Jewish Life Under the Nazis

Antisemitism and the persecution of Jews were central tenets of Nazi ideology. In their 25-point party program published in 1920, the Nazi Party declared their intention to segregate Jews from “Aryan” society and to take away their political, legal, and civil rights. During the first six years of Hitler’s dictatorship, they quickly realized this goal. 

Between 1933 and 1939, more than 400 antisemitic decrees and regulations restricted Jews’ public and private lives. Jews were expelled from jobs, schools, and even their businesses. Jewish-owned businesses which were seized and “Aryanized,” or transferred to non-Jewish ownership. Other laws, like being forced to wear a yellow star, made Jews more easily identifiable. Once Jews could be identified, they were easier to monitor and segregate from the rest of the population. As their domain expanded, the Nazis enforced their antisemitic legislation in all occupied territories.

The goal of such legislation was to make Germany and German-occupied territories judenrein (cleansed of Jews). They hoped that by making life so difficult for Jews, they would be forced to leave the country. Because of the restrictive immigration policies of other countries, it was difficult to leave. Many Jews who fled Germany went to European countries that were occupied by the Nazis a few years later. This meant they ultimately found themselves prey to the policies they had tried to escape. Once World War II began in July 1941, emigration from Nazi-occupied territory was virtually impossible.

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