Identifying individual’s "racial composition" during the Nazi era required usable definitions of "Aryan" and "German or related blood" or conversely "non-Aryan" and "Jew" In a variety of ways, the attempts to do this also indicated the falsehood of claims to scientific legitimacy for the racial laws.
Apparently the initial such legal definition appeared in April 1933, as part of the first regulations implementing the Law for the Reestablishment of the Professional Civil Service (Civil Service Law). This denoted a "non-Aryan" as a person "who is descended from non-Aryan, especially Jewish parents or grandparents. This premise especially obtains if one parent or grandparent was of Jewish faith." This definition obviously used religious affiliation to define racial status. Proponents of the racial laws, aware of the seeming discrepancy in using religion as a surrogate for race, often stated that this was simply a legal presumption based on the paucity of intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews prior to Jewish emancipation. Thus it was implicitly acknowledged that a few "nonracial Jews" (presumably those who had converted to Judaism after emancipation) might be lumped in with "racial Jews." Less explicable, however, was the fact that authorities either did not assign a racial presumption to membership in the Moslem faith, or assumed the exact opposite. In May 1938, for example, the German consulate in Istanbul asked the German Foreign Office for guidance as to whether "members of the Krimchak confession are to be viewed as members of the Jewish race, or whether they are Muslims and, as such, Aryans." Indeed, in September 1943 Hitler specifically decreed that Muslim "Germans" may remain party members, just as could persons of "Christian confession."
Providing an affirmative definition of Aryan posed additional theoretical and political problems, both of which could also be construed as undermining the asserted scientific basis for racial policy. In July 1933, for example, Hans Seel, an Interior Ministry official, asked Achim Gercke (1902—1997), then the ministry’s racial expert, how he would reconcile the “Aryan paragraph” in the Civil Service Law with the following definition of Aryan by Albert Gorter, another prominent ministry official:
The Aryans (also Indo-Germans, Japhetiten) are one of the three branches of the Caucasian (white race); they are divided into the western (European), that is the German, Roman, Greek, Slav, Lett, Celt [and] Albanesen, and the eastern (Asiatic) Aryans, that is the Indian (Hindu) and Iranian (Persian, Afghan, Armenian, Georgian, Kurd). Non-Aryans are therefore:
1. the members of the two other races, namely the Mongolian (yellow) and the Negroid (black) races;
2. the members of the other two branches of the Caucasian race, namely the Semites (Jews, Arabs) and Hamites (Berbers). The Finns and Hungarians belong to the Mongolian race; but it is hardly the intention of the law to treat them as non-Aryans. Thus . . . the non-Jewish members of all European Volk are Aryans. . . .
This definition of Aryan was clearly unacceptable. Not only did it include large numbers of non-European peoples such as Kurds and Afghans, but it also made the racial laws seem to be based on political expedience rather than science. Gercke replied that he would use the definition of Aryan established by the Expert Advisor for Population and Racial Policy (Sachverstandigenbeirats fur Bevolkerungs- und Rassenpolitik): "An Aryan is one who is tribally related (stammverivandte) to German blood. An Aryan is the descendant of a Volk domiciled in Europe in a closed tribal settlement (Volkstumssiedlung) since recorded history." This definition managed to include Finns and Hungarians, and exclude Kurds and Afghans. Why this definition was more scientifically accurate, however, Gercke did not say.
The lack of uniformity of terms that were used to define racial acceptability also reflected the imprecision of the concept.
Thus, while the Civil Service Law sought to differentiate between "Aryans" and "non-Aryans," the Entailed Farm Law (Erbhofgesetz), also from 1933, discriminated between those with and without "German or tribally similar [stammesgleich] blood." While early court decisions indicated that the two concepts had the same meaning, the meaning itself was not made explicit. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws established a new term for racially acceptable origin: German or related blood. This remained the standard wording in legal documents until the end ofWorld War II. Nevertheless, even experts continued to use the term Aryan well after 1935.
In any event, changing Aryan to German or related blood did nothing to clarify who was racially acceptable and who was not.
The "racial status" of Finns, Hungarians, and other Eastern Europeans, for example, was in constant flux during the Nazi era. In October 1934, while evaluating the naturalization of a Hungarian citizen, the Interior Ministry informed the Saxon State Chancellery in Dresden that not all Hungarians were "non-Aryans." According to the Interior Ministry, Hungarians are "tribally alien" (fremdstammig) but not necessarily "blood alien" (fremdbliitig)—two additional terms adding to the definitional confusion. On the other hand, a 1934 brochure from the series Family, Race, Volk in the National Socialist State simply stated that the Magyars (which it did not define) were Aryans. Four years later, a major commentary to the Nuremberg Laws likewise baldly stated that “the overwhelming majority” of present day Finns and Hungarians were of Aryan blood. Yet the following year an article in the Journal for Racial Science, on the “Racial Diagnosis of the Hungarians," noted that "opinions on [t]he racial condition of the Hungarians are still very divided."In 1942, Hitler decreed that the Finns, at least, were definitely "racially related Germanic neighboring peoples." There is no indication, however, that this determination was based on new racial-scientific findings. And as late as 1943, no less than four agencies became involved in a dispute over whether a private first-class should receive permission to marry a Hungarian woman. They debated whether the woman was, as initially determined, "German-blooded (Aryan)."
Such arbitrariness and imprecision in classification could also be construed as an indication of the “unscientific” nature of the theory undergirding the racial laws.
Nazi "racial experts," however, sought to address this problem. A standard explanation was that: "[o]ne cannot pose the question to which race this or that Volk belongs but rather, one can only correctly ask to which race this or that individual member of a Volk belongs." Thus, as early as October 1934, in relation to the case of the Hungarian citizen, the Interior Ministry informed the Saxon State Chancellery that racial decisions, for Hungarians at least, needed to be made on an individual basis. Similarly, a November 1940 decree of the office of Hitlers deputy for party affairs held that no party member, or member of a party organization, could marry a person who had at least two grandparents who were members of the Czech, Polish, or Magyar "Volk groups" without permission of the regional party official (Gauleiter). Indeed, even with regard to "Gypsies," another expert, writing in 1941, noted that while they "cannot be seen in their totality as [German or] related-type blood," nevertheless, "[t]o the degree persons of German or related blood appear amongst vagrants living the Gypsy lifestyle, they are to make an ancestral proof."
Yet, in direct contradiction to that policy, racial laws invariably treated "Jewish" as if it were a pure race despite the Jews’ "racial-scientific" status as a Volk. The Nuremberg Laws, for example, distinguished between persons of "German or related blood" and "Jews." This foreclosed the possibility of a person with three or more "Jewish" grandparents from proving their individual "racial makeup." A 1941 work on the ancestral proof indicated that "[t]hose of foreign race, in first place the Jews and Negroes, are excluded from the concept of German or related blood." The authors explanation for this apparent disregard of racial-scientific findings was that the Jewish Volk was composed of "foreign races." But this directly contradicted the assertion that one could only determine an individual’s racial composition by examining the individual, not through his Volk affiliation.
Even assuming, however, that by definition all "Jews" were a racial threat to Germans, the question as to how much "Jewish blood" an individual could carry without comprising a threat to German racial health remained a vexing one. Such an issue could also be construed as calling the "scientific" basis of the racial laws into question. This was a seemingly urgent problem for proponents of the racial laws, as it appeared possible that many millions of "Germans" had some degree of "Jewish" blood. In his 1913 work, for example, the American anthropologist Fishberg had noted that significant numbers of non-Jews must have some Jewish ancestry. According to his calculation, without large-scale assimilation the number of presently living Jews should have been on the order of 36 million, rather than just 12 million. 50 Likewise, in April 1936, a Prof. Dr. Felix Jentzsch sent the “racial expert” Hans Gunther a report titled "How Does One Best Research the Magnitude and Type of German-Jewish Mixing (Bastardization)?" According to this report, there had been 80,000-85,000 marriages between Jews and non-Jews in Germany between 1870 and 1930. This would suggest that there were about 130,000-160,000 quarter-Jews, and 170,000-180,000 half-Jews stemming from such marriages.
Moreover, in the eighteenth century, there were about twenty Jewish conversions per year in the German lands. This figure rose to about fifty per year in 1800-1840, and to about one hundred annually between 1840 and 1870. For each eighteenth-century conversion, there were probably 150 living descendants. Accordingly, there would presently be about 500,000 Germans descended from such ancestors. If one went back to the seventeenth century, or to the Reformation period (Luther, for example, converted about three hundred Jews), it became obvious that there were many millions of Germans who had some Jewish ancestry (e.g., 1/64). On being presented with this essay, Kurt Mayer, the head of the Interior Ministry’s race authority, confirmed that present work limited only to Jews who had been baptized around the year 1800 indicated how large a group the descendants of these Jews represented.
Part of the response to this analysis of a potentially large "racial problem" was a rational debate over the best way to find the descendants of converted Jews. Jentzsch proposed first identifying baptized Jews and then tracing their descendents. Assuming that a Jew was of "purely Jewish race," with this process one could then observe if the descendants had "Jewish characteristics," and if so, whether the percentage of such characteristics corresponded with percentage of "Jewish blood." Although this process seemed quite logical, Mayer criticized the plan as unfeasible since many conversions of Jews who lived in Germany had occurred outside Germany. Moreover, many German conversion records had been destroyed. Accordingly, many Mischlinge (racially mixed individuals) would still need to be identified by tracing back their ancestors. Jentzsch’s other response to the “problem,” however, was his assertion that in any event, the cited calculation of numbers of Jewish descendants cannot be correct because (1) the ancestors of Jewish converts may have, on a “purely instinctive” basis, married other Mischlinge, which would strongly reduce the introduction of Jewish blood, and (2) as popular belief (Volksmund) has it, perhaps such mixed marriages are less fruitful than other marriages. 55 Such blatant speculation could also be seen as an indication of the nonscientific nature of Nazi racial policy.
Inconsistent determinations on whether members of sects practicing different forms of Judaism, primarily the Turkic-language speaking Karaites and Krimchaks, were "racial Jews," further underscored the lack of coherence and thus the unscientific nature of the theory underlying the racial laws. A May 1938 expert report from the Foreign University of Berlin’s Russia Institute, for example, did not reach a definitive conclusion. Nonetheless, the report strongly implied that the Karaites were "racial Jews," based on a mixture of cultural evidence. Prior to the October Revolution, the report noted, the Karaites primarily concerned themselves with trade "and typically Jewish crafts" such as jewelry making, shoemaking, and tailoring.
Although Karaites do not recognize the authority of the Talmud, they claimed to stem from Jews. Thus, due to their "extremely strong familial seclusion ... a strong mixing of the Karaites with Tatars or Russians is not to be accepted." A 1939 expert report from Prof. Dr. Lothar Loeffler of the University of Konigsberg’s Racial Biological Institute was less circumspect. The Karaites, he wrote, liked to portray themselves as "opponents of the Jews," but "in fact, it has now turned out that they are a camouflaged Jewish organization that earlier was supposed to ease the then politically obstructed way for the Jews to [St.] Petersburg. . . . Therefore, absent proof to the contrary, it is to be assumed that any such sects contain racially foreign blood."
However, an undated report in a Party Racial Policy Office file (probably also from 1939) reviewed blood-group studies, as well as other literature, and concluded that the Karaites are a racially Turkish ethnic group that should not be treated as Jewish. Apparently not satisfied with this report, as late as 1945 the Racial Policy Office was still trying to determine the status of the Karaites. In March of that year, Dr. Walter Gross, the Office’s head, sent the Party Chancellery several reports. One from about June 1942 was called "Interim Position on the Karaite Question." It claimed that the only anthropological study on the Karaites (concerned with 130 persons in Galicia), conducted by the Italian Anthropologist Corrado Gini, found the Karaites to be of "Armenian-type ancestry." Moreover, according to this report there was a “racial psychological indication” that indicates that Karaites are not Jews: the Lithuanian Prince Witold used them as border guards. "it is inconceivable,"stated the report, "to view a Jewish population as carriers of a solid soldierly tradition." Nevertheless, they must be viewed as of "foreign race"— Turkotataren —and "marriages between Germans and Karaites are to be prevented." An August 1944 report from a Prof. R. A. Jirku in Bonn, however, indicated that it was still not clear whether the Karaites were originally Jews who had broken away due to opposition to "Talmud-Jewry" or were originally non-Semites who had converted to Judaism and "took on Jewish characteristics through marriage with Jews." Such incoherence regarding the Karaites could also be considered indicative of an inability to determine "race," and, more specifically, "Jewish racial characteristics."
In sum, the theory on which the ancestral proof requirement and racial laws were based was riddled with contradictions. In actual practice, the only consistency was found in the claim that Jews and other "non-Europeans" were a racial threat. Clearly, powerful intellectual tools were available to contemporaries who wanted to argue against Nazi claims of scientific support for their racist, and especially antisemitic, ideology and policies. Despite this possibility, however, such intellectual confrontation did not occur. Part of the reason for this state of affairs relates to the ways in which racist eugenic ideology developed in Germany prior to the Nazi period. This is the subject of the next two chapters.
Yet, as this study has shown, at the same time that the Nazi regime advocated this virulent antisemitism, it also concurrently engaged in the massive promotion of a much more subtle form of antisemitic propaganda: one carefully framed within a specific racial scientific ideology, institutionalized through the myriad of so-called racial laws, and touching the everyday lives of most Germans through, among other things, the demand for an ancestral proof. Such propaganda was usually unaccompanied by antisemitic caricature, and was often quite measured, and even apologetic, in tone. What role, if any, did this “dispassionate” antisemitism play in the perpetration of the Holocaust?
Before addressing this question, it is worth reemphasizing just how "neutrally" pitched much of the antisemitic discourse was in Nazi Germany. The various racial laws, for example, contained no overtly antisemitic rhetoric. Indeed, they initially distinguished only between "Aryans" and "non-Aryans." The word Jew appeared only in the implementing regulations. Proponents of the ancestral proof, too, almost invariably justified it in "neutral" terms. A standard work on the process from 1941, for example, defined it only as a "proof of German or related lineage or, respectively, of the grade of foreign admixture of blood." Explanatory information in various versions of the Ahnenpass also usually emphasized only the "scientific necessity" undergirding the racial laws. A very popular version, justifying what it called the "racial axiom," stated: "The belief rooted in National Socialist thought, that it is the highest duty of a Volk to maintain the purity of its blood from foreign influences and to further extirpate influxes of admixtures of foreign blood, is based on the scientific insight of hereditary science and racial research."The word Jew was absent. Likewise, the introduction to Genealogical Authority director Achim Gercke’s 1933 bibliography of racist works (Die Rasse) noted the importance of "racist thought" to the Nazi worldview, but did not mention Jews in particular. In the early years of the Third Reich, the Journal for Civil Registry Practice, while printing much about the racial laws, had virtually no specific references to Jews. And the Genealogical Authority broadsheet General Search Sheet for Kinship Researchers contained few if any antisemitic canards.
The direct implication was that the racial laws were based on objective, value-neutral, scientific findings, not on the fiendish antisemitic stereotypes concurrently promoted by the regime. Thus, according to this propaganda, anti-Jewish measures were necessary not because Jews were "evil world conspirators," criminals, Bolshevists, and so forth, but because "Jews" were “racially-alien,” and mixing with them caused hereditary and cultural damage.
Indeed, some explanations for the racial laws were quite apologetic in tone. Thus, for example, while one of the leading commentaries on the Nuremberg Laws could claim in 1935 that the legislation was based on the "fundamental recognition of the inequality of the human races," another could assert the next year that "there is no absolute hierarchy between the races. . . ," Similarly, at the same time that anti-Jewish rhetoric and policy were becoming increasingly strident in many quarters, a widely sold version of the Ahnenpass could still assert that "National Socialist thought . . . grants full equity to every other Volk and, moreover never speaks of superior or inferior, but rather only of alien racial admixture." In January 1936, a Stuttgart newspaper went so far as to claim that the Nuremberg Laws would actually lead to a decrease in hatred of the Jews since, once "the Jewish guest Volk . . . are . . . separated from the German Volk politically, culturally, and above all biologically," they will live "according to their own type of life" and this will "serve as a guarantee for acceptable joint living in the same national space." Thus, according to this paper, in the long run anti-Jewish policy, being scientifically grounded, was really in the Jews’ best interests as well. Even in the 1942 edition of a major commentary on the Nuremberg Laws, published after mass killings of Jews in the East were well under way, Wilhelm Stuckart, State Secretary in the Interior Ministry and a participant in the Wannsee Conference, explained:
A mixture of blood between members of unrelated races leads ... to ... [a meeting] of capacities that are not compatible with each other. As a consequence of this, inner tensions arise in the carriers of these capacities, which rob them of their full abilities. Because of the aforementioned internal rupture [race-mixing] may appear less desirable for the generality despite possible talents in individuals.
Again, the racial laws were said to be necessary to protect the hereditary capacities of the Volk, and not because "the Jews" were ontologically evil. Indeed, the work even acknowledged that in individual cases, "mixed-race" individuals (presumably also including mixtures between "Jews" and "Aryans") could exhibit considerable "talents."
What connection, if any, did this widespread "dispassionate" form of antisemitism have to the Final Solution? It was certainly not the underlying ideological force. Of course the basic premise of racist eugenic ideology in Nazi Germany, no matter how gently phrased, was that in order to save German society, Jews, being "racial aliens," must be removed. Given the alleged importance of racial purity, the death of a few of the "racially innocent" or even the mass death of the "racially guilty" did not, in itself, contradict this underlying logic. Moreover, even if some of those adversely affected because of alleged "Jewish ancestry" were not, in fact, "racially alien," their destruction could still be logically justified on the basis that it was too much work to identify the specific "racial background" of each and every person with three or more grandparents who were members of a Jewish religious community. One cannot, after all, make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Indeed, this policy fit in well with the Nazi conception of Volksgemeinschaft: sometimes innocent individuals had to suffer for the greater good of the Volk. Moreover, the actual physical destruction of the racially alien was a rational if cruel means to a clear racist eugenic end: racial purification of the Volk. If there were no racially alien persons present, there was no danger of "race-mixing."
But the policy of intentional destruction of all "Jews," everywhere, made no sense in this regard. One can prohibit interbreeding between populations without resorting to genocide. This was, after all, the German policy in regard to other “racially alien” ethnic groups. Complete exploitation and removal of such persons from German Lebensraum ("living space"), even if mass death might be a by-product, did not require their utter annihilation wherever they might be in the world. Moreover, if one is going to remove the "racial threat" through a policy of physical destruction, it makes no sense to destroy only one particular “racially alien” group. Yet the Nazi extermination policy was primarily directed only against "Jews."Finally, even if one is only killing off one “racially threatening” group, it is not necessary to engage in sustained and deliberate brutality in the process. Such brutality, however, was in fact built into the destruction process of the Jews. Thus racist eugenic ideology could not, in reality, have been the fundamental rationale for the Nazi’s genocidal policy against Jews. Clearly, the actual justification for the genocide was the other widespread allegation about Jews in Nazi Germany: that they were ontologically evil entities.
Yet, while not the ideological engine of the Holocaust, racist eugenic ideology was still an indispensable factor in creating the social conditions necessary for its perpetration. First, the ideology was vital to building a social consensus in Germany allowing for mistreatment of Jews. Hitler and many other Nazi ideologues obviously preferred virulent to dispassionate antisemitism. Demonic images of Jews were rampant in their speeches, in party papers such as the Volkischer Beobachter and Der Sturmer, and in Propaganda Ministry films like Der ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew) and Jud Siiss (The Jew Suss). Well-developed racial scientific rationalizations, on the other hand, were usually absent. Yet the regime almost invariably justified the racial laws and the ancestral proof on the alleged need to maintain racial purity, not prevent Jewish perfidy. Why?
The most plausible explanation is that the Nazi leadership recognized that many in Germany felt uncomfortable with the more intemperate forms of antisemitism. With regard to Kristallnacht, the government-orchestrated pogrom against Jews in 1938, for example, the historian Marion Kaplan notes that "many [Germans] disapproved of the open barbarism." Yet, Kaplan also writes that "most approved of, or went along with, ‘moderate’ antisemitism." Racist eugenic ideology provided as “moderate” an antisemitism as could be desired: it was not directed at Jews qua Jews but, rather, at all individuals with “threatening” racial characteristics, many of whom “happened” to be Jewish. By creating the impression that Jews comprised an actual health threat to the German Volksgemeinschajt, such propaganda allowed many Germans who found it difficult to embrace the more acerbic aspects of antisemitic ideology nevertheless to view harsh exclusionary measures against Jews as morally justified, or even, in the long run, in the Jews’ own "best interests."
Such propaganda was also more acceptable outside of Germany. In distinction to its virulent antisemitic caricature, the regime never felt the need to stem the flow of racial scientific propaganda to placate foreign opinion. Thus, for example, when the regime was backpedaling on dissemination of virulent antisemitism, as for example in the consolidating years of 1933 and 1934, and in the period prior to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, this much more subtle form of antisemitic propaganda proceeded at full steam, and on a massive and ever-increasing scale. While such propaganda was superficially “neutral,” however, it was not so neutral as to stymie the regime’s goal of defaming "Jews." Thus, despite the fact that the racial laws were, for the most part, rationalized with colorless language, there can be no doubt that virtually everyone in Germany was aware that in both theory and practice the laws’ proponents clearly had Jews uppermost in mind in both drafting and applying the legislation. The first implementing regulation of the Civil Service Law, the initial "racial law," for example, defined a "non-Aryan" as one "who is descended from non-Aryan, especially Jewish parents or grandparents. This premise especially obtains if one parent or grandparent was of Jewish faith." The Nuremberg Laws of September 15, 1935 more strongly emphasized that Jews were the primary racial hygienic threat to the German Volk. Unlike the earlier racial laws that, at least on their face, differentiated only between "Aryans" and "non-Aryans," the Nuremberg Laws expressly distinguished between persons of “German or related blood” and "Jews."
Indeed, lest there be any doubt, after explaining the “value-free” basis for the racial laws, their spokespersons usually then pointed out that Jews and persons of Jewish ancestry were the main threats in this regard. Yet even this direct implication of Jews was often framed in such a way as to make it seem as if Jews were not being arbitrarily singled out. In December 1936, for example, the mayor of Cologne provided city employees with an instructional pamphlet on the ancestral proof process, which included information on how to make genealogical tables and obtain and evaluate documents. The brochure also contained the usual justification for the requirement: "Each member of the racial community must keep his blood pure of foreign influences" because “unrestrained penetration of foreign essence" leads to the 'ruin of the Volk!' Then, however, the mayor specifically noted that the "foreign blood" to be identified included not only that of "Jews," but also "Gypsies," as well as "the Asiatic and African races, [and] the indigenous inhabitants of Australia and America ... in short, every admixture of blood of a colored person." This, again, was ostensibly neutral: not directed at Jews in particular; any other person of "colored race" was also to be subjected to these laws. Nevertheless, neutral application supported racist policies whose predominant targets were clearly persons with Jewish ancestry. In other words, the ideology stigmatized Jews as the primary carriers of "racially damaging" hereditary characteristics in the Reich.
This "neutral" propaganda thus rationalized persecution of Jews in a more widely acceptable way than through the attribution of demonic characteristics. To again quote Marion Kaplan: "[t]he social death of Jews and German indifference to their increasingly horrific plight were absolute prerequisites for the ‘Final Solution.’" Racial scientific propaganda, precisely because of its superficial "neutrality," created a climate in which anti-Jewish policy could flourish. In the Third Reich, the core ideas that there were different races, some of which should not mix, and that Jew was a racial concept, were not to be questioned. But between the poles of demonic and racial scientific antisemitism, one could choose the style with which one felt most comfortable. This was key to building the consensus for anti-Jewish policies, and for helping to create an atmosphere in which physical atrocities against Jews could become, at the least, conceivable.
In addition to helping build a consensus for the mistreatment of Jews, racial-scientific ideology also constituted another necessary “ingredient” for the Holocaust. Widespread compliance with the racial laws that it helped to develop, in turn, acted as a "signal" to the regime that its antisemitic ideology need not be internally consistent in order to be acceptable to large numbers of Germans. This, in turn, emboldened the leadership to undertake ever more radical policies based on increasingly far-fetched ideas.
The ancestral proof requirement is a case in point. As shown, its theoretical foundation was logically flawed. Apart from the fact that most of the broader assumptions underlying racist eugenic ideology were unsupported by empirical evidence, Jew itself did not constitute a racial category according to any extant scientific definition. All attempts to find a "biological marker" for Jews had failed. Thus, during the Nazi period, a powerful ideological tool existed to resist the ancestral proof requirement and, more broadly, antisemitic policy. Why did a tall, blond, blue-eyed "Jew" constitute a greater racial threat to the German Volk than a short, swarthy "Aryan?" Yet even as anti-Jewish policy became increasingly brutal, and increasingly unrelated to the ostensible theoretical basis for the racial laws, apparently no individual or institution in the Reich ever publicly mentioned this discrepancy, or questioned the necessity of making an ancestral proof.
This utter lack of resistance to the requirement sent a message to the regime that the irrational basis for racial policy—a policy that virtually everyone in Germany knew led to severe consequences for the "racially alien"—was not a fundamental issue for the vast majority of Germans. Every time a German made an ancestral proof, whatever his or her actual feelings about racism and Jews, he or she implicitly endorsed racism and anti-Jewish policy, and encouraged the regime in its racist policies. These policies, again, became increasingly violent and increasingly disassociated from racist eugenic thought. By the early 1940s, such "feedback" from the German populace helped the Nazi leadership feel empowered to implement a policy to identify and kill all Jews, wherever they were located. A complete lack of resistance to racism in principle helped embolden the Nazi leadership to undertake genocidal policies (and not just against Jews), which were based on "irrational" rather than "scientific" racist ideology. Despite the role of racial science in helping gain the German populations compliance with racist policy, it is nevertheless important not to overestimate the power of the foregoing "signaling function." Evidence indicates that Nazi proponents of demonic antisemitic views never felt entirely sure of the degree to which the German public would accept policies based primarily on those ideas, as opposed to more clearly racial scientific rationalizations. This becomes especially clear with regard to a third function of racial science in relation to the "Final Solution": as a tool for disguising the blatantly irrational character of the ideology that actually fueled the Holocaust.
The widespread allegation in Nazi Germany that Jews were ontologically evil entities was problematic from a racial scientific perspective. There was an inherent logic (within a racial-scientific context) of finding Jewish ancestry as a reasonable marker for "racially alien" characteristics: Jews were supposedly predominantly "racially Asiatic." But the idea of a "racial Jew" who carried "Jewish racial characteristics" was another matter. This concept directly contradicted the oft-repeated idea that Jews were, like "Germans," a "Volk" (that is, a mixture of "compatible" races sharing a common culture) and not a "race." And if Jews were a Volk, and even if each and every individual "Jew" was entirely composed of the most "racially alien elements” imaginable and thus posed an unquestionable racial-hygienic threat to the German Volk, it was nevertheless still difficult to reconcile such threat with the ferocity of the regimes hatred of Jews, and especially with the horrific propaganda images of "the Jew," the heart of all evil in the world. Racially alien encompassed so many persons, both "Jewish" and "non-Jewish," and diabolical was so outside of ordinary experience, that the equation of the two was a hard sell indeed.
Given, however, the widespread desire in Germany to view anti-Jewish policy as "rational," how was one to reconcile the "racial-scientific" and demonic notions of "Jew"? The answer was to elide the differences by treating "Jewish" as indicating the presence of specific, immutable racial characteristics rather than generally “racially alien” qualities. In fact, in Nazi Germany, despite the concurrent denial of such, many persons engaged in a concerted effort to make it appear as if there were specific "Jewish" racial characteristics. Thus, for example, each Genealogical Authority ancestral decision was a determination as to how many "racially Jewish," as opposed to "Jewish" or "racially alien" grandparents, an examinee had. Again, this made no "racial-scientific sense," as Jews were supposedly a Volk, not a race. Similarly one task of the Genealogical Authority’s biological experts was to determine whether an examinee exhibited "Jewish," as opposed to "alien-type," "racial characteristics." Despite acknowledgments by leading racial scientists that there actually were no specifically "Jewish" physical characteristics, those seeking to find Jews continued to act as if there were. At the same time, racial scientists devised no tests for determining whether an individual exhibited "Jewish" mental characteristics. And high-ranking officials, including Genealogical Authority officials who must have known better, repeatedly referred to "the Jewish race" in their communications.
Other agencies also contributed to this conceptual blurring. The Party’s Racial Policy Office’s efforts to determine whether the "Mountain Jews of the Caucuses," Krimchaks, and other "Judaized sects" were racially distinct from other "Jews," for example, otherwise made no sense. If both Krimchaks and "regular" Jews were, in any event, of "alien-type" race, there was no reason for this effort other than to try to emphasize the alleged existence of particularly "Jewish" racial characteristics. For this purpose as well, an Interior Ministry report, outlining the basis for the Nuremberg Laws, stated that any mixture between "German-blooded" persons and "Jews" would lead to an influx of "Jewish characteristics" rather than "racially alien" characteristics. Moreover, that report operated under the assumption that "full-Jews" were 100 percent endowed with "Jewish characteristics," "half-Jews" carried 50 percent "Jewish characteristics," and so on. This was also senseless from a racial-scientific perspective. Likewise, when deciding on whether a marriage between a "half-Jew" and a "German-blooded person" would be allowed, the report stated that each individual "half-Jew" would have to be judged on his or her "outer appearance . . . character and intellectual and other abilities," and thus by how "Jewish" they were. Why, then, couldn’t a "full-Jew" also be judged on his or her outer appearance, character, and intellectual and other abilities, since, per standard racial scientific rhetoric any individual "Jew" could be composed of a variety of "racial types"?
In fact, the attempt to conflate the racial-scientific view of Jews as bearers of "racially alien" characteristics, and the preferred Nazi view that Jews were a "race," permeated the Third Reich. Soldiers, for example, had to take an oath stating that "to the best of my knowledge, none of my parents or grandparents belonged to the Jewish race as a full-Jew or Mischlinge. This widespread conceptual smudging helped to legitimize the other widespread portrayal of "Jews" in Nazi Germany: as inherently evil entities. Erasing the distinction between the idea of Jews as carriers of "racially alien" characteristics and Jews as bearers of "Jewish racial characteristics" helped undergird the view of "Jew" as a racial entity unto itself. This, in turn, provided a scientific sheen to long-standing, primitive beliefs about the alleged diabolical attributes of "Jews." Only a "pure Jewish race," not a racially mixed "Jewish Volk," could exhibit particularly "Jewish racial characteristics." And it was the vibrancy of this particular set of beliefs in Nazi Germany, legitimized in great part by association with racist eugenic thought, that both caused, and allowed, the government to sanction, encourage, and implement a policy of murdering every "Jew" on the face of the earth.