The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: places/germany/kristallnacht/documents.005


Newsgroups: alt.revisionism,soc.history
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: Kristallnacht (1/3)
Summary: Hitler uses government personnel to openly attack Jews and
         Jewish institutions throughout Germany, while attempting to
         convey a sense of government helplessness in view of public
         outrage to a stunned world
Keywords: Goebbels,Gruenspan,von Rath,Streicher

Archive/File: pub/places/germany/kristallnacht/documents.005
Last-modified: 2005/11/11 

   "The 'Night of Broken Glass' (Kristallnacht), 9-1O November 1938 

   In the meantime, discontent had been building up in the Party over
   the Government's policy of 'Aryanization', which usually resulted in
   the transfer of businesses from one large group to another and
   offered little benefit to the smaller businessman, who was strongly
   represented in the Party ranks.  Appetites had been whetted by the
   wholesale expropriation of Jewish firms in Austria by Party officials
   after the Anschluss earlier in the year.  In the city of Furth in
   Bavaria, which had one of the largest Jewish communities in the
   country, Gauleiter Streicher attempted to cut across legal procedures
   by acquiring all Jewish property for the Party in return for derisory
   compensation.  For this action and for the corruption accompanying it
   he was eventually dismissed, but individual acts of terror increased
   and went unpunished.  Several motives--economic greed, racial hatred,
   sadism and sheer hooliganism--combined to produce outbreaks of
   violence which were carried out by SA men, SS groups and aggressive
   bands of Hitler Youth and were condoned by the police, by this time
   under the control of the S S.  There were now fewer inhibitions about
   anti-Jewish measures.  Not only had Schacht's voice of caution been
   removed, but Germany's international position was no longer so
   vulnerable to international pressure.  Two weeks after the Munich
   Agreement, Goring advocated in a speech the vigorous and speedy
   settlement of the Jewish question and in particular the expulsion of
   the Jews from the economy.  Events were then precipitated by an
   unforeseen incident, the immediate repercussions of which were
   somewhat embarrassing to the regime, though, as with the Reichstag
   Fire, it took full advantage of the situation.  On 7 November 1938,
   Ernst von Rath, a minor official in the German Embassy in Paris, was
   shot dead by a young Polish Jew named Herschel Gru"nspan [Grynszpan].
   That evening, Goebbels addressed a gathering of Party leaders in
   Munich and, as was later revealed in a report of the Party's Supreme
   Court, he made it clear that antisemitic riots would not be dis-
   couraged by the authorities.  As a result, the Party leaders present
   went away and unleashed a pogrom of unparalleled brutality and
   destruction: 

      (a) Secret report of the NSDAP Supreme Court on the antisemitic
      riots On the evening of 9 November 1938, Reich Propaganda Director
      and Party Member Dr Goebbels told the Party leaders assembled at a
      social evening in the old town hall in Munich that in the
      districts of Kurhessen and Magdeburg-Anhalt there had been
      anti-Jewish demonstrations, during which Jewish shops were
      demolished and synagogues were set on fire.  The Fuhrer at
      Goebbels's suggestion had decided that such demonstrations were
      not to be prepared or organized by the Party, but neither were
      they to be discouraged if they originated spontaneously....  

      The oral instructions of the Reich Propaganda Director were
      probably understood by all the Party leaders present to mean that
      the Party should not appear outwardly as the originator of the
      demonstrations but that in reality it should organize them and
      carry them out.  Instructions in this sense were telephoned
      immediately (and therefore a considerable time before transmission
      of the first teletype) to the bureaux of their districts by a
      large number of the Party members present....  The first known
      case of the killing of a Jew, i.e.  a Polish citizen, was reported
      to Reich Propaganda Leader and Party Member Dr Goebbels on 10
      November 1938 at about 2 o'clock and in this connexion the opinion
      was expressed that something would have to be done in order to
      prevent the whole action from taking a dangerous turn.  According
      to the statement by the deputy Gauleiter of Munich-Upper Bavaria,
      Party Member Dr Goebbels replied that the informant should not get
      excited about one dead Jew, and that in the next few days
      thousands of Jews would see the point.  At that time, most of the
      killings could still have been prevented by a supplementary order.
      Since this did not happen, it must be deduced from that fact as
      well as from the remark itself that the final result was intended
      or at least was considered possible and desirable.  In which case,
      the individual agent carried out not simply the assumed, but the
      correctly understood, wishes of the leaders, however vaguely
      expressed.  For that he could not be punished.  

   This report estimated the number of Jewish dead at 91.  Over 20,000
   Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps.  Nazi
   propaganda dressed the affair up as a spontaneous uprising of the
   German people against the Jews.  In fact, the reaction of the public
   was apparently one of shock.  The British charge' d'affairs in Berlin
   claimed that he had not met 'a single German from any walk of life
   who does not disapprove to some degree of what has occurred'.  

(b) Kristallnacht in Leipzig 

   The American Consul in Leipzig, David Buffum, prepared a detailed
   report (2 November) on the events of the Kristallnacht in that city.
   His account of the violence demolishes any question of strong popular
   backing for what happened and draws attention to the powerlessness of
   the public and the refusal of the police to intervene against the
   outrages:

      The shattering of shop windows, looting of stores and dwellings of
      Jews which began in the early hours of 10 November 1938, was
      hailed subsequently in the Nazi press as a 'spontaneous wave of
      righteous indignation throughout Germany, as a result of the
      cowardly Jewish murder of Third Secretary von Rath in the German
      Embassy at Paris'.  So far as a very high percentage of the German
      populace is concerned, a state of popular indignation that would
      spontaneously lead to such excesses, can be considered as
      nonexistent.  On the contrary, in viewing the ruins and attendant
      measures employed, all of the local crowds observed were obviously
      benumbed over what had happened and aghast over the unprecedented
      fury of Nazi acts that had been or were taking place with
      bewildering rapidity throughout their city....  

      At 3 a.m.  on 10 November 1938 was unleashed a barrage of Nazi
      ferocity as had had no equal hitherto in Germany, or very likely
      anywhere else in the world since savagery began.  Jewish buildings
      were smashed into and contents demolished or looted.  In one of
      the Jewish sections an eighteen-year-old boy was hurled from a
      three-storey window to land with both legs broken on a street
      littered with burning beds and other household furniture and
      effects from his family's and other apart- ments.  This
      information was supplied by an attending physician.  It is
      reported from another quarter that among domestic effects thrown
      out of a Jewish building, a small dog descended four flights on to
      a cluttered street with a broken spine.  Although apparently
      centred in poor districts, the raid was not confined to the humble
      classes.  One apartment of exceptionally refined occupants known
      to this office was violently ransacked, presumably in a search for
      valuables which was not in vain, and one of the marauders thrust a
      cane through a priceless medieval painting portraying a biblical
      scene.  Another apartment of the same category is known to have
      been turned upside down in the frenzied pursuit of whatever the
      invaders were after.  Reported loss by looting of cash, silver,
      jewellery, and otherwise easily convertible articles, has been
      apparent.  

      Jewish shop windows by the hundreds were systematically and
      wantonly smashed throughout the entire city at a loss estimated at
      several millions of marks.  There are reports that substantial
      losses have been sustained on the famous Leipzig 'Bru"hl', as many
      of the shop windows at the time of the demolition were filled with
      costly furs that were seized before the windows could be boarded
      up.  In proportion to the general destruction of real estate,
      however, losses of goods are felt to have been relatively small.
      The spectators who viewed the wreckage when daylight had arrived
      were mostly in such a bewildered mood that there was no danger of
      impulsive acts, and the perpetrators probably were too busy in
      carrying out their schedule to take off a whole lot of time for
      personal profit.  At all events, the main streets of the city were
      a positive litter of shattered plate glass.  According to reliable
      testimony, the debacle was executed by SS men and Stormtroopers
      not in uniform, each group having been provided with hammers,
      axes, crowbars and incendiary bombs.  

      Three synagogues in Leipzig were fired simultaneously by
      incendiary bombs and all sacred objects and records desecrated or
      destroyed, in most cases hurled through the windows and burned in
      the streets.  No attempts whatsoever were made to quench the
      fires, the activity of the fire brigade being confined to playing
      water on adjoining buildings.  All of the synagogues were
      irreparably gutted by flames, and the walls of the two that are
      close to the consulate are now being razed.  The blackened frames
      have been centres of attraction during the past week of terror for
      eloquently silent and bewildered crowds.  One of the largest
      clothing stores in the heart of the city was destroyed by flames
      from incendiary bombs, only the charred walls and gutted roof
      having been left standing.  As was the case with the synagogues,
      no attempts on the part of the fire brigade were made to
      extinguish the fire, although apparently there was a certain
      amount of apprehension for adjacent property, for the walls of a
      coffee house next door were covered with asbestos and sprayed by
      the doughty firemen.  It is extremely difficult to believe, but
      the owners of the clothing store were actually charged with
      setting the fire and on that basis were dragged from their beds at
      6 a.m.  and clapped into prison.  

      Tactics which closely approached the ghoulish took place at the
      Jewish cemetery where the temple was fired together with a
      building occupied by caretakers, tombstones uprooted and graves
      violated .  Eyewitnesses considered reliable the report that ten
      corpses were left unburied at this cemetery for a whole week
      because all gravediggers and cemetery attendants had been
      arrested.  

      Ferocious as was the violation of property, the most hideous phase
      of the so-called 'spontaneous' action has been the wholesale
      arrest and transportation to concentration camps of male German
      Jews between the ages of sixteen and sixty, as well as Jewish men
      without citizenship.  This has been taking place daily since the
      night of horror.  This office has no way of accurately checking
      the numbers of such arrests, but there is very little question
      that they have run to several thousands in Leipzig alone.  I
      Iaving demolished dwellings and hurled most of the movable effects
      onto the streets, the insatiably sadistic perpetrators threw many
      of the trembling inmates into a small stream that flows through
      the Zoological Park, commanding horrified spectators to spit at
      them, defile them with mud and jeer at their plight.  The latter
      incident has been repeatedly corroborated by German witnesses who
      were nauseated in telling the tale.  The slightest manifestation
      of sympathy evoked a positive fury on the part of the
      perpetrators, and the crowd was powerless to do anything but turn
      horror-stricken eyes from the scene of abuse, or leave the
      vicinity.  These tactics were carried out the entire morning of IO
      November without police intervention and they were applied to men,
      women and children.  

      There is much evidence of physical violence, including several
      deaths.  At least half-a-dozen cases have been personally
      observed, victims with bloody, badly bruised faces having fled to
      this office, believing that as refugees their desire to emigrate
      could be expedited here.  As a matter of fact this consulate has
      been a bedlam of humanity for the past ten days, most of these
      visitors being desperate women, as their husbands and sons had
      been taken off to concentration camps.

      Similarly violent procedure was applied throughout this consular
      district, the amount of havoc wrought depending upon the number of
      Jewish establishments or persons involved.  It is understood that
      in many of the smaller communities even more relentless methods
      were employed than was the case in the cities.  Reports have been
      received from Weissenfels to the effect that the few Jewish
      families there are experiencing great difficulty in purchasing
      food.  It is reported that three Aryan professors of the
      University of Jena have been arrested and taken off to
      concentration camps because they had voiced disapproval of this
      insidious drive against mankind.  

      Sources of information: Personal observation and interviews."
      (Noakes, 472-475)  

Followups to alt.revisionism. Further information regarding Goering's
reaction to the cost of the Nazi attack upon Jewish institutions, see 
http://nizkor.org/ftp.cgi/places/germany/kristallnacht/kristallnacht.02


                              Work Cited

Noakes, Jeremy, and Geoffrey Pridham. Documents on Nazism 1919-1945. New
York: Viking Press, 1974

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