Weimar Minorities

Constitutional Protection of Minorities

Firstly, the Weimar Constitution contained an article, Article 113, which was created to protect minority rights. However, this was interpreted as being for the sake of German minorities in Poland, and represented a larger belief in völkisch (or pan-German) ideals among members of the Reichstag. Very few people interpreted the protection of minorities clause in a way favorable to minorities living in Germany, as evidenced by the minorities policies of different regions. For instance, Polish language education was allowed in the Eastern provinces, but only so that similar language instruction would be allowed for German minorities in Poland. Gypsies were forced to become sedentary, or risk being jailed.


Among the populace, there  was also a strong antisemitic (and increasingly monoethnic) undercurrent in Weimar Germany. The modern German history of antisemitism began in the 1870s, after Jews moved up the social ladder following their lawful equalization in 1848-9. This turnaround, which saw them move from lawful inequality to a position where the majority were in the middle class, was viewed with bitter resentment by much of the populace. Anti-Jewish canards spread: Jews were usurers, Jewish bankers were part of a larger organization, and Jewish beggars supposedly collected for a larger Jewish fund. Antisemitic belief gained a new layer post-World-War 1: bitter former soldiers created the “Dolchstosslegende” or “stab-in-the-back myth.” They blamed the loss of the war on “defeatists,” or people who had not supported the war fully at home. Jews bore a large part of this blame.

The beliefs of the NSDAP did not come from a vacuum: they were part of a general theme of Judeophobia that occurred post World-War I, though widespread violence against Jews did not become common until the spread of the NSDAP. Ideas about Jews, as well as about other minorities like Gypsies and Poles, were helped by the spread of eugenics ideas during the 1920s. These ideals also supported the ideas of Pan-German leagues, which preached “Aryan” German ideals and were the precursor to the NSDAP’s idea of a monoethnic nation.