which were providing slave labour in quarrying for the building of the

1000 year Reich. A 1938 letter from an anxious parent, Herr Knauer, requesting that ‘mercy

killing’ be used on his deformed son provided Hitler with the pretext to initiate his programme

of children’s euthanasia. This illustrates the ad hoc, almost whimsical way in which policy

was decided in the Third Reich: simply at the Fuhrer’s whim. This programme became

known as Atkion T4, or the so called ‘euthanasia programme’ after the house on

Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin, from which the programme was directed. Given the emotive

circumstances, Hitler was able to present himself as responding with sympathy to their

request. He established the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious

Hereditarily and Congenitally based illnesses. The task of these physicians was to evaluate

whether the lives of sick children were worth living. Curiously, if children were to live, their

files were to be marked with a negative (-); if they were to die, then their files would be

marked with a positive (+). Clearly, such symbols were determined as to whether the survival

or death of a child was a positive or a negative for the Reich. By the end of 1939, 5,200

children had been murdered by this means. In the summer of 1939, Hitler ordered that the
children’s euthanasia programme be extended to adults, not least because the resources

such individuals ‘absorbed’ could best be directed towards treating the war wounded. The

steering group responsible for implementing the death projected that between 65,000 and

70,000 adults would receive a ‘positive’ symbol on their files. With the onset of war in 1939,

though, flimsy bureaucratic justifications were no longer required. As the SS advanced into

occupied Poland 4,000 mental patients were shot, and asylums were handed over to the SS

as barracks. In late 1939, the SS Special Commando Lange adapted a van to make the

‘programme’ more efficient. He gassed to death 1,558 patients from Polish asylums in the

back of it. It was an ominous sign.

Summary Box

Nazi persecution of non-Jewish minorities intensified throughout the 1930s because:

Hitler and the Nazi Party were committed to a programme of aggressive social Darwinism.

There was widespread consent and indifference to such a programme. The Nazis built upon

existing work widespread in the 1920s.

There were widespread concerns about the economic utility of keeping the incurably ill alive,

especially in the context of the early 1930s Depression.

SS control of handling non-Jewish minorities intensified the persecution. The SS were

ideological fanatics who had the intellect to orchestrate policies of persecution.

There was no resistance to Hitler’s way of implementing the plans, especiallhy with regard to

the Aktion T4 euthanasia programme.

As Germany came closer to war, concern about the economic and resource efficiency about

keeping lives considered ‘only as a burden’ alive intensified killing.

Doctors in psychiatric units in occupied territories began to look for efficient and ‘painless’

ways of killing the unworthy: they settled upon carbon monoxide (gas) poisoning.

Citizenship Reflection Activity B2
Is it persuasive to argue that there was a ‘slippery slope’ of escalating persecution

towards non-Jewish minorities? If so, why? If not, why not?

Are there individuals in our society whom we dehumanise and persecute? Are human

embryos human? If not, why not? If so, why? If not, when are they human? Why then

and not earlier/later?

What are the ethical issues involved in so called ‘death tourism’ – ie travelling to

another country to avail oneself of euthanasia laws?

Should compulsory sterilisation and euthanasia programmes become enshrined in

English law? Should voluntary euthanasia become enshrined in English law?
                  Section C: The Individual and the State


Citizenship Reflection Activity C1

Set out below are the 6 key stages of the persecution of Jews and other minorities in

Germany, 1933-39.

To help you to explain why each of the above stages happened, follow the lines of

enquiry set out below:

       What key measures were taken in each stage (you can use the timeline to help

        you here)? Explain the circumstances surrounding the introduction of the

        various measures. Who/what was driving policy? Who/what was restraining


       Copy and complete the following two tables. Use them to analyse which

        individuals, events and circumstances were driving persecution and which

        individuals, events and circumstances were restraining persecution. Record

        you evidence in a table like that suggested below.

Stage      Individuals/events/circumstances      Explanation of their contribution

           restraining persecution.






Stage      Individuals/events/circumstances       Explanation of their contribution

           accelerating persecution.







    To complete the table think about the following issues as you read through.

       Which individuals were significant in shaping persecution? Why and how?

       Which individuals restrained persecution? Why and how?

       Which factors accelerated the pace of Nazi persecution of Jews and other


       Which factors restrained the pace of Nazi persecution of Jews and other


       Produce materials for a presentation. In addition to Hitler, which of the other

        perpetrators was the most significant in persecuting Jews and other

        minorities? Make a case for their significance. Explain why the others were

        less significant. Choose from: Goebbels, Goering, Streicher, Himmler,

        Heydrich, Eichmann, the SA and the SS.

After each stage, write a summary paragraph answering the question: how did the

issue of x contribute to the persecution of Jews and other minorities? Use the notes
you have been keeping to guide you. Write a maximum of 150 words, making sure that

you illustrate with precisely selected details (hard evidence). Be sharp and concise,

focusing tightly on the question asked.

An excellent place for additional research on all that follows in this chapter is the

Washington National Holocaust Memorial Museum website. This has full details of all

issues raised in this chapter. The address is

Background Information

By what stages and why did a civilised nation such as Germany embark on a path of

annihilatory destruction throughout the 1940s? Previously, historiography on the subject has

emphasised the role of Hitler, arguing that he had intended to launch a war of persecution

since as early as 1924. This view was challenged throughout the 1960s. The basis of the

challenge was evidence that Hitler was not as central as had previously been thought, but

that the chaotic structures of the Third Reich and the consent of the German people

pressurised his decisions. In recent years, it appears that these opposing views have been

reconciled. Following the cue of Ian Kershaw and Mary Fulbrook, now historians generally

argue that Hitler was vital in setting the tone and climate of persecution and that the chaotic

structures of the Third Reich enabled this to happen. Individuals in the corridors of power

sought to ‘work towards the will of the Fuhrer’ for careerist reasons. The most effective way

to do this was when support for the regime appeared to be stalling; the anti-Jewish issue

would be used to whip up support. These moves towards persecution were met by and large

with widespread indifference. Such an interpretation explains persecution in terms of the

charismatic authority of the Fuhrer and the ‘anticipatory compliance’ of those around him and

moulds together the intentioanlist / structuralist debate. Persecution unfolded in a crooked

line, in response to circumstance, opportunity and the fluctuating moods of key figures in the

Party. This approach has been termed recently as ‘cumulative radicalisation’. Historians

such as Christopher Browning have identified three key phrases of persecution towards the
Jews: the evolution of a policy of forced emigration, 1933-39, expulsion from occupied Europe

between 1939-41 and the development of a policy of extermination sometime between

summer 1941 and Spring 1942. This section looks at the first of these phases, forced


But why the Jews in particular? German Jews made up for less than 1% of the population of

Germany. They were a highly assimilated minority, prominent in areas like Frankfurt and

Breslau. 17% of all bankers were Jews, 16% of all lawyers were Jewish and 10% of all

doctors were Jewish. This illustrates that Jews had a presence in the professions, but this

was by no means remarkable. They were not economically or culturally dominant: the

overwhelming majority were poor and unprofessional.

And few were as rabidly anti-Semitic as Hitler himself, even if many were prepared to

discriminate against the Jews on a more informal, more ‘genteel’ basis. So why anti-

Semitism? Some historians have pointed to the ‘baggage’ of the Christian past as explaining

anti-Semitism: some Christians in the Middle Ages misread the Scriptures to mean that Christ

had been crucified by the Jews, therefore they should be held responsible for his crucifixion.

There may well be something in this, but this overlooks important evidence: the evidence of

the Scriptures themselves, with their emphasis on reaching out to those not of the Christian

community, the ignorance of many of the persecutors about historical fact and the role that

prominent Churchmen throughout the ages played in restraining persecution. Accounts that

blame the Holocaust on Christianity run the risk of denouncing religious bigotry only to

replace it with another kind of non-religious or anti-religious bigotry; bigotry is neither

necessarily nor exclusively a religious mode of thought. Just as the Nazis misread aspects of

Darwin and applied them ruthlessly to human populations, so too were they capable of gross

misreadings and distortions of the Christian scriptures. Others point to more material

explanations for anti-Semitism: for them, the Jewish association with money lending to

European kings marked them out as unpopular whenever debts had to be recalled. Still other

historians argue from psycho-pathological grounds. Whatever the explanation, and it is
bound to be a fiercely contested and hotly debated one, the answer may well lie in human

nature itself, with, in the first instance, its readiness to scapegoat others.

One certainly cannot discount this with Hitler himself. His hatred of Jews was utterly

irrational, paranoid and way out of any proportion to the threat they were supposed to

present. Consider, for example, the utterly destructive impulse with which Hitler pursued the

Jews: towards the end of World War Two Hitler prioritised transportation of Jews to camps

over the transportation of much needed resources to the army. Conquered territories also

had first to deal with the Jews before even thinking of contributing materially to the war effort.

It was a consuming, utterly emotional and destructive obsession for Hitler, an end in itself

rather than a means to any other end. Quite what instigates such thoughts in human nature or

what emptiness lies at the core from which such thoughts spring really is well beyond the

scope of this and all other intellectual pursuits that claim to be empirical. These are abstract

philosophical and theological questions about human nature and, more specifically, the

problem of evil (does it exist and if so, what’s the answer to it, if indeed there is an answer).

Yet all this is to push towards other, more philosophical frontiers and, as a result, run the risk

of ‘intellectual trespass’: all we can do, is demonstrate how History points to considerations

that are beyond it. The seeds of the Holocaust may well have been ultimately sown in the

flaws of human nature; yet the pursuit of History alone is incapable of demonstrating this

point, only revealing what those flaws might be.
   By what stages, and why did the Nazis persecute the Jews

                    and other minorities in Germany 1933-39?

                                  Timeline of Persecution

Stage 1: Ideology and Support

1919                     25 Points of the Nazi Party Programme

1924                     Mein Kampf: Hitler made his clearest statement of ideology in this

1933    30 Jan           Hitler appointed Chancellor
        5 Mar            Reichstag elections: Nazis win 43.9% of Reichstag vote. Coalition

                         formed with the Nationalists

Stage 2: Evolving Policy

        20 Mar           SS open first official concentration camp in Dachau for ‘asocials’
        1 April          One day boycott of Jewish businesses

        7 April          Law for the Restoration of the Civil Service

Stage 3: Mobilising the minds for persecution? Propaganda and the public’s responses

to it, 1933-35.

1933-35                  Popular attitudes to persecution

Stage 4: Nuremberg Laws
1935    15 Sep          Nuremberg Laws

Stage 5: Official calm - the SS tightening of control over persecution behind the

scenes, 1936-37.

1936    17 June         Himmler appointed in control of Reich police: major implications for

persecution of minorities

        1 Aug           Berlin Olympic Games

1937    Nov             Schacht, a critic of Nazi Jewish policy, resigns

Stage 6: Reichskristallnacht: the convergence of persecution pressures and the official

radicalization of the regime, 1938-39.

1938    12 Mar          Anschluss: annexation of Austria

                        150,000 Jews ‘acquired’. Eichmann forced 45,000 to emigrate

        Jun-Oct         Decrees attacking Jewish employment and identity

        9 Nov           Kristallnacht Pogrom

                        Decree for the Restoration of the Street Scene

                        Reparations from Jews of German Nationality

1939    Jan             SS controlled Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration set up

        Jan             Hitler announces destruction of Jews in speech

        15 Mar          Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia

        Sep             Nazi invasion of Poland; SS shoot 1,000s of Polish Jews

        27 Sep          SS Main Office for Reich Security (RSHA) set up in Berlin, under


        Oct             Hitler authorised euthanasia programme
Stage 1: Hitler’s appointment to power handed influence to a Party that was

ideologically committed to strengthening the German nation by strengthening the

Aryan race. This meant ‘protecting’ it from potential enemies to its supposed

biological health. Why was Nazi ideology acceptable to the elites that appointed them

to power and to a large slice of the electorate?

Hitler’s appointment as Reich Chancellor on January 30 1933 handed decisive influence to a

Party that was ideologically committed to ridding Germany of ‘elements’ assumed to be

hostile to the regeneration and renewal of German strength. Although not always stressed,

these ideological commitments had been no secret throughout the 1920s or in the run up to

the various Reichstag and presidential elections that fractured political authority from 1929 to

1932. Such views received their most concise statement in the political programme of the

National Socialist Party which had not changed since its formulation in 1920. Here, it stated

that ‘Only members of the nation may be citizens of the State. None but those of German

blood, whatever their creed, may be members of the nation. No Jew, therefore, may be a

member of the nation’. It went on to ‘demand an all out battle against those who damage the

common interest, by their actions; criminals against the nation, profiteers, racketeers, etc,

should be punished by death without regard to religion or race’. Finally, the Nazi Party set

itself against ‘the materialistic Jewish spirit within and beyond us and is convinced that a

lasting recovery of our people can only be achieved on the basis of Common Good before

Personal Gain’. Ultimately, it would be for the state (or, by 1934, Hitler) to define the limits of

the ‘nation’, the ingredients of ‘German blood’ and what exactly the ‘common interest’ and the

‘common good’ meant in practice.

These views received a more detailed and elaborate treatment in Hitler’s own statement of

political philosophy, written whilst imprisoned for treason in the Landsberg prison in 1924 and

published in 1925 as Mein Kampf, or ‘My Struggle’. Drawing upon the intellectual heritage of

European racist and eugenicist discourse, Hitler argued that:
       The Aryan race was the true inhabitants of Germany.

       Germany was a superior nation peopled by this superior race.

       Germany was entitled to land on account of its superior race and culture.

       A war of conquest was a necessary part of existence and an important expression of

        superiority and strengthening of that superiority.

       Jews were undermining the strength of the German race and German nation.

       The elimination of the Jews and other minorities was an important preparation for war

        and a necessary by product of it.

       The mentally and physically handicapped were a burden to the nation and preventing

        it from being strong.

       Life was a struggle for existence in which the fittest survive.

       The Jews and Marxists had stabbed Germany in the back after World War 1 – Hitler

        even said that if 15,000 Jews had been ‘eliminated’ before World War One, then

        German victory in that conflict would have been assured.

Read today and divorced from their historical context of 1933 Germany, there is much that is

both alarming and disturbing in these views. Yet perhaps the most alarming and disturbing

aspect of them to contemporary sensibilities, is that such views gave expression to widely

held assumptions within the political and institutional framework of Germany, particularly on

the post 1918 political right. There was little that was either unique or unacceptable to the

German political right in these assumptions. The extremist views of the National Socialists

were merely one of many programmes that had emerged in Germany in the 1920s. This

acceptability by 1933 to both large portions of the electorate and significant individuals in the

German political elite accounts in part not only for the political success of Nazism; it also

created the context in which subsequent persecution could take place.

Since 1918, the German political right, and those who tended towards it, had assumed that

German military defeat in 1918 and the subsequent political collapse inflicted on it could best

be explained by the ‘stab-in-the-back’ meted out to it by the ‘November criminals’ of 1918.

The ‘stab-in-the-back’ myth held that the German military could have continued the fight for
victory, since it had never capitulated in the field of battle. The peace had been hastily signed

by an alliance of ‘anti-German’ elements of Jews and Marxists, who were together portrayed

as ‘criminals’ conspiring to weaken Germany for their own vicious ends. In addition to acting

as a comfort rag for the trauma of defeat, the myth also served a convenient political purpose

for the traditional holders of power within Germany: the army. Generals Hindenburg and

Ludendorff could use this interpretation of defeat to excuse themselves from responsibility for

it. This would ensure that they retained popularity and political influence. As defeat drew

closer, the military establishment hastily abdicated its political position and handed power to

civilian administrators. It would be the civilian politicians that would be responsible for signing

the Armistice of November 1918. More importantly it would be they who would be

condemned by association with the Treaty of Versailles of 1919.

Hostility towards the Treaty of Versailles united moderates and extremists alike in Germany

throughout the 1920s. The Weimar government that had signed the Treaty had the near

impossible task of overcoming this association with defeat. In addition to the significant loss

of land, the main focus of hostility centred upon Clause 231. This was an acceptance of guilt

for the war. With an acceptance of guilt came an acceptance of responsibility. And, with

responsibility came reparation in the form of a huge and paralysing repayment schedule for

the cost of the war. Although it is debateable as to whether a more equitable peace would

have indeed been possible given the intense animosity of the preceding four years, the

impact of the Versailles ‘Settlement’ is indisputable; it left German politics ‘unsettled’ around

the issue of responsibility for the outbreak and outcome of the war and had created a

potentially powerful rallying cry for nationalist extremists.

In the relatively easy economic and political circumstances of the mid 1920s, such views were

pushed to the political margins. What exploded them back into the mainstream of German

politics, though, was the shuddering impact of the economic depression of the late 1920s and

early 1930s. Economic collapse shattered Weimar democracy, the leaders of which had

proved unequal to the challenge of government at time of crisis. To meet the demands of the

crisis, the German leadership under the guidance of the elderly militarist President
Hindenburg, had begun to shift to a more authoritarian style. Much of this was motivated not

only by an increasing disillusion with the indecision of democratic politics, but also it was a

rearguard action in the face of a rapidly increasing Marxist vote.

Throughout the electoral campaigns of the early 1930s, Hitler and the Nazis had made much

of this communist threat and presented themselves as the only viable option to it. By

November 1932, 33% (around 17 million) of the electorate were to agree with them and view

them as the both the best means of rejuvenating the economy and the best bulwark to

Marxism. Few, if any, were put off from supporting the Nazis as a result of what had been a

relatively understated anti-Semitic campaign throughout the multiple Reichstag electoral

campaigns of the early 1930s. For those that were aware of their eugenicist and anti-Semitic

agenda, their views struck a chord of recognition and chimed with perhaps unrecognised and

unexamined assumptions: Jews and Marxists were one and the same and, as such, were the

sworn enemies of Germany. Germany needed to be purified from these contaminations if she

were to reconnect with her ‘glorious’ past.

Key Points:

Why was Nazi ideology acceptable to the elites that appointed them to power and to a large

slice of the electorate?

       Hitler’s anti-Semitism is best explained by his sense of national trauma at the defeat

        of World War One.

       The ideological commitments of the Nazi Party expressed widely held assumptions,

        or assumptions that many did not find outrageous.

       Such views had formed an important part of European racist and eugenicist discourse

        throughout the preceding 60 years.

       These views derived their authority from the fact that they were founded upon a

        pseudo-scientific basis.
       German defeat in 1918 and the Treaty of Versailles intensified anxiety about the

        strength of the German nation/race. It sharpened anxiety on the political right about

        potential threats to it.

       The economic pressures in Germany in the 1920s had pushed these views onto the

        political agenda and led to the increasing strength of the Nazi Party. This strength

        was expressed in elite and electoral support.

Stage 2: Evolution of anti-Semitic Policy

The appointment of Hitler to the Chancellorship on 30 January 1933 lent casual acts of anti

Semitic SA violence an air of legitimacy, especially given Hitler’s well publicised opinions on

the subversive and corrosive influence of ‘world Jewry’. Such a climate of acceptance

naturally broadened the scope of the attacks and sharpened the nature of them. Jews

unlucky enough to encounter gangs of SA troops roaming the streets looking for potential

victims could find themselves, mocked, beaten and humiliated in public. The aftermath of the
Nazi victory in the Reichstag elections of 5 March witnessed similar excesses and outrages.

In Berlin, Breslau, and Konigsberg gangs of brown-shirts hunted down Jews and inflicted

beatings on them. Of greater symbolic importance was the SA violence and intimidation of
March 11 inflicted on the court room personnel of Breslau. Institutions whose purpose it was

to uphold ‘justice’ now found themselves subject to violent and unjust intimidation and

pressure. Unsurprisingly, many gave way under this pressure.

Yet this was not what the German elites in the Nationalist political coalition had fully

anticipated when they had prided themselves on ‘hiring’ Hitler to serve their purposes as

Chancellor in January 1933. They had expected to be able to restrain and contain the more

vulgar excesses of Nazi street violence, regardless of the fact that many of them found the

Nazi anti-Semitism acceptable. This had been a severe miscalculation. The German

industrial and political grandees in particular were concerned about the economic damage

such abuse could do to trade relations with countries that also contained significant Jewish

populations. This was particularly pressing, given the economically fragile position Germany
was in in Depression wracked 1933. The fragile economic position of Germany in 1933, thus

restrained persecution. As a result individuals such as Schacht pressurised Hitler to rein in

the vulgar activist element of his Party. Hitler responded with token gestures.

Meanwhile, such persecutions took place within a climate of intensifying hostility stimulated by

the official and semi-official propaganda of the Party. The anti-Semitic feeling whipped up by

Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer was particularly influential in this respect. Der Sturmer was a

pro-Nazi popular newspaper, edited and owned by the rabidly anti-Semitic Julius Streicher.

He accused Jews of ‘corrupting’ the German legal system and providing a pretext for a

‘legalised’ purge of the profession. Within two weeks of Hitler attempting to ‘rein in’ the

radical excesses of the Party, the violence flared up again, this time in the south-west of

Germany. The Nazi leadership was prepared to turn a blind eye to spontaneous thuggery

against the Jews, even when it wasn’t actively initiating it.

By the end of March, the British, French and American press began to report on such

violence. Fearing the domestic economic repercussions of a pro-Jewish US boycott, Hitler

now decided to act. The strategy that he, Goebbels, Himmler and Streicher concocted, was

to discredit such reports as the manifestation of a Jewish smear campaign targeted at

undermining ‘German’ business interests. This, in turn, would be used as a pretext to launch

an official boycott of Jewish businesses within Germany. Official, state sanctioned boycott

would have the added advantages of demonstrating to the militant activists that official action

was being taken to counter ‘world Jewry’, whilst demonstrating to business supporters of

Nazism, that the leadership was prepared to squeeze potential competitors out of existence.

Here, the self interest of some businessmen clearly led to an intensification of persecution.

‘Legal’ measures against the Jews were the means by which Hitler hoped to restrain violent
activism against them at this stage. On 28 March Hitler delivered the order to prepare for a
                                                    st               st
Germany-wide boycott of Jewish businesses on 1 April. On the 1 April SA troops enforced

the boycott. Complications arose, however, when Jewish World War One veterans attempted

to hold their harassers to account: harassment of war veterans had recently been made a
criminal offence. Still, much of the public remained indifferent to the boycott. Their

indifference expressed itself mainly through a lack of protest against the boycott. In many

cases, Germans actually ignored the boycott and continued shopping in Jewish owned

premises, despite the intimidating presence of the SA.

In the weeks following the boycott, such co-ordinated action from the Party leadership

hardened into a series of legal measures designed to purge the Jews from significant and

influential areas of German society. The means by which this was to be achieved was

through separating the word ‘German’ from the word ‘Jew’, thus establishing two exclusive

categories of identity. Such an action could hardly have been surprising to any individual who

had taken the time to inspect the Nazi Party programme. Here, it emphatically stated that,

since Jews were not full German citizens, they should not be entitled to the benefits of
German citizenship. Subsequently, the 7 April Law for the Restoration of a Professional

Civil Service lumped Jews together with Communists and ordered their dismissal from state

employment. Yet it was not entirely clear cut as to who exactly was a ‘Jew’; before one could

discriminate effectively, one had to classify precisely. Thus, an amendment to the law was
added on 11 April. Those with one or more ‘non-Aryan, particularly Jewish grandparents’,

were to be retired. President Hindenburg intervened to limit the scope of this amendment.

He inserted the important qualification that this law did not apply to those in the civil service

who were war veterans or who had been in the civil service before World War One, or who

had lost either a son or a father in the war. The test of ‘Germanness’, or ‘German’ identity

was now defined explicitly in relation to the contribution an individual had made to World War

One. This would be an effective means to preventing the awkward and potentially

embarrassing fudges that had arisen during the April boycott. A similar decree was

formulated for Jews working in the legal profession. Both decrees merely reflected the

dismissals that had been going on at a local level since the Nazi electoral victory. Such a

reflection and reinforcement of existing prejudices pushed some individuals further in their

hostilities towards Jews. This was shortly followed by a decree of 25 April ‘Against the

Overcrowding of German Schools and Universities’, which restricted Jewish German
entrance to 5% of the total pupil and student population and a maximum of 1.5% of new

entrants per year. The death of General Hindenburg in August 1934 would thus remove an

important voice of restraint in persecution.

Stage 3: How did the German people respond to Nazi anti-Semitic policies?

Hitler’s strategy for taming radical pressure through the introduction of a legalised purge did,

in the short term, achieve his aim. Foreign outrage and the potential repercussions this could

have for the domestic economy had been dealt with. Moreover, Hitler had demonstrated to

his nationalist coalition partners, not least President Hindenburg that he was capable of

muzzling the less ‘respectable’ face of Nazism. Hitler had also begun to realise just what he

could get away with in terms of co-ordinated state persecution. Individual activists and SA

members, though, were not to be so easily fobbed off – they viewed these directives from the

top as further legitimisation for grass roots violence. Informal beatings and boycotts of Jews

and Jewish businesses continued. In response to such an increasingly hostile atmosphere,

25,000 Jews left Germany in the first six months of Nazi rule. By the end of 1933, a total of

40,000 Jews had left, just short of 10% of the German Jewish population. Most of those who

had decided to stay in Germany were elderly. Many Jews believed that the violent excesses

of Nazi activism would soon subside once the initial euphoria of election and power had


Many Germans felt that this was coming not from Hitler, but from the radicals in that

surrounded Hitler: they could not have been more wrong. When support for Hitler was

flagging, one certain way of whipping up support from the Party faithful at times of criticism,

was to divert attention to the so called ‘Jewish problem’.

By the summer of 1935, the snarl of Nazi intimidation flared up more ferociously. Perhaps the

most significant contributor to this increasing radicalisation was Julius Streicher, the Gauleiter

of Franconia and owner of the Der Sturmer, the semi official propaganda organ of the Party.

Streicher had risen through the ranks of the Party and secured a lucrative deal to supply Der
Sturmer to Nazi organisations. The clarion slogan of his publication, which, at its height,

circulated around 800,000 copies a month, claimed that ‘the Jews are our MISFORTUNE’.

Whether Streicher knew it or not, he owed his intellectual debt to the German nationalist

Treitschke who had coined the phrase back in 1862. Lurid, semi-pornographic allegations of

Jewish ritual murders, Jewish occultic practices against the German ‘Volk’ and the sexual

‘defilement’ of Aryan women at the hands of mendacious and seductive Jews made up the

stock in trade of his shoddy periodical. Throughout Germany it was showcased in special

display cases for the edification of the German people. Streicher had the support and

patronage of Hitler throughout the 1930s – he was Hitler’s appointment.

Fig C2

         A pedestrian stops to read an issue of the antisemitic newspaper

  "Der Stuermer" (The Attacker) in a Berlin display box. "Der Stuermer"

was advertised in showcase displays near places such as bus stops, busy

     streets, parks, and factory canteens throughout Germany. Berlin,

                               Germany, probably 1930s.

              National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia
Other more compelling concerns provided the context in which this increase in ‘informal’

hostility to the Jews was taking place. Gestapo reports were detecting a decline in

enthusiasm for the regime after the initial heady days of the Nazi consolidation of power.

Recourse to the tried and tested methods of ‘Jew baiting’ to whip up the support of the Party

faithful would, in the eyes of the leadership, heal these divisions. Although the vast bulk of

the German people did not hate the Jews in the way that the Nazis did, there still existed a

certain distrust about the Jews amongst them. The Nazis could exploit this mistrust when it

suited them to.

There is considerable evidence, though, to suggest that Nazi propaganda had not penetrated

as deep as had been estimated by the Nazis themselves. Here it is important not to take the

Nazi evaluation of their success or otherwise at its own estimation. The picture that emerges

amongst the German population is one of broad indifference, especially in the period to

autumn 1935. There were a small number of those who overtly criticised the regime, with

more actively collaborating in their persecution, whilst most were indifferent to their plight at

best and unsympathetic at worst. However, the collaboration by ordinary Germans with the

Gestapo paints an interesting picture. On average, there was as little as 1 Gestapo officer

per 10,000 head of population. In some areas, such as Dusseldorf, as few as 291 Gestapo

officers served a population of 4 million. In such a context, the consent and collaboration of

the population aided denunciation. Similar figures are available for Essen, where only 43

Gestapo officers were responsible for monitoring a population of 650,000, whilst 28 officers in

Wuppertal monitored a population of 400,000. Such evidence is a challenge to the idea that

the repressive apparatus of the Nazi state alone fully explains the persecution. Indeed, in

Wurzburg, 57% of legal cases of ‘race pollution’ were initiated by ordinary citizens.

Denunciation of one’s Jewish neighbours was effectively a ‘busybodies’ charter. Old

resentments and grudges between neighbours within small communities were settled through

the means of denunciation to the Gestapo. For some, blaming the Jews for the ills or

misfortunes of Germany had become a rather convenient, if intellectually slothful, default

It is important to emphasise at this juncture that the evidence base for such instances of

informal ‘outcasting’ is highly individualised and subject to significant regional variation. Not

only that, persecution fluctuated in terms of intensity and scope. Many of the accounts create

little more than a rather impressionistic picture as to who was doing what to whom and what

the motives for such persecution were. Where local Nazi bosses (the Gauleiters) were

particularly active, and civic dignitaries avowedly anti-Semitic, the day to day experience of

Jews was particularly severe. By the July 1935, though, a widening scope of persecution and

an intensifying viciousness can be detected. Throughout Germany, individuals from the

Gauleiter and mayor down inflicted systematic harassment and exclusion on Jews attempting

to use private amenities, public services, carnivals, relationships, careers and schooling.

More compellingly, the much promised green shoots of economic recovery had yet to pierce

through the muck and gloom of a severe economic depression; at least if they had, most were

colour blind to them. Impatience had begun to fester amongst an increasingly disillusioned

SA, who were straining at the leash for more violence. There was a general impression that

the much lauded momentum for national regeneration had begun to stall, if not, as some

alarmists feared, derail entirely. In this context, the Nazi leadership began to look to

strategies to demonstrate a revival of momentum and commitment to the creation of the new

Germany. And there was no better tried and tested way to drum up support from the flagging

lower-middle-class supporters, than to unite them around that fundamental article of faith of

the National Socialist movement: anti-Semitism.

Stage 4: Why were the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 passed and what impact did they have

on the persecution of the Jews?

Throughout the spring of 1935 Gobbels and Streicher went on lecture tours whipping up anti-

Semitic feeling. At the local level, the cue was again taken and violence towards individual

Jews intensified – the authorities would tolerate, indeed, explicitly encourage such behaviour.

In this atmosphere, placards shunning the Jews from entry into various towns and villages
began to emerge. Depending on the region, Jews found themselves barred from civic

amenities such as public baths, cinemas, restaurants and trams.

Fig C2

A sign at the entrance to Hersbruck warns Jews that they are not desired in the town.

[Photograph #86302] The sign reads, "The City of Hersbruck. This lovely city of Hersbruck,

this wonderful spot on earth, was created only for Germans and not for Jews. Jews are

therefore not desired here." USHMM

Throughout July and August of 1935 such attacks gathered momentum. Once again, Hitler

and the leadership became nervous about the negative response of foreign opinion,

especially when SA inspired violence took out the Swedish consul. Negative responses,

though, were barely forthcoming.

Now was the time to again implement more official measures that would put persecution on a

more ‘respectable’ footing and muzzle the potentially damaging wilder elements in the SA.
The annual Nuremberg Party rally, beginning on September 9 1935 provided the perfect

platform and exposure for Hitler to demonstrate his own anti-Semitic credentials and the
continued dynamism of the movement. On the final day of the rally on 15 September 1935,

Hitler chose to end the party with a flourish acceptable to the radicals: he authorised the

introduction of the Reich citizenship and miscegenation laws. His public justification for doing

so was his increasing anxiety that recent criticism of fascist Germany from communist

Moscow had, at its root, a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. Privately, though, he was concerned

about criticism that the regime was stalling in momentum. Having hastily settled upon a

series of differing drafts for the differing laws, Hitler made his curtain closing speech. As ever,

though, many of the details had been improvised and ill thought out – persuasive evidence

here that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not the product of a well thought out Master Plan.

The Reich Citizenship Law excluded from citizenship all those not considered to be of

‘German or kindred blood’. Jews, political opponents and those simply lacking in

appropriately enthusiastic external displays of support for the regime were relegated to the

status of ‘subjects of the state’. They were to be afforded no protection. In fact, they had

been singled out as targets of the state.   Since the classification of ‘Jew’ was central to the

effective operation of both the Reich Citizenship and miscegenation laws, a definition of what

made one Jewish was essential. Quite who was a Jew turned out to be a gruesomely

complex issue in practice, not least because the principle of ‘blood’ as a defining feature of

‘race’ was highly problematic. A definition that embraced Christian converts, ‘half-Jews’ and

‘quarter Jews’ ran the risk of multiplying the internal enemies of the Reich.     Unsurprisingly,

who was a Jew or, more precisely, who was not a German, ended up ultimately being left to

the whim of Hitler.

The German press dutifully reported the laws. Responses to the laws were highly

individualised, with some in the working class openly rejecting them. Whilst some small

businesses feared the economically damaging consequences of trade sanctions, others

greeted with enthusiasm the removal of potential rivals. Most, though, continued to be

indifferent. But in being officially institutionalised persecution had taken on a sinister aspect.
The familiar pattern re-emerged: where the state authorised, the activists interpreted this and

pressured the leadership for increasingly radical measures. The Nuremberg Laws were

followed by a raft of bureaucratized initiatives designed to push Jews further out of significant

aspects of National Socialist Germany. Throughout Germany, the Reich Citizenship Law was

applied with varying degrees of rigour. Much of this still depended on the enthusiasm of local

politicos, such as the Gauleiter and regional mayor. As anti-Semitism hardened into law,

informal attitudes towards Jews continued to harden.

This was particularly the case with the Law for the Protection of German Blood and

German Honour. The German Blood Law enshrined the neurosis the Nazi Party had about

sexual contamination from Jews (miscegnation). It was used as a justification for interfering

in the private choices of individuals, such as marriage partner and sexual partner. The

initiative for these prosecutions rested with individual neighbours, many of whom had scores

to settle.

Fig C3
Propaganda slide entitled "The Jews have always been Race Defilers."

One image from a slide lecture produced by "Der Reichsfuehrer SS, der Chef des Rasse-und

Siedlungshauptamtes" [the Leader of the SS, the Chief of the Race and Settlement Main

Office]. The slide lecture, entitled "Das Judentum, seine blutsgebundene Wesensart in

Vergangenheit und Gegenwart" [Jewry, Its Blood-based Essence in Past and Future], is Part I

of the thematic series, "Judentum, Freimaurerei, Bolschewismus" [Jewry, Freemasonry,

Bolshevism]. The text of the slide lecture is available at the Bundesarchiv Koblenz, record

group number NS31/163.

In response to such measures, many Jews emigrated. Between 1933 and 1937, around

90,000 Jews are estimated to have emigrated abroad. As far as some in the leadership were

concerned at this stage, emigration was on the agenda: extermination was not yet an issue.

The German Jewish ‘problem’ could not wait – it needed immediate resolution if Germany

were to take its rightful place as world power. As yet, though, there was no clear plan of

Stage 5: Why was there a lull in the intensity of persecution in 1936-37?

Throughout 1936 there were no new initiatives persecuting the Jews. The main reason for

this was the staging of the Olympics in Berlin. Hitler was keen to avoid incurring the

displeasure of the USA who had made some noises about the discernible lack of an ‘Olympic

spirit’ in Germany, and had threatened to boycott the summer games. International pressure

could influence the intensity of persecution of the Jews. The financial costs and publicity such

a boycott would arouse would have been particularly damaging to the Nazi economy. So it

was that Hitler made a show of entering the ‘spirit’ of the games: there was little or no mention

of the Jews in his speeches throughout 1936. He authorised the selection of three half Jews,

each living outside Germany, for the Olympic team, and was barely able to conceal his sulk

when the black Jesse Owens emerged as the star of his newly built 110,000 seater sports

track, complete with idealized Aryan statues at the gates. According to his later

reminiscences, Albert Speer commented that the irony had made Hitler uncomfortable: with

childlike stroppiness, Hitler went on to argue that the participation of a ‘black’ was unfair,

since ‘primitive man’ had a natural advantage in such events over the civilised, culture

bearing Aryans – so the Master Race was not as masterful as it prided itself. Beneath the

official surface of calm, though, the process of Aryanization of businesses continued as did

informal instances of persecution.

Other, equally disturbing movements were also afoot behind the scenes as the Reich moved

towards a war footing. Perhaps the most significant development of this phase was the

gradual interference of the SS and SD in the formulation of Jewish policy.

Stage 6: Why did Nazi anti-Jewish policies became more intense and radical in 1938?
The annexation of Austria in March 1938 had brought with it an extra 150,000 Jews in

addition to members of the Roma and Sinti. Eichmann began to use Austria as a testing

ground for Jewish policy. In the context of occupation, he initiated a policy of forced

emigration and humiliation, compelling the Jews to scrub the streets whilst being watched

over by the menacing SS. Property was confiscated and 45,000 Austrian Jews were evicted.

The SS had asserted their control over Jewish policy.

As preparations for war continued Hitler wanted to prevent another recurrence of the ‘stab in
the back’. Hitler sanctioned more dehumanising legislation on 17 July 1938: ‘II. 1. If Jews

bear first names other than those authorized for Jews by Section I, they must, from 1 January

1939, adopt another additional first name, namely, ‘Israel’ for men and ‘Sarah’ for women.

The SD, under Heydrich’s command, launched a crackdown and police harassment on Jews,

especially in Berlin, with increased pressure for emigration. Such official actions legitimized

unofficial violence on the streets. Gobbels’ diary records a conversation with Hitler on 25 July

1938: ‘The main thing is that the Jews are driven out. In 10 years they must be out of

Germany’. Synagogues began to be targeted.

To discuss the growing emigration crisis, a conference of 32 nations met at Evian, on the
shores of Lake Geneva on July 6 1938. Here, the nations established quotas and protocols

regarding how many Jews they were prepared to accept as refugees. In the face of hostile

domestic pressure in their home countries, the delegates prevaricated, justifying their fears

about a deluge of immigrants undermining the native culture of their respective countries. As

part of the Nazi regime’s preparation for war non-German Jews were now expelled from the

Reich. First, the Russian Jews, then the 50,000 Polish Jews resident in Germany were

arrested by the Gestapo and shuttled in locked trains to the Polish border. The anti-Semitic

Polish regime sealed their border, leaving the displaced Jews in a stateless ‘no man’s land’.

Eventually, though, they relented and allowed the Jews to shelter in squalid refugee camps

just inside the Polish border. Amongst those residing there was a Jewish family who had a

son studying in Paris, called Herschel Grynzspan. By letter, they communicated their

desperate situation to him. In a rage, the 17 year old Herschel, acquired a pistol, stormed into
the German Embassy in Paris and shot a German diplomat, the non-Nazi Enrst Vom Rath.

Goebbels and Hitler now had the pretext they needed to authorise a full Pogrom pushing the

Jews out of German society.

Goebbels also saw the opportunity to re-ingratiate himself with Hitler through an exploitation

of the issue. Goebbels had been allegedly having an affair with the Czech actress Lida

Baarova; such a choice of partner was politically dangerous given that Hitler was preparing

for a full invasion of the ‘Slavic hordes’ living there. Once again, that firm article of Nazi faith,

anti-Semitism was being exploited to demonstrate credentials of loyalty to the regime. This

incident reveals the chaotic and whimsical way in which the Nazi state operated: Goebbels

exploited anti-Semitism to get the Jews ‘out’ and to get himself ‘in’ with Hitler. Under

Goebbels’ instructions, the Nazi propaganda machine once again ground into action. As the

orders from Goebbels cascaded down to regional party bosses, the SS and Gestapo joined

the SA in smashing up Jewish property. Hitler authorised a full scale attack on Jewish

property and a round up of as many Jews they could find for imprisonment in the camps.

Hitler was at pains to ensure that the violence he authorised would be viewed as the

collective outrage of the ‘National Socialist spirit’ at the Jewish assassination. The violence

had to appear as a spontaneous act of outrage against world Jewish conspiracy and not as

the co-ordinated, authorised plan of the leadership. As the Nazi Party Supreme Court secret

report made clear: ‘The Fuhrer, at Gobbels’ suggestion had decided that such demonstrations

were not to be prepared or organized by the Party, but neither were they to be discouraged if

they originated spontaneously. The Party should not appear as the originator of the
demonstrations but that in reality it should organize them and carry them out’ . The Nazi

press understood the line: they styled it as a ‘spontaneous wave of righteous indignation

throughout Germany, as a result of the cowardly Jewish murder’.

Moreover, the SS began to tighten its grip on anti-Jewish policy. According to Gobbels’ diary,

orders for the arrest of 20,000-30,000 Jews were issued. Subsequent orders issued by the

    Nazism: A Documentary reader, 1933-39, Pridham and Noakes, p.359
SS security Service Head, Heydrich, defined the parameters of the violence: the police were

to ensure that the violence was contained and focused directly on German Jews and Jewish

property, and to ensure that this did not spill over into attacks on foreign nationals on non

Jewish property. Such restraints meant nothing to the SA who now had the unambiguous

green light from the leadership they had long anticipated. Little delay was made in

implementing the orders as an orgy of SA violence was unleashed, inflaming synagogues,

smashing shop windows and desecrating Jewish graves. Estimates of at least 1000
synagogues were burned on 9th/10 November 1938, a night the Nazis mockingly referred to

as the ‘Reichskristallnacht’. In total, the SS and SA destroyed about 80% of Jewish owned

businesses. Making use of their extensive files on Jews, the SS hunted down and imprisoned

30,000 Jews in the concentration camps, and meted out arbitrary and merciless beatings. At

least 91 Jews died on the night, and around 2,000 in the aftermath; around 200 synagogues

were set on fire.

As the public crunched over the broken glass and surveyed the debris on the morning of the
10 November, there was a sense of shock and bewilderment. Responses show no evidence

of enthusiasm or support for the actions of the Nazis: a stunned silence appears to have been

the hallmark. Some have conjectured that these was more to do with attacks on property

than attacks on Jews.

Amidst international outrage at the incident, demonstrations took place in New York. In

Britain, moves to establish the Kindertransport were finally implemented. Prime Minister

Neville Chamberlain allowed 10,000 German Jewish children to enter Britain, so long as they

had a financial guarantor. Tight immigration controls in the USA led to the acceptance of less

than 500 Jews. The US immigration authorities turned back the St Louis, from Havana. The

ship, carrying nearly 900 Jews, was forced to turn around and dock in Antwerp. Within 18

months Antwerp was under Nazi occupation. Approximately 250 Jews who had been

passengers on the St Louis were eventually killed by the Nazis during World War Two.
The leadership sought to consolidate this new watershed in persecution, by following it up

with a series of legal measures that amounted to a culmination of the banditry that had been
taking place since 1933. On 12 November 1938 the leadership issued a series of decrees

outlawing the Jews from further public and private civic amenities, the rights of tenancy, and

tax concessions. Moreover, the Jews were ordered to pay a fine of 1 billion Reichmarks to

‘atone’ for the damage. The Jews were to be responsible for restoring the ‘street scene’

(repairing the damage done on ‘Kristallnacht’) and were to receive no compensation by way

of insurance. Insurance companies were ordered to pay the sum of 225 million Reichsmarks

to the state. Other measures ‘tidied up’ various loose ends concerning Jews in professions

and ordered the full Aryanization of all Jewish businesses. All Jewish personal property was

ordered to be deposited in banks. Heydrich and the SD stepped up the pressure for forced

immigration, whilst simultaneously denying them the material means to effect such an

emigration. This notwithstanding, most Jews had taken the hint, leaving 164,000

predominantly elderly Jews left in Germany on the eve of World War Two.

The tumorous shadow of the SS also began to loom large in Jewish policy after Kristallnacht.

Himmler issued a police decree imposing strict regulations on the appearance of Jews in

public. With increasing control over the issue, the SS vigorously enforced the existing laws

against the Jews. By 1939, the SS had asserted its control over the centre piece of Jewish

policy: forced emigration. SS control over the Reich Association, responsible for preparing

Jews for emigration, also tightened their grip over Jewish policy. By 1939, Jewish policy was

coordinated by the most chillingly effective organisation in Germany. It would take the

barbarity of war to remove any restraining barriers to the operation and further radicalisation

of Jewish policy. Within 3 years, the policy of emigration escalated into an official policy of

extermination. On 24 January 1939, Goering ordered the establishment of a ‘Reich Central

Office for Jewish Emigration’ in the Reich Ministry of the Interior to promote the emigration of

Jews ‘by every possible means’. Heydrich of the SD was placed in charge of this; the SS now

finally had an influential hand in controlling Jewish policy. In March 1939, Hitler launched a

full invasion of Czecholslovakia, imperilling the Jews that lived there. With his eastern border
secure from Soviet invasion after the signing of the non Aggression Pact with Stalin on 23

August 1939, Hitler invaded Poland. With the establishment of the RHSA in 1939, the SS had

secured full control over the ‘Jewish Question’. Eichmann, newly arrived from persecuting

Jews in Vienna and Prague, now transferred his techniques of humiliation to Berlin and, by

September 1939, occupied Warsaw.

As the Blitzkrieg Stukas screamed down from on September 1 1939, the 3 million Jewish

Poles and other minorities living there had good reason to be afraid.   War would remove the

feeble constraints to persecution that were still in existence. Not without good reason did

Hermann Goring greet the onset of the Second World War as the ‘Great Racial War’. Hitler

would now have his ‘struggle’ that he had anticipated and argued for almost 15 years

previously whilst brooding in the Landsberg prison.

Fig C4
Smiling German soldiers surround a group of religious Jewish men on the street in Minsk


Citizenship Reflection Activity C2

Research the evolution of anti-Semitic policy, from 1939-45. Continue to record the

information in the table above, identifying factors/individuals that accelerated the pace

of persecution and those that blocked it.

In addition to Browning’s Origins of the Final Solution and Pridham and Noakes’

Foreign Policy, War and Racial Extermination look at and

Summary Flowchart Diagram


Look at the diagram below. It depicts the way in which persecution of Jews and other

minorities intensified throughout the period. The boxes contain key information for

each phase. The red arrows depict factors that were holding persecution back. Use

the diagram and your own knowledge to discuss the following points:

How far did Hitler have a detailed plan for persecution, and how far was he an

opportunist responding to events as they unfolded?

Which was the most significant factor (the one without which persecution would not

have happened) in the persecution of Jews and other minorities, 1933-39? Choose

from: ideology, pressure on Hitler from below and the bureaucratic structures of the

Third Reich and the way in which decisions were made. Which individuals were

absolutely key in ordering the persecution of the Jews?
How far do you agree with the Jewish American historian Goldhagen in his claim that

the German people were ‘Hitler’s Willing Executioners’?

How far do you agree with the following view expressed by I. Kershaw in The Nazi


‘ . . . there can be a social context in ‘civilized society’ in which genocide becomes

acceptable . . . many features of contemporary ‘civilized’ society encourage the easy

resort to genocidal holocausts’.

Compare and contrast genocide of 1933-45 with other genocides. Look at the nature,

   pace and scope of the genocides. What accelerating/blocking factors are

   similar/different to the Jewish experience? Examples may include Bosnia, the

   Sudan and Rwanda. How far can they be considered as unique circumstances

   unleashing features common to humanity?

How persuasive is it to argue that the eugenics programme was the ‘slippery slope’ to

   the Holocaust? Are the two programmes connected in any way, in terms of cause,

   course and consequence, or are they following different trajectories?
                   Select Bibliography and Suggested Further Reading

The following materials are excellent for further research and reflection:

Bartov:         The Holocaust
Browning:       The Origins of the Final Solution, 1939-42
Bullock:        Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives
Burleigh:       Death and Deliverance: Euthanasia in Germany, 1900-45
Burleigh:       Sacred Causes
Burleigh:       The Racial State, 1933-45
Burleigh:       The Third Reich
Evans           The Coming of the Third Reich
Evans:          The Third Reich in Power
Kershaw:        Hitler: Vol 1 and Vol 2
Kershaw:        The Nazi Dictatorship
Longerich:      The Unwritten Order: Hitler’s Role in the Final Solution
and Pridham:    Nazism: Vol 2: State, Economy and Society, 1933-39
Overy:          The Dictators
Flow Chart 1

                                                       Response of

                                                               Informal           1935
                                       Formal                  1933-35        Nuremberg Laws
                  Informal              1933                Local Nazi
                 Persecution                                bosses put up
       A         March 1933       Boycott and legal         signs and anti-
  philosophy                      purges, 1933.             Jewish signs.
       of        SA violence
  persecution                     Racial hygienist           Increased SA
                                  enthusiasm.                   violence
   Philosophy;                    Compulsory                Collaboration
     Hitler’s                     sterilization law,        and consent of
  appointment,                    1933                      population.

                               Pressure                 Catholic

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