Health Passports Have Been Used Before: Nazi Germany Issued them to keep the People 'Safe'


In 1933 Adolf Hitler instructed the Nazi party's public health officials to introduce a Gesundheitspass, roughly translated meaning 'Health Pass' which contained a record of vaccinations and transmittable diseases that the Third Reich thought it should know about.


In addition to the Nazi's 'Health Passport' German citizens were issued with documents that granted them access to public spaces, buildings, theatres, schools and workplaces called 'Der Ahnenpass' aka 'genealogical passport'. This all-important document proved the holder was of Aryan blood, something which Nazi party officials would investigate before issuing the passport to those it deemed 'pure'. All this was done not to give German's freedom, but to subjugate the Jews.

Campaigns and activities to promote physical fitness in Nazi Germany were designed exclusively for members of the so-called Volksgemeinschaft. Jews, Roma and Sinti, and other so-called "non-pure" were gradually excluded from public spaces that hosted these events. Exercise was even used to persecute those targeted by the Nazi regime. German soldiers and concentration camp guards often used forced exercise as a form of public humiliation, physical abuse, or punishment.


The outbreak of World War II led to greater Nazi persecution of targeted groups under the pretence of 'public health' measures. The war created conditions that led directly to epidemics of contagious diseases such as typhus, but Nazi propagandists and public health officials blamed Jews, Roma and Sinti, Slavic peoples, and other groups for causing such outbreaks. For example, an antisemitic Nazi propaganda poster made in 1941 for public display in German-occupied Poland asserts that “Jews Are Lice: They Cause Typhus.” German public health officials irrationally blamed Polish Jews for an outbreak of typhus in occupied Warsaw and urged authorities to construct a sealed ghetto, which cut off food supplies and caused massive starvation.

Nazi ideology taught that the health and “purity” of the German national body must be protected at all costs. The priorities of public health under Nazi rule reflected and supported Nazi racial ideology, theories of eugenics, and the regime’s goal of territorial conquest. Nazi public health campaigns were designed to improve the collective health of the German Volksgemeinschaft at the expense of other populations.


If we fail to learn the lessons of history, we are destined to repeat them.