‚Racial hygiene‘ and ‚maintaining the race‘ (‚Rassenpflege‘)2024-02-21T13:34:41+01:00

Nazi racial policy classified people as racially ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’. According to these principles, the German people (Volk) belonged to the superior ‘Aryan race’ which had to be kept ‘pure’. The pseudo-scientific concept of ‘racial hygiene’ was applied for this purpose. Although the National Socialists had not devised the concept, they implemented it with methods that resulted in murder. In the National Socialist world view, Jews and people with disabilities were the chief source of ‘contamination’ and a threat to the ‘Aryan race’ and were ultimately to be eradicated.

For more information (in German) see: LeMO NS-Regime – Innenpolitik – Rassenpolitik (

Anschluss (annexation) of Austria2024-02-21T13:52:51+01:00

On 12 March 1938 the German Wehrmacht invaded Austria. A National Socialist government was installed there the same night and formally approved the ‘Anschluss’ (literally ‘connection’, ‘joining’) of Austria to the German Reich on 13 March 1938.

The annexation of Austria was the Hitler regime’s first major act of aggressive territorial expansionism. The measures introduced in Germany after 1933 to establish the National Socialist regime were swiftly enforced in Austria too.

For more information (in German) see: LeMO NS-Regime – Außenpolitik – „Anschluss“ Österreich 1938 (

Certificate of Aryan Descent (Ariernachweis)2024-05-05T17:02:45+02:00

From 1933 the National Socialists targeted ‘non-Aryans’ with an increasing number of professional bans and other discriminatory legislation. Anyone with a Jewish parent or grandparent was considered ‘non-Aryan’. A so-called Certificate of Aryan Descent (Ariernachweis) was required to prove ‘pure Aryan descent’. It consisted of birth, marriage, and death certificates or proof of ancestry, all of which had to be officially authenticated.

For more information (in German) see: LeMO NS-Regime – Ausgrenzung und Verfolgung – „Ariernachweis“ (

Aryanization (Arisierung)2024-02-21T13:59:49+01:00

Under the Nazi regime, ‘Aryanization’ (Arisierung) was defined as the compulsory transfer of Jewish property, businesses, and companies into non-Jewish ownership, often for a fraction of their actual value. The process forced Jews out of economic life and deprived them of their means of existence.

ERR (Reichsleiter Rosenberg Task Force)2024-02-21T13:59:01+01:00

The Reichsleiter Rosenberg Task Force (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, ERR) was one of several organizations involved in looting art for the Nazis in Germany and the occupied territories. It was named after the Nazi politician Alfred Rosenberg (1893–1946). The ERR confiscated Jewish-owned artworks and other forms of cultural property. The items were sold or transferred to German museums, but also ended up in the private collections of Nazi politicians, for example as part of the ‘Sonderauftrag Linz’ (‘Special Commission Linz’) for the museum Hitler was planning in Linz, or Hermann Göring’s personal collection. The ERR operated in cities including Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Riga, and Moscow.

Hermann Göring2024-02-21T14:02:53+01:00

Hermann Göring (1893–1946) was one of the most powerful political figures in the Nazi regime. He joined the Nazi Party in 1922. In 1933 Hitler appointed him prime minister (Ministerpräsident) of Prussia, in 1935 he became Supreme Commander of the German air force (Luftwaffe), and from 1936 he was in charge of the Four-Year Plan for the German economy. In July 1941 Göring issued instructions for the preparation of the ‘final solution to the Jewish question’.

Göring built up an extensive collection of cultural property through looting, extortion, and acquisition – second only to the collection amassed by Hitler. He stored the most valuable artworks at Carinhall, his country residence to the north of Berlin.

As one of the main defendants at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Göring was sentenced to death in 1946, but he evaded execution by committing suicide.

Jew house (Judenhaus)2024-03-05T09:46:39+01:00

‘Jew house’ (Judenhaus) originated as an administrative term under National Socialism. It described residential buildings to which Jews were forced to relocate to free up accommodation for the ‘Aryan’ population. The residents of ‘Jew houses’ had to live in cramped and insanitary conditions. This was often to be their last residence prior to deportation.

Levy on Jewish assets (Judenvermögensabgabe)2024-02-21T13:56:00+01:00

On November 12, 1938 a compulsory levy was imposed on Jews in the Reich. There had been plans for some time to introduce special taxes that would apply solely to Jews. Following the assassination of German embassy official Ernst vom Rath in Paris in November 1938, the Nazis seized the political opportunity and introduced a so-called atonement fine (Sühnegeld) for the Jewish population. Vom Rath’s assassination provided a welcome pretext to cover the acute financial shortfall in the Reich. Jews initially had to contribute one fifth of their assets to the Reich; the amount was later increased to a quarter.

Takeover of power2024-02-21T13:56:59+01:00

On January 30, 1933 Adolf Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor. This marked the start of the National Socialist dictatorship. The date is often associated with a ‘takeover of power’ . However, the process did not occur overnight and it took several more months for the Nazi regime to become firmly established.

Mischling (‘half castes’)2024-02-21T14:02:24+01:00

The Nuremberg Race Laws provided a legal definition of Mischlinge (‘half castes’ or ‘persons of mixed blood’). Anyone with one Jewish grandparent was classified as a ‘second-degree Mischling’ and was initially spared from discrimination. Anyone with two Jewish grandparents was deemed a ‘first-degree Mischling’ and subject to significant persecution. At the end of 1943 the Nazi regime decided to deploy male ‘first-degree Mischlinge’ as forced laborers for Organization Todt (a Nazi organization carrying out large-scale infrastructure projects in occupied Europe). Anyone with three Jewish grandparents was considered a ‘full Jew’ (Volljude).

NS Laws on the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service2024-02-21T13:52:24+01:00

On 7 April 1933 the ‘Law on the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service’ was adopted in the German Reich. Its purpose was to bring all state employees under National Socialist control and to dismiss any of them who were ‘undesirable’ or did not conform. The so-called Aryan Paragraph (§ 3) of this law barred Jews from state employment.

In Austria the ‘Regulation on the Restructuring of the Austrian Professional Civil Service’ came into force on 31 May 1938, shortly after the Anschluss. Like its German counterpart, this law contained provisions to disenfranchise and exclude Jews and other opponents of the Nazi regime.

The Nuremberg Laws2024-02-21T14:03:35+01:00

The Nuremberg Race Laws were adopted on September 15, 1935 at the Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg. The objective was to exclude anyone whom the National Socialists did not consider to belong to the ‘national community’ (Volksgemeinschaft) and thereby create a homogenous, ‘racially pure’ society. The provisions included a ban on marriage and sexual relations outside marriage between people defined as Jews and those defined as non-Jews. These laws provided the National Socialists with a legally binding basis for their antisemitic and racist ideology and overturned the principle of equality before the law.

Privileged mixed marriage (privilegierte Mischehe)2024-02-21T13:58:01+01:00

Verbindungen zwischen jüdischen und nicht-jüdischen Partner:innen bedeuteten in der Rassenideologie der Nationalsozialisten einen Störfaktor. Durch Verfolgungsmaßnahmen versuchte die NS-Regierung, ‚gemischte‘ Ehen aufzulösen. Die Ausgrenzung verlief phasenweise mit starken regionalen Unterschieden. Ab 1939 wurden jedoch die jüdischen Ehepartner:innen, sofern sie ihre Kinder nicht-jüdisch erzogen, von einigen Diskriminierungen ausgenommen (z.B. der Unterbringung in ‚Judenhäusern‘ und dem Tragen eines ‚Judensterns‘), da ein zu radikales Vorgehen in Kriegszeiten Unruhe an der ‚Heimatfront‘ verursacht hätte. Die Nationalsozialisten bezeichneten solche ‚Mischehen‘ als ‚privilegiert‘. Mit der zunehmenden Radikalisierung zum Kriegsende wurde der Schutz durch die ‚Mischehe‘ immer fragiler, da die NS-Führung die Verfolgung nun auch auf die jüdischen Ehepartner:innen ausdehnte und ihre Deportation anordnete.

Washington Principles2024-02-21T14:00:38+01:00

The ‘Washington Principles’ were agreed at an international conference in 1998. At the conference a total of 43 states and 13 non-governmental organizations pledged to identify cultural property that was seized, looted, or sold under duress and to reach just and fair solutions with the heirs.

Germany subsequently issued the ‘Joint Declaration by the Federal Government, the Länder and the National Associations of Local Authorities on the Tracing and Return of Nazi-Confiscated Art, Especially Jewish Property’ in 1999.

On the Washington Principles :

Explanatory video by the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste (German Lost Art Foundation):

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