This is partially related to the issue that dislike of certain groups of individuals had long roots in Europe (such as exemplified by this article).

Anyway, I was looking at this other question which asks how Hitler could possibly have had his own militia already in 1923.

That other question has this quotation about the Munich Post newspaper (from this article):

As Hitler sought to ingratiate himself with the city’s rulers (though never giving up the threat of violence), the Post reporters dug into his shadowy background, mocking him mercilessly, exposing internal party splits, revealing the existence of a death squad (“cell G”) that murdered political opponents and was at least as responsible for Hitler’s success as his vaunted oratory.

Based on above it looks like Hitler's "party" had his own "death squad" well before 1933, and at least the Munich Post newspaper was writing about it.

What I wanted to ask is about though are the anti-Jewish sentiments of Hitler. To what degree would his anti-Jewish sentiments have reasonably been known to those who voted him to power in 1933?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 19, 2017 at 14:36
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    With respect to 'all those who voted him to power' it should probably be noted that the SA ran a campaign of intimidation in the run-up to the 1933 election, so that it should be assumed that there were people who voted for the NDSAP who were opposed to its platform i.e. there may have been people who were both aware of NDSAP anti-Semitism and appalled by it, who voted for them anyway due to intimidation. Jul 20, 2017 at 4:23

6 Answers 6


I think your question is best answered by addressing an underlying presumption. Namely: your 21st century eyes and your living in a society that considers hate speech to be antisocial are misleading you into assuming that societal norms were similar a century ago.

They were not.

On the contrary, hating jews (and gypsies) in the early 20th century was closer to being a matter of course than it was to being a socially unacceptable aberration. Europe had a very long history of being antisemitic.

The breed of antisemitism that was prevalent then stemmed chiefly from 19th century thinkers who borrowed novel scientific ideas to explain how natural selection shaped the world they lived in - i.e. one in which Europe had subjugated the world.

The notion that the Aryan race was superior, as an aside, was by no means a Nazi invention. Given how popular each of science, occultism, and Atlantis were at the time - the theory dips in all three - there are good grounds to assume that the idea was, if not widely held, at least widely spread long before the Nazis came to power. (For comparison: do you know anyone who holds that the US government was behind 9/11 or the assassination of JFK?)

Speaking of conspiracy theories, it certainly didn't help that crackpottery like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were widely circulated, and likely taken at face value by many. (Nor did it help, for that matter, that Nietzsche's concept of Ubermensch or his critique of religion weren't understood by his sister or the Nazis.)

At any rate, the answer to your question is yes, Hitler's voters were well aware of his antisemitism. He had written a book full of the stuff, for starters. Anyone opposing Hitler would have been quick to raise awareness of the issue if they had a problem with it. But much more salient, I think, is the fact that antisemitism was widespread enough at the time (be it latent, through repeating Jew jokes and Jew-related crackpottery, or blatant, like the Nazis) that Hitler had little to no reason to make his racism and antisemitism a secret when speaking in public.

On the contrary, don't miss that - much like now - being open about one's unsettling or downright outrageous views in politics can be icing on the cake for the right audience. Like o.m. suggested in a comment, Hitler's antisemitism was an extra selling point for parts of his voters.

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    Off-topic, but in support of your claim that ostracizing groups of people was acceptable back in the day: "Katatraya stayeftika" is a Greek phrase that colloquially means "Who cares?", but its literal translation is "There is trouble in the gypsy village". Comparatively, this would not be socially accepted today as much as it was when the phrase was coined.
    – Flater
    Jul 18, 2017 at 12:09
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    @Flater: another unfortunate data point is how frequent ostracizing groups of people remains today. Jul 18, 2017 at 14:23
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    @inappropriateCode: I didn't mean to imply that everyone was a blatant antisemitic at the time. Merely, that antisemitism was widespread enough (be it latent, through repeating Jew jokes and Jew-related crackpottery, or blatant, like the Nazis) that Hitler felt no need to hold punches. Jul 18, 2017 at 14:54
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    @Flater sorry but I can't help pointing out that the transliteration of the Greek expression is completely off. It is actually closer to kati trehi sta yeftika or, when spoken fast by native speakers, mangled to something like katrexei sta yeftika but never anything like katatraya. That said, as a native Greek speaker I admit I had never considered the origin of the phrase. Which only proves your point; I should have realized what it says but I don't since it is such a common phrase.
    – terdon
    Jul 19, 2017 at 13:20
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    When viewed in the context of the time, demonizing an ethnic group was not necessarily out of the ordinary, so the anti-jew (and anti-gypsy and anti-intellectual, they made up half the holocaust victims) rhetoric of the nazi rebel rousers would not necessarily have raised major alarm bells in the general populace. What was also considered unthinkable at that time was the death factories to kill millions of people. In retrospect, we know what hate speech can lead to. Back then, the average person had no such perspective to use as a precedent. Consequently, no real alarm was raised.
    – tj1000
    Jul 19, 2017 at 15:16

Antisemitism was a major election platform for Hitler along with nationalism. Jews were traditionally (even preceding the Middle Ages) restricted in their professions, barred from crafts and locked into money-lending and legal business. After centuries if not millennia of this lock-in, there was a significant correlation of those businesses and Jewish proprietors.

In this climate, there would have been absolutely no point in hiding general Antisemitic leanings for a politician: in a democracy the voting majorities would rather consider this an advantage.

Ask the average person on the street today how much he likes big lawyers and their world and business styles, and how much he likes big corporations and their world and business styles, and you won't get much enthusiasm. A century ago, this was summarized as "Jewish World Conspiracy" and had a reasonable number of scapegoats people were ready to vilify accordingly available.

War reparations and the consequential inflation made a lot of people poor who did not have the capabilities or foresight or planning to rescue their savings by timely conversion into tangible goods.

Even before the world wars, at a time of comparative prosperity at the end of the 19th century, France had the Dreyfus affair which amounted to punishing Jews just because.

The dire economic conditions Germany was under made both money and law professions more visible to the average citizen, with either of them strongly and with some statistical justification being associated with Jews.

Even today, a simple "our country belongs to us, root out the foreigners occupying it" platform, with foreigners loosely associated with "people other than ourselves" (never mind how long their ancestors may have lived longer in the country than you), will garner enough votes to be troubling or even majority-taking. Take a look at Trump in the U.S., the Front National in France, the AfD and Republicans in Germany, the FPÖ in Austria and so on.

People know where this leads but the first impulse is to take out any problems on "the others" when a country has real or perceived problems.


Yes. Hitler's book, "Mein Kampf" was the second best selling book in Germany in the early 1930s (after the Bible), and laid out his views in excruciating detail. Most people had access to the book, not all read it, but it (and Hitler's other views) were featured in newspapers such as the Volkische Beobachter.

Perhaps the more important question, as Denis pointed out, was why people voted for Hitler knowing these views. The issue is that being "anti-Semitic" was not nearly as pejorative in the 1930s as it might be today.

Hitler basically ran on an "anti-foreign" platform; tear up the Versailles treaty, whose repayment provisions were choking the German economy, and overstep the territorial limitations embodied in that treaty (re-militarize the Rhineland, unite with Austria, and more). And on the same subject, Germany would settle accounts with those of its citizens that presumably benefited from World War I and contributed to Germany's defeat by aiding "foreign interests," thereby administering a "stab in the back" to Germany. Such views, while abhorrent, were not too far from what was then the mainstream of German politics.

So did the Germans of the time "know?" Yes, or at least they should have known by reading the book or at least about it. Did they care? Perhaps not. Or perhaps to the extent that they did "care," Hitler's views would have worked in his favor.

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    Since the NSDAP only got 37% of the vote, and in combination with the other right-wing party barely got more than 50% of the vote, I'd say that a lot of people cared.
    – RonJohn
    Jul 21, 2017 at 10:48
  • @RonJohn: The question was, "Were Hitler's anti-Jewish sentiments known at all to those who voted him to power in 1933?" Yes, there were perhaps 48% who "cared" but those were not the ones who voted him into power.
    – Tom Au
    Sep 17, 2017 at 3:22
  • "Yes. Hitler's book, "Mein Kampf" was the second best selling book in Germany in the early 1930s (after the Bible)" There is a certain irony there...
    – user31561
    Jun 27, 2018 at 11:47
  • As I understand it, after feeling humiliated by the terms of the peace of WW1, and the following unsettled economic and social conditions, his platform could have very exactly been described as "Make Germany Great Again". Jun 27, 2018 at 14:10

The question is easily answered: Everyone knew. He wrote "Mein Kampf", which was publically available. He preached his views right from the beginning. But politically, that was no problem for him.

Since answering the question is just a matter of looking it up in Wikipedia, I guess the author of the question is rather asking "If everyone knew about Hitler's sentiment towards Jews, how come he still had so many followers?". I will try to answer that question.

See, being openly anti-semitic only became a problem after the end of World War 2. Before that it wasn't really an issue. It is quite comparable to what politicians do nowadays. Saying stuff like "Let's get rid of all the Jews that are stealing our jobs and our money" is not too different to "Let's send all the Mexicans back to Mexico" or "Let's get rid of all the muslims". Only the horrors of WW2 and the holocaust made the first statement a taboo. Because of what happened during that time, Jews now have some form of protection against hate speech.

Hitler's statements might have alienated some of his potential voters but for many this was a reason why they voted for him.

Since nowadays it is (in many countries legally) not allowed to hate Jews, populist politicians are now attacking other minorities. In the USA it's mainly Muslims and Mexicans, in the UK it is Rumanians and the Polish, in Central Europe it is the refugees. In Russia it is the Jehovas Witnesses.

Some politicians even go as far as to suggest that the army should shoot at people who try to cross borders illegally.

Hate speech against Jews and blacks is very taboo, but hate speech against religious minorities (e.g. Muslims, Yehovas whitnesses, Sikhs or Mormons) or other ethnical groups (e.g. Mexicans) is no problem.

We often think of ourselves as so much better than people from other areas or times, but in fact we are the same. Our faults only differ slightly.

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    This does not answer the question. For instance, you don't mention Hitler (although one of the "his" may be a reference to the man).
    – Tom Au
    Jul 19, 2017 at 17:47
  • It answers the question behind it: If people knew about Hitler's anti-semitic sentiments, how was it possible that so many of them followed him. Without this deeper question, the original question is pretty pointless. The guy wrote a book on it. He preached it from the beginning. Answering the original question is as easy as having a look at the Wikipedia page. So I tried to make a connection to the current situation, where it is completely taboo to be anti-semitic, but there are still enough other kinds of people that politicians can openly hate. I'll edit it into the answer.
    – Dakkaron
    Jul 19, 2017 at 20:26
  • Much better.+1.
    – Tom Au
    Jul 19, 2017 at 22:36
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    There has recently been an election in the western hemisphere where the one elected was very, very clear about what he wanted to do when elected. Apparently it still was a surprise to many that he actually tried very hard to do so (but was too inexperienced to know how to do it properly) Jul 20, 2017 at 6:54
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    -1 for the last paragraph, we are WAY better than exterminating a nation just because. Sending Mexicans back to Mexico, is not the same as not letting them leave because you want to exterminate them. To compare modern political differences to the anti-semitism of then is a bit too much
    – Mennyg
    Jul 20, 2017 at 10:50

To what degree would his anti-Jewish sentiments have reasonably been known to those who voted him to power in 1933?

Very well, and in fact many believed the same things themselves due to the eugenics movement.


While it has always been controversial, it was still a well enough accepted philosophy that many nations made laws based on the concept that genetics determine character, and that some races were genetically inferior to others. From Wikipedia:

Eugenic policies were first implemented in the early 1900s in the United States. It also took root in France, Germany, and Great Britain. Later, in the 1920s and 1930s, the eugenic policy of sterilizing certain mental patients was implemented in other countries including Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Japan and Sweden.

Politically, the movement advocated measures such as sterilization laws. In its moral dimension, eugenics rejected the doctrine that all human beings are born equal and redefined moral worth purely in terms of genetic fitness. Its racist elements included pursuit of a pure "Nordic race" or "Aryan" genetic pool and the eventual elimination of "unfit" races.

Hitler subscribed to this philosophy, and like many others of that time his writings were no more controversial than other proponents of eugenics. Wikipedia:

Adolf Hitler had praised and incorporated eugenic ideas in Mein Kampf in 1925 and emulated eugenic legislation for the sterilization of "defectives" that had been pioneered in the United States once he took power. Some common early 20th century eugenics methods involved identifying and classifying individuals and their families, including ... racial groups (such as the ... Jews) as "degenerate" or "unfit", and therefore led to segregation, institutionalization, sterilization, euthanasia, and even mass murder.

This was not only something people knew about Hitler, it was actively being practiced in the country prior to the holocaust, and many other countries had laws discriminating based on race supported by the idea of superior genetic stock.

Yes, his anti-jewish sentiment was well known to those who voted for him, in fact many of them subscribed to the same belief system.

  • @MarkC.Wallace I've edited to clarify. Hopefully this resolves your concern.
    – Adam Davis
    Jul 19, 2017 at 11:28
  • @AdamDavis - allow me to introduce facts to shore up your point. First, Enabling Act of 1933. Second, **Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring. Both of these laws shows quite clearly what Hitler stood for. Your entry, you decide whether they are relevant
    – J Asia
    Jul 19, 2017 at 11:42
  • @JAsia Thanks. While they are both relevant to the discussion as a whole, they do not specifically attack or mention races.
    – Adam Davis
    Jul 19, 2017 at 11:57
  • Eugenics was a broad world wide science in the 1900's. American, European and Russian universities were teaching it as a science. It was introduced into Germany from outside, and members of the SS leadership had studied eugenics in foreign universities. I think people today find it hard to believe that their own countries contributed to this horrible idea, but that's the way things were back than. Eugenics was the belief that behavior traits are inherited. What Hitler believed in was far far worse than just eugenics.
    – Reactgular
    Jul 20, 2017 at 1:52

In 1923, Hitler was part of the Bavarian communist party. He took part in their failed coup in Munich, which led to his arrest and him leaving the party and joining the NSDAP instead, which at the time was an up and coming ultra-nationalist party with very similar ideas to that of the communist party (except for being German nationalist rather than seeking eventual merger of Germany with the USSR).

Both parties (as was common at the time in Germany as well as other countries) had their own security force and "action groups" to protect their own members during rallies and harass and sometimes murder political opponents.

Those groups formed the core of the group that staged the failed communist coup in Munich that got Hitler sent to prison where he wrote Mein Kampf, and the SA and SD of the 1930s when Hitler became Reichskanzler after the NSDAP came to power.

As to his anti-Semitic views, those were widely known and shared by a large part of the German (and indeed the European and US) population. Mein Kampf was a best seller, national socialist parties existed in many other countries with very similar agendas (up to and including later on seeking merger of their countries with the Third Reich), and anti-Semitic speeches did not suddenly start after the 1932 elections, but were common before that.

The post-WW2 idea that somehow a small group of nazis staged the holocaust without knowledge or approval of the general population is blatantly wrong. While most people would probably have been horrified had they known the exact details of what went on in places like Bergen Belsen and Dachau, those same people didn't mind at all that the "evil Jews" were removed from their societies and killed. Thus also the idea of large scale operations in Europe to save Jews and hide them from the Gestapo and other police forces are much overstated. While such things did exist, they were small, not just for lack of people but also to maintain operational security (more people involved, greater chance of leaks and discovery, and a lot of such cells were indeed ratted out to the Gestapo from the inside).

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    I think it's relevant to your first paragraph that Hitler joined the DAP (Deutsche Arbeiter Partei) as a police spy, with approval from his then-boss, Mayr. I don't see how the 1923 putsch attempt was communist. Agree with the rest of your answer.
    – mart
    Jul 18, 2017 at 6:24
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    The Deutsche Arbeiterpartei was a German nationalist anti-capitalist anti-communist anti-semitic party before and after Hitler joined it
    – Henry
    Jul 18, 2017 at 10:15
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    @jwenting: There was nothing communist about the DAP, which was renamed to NSDAP. Please adjust your first two paragraphs accordingly -- there was only one party.
    – DevSolar
    Jul 18, 2017 at 11:03
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    I question your conclusion "and killed". Jul 18, 2017 at 12:38
  • googling "Bavarian communist coup" comes up with 1918, so, NO. thumbs up to your last two paragraphs though.
    – Genli Ai
    Jul 19, 2017 at 14:06