Why were Jewish people persecuted in 1933?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In a 1997 interview, Historian Hans Mommsen argued that Jewish persecution under Nazi rule culminated from divergent points in German society embodying a "cultural code" of conduct.  Different aspects of German society had voiced Anti- Semitism in a privatized manner.  Some of this had been from long held resentment towards Jewish people as well as other Eastern Europeans, while other aspects of this code of cultural conduct has been triggered from resentment that Germans experienced about their own social and economic conditions at the time.  The Nazis were able to give public articulation and discourse towards Anti- Semitism.  In 1933, such public scapegoating resonated, and helped to answer the question as to why Jewish people were persecuted.

As the Nazis consolidated more power in 1933, it became clear that Anti- Semitism in different forms was critical to advancing their platform.  The need to persecute Jewish people was part of public policy.  The Nazis recognized the political mileage that could be gained from Anti- Semitism.  This becomes another reason why Jewish people were persecuted in 1933.  Hitler's own rise to power was rooted in Anti- Semitism.  In March of 1933, the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which gave Hitler broad and sweeping political powers.  As a result, Hitler is able to assert that German growth on all levels will be fueled by “blood and race.”  About a week later, Nazi Brown- Shirts begin the process of boycotting Jewish stores, while Jewish students were forbidden to attend universities.  Later on in 1933, persecution of Jewish individuals continued with removal of civil service occupations, as well as introduction of the term "non- Aryan," which is defined as "one parent or grandparent [was] of the Jewish faith."  Denial of Kosher butchering and progression towards the establishment of concentration camps were all ways in which the Nazis were able to utilize persecution of Jewish people to their political advantage.

It is in this light where one can see why Jewish people were persecuted.  Certainly, the need to classify Jewish people as "the other" was essential to Nazi growth and consolidation of power.  In demonizing "the other," the Nazis were able to benefit politically and socially.  Being able to publicize privatized anti- Semitic sentiments resulted in the persecution of Jewish individuals.  The Nazis recognized how much could be gained from it. Identifying and classifying Jewish people as "outsiders" or "the other" that was deemed "inferior" helped to move many towards embracing persecution.  It became a way where public and political action could merge with what potentially existed as subjective reality. In this sad convergence, Jewish people were heavily persecuted in 1933.

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