Authors: Peter Longerich
the legal system. Yet more wide-reaching plans to prevent even Jewish doctors
from exercising their profession failed initially because of resistance from the
Chancellor, Hitler, who did not consider such plans as opportune at that point.
Whilst the law concerning admission to the legal profession passed on 7
did indeed determine that lawyers ‘of non-Aryan descent’ should lose their right
to practise their profession, there were the same exemptions made as in the
professional civil service law. As a result of these regulations more than 40 per
cent of the Jewish notaries and almost 60 per cent of the Jewish lawyers in the
largest German state, Prussia, were initially able to continue to practise. They
were, however, subject to innumerable obstacles put in place by the Party, which
went as far as forcibly expelling them from court buildings, which happened
several times in the spring of 1933.
Jews in other professions regulated by the state, like patent lawyers and
accountants, were soon hit by similar measures. Doctors and dentists were
excluded from practising in the health insurance system.
The ‘Law against the Overcrowding of German Schools and Universities’ also imposed a quota on the
numbers of Jewish pupils and students that could be accepted.
Jewish school and university students were subsequently discriminated against in many ways and
were excluded from certain activities such as participation in sport.
The National Socialists also took special measures to exclude Jews from the
cultural life of the nation. As early as 30 January the former senior functionary of
the National Socialist Campaign Group for German Culture, Hans Hinkel, was
made ‘Commissar without portfolio’ in the Prussian Ministry of Culture and
given the task of ‘removing Jews from cultural life’. In April, Goering directed
his attentions to the theatre in particular by making him Head of the Prussian
In March and April, as part of the familiar interplay of Party grass-roots ‘campaigns’ and administrative measures, National Socialist
rallies led to theatrical performances and concerts by Jewish artists being dis-
rupted and Jewish musicians and theatre directors being dismissed.
On 6 April 1933 Hitler once more voiced his public support for this policy, at a
reception for leading medical officials, where he explained that ‘the immediate
eradication of the excess of Jewish intellectuals from the cultural and intellectual
life of Germany is necessary if justice is to be done to Germany’s natural right to
an intellectual leadership appropriate to its own kind’.
The middle of April saw the beginning of the ‘campaign against un-German
thinking’ in most universities, where members of the National Socialist Student
League systematically combed through the holdings of private lending libraries.
On 10 May in many German cities works by left-wing, pacifist, and ‘morally
corrosive’ authors were burned alongside the works of Jewish writers and
Racial Persecution, 1933–1939
There was a temporary shift in the persecution of the Jews at the beginning
of July 1933 when Hitler proclaimed the end of the ‘National Socialist Revo-
lution’ in a speech to the Reichstatthalter, those established by the new regime
as the governors of the individual German states.
For reasons of foreign, domestic, and economic policy the regime felt compelled to rein in the
violence of the SA with the result that attacks on Jews and Jewish property
were moderated once more. But the government’s intention to find a com-
prehensive solution to the ‘Jewish question’ was interrupted after only a few
months. Of the three major legislative programmes announced in early July
by Hans Pfundtner, Permanent Secretary in the Reich Ministry of the Inter-
only one, the sterilization law, was to find its way into cabinet discussions, whilst the two anti-Jewish projects he had listed—a Citizenship Law
and a law for the ‘Purification and Continuing Purity of German Blood’—
were postponed. Nonetheless, the July 1933 law concerning the revocation of
naturalization and deprivation of citizenship, did come into force.
It was especially important in that it created the legal foundations for removing
from the Reich the ‘Ostjuden’ or Eastern European Jews who had entered
since the end of the First World War, by depriving them of their German
Hitler explained what had originally been much more extensive planning in the
area of racial legislation and the reasons for its temporary postponement in a
speech to the Reichstatthalter conference on 29 September 1933:
He, the Chancellor, would have preferred to move gradually towards stepping up the rigour with which the Jews in Germany were treated, by creating first of all a nationality law and using this as the basis for ever harsher approaches to the Jews. However, the boycott
provoked by the Jews had necessitated immediate counter-measures of the severest kind.
People abroad were complaining above all about the legalized treatment of the Jews as
Thus the regime restricted itself at first to a further series of discrimination
measures against Jews in specific areas of life, but not against the Jews as a whole.
On the one hand, therefore, various legal regulations debarred Jews from
entering professions that required academic qualifications, such as the law, medi-
cine, dentistry, and pharmacy; those Jews already active in such professions were
prevented from continuing to practise them.
The foundation of the Reich Chamber of Culture in September 1933 gave the regime the means to exclude
Jews definitively from all the cultural professions. The first step was to declare
them ineligible to join the new organizations that were compulsory regulators of
all activity in the cultural sphere, on the grounds that they did not possess the
‘reliability’ and ‘suitability’ that the membership conditions prescribed.
The Editorial Law of October 1933 provided the same instrument to prevent Jews
from becoming journalists in future.
Displacement from Public Life, 1933–4
Legal exclusion conditions ensured that Jews could neither achieve the privil-
eged status of ‘Hereditary Peasant’ introduced by Nazi agricultural legislation,
nor gain access to the newly introduced marriage loans.
In July 1933 the army introduced a requirement that soldiers’ brides would have to prove their ‘Aryan’
In February 1934, on their own intiative the Armed Forces introduced the requirements of the Professional Civil Service Act. As a consequence, some
seventy soldiers had to leave the army for ‘racial’ reasons—which represented an
important intrusion by the new government into the army’s personnel manage-
ment, previously considered by the military top brass as their autonomous
domain, and therefore a symbolically important act of submission by the army
to the racist dogmas of the regime.
Because there were no major new persecution measures taken during this period,
the second half of 1933 and 1934 are often described as a period of ‘relative calm’
for the German Jews. However, despite the official end of the ‘boycott’ the Party
grass-roots campaigns against Jews and Jewish businesses were in many cases
perpetuated, and Jewish citizens were the victims of petty policies on the part of
the state administration that were aimed at displacing or ousting them. The longer
this condition obtained, the more profoundly the financial basis of Jewish busi-
nesses was affected. Discrimination took various different forms: Jewish trades-
men were driven from marketplaces;
Jewish firms were disadvantaged when rationed goods were distributed;
farmers were under pressure to break off commercial connections with Jewish traders;
Jewish firms were banned from advertising in newspapers and elsewhere;
local government ceased all business contacts with
and subjected them to arbitrary harassment;
again and again the windows of Jewish businesses and apartments were smashed;
signs announcing a ‘ban on Jews’ were displayed; cemeteries were desecrated and
Party activists repeatedly—and successfully—attempted to force people to
boycott Jewish shops and required them to be specially marked out as such.
Whilst in many villages and small towns Jewish shops were subject to a permanent
blockade, in 1934 the militant small-business Party activists who had now formed
the National Socialist Trade Organization (NS-Hago) launched measures to
boycott Jewish shops within the context of a ‘spring campaign’ across the whole
of the Reich. Similarly comprehensive campaigns were undertaken during the
Christmas seasons of December 1933 and 1934.
Although both the Party headquarters in Munich and government agencies repeatedly resisted the excesses of
boycotts, they were not able to put a truly effective stop to the boycott movement
that emanated from the Party activists.
Racial Persecution, 1933–1939
These boycott campaigns and the numerous other discriminatory measures
taken against the Jews were always accompanied by violent attacks.
These anti-Semitic acts of violence reached a high point on Palm Sunday 1934 in the Upper
Bavarian town of Gunzenhausen, when more than a thousand of the inhabitants
of this small town marched through the streets, forcibly hauling Jews from their
homes and dragging them off to the town prison. One Jewish citizen was later
found hanged; another stabbed himself; a few weeks later one of the main
perpetrators, who had in the meantime been punished, albeit leniently, shot a
Jewish restaurant owner on his own premises. These excesses show how the anti-
Semitic hatred of Party activists was liable to explode at any point, even during the
phase of ‘relative calm’ that then supposedly characterized the Nazis’ persecution
of the Jews.
The Nazi government’s unbending severity with regard to the ‘Jewish
question’ was made obvious during an inter-ministerial briefing in November
1934, which at the same time manifested a notable readiness to compromise
in the treatment of non-European ‘alien races’. During this meeting it was
first established that ‘adverse consequences of German racial policy over
recent months had placed serious strain on relations with various foreign
states’. This meant mainly Germany’s relations with a series of Asiatic and
South American states, who were responding angrily to the discriminatory
treatment of their citizens resident in Germany and to the depiction of all
Artfremde (literally all those ‘foreign to the species’, i.e. all those of non-
European descent) as members of ‘inferior’ races by the publicity material of
the ‘Third Reich’. The meeting was agreed that ‘the principles underlying the
racial politics of the National Socialist world-view must not be compromised
even by strong pressure from outside’, but also that the ‘application of the
racial principle in practice should not be permitted to have adverse reper-
cussions in the area of foreign policy, if these were disproportionate to its
domestic political benefits’.
Following a suggestion made by Helmut Nicolai, the representative of the
Reich Ministry of the Interior, a solution to this problem was found: legislation
would in future avoid the term ‘non-Aryan’ in favour of ‘Jewish’.
The meeting agreed that in future all decisions about the application of legal requirements
against ‘foreigners of alien blood’ would be exclusively within the purview of the
Foreign Office. Any Artfremder could be ‘exempted from the racial legislation’,
according to a decree of the Reich Minister for the Interior issued in April 1935,
if reasons of foreign policy required this—but only in cases where these ‘aliens’
were of ‘non-Jewish blood’.
The aim of the policies formulated in this meeting on 15 November, as expressed more than a year later by the representative of the
Foreign Office Bülow-Schwandte, was the ‘restriction of racial policy measures
to the Jews’.
Displacement from Public Life, 1933–4
Jewish Reactions to the First Phase of Persecution
The National Socialists’ policy of excluding the Jews from public life affected the
members of a minority that was by no means homogeneous.
At the beginning of the National Socialist dictatorship some half a million people were living in
Germany who professed membership of the Jewish community, and amongst
these were about 100,000 who did not have German citizenship (mostly immi-
grants from Poland and Russia, the so-called Ostjuden or Eastern Jews). In
addition there were more than 40,000 people who were not Jewish in the