Racial policy of Nazi Germany
The racial policy of Nazi Germany was a set of policies and laws implemented by Nazi Germany, asserting the superiority of the "Aryan race", and based on a specific racist doctrine which claimed scientific legitimacy. It was combined with a eugenics programme that aimed for racial hygiene by using compulsory sterilizations and extermination of the Untermenschen (or "sub-humans"), and which eventually culminated in the Holocaust. These policies targeted peoples, in particular Jews, as well as Gypsies, homosexuals and handicapped people, ethnic Poles, Russians who were labeled as "inferior" in a racial hierarchy that placed the Herrenvolk (or "master race") of the Volksgemeinschaft (or "national community") at the top, and ranked Russians, Romani, Serbs, Poles, persons of color and Jews at the bottom.
- 1 Basis of Nazi policies and constitution of the Aryan Master Race
- 2 Racial policies regarding the Jews, 1933–1940
- 3 Other "non-Aryans"
- 4 Policies regarding Poles and Russians
- 5 Germanization between 1939 and 1945
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Sources
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Basis of Nazi policies and constitution of the Aryan Master Race
The Aryan Master Race conceived by the Nazis graded humans on a scale of pure Aryan to non-Aryan (who were viewed as subhumans). At the top of the scale of pure Aryans included Germans and other Germanic peoples including the Dutch, Scandinavians, and the English, because they carried a suitable composition of Germanic blood.
The feeling that Germans were the Aryan Herrenvolk (Aryan master race) was widely spread among the German public through Nazi propaganda and among Nazi officials throughout the ranks, in particular when Reichskommissar Ukraine Erich Koch said:
We are a master race, which must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here.
— Erich Koch, 5 March 1943, 
The Nazis considered the majority of Slavs to be non-Aryan "untermenschen" (literally meaning "subhumans"), and those were mainly: Poles, Serbs, Russians, Belarusians and an ethnic group named "Rusyns". Initially the term "untermensch" also included Ukrainians, Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgarians and partially Croats, but as far as these nations eventually collaborated with the Nazi Germany to a higher or lower extent, and despite still being perceived as not racially "pure" enough to reach the status of Germanic peoples, they were eventually considered ethnically better than the rest of the Slavs, mostly due to pseudoscientific theories about these nations having a considerable admixture of Germanic blood. In countries where these people lived, there were according to Nazis small groups of non-Slavic German descendants. These people then underwent a "racial selection" process to determine whether or not they were "racially valuable", if the individual passed they would be re-Germanised and were then forcefully taken from their families in order to be raised as Germans. However, Nazi policy towards Slavs during World War II aimed at enslavement and extermination of most of Slavic people, although certain minority groups were accepted to serve in its armed forces within occupied territories, in spite of them being considered subhuman, as a pragmatic means to resolve military manpower shortages. At the bottom of the racial scale of non-Aryans were Jews, Slavs Romani, and blacks. The Nazis later made an exception to the policy of viewing Croats as Slavs upon the prompting of Croatian Ustaše leader Ante Pavelić of the Axis puppet state in Croatia, who claimed that Croats were primarily the descendents of the Goths and thus had stronger Germanic roots than Slavic roots. The Nazis originally sought to rid the German state of Jews and Romani by means of emigration, while blacks were to be segregated and eventually eliminated through compulsory sterilization.
Volkisch theorists believed that Germany’s Teutonic ancestors had spread out from Germany throughout Europe. Of the German tribes that spread through Europe, the theorists identified that: the Burgundians, Franks, and Western Goths joined with the Gauls to make France; the Lombards moved south and joined with the Italians; the Jutes made Denmark; the Angles and Saxons made England; the Flemings made Belgium; and other tribes made the Netherlands.
Racial policies regarding the Jews, 1933–1940
Between 1933 and 1934, Nazi policy was fairly moderate, not wishing to scare off voters or from moderately minded politicians (although the eugenics program was established as early as July 1933). On August 25, 1933, the Nazis even signed the Haavara Agreement with Zionists to allow German Jews to emigrate to Palestine—by 1939, 60,000 German Jews had emigrated there. The Nazi Party used populist anti-semitic views to gain votes. Using the "stab-in-the-back legend", they blamed poverty, the Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic, unemployment, and the loss of World War I by the "November Criminals" all on the Jews, Marxists and 'cultural Bolsheviks'. German woes were attributed to the effects of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1933, persecution of the Jews became active Nazi policy. This was at first hindered by the lack of agreement on who qualified as a Jew as opposed to an Aryan, which caused legislators to balk at an anti-Semitic law for its ill-defined terms. Bernhard Lösener described it "total chaos", with local authorities regarding anything from full Jewish background to 1⁄8 Jewish blood defining a Jew; Achim Gercke urged 1⁄16 Jewish blood. Mischlinge were especially problematic in their eyes. The first anti-Semitic law was promulgated with no clear definition of Jew. Finally, the decision was made for three or four Jewish grandparents; two or one rendered a person a Mischlinge. It only became worse with the years, culminating in the Holocaust, or so-called "Final Solution", which was made official at the January 1942 Wannsee Conference.
On April 1, 1933, the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses was observed throughout Germany. Only six days later, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed, banning Jews from government jobs. It is notable that the proponents of this law, and the several thousand more that were to follow, most frequently explained them as necessary to prevent the infiltration of damaging, "alien-type" (Artfremd) hereditary traits into the German national or racial community (Volksgemeinschaft). These laws meant that Jews were now indirectly and directly dissuaded or banned from privileged and superior positions reserved for "Aryan Germans". From then on, Jews were forced to work at more menial positions, becoming second-class citizens or to the point they were "illegally residing" in Nazi Germany.
Between 1935 and 1936, persecution of the Jews increased apace while the process of "Gleichschaltung" (lit.: "standardisation", the process by which the Nazis achieved complete control over German society) was implemented. In May 1935, Jews were forbidden to join the Wehrmacht (the armed forces), and in the summer of the same year, anti-semitic propaganda appeared in shops and restaurants. The Nuremberg Laws were passed around the time of the great Nazi rallies at Nuremberg; on September 15, 1935, the "Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor" was passed, at first this only prevented sexual relations and marriage between Germans and Jews, but later the law was extended to "Gypsies, Negroes and their bastard offspring", it became punishable by law as Rassenschande or racial pollution. After, the "Reich Citizenship Law" was passed and was reinforced in November by a decree, only people of "German or related blood" could be a citizen of the Reich and excluded all others which meant that all Jews, even quarter- and half-Jews, and other non-Aryans were stripped of their citizenship and their official title being "subjects of the state". This meant that they were deprived of basic citizens' rights, e.g., the right to vote. This removal of citizens' rights was instrumental in the process of anti-semitic persecution: the process of denaturalization allowed the Nazis to exclude—de jure—Jewish people from the "Volksgemeinschaft" ("national community"), thus granting judicial legitimacy to their persecution and opening the way to harsher laws and, eventually, extermination of the Jews. Philosopher Hannah Arendt pointed out this important judicial aspect of the Holocaust in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), where she demonstrated that to violate human rights, Nazi Germany first deprived human beings of their citizenship. Arendt underlined that in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, citizens’ rights actually preceded human rights, as the latter needed the protection of a determinate state to be actually respected.
The drafting of the Nuremberg Laws has often been attributed to Hans Globke. Globke had studied British attempts to "order" its empire by creating hierarchical social orders, for example in the organization of "martial races" in India.
In 1936, Jews were banned from all professional jobs, effectively preventing them from having any influence in education, politics, higher education, and industry. There was now nothing to stop the anti-Jewish actions that spread across the German economy.
Between 1937 and 1938, new laws were implemented, and the segregation of Jews from the "German Aryan" population was completed. In particular, Jews were punished financially for being Jewish.
On March 1, 1938, government contracts could not be awarded to Jewish businesses. On September 30, "Aryan" doctors could only treat "Aryan" patients. Provision of medical care to Jews was already hampered by the fact that Jews were banned from being doctors.
On August 17, Jews with first names of non-Jewish origin had to add "Israel" (males) or "Sara" (females) to their names, and a large letter "J" was to be printed on their passports on October 5. On November 15, Jewish children were banned from going to state-run schools. By April 1939, nearly all Jewish companies had either collapsed under financial pressure and declining profits, or had been persuaded to sell out to the government, further reducing their rights as human beings; they were, in many ways, effectively separated from the German populace.
The increasingly totalitarian regime that Hitler imposed on Germany allowed him to control the actions of the military. On November 7, 1938, a young Polish Jew named Herschel Grynszpan attacked and shot German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in the Nazi-German embassy in Paris. Grynszpan's family, together with more than 12,000 Polish-born Jews, had been expelled by the Nazi government from Germany to Poland during the so-called "Polenaktion" on October 28, 1938. Joseph Goebbels ordered retaliation. On the night of November 9, the SS and SA conducted "the Night of Broken Glass" ("Kristallnacht"), in which at least 91 Jews were killed and a further 30,000 arrested and incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps. After the start of the war, and the conquest of numerous European countries, the Jewish population was put into ghettos, from which they were shipped to death camps where they were killed.
Jewish responses to the Nuremberg Laws
After the promulgation of the Nuremberg Laws, the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden (Representation of the German Jews) announced the following:
The Laws decided upon by the Reichstag in Nuremberg have come as the heaviest of blows for the Jews in Germany. But they must create a basis on which a tolerable relationship becomes possible between the German and the Jewish people. The "Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden" is willing to contribute to this end with all its powers. A precondition for such a tolerable relationship is the hope that the Jews and Jewish communities of Germany will be enabled to keep a moral and economic means of existence by the halting of defamation and boycott.
The organization of the life of the Jews in Germany requires governmental recognition of an autonomous Jewish leadership. The Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland is the agency competent to undertake this.
The most urgent tasks for the "Reichsvertretung", which it will press energetically and with full commitment, following the avenues it has previously taken, are:
Our own Jewish educational system must serve to prepare the youth to be upright Jews, secure in their faith, who will draw the strength to face the onerous demands which life will make on them from conscious solidarity with the Jewish community, from work for the Jewish present and faith in the Jewish future. In addition to transmitting knowledge, the Jewish schools must also serve in the systematic preparation for future occupations. With regard to preparation for emigration, particularly to Palestine, emphasis will be placed on guidance toward manual work and the study of the Hebrew language. The education and vocational training of girls must be directed to preparing them to carry out their responsibilities as upholders of the family and mothers of the next generation.
Though the laws were primarily directed against Jews, other "non-Aryan" people were subject to the laws, and to other legislation concerned with racial hygiene. The definition of "Aryan" was never fully defined as the term was too imprecise and ambiguous, it was attempted to be clarified over time in a number of judicial and executive decisions. Jews were by definition non-Aryan, because of their Semitic origins, and the same was eventually applied to majority of Slavic nationalities who were considered "subhumans". The Nazis considered a small percentage of people who the Nazis deemed in Eastern Europe to be descendants of ethnic German settlers and who underwent Germanised to be accepted as part of the Aryan Herrenvolk (Aryan master race). Outside of Europe in North Africa, according to Alfred Rosenberg's racial theories (The Myth of the Twentieth Century), some of the Berbers, particularly the Kabyles, were to be classified as Aryans. The Nazis portrayed Swedes, the Afrikaaners who are white European descendants of Dutch-speaking Boers in South Africa and higher-degree Northern/Western Europeans of South America (mainly from Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina) as ideal "Aryans" along with the German-speaking peoples of Greater Germany and Switzerland (the country was neutral during the war). In Asia, only the Indo-Aryan and Indo-Iranian populations of British India, Iran, and Afghanistan were considered Aryan, although this did not affect the decision to target the Roma, who are of Indian origin because they were said to pose a threat to the Aryan race because of their racial mingling.
The number of black people in Germany when the Nazis came to power is variously estimated at 5,000 – 25,000. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., “The fate of black people from 1933 to 1945 in Nazi Germany and in German-occupied territories ranged from isolation to persecution, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality, and murder. However, there was no systematic program for their elimination as there was for Jews and other groups.”
Prior to Hitler coming to power, black entertainers were popular in Germany, but the Nazis banned Jazz as ‘corrupt negro music’. Mixed marriage and interracial sex became illegal, some blacks were used in medical experiments, and others mysteriously disappeared. However, contrary to popular myth, black American sprinter Jesse Owens', who won four gold medals beating German athletes at the 1936 Berlin Olympic games, faced less segregation there than in the USA, and felt snubbed by Roosevelt rather than by Hitler.
The July 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring—written by Ernst Rüdin and other theorists of "racial hygiene"—established "Genetic Health Courts" which decided on compulsory sterilization of "any person suffering from a hereditary disease." These included, for the Nazis, those suffering from "Congenital Mental Deficiency", schizophrenia, "Manic-Depressive Insanity", "Hereditary Epilepsy", "Hereditary Chorea" (Huntington’s), Hereditary Blindness, Hereditary Deafness, "any severe hereditary deformity", as well as "any person suffering from severe alcoholism". Further modifications of the law enforced sterilization of the "Rhineland bastards" (children of mixed German and African parentage).
In Mein Kampf, Hitler described children resulting from marriages to African occupation soldiers as a contamination of the white race "by Negro blood on the Rhine in the heart of Europe." He thought that "Jews were responsible for bringing Negroes into the Rhineland, with the ultimate idea of bastardizing the white race which they hate and thus lowering its cultural and political level so that the Jew might dominate." He also implied that this was a plot on the part of the French, since the population of France was being increasingly "negrified". Mixed marriage and interracial sex became illegal.
Of particular concern to the Nazi scientist Eugen Fischer were the "Rhineland Bastards": mixed-race offspring of Senegalese soldiers who had been stationed in the Rhineland as part of the French army of occupation. He believed that these people should be sterilized in order to protect the racial purity of the German population. At least 400 mixed-race children were forcibly sterilized in the Rhineland by 1938. This order only applied in the Rhineland. Other African Germans were unaffected. Despite this policy, there was never any systematic attempt to eliminate the black population in Germany, though some blacks were used in medical experiments, and others mysteriously disappeared.
According to Susan Samples, the Nazis went to great lengths to conceal their sterilization and abortion program in the Rhineland. Hans Massaquoi describes his experience as a half-African in Hamburg, unaware of the Rhineland sterilizations until long after the war. Samples also points to the paradoxical fact that African-Germans actually had a better chance of surviving the war than the average German. They were excluded from military activity because of their non-Aryan status, but were not considered a threat and so were unlikely to be incarcerated. Samples and Massaquoi also note that African-Germans were not subjected to the segregation they would have experienced in the United States, nor excluded from facilities such as expensive hotels. However, both she and Massaquoi state that downed black American pilots were more likely to become victims of violence and murder from German citizens than were white pilots.
About 10,000 Japanese nationals (mostly diplomats and military officials) residing in Germany were given "Honorary Aryan" citizenship with more privileges than any other "non-Aryan" ethnonational group. In Norway, the Nazis favored marriages between Germans and Norwegians, in an attempt to spawn a new "Aryan" generation of Nordics. Around 10,000–12,000 war children (Krigsbarn) were born from these unions during the war. Some of them were separated from their mothers and cared for in so-called "Lebensborn" clinics ("Fountain of Life" clinics).
Policies regarding Poles and Russians
Nazi ideology viewed Poles and Russians as an inferior group of non-Aryan "subhumans", suitable for enslavement, expulsion and extermination. Generalplan Ost (GPO) was a secret Nazi plan to realize Hitler's "new order of ethnographical relations" in the territories occupied by Germany in Eastern Europe during World War II. It was prepared in 1941 and confirmed in 1942. The plan was part of Hitler's own Lebensraum (living space) plan and a fulfillment of the Drang nach Osten ("Drive towards the East") state ideology.
The final version of Generalplan Ost, essentially a grand plan for ethnic cleansing, was divided into two parts; the Kleine Planung ("Small Plan"), which covered actions which were to be taken during the war, and the Grosse Planung ("Big Plan"), which covered actions to be undertaken after the war was won (to be carried into effect gradually over a period of 25–30 years). The Small Plan was to be put into practice as the Germans conquered the areas to the east of their pre-war borders. The individual stages of this plan would then be worked out in greater detail. In this way, the plan for Poland was drawn up at the end of November 1939. The plan envisaged removal of majority of the population of conquered counties with very small differing percentages of the various conquered nations undergoing Germanisation, expulsion into the depths of Russia, and other fates, the net effect of which would be to ensure that the conquered territories would be Germanized. Himmler declared during the Germanization process that no drop of German blood would be lost or left behind to mingle with any "alien races". The Wehrbauer ("soldier-peasants") would settle in a fortified line to prevent civilization arising beyond and threatening Germany.
Himmler in the Kharkow speech April 1943 expressed the position and situation of the war:
The decision, therefore, lies here in the East; here must the Russian enemy, this people numbering two hundred million Russians, be destroyed on the battle field and person by person, and made to bleed to death .
Civilian deaths totaled 15.9 million which included 1.5 million from military actions; 7.1 million victims of Nazi genocide and reprisals; 1.8 million deported to Germany for forced labor; and 5.5 million famine and disease deaths. Additional famine deaths which totaled 1 million during 1946–47 are not included here. The official Polish government report of war losses prepared in 1947 reported 6,028,000 war victims out of a population of 27,007,000 ethnic Poles and Jews; this report excluded ethnic Ukrainian and Belarusian losses.
Germanization between 1939 and 1945
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Nazi policy stressed the superiority of the Nordic race, a sub-section of the white European population defined by the measurement of the size and proportions of the human body models of racial difference. From 1940 the Nazis in General Government(occupied Poland) divided the population into different groups. Each group had different rights, food rations, allowed strips in the cities, separated residential areas, special schooling systems, public transportation and restricted restaurants. Later adapted in all Nazi-occupied countries by 1942, the Germanization program used the racial caste system of reserving certain rights to one group and barred privileges to another. Ethnic Poles were believed by Hitler to be "biologically inferior race" that could never be educated or elevated through Germanization.
During the occupation of Poland, the Nazis kept an eye out for children with Nordic racial characteristics, those among them found to be classified as "racially valuable" were sent from here to the German Reich for adoption and to be raised as Germans, those who failed the tests would be used as slaves or murdered in medical experiments.
Germanization also affected the Sorbs, the minority Slav community living in Saxony and Brandenburg, whose Slavic culture and language was suppressed to absorb them into German identity. Tens of thousands suffered internment and imprisonment as well, to become lesser-known victims of Nazi racial laws.
- Action T4
- Anti-Jewish legislation in prewar Nazi Germany
- Aryan paragraph
- Consequences of German Nazism
- Greater Germanic Reich
- Kaiser Wilhelm Institute
- Josef Mengele
- Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen
- Nazi eugenics
- Persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust
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