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What historical or cultural reasons did the Nazi's have to hate the Jews? Did they ever accurately and precisely identify non-practicing Jews?

I asked Jewish culture differences singled out by Nazism? on Judaism SE and they said that for a secular reason to Nazi prejudice I would have to ask here.

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You perhaps need to start by reading a history of Europe in the Early Middle Ages. It may help if it has something on the relations between European Jewry and the medieval popes. –  WS2 Feb 19 at 11:28

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The Jews were targeted not because of their religion but on basis of racial characteristics.
According to the science of the day, eugenics, this could be easily detected based on parentage and physical characteristics.
Thus marriage and birth certificates were a major source of information, and where that wasn't conclusive (say immigrants), actual measurements of things like the slope of the forehead and the dimensions and shape of the nose were used (and in many cases pure speculation, just like in the past just accusing someone of being a witch made them a witch, nowadays the same process is responsible for putting many a person behind bars for being a pedophile who never touched a child).

The main reason for the persecution was economic, combined with historical prejudice (that was and still is deeply rooted throughout Europe). The German economy was in tatters, but the Jews were as a group doing a lot better than the population at large. When the government needed a scape goat, they were a logical group to target.
Mind this wasn't at all limited to Germany, the same went on in many countries, foremost of all the USSR.
Historically of course the Jews were strangers, with weird customs, rather insular, with a different religion, in countries that were very much homogenous in their cultural and religious makeup (and to a large degree in many countries largely racially homogenous as well). That set them apart, people were suspicious of them, and the Nazi propaganda built on that to blame them for the economic woes of the late 1920s and 1930s (the fact that many banks were owned by them, and Jewish owned businesses doing overall better than German owned businesses made that easier).
To a large degree the same goes on to this day, see how "evil bankers" are blamed on the economic crisis that started in 2007 even though they had very little to do with it (most were hit as hard as or harder than anyone else). They're just easy and obvious targets.

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It can be worthwhile to add to your last paragraph that similar occurrences of blaming Jews, as one of the most easily identified insular group inside European cities, go back as far as the Black Death in the middle ages, and before. Numerous enough and identifiable enough to be a convenient scapegoat. –  Avner Shahar-Kashtan Feb 12 '14 at 11:16
@Anixx more revisionist history from you. –  jwenting Feb 17 '14 at 8:08
@Anixx your claim that physical characteristics were not used is utter bonkers. There's even booklets that were distributed in Germany with pictures to "identify the Jew", propaganda posters where their racial stereotypes are exagerrated for the population, etc. etc. Any reliable resource on or from the era will show that. –  jwenting Feb 17 '14 at 8:15
Yes there were such booklets, but they were not used for any official purposes. In Germany Jews were identified as people who or whose ancestors professed Judaism after 1871. There were tools for "racial test", but they were used to test if a Slav was suitable for Germanization, not for identifying Jews. –  Anixx Feb 17 '14 at 8:19
I think the emphasis on the USSR as another Jew-persecuting country is not correct for the relevant time frame (before WWII). There was rampant state antisemitism in the USSR (perhaps including a plan in 1953 for forced relocation to prison camps in Siberia - there is a lot of evidence for that but no smoking gun) HOWEVER, it mostly dates from after the war. Inter-war Poland would be a far better example for this. –  Felix Goldberg Aug 18 '14 at 10:40

As far as your first question, you can read the Nazi's complaints against the Jews in any number of books, such as "My Struggle" by Hitler.

Regarding the second question, the identification of "non-practicing" Jews, let me first of all say that jwentings answer that they were measuring their foreheads is just nuts and has no relationship to reality.

In old Germany, everyone was heavily documented and had to carry around a book with them that listed everything about them including their places of residence, their occupation and place of employment, their religion and their parentage, so it was well-known whether a particular person was Jewish or not just from their passport. If you did not have a passport, you automatically got arrested. The criteria for being a "Jew" was if any one of your 4 grandparents was Jewish. If your passport said you (and your grandparents) were baptized Christian, then as far as the authorities were concerned, you were Christian.

After 1937 (I believe, correct if wrong) the Nazis began stamping passports with a red "J" right on the first page if the person was Jewish. This simplified things for police who did not need to go leafing through the passport to determine if the person was Jewish or not.

Just to give you an idea of how anal and totalitarian they were about it, you generally needed at least three kinds of documents: the passport, basically containing your life history, a residency permit and a work permit. The residency permit described you physically and was needed to prove you had a right to live in a place. So, for example, if you had a residency permit for Coburg and were stopped in Hamburg, they would ask "What the hell are you doing here?" and you better have a good answer and documentation to back your answer up. The work permit (called an "arbeitsbuch") listed your employment history and any important details (like getting fired).

Below is a page in an "Ahnenpass", meaning an ancestor addendum to a passport listing your ancestors:


In cases of someone without papers, they would try to figure out who you were, and generally would imprison you until they knew who you were. In cases of foreigners, like Russians, they would rely on the locals to tell them who was Jewish or who was not. Also, in Russia, the Jews tended to exist in specific communities, so the Germans would assume you were Jewish if you lived in such a community and would assume you were Christian otherwise. In the case of a foreigner captured abroad, like on a road without papers, if it was a male they would see if the person was circumcised and that would be the deciding factor. If it was a female, alone and with no males (a highly unusual case), it would be at the discretion of the arresting officer to decide where to send her, but in most cases the Germans did not bother arresting random refugee females without a specific reason.

There is a funny story about Alekhine, the famous chess player. He tried to cross the militarized Polish-German border in 1937 without papers (!!!) When the police questioned him, he said "I am Alexander Alekhine, Chess Champion of the World. This is my cat. Her name is chess. I require no papers." Of course, they arrested him.

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Hitler also had a dislike for the European jews on the basis that his research prooved that they were not authentic "jews", in fact he viewed them in a negative way because they were making judaism there "culture" when it was not there ancestral origin.

please watch this video just click on the link below.


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nonsense. It wasn't about "real Jews", but about ridding Germany (and all parts of the intended Reich) of anyone who wasn't Aryan. –  jwenting Feb 12 at 5:36

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