Why Did the Nazis Discriminate Against the Jews?

Luke Slater

4 mins

30 Nov 2018

On 24 February 1920 Adolf Hitler outlined the ’25 Point Programme’ of the German Workers’ Party, in which Jews were outlined as the racial enemies of the German people.

On 14 July 1933 Hitler passes the Law to Prevent Hereditarily Diseased Offspring; the measure prohibited ‘undesirables’ from having children and mandates forced sterilization of certain physically or mentally impaired individuals. Approximately 2,000 anti-Jewish decrees (including the infamous Nuremberg Laws) would follow.

On 20 January 1942 Hitler and his administrative heads came together at the Wannsee Conference to discuss what they considered ‘The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’. This solution would soon culminate in the deaths of over six million innocent Jews, now known as The Holocaust.

Concentration Camps saw many of the deaths of the Holocaust. Watch the report on HistoryHit.TV. Watch Now

History will forever condemn the inhumane slaughter of millions at the hands of the Nazi regime. Whilst deploring the racial discrimination of minorities such as the Jews (among many other groups), it remains crucial to understand why the Nazis thought such unrelenting barbarism was necessary.

Adolf Hitler’s ideology

Hitler subscribed to an acute doctrine of what’s known as ‘Social Darwinism’. In his view, all people carried traits that were passed from one generation to the next. All peoples could be categorised according to their race or group.

The race to which an individual belonged would prescribe these traits. Not only outward appearance, but also intelligence, creative and organisational abilities, taste and understanding of culture, physical strength, and military prowess to name a few.

Humanity’s different races, Hitler thought, were in constant competition for survival – literally ‘survival of the fittest’. Since each race sought to expand and ensure the maintenance of their own, the struggle for survival would naturally result in conflict. Thus, according to Hitler, war – or constant war – was merely a part of the human condition.

According to Nazi doctrine, assimilation of one race into another culture or ethnic group was impossible. The original inherited traits of an individual (according to their racial group) couldn’t be overcome, instead they would only degenerate through ‘racial-mixing’.

The Aryans

Maintaining racial purity (despite being incredibly unrealistic and unfeasible) was incredibly important to the Nazis. Racial mixing would only lead to degeneration of a race, losing its characteristics to the point where it can no longer effectively defend itself, ultimately leading to that race’s extinction.

Adolf Hitler (1938, colourised). Credit: Phot-colorization

Hitler believed that true-born Germans belonged to the superior ‘Aryan’ race that not only had the right, but the obligation to subdue, rule over, or even exterminate inferior ones.  The ideal ‘Aryan’ would be tall, blond-haired, and blue-eyed. The Aryan nation would be a homogeneous one, what Hitler dubbed the Volksgemeinschaft.

However, in order to survive, this nation would need space to be able to provide for its ever-expanding population. It would need living space – lebensraum. However, Hitler believed this superior race of people were threatened by another race: namely, the Jews.

Jews as enemies of the state

In their own struggle to expand, the Jews used their ‘tools’ of capitalism, communism, the media, parliamentary democracy, constitutions, and international peace organisations to undermine the race-consciousness of the German people, distracting them with theories of class struggle.

As well as this, Hitler saw the Jews (despite being sub-human, or untermenchen) as being a race capable of mobilizing other inferior races – namely Slavs and ‘Asiatics’ – in a unified front of Bolshevik Communism (a genetically-fixed Jewish ideology) against the Aryan people.

Therefore, Hitler and the Nazis saw Jews as the biggest problem both domestically – in their attempts to bastardise the Aryan nation – and internationally, holding the international community to ransom with their ‘tools’ of manipulation.

nazi anti-semitic propaganda

Poster for ‘The Eternal Jew’ art exhibition, 1937. Creative Commons.

Whilst firmly holding his convictions, Hitler understood that not everyone in Germany would automatically mirror his rampant anti-Semitism. Therefore, images spawned from the mind of chief propaganda minister Josef Goebbels would persistently attempt to segregate Jews from wider German society.

With this propaganda, stories would circulate blaming the Jews for the failure of Germany in The Great War, or for the Weimar Republic’s financial crisis of 1923.

Permeating throughout popular literature, the arts and entertainment, the Nazi ideology would seek to turn the German population (and even other Nazis that didn’t share Hitler’s racialist convictions) against the Jews.

Outcome

Discrimination against the Jews under the Nazi regime would only escalate, leading from the destruction of Jewish businesses during the aptly named ‘Night of the Broken Glass‘ (Kristallnacht), eventually towards the systemic genocide of the European Jewry.

Damage to local Jewish businesses in Magdeburg. Credit: Hic et nunc.

Due to Hitler’s unwavering conviction of his racialist ideology, not only Jews but a wealth of other groups were discriminated against and murdered throughout The Holocaust. These included Romani peoples, Afro-Germans, homosexuals, people with disabilities, as well as many others.