Dehumanization of the Jews
How the Nazis spread propaganda and its effect on Jews
In the 1930's, Hitler and his Nazi regime led a campaign of propaganda spreading lies about the Jews. As the "Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda" of the Nazi party, Josef Goebbels created a negative image of the Jewish people, blaming them for the economic and social problems of Germany and the world. The propaganda was intended to dehumanize the Jews by naming them an “inferior race,” to create widespread anti-Semitism and lay the groundwork for the elimination of the rights and freedoms of the Jews. The Nazis preached that Jews must be excluded from society, and used schools, the media and popular art forms such as films, posters and dramas to teach and project a distorted image of the Jews.
The effects of the propaganda, combined with the anti-Semitic feelings that already existed in Europe, resulted in widespread ridicule, violence, humiliation, and persecution of Jews. Driving them into poverty and despair, Nazi propaganda and hatred against the Jews set the stage for mass genocide.
Anti-Semitic Laws Enacted by the Nazis
Initially, the Nazis encouraged Germans to boycott Jewish businesses. The passing of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935 formally established who was a German versus who was a Jew under “the Reich Citizenship Law,” and enforced the persecution of Jews. These laws prevented Christians from marrying Jews and stripped Jews of their civil rights, removed them from jobs, and restricted their daily lives, among other things.
Passed on September 15, October 18, and November 15 of 1935, the Nuremberg Laws increased the isolation of the Jews in deliberate, gradual steps. At first, only Jews in certain professions were affected. Jewish doctors and lawyers could only serve other Jews. Teachers and professors were forced out of their positions. Shop owners had to sell their businesses to Aryans for a fraction of their worth. As time passed, Jews were eventually excluded from society altogether.
The Star of David
As a farmer marks his cattle with a brand to separate them from his neighbor's cattle, the Nazis forced Jews to sew the Star of David on their clothing in order to mark and identify them in an attempt to both separate them from the rest of society and to shame them. This abuse of the Star of David also distorted a symbol of pride that was sacred to the Jews. The marking of Jews in this way was but a single step in the movement to dehumanize them.
Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass)
On October 28 and 29 of 1938, between 6,000 and 10,000 Polish Jews were involuntarily deported from their homes and villages. Thousands of them were murdered shortly after their arrival in prison camps. Herschel Grynszpan, the son of a deported family, shot a German diplomat in Paris in retaliation. This shooting gave the Nazis the opportunity to raise the persecution of the Jews to more violent heights.
On November 9 and 10, 1938, the Nazi German government ordered the first major pogrom against the Jews in Germany and Austria. Jewish stores, synagogues, and homes were burned, looted and destroyed. About 100 Jewish men were killed and 30,000 were sent away to concentration camps. These horrible acts of violence are now known as Kristallnacht, or the "Night of Broken Glass," a description of the broken glass that covered the streets following these atrocities. Ironically, the Jews were forced to pay for the damage claims.