VHM Artifact Highlight: Jewish Passport

April 17th, 2017–
The Nazis continued to pass decrees and regulations throughout the second half of the 1930s. Each new law further excluded Jews from society, while creating an ever-increasingly hostile environment for them.

While many Jews hoped to emigrate during this period, quotas and anti-Semitic policies, both in Germany and abroad, trapped many German Jews in Europe. The legislative tipping point came in 1935 when the Reich government enacted the Nuremberg Laws. These two racial laws stripped Jews of citizenship and prohibited them from marrying or having relationships with Germans.

The Nazis long rejected the idea of defining Jews by religious practice and instead promoted the idea they were in fact a race. The Nuremberg Laws sought to provide a legal basis for this ideological thinking, defining an individual with at least three Jewish grandparents as Jewish, regardless of whether or not they practiced Judaism.

In the autumn of 1938, Jews were required to have their identification papers stamped with a “J” in order to easily identify them. In August of 1938, the Nazis required that by January 1, 1939, all Jews with a non-Jewish first name must add Israel or Sara to their given name. These efforts, intended to mark the Jewish population, would be instrumental as the Nazis moved toward mass murder.

This Reichspass, or passport, is part of the Stahl/Schwab Family Papers. It belonged to Rudi Stahl, a German Jew originally from Nuremberg, Germany. You can see it complied with both of the two identification decrees of 1938, having a “J” stamp and the addition of “Israel” to Rudi’s name. Rudi used this passport to gain passage out of Germany in the late 1930s.

This passport and other objects in our collection are available to view online! Click here to view.