main page > topics > background

Dansk version



Holocaust: Topics

For Teachers

For Students                          


Printervenlig udgave

The Nuremberg Laws

Honorary guards at the Nazi Party Rally in Nuremberg, 10 September 1935.

The ‘Nuremberg Laws’ is the common name for two fundamental anti-Semitic laws that were issued in September 1935, during the Nazi Party’s annual rally in Nuremberg. The laws and a number of subsequent regulations came to constitute the legal basis of the segregation of the Jews from the surrounding society as well as the racial definition of Jewish-ness.

More about:
What are the Nuremberg Laws?
Conditions and purpose
Want to know more?

What are the Nuremberg Laws?

The ‘Nuremberg Laws’ is the common name for two very fundamental pieces of anti-Semitic legislation, which were issued in connection with the Nazi Party’s annual party rally in Nuremberg in September 1935.

The two laws,
> ‘The Reich Citizen Law’ and > ‘The Law for the Protection of the German Blood and Honour’, were to regulate two very important aspects of Jewish life within the German Reich:

  1. ‘The Reich Citizen Law’ made non-Aryans (first of all Jews) second-rate citizens without full civic rights. When the law came into force’ in September 1935, only true ‘Reich Citizens’ would be a part of the German ‘people’s community’. The Jews were excluded because of their race.
  2. ‘The Law for the Protection of the German Blood & Honour’ prohibited marriage or sexual relations between Aryans and non-Aryans, among other things. This ‘race-hygienic’ law was issued in order to protect the German blood from being mixed with that of lesser races.

As an appendix to these laws an ordinance was issued in November 1935 that definitively defined the concept of ‘Jew’. At the same time the Nazi regime took away the civic rights of the Jews, including the right to vote.

Conditions and purpose

Apparently both laws were underway for quite some time before the party rally, but there is hardly any doubt that the laws were issued following pressure from inside the Nazi Party. In particular, the Party’s radical wing, headed by the extremely anti-Semitic Julius Streicher, demanded serious and harsh initiatives against the Jews. Everything seems to suggest that Hitler in the autumn of 1935 gave in to this pressure, despite that leading civil servants were opposed to the idea.

The German population was generally pleased with the laws, because they explained and defined the status of the Jews. Besides, many hoped that the laws would put an end to the spontaneous violence against Jewish businessmen, frequently committed by the Party’s storm troopers. For many it was also important that the state now took responsibility for the discrimination of the Jews – and thus left the ordinary citizen with a clean conscience.

Paradoxically, many of the German Jews gave the legislation a positive reception. Many were of the conviction that the Nuremberg Laws meant a final regulation of Jewish life and thus and end to further anti-Semitic measures.

> Reaction to the Nuremberg Laws from the German Jewish Council


The most important consequence of the Nuremberg Laws was the realisation of the distinction between Jew and Aryan. Obviously, this distinction became pivotal later on, when the Nazis began the deportation and extermination of the Jews.

The most interesting aspect of the definition was that it was based on the ‘blood’. An individual was considered Jewish, if at least three of his grandparents were of Jewish origin. This meant that the German Jews were later unable to escape deportation by converting to Christianity.

The second important consequence of the Nuremberg Laws was the new role of the state. The state now had a legally sanctioned right to discriminate the Jews (and the gypsies), who were now second-rate citizens. This became an important “prerequisite” for the later extermination of the Jews, who were no longer a part of the German Volksgemeinschaft (‘people’s community’).

Want to know more?

> The Nuremberg Laws - text version
> The Nazi ideology
> Who was Jewish according to Nazi racial terminology?


Saul Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews. Vol 1: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939 (London, 1997), chapter 5.
Peter Longerich, Politik der Vernichtung (Munich, 1998), chapter 2.

Test yourself | Time line | Statistics | Picture gallery | Sources | Site map

© 2002 by Peter Vogelsang & Brian B. M. Larsen. All rights reserved