Persecution of the Jews; 1933-1939: Kristallnacht
On the eve of November 9, with the Evian Conference[link to Doc1.txt]
a recent memory, the Nazi government decided to stage a riot against
Jews all over the Reich.6 This riot is titled, Kristallnacht or
the Night of Broken Glass.
In order to carry out their plans, the Nazi government used the
actions of 17year old, Herschel Grynszpan as a spring by which to
mount the riot and eventually the Holocaust. This Jewish youth,
shot and killed the Third Undersecretary of the German embassy in
Paris, Ernst vom Rath. Grynszpan reacted this way because the Nazis
expelled his family from Germany and imposed upon them brutal treatments.
Grynszpan's reaction was interpreted by Goebbels as a conspirational
attack by 'International Jewry' against the Reich and symbolically,
against the Fuehrer.7 As shown through Jews
mode of living in Germany, the stage for the pogrom of 1938 was
set; Grynszpan was used as a proponent of inciting this event.
In 1935, the Nuremberg laws denied German Jews of citizenship.
As Kochan points out in his book, Pogrom: 10 Nov. 1938: from citizens
they became guests, and therefore, in Nazi eyes, ineligible to have
any voice in matters of administration or law, or to occupy any
public office of any kind in the Reich.8 This act proves to be significant
in showing how the Jews were gradually dislocated from their country.
In turn, they were labeled as inferior and stripped of their basic
In a June 14, 1938 report, entitled, "Jews in the Economy,"
Walter Funk, a Nazi official, stated that "insofar as the Jews
in Germany are able to live off the proceeds of their commerce and
other assets, they require strict state supervision"9. Funk
summarizes the general feeling of anti-semitism, with respect to
Jewish economic matters, that plagued the Nazi party. "This
was the starting point on a process that eventually led to the justify
the attempted extermination not only of German Jewry but of all
Jews wherever German arms penetrated"10 Strong anti-Semitic
roots are present from the time that Hitler came to power. AS the
article from the Middle Tennessee State University states: "almost
immediately upon assuming the chancellorship of Germany, Hitler
began promulgating legal actions against the Jews."7. An example
of the laws that diminished the Jews role in society are such that
they forbid them to practice a profession; doctors and lawyers were
denied their license to practice, Jews were also not allowed to
use a listing of commercial services, required to submit to Nazi
authorities or else were put to labor camps, cold not marry an Aryan,
that is, a natural German, and had to turn over all property. These
regulations, along with many others eliminated the Jews role in
society and provided the groundwork for Kristallnacht, which served
to eliminate the last of Jewish businesses and synagogues.
Kristallnacht: Nov. 9-10 1938
After Grynszpan's attack on vom Rath, who died on November 9,
Goebbel took action. Goebbel assembled the Gestapo, and the SA against
all the Jews. Goebbel's orders were the following:
Orders from Himmler, chief of the SS and of the German Police,
to be carried out on November 9 and 10th of 1938.18
-Measures are to be limited to such as will not jeopardize
German life or property (e.g., synagogues to be burned only if
there is no danger to the surrounding area). -Jewish shops and
houses are only to be destroyed, not to be plundered. The police
are responsible for the prevention of looting and charged with
the arrest of looters. -non-Jewish premises must be protected
against any harm.
-Foreign citizens, even if Jews, are not to be molested.
-Provided the demonstrations follow the guidelines, the police
are not to prevent them but should limit themselves to assuring
the implementation of the guidelines. -Immediately upon receipt
of the telex, all historically valuable archival materials are
to be confiscated from the synagogues and Jewish community offices
to safeguard them.
-As soon as the events of the night permit the use of police
officers for this purpose, as many Jews (especially those who
are well-to-do) are to be arrested as can be accommodated in the
available detention areas. For the time being "only healthy Jewish
males who are not too bold are to be arrested." The appropriate
concentration camps are to be contacted regarding the housing
of the Jews.
What followed was a show of brutality provided by the Nazi regime.
"Nazi stormtroopers along with members of the SS and Hitler
Youth beat and murdered Jews, broke into wrecked homes and brutalized
Jewish women and children. All over Germany, Austria and other Nazi
controlled areas, Jewish shops and department stores had their windows
smashed and contents destroyed. Synagogues were especially targeted
for vandalism, including the desecration of sacred Torah Scrolls.
Hundreds of synagogues were systematically burned while local fire
departments stood by or simply prevent the fire from spreading to
surrounding buildings." 11
"The result of this policy was the first violent pogrom (riot)
on Western European soil in hundred of years. 36 Jews were killed
(some authorities have this figure as high as 91); 30000 more were
deported to concentration camps; 267 synagogues were burned and
over 7000 Jewish shops, businesses and homes were vandalized and
Effects of Kristallnacht on the Jews
Jews were blamed for all the damage done on Kristallnacht and
were forced to pay for it. The arrangements for their repayment
was settled in a meeting of Nazi officials. Goebbels, Heydrich,
Funk and other met, and concluded to leave the Jews financially
and legally responsible for all the damage.
"Following the meeting, a wide ranging set of Anti-Semitic
laws were passed which had the clear intent, in Gorings words of
'Aryanizing' the German economy. Over the next two or three months
the following measures were put into effect:"13
Following the November 12 meeting, Goring announced having "received
a letter written on the Fuehrer's orders requesting that the Jewish
question be now, once and for all, coordinated and solved one way
or another. The path to the 'final solution' has now been chosen.
And, all the bureaucratic mechanisms for its implementation were
now in place."13
How Kristallnacht set the groundwork for the launching of the Holocaust
The Middle Tennessee State University discussion forum on Kristallnacht
outlines why the events at Kristallnacht turned out to be a seedbed
for the Holocaust. The following is a list of conditions that were
reflected through this event:14
1. By now it is clear to Hitler and his top officials that
forced immigration of Jews out of the Reich is not a feasible
2. Hitler is already considering the invasion of Poland.
3. Numerous concentration camps and forced labor camps are already
4. The Nuremberg laws were in place.
5. The doctrine of Lebensraum has emerged as a guiding principle
of Hitler's ideology.
6. The passivity of the German people in the face of the events
of Kristallnacht made it clear to the Germans that the Nazis would
encounter little opposition--even from the German churches.
The pogrom represented the opening stages of the Holocaust. Many
Jews who until that point had lived in the hope that Nazism would
wither away or become more tolerant, suddenly found themselves face
to face with another reality.15
World Response to events taking place November
9 -10th, 1938
There is not a single voice by which to express the feelings and
reactions felt by the entire world. However, a series of articles
and commentaries demonstrate the mixed feelings that Kristallnacht
gave rise to.
The world's headline news read words of chaos and outrage. The
Chicago Tribune headlined its piece "Chaos Rather than Government"
while the St. Paul Dispatch referred to "A Throwback to Barbarity".
The Boston Herald used the headline "Germany Sanctions Lynch
Law" and the Buffalo Courier-Express spoke of "Officials
as Provocateurs." "Nazi poison is spreading" was
how the Gloversville Morning Herald topped its comments. Strong
editorial comments appeared in papers from coast to coast, from
the Los Angeles Times to the Baltimore Sun.16
The World Jewish Congress with its headquarters in Geneva published
the following statement on the evening of November 10:17
Though the Congress deplores the fatal shooting of an official
of the German embassy in Paris by a young Polish Jew of seventeen,
it is obliged to protest energetically against the violent attacks
in the German press against the whole of Judaism because of this
act and, especially, to protest against the reprisals taken against
the German Jews after the crime.
The following article by a prominent French newspaper also denounced
the treatment of the Jews during the pogrom of 1938.17
Statement by the French Alliance Israelite: demonstrates attacks
on the occurrences by the French press. However, nothing is done
on their part to help the Jews escape.17
We remain faithful to the inalienable integrity of the human
person and reject once again all forms of violence, regardless
of author or victim of such an act. We condemn the act of homicide
which resulted in the loss of a German official and indignantly
protest the barbarous treatment inflicted on an entire innocent
population which was made the scapegoat for the crime of an individual.
Despite the strong arguments constructed against Nazism, the world
did not do anything to control the mass killing that was to follow.
In fact, the situation remained as it had been settled during the
1"The Refugee Crisis and the Persecution Years." (Holocaust
Documentation and Education Center at FIU, Lesson 4) 8.
2Schwaab, Gerald. The Day the Holocaust Began: the Odyssey of Herschel
Grynszpan. (Praeger: New York, 1990) 23-24.
3("The Refugee" 13-14)
4Middle Tennessee State University. Kristallnacht. (online, Internet,
23 Feb. 1999) 3.
5(Middle Tennessee 4)
6("The Refugee" 29)
7(Middle Tennessee 1)
8Kochan, Lionel. Pogrom: 10 November 1938. (Andre Deutsch: London,
9Fridlander, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews. vol. 1, The Years
of Persecution, 1933-1939. (Harper Collins Publishers, 1997) 260.
11USHMM. Holocaust Timeline: Kristallnacht. (1997: online, Internet,
23 February 1999) 1-2.
12Simon Wiesenthal Center Multimedia Learning Center. Kristallnacht.
(1997: online, Internet, 23 February 1999) 2.
13(Middle Tennessee 3)
14(Middle Tennessee 2)