In 1933, although less than 1% of the German population was Jewish. Jews contributed significantly to German culture. Many served in World War I and thought of themselves as Germans first and Jews second. They considered Germany a home; their passionate ties and blind loyalty to Germany caused them to be blind to the harsh reality of anti-Semitic measures The Nürnberg Laws were the first attempt by the Nazi government to define the Jews and as such, play a pivotal role in the process that lead to their annihilation.
A conference of ministers was held on August 20, 1935, to discuss the economic effects of Party actions against Jews. Adolf Wagner, the Party representative at the conference, argued that such actions would cease, once the government decided on a firm policy against the Jews.
Dr. Schacht, the Economics Minister, criticized arbitrary behavior by Party members as this inhibited his policy of rebuilding Germany's economy. It made no economic sense since Jews were believed to have certain entrepreneurial skills that could be usefully employed to further his policies.
Schacht made no moral condemnation of Jewish policy and advocated the passing of legislation to clarify the situation.
The following month two measures were announced at the annual Party Rally in Nürnberg, becoming known as the Nürnberg Laws. Both measures were hastily improvised (there was even a shortage of drafting paper so that menu cards had to be used) and Jewish experts from the Ministry of the Interior were ordered to Nürnberg by plane.
The first law, The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, prohibited marriages and extra-marital intercourse between “Jews” (the name was now officially used in place of “non-Aryans”) and “Germans” and also the employment of “German” females under forty-five in Jewish households. The second law, The Reich Citizenship Law, stripped Jews of their German citizenship and introduced a new distinction between “Reich citizens” and “nationals.”
The Nürnberg Laws by their general nature formalized the unofficial and particular measures taken against Jews up to 1935. The Nazi leaders made a point of stressing the consistency of this legislation with the Party program which demanded that Jews should be deprived of their rights as citizens.
Hitler now had more direct control over the government and political attitude to Jews in Nazi Germany. In the period 1937 to 1938, harsh new laws were implemented, and the segregation of Jews from the German "Aryan" population began. In particular, Jews were punished financially for their "race."
On March 1, 1938, government contracts could not be awarded to Jewish businesses. On September 30 of the same year, "Aryan" doctors could only treat "Aryan" patients. Provision of medical care to Jews was already hampered by the fact that Jews were banned from being doctors or having any professional jobs.
On August 17, Jews had to add "Israel" (males) or "Sara" (females) to their names, and a large letter "J" was to be imprinted on their passports on October 5. On November 15, Jewish children were banned from going to public schools. By April 1939, nearly all Jewish companies had either collapsed under financial pressure and declining profits, or had been persuaded to sell out to the Nazi-German government, further reducing their rights as human beings; they were, in many ways, effectively separated from the German populace.
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The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team