Blood purity was very important to the leaders of Nazi Germany. According to Hitler, blood purity would ensure the survival of the Aryan race and the ‘1000 Year Reich’. Laws were introduced to ensure blood purity within Nazi Germany and anyone who acted outside of these laws was deemed to have committed the crime of ‘rassenschande’, which translates roughly as ‘racial pollution’ or ‘racial crime’.
“Blood mixture and the resultant drop in the racial level is the sole cause of the dying out of old cultures; for men do not perish as a result of lost wars, but by the loss of that force of resistance which is contained only in pure blood. All who are not of good race in this world are chaff. And all occurrences in world history are only expression of the races’ instinct for self-preservation. What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfilment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe. Those who are physically and mentally unhealthy and unworthy must not perpetuate their suffering in the body of their children.”
Hitler in ‘Mein Kampf’.
Blood purity and the early Nazi Party
At the start of the Nazi regime there was a degree of reticence as to what constituted a ‘blood crime’ that led to ‘blood defilement’. Roland Freisler, the future head of the feared People’s Court, stated in 1933 that any Aryan who had a relationship with any non-Aryan was guilty of ‘blood treason’; his comment was specifically targeted against the Jews. However, in the early days of Nazi rule, such a view did not receive wide support – not even from Hitler. Many were wary as the Nazis had yet to state what exactly a ‘blood crime’ was. Some were more cautious in their approach and argued that legislation might penalise those who simply were unaware that they might have distant Jewish blood in their family. Local Nazi officials took it upon themselves to ban those who wanted to proceed with what they deemed to be mixed marriages. But even in 1934, more than a year into power, a senior Nazi, William Frick, ordered these local officials to be more cautious. It was only in 1935 that Frick gave his support to those officials who used their local authority to delay such marriages.
The Nuremberg Laws
The 1935 Nuremberg Laws finally gave clarity to ‘blood purity’ when mixed marriages and any form of relationship between Aryans and Jews was outlawed. Anyone classed as an Aryan who was caught engaging in a relationship with a Jew after the passing of the Nuremberg Laws faced a prison sentence. Any Jew caught breaking the laws faced a lengthy sentence in a concentration camp with no guarantee that he/she would be released. Freisler had finally got his way as ‘blood treason’ was now on the statue book.
However, the Nuremberg Laws created a problem that Frick had been concerned with in 1934. What about Aryan/Jewish marriages that had taken place before the Nuremberg Laws were passed? The laws did not nullify such marriages but under Nazi ideology any children born in such marriages could not be pure Aryan. The Nazi government approached this issue very simply: for a regime that preached the importance of marriage and family, it encouraged the Aryan partner in such a marriage to divorce.
Blood purity and World War Two
The desire for blood purity continued into World War Two when anyone in Germany caught having sexual relations with any slave labourer brought into the country faced severe punishment.
The Nazi propaganda machine constantly pushed home the importance of blood purity. All avenues of the media were used to spread the message. The Office of Racial Purity frequently wrote about the “honour of the German people” and how it could be diluted by “unacceptable relationships”. Films shown across Germany portrayed male Jews as sexual predators who abused the young women of Germany. There was a constant push to remind all those in Germany about the importance of blood purity and the consequences of ‘racial crimes’ or ‘blood treason’.
Nazi propaganda in education
Education played an important part in spreading the message of ‘blood purity’. School teachers were given a very specific brief to teach. The Nazis assumed that by the time young children had grown up, they would accept blood purity as a normal and natural part of life. Older girls were warned about the dangers of engaging in a relationship with a non-Aryan. A pamphlet titled “The German National Catechism” was widely available in all schools. It gave a stark warning to girls who ignored the advice. It warned that a child born into a “mixed-marriage” would be a “lamentable creature, tossed back and forth between the blood of his two races”. It continued that “a woman defiled by a Jew can never rid her body of the foreign poison she has absorbed. She is lost to her people.” Children were taught to memorise poems about blood purity. They were told “keep your blood pure” as it is “your eternal life”.
Imagery and Nazi propaganda
The imagery of pure blood played a very important part in Nazi ceremonies. Hitler used the issue of spilt pure Aryan blood at the annual Nuremberg rallies. The so-called ‘Blood Banner’ (Blutfahne) was a special Nazi flag that had been supposedly drenched in the blood of “Nazi martyrs” at the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. Each year at Nuremberg, Hitler would accept new party colours with one hand holding the new colours while his other hand grasped the ‘Blood Banner’. The Blood Order’ (Blutorden) was the highest honorary decoration given out by the Nazi Party and it was awarded to those still alive in 1933 who had participated in the Beer Hall Putsch – about 1500 in total.