Those of half and quarter Jewish descent remain largely forgotten in the history of the Third Reich and genocide of the Holocaust. Known as Mischlinge, persons of deemed “mixed blood” or “hybrid” status faced extensive persecution and alienation within German society and found themselves in the crosshairs of a rampant National Socialist racial ideology. Controversially, these people proved somewhat difficult to define under Nazi law that sought to cleave the Volk from the primarily Jewish “other”, and as the mechanization toward Hitler’s “Final Solution” the Mischlinge faced probable annihilation. The somewhat neglected status of Mischlinge necessitates a refocusing on German racialization as well as reconsideration of the implications wrought by the alienation and ultimate persecution of the thousands of half and quarter Jews subjugated in Nazi Germany.
An exploration of Jewish mixed blood status in Nazi Germany renders a brief history of anticipatory racial conceptions leading up to the Third Reich. The use of Mischlinge as well as other labels intended to denote mixed blood naturally evolved out of well-established racial conceptions central to Germany and the Third Reich ideology. This ideology, which existed as “an uneasy fusion of different strands of racial elitism and popularism,” defined persons as according to not only their Rasse or racial identity, but also membership of the German people or Volk (Hutton 15, 18). The idea of the Volk denoted not only shared language and heritage as well as right of citizenship, but the ordained right to inhabit German lands. Above all, this idea concerned triumphant unification of a German people perceived to be under threat of dissolution by ethnic and religious groups such as the Roma and other minorities, with the ultimate focus landing on the Jews.
Bans on mixed marriages, “clearly connected to the issue of citizenship,” date from well before the brief reign of Nazi Germany and include laws pertaining, for instance, to German colonies in East Africa among others (Ehmann 123). Anti-Semitism, deeply ingrained in the culture, would lastly become the focal point of racial fervor, but it was the general xenophobia that fuelled both German nationalism and the idea of pure racial solidarity. Any deviation away from the pure German line meant a serious threat to the Volk, who were “not defined by links to an original biological community, but was itself an actual living community” in need of protection from the defilement of miscegenation (Hutton 153). The embedded racial ideology would reach boiling point under the fascist extremism of Hitler’s rule, but it was not until the actual racialization under law of Jewish identity that militant and indiscriminate extermination measures would be implemented.
The ultimate racialization of the Jewish religion came with the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, and those of “mixed blood” status were now legally labeled and bound. The law decreed that German citizens with...