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The Nuremberg Laws of 1935

Nazi Laws Against Jews

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A chart displaying who was considered a Jew according to the Nuremberg Laws.

A chart displaying who was considered a Jew according to the Nuremberg Laws. (Germany)

(Photo courtesy of Yad Vashem)
On September 15, 1935, the Nazi government passed two new racial laws at their annual NSDAP Reich Party Congress in Nuremberg, Germany. These two laws (the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law to Protect German Blood and Honor) became collectively known as the Nuremberg Laws. These laws took German citizenship away from Jews and outlawed both marriage and sex between Jews and non-Jews. Unlike historical antisemitism, the Nuremberg Laws defined Jewishness by heredity (race) rather than by practice (religion).

Early Antisemitic Legislation

On April 7, 1933, the first major piece of antisemitic legislation in Nazi Germany was passed; it was entitled the “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service.” The law served to bar Jews and other non-Aryans from participating in various organizations and professions in the civil service.

Additional laws during April 1933 targeted Jewish students at public schools and universities and those who worked in the legal and medical professions. Between 1933 and 1935, many more pieces of antisemitic legislation were passed at both the local and national levels.

The Nuremberg Laws

At their annual Nazi Party rally in the southern German city of Nuremberg, the Nazis announced on September 15, 1935 the creation of the Nuremberg Laws, which codified the racial theories espoused by the party ideology. The Nuremberg Laws were actually a set of two laws: the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor.

Reich Citizenship Law

There were two major components to the Reich Citizenship Law. The first component stated that:
  • Anyone who enjoys the protection of the Reich is considered to be a subject of it and is therefore obligated to the Reich.
  • Nationality is determined by the Reich and state nationality laws.

The second component explained how citizenship would henceforth be determined. It stated:

  • A citizen of the Reich must be of German blood or Germanic origin and must prove by his/her conduct that they are suited to be a loyal German citizen.
  • Citizenship may only be conferred with an official certificate of Reich citizenship
  • Only Reich citizens may receive full political rights
By taking away their citizenship, the Nazis had legally pushed Jews to the fringe of society. This was a crucial step in enabling the Nazis to strip Jews of their basic civil rights and liberties. Remaining German citizens were hesitant to object for fear of being accused of being disloyal to the German government as decreed under the Reich Citizenship Law.

The Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor

The second law announced on September 15 was motivated by the Nazi’s desire to ensure the existence of a “pure” German nation for eternity. A major component of the law was that those with “German-related blood” were not allowed to marry Jews or have sexual relations with them. Marriages that had occurred prior to the passage of this law would remain in effect; however, German citizens were encouraged to divorce their existing Jewish partners. Only a few chose to do so.

Additionally, under this law, Jews were not permitted to employ house servants of German blood who were under the age of 45. The premise behind this section of the law was centered around the fact that women under this age were still able to bear children and thus, were at risk to be seduced by Jewish males in the household.

Finally, under the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor, Jews were forbidden to display the flag of the Third Reich or the traditional German flag. They were only permitted to display “Jewish colors” and the law promised the protection of the German government in demonstrating this right.

November 14 Decree

On November 14, the first decree to the Reich Citizenship Law was added. The decree specified exactly who would be considered Jewish from that point forward. Jews were placed into one of three categories:
  • Full Jews – those who practiced Judaism or those who had at least 3 Jewish grandparents, regardless of religion practice.
  • First Class Mischlinge (half Jewish) – those who had 2 Jewish grandparents, did not practice Judaism, and did not have a Jewish spouse.
  • Second Class Mischlinge (one-fourth Jewish) – those who had 1 Jewish grandparent and did not practice Judaism.

This was a major change from historical antisemitism in that Jews would be legally defined not simply by their religion but also by their race. Many individuals who were life-long Christians found themselves suddenly labeled as Jews under this law.

Those who were labeled as “Full Jews” and “First Class Mischlinge” were persecuted in mass numbers during the Holocaust. Individuals who were labeled as “Second Class Mischlinge” stood a greater chance of staying out of harm’s way, particularly in Western and Central Europe, as long as they did not draw undue attention to themselves.

Extension of Antisemitic Policies

As the Nazis spread into Europe, the Nuremberg Laws followed. In April 1938, after a pseudo-election, Nazi Germany annexed Austria. That fall, they marched into the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. The following spring, on March 15, they overtook the remainder of Czechoslovakia. On September 1, 1939 the Nazi invasion of Poland led to the beginning of World War II and further expansion of Nazi policies throughout Europe.

The Holocaust

The Nuremberg Laws would ultimately lead to the identification of millions of Jews throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. Over six million of those identified would perish in concentration and death camps, at the hands of the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) in Eastern Europe and through other acts of violence. Millions of others would survive but first endured a fight for their lives at the hands of their Nazi tormentors. The events of this era would become known as the Holocaust.
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