When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in April 1933, he swiftly took over all mechanisms of government and functions of state, turning the fragile democracy into a dictatorship. The new regime targeted “racial enemies” and political opponents for persecution.

Antisemitism was a central tenet of Nazi ideology. From 1933 until the outbreak of war in 1939, the Nazis implemented more than 400 decrees and regulations that restricted all aspects of Jewish life. The first wave of legislation excluded Jews from professions, public organizations and educational institutions. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 classified Germans with three or four Jewish grandparents as Jews, regardless of their religion, and deprived Jews of German citizenship.

Anschluss, the incorporation of Austria into Germany in March 1938, was followed by widespread antisemitic actions and political violence. On Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” of November 9–10,1938, Jewish homes, synagogues and institutions throughout Germany and Austria were attacked and 30,000 male Jews were arrested. Most were imprisoned in Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and other concentration camps. Hundreds of thousands were desperate for refuge. Some western countries relaxed their immigration policies; most looked the other way.
Paula Draper, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre

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