What were the limitations imposed on Jews living in Nazi controlled areas? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While restrictions upon Jews in Germany was nothing unique to Europe, the Nazi regime certainly took Jewish persecution into other dimensions. Restrictions and confinement of Jews in certain areas is historical; as early as the tenth century Jewish merchants visited and worked in Venice, Italy, a European center of commerce, but they were not allowed to live there. It was not until 1385 that Jewish merchants were permitted to live in a section of Venice; the Senate decided to expel them in 1394 from fear of encroachment. In addition, these merchants were forced to wear a yellow badge, identifying them. Later a yellow hat was substituted for the badge in 1496; in 1500, the hat color was changed to red. Some Jews even died in a blood libel in 1480. For a long time, Jews were also limited in their living and working conditions in Venice (Among other places, much of these facts are alluded to in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.) in fact, the word ghetto is derived from the Italian word getto, which means foundry because the first ghetto was constructed in 1516 on the site of a Venetian foundry.

Restrictions have long been imposed upon Jews in other European countries; even today, in Russia, where the Pale of Settlement, an area where Jews must live, was established during the reign of Catherine II. (The expression "going beyond the pale," meaning unacceptable behavior originates from this place). Even in recent history, Russian President Putin has forced Jews in the Ukraine to register.

Perhaps, then, because of their history of restriction, the Jews of Germany were not as alarmed as they should have been by early Nazi restrictions placed upon them. For, it is a fact that many Jews believed if they complied they would not be persecuted. Perhaps, too, that the Nazi government so cleverly began its restrictions by repeating historical ones may have dissipated fears.

In pre-World War II Germany, Gentiles were allowed to libel Jews with impunity, and "Brown Shirts" (Nazis) were allowed to take cigarettes and small items from Jewish-owned stores without paying. There were few avenues of legal redress, as well. In short, the Jewish people of Germany had all the obligations of a German citizen, but few of the rights. In 1940 in Poland the Nazis began the establishment of ghettos.

  • Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service - Jews were prohibited from being civil service employees.
  • A limitation of the number of school and university students was placed upon Jews
  • "Jewish activity" in the legal and medical professions was also limited. For instance, Jewish doctors could not treat non-Jewish patients, and notaries and lawyers could not deal with many legal documents.
  • Jewish tax consultants had their licenses revoked.
  • Jewish actors were prohibited from the stage.
  • Jews were forbidden by law to have sexual relations with a German
  • Jews  were disenfranchised; they had no legal rights.
  • Jews were prohibited by German legislation from taking doctoral exams, 
  • Jews were prohibited by "Aryanization" from owning property and businesses.
  • In 1937 and 1938 Jewish doctors could only treat Jews; Jewish lawyers were prohibited from practicing law.
  • The"Night of Broken Glass") pogrom of November 9–10, 1938, as they were placed in ghettos and forbidden from going into designated "Aryan" areas.
  • In August 1938, Jewish men and woman whose first names did not identify them as Jewish were obliged to add "Israel" and "Sara" to their given names. 
  • Jews were required to carry identification cards
  • Jews had a letter "J" on their passports
  • Jews were required to wear a yellow Star of David (6-pointed star), identifying them.
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