24

The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor states:

Marriages between Jews and citizens of German or related blood are forbidden.

Sexual relations between Jews and citizens of German blood are forbidden.

Assume that a Jewish husband (does not practice the Jewish religion but is classified as a Jew by parents/grandparents) and a non-Jewish wife (Protestant) are married and have kids, before the Nuremberg Laws have come out.

Did these new Nuremberg Laws preventing marriages/sexual relations between Jews and "citizens of German or related blood" (wife) split up existing marriages between Jews and non-Jews?

  • 2
    It seems that second statement could be used to effectively break up an existing marriage. For example, from 9 months after passage, any new children from such a married couple could be considered proof that law was broken. – T.E.D. Jun 5 '17 at 13:29
  • 1
    NO, since at least the Blutschutzgesetz only prohibited extramarital sexual relations, and did not annul existing marriages as explained below. – rackandboneman Jun 5 '17 at 19:40
33

It is very rare for new laws to apply retroactively, even Hitler's Nuremberg Laws. In this case, the prohibition of mixed marriages did not apply to couples who were already married. However, as the paper linked above observes, the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour did include one provision in regard to existing marriages:

"Proceedings for annulment may be initiated only by the Public Prosecutor."

So, while in general the Nuremberg Laws did not split up existing marriages between Jews and non-Jews, they did include the provision enabling the Public Prosecutor to do so.

  • 1
    To me it seems significant that the Gentile member of the couple could not initiate annulment What does that say about the legal status/civil rights/loyalty of those citizens? – Mark C. Wallace Jun 5 '17 at 12:10
  • 1
    This answer is useful, but it would be even better if it addressed the obvious follow up question of whether that power was used widely or sparingly. – jpmc26 Jun 7 '17 at 3:00
  • It is very rare for new laws to apply retroactively: in democratic countries, yes; in totalitarian ones, not very rare. It was a commonplace in Stalin's Soviet Union to arrest people for their perfectly legal actions during pre-Soviet regime that has become illegal years after the fact. – Michael Jun 14 '17 at 4:22
  • I think the somewhat puzzling point that existing marriages were not broken up perforce says something about how divorce at one time was viewed. – Jeff Jun 25 '17 at 13:29
12

Yes, they did, in an "indirect" way. This was particularly true after a 1938 supplement made the Jewish partner's racial status grounds for divorce by itself.

That is, the laws were designed to allow, and even encourage "mixed" couples to break up. In a book of the same title, a "Mischling, Second Degree,", Ilse Koehn relates how her German mother was induced to divorce her (half) Jewish father in this way.

Not even the Nazis wanted to "force" the breakup of these marriages ex post facto. That would have been too socially disruptive. In fact, during the Rosenstrasse protest, German wives fought and won a battle to save their Jewish husbands from arrest. It was "enough" for the Nazis to prohibit such marriages going forward from the Nuremberg laws.

  • 3
    The Rosenstrasse protest is a straight-to-the-point addendum to all the answers here, pretty good piece of information. – Pierre Arlaud Jun 6 '17 at 9:22
7

If you're asking about the direct legal consequences of the "Blutschutzgesetz" (Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor) - it did not apply retroactively, no.

The declaration that marriages entered into being null only applied to marriages entered into despite the law, i. e. after it took effect. (And technically, the last sentence about the public procecutor meant that the spouses could not file action for annulment themselves).

For reference, here is my rough translation of § 1 of the Blutschutzgesetz:

(1) Weddings between Jews and citizens of German or similar blood are prohibited. Marriages entered into in spite [of the prohibition] are null, even if they have been entered into in a foreign country to circumvent this law. (2) Proceedings for annulment may be initiated only by the Public Prosecutor.

While the legal status of existing marriages was not changed, the laws introduced the notion that the government had an urgent interest in protecting "German blood" and that intercourse between "jews" and "Germans" was a danger to important public interests.

We shouldn't underestimate the damaging social and psychological effects of these laws.

It is important, too, not to overestimate the exact words of NS laws. The intent was well understood by the bureaucracy and the courts.

Also relevant: The other "Nuremberg law", Reichsbürgergesetz, which did affect mixed-"race" families, and the 1938 "Ehegesetz" that declared the racial status of "Jewish" spouse reason for divorce.

  • 2
    Also, the Blutschutzgesetz technically did only prohibit "extramarital intercourse" in § 2. @t-e-d. – friop Jun 5 '17 at 14:00
4

I wanted to post this as a comment, but unfortunately cannot due to low rep (new acc).

The accepted answer is perfectly correct. This situation applied to my great-grandparents (husband Arian, wife Jewish). He was heavily pressurised into divorce, but refused to do so. Both being artists, they suffered heavily from being banned from their profession. At least they survived, including all of their six children, one of them my grandfather.

They recovered after the war and my great-grandmother lived to a very old age (1901 - 98). I got to know her as a child, a wonderful woman. Ironically my great-grandfather was killed by a drunk driving GI in the 70s. I wish I had got the chance to meet him :(

3

The Word used to describe the prohibited act is "Eheschliessungen", which explicitly refers to the act of wedding, not to a marriage in itself. Had the word been "Ehen", it would have been ambigous.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.