The Spirit of Laws


A few weeks before the Nuremberg party congress, at the beginning of August 1935, Hitler decided that six Jewish or part-Jewish University of Leipzig professors, hitherto protected by the exception clauses of the Civil Service Law, must retire. On August 26 two officials of the Saxon Ministry of Education arrived for a meeting at the Reich Chancellery; they wanted to know whether, from now on, all non-Aryan civil servants were to be retired. Ministerial Councillor Wienstein informed them of the following:

“Basically one should decide case by case, as before. But in each case, however, one should consider that the approach to the treatment of non-Aryans has become stricter. When the Civil Service Law was promulgated, the intention undoubtedly was to give non-Aryans the protection defined in paragraph 3, section 2 of the law, without any restriction. The new development, however, has led to a situation whereby non-Aryans can no longer refer to the above-mentioned instructions in order to claim the right to remain employed. Instead, decisions should, as Ministerial Councillor Wienstein again mentioned, be made “only case by case.”1

For several months, in fact, Jewish professors still ostensibly protected by the exception clauses had been dismissed. Victor Klemperer had received his dismissal notification in the mail on April 30. Sent via the Saxon Ministry of Education, it was signed by Reichsstatthalter Martin Mutschmann.2 Within a few months, in the wake of the new Citizenship Law, there were no longer any exceptions, and all remaining Jewish professors were expelled.

Much debate has arisen regarding the origins of the Nuremberg Laws: Were they the result of a haphazard decision or of a general plan aiming at the step-by-step exclusion of the Jews from German society and ultimately from the territory of the Reich? Depending on the view one takes, Hitler’s mode of decision making, in both Jewish and other matters, can be interpreted in different ways.

As has been seen, the idea of a new citizenship law had been on Hitler’s mind from the outset of his regime. In July 1933 an Advisory Committee for Population and Race Policy at the Ministry of the Interior started work on draft proposals for a law designed to exclude the Jews from full citizenship rights.3 From the beginning of 1935, the signs pointing to such forthcoming changes multiplied. Allusions to them were made by various German leaders—Frick, Goebbels, and Schacht—during the spring and summer months of that year; the foreign press, particularly the London Jewish Chronicle and the New York Times, published similar information, and, according to Gestapo reports, German Jewish leaders such as Rabbi Joachim Prinz were openly speaking about a new citizenship law that would turn the Jews into “subjects” (Staatsangehörige); their information seemed precise indeed.4

Simultaneously, as has also been seen, mixed marriages were encountering increasing obstruction in the courts, to such an extent that, in July, Frick announced the formulation of new laws in this domain as well. In the same month the Justice Ministry submitted a proposal for the interdiction of marriages between Jews and Germans. From then on the issue was the object of ongoing interministerial consultations.5 Thus, whatever the immediate reason for Hitler’s decision may have been, both the issue of citizenship and that of mixed marriages were being discussed in great detail at the civil service level and within the party, and various signs indicated that new legislation was imminent. Incidentally, when Goebbels brought up the topic of “Jewish arrogance” in one of their conversations, Hitler cryptically remarked that “in many things there will soon be changes.”6

It has been suggested by historians who emphasize the haphazardness of Nazi measures that until September 13, Hitler had been planning to make a major foreign policy statement about the situation in Abyssinia, but that he was dissuaded at the last moment by Foreign Minister Neurath. This hypothesis is not supported by any proof, except for dubious testimony at the Nuremberg Trials by the Interior Ministry’s “race specialist,” Bernhard Lösener. (In the courtroom it was in Lösener’s interest to show that there had been no prolonged planning for the 1935 racial laws, for he would necessarily have been involved in such planning.)7

In his opening address of September 11 at the Nuremberg party congress, Hitler warned that the struggle against the internal enemies of the nation would not be thwarted by failings of the bureaucracy: The will of the nation—that is, the party—would, if necessary, take over in case of bureaucratic deficiency. It was in these very terms that Hitler ended his September 15 closing speech by addressing the solution of the Jewish problem. Thus it seems that the basic motive for pressing forward with anti-Jewish legislation was to deal with the specific internal political climate already alluded to.

In the precarious balance that existed between the party on the one hand and the state administration and the Reichswehr on the other, Hitler had in 1934 favored the state apparatus by decapitating the SA. Moreover, at the beginning of 1935, when tension arose between the Reichswehr and the SS, Hitler “warned the party against encroachments on the army and called the Reichswehr ‘the sole bearer of arms.’”8 It was time to lean the other way, especially since discontent was growing within the lower party ranks. In short, the Nuremberg laws were to serve notice to all that the role of the party was far from over—quite the contrary. Thus, the mass of party members would be assuaged, individual acts of violence against Jews would be stopped by the establishment of clear “legal” guidelines, and political activism would be channeled toward well-defined goals. The summoning of the Reichstag and the diplomatic corps to the party congress was meant as an homage to the party on the occasion of its most important yearly celebration, irrespective of whether the major declaration was to be on foreign policy, on the German flag, or on the Jewish issue. The preliminary work on the Jewish legislation had been completed, and Hitler could easily switch to preparation of the final decrees at the very last moment.

The conditions under which the drafting of the laws took place are known from another report by Lösener, this one written in 1950, which describes the drafting of the decrees on the last two days of the congress.9 There was no reason for Lösener to offer a false picture of these two hectic days, except for the suppression of the fact that much preliminary work had been accomplished before then. According to Lösener, on the evening of September 13, he and his Interior Ministry colleague, Franz Albrecht Medicus, were urgently summoned from Berlin to Nuremberg. There, State Secretaries Pfundtner and Stuckart informed them that Hitler, who considered the flag law an insufficient basis for convening the Reichstag, ordered the preparation of a law dealing with marriage and extramarital relations between Jews and Aryans, and with the employment of Aryan female help in Jewish families. The next day Hitler demanded a citizenship law broad enough to underpin the more specifically racial-biological anti-Jewish legislation. The party and particularly such individuals as Gerhardt Wagner, Lösener wrote, insisted on the most comprehensive definition of the Jew, one that would have equated even “quarter Jews” (Mischlinge of the second degree) with full Jews. Hitler himself demanded four versions of the law, ranging from the least (version D) to the most inclusive (version A). On September 15, at 2:30 A.M., he declared himself satisfied with the draft proposals.10

Hitler chose version D. But in a typical move that canceled this apparent “moderation” and left the door open for further extensions in the scope of the laws, Hitler crossed out a decisive sentence introduced into the text by Stuckart and Lösener: “These laws are applicable to full Jews only.” That sentence was meant to exclude Mischlinge from the legislation; now their fate also hung in the balance. Hitler ordered that the Stuckart-Lösener sentence be retained in the official announcement of the laws disseminated by the DNB, the official German news agency.”11 He probably did this to assuage foreign opinion and possibly those sectors of the German population directly or indirectly affected by the laws, but the sentence was to be absent from all further publications of the full text.

There is a plausible reason why, if Hitler was planning to announce the laws at the Nuremberg party congress, he waited until the very last moment to have the final versions drafted: his method was one of sudden blows meant to keep his opponents off balance, to confront them with faits accomplis that made forceful reactions almost impossible if a major crisis was to be avoided. Had the anti-Jewish legislation been submitted to him weeks before the congress, technical objections from the state bureaucracy could have hampered the process. Surprise was of the essence.

During the days and weeks following Nuremberg, party radicals close to the Wagner line exerted considerable pressure to reintroduce their demands regarding the status of Mischlinge into the supplementary decrees to the two main Nuremberg Laws. Hitler himself was to announce the ruling on “Mischlinge of the first degree” at a closed party meeting scheduled for September 29 in Munich. The meeting did take place, but Hitler postponed the announcement of his decision.12 In fact, the confrontation on the issue of the Mischlinge between the party radicals Wagner and Gütt (the latter formally belonged to the Ministry of the Interior) on the one hand, and the Interior Ministry specialists Stuckart and Lösener on the other, lasted from September 22 to November 6, with Hitler’s opinion being requested several times by both sides.13

Early in the debate both sides agreed that three-quarter Jews (persons with three Jewish grandparents) were to be considered Jews, and that one-quarter Jews (one Jewish grandparent) were Mischlinge. The entire confrontation focused on the status of the half Jews (two Jewish grandparents). Whereas the party wanted to include the half Jews in the category of Jews, or at least have a public agency decide who among them was a Jew and who a Mischling, the ministry insisted on integrating them into the Mischlingecategory (together with the one-quarter Jews). The final decision, made by Hitler, was much closer to the demands of the ministry than to those of the party. Half Jews were Mischlinge; only as a result of their personal choice (not as the result of the decision of a public agency), either by choosing a Jewish spouse or joining the Jewish religious community, did they become Jews.14

The supplementary decrees were finally published on November 14. The first supplementary decree to the Citizenship Law defined as Jewish all persons who had at least three full Jewish grandparents, or who had two Jewish grandparents and were married to a Jewish spouse or belonged to the Jewish religion at the time of the law’s publication, or who entered into such commitments at a later date. From November 14 on, the civic rights of Jews were canceled, their voting rights abolished; Jewish civil servants who had kept their positions owing to their veteran or veteran-related status were forced into retirement.15 On December 21 a second supplementary decree ordered the dismissal of Jewish professors, teachers, physicians, lawyers, and notaries who were state employees and had been granted exemptions.

The various categories of forbidden marriages were spelled out in the first supplementary decree to the Law for the Defense of German Blood and Honor: between a Jew and a Mischling with one Jewish grandparent; between a Mischling and another, each with one Jewish grandparent; and between a Mischling with two Jewish grandparents and a German (the last of these might be waived by a special exemption from the Minister of the Interior or the Deputy Führer).16Mischlinge of the first degree (two Jewish grandparents) could marry Jews—and thereby become Jews—or marry one another, on the assumption that such couples usually chose to remain childless, as inidicated by the empirical material collected by Hans F. K. Günther.17 Finally, female citizens of German blood employed in a Jewish household at the time of the law’s publication could continue their work only if they had turned forty-five by December 31, 1935.18

In a circular addressed to all relevant party agencies on December 2, Hess restated the main instructions of the November 14 supplementary decree to explain the intention behind the marriage regulations that applied to both kinds of Mischlinge: “The Jewish Mischlinge, that is, the quarter and half Jews, are treated differently in the marriage legislation. The regulations are based on the fact that the mixed race of the German-Jewish Mischlinge is undesirable under any circumstances—both in terms of blood and politically—and that it must disappear as soon as possible.” According to Hess, the law ensured that “either in the present or in the next generation, the German-Jewish Mischlinge would belong either to the Jewish group or to that of the German citizens.” By being allowed to marry only full-blooded German spouses, the quarter Jews would become Germans and, as Hess put it, “the hereditary racial potential of a nation of 65 million would not be changed or damaged by the absorption of 100,000 quarter Jews.” The Deputy Führer’s explanations regarding the half Jews were somewhat more convoluted, as there was no absolute prohibition of their marrying Germans or quarter Jews, if they received the approval of the Deputy Führer. Hess recognized that this aspect of the legislation went against the wishes of the party, declaring laconically that the decision had been taken “for political reasons.” The general policy, however, was to compel half Jews to marry only Jews, thus to absorb them into the Jewish group19—evidence of Hitler’s wish, as stated to Walter Gross, for the disappearance of the Mischlinge.

To how many people did the Nuremberg Laws apply? According to statistics produced by the Ministry of the Interior on April 3, 1935, living in Germany at the time were some 750,000 Mischlinge of the first and second degree. In this document, signed by Pfundtner and submitted to Hitler by his military adjutant, Col. Friedrich Hossbach, it was not clear how this total had been arrived at. (The ministry, in fact, admitted that there was no precise method for making such an estimate.) Apart from the Mischlinge, the document also listed 475,000 full Jews belonging to the Jewish religion and 300,000 full Jews not belonging to it, which made a total of approximately 1.5 million, or 2.3 percent of the population of Germany. A further figure was mentioned, probably at Hitler’s demand: Within this total there were 728,000 men, among them about 328,000 of military age.20

Even after the proclamation of the laws and the first supplementary decrees in November, Rudolf Hess had the numbers wrong in his circular, giving 300,000 as the overall total of Mischlinge.21 This number was also an exaggeration.

Recent studies have set the number of Mischlinge at the time of the decrees at about 200,000.22 A detailed demographic inquiry conducted by the CV Zeitung (the newspaper of the Central Association of German Jews) and published on May 16, 1935, had reached the same result. According to the CV inquiry, some 450,000 full Jews (with four Jewish grandparents and belonging to the Jewish religion) were living in Germany at the time. “Non-Jewish non-Aryans”—among them converted full Jews and converted Mischlinge with one to three Jewish grandparents—numbered some 250,000. As the author of the inquiry included 50,000 converted full Jews and 2,000 converted three-quarter Jews in his statistics, the numbers according to the Nuremberg degree-categories became the following: full Jews (in racial terms): approximately 502,000 (450,000 plus 50,000 plus 2,000); half Jews: 70,000 to 75,000; quarter Jews: 125,000 to 130,000; total Mischlinge: 195,000 to 205,000. (In the CV inquiry the half Jews were all converted Jews, and thus, according to the Nuremberg Laws, would not have been counted as Jews but as Mischlinge of the first degree.)23


“In Germany,” according to a book published in 1936 by Lösener and Knost, “the Jewish question is simply the race question. How this came about,” the authors went on, “need not be described here once again. Here we are dealing only with the solution to this question which has now been decisively set in motion and which represents one of the basic prerequisites for the construction of the new Reich. According to the Führer’s will, the Nuremberg Laws are not measures intended to breed and perpetuate race hatred, but measures which mean the beginning of an easing in the relations between the German and the Jewish peoples.” Zionism had the right understanding of the issue, the authors asserted, and in general the Jewish people, itself so intent on preserving the purity of its blood over the centuries, should welcome laws intended to defend purity of blood.24

The main commentary on the “German racial legislation,” published that same year, was coauthored by Secretary of State (in the Ministry of the Interior) Wilhelm Stuckart, and another official from the same ministry, Hans Globke, whose passion for identifying Jews by their names will be encountered later.25 It reveals starkly some of the most perplexing aspects—even from the Nazi viewpoint—of the Nuremberg Laws. In order to illustrate the absolute validity of religious affiliation as the criterion for identifying the race of the descendants, Stuckart and Globke gave the hypothetical example of a woman, fully German by blood, who had married a Jew and converted to Judaism and then, having been widowed, returned to Christianity and married a man fully German by blood. A grandchild deriving from this second marriage would, according to the law, be considered partly Jewish because of the grandmother’s one-time religious affiliation as a Jew. Stuckart and Globke could not but state the following corollary: “Attention has to be given to the fact that…[in] terms of racial belonging, a full-blooded German who converted to Judaism is to be considered as German-blooded after that conversion as before it; but in terms of the racial belonging of his grandchildren, he is to be considered a full Jew.”26

The racial mutation caused by such temporary contact with the Jewish religion is mysterious enough. But the mystery is compounded when it is remembered that in Nazi eugenics or racial anthropology, the impact of environmental factors was considered negligible in comparison with the effect of heredity. Here, however, an ephemeral change in environment mysteriously causes the most lasting biological transformation.27 But whatever their origins, racial differences could lead to dire consequences in cases of prolonged mixing:

“The addition of foreign blood to one’s own brings about damaging changes in the body of the race because the homogeneity, the instinctively certain will of the body, is thereby weakened; in its stead an uncertain, hesitating attitude appears in all decisive life situations, an overestimation of the intellect and a spiritual splitting. A blood mixture does not achieve a uniform fusion of two races foreign to each other but leads in general to a disturbance in the spiritual equilibrium of the receiving part.”28

Two laws directed against individuals and groups other than Jews followed the September laws. The first of these was the October 18, 1935, Law for the Protection of the Hereditary Health of the German People, which aimed at registering “alien races” or racially “less valuable” groups and imposed the obligation of a marriage license certifying that the partners were (racially) “fit to marry.”29 This law was reinforced by the first supplementary decree to the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor of November 14, which also forbade Germans to marry or have sexual relations with persons of “alien blood” other than Jews. Twelve days later a circular from the Ministry of the Interior was more specific: Those referred to were “Gypsies, Negroes, and their bastards.”30

Proof that one was not of Jewish origin or did not belong to any “less valuable” group became essential for a normal existence in the Third Reich. And the requirements were especially stringent for anyone aspiring to join or to remain in a state of party agency. Even the higher strata of the civil service, the party, and the army could not escape racial investigation. The personal file of Gen. Alfred Jodl, who was soon to become deputy chief of staff of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, contains a detailed family tree in Jodl’s handwriting, which, in 1936, proved his impeccable Aryan descent as far back as the mid-eighteenth century.31

Exceptions were rarely made. The best-known case was that of the state secretary at the Aviation Ministry, Erhard Milch, a Mischling of the second degree who was turned into an Aryan. Incidentally, such rare occurrences rapidly became known, even among the general population. Thus, in December 1937, charges were brought against a Father Wolpert, of Dinkelsbuhl, in Bavaria, because he had stated in a religion class that General Milch was of Jewish origin.32 In every such matter the final decision rested with Hess and often with Hitler himself. Whether Hess consulted Hitler in every instance is hard to know; that he consulted him in highly visible ones is probable. It is unlikely, for example, that Hess decided alone—a few days after the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom, and after Hitler had told Lammers that he would no longer agree to any exceptions regarding persons of Jewish descent—to issue a “protection letter” for the geopolitician Karl Haushofer’s son, Albrecht, a Mischling of the second degree according to the Nuremberg Laws.33 Sometimes Hitler’s hypochondriacal worries played a role. It will be remembered that the cancer researcher and “Mischling of the first degree” Otto Warburg was transformed into a “Mischling of the second degree” on Göring’s orders. Something similar occurred in early 1937, when a professor of radiology at the clinic of the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin, Henri Chaoul—who, according to one investigation, was descended from Syrian Maronites and Greek Cypriots, and to another, more plausible one, “was not Aryan in the sense of the Civil Service Law” (in other words, was of Jewish origin)—was shielded from any difficulties on Hitler’s explicit demand, and appointed director of a newly established central radiology institute in Berlin.34

The investigations probably stopped at the very highest party leadership. Rumors, however, knew no such bounds, and, as is well known, both Hitler and Heydrich, among others, were suspected of hiding non-Aryan ancestors. In both cases the rumors proved unfounded,35 but under the circumstances the insinuation was certainly meant to be damaging. Sometimes disgruntled party leaders used the accusation of non-Aryan origins against rivals. Thus, in April 1936, Wilhelm Kube, Gauleiter of the Kurmark (part of Prussia), sent an anonymous letter (signed “some Berlin Jews”) to the party chancellery stating that the wife of the head of the party tribunal, Walter Buch, and Bormann’s mother-in-law were of Jewish origin. An ancestry investigation proved that the accusations were baseless; Kube admitted having written the letter and was temporarily removed by Hitler from all his functions.36

The new marriage laws in fact followed the memorandum, drafted in September 1933 by Hans Kerrl and Roland Freisler, that marriages and extramarital sexual relations between “those of German blood” and “members of racially alien communities” be considered “punishable offenses against the honor of the race.” During the first three years of the regime, the very strong reactions of a number of Asian and South American countries (including the boycotting of German goods) led, among other reasons, to the shelving of the initiative.37 There can be no doubt, however, that the early proposals, the third Nuremberg Law, and the marriage laws that followed could be considered the expression of a general racial-biological point of view, along with the policies directed against the specific Jewish peril.

A series of exchanges in late 1934 and early 1935 among the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Party Racial Policy Office clearly displayed the intertwining and the distinctions between these issues. The Wilhelmstrasse, worried by the impact of the Aryan legislation on the Reich’s foreign relations, suggested that the new laws be clearly limited to Jews and that other non-Aryans (such as Japanese and Chinese) be excluded. For Walter Gross, any basic change in the party’s attitude to racial questions was impossible, as it lay at the core of the Nazi worldview, but Gross promised that the party would avoid burdening Germany’s foreign relations with any inappropriate internal decisions. The replacement of the concept “non-Aryan” by “Jewish” was not yet deemed timely for official use: There was no objection in principle to such a change, but it was feared that the change would be interpreted as “a retreat.” In any case exceptions could be made in instances where the Aryan legislation affected non-Aryan, non-Jewish foreigners.38 Less than two weeks before the opening of the Nuremberg party congress, on August 28, 1935, Hess had expressed the desire that, out of consideration for the Semitic nations, at the rally the term “anti-Semitic” be replaced by “anti-Jewish.”39 For him Lösener and Knost s formula seemed indeed to be of the essence: “In Germany, the Jewish question is simply the race question.”

Lösener’s report on the final stages preceding the Nuremberg Laws clearly indicates that the September 14–15 discussions centered only on anti-Jewish legislation; this had been the object of party agitation during the preceding months, as it would be that of the discussions that followed (including those involving Hitler’s hesitations on September 29 and his decision on November 14). Thus, the separateness and the compatibility of both the specific anti-Jewish and the general racial and eugenic trends were at the very center of the Nazi system. The main impetus for the Nuremberg Laws and their application was anti-Jewish; but the third law could without difficulty be extended to cover other racial exclusions, and it logically led to the additional racial legislation of the fall of 1935. The two ideological trends reinforced each other.40


For the Mischling Karl Berthold, the Chemnitz social benefits employee whose story began to be told in chapter 1, the Nuremberg legislation did not solve the problem of his racial purity.41 On April 18, 1934, the specialist for racial research in the Ministry of the Interior restated his case for Berthold’s exclusion from the civil service, arguing that, even if the details about the presumed father, Carl Blumenfeld, were uncertain, Berthold was related to the Blumenfeld family, and his mother had declared that he was the son of a Carl Blumenfeld, a “Jewish artist.” His non-Aryan origins could not be doubted.42

At this point Berthold’s aunt, his mother’s sister, briefly entered the scene and testified that his father was an Aryan who, in order to hide his identity, had taken the name Carl Blumenfeld. The main social benefits office in Dresden notified the minister of labor of this new development on June 30. At the end of July, the minister of labor was ready to allow Berthold to remain in public service and merely demanded confirmation by the minister of the interior. The specialist for “ancestry research” at the Ministry of the Interior, was not to be so easily fooled. A detailed report issued on September 14 indicated that the Jew Carl Blumenfeld, whose data had been referred to all along and whose age made it highly improbable that he was the father of Karl Berthold, was, in fact, a distant cousin of the circus artist Carl Blumenfeld, who by now was living in Amsterdam. On November 5 the main office in Dresden forwarded to the minister of labor one more request by Berthold for reexamination of the case, again including the testimony of Berthold’s aunt. A few weeks later, as no answer had been received, another petition was addressed to the minister of the interior, this time by Berthold’s wife, Frau Ada Berthold. Berthold would be dismissed from his position, she wrote, if a positive answer was not received by March 31, 1936.43 A new phase of his story was now beginning.

The new laws could in principle introduce a Nazi kind of clarity into some cases where the question of racial belonging had previously received contradictory answers. Thus, an inquiry of October 26, 1934, by the welfare department of the city of Stettin, regarding the treatment of illegitimate children of Jewish fathers and Aryan mothers, had revealed widely different attitudes on the part of welfare departments in various major German cities: In Dortmund such children were considered Aryan and given all the usual assistance, whereas in Königsberg, Breslau, and Nuremberg, the welfare departments considered them “Semitized.” The director of the Breslau department volunteered the following comment: “In my view, there is no point in incorporating children of mixed race into the German nation, since, as is well known, they themselves cannot have racially pure children and regulations for the sterilization of racially mixed people do not yet exist. Thus, one should not prevent Mischlinge from joining the foreign nation to which they already half belong. In fact, one ought to encourage them to do so, e.g., by letting them attend Jewish kindergartens.”44The reaction from Nuremberg, Streicher’s headquarters, should come as no surprise: “A mother who behaves in such a way,” wrote the local welfare director, “is so strongly influenced by Jewish ideas that presumably all attempts to enlighten her will be in vain and the attempt to educate her Jewish child ‘according to the principles of National-Socialist leadership’ must fail. For the National Socialist Weltanschauung which is determined by blood can only be taught to those who have German blood in their veins. In this case, one ought to put into practice Nietzsche’s dictum: ‘That which is on the point of collapse should be given the final push.’”45 After passage of the laws, these children must all have become Mischlinge of the first degree.

The definition of the two degrees of Mischlinge in the Nuremberg Laws, and in the First Supplementary Decree of November 14, 1935, temporarily alleviated their situation both in terms of citizenship rights and with regard to access to professions closed to “full Jews.” In principle, at least, young Michlinge were accepted in schools and universities like any other Germans. Until 1940 they were allowed to study any subject (except medicine and dentistry).46 This was merely a reprieve, and, from 1937 on, various new forms of official persecution threatened the professional and economic existence of the Mischlinge, not to mention their growing social isolation and eventually the threat to their lives. But sometimes the status of Mischlinge was itself not devoid of ambiguities.

Consider the case of Otto Citron, who in 1937 transferred from the University of Tübingen to that of Bonn. After his departure the Tübingen administration suddenly became suspicious about the student’s declaration that he had an Aryan grandmother. If the declaration was false, Citron’s status would change, and Tübingen wanted Bonn to start proceedings against the camouflaged Jew. Citrons answer to the charges was impeccable. He had declared before the proclamation of the Nuremberg Laws that his half-Jewish grandmother was Aryan, at a time when the only existent distinction was the one that separated the Aryan from the Jew. That is, half Jewishness was a category that did not legally exist before September 1935. After the passage of the Nuremberg Laws, Citron correctly indicated that he was half Jewish according to the other set of grandparents. Since the half-Jewish grandmother on the other side of the family had married an Aryan, Citron again correctly indicated that according to the Nuremberg criteria he was one-eighth Jewish on her side. Thus, he stated, if one added up the two sides of the family, he was five-eighths Jewish. But “according to the supplementary decrees of the Nuremberg Laws,” Citron stated, “which I examined with the greatest care before making any written or oral statement, the 5/8 persons are identified with the half-Aryans and the same status is valid for them. The same situation pertains to the 3/8 persons who are considered as one-quarter persons. Thus any attempt at deception or at circumventing the law was entirely foreign to me.” Tübingen University had no choice but to accept Citron’s argument and close the proceedings it had started against him.47

Citron’s case, in fact, was simple enough when compared with some of the potential (or actual) situations described in the form of questions and answers by the Information Bulletin of the Reich Association of Non-Aryan Christians (Mitteilungsblatt des Reichsverbandes der Nichtarischen Christen) of March 1936:

“Question: What can be said about the marriage of a half-Aryan with a girl who has one Aryan parent, but whose Aryan mother converted to Judaism so that the girl was raised as a Jew? What can be said, further, about the children of this marriage?

“Answer: The girl, actually half-Aryan, is not a Mischling, but is without any doubt regarded as Jewish in the sense of the law because she belonged to the Jewish religious community on the deadline date, i.e., 15th September 1935; subsequent conversion does not alter this status in any way. The husband—a first degree Mischling—is likewise regarded as a Jew since he married a statutory Jew. The children of this marriage are in any case regarded as Jews since they have three Jewish grandparents (two by race, one by religion). This would not have been different if the mother had left the Jewish community before the deadline. She herself would have been a Mischling, but the children would still have had three Jewish grandparents. In other words, it is quite possible that children who are regarded as Jews may result from a marriage in which both partners are half-Aryan.

“Question: A man has two Jewish grandparents, one Aryan grandmother and a half-Aryan grandfather; the latter was born Jewish and became Christian only later. Is this 62 percent Jewish person a Mischling or a Jew?

“Answer: The man is a Jew according to the Nuremberg Laws because of the one grandparent who was of the Jewish religion; this grandparent is assumed to have been a full Jew and this assumption cannot be contested. So this 62 percent Jew has three full Jewish grandparents. On the other hand, if the half-Aryan grandfather had been Christian by birth, he would not then have been a full Jew and would not have counted at all for this calculation; his grandson would have been a Mischling of the First Degree.”48

One of the major hurdles encountered by the legal experts in the interpretation of the Nuremberg Laws was the definition of “intercourse.” The basic forms of sexual intercourse were but a starting point, and Stuckart and Globke, for instance, sensed the manifold vistas offered by “acts similar to intercourse such as mutual masturbation.” Soon even this extended interpretation of intercourse became insufficient in the eyes of some courts. A district court in Augsburg defined the applicability of the laws in a way that practically eliminated all restrictions on the definition: “Since the law aims at protecting the purity of German blood,” the court stated, “the will of the lawmakers must be seen as also making illegal all perverse forms of sexual intercourse between Jews and citizens of German or related kinds of blood. It is furthermore the intention of the relevant law to protect German Honor, in particular the sexual honor of the citizens of German blood.”49

Litigation on this point reached the Supreme Court, which pronounced its decision on December 9, 1935: “The term ‘sexual intercourse’ as meant by the Law for the Protection of German Blood does not include every obscene act, but it is also not limited to coition. It includes all forms of natural and unnatural sexual intercourse—that is, coition as well as those sexual activities with the person of the opposite sex which are designed, in the manner in which they are performed, to serve in place of coition to satisfy the sex drive of at least one of the partners.”50

The Supreme Court encouraged the local courts to understand the intention of the lawmaker beyond the mere letter of the law, thereby opening the floodgate. Couples were found guilty even if no mutual sexual activity had been performed. Masturbation in the presence of the partner, for instance, became punishable 'font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman",serif;color:black'>51

The search for ever more precise details about all possible aspects of racial defilement (Rassenschande) can be seen not only as one more illustration of Nazi bureaucratic and police thinking, but also as a huge screen for the projection of various “male fantasies.”52 In the Nazi imagination, moreover, Jews were perceived as embodiments of sexual potency and lust, somewhat like blacks for white racists, or witches (and women more generally) in the eyes of the Inquisition or some Puritan elders. Details of the offenses thus became a source of (dangerous) knowledge and of hidden tit-illation. And, more often than not, the details were graphic indeed. Thus, on January 28, 1937, the district court in Frankfurt sentenced Alfred Rapp, a thirty-four-year-old “full Jew,” to two years in prison and the “full-blooded German” Margarete Lehmann to nine months, on the following grounds:

Rapp was an employee in a men’s clothing store, and Lehmann was a seamstress there. They were known to be friends and visited each other frequently. According to their testimony, they had had no prior sexual relations. At about 8:30 P.M. on November 1, 1936, Rapp came to Lehmann’s apartment, where he also found a Jewish woman named Rosenstock. The three went out for drinks and then went to Rosenstock’s apartment. Rosenstock was sent out to buy wine. According to the accused, they then engaged in oral sex. The court report gave some graphic details and added: “This presentation of the facts does not, on its face, appear credible; at least it is incomplete, since common life experience rules out the possibility of a girl having gotten as sexually close to a man without there having been some intimate acts in between, even if—as Lehmann admits—she had two glasses of wine during the preceding two hours. One must add to this that the two accused were also observed in Rosenstock’s room by the two witnesses W. and U.” The scene as observed by the witnesses follows in the report, again in the greatest detail, as successively confirmed by each of them: “The same observation was made by witness U., whom witness W…. then let look through the keyhole. [Then] W. opened the unlocked door and entered the room. Both accused quickly tried to straighten their clothes and hair.”53

For a Hamburg court the kisses of an impotent man “took the place of normal sexual intercourse” and led to a two-year sentence. Therapeutic massage, needless to say, soon came under suspicion, as in the notorious case of the Jewish merchant Leon Abel. Although the “German-blooded” woman therapist steadfastly denied that Abel had shown any sign of sexual excitation during the one and only massage session, and although, during his trial, Abel himself retracted the confession he had made to the Gestapo, the court sentenced him to two years for “having attained sexual gratification with Miss. M. and thereby ‘effecting’ the crime of dishonor of the race, whether or not the witness had knowledge of it.”54

The law regarding female household employees in Jewish families shows that potential situations of race defilement had been taken into consideration. But how could all such potential situations be foreseen? Constant watchfulness was the only possible answer. In November 1937, after asking the minister of the interior to pay attention to the possibilities still existing in the law for the adoption of “full-blooded” German Volksgenossen by Jews, Hess brought up a more immediately threatening problem. In those cases in which a German girl grows up in a Jewish family, “some measure should be taken to protect the German side. Away must be found to afford them the same protection…as that granted to German female house employees.”55

In fact, all aspects of everyday life and all professional activities in which the contact between Aryans and Jews could be construed as having some sexual connotation were systematically identified and forbidden. The exclusion of Jews from swimming facilities has already been discussed. In the spring of 1936, most medical faculties prohibited their Jewish students from performing genital examinations of Aryan women (the decision regarding the application of these restrictions was left to the hospital directors responsible for the Jewish gynecology interns).56

How far these increasing taboos were welcomed or merely passively accepted by the wider population is hard to surmise. Sometimes, no doubt for economic reasons but also possibly with the intention of expressing a symbolic protest, German women beyond the fertility age were ready to face the corrupting atmosphere of a Jewish family. For instance, on November 14, 1935, the Frankfurter Zeitung published the following advertisement: “Cultivated Catholic woman over 45, perfect housekeeper and cook, seeks position in a good Jewish household, also for half-days.”57

In a study of the almost complete Gestapo files of Würzburg, Robert Gellately has shown that the most important source of information for Gestapo arrests was an influx of informers; the attitude or activity most frequently reported to the Secret Police was “race defilement” or “friendliness to Jews.”58 The Nuremberg Laws offered a kind of vague legal basis informers could use in all possible ways, and during the years following the number of denunciations grew sharply. According to Gellately’s analysis of the Wikzburg Gestapo files (which deal with a small city, so the numbers should be projected onto the national scale), there were two race defilement denunciations and one denunciation of friendliness to Jews in 1933; one and two respectively in 1934; five and two in 1935; nineteen and twelve in 1936; fourteen and seven in 1937; fourteen and fourteen in 1938; and eight and seventeen in 1939. After the beginning of the war, in September 1939, denunciations decreased, falling to one and one in 1943, and then vanished entirely.59 By that time, of course, there were no Jews left in Würzburg—nor in Germany.

In the same source, approximately 57 percent of the denunciations came from people who were not party members, and between 30 and 40 percent of the charges were false.60 Sometimes hotel employees would denounce a couple, neither of whom was Jewish; others were arrested because of information about ties that had ended long before 1933. There were instances of couples whose intimate relations extended back many years now avoiding sexual intercourse, and many cases of women proclaiming readiness to undergo medical examinations to demonstrate that they were virgins.61

Goebbels was unhappy with the press reports of race defilement. In March 1936 he asked the press department of the Ministry of Justice to avoid giving undue publicity to Rassenschande verdicts against Jews as, in his view, it offered material to anti-German foreign newspapers. Moreover, the releases “were often written so clumsily that the reader did not understand the verdict and rather felt compassion for the accused.”62


Did public opinion fall further into step with the anti-Jewish policies of the regime after the passage of the Nuremberg Laws? According to Israeli historian David Bankier, a majority of Germans acquiesced in the laws because they accepted the idea of segregating the Jews: “The Potsdam Gestapo fully captured these feelings. The general belief was, it stated, that with the stabilization of the regime the time was ripe to realize this item on the Party’s agenda. At the same time, the Gestapo official added, the public hoped that other points of the Nazi program would be acted upon, especially those related to social issues. In Kiel, too, there was approval of the anti-Semitic laws, and people expected the status of the churches to be resolved in an equally satisfactory way.”63

According to the same analysis, people in various cities and areas of the Reich seemed to have been particularly satisfied with the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor, on the assumption that enforcement of the law would put an end to the anti-Jewish terror of the previous months. Tranquility would return, and with it the good name of Germany in the eyes of the world. People believed that under the new laws, the relation to Jewry in Germany was now clearly defined: “Jewry is converted into a national minority and gets through state protection the possibility to develop its own cultural and national life”;64 such was the common opinion reported from Berlin.

For the party radicals, the laws were a clear victory of the party over the state bureaucracy, but many considered the new decrees to be “too mild.” The Dortmund Nazis, for instance, regarded the fact that the Jews could still use their own symbols as too much of a concession. Some activists hoped that the Jews would offer new pretexts for action, others simply demanded that the scope of some of the measures be extended: that for example, no German female of any age should be allowed to work in a Jewish (or mixed-marriage) family—or even in the household of a single Jewish woman.65

The laws were sharply criticized in opposition circles, mainly among the (now underground) Communists. Some Communist leaflets denounced the Nazis’ demagogic use of anti-Semitism and demanded a united opposition front; others demanded the freeing of political prisoners and the cessation of anti-Jewish measures. According to Bankier, however, Communist material at the time, despite its protests against the Nuremberg Laws, continued to reiterate such longtime standard assertions as: “Only poor workers were arrested for race defilement, while rich Jews were not touched by the Nazis,” and, “There were no racial principles behind the ban on keeping maids under forty-five years of age; rather, the clause was simply an excuse for firing thousands of women from their jobs.”66

The churches kept their distance, except for the strongly Catholic district of Aachen and some protests by Evangelical pastors, for instance in Speyer. The Evangelical Church was put to the test when the Prussian Confessing Synod met in Berlin at the end of September 1935: A declaration expressing concern for both baptized and unbaptized Jews was discussed and rejected, but so was too explicit an expression of support for the state. The declaration that was finally agreed on merely reaffirmed the sanctity of baptism, which led Niemöller to express his misgivings about its failure to take any account of the postbaptismal fate of baptized Jews.67

To return to the attitudes of the general population, Nazi reports pointed to expressions of anxiety and even protests from Germans employed by Jews—be they German clerks working in Jewish firms or maids employed by Jewish families. But all in all, Bankier leaves little leeway for equivocation and doubts: “To sum up, the vast majority of the population approved of the Nuremberg Laws because they identified with the racialist policy and because a permanent framework of discrimination had been created that would end the reign of terror and set precise limits to anti-Semitic activities.”68

Although his cases are roughly the same as those later treated by Bankier, the study by another Israeli historian, Otto Dov Kulka, leaves the impression of a more diversified set of reactions. He too mentions Communist opposition as well as Catholic disapproval in some cities such as Aachen and Allenstein, and notes the criticism of some Protestant pastors, particularly in Speyer. He too refers to party activists who find the measures insufficient. In addition he comments on the disapproval that manifested itself among an upper bourgeoisie worried, among other things, about the possibility of economic reprisals in foreign countries. Nevertheless, the overall impression this study gives is that the majority of the population was satisfied with the laws because they clarified the status of Jews in Germany and, it was hoped, would put an end to indiscriminate disorder and violence. A contemporary report from Koblenz seems to reflect the most widespread reactions:

“The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor was mainly received with satisfaction, not least because not only will it psychologically hinder unpleasant individual actions [against the Jews] but even more, it will lead to the desired isolation of Jewry…. The question as to how far Jewish blood should be excluded from the German national body is still the object of animated discussions.”69

The reference to Mischlinge is unmistakable. Thus, both studies agree that a majority of Germans were more or less passively satisfied with the laws. In other words, the bulk of the population disliked acts of violence but did not object to the disenfranchisement and segregation of the Jews. It meant, further, that as segregation was now legally established, for a majority of the population the new situation allowed the individual to divest him- or herself of any responsibility for the measures regarding the Jews. The accountability for their fate had been taken over by the state.70

There were exceptions, and relations with Jews were maintained, as has already been noted with regard to the period preceding the Nuremberg Laws. On December 3, 1935, the Gestapo sent a general instruction (to all Gestapo stations) indicating that “recently announcements by Jewish organizers and former bandleaders of forthcoming dance events have increased to such a point that it is not always possible for Gestapo stations to control them in an orderly way.” And then comes the more interesting piece of news: “It has been repeatedly noticed that Aryans are also allowed to participate in such events.”71

It seems, incidentally, that the Gestapo was encountering ever greater technical difficulties in controlling Jewish events. The explanation may be simple: The Jews reacted to growing persecution and segregation by intensifying all possible aspects of internal Jewish life, which explains both the number and the diversity of meetings, lectures, dances, and so on; these offered some measure of sanity and dignity, but meant more trouble for the Gestapo. As early as 1934, the State Police complained that many Jewish meetings, particularly those of the Central Association of German Jews, took place in private homes, which made control almost impossible;72 then, at the end of 1935, Jewish events were allegedly often moved from Saturdays to Sundays and to the Christian holidays, “obviously,” according to the Gestapo, “on the assumption that on those days the events would not be controlled. It was difficult to forbid meetings in private homes, but events taking place on Sundays or Christian holidays were, from then on, to be authorized in exceptional cases only.”73 The last straw came in April 1936: the Gestapo stations reported an increasing use of the Hebrew language in public Jewish political meetings. “Orderly control of these meetings,” wrote Heydrich, “and the prevention of hostile propaganda have thereby become impossible.” The use of Hebrew in public Jewish meetings was therewith forbidden, but the language could continue to be used in closed events, for study purposes, and to prepare for emigration to Palestine.74Incidentally, the reports on the use of Hebrew remain somewhat mysterious unless (and this is very unlikely) only meetings of the small minority of East European, Orthodox (though not ultra-Orthodox), and ardent Zionist Jews are being referred to. Any sort of fluency in Hebrew among the immense majority of German Jews was nil.

Among those who may have considered the laws as not being extreme enough there was a hard core of Jew haters who did not belong to the party and were even enemies of National Socialism: Their hatred was such that, in their eyes, even the Nazis were instruments of the Jews. They were not necessarily marginal types. Adolf Schlatter, for example, was a distinguished professor of theology at Tübingen. On November 18, 1935, he published a pamphlet entitled “Will the Jew Be Victorious Over Us?: A Word for Christmas” (Wird der Jude über uns siegen? Ein Wort für die Weihnacht). Within a few weeks, some fifty thousand copies had been distributed. “Today,” wrote Schlatter, “a rabbi can say with pride: ‘Look how the situation in Germany has changed; indeed we are despised, but only because of our race. But until now we were alone in trying to erase from public consciousness the mad message preached at Christmas that Christ has come. Now, however, we have as allies in our fight those who carry the responsibility for the education of the German people, in other words, those to whom the German owes obedience….’ One cannot deny to the Jew that in the German sphere the situation has never been as favourable for his world view as it is now.”

But there was hope in the closing lines of Schlatter’s pamphlet: “It is indeed possible that in the immediate future the Jew will win a powerful victory over us; but his victory will not be final. The Jew did not bring belief in God into the world, and this belief the Jews and the Jew-companions cannot destroy. They cannot destroy it because they cannot cancel the fact that the Christ has come into the world.”75

Schlatter’s antiregime hatred of Jews had its built-in limits in Nazi Germany. On the face of it, the possibilities should have been greater for a member of the SS. Riding as a third-class passenger on the express train from Halle to Karlsruhe on October 22, 1935, SS officer Hermann Florstedt, according to his later testimony, badly needed sleep. As his ticket did not allow him access to a sleeping car, he moved through second class in search of a vacant seat. All the compartments were fully occupied, except for two that, according to Florstedt, were each occupied by a Jew. “I was in uniform,” wrote Florstedt in his letter of complaint to the Railways Directorate in Berlin, “and had no desire to spend this long journey in the company of a Jew.” Florstedt found the conductor and demanded a place in second class. The conductor led him to the compartments occupied by the Jews; Florstedt protested. “The conductor,” wrote Florstedt, “behaved more than strangely. He told me among other things that I had not seen these gentlemen’s certificates of baptism and that, moreover, for him, Jews were also passengers.”76

It seems that in October 1935 an SS uniform did not yet inspire terror. Besides, the conductor’s awareness that he was obeying existing administrative rules (an August 1935 decree specifically allowed Jews to use public transportation)77 must have given him enough self-confidence to answer as he did. The retort that Jews were passengers too can also be associated with the current of opinion (the Jew is human too) Goebbels had attacked in his June 1935 speech.

In Florstedt’s complaint to the Railways Directorate, he demanded the name of the conductor, with whom he wanted “to discuss the matter in the Stürmer.” The letter landed on the desk of Gruppenführer Heissmeyer, head of the SS Main Office, who vindicated the behavior of the railway official and did not take kindly to Florstedt’s threat to go public in the Stürmer.

Florstedt was soon transferred to the concentration camp administration. Early in the war he was deputy commander of Buchenwald, and in March 1943 he became commandant of the Lublin extermination camp.78


“Not only are we taking leave of the [Jewish] year, which has come to an end,” the CV Zeitung announced some two weeks after the proclamation of the Nuremberg Laws, “but also of an epoch in history, which is now drawing to its close.”79 But this apparent understanding that the situation was changing drastically did not lead to any forceful recommendations. Many German Jews still hoped that the crisis could be weathered in Germany and that the new laws would create a recognized framework for a segregated but nonetheless manageable Jewish life. The official reaction of the Reichsvertretung (which was now obliged to change its name from National Representation of German Jews to Representation of Jews in Germany) took at face value Hitler’s declaration of the new basis created by the laws for relations between the German people and the Jews living in Germany, and thus demanded the right to free exercise of its activities in the educational and cultural domains. Even at the individual level, many Jews believed that the new situation offered an acceptable basis for the future. According to a study of Gestapo and SD reports on Jewish reactions to the laws, in a significant number of communities “the Jews were relieved precisely because the laws, even if they established a permanent framework of discrimination, ended the reign of arbitrary terror. There was a measure of similarity in the way average Germans and average Jews reacted. The Germans expressed satisfaction while the Jews saw ground for hope. As the author of the report put it: the laws finally defined the relation between Jews and Germans. Jewry becomes a de facto national minority, enjoying the possibility of ensuring its own cultural and national life under state protection.”80

The ultrareligious part of the community even greeted the new situation. On September 19, 1935, Der Israelit, the organ of Orthodox German Jewry, after expressing its support for the idea of cultural autonomy and separate education, explicitly welcomed the interdiction of mixed marriages.81 As for the German Zionists, although they stepped up their activeities, they seemed in no particular hurry, the mainstream group Hechalutz wishing to negotiate with the German government about the ways and means of a gradual emigration of the German Jews to Palestine over a period of fifteen to twenty years. Like other sectors of German Jewry, it expressed the hope that, in the meantime, an autonomous Jewish life in Germany would be possible.82

The Jews of Germany were, in fact, still confronted with what appeared to be an ambiguous situation. They were well aware of their increasing segregation within German society and of the constant stream of new government decisions designed to make their life in Germany more painful. Some aspects of their daily existence, however, bolstered the illusion that segregation was the Nazis’ ultimate aim and that the basic means of economic existence would remain available. For instance, despite the 1933 law on “the overcrowding of German schools” and the constant slurs and attacks against Jewish children, in early 1937, although the majority of Jewish children attended Jewish schools, almost 39 percent of Jewish pupils were still in German schools. In the spring of the following year, the percentage had decreased to 25 percent.83 As will be seen, many Jewish professionals, benefiting from various exemptions, were still active outside the Jewish community. But it remains difficult to assess accurately the economic situation of the average Jewish family with a retail business or making its living from any of the the various trades.

In 1935 the Jüdische Rundschau, which, one would have thought, should have aimed at showing how bad the situation was, quoted statistics published by the Frankfurter Zeitung indicating that half the ladies’ garment industry was still owned by Jews, the figure rising to 80 percent in Berlin.84 Whether or not these numbers are exact, the Jews of the Reich still thought they would be able to continue to make a living; they did not, for the most part, foresee any impending material catastrophe.

Yet, even though emigration was slow, as already mentioned, and even though most German Jews still hoped to survive this dire period in Germany, the very idea of leaving the country, previously unthinkable for many, was now accepted by all German-Jewish organizations. Not an immediate emergency flight, but an orderly exodus was contemplated. Overseas (the American continent or Australia, for instance) was higher on the list of concrete possibilities than Palestine, but all German Jewish papers could wholeheartedly have adopted the headline of a Jüdische Rundschau lead article addressed to the League of Nations: “Open the Gates!”85

For the many Jews who were considering the possibility of emigration but still hoped to stay in Germany, the gap between public and private behavior was widening: “We must avoid doing anything that will attract attention to us and possibly arouse hostility.” Jewish women’s organizations warned, “Adhere to the highest standards of taste and decorum in speaking manner and tone, dress and appearance.”86 Jewish pride was to be maintained, but without any public display. Within the enclosed space of the synagogue or the secular Jewish assemblies, this pride and of the pent-up anger against the regime and the surrounding society found occasional expression. Religious texts were chosen for symbolic meaning and obvious allusion. A selection of psalms entitled “Out of the Depths Have I Called Thee,” published by Martin Buber in 1936, included verses that could not be misunderstood:

Be Thou my judge, O God, and plead my cause

against an ungodly nation;

O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.

A new type of religious commentary, conveyed mainly in sermons—the “New Midrash,” as Ernst Simon called it—interwove religious themes with expressions of practical wisdom that were meant to have a soothing, therapeutic effect on the audience.87

It seems that occasionally some Jews showed less public humility. William L. Shirer, the American journalist then based in Berlin and soon to become the CBS correspondent there, wrote in his diary on April 21, 1935, while staying at Bad Saarow, the well-known German spa: “Taking the Easter week-end off. The hotel mainly filled with Jews and we are a little surprised to see so many of them still prospering and apparently unafraid. I think they are unduly optimistic.”88

Self-assertion remained sometimes astonishingly strong among Jews living in even the smallest communities. Thus, in 1936, in Weissenburg, the Jewish cattle dealer Guttmann was accused by the local Nazi peasant leader of stating that he had received official authorization to continue his trade. Although the Jew was arrested, he persisted in asserting his right to do business. The report on the incident concludes with the following words: “Guttmann requests permission to sign the document after the Sabbath is over.”89

After the proclamation of the Nuremberg Laws, the Zionist leadership in Palestine showed no greater sense of urgency regarding emigration than did the German Jewish community itself. Indeed, the Palestine leadership refused to extend any help to emigrants whose goal was not Eretz Israel. Its list of priorities was increasingly shifting: The economic situation of the Yishuv worsened from 1936 on, while the Arab Revolt of that year increased Britain’s resistance to any growth in Jewish immigration to Palestine. Some local Zionist leaders even considered the easier-to-integrare immigrants from Poland by and large preferable to those from Germany, with an exception for German Jews who could transfer substantial amounts of money or property within the framework of the 1933 Haavarah Agreement. Thus, after 1935, the number of immigration certificates demanded for German Jews out of the total number of certificates allocated by the British remained the same as before. This lack of major commitment on the part of the Zionist leadership to encourage Jewish emigration from Germany created a growing tension with some Jewish leaders in the Diaspora.90

When a group of Jewish bankers met in London in November 1935 to discuss the financing of emigration from Germany, an open split occurred between Zionists and non-Zionists. The president of the World Zionist Organization, Chaim Weizmann, was particularly bitter about Max Warburg’s scheme to negotiate a Haavarah-like agreement with the Nazis to pay for German Jewish emigration to countries other than Palestine.”91 Warburg nonetheless discussed his scheme with representatives of the Ministry of the Economy. The party archives indicate that the Germans made further discussions conditional upon the presentation of a detailed proposal.92 Nothing came of the project because of the publicity surrounding it and, ultimately, a lack of adequate funding.93


“In Bad Gastein. Hitler leads me in animated conversation down an open stairway. We are visible from afar and at the bottom of the stairs a concert is taking place and there is a large crowd of people. I think proudly and happily: now everyone can see that our Führer does not mind being seen with me in public, despite my grandmother Recha.”94 Such was a dream reported by a young girl whom the Nuremberg Laws had just turned into a Mischling of the second degree.

Here is a dream of a woman, who had become a Mischling of the first degree: “I am on a boat with Hitler. The first thing I tell him is: ‘In fact, I am not allowed to be here. I have some Jewish blood.’ He looks very nice, not at all as usual: a round pleasant kindly face. I whisper into his ear: ‘You [the familiar Du] could have become very great if you had acted like Mussolini, without this stupid Jewish business. It is true that among the Jews there are some really bad ones, but not all of them are criminals, that can’t honestly be said.’ Hitler listens to me quietly, listens to it all in a very friendly way. Then suddenly I am in another room of the ship, where there are a lot of black-clad SS men. They nudge each other, point at me and say to each other with the greatest respect: ‘Look there, it’s the lady who gave the chief a piece of her mind.’”95

The dream world of full Jews was often quite different from that of the Mischlinge. A Berlin Jewish lawyer of about sixty dreamed that he was in the Tiergarten: “There are two benches, one painted green, the other yellow, and between the two there is a wastepaper basket. I sit on the wastepaper basket and around my neck fasten a sign like the ones blind beggars wear and also like the ones the authorities hang from the necks of race defilers. It reads: WHEN NECESSARY, I WILL MAKE ROOM FOR THE WASTEPAPER.”96

Some of the daydreams of well-known Jewish intellectuals living beyond the borders of the Reich were at times no less fantastic than the nighttime fantasies of the trapped victims. “I don’t like to make political prophecies,” Lion Feuchtwanger wrote to Arnold Zweig on September 20, 1935, “but through the intensive study of history I have reached the, if I may say so, scientific conviction that, in the end, reason must triumph over madness and that we cannot consider an eruption of madness such as the one in Germany as something that can last more than a generation. Superstitious as I am, I hope in silence that this time too the German madness won’t last longer than the [1914–1918] war madness did. And we are already at the end of the third year.”97

Other voices had a very different sound. Carl Gustav Jung tried to delve “deeper” in his search for the characteristics of the Germanic psyche—and for those of the Jewish one as well. Writing in 1934, his evaluation was different: “The Jew, who is something of a nomad, has never yet created a cultural form of his own and as far as we can see never will, since all his instincts and talents require a more or less civilized nation to act as host for their development…. The ‘Aryan’ consciousness has a higher potential than the Jewish; that is both the advantage and the disadvantage of a youthfulness not yet fully weaned from barbarism. In my opinion it has been a grave error in medical psychology up to now to apply Jewish categories—which are not even binding to all Jews—indiscriminately to German and Slavic Christendom. Because of this the most precious secret of the Germanic peoples—their creative and intuitive depth of soul—has been explained as a morass of banal infantilism, while my own warning voice has for decades been suspected of anti-Semitism. This suspicion emanated from Freud. He did not understand the Germanic psyche any more than did his Germanic followers. Has the formidable phenomenon of National Socialism, on which the whole world gazes with astonished eyes, taught them better?”98

The “formidable phenomenon of National Socialism” did not, apparently impress Sigmund Freud. On September 29, 1935, he wrote to Arnold Zweig: “We all thought it was the war and not the people, but other nations went through the war as well and nevertheless behaved differently. We did not want to believe it at the time, but it was true what the others said about the Boches.”99

As for Kurt Tucholsky, possibly the most brilliant anti-nationalist satirist of the Weimar period, now trapped in his Swedish exile, his anger was different from that of Freud, and his despair was total: “I left Judaism in 1911,” he wrote to Arnold Zweig on December 15, 1935, but he immediately added: “I know that this is in fact impossible.” In many ways Tucholsky’s helplessness and rage are turned against the Jews. The unavoidable fate could be faced with courage or with cowardice. For Tucholsky the Jews had always behaved like cowards, now more than ever before. Even the Jews in the medieval ghettos could have behaved differently: “But let us leave the medieval Jews—and let us turn to those of today, those of Germany. There you see that the same people who in many domains played first violin accept the ghetto—the idea of the ghetto and its realization…. They are being locked up; they are crammed into a theater for Jews [ein Judentheater—a reference to the activities of the Kulturbund] with four yellow badges on their front and back and they have…only one ambition: ‘Now for once we will show them that we have a better theater.’ For every ten German Jews, one has left, nine are staying; but after March 1933, one should have stayed and nine should have gone, ought to, should have…. The political emigration has changed nothing; it is business as usual: everything goes on as if nothing had happened. Forever on and on and on—they write the same books, hold the same speeches, make the same gestures….” Tucholsky knew that he and his generation would not see the new freedom: “What is needed…is a youthful strength that most emigrants do not have. New men will come, after us. As they are now, things cannot work anymore. The game is up.”100

Six days later Tucholsky committed suicide.

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