Nuremberg, a city in Bavaria, Germany — the “City of Reich Party Rallies” — is a lovely city, but in its streets live the horrifying shadows of the past because it was in Nuremberg that Adolf Hitler established the laws that stripped off many people of their known racial identity and social worth. This historical essay aims to demonstrate the fundamental essence of the Nuremberg Laws in making antisemitism institutional, systematic, and legal.
In Nuremberg, Adolf Hitler with the assistance of German lawmakers, made racism protected by a legal document which made German Jews legally become “Jews in Germany” or "subjects of the state." The very word and the very existence of Nuremberg Laws was aimed at codifying antisemitism and protecting the Aryan blood and honor, so they say. The Nuremburg Laws was meant to eventually lead to the Holocaust, the decimation of Jews and other non-Germans.
What is the Nuremberg Laws?
The Nuremberg Laws is not the first legislation attempting to discriminate against Jews (“Nuremberg Race Laws,” n.d.). It is, however, the most successful and comprehensive one, albeit elaborate. The establishment of the Nuremberg Laws is a critical formation of racial laws that inevitably led to the segregation and extermination of non-German citizens. It was as if separating the pure from half-breeds, like some animal in a farm, identifying if the latter are substantial or trash. Living in Germany when the Nuremburg Laws were passed was like living in a real life horror film for those who are not pure Germans.
The Nuremberg Laws established a way for determining Reich citizens — initially, anyone with a drop of Jewish blood were automatically considered Jewish and therefore not German (“Nuremberg Race Laws”, n.d.). Over time, Hitler decided to distinguish who may be honored with German citizenship even if one has Jewish ancestry to prevent discord especially in his armed forces. This was because one of his staff reminded him that a great number of his loyal and trusted soldiers are of Jewish descent.
The Nuremburg Laws then decreed three classifications for Jews—full Jews are those with at least three Jewish grandparents and practiced Judaism; first class Mischlinge – half-breeds – or those with two Jewish grandparents, did not practice Judaism nor had a Jewish spouse; and second class Mischlinge are those who with only one Jewish grandparent and did not practice Judaism (“Nuremberg Race Laws”, n.d.). Full Jews and first class Mischlinge were persecuted, while second class Mischlinge stood a better chance of being tolerated.
What is the purpose of the Nuremberg Laws?
Under the Nuremberg Laws, Jews were denied German citizenship and were instead classified as “subjects of the state.” This Nazi Party effectively made those of direct Jewish descent a part of their expendable workforce (“Nuremberg Race Laws”, n.d.). Jewish individuals were even barred from practicing their professions. This means that even if one was an accomplished professional, say, in the field of medicine, this title shall be taken away simply because they are not German, thus the blood running in that professional’s veins is tainted. Therefore, they are not believable nor worthy of the title they have worked hard to gain.
Full Jews and first degree Mischlinge were also stripped of their basic rights. The Nuremburg Laws state that the subjects of the state – meaning those denied of German citizenship – cannot vote, nor occupy public office (“Nuremberg Race Laws”, n.d.). Their home lives were also disrupted due to the creation of the ghettos — Jewish households were not allowed to hire house help of German blood and child-bearing age (“Nuremberg Race Laws”, n.d.).
Furthermore, Jewish households were only allowed to display Jewish colors and never the German flag. Their passports were also stamped with a big red J to make it easier for the police to identify that they are Jewish. Additionally, they have been stripped of privileges and rights, obligations, legal status, and they were ordered to adopt obviously Jewish names – Sara for females and Israel for males. Evidently, the Nuremberg Laws imposed seemingly simple and benign rules that eventually paved the way for the systematic genocide of the Jews in the Holocaust. (Read this poem example about the beginning of the Holocaust.)
Another purpose of the Nuremberg Laws is the Protection of Aryan – German – Blood and Honor where the law forbids sexual relations and marriage between the German citizens and the subjects of the state (“Nuremberg Race Laws”, n.d.). Although the law is not explicit of the reason why this is not allowed, the reason is clear in Hitler’s Mein Kampf. In this manifesto, Hitler outlines his belief that people outside the Aryan descent are unclean and inferior people.
In particular, Jews, according to Hitler’s belief, are bound to taint the pure Aryan blood with impurities. Thus his, and the Nazi Party’s, goal is to protect the German blood and honor. He does not stop here, though, as he believes that the world – not just Germany – must be purged of these impure identities. Interpreted in the context of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, it becomes apparent that the true goal of the Nuremberg Laws is to eradicate non-German blood, starting with Jews. The Nuremberg Laws eventually extended to other races who later on also became victims of Nazi Germany.
How significant was the impact of the Nuremberg Laws in history?
So what exactly is the Nuremberg Laws for? The Nuremberg Laws is a huge step towards the genocide because it is a legal document that gave segregation or marginalization a go. The laws, being the pre-game of the Holocaust, so to speak, made the genocide of a race palatable for the majority of Germans, which embedded racism in the culture of Germany within a few years. It served as the foundation for the Holocaust legally and ideologically.
Upon the success of separating the supreme race – the Germans – from what was believed a far inferior ethnicity – the Jews – it became easier to get rid of them. Once the Nazi Party got hold of their power and had full control over the mindset of their citizens, they made it a point to become active in implementing all ordered commands in relation to the extermination of the Jews. All those inhumane acts witnessed in the Holocaust had happened under the sheets of the racist Nuremburg Laws.
The thing that is disturbing is that this ideology of judging that a race is far inferior to another and subjecting the people of that race to such inhumane treatments violates all ethical and moral laws. More than Hitler’s violation of the Treaty of Versailles and although it has been long since over, simply knowing what happened during the Third Reich can trigger buried trauma and the fear of the tendency of history to repeat itself.
The Nuremberg Laws essentially paved the way for Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party to fully express their racism and impart that belief to numerous people. They even went as far as including anti-Semitic racism in children’s literature back then. With racist beliefs and actions being legalized, they are in full power. With the Nuremburg Laws in play, they have reason to believe that they are in the position to be confident in achieving their goal which is the eradication of Jews.
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Background & Overview of the Nuremberg Laws. (n.d.). Jewish Virtual Library. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/background-and-overview-of-the-nuremberg-laws
“Nuremberg Race Laws.” (n.d.). Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/nuremberg-laws