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What does “anti-social“ mean?

The word Asoziale (“anti-social”) had already existed as a derogatory term before the Nazis came to power – but it was only then that it became widely used. Furthermore such individuals were now subjected to formal persecution. Anyone classed as asozial could end up in a concentration camp.

It was never wholly clear what the term entailed. In April 1938, for example, the Berlin authorities issued a special decree that potentially applied asozial to anyone “who due to a non-temporary condition of physical, mental or moral inadequacy are unable or unwilling to integrate into com­munity life and thus seriously impair or jeopardise the German people, their family or themselves”. It applied in particu­lar to “those who are destitute or in danger of becoming so“.

This imprecise definition essentially gave the authorities wide-ranging powers of access and action. The definition was designed to be applicable to individuals who were under state supervision or were e.g. recipients of welfare payments.

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