Nuremberg Laws and the Escape of Jews: What exactly is the Nuremberg Law?

Research PaperHistory

An essay is a type of written project that high school, college, and graduate students submit as part of their academic requirements. The defining quality of an essay is the presentation of a thesis statement that encapsulates the message, idea, or claim that the writer seeks to communicate. It is also composed of three basic sections: introduction, body, and conclusion . This sample essay discusses what the Nuremberg Laws are and how they impacted the Nazis’ victims during the years leading up to World War II.

Upon the fall of the Nazi Party in Germany in the last days of World War II, the world was shocked to discover that Europe was not merely a battleground. Far harrowing, it was also the setting of a massacre of unprecedented scale. In what is now known as the Holocaust, Nazi Germany systematically rounded up, deported, and murdered millions of Jews and other minorities they considered inferior or undesirable such as Poles, Slavs, Romani people, homosexuals, and people with disabilities among others. While the extent of the horrors shook the globe to its core, it is important to note that this was not something the Nazis decided on a whim. Like how the causes of World War II emerged long before the eruption of conflict in 1939, the atrocities of the Holocaust in Europe did not happen overnight; rather, they were the consequence of events that can be traced to years and perhaps even decades before the war. Indeed, even as the Nazi Party was beginning to rise to power , they already had plans to rid Germany of people they hated. Crucial to these plans was the establishment of the Nuremberg Laws. These laws set the criteria for German citizenship and in the process legitimized the discrimination of Jews and minorities as well as planted the seeds of their eventual oppression and annihilation.

The Nuremberg Laws

The Nuremberg Laws refer to two laws passed that were announced on September 15, 1935 in Germany. The laws are called Nuremberg Laws because they were first announced in the city of Nuremberg in Germany where the Nazis were holding a rally. The laws were titled Reichsbürgergesetz and Gesetz zum Schutze des Deutschen Blutes und der Deutschen Ehre , which translate to Reich Citizenship Law and Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, respectively (Michalczyk, 2017). The Reich Citizen Law determined who qualified as German citizens. According to this law, only those of German blood or related blood qualified as German citizens and were entitled to the rights and privileges that came with it. Those who had non-German blood or who had significant non-German ancestry were excluded. This effectively categorized non-Germans as state subjects but not citizens. For example, people who were considered three-quarters Jewish were denied citizenship. Meanwhile, the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor prohibited marriage and sexual relations between Germans and Jews. It also prohibited the employment of women below 45 years of age in Jewish households. This law was designed to prevent the birth of Germans with Jewish blood (Bazyler & Bazyler, 2017).

Of particular interest is the way the Nuremberg Laws determined who was Jewish. According to the Nuremberg Laws, a person with three or four Jewish grandparents was a Jew. A grandparent was considered Jewish if they belonged to the Jewish religious community. Thus, the Nazis defined Jews by their religion (Judaism) and not by the supposed racial traits that Nazism attributed to Jews. The laws also categorized some people in Germany as Mischlinge (“mixed-race persons”). According to law, Mischlinge  were neither German nor Jewish. These were people who had one or two Jewish grandparents. The Nazi regime required individuals to prove their grandparents’ racial identities. To do so, people used religious records. These included baptism records, Jewish community records, and gravestones (Michalczyk, 2017).

The Impact of the Nuremberg Laws

The passing of the Nuremberg Laws irrevocably altered the lives of the Jews and other minorities. Like floodgates, they led to ever more cruel laws against them. In the succeeding years, Jews and other minorities were gradually stripped of their rights. Jews were shunned by non-Jews, lost their businesses and livelihoods, and were made to endure draconian rules one after another. In 1938, a law was passed requiring Jews to change their names to distinctly Jewish names. In 1938, the passports of Jews were invalidated, thus preventing them from leaving the country. The only way to validate their passports again was to have them stamped with “J” which indicated the holder was Jewish. By 1941, the Jews were made to wear a visible mark that identified them as Jewish. This mark was the yellow six-pointed Star of David (Lyons & Ulbrich, 2021).

Also, Jews were forced out of their homes and made to live in ghettos. Ghettos were enclosed districts housing the city’s Jewish population. The Germans required ghettos to be run by a Jewish council which was responsible for everyday operations like distribution of food, water, medical care, shelter, and heat. The Jewish council also accounted for the confiscation of property, organization of forced labor, and the facilitation of deportations to extermination camps. But these ghettos were intended to be temporary. Eventually, they were ordered by Germans to compile lists of names to be deported and sent for “resettlement.” Leaders who refused to adhere to the orders were shot. But the deportation never happened. They were deceived and sent to extermination camps where they were eventually exterminated (Beevor, 2012).

While on the surface the Nuremberg Laws seemed to simply determine who qualified as citizens and who did not, they had a tremendous impact on the lives of Jews and minorities. Furthermore, the laws legitimized the discrimination of the Jews and ultimately served as an instrument in their destruction. The laws changed the lives of the Jews by simply making them different from the Germans. The deep-seated anti-Semitism that had existed in Europe for centuries was stoked and legitimized. That the laws basically decreed the inferiority of the Jews and their standing as non-citizens gave the Nazis and their supporters the power and justification they needed to oppress them. As the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2021) states, “the Nuremberg Laws were an important step in the Nazi regime’s process of isolating and excluding Jews from the rest of German society.” By legally making them inferior and denying them rights, the Jews and other minorities were rendered extremely vulnerable and therefore the target of oppression.


The Nuremberg Laws set the criteria for German citizenship, and this was instrumental in legitimizing the discrimination of Jews and minorities as well as paving the way for their slaughter in the concentration camps. In a way, these laws demonstrate that being legal does not necessarily make something right. Like the laws that made slavery permissible, the Nuremberg Laws were specifically designed to target groups. Ultimately, the Nuremberg Laws must never be forgotten, for they serve to caution society against using laws to bring death and destruction.

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Bazyler, M. & Bazyler, M. J. (2017). Holocaust, genocide, and the law: A quest for justice in a post-holocaust world . Oxford University Press.

Beevor, A. (2012). The Second World War. Hachette UK.

Lyons, M. J. & Ulbrich, D. J. (2021). World War II: A Global History. Routledge.

Michalczyk, J. J. (2017). Nazi law: From Nuremberg to Nuremberg. Bloomsbury Publishing. 

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2021, July 2). The Nuremberg Race Laws. Holocaust Encyclopedia. 

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