The persecution of minorities

Hitler and the Nazis had firm views on race. They believed that certain groups were inferior and were a threat to the purity of the Aryan race. There were many groups who were targeted for persecution, including Slavs (Eastern Europeans), gypsies, gay people and disabled people - but none more so than the Jews.

In 1933, there was a small but growing number of black people living in Germany, they were also persecuted by the Nazis. They suffered forced sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality and, sometimes, were murdered. However, there was no systematic programme for their elimination as there was for Jews and other groups.

Nazi racial beliefs

Image showing a man having his nose measured during Aryan race determination tests under Nazi Germany's Nuremberg Laws that was applied to determine whether a person was considered a 'Jew'.

The Nazis’ racial philosophy taught that Aryans were the master race and that some races were untermensch/sub-human. Many Nazi scientists at this time believed in eugenics, the idea that people with disabilities or social problems were degenerates whose genes needed to be eliminated from the human bloodline. The Nazis pursued eugenics policies vigorously.

Policy of persecution

  • Sterilisation - In order to keep the Aryan race pure, many groups were prevented from reproducing. The mentally and physically disabled, including the deaf, were sterilised, as were people with hereditary diseases. Children born to German women and French African soldiers in the Rhineland at the end of World War One were called 'Rhineland Bastards' and also sterilised.
  • Concentration camps - Homosexuals, prostitutes, Jehovah's Witnesses, gypsies, alcoholics, pacifists, beggars, hooligans and criminals were often rounded up and sent away to camps. During World War Two, 85 per cent of Germany's gypsies died in these camps.