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The Nuremberg Laws turned Jews from German citizens into “residents of Germany.” Technically, the law made intermarriage between Jews and German citizens a criminal offense, but existing marriages were not dissolved or criminalized, perhaps in order to maintain public support.

The laws transformed the lives of Jews all over Germany, including thousands of people who had not previously known their families had Jewish heritage. Among them were Marianne Schweitzer and her siblings. 

This chart was designed to help Germans determine their racial status as outlined by the 1935 Nuremberg Laws.

Although we were not a churchgoing family, we observed Christmas and Easter in the traditional ways and belonged to the Lutheran church. My parents, my three siblings and I were all baptized and I took confirmation classes with Martin Niemöller, the former U-boat commander and his brother who substituted when Martin was in prison for anti-Nazi activities. 

It was in 1932 that my [older] sister Rele provoked my father to reveal our Jewish ancestry for the first time. She played the violin and rejected a violin teacher because he “looked too Jewish.” Our father had responded in a rather convoluted way by saying, “Don’t you know that your grandmother came from the same people as Jesus . . . ?”

Our mother’s side, the Körtes, were “Aryan” by Hitler’s standards. But our father’s parents, Eugen Schweitzer and Algunde Hollaender were Jews born in Poland who had been baptized as adults. My father and his two brothers were considered Jews by Hitler’s laws. Though all were married to non-Jewish wives, our lives were dramatically changed. The whole family was devastated and worried about our future. My mother’s “Aryan” side stood by my father. My Körte grandmother said, “If Hitler is against Ernst [my father], I am against Hitler.”

We heard no anti-Jewish remarks at home, but the antisemitism of that time was so pervasive and the images in periodicals such as Der Stürmer so ugly, that Rele later wrote of her shock at learning her relation to “monsters.” She considered herself “the typical German girl with blond, curly hair.” I took the news more in stride. I was happy to be able to stay in school and glad not to be eligible to join Hitler Youth. . . .

In September of 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were introduced. My “Jewish” father was barred from treating “Aryan” patients, employing “Aryans,” attending concerts or the theater, or using public transportation. Rele had passed her Abitur, the certification of completing a high school degree, but as a Mischling, was ineligible to attend university. She couldn’t marry her “Aryan” boyfriend Hans, a medical student.1

The Schweitzers were certainly not the only Germans to be penalized for having “Jewish blood.” By 1935, explains historian Martin Gilbert,

The search for Jews, and for converted Jews, to be driven out of their jobs was continuous. On 5 September 1935 the SS newspaper published the names of eight half-Jews and converted Jews, all of the Evangelical Lutheran faith, who had been “dismissed without notice and deprived of any further opportunity of acting as organists in Christian churches.” From these dismissals, the newspaper commented, “It can be seen that the Reich Chamber of Music is taking steps to protect the church from pernicious influence.” 2


  • 1 : Marianne Schweitzer, afterword to Melita Maschmann, Account Rendered: A Dossier on My Former Self, trans. Geoffrey Strachan (Cambridge, MA: Plunkett Lake Press, 2013).
  • 2 : Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War (New York: Holt, 1985), 47.

Descubriendo la Sangre Judía

Las Leyes de Núremberg hicieron que los judíos pasaran de ser ciudadanos alemanes a “residentes de Alemania”. Las leyes transformaron las vidas de los judíos de toda Alemania, incluidas miles de personas que no sabían de antemano que sus familias tenían ascendencia judía. Entre estos estaban Marianne Schweitzer y sus hijos.

Aunque no éramos una familia religiosa, veíamos la Navidad y la Pascua de una manera tradicional y pertenecíamos a la Iglesia luterana. Mis padres, mis tres hijos y yo estábamos bautizados; y yo había tomado clases para la confirmación con Martin Niemöller, excomandante de un submarino, y con su hermano, quien lo sustituyó cuando Martin estaba en prisión por actividades antinazi.

Fue en 1932 que mi hermana [mayor], Rele, hizo que mi padre revelara nuestros ancestros judíos por primera vez. Ella tocaba el violín y rechazó a su maestro de violín porque “parecía demasiado judío”. Nuestro padre había respondido de una manera bastante enrevesada diciendo: “¿No sabes que tu abuela vino del mismo pueblo de Jesús… ?”.

Por el lado de nuestra madre, los Körtes, eran “arios” según los estándares de Hitler. Pero los padres de nuestro padre, Eugen Schweitzer y Algunde Hollaender, eran judíos nacidos en Polonia que habían sido bautizados siendo adultos. Mi padre y sus dos hermanos eran considerados judíos según las leyes de Hitler. Aunque todos estaban casados con mujeres no judías, nuestras vidas cambiaron dramáticamente. Toda la familia estaba devastada y preocupada por nuestro futuro. El lado “ario” de mi madre apoyaba a mi padre. Mi abuela Körte dijo: “Si Hitler está contra Ernst [mi padre], yo estoy contra Hitler”.

No escuchábamos comentarios antijudíos en casa, pero el antisemitismo de esa época era tan generalizado y las imágenes en los periódicos, como Der Stürmer, eran tan horribles, que Rele después escribió sobre el golpe que significó saber de su relación con los “monstruos”. Ella se consideraba “la típica chica alemana de cabello rubio y crespo”. Yo tomaba las noticias con más calma. Estaba feliz de poder permanecer en la escuela y de no ser apta para unirme a las Juventudes Hitlerianas…

En septiembre de 1935, se introdujeron las Leyes de Núremberg. A mi padre “judío” se le prohibió tratar pacientes “arios”, emplear “arios”, asistir a conciertos o al teatro, o usar el transporte público. Rele había aprobado su Abitur, la certificación para completar la secundaria, pero como Mischling (mestizo) así que no podía asistir a la universidad. No podría casarse con su novio “ario”, Hans, estudiante de medicina.1

Los Schweitzers con seguridad no fueron los únicos alemanes penalizados por tener “sangre judía”. Hacia 1935, explica el historiador Martin Gilbert,

la búsqueda de judíos, y de judíos convertidos, para expulsarlos de sus trabajos era continua. El 5 de septiembre de 1935, el periódico de las SS publicó los nombres de ocho judíos convertidos y mitad judíos, quienes profesaban la fe luterana evangélica, que habían sido “despedidos sin previo aviso y privados de cualquier oportunidad futura para actuar como organistas en iglesias cristianas”. Al respecto de estos despidos, el periódico comentó: “como pueden ver la Cámara de Música del Reich está tomando medidas para proteger a la iglesia de influencias perniciosas”.2


  • 1 : Marianne Schweitzer, epílogo a Melita Maschmann, Account Rendered: A Dossier on My Former Self, traducido al inglés por Geoffrey Strachan (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Plunkett Lake Press, 2013).
  • 2 : Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War (Nueva York: Holt, 1985), 47.

Connection Questions

  1. How did the passage of the Nuremberg Laws affect the lives of Marianne Schweitzer and her family?
  2. The Nuremberg Laws meant that Jews could no longer define their identities for themselves. What does it mean to lose the right to define yourself? 
  3. How was the problem confronting Germans of Jewish descent in 1935 similar to that faced by the Bear in reading, The Bear That Wasn’t in Chapter 1? How do the two differ? How is the dilemma similar to that faced by Susie Phipps (see reading, Defining Race in Chapter 1)? How does it differ?
  4. What did it mean in Germany in 1935 to be told that you were no longer a citizen? What rights and protections would you have lost? What would it mean to be told such a thing where you live today? 

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