When Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party rose to power in 1933 they began to enact a series of laws aimed at stripping the Jewish population and anyone else they deemed “non-German”, of their property, jobs, education and basically, life. These laws were designed for the sole purpose to alienate the Jews from friends and neighbors that they had had for years. It is a lot easier to preach hate against an alienated population than it is against an integrated one. Within six years, over 400 laws were enacted against the Jewish population, and not just by the national government, but also by local, regional and state governments. This means that ALL levels of government were in on the planning and execution of these outrageous laws.
One of the first laws was passed on April 7, 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service. This meant that Jews and those deemed “politically unreliable” could no longer be employed by the government, the police force, any public organizations or any other form of public life. In essence, the Nazis had placed a “noose” around the neck of the Jewish population that they would slowly tighten over the next six years.
From 1933-1939 Jewish life was restricted in every way possible. By the end of 1939 Jews could no longer go to public schools with Aryan children, they could no longer go to public parks, theaters and cinemas, they could now only grocery shop between designated hours (designed so that by the time they could shop, everything was sold or picked over), they could no longer serve in the military (and Jewish names of WWI soldiers were not added to WWI monuments), they could no longer slaughter animals in the way that met their strict kosher laws, Jewish doctors could no longer collect payment for services from the national health services or treat non-Jewish patients, racial laws forbidding Jews from marrying or having sex with persons of “German blood”, the labeling of who and who was not a Jew, but the one that literally took everything from them was the Aryanization of Jewish property.
Nuremberg Race Laws
The Aryanization laws were announced on September 15, 1935 at the Nuremberg rally, an annual rally of Nazi leaders. Aryanization was a way for the Nazi party to “legally” strip the Jews of everything they had. Jewish owned businesses were “Aryanized” by the Nazi party kicking out any Jewish employees or managers, then forcing Jewish owners to sell their businesses to Aryans at prices far below market value or those set by the Nazi party. Jewish families were forced to register ALL property. This included foreign bank accounts and property, bank accounts and property within the Reich, furniture, apartments and houses, works of art, musical instruments and automobiles.
What was the definition of a “Jew” to Nazi ideology? Surprisingly it had very little to do with someone who actually practiced the Jewish faith. A person could be a practicing Catholic, Lutheran or other Protestant faith, however if they had three or four Jewish grandparents, they were considered Jewish. It didn’t matter to the Nazi party if you had never been a practicing Jew, you were basically guilty by birth. Some of those now classified as “Jewish” were Roman Catholic priests and nuns.
With the institution of the Nuremberg Laws, Jews were stripped of their German citizenship. Jews could no longer marry or have sexual relations under the “Racial Infamy” law with anyone of “German or related blood”. By October 18, 1935 another Nuremberg Law began, the “Law for the Protection of the Hereditary Health of the German People”. It required persons wishing to marry to obtain a certificate from the local health authority that they were healthy enough to marry. Anyone who had a “hereditary illnesses” and/or contagious disease would be denied the certificate and the right to marry. On November 14, 1935 this law was extended. The phrase “German or related blood” now included Roma (gypsies), blacks or their children.
Persecution Not Limited to Jews
Under the Nazi regime, persecution was not limited to the Jewish population. As mentioned before, by 1935 it was starting to affect the Roma and black population of Germany. In 1936 Heinrich Himmler created the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion, under control of the Gestapo. Himmler considered homosexuality and abortion as prime reasons for the low German birth rate, and he gave a speech on it in Bad Tolz on February 18, 1937. The speech was attended by high ranking SS officers.
By 1928 there were an estimated 1.2 million homosexuals in Germany. Himmler’s special office ordered “pink sheets” from all over Germany, these were list of names complied by local police of suspected homosexuals. At this time, as in most of the world, homosexuality was illegal under paragraph 175 of German law. Men arrested as homosexuals were sentenced to prison, but many (an estimated 5,000-15,000) were sent to concentration camps by the Nazi regime.
All camp inmates were treated harshly and inhumanely, many died from hunger, disease, exhaustion, exposure and brutal treatment. Yet, many of those interned with homosexual men have told stories of the homosexuals receiving harsher treatment from camp guards and personnel. Himmler himself believed that there was a cure to homosexuality and Dr. Carl Vaernet (an SS doctor) performed surgical experiments on inmates designed to “cure” them of their homosexuality.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were also attacked by the Nazi regime. The persecution against them started earlier in April 1933 when their faith was banned in Bavaria and within a few months, banned through out Germany. Jehovah’s Witnesses sent a letter to the Reich Chancellery describing their faith and political neutrality, unfortunately this did not help them. As they continued to meet in violation of Nazi law, those who had civil service jobs- lost them, they also lost all public benefits (social welfare and unemployment), and pension benefits. As they continued to defy Nazi policy, they refused to be drafted or perform war related work, thus the Nazi’s instituted total persecution against them.
In 1936 four hundred Witnesses were sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. That same year, the Gestapo began compiling lists of Witnesses. Witnesses were often arrested and tortured by police in attempts to get them to renounce their faith. The Nazi’s set out to destroy Jehovah’s Witnesses and by 1936 an estimated 6,000 Witness from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were interned in concentration camps. Children of Witnesses suffered alongside their parents, teachers and classmates shunned them and made fun of them from not giving the “Heil Hitler” or singing the patriotic songs. Many families were broken apart and the children sent to live with Nazi families to be raised as Nazis.
Another lesser known group persecuted was the Roma (gypsy) population. Like the Jews, Roma peoples have a history of persecution throughout Europe, that dates back long before the Nazi regime ever came to power. Legislation already existed that limited their movements, however in 1933 the Nazi’s enacted new legislation that reflected their ideology of the Roma people being “asocial” and “racially inferior”. Thus, the Nazi’s enacted three laws that made it very easy for them to persecute the Roma people:
July 1933 Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Defects
November 1933 Law Against Dangerous Habitual Criminals
September 1935 Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor (part of the Nuremberg Race Laws)
These laws allowed police and Gestapo to arrest and incarcerate Roma peoples in prison and concentration camps. Throughout the war Roma peoples were rounded up and incarcerated in camps such as: Marzahn, Lackenbach, Salzburg-Maxglan, Buchenwald, Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Mauthausen, Auschwitz, Chelmno and Ravens Bruck. And like the Jews they were also kept in ghettos in Lublin, Lodz and Warsaw.
Hate and Hypocrisy
My father once told me that “hate is the easiest thing to preach”. I was young at that time and didn’t fully understand what he meant. Every time I said I “hated” something usually my brother who made me mad, or the beets I refused to eat at dinner, my mother would tell me to be careful using that word because “hate is a powerful word”. And it wasn’t until I began to study and learn about the Holocaust, thanks to Barry’s influence, that I learned what hate can really do. Hate can destroy more powerfully than any weapon ever could because hate destroys the soul.
Nazi hypocrisy was abundant. Reinhard Heydrich, the “Butcher of Prague”, hid his own Jewish ancestry. Herman Goering, head of the Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht, spent his childhood with Jewish doctor Hermann Von Epenstein. Von Epenstein was also godfather to Goering’s brother Albert who helped Jews and other dissidents escape the Nazi’s. When he was caught, Albert would use his brothers’ connections to get himself out of trouble. Goering even used allegations of homosexuality against his SA brothers Ernst Rohm and Von Fristch to have them killed in the “Night of the Long Knives” purge of the SA (brownshirts). Hitler himself was rumored to have been the son of a Jewish man whose family employed his mother as a maid. (Recent DNA test are proving that Hitler had Jewish and African DNA).
With the rise of DNA testing, it makes you wonder what these Nazi leaders would have said when their DNA came back “not pure Aryan”.