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The term half-Jew is a derogatory term for people with one non-Jewish and one Jewish parent. The term half-Jew was not used in laws and regulations .

The vast majority of so-called half-Jews was in the era of National Socialism from 1935 law as " mischling first degree classified". The term half-Jew was also used in isolated cases before the Nazi era. The term half-Jew is not used within Judaism , since it only knows “whole” Jews, namely born into the cultural community (“is Jewish who has a Jewish mother”) or converted through Giur .

Situation within the German Reich

In the time of National Socialism, half-Jew was not a legal technical term. The term was also not used in the Nuremberg Race Laws and the related ordinances. In 1941 the keyword half-Jew was included in the Duden for the first time and defined as: half-Jew ( Jewish mixed race with two fully Jewish grandparents) .

A basic distinction was made between two groups, namely between “Jews” and “Jewish mongrels”. The group of "Jewish half-breeds" was further subdivided into "Jewish half-race first degree" with two Jewish grandparents and "Jewish half-race second degree" with one Jewish grandparent. Notwithstanding the assumption of the same “biological-racial origin”, “first-degree half-breeds” were classified in different categories: They were not regarded as “half-breeds” but as “full Jews” if they belonged to the Jewish religious community, were married to a Jew or were married a Jew after 1935. For this group of "half-Jews" the term " validity Jew" was coined later .

This differentiated classification, which is blurred by the term “half-Jew”, was of existential importance for those affected. If the grouping was unfavorable, they were not admitted to the course; they were used for forced labor at an early age or were refused a marriage license. In the case of marital association with a “full Jew”, “half-Jews” classified as “valid Jews” were deported with their spouses to ghettos or extermination camps during the Second World War . This danger also threatened “half-Jewish” children if the non-Jewish spouse converted to the Jewish faith, and even then if the spouses separated again in order to spare the children persecution. This is documented in minute detail using the example of a family from the Weimar-Apolda-Jena area.

National Socialists tried - as discussed at the Wannsee Conference - with ever new attempts to legally classify all "half-Jews" as "full Jews" and to deport them . The fact that many “half-Jews” were also “half-Christians” was always ignored.

Situation in the occupied territories

In the occupied eastern territories, “half-Jews” were indiscriminately included in the extermination process like the “full Jews”. The Judenreferat in the Reich Security Main Office tried to influence the decision-making process, which was disputed within the Reich, by creating facts in the western occupation areas as well. In August 1941, Adolf Eichmann, in agreement with Arthur Seyß-Inquart , decided to equate the “half-Jews” living in the Netherlands with the “full Jews” and deport them. From May 1942, “half-Jews” were also obliged to wear the Jewish star there.

Term after 1945

The term half-Jew continued to be used by various people after the war. Ignatz Bubis criticized this in 1999:

“National Socialism made a race out of the Jew and completely ignored religion. [...] After 1945, racism , but not anti-Semitism, largely disappeared. In some minds, however, racism still plays a role, albeit subliminally. I am always amazed when people approach me and introduce themselves with the words that they are half-Jews. I then ask the humble question, which part of them is Jewish, the lower or the upper half, or whether they are vertical. It does not occur to anyone to claim that they are semi-Catholic if they come from a Catholic-Protestant family. "

The use of the term half -Jewish has also established itself in the English-speaking world as "half-Jewish" or "part-Jewish", whereby the more scientific term "Beta Gershom" is already mentioned in the Bible. In the meantime, the word “father-Jew”, introduced by Andreas Burnier in 1995, has spread to other languages , which denotes the fact that the father is Jewish, but not the mother. This term is related to the provisions of the Halacha , according to which Jewish religious affiliation is usually derived from the birth of a Jewish mother.

Older history of the term

There are few sources where the term “half-Jew” is used historically. The unpopular ruler Herod was insulted as a “half-Jew” because his family came from Idumea , an area that had been forcibly converted to Judaism. Since he was crowned King of Judea by Rome, the term “half-Jewish” can be interpreted as a vague, degrading expression for “Jew, but not serving Jewish interests”.

In 1881, the anti-Semite Eugen Dühring clearly used the term in his work The Jewish Question as a question of race, morality and culture as a derogatory genetic description .


  • Helmut Krüger: Half the star. Life as a German-Jewish “half-breed” in the Third Reich. With an afterword by Götz Aly . Metropol, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-926893-16-8 .
  • Susan Jacoby: Half-Jew: A Daughter's Search for Her Family's Buried Past (2000), ISBN 978-0-684-83250-0 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Half-Jew  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Duden, 12th edition 1941, p. 222.
  2. ^ Cornelis Schmitz-Berning: The vocabulary of National Socialism. 2nd edition Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-019549-1 , p. 293. With reference to commentary by Stuckart / Schiedermair 1942.
  3. ^ Käthe Raphael, Zeev Raphael, Peter Franz, Udo Wohlfeld: A Jewish family in Thuringia. A mother's unprecedented struggle for the lives of her three children. (= wanted, 9th) ed. History workshop Weimar-Apolda / Working group of the Prager-Haus Apolda e. V., Apolda 2014, ISBN 3-935275-32-3 .
  4. Otto Kuss : The church in the turn of the ages, treatises on religious issues of the time. Publisher Anton Pustet, Munich 1939.
  5. James F. Tent : In the Shadow of the Holocaust. Fate of German-Jewish “half-breeds” in the Third Reich. Böhlau Verlag, Cologne / Weimar 2007, ISBN 978-3-412-16306-8 , pp. 85–86.
  6. Ignatz Bubis. In: Kai Hafez, Udo Steinbach (Hrsg.): Jews and Muslims in Germany. Minority dialogue as a future task . German Orient Institute, Hamburg 1999, ISBN 3-89173-054-3 . (Conference Jews and Muslims in Germany - Common Strangers , Hamburg, January 21, 1999.)
  7. beta-gershom in http://www.beta-gershom.org/ (accessed 2018-05-07)
  8. Boris Repschinski: Script for the lecture “Environment New Testament”, University of Innsbruck, WS 04/05 http://bibfutheol.uibk.ac.at/lehre/Umwelt.pdf ( Memento from February 14, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  9. Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Vocabulary of National Socialism . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-11-016888-X , p. 292, 2 .