Within the context of the economic depression of the 1930s and using not only racist but also older social, economic, and religious imagery, the Nazi party gained popularity and, after seizing power, legitimacy, in part by presenting "Jews" as the source for a variety of political, social, economic, and ethical problems facing the German people.
Inspired by Adolf Hitler's theories of racial struggle and the "intent" of the Jews to survive and expand at the expense of Germans, the Nazis, as a governing party from 1933-1938, ordered anti-Jewish boycotts, staged book burnings, and enacted anti-Jewish legislation. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws defined Jews by race and mandated the total separation of "Aryans" and "non-Aryans." On November 9, 1938, the Nazis destroyed synagogues and the shop windows of Jewish-owned stores throughout Germany and Austria (Kristallnacht). These measures aimed at both legal and social segregation of Jews from Germans and Austrians.
Kristallnacht, the initiation of World War II in 1939, and the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 marked the transition to the era of destruction, in which genocide would become the key focus of Nazi antisemitism. To justify the murder of the Jews both to the perpetrators and to bystanders in Germany and Europe, the Nazis used not only racist arguments but also arguments derived from older negative stereotypes, including Jews as communist subversives, as war profiteers and hoarders, and as a danger to internal security because of their inherent disloyalty and opposition to Germany.