#OnThisDay- German Jews Stripped of Citizenship: The Nuremberg Laws

Revisiting the Nuremberg Laws 85 years since its enactment in light of India’s Citizenship Amendment Act.

On the 15th of September, 1835- exactly 85 years ago- the Nazi Party announced new antisemitic and racist laws during their annual party rally known as “the Nuremberg Laws”. Collectively, the laws institutionalised many of the racial theories prevalent in Nazi ideology, particularly that of “racial infamy”. Designed by Adolf Hitler, these laws stripped Jews and (later) black and Romani people of Reich citizenship (“Law of the Reich Citizen”)  and forbade marriage or sexual relationships between these groups and “German or kindred blood” (“Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour”). By the time the laws were introduced, Hitler imprisoned and/or killed many of his political opponents, and the Nazi party could easily approve these laws. 

On October 18, 1935, new marriage laws were introduced. The “Law for the Protection of the Hereditary Health of the German People”, required all prospective marriage partners to obtain a certificate of fitness to marry. People suffering “hereditary illnesses” and contagious diseases and those in violation of the Nuremberg Laws were not granted these. This was an extension of the “Sterilisation law”, enacted on July 14, 1933, which allowed for the compulsory sterilisation of persons whom the Genetic Health Court deemed as suffering from “hereditary diseases”, and medicalised the Jewish population.

nuremberg laws
PC-wikimedia

On November 14th of the same year, Jews were further defined as a racial category and not religious groups who practiced Judaism. As racialised subjects, they were defined as persons with at least one Jewish grandparent, and thus including thousands of people who had converted from Judaism to another religion, including Roman Catholic priests and nuns and Protestant ministers. On the same date, Hitler extended the laws to prohibit marriage and sexual relations between so-called “Aryan” Germans with anyone who could produce “racially suspect” offspring. A week later, Wilhelm Frick-  the minister of the interior- interpreted this to include Romani and Black people and their offsprings.

Under them, Jews were also not allowed to fly the German flag or employ “female subjects of German or kindred blood who are under the age of 45 years” in domestic service. In 1937 and 1938, the Nazis began impoverishing Jews through the “Aryanization” of Jewish businesses. Jewish businesses had to register, Jewish workers and managers were dismissed, and ownership of these businesses was transferred to non-Jewish Germans, who bargained prices fixed by Nazis. They also banned Jewish lawyers from practicing, and Jewish doctors from treating to treat non-Jews. The segregation of Jews would continue with further enactments, as soon their passports would be stamped with a red “J” and Jews were forced to adopt names that were identifiable as “Jewish”. This made it easy for police to identify them. 

With regards to these laws, in his 1940 book We, or Our Nationhood Defined, MS Golwalker, “the supreme leader of the RSS” writes:

“To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”

To this, Roy writes, “How do you translate this in modern terms if not as the National Register of Citizens coupled with the Citizenship Amendment Bill? This is the RSS’s version of Germany’s 1935 Nuremberg Laws, by which German citizens were only those who had been granted citizenship papers—legacy papers—by the government of the Third Reich. The amendment against Muslims is the first such amendment. Others will no doubt follow, against Christians, Dalits, Communists—all enemies of the RSS.”

Nearly a year has passed since the introduction of CAA, and 85 years since that of the Nuremberg laws. It is useful to remember that in both, the status of citizenship is determined through citizenship papers granted by the government in cases where one is able to prove one’s parentage as part of a racialised, religious and caste group which aligns with a national identity. And as historians and sociologists remind us, both create a secondary class of the “non-citizen”, be it in the jews or the muslims, and eventually work towards institutionalising a legal system of graded inequality, whether that of India’s caste system or the racial hierarchy of Nazi Germany.

 

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