At the beginning of the 19th centuty there was a considerable amount of anti-Semitism in Europe. This was reflected in the speeches and writings of Adolf Hitler. In the 25 point programme drawn up by Hitler and Anton Drexler in 1920 for the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) it stated that "Citizenship is to be determined by race; no Jew to be a German."
In Mein Kampf Hitler argued that the German (he wrongly described them as the Aryan race) was superior to all others. He went on to say that Aryan superiority was being threatened particularly by the Jewish race who, he argued, were lazy and had contributed little to world civilization. (Hitler ignored the fact that some of his favourite composers and musicians were Jewish). He claimed that the "Jewish youth lies in wait for hours on end satanically glaring at and spying on the unconscious girl whom he plans to seduce, adulterating her blood with the ultimate idea of bastardizing the white race which they hate and thus lowering its cultural and political level so that the Jew might dominate."
According to Adolf Hitler, Jews were responsible for everything he did not like, including modern art, pornography and prostitution. Hitler also alleged that the Jews had been responsible for losing the First World War. Hitler also claimed that Jews, who were only about 1% of the population, were slowly taking over the country. They were doing this by controlling the largest political party in Germany, the German Social Democrat Party, many of the leading companies and several of the country's newspapers. The fact that Jews had achieved prominent positions in a democratic society was, according to Hitler, an argument against democracy: "a hundred blockheads do not equal one man in wisdom."
Hitler believed that the Jews were involved with Communists in a joint conspiracy to take over the world. Like Henry Ford, Hitler claimed that 75% of all Communists were Jews. Hitler argued that the combination of Jews and Marxists had already been successful in Russia and now threatened the rest of Europe. He argued that the communist revolution was an act of revenge that attempted to disguise the inferiority of the Jews.
Once in power Hitler was quick to express anti-Semitic ideas. Based on his readings of how blacks were denied civil rights in the southern states in America, Hitler attempted to make life so unpleasant for Jews in Germany that they would emigrate. The campaign started on 1st April, 1933, when a one-day boycott of Jewish-owned shops took place. Members of the Sturm Abteilung (SA) picketed the shops to ensure the boycott was successful.
The hostility of towards Jews increased in Germany. This was reflected in the decision by many shops and restaurants not to serve the Jewish population. Placards saying "Jews not admitted" and "Jews enter this place at their own risk" began to appear all over Germany. In some parts of the country Jews were banned from public parks, swimming-pools and public transport.
Germans were also encouraged not to use Jewish doctors and lawyers. Jewish civil servants, teachers and those employed by the mass media were sacked. Members of the SA put pressure on people not to buy goods produced by Jewish companies. For example, the Ullstein Press, the largest publisher of newspapers, books and magazines in Germany, was forced to sell the company to the NSDAP in 1934 after the actions of the SA had made it impossible for them to make a profit.
Many Jewish people now left the country. This included a large number of scientists including Albert Einstein, Edward Teller, Otto Frisch, Felix Bloch, Eugene Wigner, Leo Szilard, Lise Meitner, Otto Meyerhof, and Fritz Haber. Most of these scientists went to live in Britain and the United States and later played an important role in developing technology that was used against Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
The number of Jews emigrating increased after the passing of the Nuremberg Laws on Citizenship and Race in 1935. Under this new law Jews could no longer be citizens of Germany. It was also made illegal for Jews to marry Aryans.
The pressure on Jews to leave Germany intensified. Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Reinhard Heydrich organized a new programme designed to encourage Jews to emigrate. Crystal Night took place on 9th-10th November, 1938. Presented as a spontaneous reaction of the German people to the news that a German diplomat had been murdered by a young Jewish refugee in Paris, the whole event was in fact organized by the NSDAP.
During Crystal Night over 7,500 Jewish shops were destroyed and 400 synagogues were burnt down. Ninety-one Jews were killed and an estimated 20,000 were sent to concentration camps. Up until this time these camps had been mainly for political prisoners. The only people who were punished for the crimes committed on Crystal Night were members of the Sturm Abteilung (SA) who had raped Jewish women (they had broken the Nuremberg Laws on sexual intercourse between Aryans and Jews).
After Crystal Night the numbers of Jews wishing to leave Germany increased dramatically. It has been calculated that between 1933 and 1939, approximately half the Jewish population of Germany (250,000) left the country. This included several Jewish scientists who were to play an important role in the fight against fascism during the war. A higher number of Jews would have left but anti-Semitism was not restricted to Germany and many countries were reluctant to take them.
Bernhard Rust, minister of education, also purged the universities of Jews. Over a thousand people lost their jobs. Rust justified his actions by claiming that: "We must have a new Aryan generation at the universities, or else we will lose the future."
By the end of 1941 over 500,000 Jews in Poland and Russia had been killed by the Schutz Staffeinel (SS). At the Wannsee Conference held in January 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Muller, Adolf Eichmann and Roland Friesler discussed what became known as the Final Solution. It was eventually decided to make the extermination of the Jews a systematically organized operation. After this date extermination camps were established in the east that had the capacity to kill large numbers including Belzec (15,000 a day), Sobibor (20,000), Treblinka (25,000) and Majdanek (25,000).
It has been estimated that between 1942 and 1945 a total of 18 million were sent to extermination camps. Of these, historians have estimated that between five and eleven million were killed.