<p>The Kusserow family was active in their region distributing religious literature and teaching Bible study classes in their home. They were Jehovah's Witnesses. Their house was conveniently situated for fellow Jehovah's Witnesses along the tram route connecting the cities of Paderborn and Detmold. For the first three years after the Nazis came to power, the Kusserows endured moderate persecution by local Gestapo agents, who often came to search their home for religious materials. In 1936, Nazi police pressure increased dramatically, eventually resulting in the arrest of the family and its members' internment in various concentration camps. Most of the family remained incarcerated until the end of the war. Bad Lippspringe, Germany, ca. 1935.</p>

1935: Key Dates


March 17
Nazi Germany resumes compulsory male military service.

April 1
The German government bans Jehovah's Witness organizations. The ban is due to Jehovah's Witnesses refusal to swear allegiance to the state; their religious convictions forbid an oath of allegiance to and service in the armed forces of any temporal power.

May 21
The German government issues the Wehrgesetz, which stipulates that only “Aryans” could serve in the armed forces, and that persons serving in the armed forces could only marry “Aryan” spouses.

June 28
The German Ministry of Justice revises Paragraphs 175 and 175a of the German criminal code with the intent of 1) expanding the range of criminal offenses to encompass any contact between men, both physical and in form of word or gesture, that could be construed as sexual; and 2) stiffening penalties for all violations of the revised law. The revision facilitates the systematic persecution of homosexual men and provides police with broader means for prosecuting homosexual men.

September 15
The German government decrees the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of the German Blood and Honor. Hitler announces the measures at the Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg. These Nuremberg “Race Laws” effectively make Jews into second-class citizens. They prohibit intermarriages and criminalize sexual relations between Jews and “persons of German or related blood.” The German government later applies the laws to Roma (Gypsies) and Afro-Germans.

Nuremberg Laws proclaimed

Critical Thinking Questions

  • Learn about warning signs for mass atrocity and genocide. What events during 1935 might be examples?
  • Since the Nazis could never prove a biological, or racial, basis for Judaism, how did they define Jews in the Nuremberg Laws? What questions does this raise?
  • What privileges and protections of German citizenship were now lost to those who were defined as Jewish?

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