The Nazi project to reshape German society to fit Nazi ideas about race and national unity excluded many people from the Nazis' so-called "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft"). Passed by the Nazi regime in September 1935, the Nuremberg Laws made German Jews second-class citizens and prohibited marriages and relationships between so-called "Aryan" Germans and Jews or other "non-Aryans." Discrimination against Jews in their daily activities began well before 1935, however, and occurred at all levels of society.
Between 1933 and 1939, Germany saw the passage of hundreds of decrees that targeted Jews.1 Those measures became increasingly restrictive throughout the 1930s and included a national law against "overcrowding" in German universities that introduced quotas that limited Jewish students in 1933. In 1935, a law passed by the state of Thuringia mandated that Jews could not have a role in legal proceedings. Between 1935 and 1936, many German cities and towns also banned Jewish people from using public swimming pools.
In the featured photograph, a young girl stands outside the entrance to a swimming pool in Fürth, a Bavarian city known for its well-established Jewish community. At the upper left of the image, a sign in German reads, "Entrance is forbidden to Jews."2 Although that restriction could have been a local ordinance, the pool's owner may have independently decided to ban Jews. As was the case throughout Germany during the Nazi era, private organizations, associations, and enterprises excluded Jews independently of the law.
The photographer, Ferdinand Vitzethum, captured scenes from Fürth in the 1930s and submitted them to the local newspaper. Many of his photographs included signs banning Jews from public spaces. Why Vitzethum chose to photograph this particular scene is unclear, but he captured a persistent feature of Nazi Germany—hostility toward Jewish people in nearly every corner of public life.