William Zukerman on the Nuremberg Laws (1936)

William Zuckerman was a Jewish-American journalist, active in the early to mid-20th century. This article contains his views on the Nuremberg Laws and the formation of Jewish ghettos:

“The Ghetto has now been established in Germany. It was legally introduced with much pomp on September 14th with the promulgation of the Nürnberg laws and has since become an important fact in German life, one which both Jews and non-Jews must take into account in dealing with the German situation.

Soon after the promulgation of the Nuremberg laws many well-informed observers of foreign affairs in Germany, including some of the best foreign correspondents, believed that the new laws, cruel and bitter as they are, would end the chapter of anti-Jewish persecution in Germany and would somehow effect an improvement in the position of Jews… It was thought that the Nuremberg laws would bring a respite, both to Germans and to Jews. Jewish life, it was recognised, would be tragically restricted within the confines of a virtual ghetto, but the Jew would at least be free from anxiety and would have some assurance for his future. The lines of demarcation being rigidly drawn, the Jews would be left at peace within them.

Another ground for hope was the expectation that the new legislation would do away with the legal anarchy prevailing in Germany with regard to the Jewish question, which made it possible for every petty Nazi official in the provinces to proclaim his own laws and issue his own decrees affecting the lives and fortunes of many Jews. Under this state of legal anarchy, hundreds of cities, towns, and villages in Germany had prohibited Jews from entering their precincts and proudly announced the fact by means of illuminated sign-boards; hundreds of other cities had banned Jews from their public libraries, archives, museums, theatres, cinemas, and other public places; many famous cities forbid Jews to use their public baths, swimming pools, rivers and medicinal springs. A number of towns in Germany even now prohibit the sale of food to Jews, of meals to Jewish children, and of medicines to Jewish sick.

This state anarchy was also responsible for the terrible Jew-baiting campaign conducted by Julius Streicher, with its blood libels, its revolting particulars of “race pollution,” its high-pressure blackmail methods in the boycott of the Jews, its hysteria and near-lynching of Jewish youths seen associating with German girls.

The government issued many pronouncements about the stabilising effect of the legalisation of the Jewish position. Dr Goebbels and even Streicher himself proclaimed the end of individual anti-Jewish acts. Some the official Nazi newspapers gave expression to a feeling of fief in words which seemed to say: Now we shall be a to forget the Jews for a while, and we shall have a little peace. Certain foreign liberals also placed hope in the average German’s respect for law now that he had laws concerning Jews to go by.

Such hopes were doomed to disappointment. Within a brief fortnight from the proclamation of the Nürnberg decrees it became clear to all who cared to see that this legislation was not the end of a chapter, but the beginning of a new period of persecution. The new anti-Jewish laws have legalised the state of pogrom created by the Streicher drive, and this has been done not in order to call a halt to Jew-baiting but to make possible further advances.

No sooner were the new laws proclaimed than a period of interpreting and implementing them began which promises be even more tragic than earlier stages. The anti-Jewish boycott is being waged with as much virulence as before the municipalities have been declared to be within their rights as autonomous governments in enacting their fanatical laws against the Jews; the orgy of Jew-baiting has not abated in the least. Moreover, the anarchic situation has not been resolved. There is as much agonising uncertainty about the meaning of the Nuremberg laws as there was about the status of the Jew before these laws existed. The hunt of the Jew has not been called off; the beast has only been declared fair game for all, and the hunt has been made a legal national sport.”