Anti-Jewish legislation in the 1930s

Above, Passport page, Werner Weissenberg, pers. archive, copyright retained


In 1920 the National Socialist party published a twenty-five point programme that outlined an intention to curtail the civil, political, and legal rights of Jews.

See, for example, The Holocaust Explained at the Wiener Holocaust Library, London:

Passport, Detail. Werner Weissenberg, pers. archive, copyright retained

Soon after Adolf Hitler took power in 1933 the party began to carry out this programme. From this point until the start of the war in 1939, around 400 pieces of anti-Jewish legislation were passed, affecting all aspects of Jews’ private and public lives. As well as laws passed at the state level, municipal and regional bodies added local statutes of antisemitic rules and regulations.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has an outline of the laws, here:

I have created this PDF, below, in case the USHMM link becomes invalid over time

PDF: Examples of antisemitic legislation in the 1930s, USHMM


The early legislation mainly covered aspects of public life. The first major act, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (7 April 1933), excluded Jews from civil service.

In further legislation, the practice of medicine and law was severely restricted for Jews, except in relation to other Jews. Antisemitic laws were also passed at the local level; in Bavaria, for example, Jewish students were no longer allowed to attend medical school.

In terms of state legislation, Jewish tax consultants were no longer permitted to hold licenses to work; there was a low quota for admission of Jews to public schools and universities (the Law Against Overcrowding in Schools and Universities, 25 April 1933); Jewish civilians were fired from the military; and Jewish actors were no longer allowed to perform.

Above a restaurant door, Düsseldorf, 1933

“Jews enter the premises at their own risk”, Stadtarchiv Düsseldorf 021-460-002

Photograph, Exhibition, Die Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Düsseldorf. Source: C Weissenberg, pers. archive, image copyright retained


At the annual National Socialist rally in September 1935, the ‘Nuremberg Laws’ were passed, excluding German Jews from holding Reich citizenship. Jews were also prohibited from marrying those with “German” blood. In addition, most political rights were removed, Jews were no longer allowed to vote, and could not hold public office.

A Jew was now defined as anyone who had three or four Jewish grandparents – whether or not s/he self-identified as Jewish.

Facsimile reproduction in The Yellow Spot, 1936

The ‘Jewish Decree’ adopted by the Reichstag in Nurnberg, September 1935.

Facsimile reproduction of the ‘Jewish Decree’ adopted by the Reichstag in Nuremberg, September 1935, in The Yellow Spot, published 1936. Source: C Weissenberg, pers. archive, image copyright retained

The Nuremberg Laws brought in a vast amount of further legislation. German judges could not cite legal opinions written by Jews; Jewish officers were expelled from the army; and Jewish students were not allowed to sit for doctoral exams. Jewish soldiers who had fought for Germany in World War I were no longer to be named at memorials. At a local level, for example, Jewish patients were no longer admitted to municipal hospitals in Düsseldorf.

“[W]hen the whole of German youth is so brought up that it deliberately hates the Jews as it hates lying, cowardice and plague … only then will we at last be free of these parasites”

Letter and illustration from a Danzig holiday camp, Der Stürmer, no. 34, 1935

Image, the antisemitic indoctrination of children in Germany. Source: Chapter V, Streicher’s Model, The Yellow Spot, 1936, p. 80.

In other ways, too, economic hardship increased, as Jews were prevented from earning an income. All domestic and foreign property and assets had to be registered; Jewish workers and managers were dismissed; and Jewish company ownership was forcibly transferred to ‘Germans’ at very low prices. From April 1933 to April 1938, the number of Jewish-owned businesses in Germany was reduced by approximately two-thirds.


This was a relatively quiet year for anti-Jewish legislation, while the world was watching Germany during the Olympics held in Berlin that year. 

Many notices forbidding Jews to enter public places were taken down, for example, and little new legislation was passed.

Extract, The Yellow Spot, 1936


All Jewish property now had to be registered with the state, and all Jewish doctors and lawyers were forbidden to do business with non-Jews.

After November 1938, Jews were barred from theatres, cinemas, parks, and sports facilities. Jews were banned from attending from state schools and universities.

In addition, Jews were required to publicly identify as Jews. In August 1938, it was decreed that by 1 January 1939, those with names that weren’t ‘obviously Jewish’ had to add ‘Israel’ and ‘Sara’ to their names. Thus, my father became Werner Israel Weissenberg, and his aunt became Hedwig Sara Weissenberg, as seen on the right in the image below.

Gliwice archive, Photograph. Source: C Weissenberg, pers. archive, copyright retained

Finally, Jews were now obliged to carry identity cards that indicated Jewish heritage. In autumn 1938, all Jewish passports were stamped with the letter “J” – a change negotiated between Heinrich Rothmund, the Head of the Swiss Police, and Nazi leaders in Berlin.

Photograph, Yellow Star, Exhibition, Die Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Düsseldorf. Source: C Weissenberg, image, pers. archive



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