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he Nuremberg Laws of 1935 defined who was considered a Jew. This was an essential element in the unfolding of the Holocaust, as the Nuremberg Laws allowed the Nazis
to first identify, then exclude,
and finally attempt to eliminate Jews from German society.

The History Place

From the moment the Nazis came to power in 1933, the Jews of Germany were subjected to a never-ending series of discriminatory laws. There would be, during the twelve years of Hitler's Reich, over 400 separate regulations issued against Jews prohibiting everything from performing in a symphony orchestra to owning a pet cat.

In the Reich's early years, anti-Jewish regulations were drawn up by a Nazi bureaucracy that included both radical and moderate anti-Semites. None of the bureaucrats had any moral qualms about being anti-Semitic. However, the moderates were concerned with foreign reaction and the possible disruptive impact of anti-Jewish prohibitions on Germany's still-fragile economy.

Of the 503,000 Jews living in Germany in 1933, about 70 percent lived in big cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt and Breslau. Many of the young Jews in these cities married non-Jewish Germans.

A timeless scene in an old Jewish neighborhood of Berlin - a sidewalk sale of Kosher foods - still visible in the early Hitler era. Below: The unceasing anti-Semitism of Der Stürmer newspaper run by radical anti-Semite Julius Streicher, Gauleiter of Nuremberg. Under a sign saying "With the Stürmer against the Jews" is a page display beneath the Nazi slogan "The Jews are our misfortune."

Although Jews made-up less than one percent of Germany's overall population of 55 million, Hitler considered them by nature to be the "mortal enemy" of the German people. But within Hitler's bureaucracy, radical and moderate anti-Semites strongly disagreed as to what legal (or illegal) actions should actually be taken against the Jews. This bureaucratic in-fighting resulted in complete stagnation concerning the development of a coordinated Reich policy of anti-Semitism.

Local Brownshirts, upset by the bureaucratic bungling, often took out their frustrations on local Jews in their neighborhoods, and by mid-1935 there had been a dramatic rise in the number of street incidents.

Ordinary citizens, encouraged in part by Goebbels' anti-Semitic propaganda, also took part in spontaneous demonstrations. One such incident in the summer of 1935 was recorded by the Bavarian political police:

"There were anti-Jewish demonstrations in the swimming pool in Heigenbrüken. Approximately 15-20 young bathers had demanded the removal of the Jews from the swimming bath by chanting in the park which adjoins the bath...A considerable number of other bathers joined in the chanting so that probably the majority of visitors were demanding the removal of the Jews...The district leader of the NSDAP [Nazi Party] who happened to be in the swimming baths, went to the [pool] supervisor and demanded that he remove the Jews. The supervisor refused the request on the grounds that he was obliged to follow only the instructions of the baths' administration and moreover, could not easily distinguish the Jews as such. As a result of the supervisor's statement, there was a slight altercation between him and the [district leader]...In view of this incident, the Spa Association today placed a notice at the entrance to the baths with the inscription: Entry Forbidden to Jews."

Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess ordered a halt to spontaneous anti-Jewish actions, not out of consideration for the Jews, but to prevent "bringing Party members into conflict with the political police, who consist largely of Party members, and this will be welcomed by Jewry. The political police can in such cases only follow the strict instructions of the Führer in carrying out all measures for maintaining peace and order, so making it possible for the Führer to rebuke at any time allegations of atrocities and boycotts made by Jews abroad."

By late summer 1935, the street violence and demonstrations had diminished. But the bureaucratic in-fighting only escalated and would soon come to a head at the annual Nuremberg Rally

At this year's Rally, held from September 9 to 15, a special session of the Nazi Reichstag (Legislature) was scheduled for the last day at which Hitler planned to deliver a major foreign policy speech concerning the League of Nations and Fascist Italy. However, Hitler wound up canceling the speech on short notice upon the advice of his Foreign Minister, Constantin von Neurath.

The abrupt cancellation left a void as to just what the Reichstag would do during its special Nuremberg session. Radical anti-Semites at Nuremberg seized the opportunity and suggested to Hitler that the special session would be an ideal opportunity to announce some kind of big new law concerning the Jews.

Hitler accepted their suggestion and settled on the idea of a law forbidding intermarriage and sexual relations between Jews and Germans, which he knew the radicals had been wanting for some time. On September 14, the night before the Reichstag's special session, Nazi legal officials presented Hitler with four drafts of the new law. Hitler chose the fourth version, which happened to be the least militant, although he crossed out one important line stating: "This law applies only to full-blooded Jews."

Around midnight, Hitler told the same legal officials he also wanted an accompanying law concerning Reich citizenship. The officials, scrawling on the back of a hotel food menu, hastily drafted a vaguely worded law which designated Jews as subjects of the Reich. Hitler (a night owl) approved the draft around 2:30 a.m.

At the Reichstag's special session held later that day at 8 p.m., Hitler delivered a short speech in which he characterized the new laws as an attempt to "achieve the legislative regulation of a problem which, if it breaks down again will then have to be transferred by law to the National Socialist Party for final solution."

The laws were then read by Reichstag President Hermann Göring as follows:

Reich Citizenship Law of September 15, 1935

I. 1. A subject of the State is a person who belongs to the protective union of the German Reich, and who therefore has particular obligations towards the Reich. 2. The status of subject is acquired in accordance with the provisions of the Reich and State Law of Citizenship.

II. 1. A citizen of the Reich is that subject only who is of German or kindred blood and who, through his conduct, shows that he is both desirous and fit to serve the German people and Reich faithfully.

Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, September 15, 1935

Entirely convinced that the purity of German blood is essential to the further existence of the German people, and inspired by the uncompromising determination to safeguard the future of the German nation, the Reichstag has unanimously adopted the following law, which is promulgated herewith:

I. 1. Marriages between Jews and citizens of German or kindred blood are forbidden. Marriages concluded in defiance of this law are void, even if, for the purpose of evading this law, they were concluded abroad. 2. Proceedings for annulment may be initiated only by the Public Prosecutor.

II. Sexual relations outside marriage between Jews and nationals of German of kindred blood are forbidden.

III. Jews will not be permitted to employ female citizens of German or kindred blood under 45 years of age as domestic servants.

IV. 1. Jews are forbidden to display the Reich and national flag or the national colors.

     2. On the other hand they are permitted to display the Jewish colors. The exercise of this right is protected by the State.

V. 1. A person who acts contrary to the prohibition of Section I will be punished with hard labor. 2. A person who acts contrary to the prohibition of Section II will be punished with imprisonment or with hard labor. 3. A person who acts contrary to the provisions of Sections III or IV will be punished with imprisonment up to a year and with a fine, or with one of these penalties.

VI. The Reich Minister of the Interior in agreement with the Deputy Führer and the Reich Minister of Justice will issue the legal and administrative regulations required for the enforcement and supplementing of this law.

VII. The law will become effective on the day after its promulgation; Section III, however, not until January 1, 1936.

The announcement of the Nuremberg Laws had the unexpected result of generating a lot of confusion and heated debate among Nazi bureaucrats as to how one should define a Jew, given that there had been widespread intermarriage up to this point.

Instructional chart issued to help bureaucrats distinguish Jews from Mischlinge (mixed race persons) and Aryans. The white figures are Aryans; the black figures Jews; and the shaded figures Mischlinge. Below: Athletes on the outskirts of Berlin work out beyond a tall fence and sign saying "Jews are not wanted here.'

As a result, two months later a supplemental Nazi decree was issued which defined a "full Jew" as a person with at least three Jewish grandparents. Those with fewer than three grandparents were designated as Mischlinge (half-breeds), of which there were two degrees: First Degree Mischlinge – a person with two Jewish grandparents; Second Degree Mischlinge – a person with one Jewish grandparent.

The Nazis also issued somewhat complicated instructional charts to help bureaucrats distinguish the various degrees of Jewishness. Generally, the more "full-blooded" a Jew was, the greater the level of discrimination. But much of the confusion remained. In many cases, the necessary genealogical evidence concerning Jewish family backgrounds was simply not available.

As it turned out, about 350,000 Germans could be classified as Mischlinge; with 50,000 having converted to Christianity from Judaism; 210,000 being half-Jews; and 80,000 considered quarter-Jews.

Nazi bureaucrats also disagreed on how strictly the Nuremberg Laws should be enforced. Moderate anti-Semites wanted to protect "that part which is German" concerning valuable civil servants in the government. Radicals, on the other hand, viewed all Mischlinge as carriers of "Jewish influence" and wanted them all dismissed. Much to their dismay, the moderates prevailed, and Mischlinge civil servants and others were allowed to keep their positions for the time being.

Surprisingly, many German Jews reacted to the Nuremberg Laws with a sense of relief, thinking the worst was now over – at least they finally knew where they stood and could get on with their lives even if they had diminished rights. And to some degree they were correct. Over the next few years, the Nazis moved slowly in regard to the Jews. This was the quiet time for Jews in the Third Reich, as Hitler began to focus his attention entirely on diplomatic affairs and military re-armament.

In diplomatic circles, Hitler was struggling to gain credibility. Over the past few years, international observers in Nazi Germany had witnessed an incredible chain of events including: the revolutionary-like seizure of power in January 1933; the mysterious Reichstag fire in February; the anti-Jewish boycott in April; book burnings in May; wild street violence by the Brownshirts; heard rumors of concentration camps; knew about the (already infamous) Gestapo; witnessed the blood purge of June 1934; and observed the emperor-like ascension of Hitler as Führer.

For the Nazis, it was now necessary to refrain from any further actions against the Jews that would serve to undermine Hitler's credibility on the world stage. The Führer had to present himself as someone who could be taken seriously, not as the leader of an anti-Semitic mob.

The turn of the Jews would come later. Presently, Hitler's goals were to rebuild the German Army and exploit any opportunity to expand the Reich. Early in 1936, he decided on a dangerous gamble and sent his soldiers marching into the demilitarized portion of Germany known as the Rhineland – the very first territory to be forcibly grabbed by the Nazis.

Facing History and Ourselves

Violence was a crucial tool of the Nazi government, but its leaders were also eager to show that they were acting within the framework of the law. As they worked to consolidate power and reshape Germany according to their racial ideals, Nazi leaders passed a number of new laws that redefined citizenship and laid the groundwork for a “racial state.”

On September 15, 1935, at a party rally in Nuremberg, the Nazis announced two new laws that changed who could be a German citizen. The Reich Citizenship Law required that all citizens have German “blood.” As a result, Jews and others lost their rights to citizenship, which not only stripped them of the right to vote but also made them stateless. This meant that they could not get a valid passport for travel between countries or acquire a visa to leave Germany.

The second law was called the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor, which stated the following:

 Seven men in uniform stand around a man and woman who have signs around their necks.

In 1933, Jewish businessman Oskar Danker and his girlfriend, a Christian woman, were forced to carry signs discouraging Jewish-German integration. Intimate relationships between “true Germans” and Jews were outlawed by 1935.

Moved by the understanding that purity of German blood is the essential condition for the continued existence of the German people, and inspired by the inflexible determination to ensure the existence of the German nation for all time, the Reichstag has unanimously adopted the following law, which is promulgated herewith:

Article 1

1.  Marriages between Jews and subjects of the state of German or related blood are forbidden. Marriages nevertheless concluded are invalid, even if concluded abroad to circumvent this law.

2.  Annulment proceedings can be initiated only by the state prosecutor.

Article 2

Extramarital relations between Jews and subjects of the state of German or related blood are forbidden.

Article 3

Jews may not employ in their households female subjects of the state of German or related blood who are under 45 years old.

Article 4

1.  Jews are forbidden to fly the Reich or national flag or display Reich colors.

2.  They are, on the other hand, permitted to display the Jewish colors. The exercise of this right is protected by the state.

Article 5

1.  Any person who violates the prohibition under Article 1 will be punished with a prison sentence.

2.  A male who violates the prohibition under Article 2 will be punished with a jail term or a prison sentence.

3.  Any person violating the provisions under Articles 3 or 4 will be punished with a jail term of up to one year and a fine, or with one or the other of these penalties.

Article 6

The Reich Minister of the Interior, in coordination with the Deputy of the Führer and the Reich Minister of Justice, will issue the legal and administrative regulations required to implement and complete this law.

The two new laws announced at Nuremberg made sharp distinctions between the rights and privileges of Germans and Jews. They also raised an important question: What determined who was and who was not a Jew? According to most Jewish teachings, an individual was defined as a Jew if he or she was born to a Jewish mother or formally converted to Judaism. If a Jew converted to Christianity, he or she was no longer considered Jewish by most Jews. The Nazis did not accept that definition. They regarded Jews as members of neither a religious group nor an ethnic group (defined by their cultural heritage). Instead, they regarded Jews as members of a separate and inferior “race.” Since, according to Nazi logic, “race” was not altered by conversion, people who were born Jewish would always be Jews regardless of their religious beliefs or practices.

Though the Nazis believed that identity was biological, something “carried in the blood,” this idea had no scientific reality. Whether someone was German or Jewish could not be determined by medical or scientific tests. The question of defining German and Jewish identity was further complicated by the fact that there had been a great deal of intermarriage between the two groups, and there were thousands of people of mixed Jewish and non-Jewish ancestry, known to the Nazis as Mischlinge (“half-breeds” or “mixed-blood”).see WHO IS A JEW?

On November 14, 1935, the Nazi government officially defined who was a German and who was a Jew through an additional decree called the First Regulation to the Reich Citizenship Law. (Debates about how to classify Mischlinge went on for years and were never completely resolved.) It stated:

Article 1

1.  Until  further regulations regarding citizenship papers are issued, all subjects of German or kindred blood, who possessed the right to vote in the Reichstag elections at the time the [Nuremberg] Citizenship Law came into effect, shall for the time being possess the rights of Reich citizens. The same shall be true of those to whom the Reich Minister of the Interior, in conjunction with the Deputy of the Führer, has given preliminary citizenship.

2.  The Reich Minister of the Interior, in conjunction with the Deputy of the Führer, can withdraw the preliminary citizenship.

Article 3

Only the Reich citizen, as bearer of full political rights, exercises the right to vote in political affairs or can hold public office. The Reich Minister of the Interior, or any agency empowered by him, can make exceptions during the transition period, with regard to occupation of public office. The affairs of religious organizations will not be affected.

Article 4

1.  A Jew cannot be a citizen of the Reich. He has no right to vote in political affairs and he cannot occupy public office.

2.  Jewish [government] officials will retire as of December 31, 1935. If these officials served at the front in the world war, either for Germany or her allies, they will receive in full, until they reach the age limit, the pension to which they were entitled according to the salary they last received; they will, however, not advance in seniority. After reaching the age limit, their pensions will be calculated anew, according to the salary last received, on the basis of which their pension was computed.

3.  The affairs of religious organizations will not be affected.

4.  The conditions of service of teachers in Jewish public schools remain unchanged until new regulations for the Jewish school systems are issued.

Article 5

  1. A Jew is anyone who is descended from at least three grandparents who are racially full Jews. Article 2, para. 2, second sentence will apply.
  2. A Jew is also one who is descended from two full Jewish parents, if (a) he belonged to the Jewish religious community at the time this law was issued, or joined the community later, (b) he was married to a Jewish person, at the time the law was issued, or married one subsequently, (c) he is the offspring of a marriage with a Jew, in the sense of Section I, which was contracted after the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor became effective, (d) he is the offspring of an extramarital relationship with a Jew, according to Section I, and will be born out of wedlock after July 31, 1936.

Article 6

1.  Requirements for the pureness of blood as laid down in Reich Law or in orders of the NSDAP [the Nazi Party] and its echelons—not covered in Article 5—will not be affected.

2.  Any other requirements for the pureness of blood, not covered in Article 5, can be made only by permission of the Reich Minister of the Interior and the Deputy Führer. If any such demands have been made, they will be void as of January 1, 1936, if they have not been requested by the Reich Minister of the Interior in agreement with the Deputy Führer. These requests must be made by the Reich Minister of the Interior.

Article 7

The Führer and Reich Chancellor can grant exemptions from the regulations laid down in the law.

In time, the Nazis extended the Nuremberg Laws, as these laws institutionalizing Nazi racial theory came to be known, to include marriages between “Aryans” and other “racially inferior” groups. Nazi officials interpreted the wording to mean that relations between “those of German or related blood” and “Gypsies,” Afro-Germans, or their offspring were also forbidden. Some people within the Nazi government considered requiring “Aryans” to divorce their Jewish spouses, but they did not go through with this plan.


How the Nazi Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were reported by The Daily Telegraph

The Nuremberg Laws   Archives Receives Original Nazi Documents That "Legalized" Persecution of Jews Winter 2010, Vol. 42, No. 4

Go to
The Nazi Racial State

Jewish Remembrance  2016 (12.05)

Dr Henry Abramson  2014 (6.42)

Nuremberg Laws

(The History Place)

Nuremberg Laws
Facing History
and Ourselves



  The Nazis created

 the Mischling classificaion

to specify who is a Jew