In his book Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler has already clearly revealed his racist and antisemitic thinking. Following his appointment as Germany’s Reich Chancellor in 1933, he sets to work translating this thinking into law, establishing the legal basis for the systematic discrimination, persecution and genocide carried out against millions of Jewish people.
Already in March 1933, Jewish doctors, lawyers and pharmacists were barred from practicing their profession by the first Nazi decrees. At the same time, the first concentration camp was set up in Dachau, near Munich, for the purpose of imprisoning “enemies of the Reich”. A month later, the SA staged its first “boycotts” of Jewish businesses, while the Nazi party issued a law for the “restoration of the professional civil service”. This legislation contained a so-called “aryan paragraph” that effected the expulsion from the civil service, clubs, associations, and ultimately schools of people of the Jewish faith. As a consequence, approximately 200,000 Jews emigrated from Germany. During this time, the first book burning ceremonies were held, targeting the work of authors who had been labelled either “non-Aryan” or oppositional. One the most well-known such events occurred on the Berliner Opernplatz (today Bebelplatz) on May 10, 1933.
In 1935, the Nuremberg “race laws” (see also: Nuremberg Race Laws, 1935) further restricted the public and private lives of Jewish people in Germany. Jews were disenfranchised and forbidden from working as artists or in the public sector. Furthermore, marriage between Jewish and non-Jewish people was prohibited.
In 1938, planned dispossessions of Jewish property owners intensified. Overall, the German state took in approximately two million Reichsmarks from such seizures. In October of the same year, the passports of Jewish citizens were revoked. Those requiring passports for travel abroad were given papers marked with a “J”, and were henceforth labelled in all official documentation with their (attributed) religious identity. Another form of “recognition” was the insertion of the names “Israel” and “Sarah” into passports, in order to identify their owners as “Jewish” despite them lacking “typical Jewish names”. Beginning in 1939 in occupied Poland and extending across the German Reich in 1941, Jewish people were finally forced to wear the so-called “Jewish star” on their clothing.
The tragic highpoint of 1938 was the Kristallnacht, which took place in the night of November 9-10. Planned to the last detail by the National Socialists, it involved the torching of more than 1,400 synagogues across Germany, countless Jewish businesses looted and destroyed, at least 91 Jewish people murdered, and 30,000 Jews arrested and sent to concentration camps. Kristallnacht led to an intensified flight of Jewish people from Germany into neighboring countries such as Austria and Czechoslovakia. At the same time, emigration became more difficult, as most receiving countries erected barriers to the inflow of refugees by adopting strict immigration policies or simply refusing entry altogether.