New York City, New York July 26, 1935

On this date in 1935 in New York Harbor, a group of anti-Nazi acti­vists boarded the German pas­senger liner Bremen, tore from the ship’s jack­stay the red, white, and black Nazi Party flag, its swas­tika embla­zoned in the center, and pitched it into the Hudson River. When the German consul in New York City vigor­ously pro­tested the flag’s dese­cra­tion, U.S. offi­cials responded that the German black, red, and gold national flag—the colors of the old Weimar Republic—had not been harmed, but only a poli­ti­cal party sym­bol. On Septem­ber 15, 1935, during a ses­sion of the Reichs­tag held in the walled, centuries-old German city of Nurem­berg, where Nazi big-wigs and party mem­bers had opened their annual Party rally three days before, law­makers remem­bered the New York out­rage and declared the Nazi Party flag to be the national flag of Germany.

Of more significance was the Reichstag’s restric­tive legal meas­ures, known as the Nurem­berg Laws, intro­duced at the 1935 Nurem­berg party rally, a spectacle that mainly took place on a newly build reviewing stand and open-air stage at Zeppelin Field and which was chore­o­graphed and filmed by the talented movie actress, Leni Riefen­stahl. (The film was the propa­ganda docu­mentary Triumph des Willens, in English Triumph of the Will). One Nurem­berg law, “The Law for the Pro­tection of German Blood and Honor,” barred marri­ages and extra­marital sex between “Germans” and “Jews” (Juden), the latter name now offi­cially used in place of “non-Aryans,” and out­lawed the em­ploy­ment of “German” females under the age of forty-five in Jewish house­holds. Persons con­victed of violating the law protecting German blood and honor faced hard labor, impri­son­ment with hard labor, and/or fines. (A secret decree in June 1937 stip­u­lated that those guilty of “mis­ce­ge­na­tion” were to be sent to con­cen­tra­tion camps following the completion of their sentence.) Another Nurem­berg law, “The Reich Citizen­ship Law,” classi­fied “Aryans” as Reichs­buerger (“Reich citizens”) and those not of “German or related blood” as “state subjects” (Staatsangehoerige) who henceforth lacked German citizenship rights.

The race laws were a legal embodi­ment of an already existing (since 1933) nation­wide boy­cott of Jewish busi­nesses and were tweaked numer­ous times from 1935 onward. For instance, in July 1935 Jews were “released” from the armed ser­vices and Jewish civil ser­vants who had been pro­tected by their status as World War I vet­er­ans were dis­missed from pub­lic ser­vice. In 1938 a total Berufs­verbot (“profes­sional disquali­fi­cation”) was extended to all aca­demi­cally trained Jewish pro­fes­sionals, and Jews had their state pen­sions reduced. The race laws pro­gres­sively lessened the status and human dig­nity of mem­bers of the Jewish com­munity in Germany and, after the 1938 Anschluss, in Austria as well.

Milestones on the Road to the Holocaust Began with Legally Margin­alizing German Jews

Anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws: 1935 chart explaining Nuremberg race categories

Above: The anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws estab­lished a pseudo­scien­tific basis for racial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and with it state-sanctioned or state-sponsored social, poli­tical, and profes­sional ostra­cism, harass­ment, and oppres­sion. In its most warped and destruc­tive form, it even­tually made it think­able to murder Jews on an indus­trial scale, quite apart from murdering millions of non-Germans. As shown in this chart from 1935, only people with four German grand­parents (four white circles in top row left) were of “Ger­man blood” (Deutsch­bluetiger). A Jew (Jude) was some­one who descended from three or four Jewish grand­parents (black circles in top row right). In the middle stood people of “mixed blood” (Misch­linge) of the “first or second degree.” A Jewish grand­parent was defined as a per­son who is or was a mem­ber of a Jewish relig­ious com­munity. The chart went on to list allowed mar­riages (“Ehe gestattet”) and forbidden marriages (“Ehe verboten”).

Anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws: Ancestor passport

Above: The pages in the Ahnenpass (Proof of Aryan Ancestry) docu­mented the non-Jewish line­age of citi­zens of Nazi Germany and Aus­tria. A proven Aryan lin­e­age was required for working in the pro­fes­sions, attending high school or the uni­ver­sity, owning real estate, and even getting married.

Nazi boycott of Jewish-owned businesses, April 1933 Anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws: Jewish passport

Left: In a state-managed campaign, Nazi Storm­troopers (SA “brown­shirt” thugs who num­bered three mil­lion in 1934) affix a poster to the win­dow of a Berlin store with the words “Ger­mans! Defend your­selves! Do not buy from Jews!” (“Deutsche! Wehrt Euch! Kauft nicht bei Juden!”), April 1, 1933. Other signs in­cluded “Who­ever Buys from Jews Is Stealing the Nation’s Assets” (“Wer beim Juden kauft stiehlt Volks­ver­moegen”), “The Jews Are Our Mis­for­tune!” (“Die Juden sind unser Un­glueck!”), and “Go to Pales­tine!” (“Geh nach Palaes­tina!”). German shop­keepers some­times placed signs on their front doors, “Jews Not Wel­come” (“Juden nicht er­wuenscht”). Park benches bore labels “For Aryans Only” (“Nur fuer Arier”) and bathing beaches were touted as Judenfrei.

Right: In 1938 a Jew whose first name was not obvi­ously “German” was required to change his or her middle name to “Israel” (male) or “Sara” (female) for use in all offi­cial com­muni­ca­tion and in legal and busi­ness docu­ments. German pass­port holder Betty “Sara” Loewen­stein, whose pass­port sprouted a large red “J,” was allowed to leave Germany but not return.

Photomontage of 1935 Nuremberg Nazi Party Rally and Its Outcome: The Nuremberg Race Laws (May want to mute the music)