The status and position of Jews in Germany in 1933-1939

The status of Jews worsened following January 1933, when Hitler came to power. Given Mein Kampf, and the outlined 25-point programme (both show open anti-Semitism), action against Jews was inevitable. The ‘intentionalists’ believe Hitler always knew the ways he would persecute and discriminate Jews, whilst the functionalists believe he reacted on circumstance.

Many Nazis were religiously anti-Semitic, thus there was often revolution from below. Nazi mobs attacked Jews, which led to the United States (showing disapproval) boycotting German goods. Hitler blamed the Jews for this and orchestrated the boycott of German Jews’ businesses (1st-April-1933)-businessmen worse off.


Anti-Semitism was rife at local level; (7th-April-1933) whilst Hitler said Jewish doctors were allowed to practice, local authorities banned them anyway. Due to ‘grass-roots’ pressure it became official policy (22nd-April-1933)-Jewish doctors ‘economically crippled’. Many laws followed limiting the socio-economic rights of Jews, ostracising them from society: eg.22nd-September-1933, Jews banned from all cultural activities by the Reichstag; 21st-May-1935, forbidden to join Wehrmacht; 17th-August-1938, segregated for exploitation (forced to carry despised names, Israel and Sarah); 15th-November-1938, Jewish children confined to Jewish schools.

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Conditions worsened as Anti-Jewish propaganda increased (April-1933) when Der St�rmer became the semi-official Nazi periodical (scurrilous and pornographic attacks on Jews-rabble rousing). Whilst some defied the boycott, and disapproved of Kristallnacht, many Germans approved of Jewish discrimination, eg.humiliation in schools, and became afraid to support Jews. The churches were silent or spoke in favour of Nazi policy (Concordat Pact silenced Catholic Church, & Protestant churches were brought together under one Reich Church dominated by Nazis).

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The Great Depression

Emigration was made difficult by the Great Depression (Britain, France and the United States, reluctant to accept Jews-strain on resources, still recovering from depression). Britain did not want Jews arriving in Palestine because of Palestinian opposition. Emigration was a bureaucratic process, and assets had to be deserted (complicated). Hitler encouraged the emigration of Jews (by 1939, 250,000 left Germany).

The Nuremberg laws (1935) were part of Hitler’s initiatives to please his Nazi fans at the Nuremberg Rally (‘propaganda show pieces’-made persecution of Jews official). The legislation on intermarriage (intercourse and marriage between Jews and non-Jews banned) and citizenship (made subjects-not protected by law) did not disappoint (Jews lost vote too-not a real ‘loss’ in the dictatorship).

The situation worsened following the end of the Olympics (1937), because as international press left, ‘Jews not wanted signs’ returned (thaw in anti-Semitism over). The SS (Schutzstaffel) increasingly became involved in policymaking, and took a more calculated approach than the SA (Storm Troopers), and began systematically confiscating Jewish property (easier, as Jews made identifiable in 1938).

Germany began rearming

Germany began rearming (1937-38), and Hitler became contemptuous about international opinion, on rearmament and discrimination of Jews. The ‘conservative guard’ was eradicated (eg.Schact sacked, and Hindenberg dead) – Hitler was no longer constrained. Anschluss euphoria swept Germany (1938) and there was heightened vigour to anti-Semitism (confirmed confidence in such views); the persecution of Austrian Jews began (eg.made to scrub the streets).

On 7th-November-1938 a Polish Jewish boy (age:17) shot a German diplomat in Paris, angered, Hitler (and party leaders) orchestrated the pogrom, ‘Kristallnacht’ (9th/10th-November-1938). 10,000 Jewish businesses were vandalised and their contents looted; this marked transformation from discrimination to large-scale violence. Jews were blamed for the destruction and made to pay a fine totalling 1billion marks, and the government confiscated insurance money. Jews were excluded from economic life (complete segregation), and not permitted in any public places.

On the verge of war (1939), Hitler blamed Jews. He claimed that ‘if the Jews start a war the Jewish race will be annihilated in Europe’. During the course of the war the position of Jews in German occupied countries worsened.

Immediately 3million Polish Jews came under persecution, and as war made it impossible to remove Jews by emigration, Hitler rammed Jews (some also transported from Germany) into ghettos in Eastern Poland. Jews were concentrated enabling maximum exploitation, and many died (500,000 in Warsaw-largest ghetto) due to ‘starvation rations’, malnutrition and disease (intense cold and typhus). In occupied territories of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), conditions worsened because of the Euisatsgruppen. The establishment of these mass killing squads was a turn for the worse. In the Ukraine (similar practice elsewhere), Jews were made to surrender their garments, line up naked in front of large ‘death pits’ and were then, shot dead into them.

Hitler’s method of killing

Hitler decided this method of killing was inefficient (slow, high cost-one man per bullet, emotionally strenuous for some killers); thus the ‘final solution to the Jewish Problem,’ to gas Jews, was founded (killing on an industrial scale in Death Camps, using Zyklon-B more efficient). This organised killing of Jews in all occupied territories was finalised at the Wannsee Conference (1942). The location of the death camps, and their structure was finalised, and it was decided to transport Jews by rail (practical arrangements made). The fabrication of the scheme was established (Jews told they were being resettled) and thus the holocaust began (in total between 1942-45 4.5million Jews were exterminated). More concentration camps, where ‘able-Jews’ were used as slave labour (Jews beaten, starved, and worked to death), were built.


Many people resented Jews (minority with different views, and due to their ‘disproportionate success’), and were happy to hand Jews to the authorities (Hitler’s willing executioners-very few took a stand, conditioned by propaganda to think of Jews as inhuman). The might of the SS was great and resistance was futile; resistance was deterred by the threat of reprisals.

The Nazis exposed Jews to various horrific scientific experiments (Doctor Mengalase experimented on twins), and lack of action by the outside world meant Hitler was not in the least discouraged from killing Jews. The Victorious Allies argued that the best method of aiding Jews was to win the war. Targeting these death camps was not possible due to lack of resources (would weakens other ‘objectives’).

The rise of Hitler meant growth of anti-Semitism was inevitable in Germany, but this persecution became a European issue following Hitler’s ‘war-time expansion,’ and led to genocide.

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The status and position of Jews in Germany in 1933-1939. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

The status and position of Jews in Germany in 1933-1939
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