While I appreciate that the Nazis tried to portray their anti-Semitism as based on racial, and not religious differences per se, and I understand that if one converted to Judaism, one would be considered a 'full Jew' in terms of race (along with all the other bafflingly insane aspects of Nazism, I've never understood this one), synagogues themselves continued to operate well into the 1930s, with periodic individual pogroms and of course, kristallnacht, where many were burned.

But was there ever any official pronouncement on it? What I mean is, did the Nazis ever make it actually illegal to practice Judaism, in the sense of the religion itself?

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    Trying to evolve it into a better question: nuremberg laws were official: but they didnt ban Jews, just made their life very miserable. Wansee conference: mass extermination was ordered,the bureocracy put to work on it. But some was verbally ordered, or written in vague terms ('office-like', as Heydrich would say), or written as lower level orders. I also dont know if there were true national laws publicly in the books to ban Jews. Plus: define 'ban': if nuremberg =/= ban; a law banning something must define penalties -> you look for a law ordering prison/death explicity (do euphemisms count?)
    – Luiz
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 13:20
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    I think this question would make more sense to someone who thinks the problem the Nazis had with Jews is that they didn't like their religion. However, that's not the case. It was based on ethnicity, not religious practice.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 14:08
  • @T.E.D., I'm aware of that, but it is somewhat surprising they didn't. That said though, given the deliberately vague nature the Nazi bureaucracy had of "working towards the Fuhrer", perhaps not.
    – user22453
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 16:23
  • @T.E.D. although...I do seem to remember the example of a non-Jewish German woman who married a Jewish person and converted the Judaism, and was later widowed (after which she returned to Christianity) and subsequently married for a second time to a non-Jewish man. According to the Nuremberg Laws, said woman's descendents would count as 'mischling', (half-jews), because the temporary connection of the woman with Judaism somehow 'corrupted' her blood. That said though, I'm probably trying to make sense of something that was inherently irrational, and was simply based on racial hatred.
    – user22453
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 16:27
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    Note that having an active, organized group of people is a highly effective way to target and persecute them. Ban the group and you lose the easiest way to actually identify and find them.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 6:05

1 Answer 1


One of the curious features of the Nazi genocide of European Jews is the degree to which they fetishized their victims, and even encouraged (if not forced) the outward display of Jewishness. German Jews who did not have stereotypically Jewish names needed to adopt a new middle name in 1938 (Sara for girls and women; Israel for boys and men), and even after Jewish children were prevented from attending state schools, they were still allowed to attend Jewish schools - at least for a time.

As the question notes, synagogues continued to operate in many locations, but a great many were closed down. The Wilker Shul in Lodz, for example, was boarded up, and only reopened for the filming of a mock synagogue service that was incorporated into the documentary film, Der Ewige Jude ("The Eternal Jew"), which screened in 1941.

In some camps, like Terezin, religious services were permitted, and in some others, were tolerated. An ability to pray in places like Treblinka, Chelmno and Auschwitz-Birkenau was thought to keep members of the sonderkommando pacified, and they were even allowed access in some of these places to religious literature that had been brought in by other Jewish arrivals.

Were there any aspects of Jewish practice that were ever made actually illegal? There were some - most notably the ban on kosher slaughter in Germany, 1933. Other examples were more ad hoc, such as preventing people from fasting on days like Yom Kippur, or disallowing public prayer in certain places of occupation (such as in various of the ghettos, etc) - but those weren't items of actual legislation.

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    References to sources would make this a great answer.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 2:27
  • I would suggest rephrasing "the documentary film, Der Ewige Jude" into "the propaganda film, Der Ewige Jude".
    – Evargalo
    Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 8:06

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