Based on the ideas from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Nazi racial ideology declared that Jews were biologically different and were dirtying the pure blood of the Aryan race in Germany. The Nazis also stated that Jewish influence in German society and the economy was harmful to the Volksgemeinschaft and encouraged people to speak openly about the “Jewish Question,” as Fritzsche notes (87). With the passing of the Nuremberg Laws, the Nazis codified the biological distinctions between Jewish and Aryan people.
Yet, while the Nazis emphasized the biological differences between Jews and Aryans, the lack of differentiating physical features was a blatant contradiction to their ideology. When describing her life as a Jewish woman under Nazi rule, Marta Appel noted, “I imagined how they would turn against me if they knew I was Jewish” (101). From Appel’s observation, it is evident that Germans couldn’t distinguish Jews from members of the Volksgemeinschaft. In fact, some Jews were aware of this fact. Deutschkron commented in her memoir that a story was circulating in the Jewish community that “the ear of a Jew” had been used “to demonstrate Aryan purity” (105). Even though the Nazis had insisted that there were biological differences between the races, the absence of physical differences was an obvious contradiction.
In order to overcome this inconsistency, the Nazi administration instituted policies that singled out Jews and made them “visible.” As more Germans assembled Ahnenpässe and more German Jews registered with local authorities and received identification papers, Jews could be identified more easily, although still not because of their appearance. Rather than leaving it up to individuals, laws targeting Jews created a “regime of insiders and outsiders” (Fritzsche, 81). While the Nazi assertion that Jews had a different biological composition formed the basis for their racial ideology, physical distinctions were not the most powerful tool in separating Jews from Aryans. Instead, by ostracizing Jews from their communities and teaching children that Jews were different in school, as Appel explains, the Nazis successfully established that Jews were a distinctive people. Of course, if one questioned their ability to identify a Jew, the Nazis could always fall back on the claim that Jews had adapted to blend in with German citizens, requiring even more vigilance from the members of the Volksgemeinschaft.