What role did anti-Semitism play in the development of Nazi policy towards the Jews between 1933 and 1945?

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Anti-Semitism was at the very heart of Nazi policy towards the Jews. Simply put, the Nazis hated the Jews, believing them to be racially inferior and responsible for most of Germany's problems. As with all others on the extreme Right, the Nazis further believed that a small cabal of powerful,...

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Anti-Semitism was at the very heart of Nazi policy towards the Jews. Simply put, the Nazis hated the Jews, believing them to be racially inferior and responsible for most of Germany's problems. As with all others on the extreme Right, the Nazis further believed that a small cabal of powerful, wealthy Jews was secretly running the world for their own benefit. Anti-Semitic propaganda portrayed them as malevolent string-pullers working behind the scenes to bring war and economic depression to the world. It was upon such delusional, hate-filled fantasies that Nazi policies towards the Jews were ultimately based.

On the domestic front, the Nazis set about the process of gradually stripping German Jews of their civil rights. Nazi ideology had always maintained that the Jews weren't real Germans; they weren't pure Aryans; they constituted an alien race that simply didn't belong in the new Germany. They must therefore be deprived of their rights as citizens. Jews were systematically excluded from every walk of life, from the civil service to the professions, from the arts to industry. Before long, it became almost impossible for any Jew to make a half-decent living, and many left the country to seek a new life elsewhere.

The regime sought to place its hatred of Jews on a legal footing, devising a detailed set of racial laws—the Nuremberg Laws—which defined who was and who wasn't a Jew. At the same time, outbreaks of lawlessness against the Jews were still all too common, such as the notorious Krystallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, in which almost a hundred Jews were murdered, and countless synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed by Nazi thugs. Tens of thousands of Jews were also rounded up and sent to concentration camps.

Some historians have seen the events of Krystallnacht as the informal beginning of what would eventually become the Holocaust, the systematic murder of at least six million Jews by the Nazi regime. The tragic events of that night showed clearly that the Nazis' hatred of the Jews wasn't just political rhetoric; they were prepared to put that hatred into practice by physically exterminating people they didn't like. The Holocaust took that warped principle to its ultimate conclusion, using Germany's territorial expansion during World War II as an opportunity to attempt to wipe out the entire Jewish population of occupied Europe.

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