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1933: The Nazi State Begins
 pg. 55 
  Increasingly, the Nazis used law to separate Jews from German society, but such measures could not be effective unless Jews were "defined." The discriminatory and definitional measures enacted in early April became the foundation for many other "legal" persecutions that followed.

In the early months of the Nazi regime, anti-Jewish laws were enacted on an almost daily basis. Though out of practical necessity the laws were not always thoroughly enforced, in one way after another Jewish life--religious, educational, and cultural as well as professional--was increasingly restricted. On April 21, for example, Jewish ritual preparation of meat was outlawed. A few days later, the April 25 Law Against the Overcrowding of German Schools introduced a quota system to restrict the number of "non-Aryan" students in German schools and universities. Its implementation meant that new Jewish students in any German school or university would be limited to 1.5 percent of the total of new applicants. Overall, the number of Jewish students could not be more than five percent.

Additional laws implemented that April barred Jewish physicians from clinics and hospitals that were funded under the national health insurance system. Pharmacy licenses were no longer available to Jews, and Jewish lawyers found severe restrictions on their practices, too. The month ended with the banishment of Jews from German sports organizations.

Meanwhile, millions of non-Jewish Germans felt the effects of the anti-Jewish legislation, for it became essential for them to prove their "Aryan" ancestry. The task of certifying people's Aryan indentities soon fell on priests and pastors, clerks, and archivists. The process led to an expanding network of investigations and bureaucratic offices that became one of the hallmarks of Nazi Germany's racial state.

Germany's Jews did their best to cope with the mounting decrees that were segregating them, robbing them of liberty, and depriving them of their livelihoods. About 37,000 German Jews emigrated from Germany in 1933, including writers such as Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt. However, the costs of flight were high, both financially and psychologically. Thus, most of the German Jews remained in the country that they regarded as home. They hoped that the storm of discrimination would pass, and they rallied their communal solidarity until such time as it did.

Far from passing, the storm was gathering a ferocity that no one could foresee in detail. Still, as the weeks and months accumulated, it became clearer that Nazi law was excluding Jews from every aspect of German life. Within Germany and throughout the world, it was no secret that Hitler's regime had started a systematic process of persecution that was intended, at the very least, to segregate the German Jews. Although exceptions could be found, inside and outside of Germany relatively few voices were raised in protest as 1933 drew to a close.

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The assault begins: Storm Troopers urge Germans to boycott Jewish-owned shops.
Photo: National Archives/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive

1933: The Nazi State Begins
 pg. 55 
The Holocaust Chronicle
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