Hitler's appointment as German chancellor on 30 January 1933 and the Nazi consolidation of power shortly thereafter made possible the implementation of the eugenic and racial policies long advocated by the Nazi movement.1 For implementation, the regime needed the willing collaboration of the civil service as well as the participation of the professional classes, including racial scientists, physicians, jurists, and statisticians. It readily received the needed support.2 While the regime created concentration camps and mobilized the SA, SS, and police against its political enemies, it issued laws and activated the civil service to exclude its biological enemies. At first, the regime used violence to intimidate its enemies, but public violence disrupted order, threatened to alienate conservative opinion, and damaged the image of Germany abroad. Although the threat of violence never disappeared, its use was restricted and formalized. The regime accomplished its ends by legal and formal exclusion. After the Nazi assumption of power, the German government rapidly enacted legislation to exclude all outsiders; laws, decrees, and regulations were issued in rapid succession. Newly enacted laws clearly isolated, excluded, and penalized the handicapped, Jews, and Gypsies.
Against the handicapped, the regime enacted into law the program long advocated by race scientists to control a population considered degenerate and inferior. The so-called sterilization law, promulgated in July 1933, served throughout the Nazi period as the model for all eugenic legislation.3 It introduced compulsory sterilization for persons suffering from a variety of mental and physical disorders and in the process defined the groups to be excluded from the national community. This legislation was followed in October 1935 by the Marriage Health Law, which mandated screening the entire population to prevent marriages of persons considered carriers of hereditary degeneracy, particularly those covered by the sterilization law.4 Numerous ordinances defining and enlarging these two laws followed.5 As race hygiene had always linked the handicapped to criminal and antisocial behavior, the bureaucrats drafting this legislation believed that their eugenic laws should also cover "inherited criminal traits."6 To accomplish this, the regime enacted in November 1933 the Law against Dangerous Habitual Criminals and the Law on Measures of Security and Reform.7 The new provisions--articles 20a and 42a-m of the penal code--gave the courts substantial new powers to confine and punish persons considered habitual criminals. In addition to the penalties already provided by the penal code, the courts were authorized to commit the Aso-