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Mischling ("crossbreed" in German, plural: Mischlinge) was the German term used during the Third Reich to denote persons deemed to have both Aryan and Jewish ancestry.[1] The word has essentially the same origin as the 17th-century and now obsolete English term mestee, mestizo in Spanish and métis in French. In German, the word has the general meaning of hybrid, mongrel, or half-breed.[2]

Nuremberg laws[edit]

The diagram shows the pseudo-scientific racial division, which was the basis of racial policies of Nazi Germany. Only people with four German grandparents (four white circles – leftmost column) were considered to be "full-blooded" Germans. German nationals with three or four Jewish ancestors (at rightmost) were considered Jews according to the Nuremberg laws. The center column shows the Mischling grade, either 1 or 2, depending on the number of one's Jewish ancestors. All Jewish grandparents were automatically defined as members of the Jewish religious community (regardless of whether they actually identified their religion as such.)

As defined by the Nuremberg laws in 1935, a Jew (German: Volljude in Nazi terminology) was a person – regardless of religious affiliation or self-identification – who had at least three grandparents who had been enrolled with a Jewish congregation.[3] A person with two Jewish grandparents was also legally "Jewish" (so-called Geltungsjude, roughly speaking, in English: "Jew by legal validity") if that person met any of these conditions:

  • Was enrolled as member of a Jewish congregation when the Nuremberg Laws were issued, or joined later[4]
  • Was married to a Jew
  • Was the issue from a marriage with a Jew, which was concluded after the ban on mixed marriages
  • Was the issue of an extramarital relationship with a Jew, born out of wedlock after July 31, 1936.[5]

A person who did not belong to any of these categorical conditions but had two Jewish grandparents was classified as a Jewish Mischling of the first degree. A person with only one Jewish grandparent was a Mischling of the second degree.[6] See Mischling Test.

Jewish identity[edit]

Soon after passage of the Enabling Act of 1933, the Nazi government promulgated several antisemitic statutes, including the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service on 7 April 1933. Using this law, the regime aimed to dismiss – along with all politically suspect persons (such as social democrats, socialists, communists and many liberals of all religions) – all "non-Aryans" from all government positions in society, including public educators and those practicing medicine in state hospitals.

As a result, the term "non-Aryan"[7] had to be defined in a way compatible with Nazi ideology. Four days after the passing of this act, under the so-called "First Racial Definition" supplementary decree of 11 April, that was issued to clarify portions of the 7 April law, a "non-Aryan" (e.g. a Jew) was defined as one who had at least one Jewish parent or grandparent. Later some of these German citizens, those with only one Jewish grandparent, were defined by the Nuremberg Decrees as Mischling of the second degree. Their employment restrictions remained but they were permitted to marry non-Jewish and non-Mischling Germans and were not imprisoned. This distinction was not kept with non-German citizens.[8]

According to the philosophy of Nazi antisemitism, Jewry was considered a group of people bound by close, genetic (blood) ties who formed an ethnic unit which one could neither join nor secede from. Early 20th century books on Nordicism such as Madison Grant's The Passing of the Great Race, had a profound effect on Hitler's antisemitism. Hitler was convinced that the Nordic Race/Culture constituted a superior branch of humanity, and viewed International Jewry as a parasitic and inferior race, that was determined to corrupt and exterminate the Nordic peoples and their culture through Racial Pollution and Cultural Corruption. Another important factor in Nazi antisemitism was the growing presence of Marxism/Bolshevism in Europe, but particularly in Germany. Hitler declared that Marxism was constructed by International Jewry, with the aim of Bolshevising the earth, which would then allow Jewry to dominate/exterminate the Aryan race. With this in mind, Hitler viewed Russia as a nation of Untermenschen, who were dominated by their Judaic masters, and which posed the gravest threat to Germany and the whole of Europe.

The Nazis defined Jewishness in part genetically, but did not always use formal genetic tests or physiognomic features to determine one's status (although the Nazis talked a lot about physiognomy as a racial characteristic). In practice records on the religious affiliation(s) of one's grandparents were often the deciding factor (mostly christening records and membership registers of Jewish congregations).[9]

Standards of the SS[edit]

The SS used a more stringent standard: In order to join, a candidate had to prove (presumably, through baptismal records) that all direct ancestors born since 1750 were not Jewish, or they would apply for a German Blood Certificate instead. Later, when the requirements of the war made it impossible to confirm the ancestry of officer candidates, the proof of ancestry regulation was dropped to just the normal laws which made a candidate trace back to the candidate's grandparents by certified evidence.

Jewish Mischlinge often Protestant[edit]

In the 19th century many Jewish Germans converted to Christianity, most of them becoming Protestants rather than Roman Catholics.[10] Two thirds of the German population were Protestant until 1938, when the Anschluß annexation of Austria to Germany added 6 million Roman Catholics. The addition of 3.25 million Catholic Czechoslovaks of German ethnicity (Sudeten Germans) increased the percentage of Roman Catholics in Greater Germany to 41% (approximately 32.5 million vs. 45.5 million Protestants or 57%) in a 1939 population estimated at 79 millions. One percent of the population was Jewish.

Converts from Judaism usually adopted that Christian denomination dominant in the area of Germany where they used to live. Therefore about 80% of the Gentile Germans persecuted as Jews according to the Nuremberg Laws were affiliated with one of the 28 regionally delineated Protestants church bodies.[11] In 1933 approximately 77% of German Gentiles with Jewish ancestry were Protestant, the percentage dropped to 66% in the 1939 census, after the annexations of 1938 (due in particular to the acquisition of Vienna and Prague, with their relatively large and well-established Catholic populations of Jewish descent).[12] Converts to Christianity and their descendants had often married Christians with no recent Jewish ancestry.

As a result – by the time the Nazis came to power – many Protestants and Roman Catholics in Germany had some traceable Jewish ancestry (usually traced back by the Nazi authorities for two generations), so that a majority of 1st- or 2nd-degree Mischlinge was Protestant, many were Catholics. A considerable number of German Gentiles with Jewish ancestry were irreligionists.

Lutherans with Jewish ancestry were largely in northwestern and Northern Germany, Evangelical Protestants of Jewish descent in Middle Germany (Berlin and its southwestern environs) and the country's east. Catholics with Jewish ancestry lived mostly in Western and Southern Germany, Austria, and what is now the Czech Republic.

Reclassification procedure[edit]

Hermine and Fanny Wittgenstein (sisters of Ludwig Wittgenstein) were re-classified as "Aryan" after paying an undisclosed fortune to the Nazi party

Requests for reclassification (e.g., Jew as Mischling of 1st degree, Mischling of 1st degree as 2nd degree, etc. ) or Aryanization (see German Blood Certificate) were personally reviewed by Adolf Hitler. A reclassification approved by the Nazi party chancery and Hitler was considered an act of mercy (Gnadenakt). Other de facto reclassifications, absent any official document, were privileges accorded by high-ranking Nazis to certain artists and other experts by way of special protection.[13]

A second way of reclassification was by way of declaratory action in court. Usually the discriminated person took the action, questioning their descent from the Jewish-classified man until then regarded as their biological (grand)father.[14] Paternity suits aiming for reclassification (German: Abstammungsverfahren) appeared mostly with deceased, divorced or illegitimate (grand)fathers. They usually sought to change the discriminated litigant's status from Jewish-classified to Mischling of first degree, or from Mischling of first degree to second degree. The numbers of such suits soared whenever the Nazi government imposed new discriminations and persecutions (such as the Nuremberg Laws 1935, November Pogrom 1938, and systematic deportations of Jewish Germans and Gentile Germans of Jewish descent to concentration camps, 1941).[15]

The process was humiliating for the (grand)mothers who had to declare in court they had committed adultery. The petitions were successful in the majority of cases. Success resulted from several reasons. First, some lawyers specialised in such procedures, prepared them professionally, and refused hopeless cases. There was no danger in the procedures because failure did not downgrade the classification of the litigant. Second, usually all the family members – including the sometimes still living disputed (grand)father – co-operated. Usually very likely alternative fathers were named, who either appeared themselves in court confirming their most likely fatherhood or who were already dead, but known as good friends, neighbours or subtenants of the (grand)mother. Fourth, the obligatory and humiliating body examinations of doubted father and child especially searched for allegedly racial features of outward appearance as conceived among anti-Semites to be typically Jewish. Especially when the doubted (grand)father was already dead, emigrated or deported (as after 1941), the examination concentrated on these supposedly abnormous outward features considered Jewish to be found in the physiognomy of the descendant (child). Since the anti-Semitic clichés on Jewish outward appearance were so stereotyped, the usual litigant did not show features clearly indicating his Jewish descent in the eyes of the expert witnesses, so they often delivered in their medical evidence's ambiguous results.[16] Fifth the judges tended to believe the (grand)mothers, alternative fathers, doubted fathers and other witnesses, who paid such a high price by publicly humiliating themselves, and not recorded for earlier perjuring, and declared the prior paternity annulled, ensuring the status improvement for the litigant.[17]

The extent of assimilation of Jews and Gentiles of Jewish descent into their Gentile (and Christian) surroundings was a factor much more complicated than the Nazis anticipated; widespread corruption and lack of any ethical moorings among many Nazi leaders frequently gave way to bribery, extortion, and other subterfuges over documentation of who was or was not a Jew.

Erhard Milch (at right) whose father was Jewish

Numbers of people considered Jewish Mischlinge[edit]

According to the 1939 Reich census, there were about 72,000 Mischlinge of the 1st degree, some 39,000 of the 2nd degree, and probably tens of thousands more of higher degrees, which, however, were not recorded because those people were considered Aryan by the Reich.[18]

According to historian and Israeli Army and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bryan Mark Rigg, up to 160,000 soldiers who were one-quarter, one-half, and even full Jewish served in the German armed forces during World War II, including several generals and admirals and at least one field marshal, Erhard Milch.[19]

Organisations of Mischlinge[edit]

On 20 July 1933 – initiated by the actor Gustav Friedrich – Christian Germans of Jewish descent founded a self-help organisation, first named Reich Federation of Christian German Citizens of non-Aryan or not purely Aryan descent (German: Reichsbund christlich-deutscher Staatsbürger nichtarischer oder nicht rein arischer Abstammung e.V.). The federation first counted only 4,500 members.[20] In October 1934 the name was shortened to Reich association of non-Aryan Christians (German: Reichsverband der nichtarischen Christen).[21] In 1935 the members of the federation elected the known literary historian Heinrich Spiero their new president and under his auspices the federation's journal was improved and the number of members rose to 80,000 by 1936.[22] In September 1936 the federation renamed into the more confident St Paul's Covenant Union of non-Aryan Christians (German: Paulus-Bund Vereinigung nichtarischer Christen e.V.) after the famous Jewish convert to Christianity Paul of Tarsus (Sha'ul).

In January 1937 the Nazi government forbade that organisation, allowing a new successor organisation named 1937 Association of Provisional Reich Citizens of not purely German-blooded Descent (German: Vereinigung 1937 vorläufiger Reichsbürger nicht rein deutschblütiger Abstammung). This name cited the insecure legal status of Mischlinge, who had been assigned the revocable status of preliminary Reich's citizens by the Nuremberg Laws, while Jewish-classified Germans had become second-class state citizens (Staatsbürger) by these laws. The 1937 Association was prohibited to accept state citizens as members – like Spiero – with three or four grandparents, who had been enrolled with a Jewish congregation. Thus that new association had lost its most prominent leaders and faded, having become an organisation solely for Mischlinge. The 1937 Association was compulsorily dissolved in 1939.

Pastor Heinrich Grüber and some enthusiasts started a new effort in 1936 to found an organisation to help Protestants of Jewish descent (Mischlinge and their (grand)parents, of whom at least one was classified as non-Aryan), completely neglected by the then official Protestant church bodies in Germany (see Prussian Union (Evangelical Christian Church)#Protestants of Jewish descent).

After the war some Mischlinge founded the still-existing Notgemeinschaft der durch die Nürnberger Gesetze Betroffenen (Emergency association of the aggrieved by the Nuremberg Laws).

Prominent Mischlinge[edit]

Some examples of Mischlinge:

Fate during the Nazi era[edit]

Discrimination in education, vocation and marriage[edit]

Persons discriminated as Mischlinge were generally restricted as to whom to marry or to choose as a partner. Mischlinge of first degree generally needed permission to marry. Usually only other Mischlinge or Jewish-classified persons were allowed to become their spouses; however, a marriage to a Jewish-classified person would make the Mischling recategorised as Geltungsjude. After 1942 marriage permissions were generally not granted any more – arguably due to the war – until further notice. Mischlinge of second degree could marry a spouse classified as Aryan without permission required. Any marriage with other Mischlinge of which degree ever was unwelcome, arguing not to increase or maintain the percentage of Jewish ancestry the eventual children would have.

Mischlinge, those of first degree more than those of second degree, had restricted access to higher school and university education and were generally forbidden to attend higher schools and universities in 1942. As to vocation most jobs connected with one's work in the public, such as journalism, teaching, performing arts, government positions, politics etc. were blocked for Mischlinge, however, with exceptions for some prominent persons and those, who gained the needed German blood certificates.

Recruitment into the Organisation Todt[edit]

Beginning autumn of 1944, between 10,000 to 20,000 half-Jews (Mischlinge) and persons related to Jews by a so-called mixed marriage were recruited into special units of the Organisation Todt.[28]

Jewish Mischlinge in German-occupied Europe[edit]

While the classifications of Mischling also applied in occupied Western and Central Europe, well documented for the Netherlands and Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia, this was not the case in Eastern Europe. Persons who would have been classified as Jewish Mischlinge in the West were simply classified as Jews in German-annexed Poland (Danzig-West Prussia, Warthegau, etc.), German-occupied Poland (General Government), German-occupied parts of the Soviet Union and the German-occupied Soviet-annexed Baltic states and eastern Poland.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ It usually was applied to Germans with Jewish ancestry but could be applied to any other ethnic group such as Romani "mischling". The term did not originate in Nazi Germany. It arose in botany and zoology as meaning "hybrid" or "mongrel" before being applied to human beings in the mid-19th century. From inception, it carried connotations of inferiority and degeneracy. In the Third Reich, it developed into an official legal term with a fixed and defined meaning set out by regulation. Holocaust Encyclopedia p. 420-25. See also article on Eugen Fischer.
  2. ^ Messinger, Heinz. Langenscheidts Handwörterbuch Englisch, 2 parts, Teil II: Deutsch-English. Berlin (West) et al.: Langenscheidt, 1959
  3. ^ Cf. §5 (1) "Jude ist, wer von mindestens drei der Rasse nach volljüdischen Großeltern abstammt. § 2 Abs.[atz] 2 Satz 2 findet Anwendung." (translated: A Jew is, who descends at least from three racially fully Jewish grandparents. § 2 section 2 sentence 2 is applying.), whereas §2 (2) says: "Jüdischer Mischling ist, wer von einem oder zwei der Rasse nach volljüdischen Großelternteilen abstammt, sofern er nicht nach § 5 Abs.[atz] 2 als Jude gilt. Als volljüdisch gilt ein Großelternteil ohne weiteres, wenn er der jüdischen Religionsgemeinschaft angehört hat." (translated: A Jewish Mischling is, who descends from one or two racially fully Jewish grandparents, unless he is considered a Jew as to § 5 (2). A grandparent is offhand considered fully Jewish if he was associated with the Jewish religious body.), see: Erste Verordnung zum Reichsbürgergesetz vom 14. November 1935 (First ordinance on the Reich's Citizen Act of 14 November 1935), retrieved on 23 January 2013.
  4. ^ A later secession from the Jewish community did not affect the classification as Geltungsjude. Secession from religious Jewish congregations remained possible until July 1939, when the Gestapo transformed them all into its subdivisions, forced to enlist every person discriminated as Geltungsjude or Jew according to the Nuremberg Laws.
  5. ^ Cf. §5 (2) d of Erste Verordnung zum Reichsbürgergesetz vom 14. November 1935 (First ordinance on the Reich's Citizen Act of 14 November 1935), retrieved on 23 January 2013.
  6. ^ R. Hilberg, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders, pp. 150ff.
  7. ^ The rather awkward term was a circumlocution for "Jew" (German: Jude) and was used in legal parlance until the Nuremberg Laws of September 1935. See Mischling Test.
  8. ^ See Mischling Test article for more detail.
  9. ^ Outward features of one's physiognomy could play a role in paternity suits aiming for reclassification and for "Mischling" degree.
  10. ^ According to the census in 1933 there were in Germany, with an overall population of 62 millions, 41 million parishioners enlisted with one of the 28 different Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant church bodies, making up 66% of the people as against 21,1 million Catholics (32,5%). The biggest of them, the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union comprised 18 million enlisted parishioners. Noteworthy families of Jewish descent who converted to Protestantism included those of Karl Marx and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. The borders of Germany changed several times between the Napoleonic era and the rise of the Third Reich. Areas at times under French or Polish political or cultural dominance were overwhelmingly Catholic in religion within the Gentile community.
  11. ^ ›Büro Pfarrer Grüber‹ Evangelische Hilfsstelle für ehemals Rasseverfolgte. Geschichte und Wirken heute, edited by the Evangelische Hilfsstelle für ehemals Rasseverfolgte (English: Evangelical Centre to Help the formerly Racially Persecuted), Berlin: no publ., 1988, p. 8. No ISBN.
  12. ^ Ursula Büttner, "Von der Kirche verlassen: Die deutschen Protestanten und die Verfolgung der Juden und Christen jüdischer Herkunft im »Dritten Reich«", In: Die verlassenen Kinder der Kirche: Der Umgang mit Christen jüdischer Herkunft im »Dritten Reich«, Ursula Büttner and Martin Greschat (eds.), Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998, pp. 15-69, here footnote 20 on pp. 20seq. ISBN 3-525-01620-4.
  13. ^ Cf. for reclassifications by way of acts of mercy and other forms: Beate Meyer, 'Jüdische Mischlinge' – Rassenpolitik und Verfolgungserfahrung 1933–1945 (11999), Hamburg: Dölling und Galitz, 22002, Studien zur jüdischen Geschichte; vol. 6, simultaneously Hamburg, Univ., Diss., 1998, ISBN 3-933374-22-7, especially chapter 'IV. Andere "Ehrenarier"' (Other "honorary Aryans"), pp. 152–160.
  14. ^ One action was recorded where the plaintiff questioned the parentage of his Jewish-classified mother, claiming he had been confused in the maternity clinic for another infant.
  15. ^ The "Institute for Genetics and Racial Hygienics" in Frankfurt upon Main delivered 448 medical evidences for paternity suits aiming for reclassification in Frankfurt and its environs. In December 1938 the "Institute of Racial Biology" of the University of Hamburg complained that since the November Pogrom judges demanded every week 20 more medical evidences for paternity suits aiming for reclassification in Hamburg. Cf. Beate Meyer, 'Jüdische Mischlinge' – Rassenpolitik und Verfolgungserfahrung 1933–1945 (11999), Hamburg: Dölling und Galitz, 22002, Studien zur jüdischen Geschichte; vol. 6, simultaneously Hamburg, Univ., Diss., 1998, pp. 112seq. ISBN 3-933374-22-7
  16. ^ Anyway, many of the involved public health officers did not believe in the pseudo-scientific categories of Aryan and Jewish race, but considered it a farce, and even told this their patients, at examining them. So one can suggest they delivered ambiguous medical evidences on purpose.
  17. ^ Cf. for reclassifications by paternity suits the very instructive book: Beate Meyer, 'Jüdische Mischlinge' – Rassenpolitik und Verfolgungserfahrung 1933–1945 (11999), Hamburg: Dölling und Galitz, 22002, Studien zur jüdischen Geschichte; vol. 6, simultaneously Hamburg, Univ., Diss., 1998, ISBN 3-933374-22-7, especially chapter 'III. Abstammungsverfahren vor Zivilgerichten' (suits on descent in ordinary courts), pp. 109–151.
  18. ^ D. Bankier, in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 3, Number 1 (1988), pp. 1–20.
  19. ^ Bryan Mark Rigg, Hitler's Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story Of Nazi Racial Laws And Men Of Jewish Descent In The German Military (Modern War Studies) (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004), ISBN 0-7006-1358-7 (see also "External links"). On p. 300 Rigg discusses Jewish conversion to Roman Catholicism and to Lutheranism but does not offer a deduction on which of those two largest religious orientations among Germans was more likely to attract the Jewish converts.
  20. ^ Cf. Hartmut Ludwig, "Das ›Büro Pfarrer Grüber‹ 1938–1940", In: ›Büro Pfarrer Grüber‹ Evangelische Hilfsstelle für ehemals Rasseverfolgte. Geschichte und Wirken heute, Walter Sylten, Joachim-Dieter Schwäbl and Michael Kreutzer on behalf of the Evangelische Hilfsstelle für ehemals Rasseverfolgte (ed.; Evangelical Relief Centre for the formerly Racially Persecuted), Berlin: Evangelische Hilfsstelle für ehemals Rasseverfolgte, 1988, pp. 1–23, here p. 4. No ISBN.
  21. ^ Hans Faust, "Vorläufer des Bundes der Verfolgten des Naziregimes Berlin e. V.", in: Die Mahnung (periodical of the Bund der Verfolgten des Naziregimes Berlin e. V., ie Berlin Federation of the Persecuted of the Nazi Regime), 1 September 1983.
  22. ^ Felicitas Bothe-von Richthofen, Widerstand in Wilmersdorf, Memorial to the German Resistance (ed.), Berlin: Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand, 1993, Schriftenreihe über den Widerstand in Berlin von 1933 bis 1945; vol. 7, pp. 140seq. ISBN 3-926082-03-8.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g http://www.jewishmag.com/158mag/hitler_jewish_soldiers/hitler_jewish_soldiers.htm
  24. ^ Cf. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, "Leben und Wirken Dr. Rainer Hildebrandts", in: Rabin-Gedenkkonzert mitKeren Hadar, Maya Zehden (ed.) on behalf of the Deutsch-Israelische Gesellschaft / Arbeitsgemeinschaft Berlin und Potsdam, Berlin: no publ., 2009, p. 32. No ISBN
  25. ^ http://ww2gravestone.com/general/wilberg-helmuth
  26. ^ https://www.unimelb.edu.au/culturalcollections/research/libraryjournal/vol2no1/welch.pdf
  27. ^ a b http://www.fpp.co.uk/online/00/03/NSJews.html
  28. ^ Wolf Gruner (2006). Jewish Forced Labor Under the Nazis. Economic Needs and Racial Aims, 1938–1944. Institute of Contemporary History, Munich and Berlin. New York: Cambridge University Press. Published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. ISBN 978-0-521-83875-7


External links[edit]