Racial policy of Nazi Germany

Racial policy of Nazi Germany
Eva Justin of the 'Racial Hygiene and Demographic Biology Research Unit' measuring the skull of a Romani woman.

The racial policy of Nazi Germany was a set of policies and laws implemented by Nazi Germany, asserting the superiority of the "Aryan race", and based on a specific racist doctrine which claimed scientific legitimacy. It was combined with a eugenics programme that aimed for racial hygiene by using compulsory sterilizations and extermination of the Untermensch (or "sub-humans"), and which eventually culminated in the Holocaust. These policies targeted peoples, in particular Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and handicapped people, who were labeled as "inferior" in a racial hierarchy that placed the Herrenvolk (or "master race") of the Volksgemeinschaft (or "national community") at the top, and ranked Russians,[1][2] Romani, persons of color and Jews at the bottom.[3][4]


Racial policies regarding the Jews between 1933 to 1940

Between 1933 and 1934, Nazi policy was fairly moderate, not wishing to scare off voters or moderately minded politicians (although the eugenics program was established as early as July 1933).[5] On August 25, 1933, the Nazis even signed the Haavara Agreement with Zionists to allow German Jews to emigrate to Palestine—by 1939, 60,000 German Jews had emigrated there. The Nazi Party used populist anti-semitic views to gain votes. Using the "stab-in-the-back legend", they blamed poverty, the Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic, unemployment, and the loss of World War I by the "November Criminals" all on the Jews, Marxists and 'cultural Bolsheviks'. German woes were attributed to the effects of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1933, persecution of the Jews became active Nazi policy. This was at first hindered by the lack of agreement on who qualified as a Jew or Aryan, which caused legislators to balk at an anti-Semitic law for its ill-defined terms.[5] Bernhard Lösener described it "total chaos", with local authorities regarding anything from full Jewish background to 18 Jewish blood defining a Jew; Achim Gercke urged 116 Jewish blood.[6] Mischlinge were especially problematic in their eyes.[7] The first anti-Semitic law was promologated with no clear definition of Jew.[8] Finally, the decision was made for three or four Jewish grandparents; two or one rendered a person a Mischlinge.[9] It only became worse with the years, culminating in the Holocaust, or so-called "Final Solution", which was made official at the January 1942 Wannsee Conference.

On April 1, 1933, the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses was observed throughout Germany. Only six days later, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed, banning Jews from government jobs. It is notable that the proponents of this law, and the several thousand more that were to follow, most frequently explained them as necessary to prevent the infiltration of damaging, "alien-type" (Artfremd) hereditary traits into the German national or racial community (Volksgemeinschaft).[10] These laws meant that Jews were now indirectly and directly dissuaded or banned from privileged and superior positions reserved for "Aryan Germans". From then on, Jews were forced to work at more menial positions, becoming second-class citizens or to the point they were "illegally residing" in Nazi Germany.

The Nuremberg Laws

1935 Chart from Nazi Germany used to explain the Nuremberg Laws. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 employed a pseudo-scientific basis for racial discrimination against Jews. People with four German grandparents (white circles) were of "German blood," while people were classified as Jews if they were descended from three or more Jewish grandparents (black circles in top row right). Having one or more Jewish grandparents made someone a Mischling (of mixed blood). The Nazis used the religious observance of a person's grandparents to determine their race.

Between 1935 and 1936, persecution of the Jews increased apace while the process of "Gleichschaltung" (lit.: "standardisation", the process by which the Nazis achieved complete control over German society) was implemented. In May 1935, Jews were forbidden to join the Wehrmacht (the army), and in the summer of the same year, anti-semitic propaganda appeared in shops and restaurants. The Nuremberg Laws were passed around the time of the great Nazi rallies at Nuremberg; on September 15, 1935, the "Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor" was passed, preventing marriage between any Jew and non-Jews as Rassenschande or racial pollution. At the same time, the "Reich Citizenship Law" was passed and was reinforced in November by a decree, stating that all Jews, even quarter- and half-Jews, were no longer citizens of their own country (their official title became "subjects of the state"). This meant that they were deprived of basic citizens' rights, e.g., the right to vote. This removal of citizens' rights was instrumental in the process of anti-semitic persecution: the process of denaturalization allowed the Nazis to exclude—de jure—Jewish people from the "Volksgemeinschaft" ("national community"), thus granting judicial legitimacy to their persecution and opening the way to harsher laws and, eventually, extermination of the Jews. Philosopher Hannah Arendt pointed out this important judicial aspect of the Holocaust in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), where she demonstrated that to violate human rights, Nazi Germany first deprived human beings of their citizenship. Arendt underlined that in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, citizens’ rights actually preceded human rights, as the latter needed the protection of a determinate state to be actually respected.

The drafting of the Nuremberg Laws has often been attributed to Hans Globke. Globke had studied British attempts to "order" its empire by creating hierarchical social orders, for example in the organization of "martial races" in India.

In 1936, Jews were banned from all professional jobs, effectively preventing them from having any influence in education, politics, higher education, and industry. There was now nothing to stop the anti-Jewish actions that spread across the German economy.

Between 1937 and 1938, new laws were implemented, and the segregation of Jews from the "German Aryan" population was completed. In particular, Jews were punished financially for being Jewish.

On March 1, 1938, government contracts could not be awarded to Jewish businesses. On September 30, "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.

On August 17, Jews with first names of non-Jewish origin had to add "Israel" (males) or "Sara" (females) to their names, and a large letter "J" was to be printed on their passports on October 5. On November 15, Jewish children were banned from going to state-run 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 government, further reducing their rights as human beings; they were, in many ways, effectively separated from the German populace.

The increasingly totalitarian regime that Hitler imposed on Germany allowed him to control the actions of the SS and the army. On November 7, 1938, a young Polish Jew named Herschel Grynszpan attacked and shot German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in the Nazi-German embassy in Paris. Grynszpan's family, together with more than 12,000 Polish-born Jews, had been expelled by the Nazi government from Germany to Poland during the so-called "Polenaktion" on October 28, 1938. Joseph Goebbels ordered retaliation. On the night of November 9, the SS conducted "the Night of Broken Glass" ("Kristallnacht"), in which the storefronts of Jewish shops and offices were smashed and vandalized. Approximately 100 Jews were killed, and another 20,000 sent to concentration camps. Collectively, the Jews were made to pay back one billion RM in damages; the fine was collected by confiscating 20% of every Jew's property.

Jewish responses to the Nuremberg Laws

A Gymnastics lesson from 1936 in a Berlin Jewish school

After the promulgation of the Nuremberg Laws, the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden (Representation of the German Jews) announced the following:

The Laws decided upon by the Reichstag in Nuremberg have come as the heaviest of blows for the Jews in Germany. But they must create a basis on which a tolerable relationship becomes possible between the German and the Jewish people. The "Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden" is willing to contribute to this end with all its powers. A precondition for such a tolerable relationship is the hope that the Jews and Jewish communities of Germany will be enabled to keep a moral and economic means of existence by the halting of defamation and boycott. The organization of the life of the Jews in Germany requires governmental recognition of an autonomous Jewish leadership. The Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland is the agency competent to undertake this. The most urgent tasks for the "Reichsvertretung", which it will press energetically and with full commitment, following the avenues it has previously taken, are: Our own Jewish educational system must serve to prepare the youth to be upright Jews, secure in their faith, who will draw the strength to face the onerous demands which life will make on them from conscious solidarity with the Jewish community, from work for the Jewish present and faith in the Jewish future. In addition to transmitting knowledge, the Jewish schools must also serve in the systematic preparation for future occupations. With regard to preparation for emigration, particularly to Palestine, emphasis will be placed on guidance toward manual work and the study of the Hebrew language. The education and vocational training of girls must be directed to preparing them to carry out their responsibilities as upholders of the family and mothers of the next generation.

Other "non-Aryans"

Though the laws were primarily directed against Jews,[11] other "non-Aryan" people were subject to the laws, and to other legislation concerned with racial hygiene. The definition of "Aryan" was imprecise and ambiguous, but was clarified over time in a number of judicial and executive decisions. Jews were by definition non-Aryan, because of their Semitic origins, but most European peoples were automatically included under the definition of Aryan as "Indo-European". The fact that Aryan is essentially a linguistic rather than a racial category led to some difficulty reconciling Nazi-supported racial typologies with the Aryan concept. There was some dispute about the position of the Roma, who were Indo-European in origin, speaking an Indo-Aryan language. Non-Indo-European Africans and Asians were automatically excluded. In Africa, according to Alfred Rosenberg, only the Berbers from North Africa, particularly the Kabyles, were classified as Aryans.[12] The Nazis portrayed Swedes, the Afrikaaners who are white European descendants of Dutch-speaking Boers in South Africa and higher-degree Northern/Western Europeans of South America (mainly from Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina) as ideal "Aryans" along with the German-speaking peoples of Germany, Austria and Switzerland (the country was neutral during the war). In Asia, only the Indo-Aryan population of Iran and India were considered Aryan.

The number of black people in Germany when the Nazis came to power is variously estimated at 5 - 25,000.[13][14] According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., “The fate of black people from 1933 to 1945 in Nazi Germany and in German-occupied territories ranged from isolation to persecution, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality, and murder. However, there was no systematic program for their elimination as there was for Jews and other groups.”[15]

Prior to Hitler coming to power, black entertainers were popular in Germany, but the Nazis banned Jazz as ‘corrupt negro music’.[16] Mixed marriage and interracial sex became illegal, some blacks were used in medical experiments, and others mysteriously disappeared.[17] However, contrary to popular myth,[18] black American sprinter Jesse Owens', who won four gold medals beating Aryan athletes at the 1936 Berlin Olympic games, faced less segregation there than in the USA, and felt snubbed by Roosevelt rather than by Hitler (see Jesse Owens#Berlin Olympics).

The July 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring—written by Ernst Rüdin and other theorists of "racial hygiene"—established "Genetic Health Courts" which decided on compulsory sterilization of "any person suffering from a hereditary disease." These included, for the Nazis, those suffering from "Congenital Mental Deficiency", schizophrenia, "Manic-Depressive Insanity", "Hereditary Epilepsy", "Hereditary Chorea" (Huntington’s), Hereditary Blindness, Hereditary Deafness, "any severe hereditary deformity", as well as "any person suffering from severe alcoholism".[19] Further modifications of the law enforced sterilization of the "Rhineland bastards" (children of mixed German and African parentage).

After the Night of the Long Knives of June 30-July 2, 1934, during which the SS and Gestapo purged the "too revolutionary" leadership of the SA, the SS emerged as the dominant police power in Germany. Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler—eager to please Hitler, and hungry for greater power—willingly obeyed his orders. The SS swore a personal oath to Hitler and as his personal bodyguard units, they were more obedient and loyal to Hitler than the SA. They were also supported by the Heer (German Army), which was more willing to comply with Hitler's decisions after he announced the SA would act as an auxiliary to the army, and not the other way around as the SA leadership had wanted.

On August 2, 1934, President Paul von Hindenburg died. No new President was selected; instead the powers of the Chancellor and President were combined. This change, and a tame government with no opposition parties, allowed Hitler full control of law-making. The army also swore an oath of loyalty personally to the "Führer" ("Leader"), giving Hitler complete power over the army. The Nazi ideologues would theorize the "Führerprinzip", which granted preeminence to Hitler’s direct control over the government.

German Mulattoes

Hitler had stated in Mein Kampf that ‘the Jews had brought the Negroes into the Rhineland with the clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily-resulting bastardisation’.[20] Mixed marriage and interracial sex became illegal.[21]

Of particular concern to the Nazi scientist Eugen Fischer were the "Rhineland Bastards": mixed-race offspring of Senegalese soldiers who had been stationed in the Rhineland as part of the French army of occupation. He believed that these people should be sterilized in order to protect the racial purity of the German population. At least 400 mixed-race children were forcibly sterilized in the Rhineland by 1938. This order only applied in the Rhineland. Other African Germans were unaffected. Despite this policy there was never any systematic attempt to eliminate the black population in Germany, though some blacks were used in medical experiments, and others mysteriously disappeared.[22]

According to Susan Samples the Nazis went to great lengths to conceal their sterilization and abortion program in the Rhineland.[23] Hans Massaquoi describes his experience as a half-African in Hamburg, unaware of the Rhineland sterilizations until long after the war.[24] Samples also points to the paradoxical fact that African-Germans actually had a better chance of surviving the war than the average German. They were excluded from military activity because of their non-Aryan status, but were not considered a threat and so were unlikely to be incarcerated. Samples and Massaquoi also note that African-Germans were not subjected to the segregation they would have experienced in the United States, nor excluded from facilities such as expensive hotels. However, both she and Massaquoi state that downed black American pilots were more likely to become victims of violence and murder from German citizens than were white pilots.[25]

Other groups

About 10,000 Japanese nationals (mostly diplomats and military officials) residing in Germany were given "Honorary Aryan" citizenship with more privileges than any other "non-Aryan" ethnonational group.[citation needed] In Norway, the Nazis favored marriages between Germans and Norwegians, in an attempt to spawn a new "Aryan" generation of Nordics. Around 10,000-12,000 war children (Krigsbarn) were born from these unions during the war. Some of them were separated from their mothers and cared for in so-called "Lebensborn" clinics ("Fountain of Life" clinics).[26][27]

Policies regarding Poles and Russians

Nazi policy toward the Slavs to Germany's east was perhaps even more schizophrenic than it was with the Roma. Not only are Slavs an Indo-European people, and thereby might be expected to be considered "Aryan", but they were just as likely to fit the Nazi "Nordic" ideal as Germans were, if not more so. Yet, Nazi ideology viewed Russians and Poles as a racially inferior group, suitable for enslavement, or even extermination.[2][28] Generalplan Ost (GPO) was a Nazi plan to realize Hitler's "new order of ethnographical relations" in the territories occupied by Germany in Eastern Europe during World War II. It was prepared in 1941 and confirmed in 1942. The plan was part of Hitler's own Lebensraum plan and a fulfillment of the Drang nach Osten ("Drive towards the East") state ideology.[29] The final version of Generalplan Ost, essentially a grand plan for ethnic cleansing, was divided into two parts; the Kleine Planung ("Small Plan"), which covered actions which were to be taken during the war, and the Grosse Planung ("Big Plan"), which covered actions to be undertaken after the war was won (to be carried into effect gradually over a period of 25–30 years). The Small Plan was to be put into practice as the Germans conquered the areas to the east of their pre-war borders. The individual stages of this plan would then be worked out in greater detail. In this way, the plan for Poland was drawn up at the end of November 1939. The plan envisaged differing percentages of the various conquered nations undergoing Germanisation, expulsion into the depths of Russia, and other fates, the net effect of which would be to ensure that the conquered territories would be Germanized.[29] The Wehrbauer ("soldier-peasants") would settle in a fortified line to prevent civilization arising beyond and threatening Germany.[30]

It should be noted that in 1943, after heavy defeats on the Eastern front, Nazis officially recognized some Slavic nations as Aryans (except the Poles) eligible to serve in Waffen-SS (for details see Collaboration in World War II).[citation needed]

Civilian deaths totaled 15.9 million which included 1.5 million from military actions; 7.1 million victims of Nazi genocide and reprisals; 1.8 million deported to Germany for forced labor; and 5.5 million famine and disease deaths. Additional famine deaths which totaled 1 million during 1946-47 are not included here. The official Polish government report of war losses prepared in 1947 reported 6,028,000 war victims out of a population of 27,007,000 ethnic Poles and Jews; this report excluded ethnic Ukrainian and Belarusian losses.

Germanization between 1939 and 1945

Nazi policy stressed the superiority of the Nordic race, a sub-section of the white European population defined by anthropometric models of racial difference.[citation needed] From 1940 the General Government in occupied Poland divided the population into different groups.[31] Each group had different rights, food rations, allowed strips in the cities, separated residential areas, special schooling systems, public transportation and restricted restaurants. Later adapted in all Nazi-occupied countries by 1942, the Germanization program used the racial caste system of reserving certain rights to one group and barred privileges to another. In addition with their predominant religion and ethnicity per individual of that ethnic group or nationality.

Nordicist anthropometrics was used to "improve" the racial make-up of the Germanised section of the population, by absorbing individuals into the German population who were deemed suitably Nordic.[32]

Germanization also affected the Sorbs, the minority Slav community living in Saxony and Brandenburg, whose Slavic culture and language was suppressed to absorb them into German identity. Tens of thousands suffered internment and imprisonment as well, to become lesser-known victims of Nazi racial laws.

See also


  1. ^ The making of the slavs: history and archaeology of the Lower Danube Region, (Cambridge University Press, 2001) page 9, 26-30 By Florin Curta
  2. ^ a b The Czechs under Nazi rule: the failure of national resistance, 1939-1942, Vojtěch Mastný, Columbia University Press
  3. ^ Jerry Bergman, "Eugenics and the Development of Nazi Race Policy", Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith PSCF 44 (June 1992):109-124
  4. ^ Götz Aly, Peter Chroust, Christian Pross, Cleansing the fatherland: Nazi medicine and racial hygiene, The Johns Hopkins University Press, (August 1, 1994 :) ISBN 0801848245
  5. ^ a b Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience, p 170 ISBN 0-674-01172-4
  6. ^ Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience, p 171 ISBN 0-674-01172-4
  7. ^ Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience, p 174 ISBN 0-674-01172-4
  8. ^ Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience, p 184 ISBN 0-674-01172-4
  9. ^ Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience, p 187 ISBN 0-674-01172-4
  10. ^ Eric Ehrenreich, The Nazi Ancestral Proof, 2007, pp.1, 165-167
  11. ^ The Concept "Jew" in Nazi German "Race" Legislation
  12. ^ (a)"The Berbers, among whom even today one finds light skins and blue eyes, do not go back to the Vandal invasions of the fifth century A.D., but to the prehistoric Atlantic Nordic human wave. The Kabyle huntsmen, for example, are to no small degree still wholly Nordic (thus the blond Berbers in the region of Constantine form 10 % of the population; at Djebel Sheshor they are even more numerous).", Alfred Rosenberg, The Myth of the Twentieth Century, 1930; (b) "Among the Berbers, particularly the Kabyles in the Riff and in the Aures range, a Nordic strain shows itself clearly", Hans F.K. Günther, The racial elements of European History, 1927
  13. ^ [1] Anne Frank Guide, Black people in Nazi Germany
  14. ^ [2] Voice Online, 16 Feb 2009 issue 1359, The forgotten black victims of Nazi Germany
  15. ^ [3] Voice Online, 16 Feb 2009 issue 1359, The forgotten black victims of Nazi Germany
  16. ^ [4] Voice Online, 16 Feb 2009 issue 1359, The forgotten black victims of Nazi Germany
  17. ^ [5] Voice Online, 16 Feb 2009 issue 1359, The forgotten black victims of Nazi Germany
  18. ^ [6] Voice Online, 16 Feb 2009 issue 1359, The forgotten black victims of Nazi Germany
  19. ^ The law for the prevention of hereditarily diseased offspring. (Approved translation of the "Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses"). Enacted on July 14th, 1933. Published by Reichsausschuss für Volksgesundheitsdienst. (Berlin: Reichsdruckerei, 1935). (Official translation of the law into English)
  20. ^ [7] Voice Online, 16 Feb 2009 issue 1359, The forgotten black victims of Nazi Germany
  21. ^ [8] Voice Online, 16 Feb 2009 issue 1359, The forgotten black victims of Nazi Germany
  22. ^ [9] Voice Online, 16 Feb 2009 issue 1359, The forgotten black victims of Nazi Germany
  23. ^ Samples, S., "African Germans in the Third Reich", The African German Experience, Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay ed.
  24. ^ Massaquoi, Hans J., Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany, Harper Perennial, 2001. He mistakenly states that they were later murdered in the Holocaust, p.2
  25. ^ [10] Voice Online, 16 Feb 2009 issue 1359, The forgotten black victims of Nazi Germany
  26. ^ BBC, 4 February 2003, Norway's Nazi legacy (English)
  27. ^ Le Figaro, 8 March 2007, Les enfants des nazis traînent la Norvège devant les tribunaux (Children of Nazis bring Norway before the Courts) (French)
  28. ^ Operation Barbarossa: Ideology and Ethics against Human Dignity, by André Mineau, (Rodopi, 2004) page 180
  30. ^ Robert Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenberg and Nazi Ideology p190 ISBN 0-396-06577-5
  31. ^ Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p543 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
  32. ^ Hitler's plans for the East

Further reading

  • Aly, Gotz, Susanne Heim. Architects of Annihilation: Auschwitz and the Logic of Destruction, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002, 514pp, ISBN 2978427819
  • Bauer, Yehuda. A History Of The Holocaust, New York: F. Watts, 1982 ISBN 0-531-09862-1.
  • Browning, Christopher. The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, University of Nebraska Press, 2004, 616pp, ISBN 0803213271
  • Burleigh, Michael & Wippermann, Wolfgang. The Racial State: Germany 1933-1945, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991 ISBN 0-521-39114-8.
  • Ehrenreich, Eric. The Nazi Ancestral Proof: Genealogy, Racial Science, and the Final Solution. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-253-34945-3
  • Friedländer, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews Volume 1 The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939, New York : HarperCollins, 1997 ISBN 0-06-019042-6
  • Kühl, Stefan. The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism, Oxford University Press, 2002 ISBN 0195149785
  • Peukert, Detlev. Inside Nazi Germany: conformity, opposition and racism in everyday life London: Batsford, 1987 ISBN 0-7134-5217-X.
  • Weindling, Paul. Health, Race and German Politics between National Unification and Nazism, 1870-1945. Cambridge University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-521-42397-X

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