Genealogy and genocide : the Nazi "ancestral proof" and the Holocaust / by Eric Ehrenreich.
In order to increase our understanding of how an industrialized, highly westernized society came to perpetrate the intentional destruction of European Jewry, this dissertation examines the “ancestral proof (Abstammungsnachweis)” requirement, the method by which one proved one's “racial acceptability” in Nazi Germany. During the Nazi Era, the vast majority of the German population had to make an ancestral proof, primarily through provision of genealogical information. The regime justified the requirement largely by claiming that science had shown “race-mixing” to be the main cause of cultural and social decline, and that in Germany Jews were the primary culprits in this regard. These assertions were demonstrably false.Prior to the Third Reich, many of the officials involved in implementing the ancestral proof had been genealogical practitioners, and in late 19 th- and early 20th-century Germany, genealogical practice was spreading across socio-economic strata. The false claims of scientific support for racist ideas were closely related to a respected eugenic ideology that was an important component of the mainstream genealogical literature in this period.Once the Nazi regime put the ancestral proof requirement into operation, virtually the entire German population behaved as if it was a legitimate obligation. German firms, for example, incorporated genealogy into their marketing practices and the vocation of “Professional Kinship Researcher” became prominent. The files of the Reich Genealogical Authority, the office whose primary task was determining a person's “race” for purposes of implementing the racial laws, show that almost every government, academic, and religious entity, as well as the individual Germans with whom it interacted, also treated the requirement as legitimate. This acquiescence occurred because most Germans, motivated by fear of the regime and/or a desire to profit from racist policies, wanted to believe the obligation was legitimate. Because the proof's proponents established it within both eugenic and other respected cultural traditions, many Germans could accept it and, more generally, Nazi racist policy, in good conscience. This helped create the conditions for perpetration of the Final Solution.
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