Berlin, Germany April 7, 1933

Following his swearing in as chancellor on Janu­ary 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party began a policy of Gleich­schal­tung (synchro­ni­zation), where­by Ger­many would be thoroughly re­ordered along Nazi lines. With the Reichs­tag’s pas­sage of the En­abling Act on March 23, 1933, signed into law by German presi­dent Paul von Hinden­burg the same day, Hitler ruled by decree and the Nazi synchronization engine sprang to life.

On this date, April 7, 1933, compliant Reichs­tag members passed the Civil Service Restora­tion Act (Berufs­beamten­gesetz), also known as the Aryan Act. This law reestab­lished a “national” and “pro­fes­sional” civil service and allowed tenured civil ser­vants, with few excep­tions, to be dis­missed at all three levels of gover­nment—national (Reich), state (Laender), and munic­ipal. Civil ser­vants who had opposed the Nazi Party and its anti­demo­cratic tactics and ideo­logies or who were not of pure Ger­manic descent (not “Aryans”; the term was defined the following week) were forced to retire. This meant that any­one who was suspected of being a politi­cal oppo­nent of the Nazis and any­one who was even a quarter Jewish (attested by the Arier­nach­weis (see below), the required gene­al­ogical proof of Aryan ances­try that intruded into all areas of life) could not serve as teachers, profes­sors, judges, or hold other govern­ment posts. Over a thou­sand Jews on the teaching staffs of German uni­ver­si­ties were abruptly cut off from their live­li­hoods. Shortly after­wards a similar law was passed covering lawyers, doctors, tax consult­ants, and public notaries. The Law Against the Over­crowding of German Schools and Uni­ver­si­ties placed limits on the number of Jews who could enroll or stay in state-supported schools.

In September and October Jews were further excluded from working in cultural and enter­tain­ment occupa­tions, as well as in the field of jour­nalism. The vicious raft of discrim­i­na­tory legis­la­tion directed against Jews culmi­nated in the 1935 Nurem­berg Laws (Nuern­berger Gesetze) “for the final sepa­ration of Jewry from the German Volk” (racial com­mu­nity). The areas of legiti­mate employ­ment open to Jews (Voll-Juden) and “Jewish mixed-breeds” (Misch­linge) dwindled to next to nothing. Anyone with a trace of Jewish blood in his or her veins now found life and work in Germany next to impos­sible—which was the whole point. For their part ordi­nary Germans mostly accepted anti-Semitic legis­la­tion with­out protest owing to their deep respect for the law and their acceptance of Nazi racist ideology, us versus them.

The visible ostracism and perse­cu­tion of Jews was ratcheted up with new legis­la­tion two years after Hitler had un­leashed his gen­o­ci­dal war in Europe. From Septem­ber 1941 the law obli­gated all Jews over the age of six, when out in public, to wear the Juden­stern, or “Jewish star.” Fines or impri­son­ment were im­posed on vic­tims who broke the law or hid the star in any way. The next month rail cars left the Nazi capi­tal for the East, the first in a series that carried thou­sands of Ber­liners to Jewish ghettos and labor and death camps in occu­pied terri­tories. Between five and seven thou­sand Jewish Berliners avoided deportation by “diving” (tauchen) underground.

Two Documents that Attested to Non-Jewish Ancestry in Nazi Germany and Austria

German Anti-Semitic Laws: Aryan certificate

Above: An example of a Ariernachweis (Aryan Certif­i­cate), in this instance issued by the Stadt­pfarr­amt Boennig­heim (Catholic Parish Office of Boennig­heim) in the state of Baden-Wuerttem­berg. It certi­fied that the person had no Jewish parents or grand­parents. Beginning in April 1933 the Aryan Certi­fi­cate was required of all em­ployees and offi­cials in the public sec­tor, including edu­ca­tion, under the Civil Service Act. In an ironic example of the Act’s chilling and dele­te­rious effects on German aca­demics (to say nothing about the out­come of World War II), Albert Einstein, being Jewish, did not return to his post as profes­sor at the Berlin Academy of Sciences but extended his stay in the United States, becoming an Amer­i­can citizen in 1940. Out­side the German civil ser­vice, the Act’s Aryan para­graph was inserted into the statutes of many feder­a­tions, organi­za­tions, corpo­ra­tions, and real estate deeds, ultimately excluding Jews from all public life.

German Anti-Semitic 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. It was one of the forms of the Aryan Certi­fi­cate. A proven Aryan line­age going back to all four grand­parents was required for working in the pro­fes­sions, attending high school or the uni­ver­sity, owning real estate, and even getting married. Nationals of other countries could acquire an Ahnenpass as long as they could prove to be of “German or racially equivalent blood.”

1933 Anti-Semitic Laws Enshrined in 1935 Nuremberg Race Laws