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The Nuremberg Laws ( ) of 1935 were antisemitic laws in Nazi Germany which were introduced at the annual Nazi Party rally in Nurembergmarker. The laws classified people as German if all four of their grandparents were of "German or kindred blood", while people were classified as Jews if they descended from three or four Jewish grandparents. A person with one or two Jewish grandparents was a Mischling, a crossbreed, of "mixed blood". The Nuremberg Laws deprived Jews of citizenship and prohibited marriage between Jews and other Germans.

Background history

At the time of Hitler's assumption of power on 30 January 1933 less than one percent of the German population was Jewish. Nevertheless, antisemitism had been a major theme of Hitler's rhetoric for almost fifteen years and attacks on Jews started with the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses on 1 April 1933.

During the spring and summer of 1933, disenchantment within the Nazi Party with how the Third Reich had developed in practice as opposed to what had been promised had led to many in the Party, especially the Alte Kämpfer (Old Fighters; i.e those who joined the Party before 1930, and who tended to be the most ardent anti-Semites in the Party), and the SAmarker into lashing out against Germany's Jewish minority as a way of expressing their frustrations against a group that the authorities would not generally protect. A Gestapomarker report from the spring of 1935 stated that the rank and file of the Nazi Party would "set in motion by us from below" a solution to the "Jewish problem", "that the government would then have to follow". As a result, Nazi Party activists and SA members started a major wave of assaults, vandalism and boycotts against German Jews. A conference of ministers was held on August 20, 1935 to discuss the negative economic effects of Party actions against Jews. Adolf Hitler, the Party representative at the conference, argued that such effects would cease, once the government decided on a firm policy against the Jews.

Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, the Economics Minister, criticized arbitrary behavior by Party members as this inhibited his policy of rebuilding Germany's economy. It made no economic sense since Jews were believed to have certain entrepreneurial skills that could be usefully employed to further his policies. Schacht made no moral condemnation of Jewish policy and advocated the passing of legislation to clarify the situation. Following complaints from Dr. Schacht plus reports that the German public did not approve of the wave of anti-Semitic violence, and that continuing police toleration of the violence was hurting the regime's popularity with the wider public, Hitler ordered a stop to "individual actions" against German Jews on August 8, 1935. On August 20, 1935, the Interior Minister Dr. Wilhelm Frick threatened to impose harsh penalties on those Party members who ignored the order of August 8 and continued to assault Jews.

From Hitler's perspective, it was imperative to bring in harsh new anti-Semitic laws as a consolation prize for those Party members who were disappointed with Hitler's halt order of August 8, especially because Hitler had only reluctantly given the halt order for pragmatic reasons, and his sympathies were with the Party radicals.

The Nazi Party Rally held at Nuremberg in September 1935 had featured the first session of the Reichstag held at that city since 1543. Hitler had planned to have the Reichstag pass a law making the Nazi Swastika flag the flag of the German Reich, and a major speech in support of the impending Italian aggression against Ethiopia. However, at the last minute, the German Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath persuaded Hitler to cancel his speech as being too provocative to public opinion abroad, thus leaving Hitler with the sudden need to have something else to address the historic first meeting of the Reichstag in Nuremberg since 1543, other than the Reich Flag Law. On September 13, 1935, Dr. Bernhard Lösener, the Interior Ministry official in charge of drafting anti-Semitic laws was hastily summoned to the Nuremberg Party Rally by plane together with another Interior Ministry official, Ministerialrat (Ministerial Counsellor) Franz Albrecht Medicus, to start drafting at once a law for Hitler to present to the Reichstag for September 15. Lösener and Medicus arrived in Nuremberg on the morning of September 14 and because of the short time available for the drafting of the laws, both measures were hastily improvised – there was even a shortage of drafting paper so that menu cards had to be used.

Introduction of the Laws

On the evening of September 15, two measures were announced to the Reichstag at the annual Party Rally in Nuremberg, becoming known as the Nuremberg Laws.

The first law, The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour, prohibited marriages and extramarital intercourse between "Jews" (the name was now officially used in place of "non-Aryans") and "Germans" and also the employment of "German" females under forty-five in Jewish households. The second law, The Reich Citizenship Law , stripped persons not considered of German blood of their German citizenship and introduced a new distinction between "Reich citizens" and "nationals".

Hitler made a speech before the Reichstag in Nuremberg, introducing the laws and their alleged motivation, before the laws were formally read and proposed for adoption by Göring, the President of the Reichstag:

The measures were unanimously adopted by the Reichstag. In twelve years of Nazi rule, the Reichstag only passed four laws: the Nuremberg laws were two of them.

The Nuremberg Laws by their general nature formalized the unofficial and particular measures taken against Jews up to 1935. The Nazi leaders made a point of stressing the consistency of this legislation with the Party programme, which demanded that Jews should be deprived of their citizenship rights.

The Laws

The Laws for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour

Effect of the Laws

German Jewish passports could be used to leave but not to return.

Legal discrimination against Jews had come into being before the Nuremberg Laws and steadily grew as time went on; however, for discrimination to be effective, it was essential to have a clear definition of who was or was not a Jew. This was one important function of the Nuremberg laws and the numerous supplementary decrees that were proclaimed to further them.

People defined as Jews could then be barred from employment as lawyers, doctors or journalists. Jews were prohibited from using state hospitals and could not be educated by the state past the age of 14. Public parks, libraries and beaches were closed to Jews. War memorials were to have Jewish names expunged. Even the lottery could not award winnings to Jews.Jews, at the insistence of Swiss immigration officials, were required to adopt a middle name: "Sara" for women and "Israel" for men when applying for a passport. These passports were required to have a large "J" stamped on them and could be used to leave Germany - but not to return.

From September 1941 all Jewish people living within the Nazi empire, including Germany, were required to wear a yellow badge, which had been required in Poland (under German occupation) beginning in 1939.

Influence and inspiration

After the example of the Nuremberg Laws, The Law for Protection of the Nation was passed in Bulgariamarker during World War II, which also had a strong antisemitic character.

The claim has been made that the Nuremberg Laws were inspired partly by the anti-miscegenation laws of the United States of America, however the principal inspiration for Nazi racial thinking was the British-German author, Houston Stewart Chamberlain who was inspired in turn by the eugenics theories of Sir Francis Galton .

Existing copies

An original typescript of the laws signed by Hitler himself was found by the 203rd Detachment of the US Army's Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC), commanded by Martin Dannenberg, in Eichstättmarker, Bavariamarker, Germanymarker, on April 27, 1945. It was appropriated by General George S. Patton, in violation of JCS 1067. During a visit to Los Angeles, Californiamarker, he secretly handed it over to the Huntington Librarymarker. The document was stored until June 26, 1999 when its existence was revealed. Although legal ownership of the document has not been established, it is on permanent loan to the Skirball Cultural Center, which placed it on public display three days later.

See also



  • Ehrenreich, Eric. The Nazi Ancestral Proof: Genealogy, Racial Science, and the Final Solution. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-253-34945-3


  1. In many cases a person with exactly two Jewish grandparents was deemed a "Jew" under the Nuremberg laws. There were a number of legal tests used, to determine if such a person --with precisely two Jewish grandparents-- was to be classified as a "Jew" or a "Mischling" under the laws. See Mischling Test.
  2. Hunt, L. (2009). The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures, Vol. C: Since 1740. Bedford/St. Martin's.
  3. See Machtergreifung
  4. Kershaw pp. 560-61.
  5. Kershaw pp. 561-62.
  6. Kershaw p. 563.
  7. Kershaw pp. 567-68.
  8. Kershaw p.567.
  9. Kershaw pp. 568-70 & 759-60.
  10. Nuremberg Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, English translation at the University of the West of England
  11. Reich Citizenship Law, English translation at the University of the West of England
  12. Shirer p. 234n. Most laws in the Nazi state were simply decreed by Hitler under powers vested in him by the Enabling Act of 1933; there was no legal need for the "legislature" here, and having the Reichstag adopt these laws at the party rally was done for propaganda purposes. Kershaw p. 268-75.

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