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Who were the Nazis?


Challenge: Pictured above are several prominent Nazi leaders. Can you name three of them?

Did you know?

Today Nazi symbols and hate speech are outlawed in several countries, including France, Germany, Austria, Poland, Russia and Ukraine.

Additional viewing

This 38-minute USHMM video explains the historical conditions and events that led to the rise of the Nazis.(By clicking on the above link, you will leave The Mitzvah Project’s study guide and access another website.)

More Background

Introduction to the Holocaust(By clicking on this link, you will leave The Mitzvah Project’s study guide and access another website.)

Did you know? - The historical connection between American racism and German antisemitism.

Although different in many ways, the histories of racism and antisemitism in both Nazi Germany and “Jim Crow” America (the era before the 1964 Civil Rights Act/1965 Voting Rights Act when laws and customs were used to oppress blacks) have some commonalities. 


Both periods can trace their roots in part to the rise of the 20th century pseudo-science known as eugenics, an international movement that gave legitimacy to racial policies. 


Racism was the core element of Nazi ideology and the driving force behind the Holocaust. In America, racist legislation was enacted primarily, but not exclusively, in states that comprised the former confederacy. Racist attitudes and social practices among America’s white population have contributed to the continued subjugation and persecution – including lynching – of African Americans. 

Further Discussion

In the 1927 Buck v. Bell case U.S. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes upheld the Virginia law that allowed for the sterilization of those in state custody deemed “hereditary imbeciles”. Holmes famously said: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” 


More than two decades later, during the Nuremberg War Crime Trials, the Nazi defense used the Virginia laws to justify their own actions. What do you think was the point that Nazi lawyers were trying to make?

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