Nazi Policy toward the Jews, 1933-37

Nazi Policy toward the Jews, 1933-37

At first the Nazi policy was gradualist and opportunist. It is also fair to say that the policy was confused and haphazard. For example, the April Boycott (1933) against Jewish shops and businesses were not universally accepted and adhered to. Yes, there were a number of shoppers targeted and humiliated but they were still small in number.

The early motions and pronouncements against the Jews gave no hint or indication of what was to come over the next 12 years. Still, Hitler waited until he had a firm grip on power and the reigns of government before getting ‘heavy’ with minorities and the Jews.

* The passing of the Enabling Law (1933), passed after alleged burning of the Reichstag by Communists, gave Hitler the opportunity to remove opposition outside the Nazi party and to establish labour camps. These early Concentration Camps, detentions centres, were a sinister signal of how sedition and subversion would be responded to.
* The events of the the Night of the Long Knives gave Hitler the opportunity to purge (eliminate, remove) the Nazi party of the uncommitted and any who could challenge him for authority of the party.

After 1934, policy could be tightened. Radicals on the far right were still waiting for Hitler to come down harder on the Jews and make good the promises he had made in his electioneering of the early 1930s.

* 1933: April Laws and the Jewish Boycott
* 1933: (April) expulsion of all Jewish Civil Servants
* 1933: (July) Law passed for the sterilisation of the ill and infirm.
* 1933: (Sept) Jews banned from visiting or owning farms – fear of contamination
* 1934: Germans were encouraged to sack Jewish workers and to replace them with “honourable and loyal” Germans.

The consequences of increased pressure upon the Jews in Germany at this time had many and varied consequences:

* Many German Jews were inspired to leave and migrate to other countries. In the period 1933-38 150,000 did in fact leave (c.30%)
* Many German Jews moved from the smaller communities to the larger cities for protection and collective security.
* 350,000 preferred to take their chances and remain rather than lose their homes and possessions. Additionally, German Jewry were highly assimilated and integrated into German society and culture. They believed themselves to be true Germans.
* Anti-Semitism was a characteristic of being a Jew in Germany. Why had so few Jews left by 1939? In essence, many did not believe that German despise and hatred would have leapt to the levels it would. They had through periods of civil unrest, legalised pogroms and political violence before and that had passed. This would also – they hoped.

The passing of the Nuremberg Laws certainly changed the complexion and reactions of many Jews in Germany. (See this website’s notes on the Reaction and Consequences of the Nuremberg Laws)

The 1936 Olympic year appears to have brought a period respite and quiet for the Jews. It was not to last long. For immediately after the closing ceremony, anti-Jewish signs and slogans that had been removed for the Olympics were returned.

* 1936: (Aug) Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler appointed in change of Jewish emigration and Jewish policy
* 1937: (Feb) Small German towns begin expelling Jews to the larger centres in order to announce themselves Judenrein, “Jew Free”.
* 1937: (Sept) Hitler attacks Jews for property mongering – forces all Jews to register their wealth and property.
* 1938: (March) Anschluss. 180,000 extra Jews.
* 1938: (Jun-Sept) Series of laws against the Jews – Jewish doctors, lawyers and dentists forbidden to treat Aryan patients or clients. Jews excluded and sacked from commercial interests. Businesses must be Aryanised. Jewish men to add middle name of “Israel” and women “Sarah”. Jews banned from public concerts, parks, trams, cinema and theatre.
* 1938: (Nov) Kristallnacht
* 1938: (Nov) Jews excluded from economic life. Jews banned from competing for commercial and building contracts. Jews banned from owning businesses. Jews excluded from schools, universities and sporting fasicilities
* 1939: (Jan) Hitler refers to the annihilation of the Jews for the first time in a Reichstag speech.
* 1939: (Feb) Hitler tells Czech Foreign Minister that he is going to destroy the Jews

It is, of course, inconceivable to imagine what would have occurred by 1939 would have emerged from a modern, educated and technological society such as Germany. Who could have predicated the events of war?


In Mein Kampf listed Hitler’s major policy ambitions – he made no disguise of his contempt and hatred for the Jews. Policy aims included:

* Lebensraum – Living Space
* Rebuild Military and the Navy
* Volksgemeinschaft
* Jewish Question – initially expulsion, later……(?)
* Master Race

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