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1935: Steps Toward Destruction
 pg. 86 
  The first of the "Nuremberg Laws," as the decrees came to be known, was the Reich Flag Law. It established red, black, and white as the official colors of the Nazi state and determined that the nation's flag would be the swastika flag. If that law did not target Jews directly, the other two did so with a vengeance. The Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor, both carrying Hitler's signature, became centerpieces of Nazi Germany's anti-Jewish legislation.

The Citizenship Law drew a fundamental distinction between "citizens" and "subjects." It restricted citizenship to those who were of "German or related blood." Only citizens, the law stipulated, could enjoy "full political rights in accordance with the law." Furthermore, citizenship was "acquired through the granting of a Reich Citizenship Certificate."

Although the word "Jews" appeared nowhere in its text, this law was clearly targeted against them. Henceforth, Jews would only be subjects in Nazi Germany. Stripped of citizenship, deprived of civil rights, they would live as foreigners--if at all--in their German homeland.

The Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor contained several numbered paragraphs. Four of them especially showed how sharp the previous distinction between citizen and subject was meant to be, for this law used the word "Jew" explicitly. The preamble to the law's detail expressed that "the purity of German blood" was essential for the ongoing existence of the German people. As the key paragraphs of the law went on to make clear, that purity depended on control of the polluting racial threat claimed by the government.

Paragraph 1 immediately prohibited marriage between Jews and persons of "German or related blood." Violations of this provision were punishable by a prison term. Paragraph 2 made extramarital sexual relations between Jews and Germans illegal.

To discourage the skirting of Paragraph 2, a third provision made it unlawful for Jews to "employ in their households female subjects of German or kindred blood who are under 45 years old." To defy this provision was to risk a year in prison, a fine, or both. The same penalty awaited those who disobeyed Paragraph 4, which established a link to the Reich Flag Law by forbidding Jews to fly the Reich flag and to display the Reich colors. The Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor took effect the day after it was enacted at Nuremberg, except for the provisions in Paragraph 3, which were delayed until January 1, 1936.

The Nuremberg Laws did not completely doom Jewish life in Germany. The Reich Citizenship Law still allowed Jews to be subjects of the German state, and a subject was defined as "a person who enjoys the protection of the German Reich and who in consequence has specific obligations toward it." That possibility influenced the Reichsvertretung's hope that "a tolerable relationship" might exist between "the German and the Jewish people."

What the Nazis considered tolerable, however, was scarcely the same as what the Reichsvertretung had in mind, for the Nuremberg Laws were race laws. They found Jewish "blood" to be inferior and dangerous. Jews could never be Germans. To the contrary, Jews were threats to German purity; their very presence on German soil undermined the nation's health and vitality. At the very least, they needed to be segregated, isolated, and ever more removed from the mainstream of German society.

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"Scientists" measure a Jewish girl's "racial characteristics."
Photo: Wiener Library, London/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive

1935: Steps Toward Destruction
 pg. 86 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.