Remember Kristallnacht, And Why Should I Even Have To Write That?


On November 9, 1938, in an event that we now recognize as the beginning of the Holocaust, Hitler’s  Nazis began their campaign of terror against Jewish people by destroying their homes and businesses in Germany and Austria. The violence, which continued through November 10 and was later dubbed “Kristallnacht,” or “Night of Broken Glass,” left approximately 100 Jews dead, 7,500 Jewish businesses damaged and hundreds of synagogues, homes, schools and graveyards vandalized. About 30,000 Jewish men were arrested, with many of them sent to concentration camps for several months until they promised to leave Germany.

The November 7 murder of a German diplomat in Paris by a 17-year-old Polish Jew became the provocation for the Kristallnacht attacks. On, 1938, Following the episode, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels ordered German storm troopers to carry out “spontaneous demonstrations” against Jewish citizens, with local police and fire departments ordered not to interfere. Terrified by the sudden outpouring of official hate, some Jews, including entire families, committed suicide.

In a clear demonstration of the state of German ethics and justice at the time, Nazis blamed their Jewish victims for Kristallnacht and fined them 1 billion marks (or $400 million in 1938 dollars) for the low-level diplomat’s  death. This allowed the government to seize Jewish property and any insurance money owed to Jewish people for the destruction. The Nazis then enacted policies and laws that excluded Jews from all aspects of public life.

Despite outraged condemnation from the international community,  the Nazis saw little tangible negative  consequences of their actions of November 9 and 10, leading them to believe they could get away with the mass murder that was to come.

In my experience, the average American under the age of 60 knows nothing about Kristallnacht, and the schools do not teach it.

When I last wrote about the event on Ethics Alarms, on the occasion of its 75th Anniversary, I concluded in part,

If July 4, 1776; September 11, 2001; December 7, 1941, and November 22, 1963, are moments in history that all of us should remember, honor and think about because we are Americans, November 9 and 10th present the same obligations because we are human beings, and citizens of the world.

75 years ago,  a regime of unequaled cruelty and evil announced to the world what was to come, though only in hindsight were the signs seen with clarity and understanding. Because we thought we were civilized, because we thought we had fought the war to end all wars and triumphed, because our imaginations were not sufficient to grasp the enormity of the evil in front of us, and because it was not happening to us, the Night of Broken Glass was permitted to usher in the most terrible genocide  humanity had ever inflicted on itself, lighting the fuse of “The Final Solution” and ensuring that the war to come would dwarf all previous conflicts in size, cruelty, and horror.

Americans especially need to remember, because after Kristallnacht, the nation that was founded on the dual commitments to human rights and freedom from tyranny looked away for three long years as a human rights nightmare perpetrated by a hellish despot continued and deepened. Over the span of those two November days and one horrific night between, the Nazis staged violent attacks against the Jewish communities in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland.  Synagogues, Jewish-owned stores, community centers, cemeteries, and homes were vandalized,  looted, and burned, or otherwise destroyed as police and fire brigades refused to come to their rescue.  Germany went to war against its citizens. 1400 synagogues and 7,500 Jewish businesses were reduced to trash, glass and rubble, with more than 90 Jews killed . Across Europe,  indignation was expressed and ink was spilled in barrels to express moral outrage, but the nations of the world did little of substance. The primary U.S. response was recalling its ambassador. No nation cut off diplomatic relations with Germany. 400,000 German Jews were obviously in mortal peril, yet national borders were mostly closed to them, especially ours. Six years later, almost all of the 400,000, and millions more too, were dead, victims of mass extermination.

Remembering Kristallnacht, not just every 75 years, but every year, is beyond important, and not just to honor its victims and the millions of victims of the Holocaust that followed.  It is essential, if we are to be vigilant about the stealthy approach of evil around us, which always will take essentially decent people by surprise. It is vital if we are going to fulfill the United States’ historical and irreplaceable role as a nation that does not only look out for itself, but others, especially the weakest and most oppressed, with the best interests of humanity at heart. Most of all, it is mandatory for all of us to ensure that the slogan of the Jewish Defense League—“Never again!”—becomes an accurate prophecy. That is will is very much in doubt.…We must not let the clarifying events of history fade into obscurity. Our priorities must remain clear….

A shrug accurately describes our culture’s attitude toward the ideas, inspirations, concepts, visions, people and events that shaped us. This is disrespectful to our past. This is dangerous to our future,  and not just our future, but humanity’s.

We have a duty to remember much, and we have a special duty to remember, and mark, Kristallnacht.

22 thoughts on “Remember Kristallnacht, And Why Should I Even Have To Write That?

  1. Apropos, given the recently deleted tweet of self-styled Antifa leader announcing his plans to publish to the internet a map of citizens who donated to Republicans so lay Democrats can harass them “non-violently”.

    • What about Robert Reich’s call for ‘Truth and Reconcilliation Commissions’?

      Alexia Occosio-Cortez is linking to the ‘Trump Accountability Project’

      Jennifer Rubin Tweeted “Any R now promoting rejection of an election or calling to not to follow the will of voters or making baseless allegations of fraud should never serve in office, join a corporate board, find a faculty position or be accepted into “polite” society. We have a list.”

      Add this to the calls from people like Maxine Waters to push all Republicans out of society and we have what the media calls ‘healing the divisions’. Remember, Communists usually heal divisions in society with government pograms…or is it programs?

  2. The numbers of the murders committed by NAZI Germany tend to obscure the magnitude of the damage done. I despise the term “The Holocaust,” which sounds like some sort of natural disaster, sacrament or act of God, of all things. I prefer something along the lines of “The time the Germans decided to industrially murder millions of men, women of all ages, including grandmothers, and children because many of the men among them were really good at business and math and science and law and banking and preferred to go to their own churches.”

    The story “The Critic’s Choice” in my collection of stories (available on Amazon in paperback or as a Kindle), “Stories from Way Out West,” is my treatment of The time the Germans decided to industrially murder millions of men, women of all ages, including grandmothers, and children because many of the men among them were really good at business and math and science and law and banking and preferre to go to their own churches. The tale concludes with the lead character, the son of the concertmaster of the Berlin opera orchestra murdered at Auschwitz, asking of his father sixty years after the fact, “How could anyone murder such a beautiful man?”

    [The collection also includes my treatment of Hiroshima, another of the great occurrences of the 20th Century of which notice must be taken, at least in my book (so to speak).]

      • That’s it, Paulie. Handsome, non? And better yet, Mrs. Marshall has read it and given it her approval.

        I’d be tickled pink if you bought a copy but I’ll gladly send you a copy if you’d prefer. Thanks.

        No. Wesconsin was not called in off the bench. But Champagne-Urbana in Ellenois makes an admirable appearance on behalf of the Heartland though.

        • Handsome doesn’t begin to describe it…

          If you feel so inclined, I’d be truly honored to own a copy.

          You could send it HERE and I’ll make an in-kind donation (including shipping-n-handling!) to the Second Harvest Foodbank, a favorite charity of both ours and my Dear late Father.

          Heck, after I’ve finished it, I’ll lend it to Ann Althouse…

          • Signed, sealed and delivered.

            If you could really get Ann Althouse to read it and review it, that would be tremendous.

            In any event, Paulie, molto, molto gratzie. I hope the stories engage you.

            • Looking forward to it; fall field work being nearly finished will open up a lot of time for reading, and your selection will assume the pole position of an already daunting stack.

              “If you could really get Ann Althouse to read it and review it, that would be tremendous.”

              Those that attach their names to LTEs like THIS ONE may not be the best conduit to securing positivity from local, high profile, liberal women…

    • The story is (somewhat obviously) my homage to William Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice,” a great book and a good movie, one of the few times where Meryl Streep’s unrelenting angst actually works as does Kevin Klein’s mania. As an undergrad, my good friend and favorite college English professor was in a creative writing class at Duke with Bill Styron, who, when he showed up for classes, was usually drunk, unbathed and slept through the class.

      I guess my point is The time the Germans decided to industrially murder millions of men, women of all ages, including grandmothers, and children because many of the men among them were really good at business and math and science and law and banking and preferred to go to their own churches is best contemplated one victim at a time.

  3. We’ve already seen something like it this summer, as BLM and Antifa destroyed countless businesses and other buildings, and the police stood down. Now people like AOC and Jennifer Rubin start talking about who to ban from public life based on their political alignment. We’ve seen this movie before. The thing is, we saw the movie once before that, as the Ottoman Empire pretty much wrote the textbook on modern genocide. Step 1. Disarm the targets, which was done, under the guise of needing weapons for the war effort. Step 2. Eliminate any leaders who might oppose this, and Step 3. Eliminate those who might be able to fight back, which was done by mass arrests of writers, businessmen, clergy, teachers, etc., while all soldiers belonging to the targeted group were demoted to workmen and all young men not in the military were drafted as workmen and either worked to death or shot. Step 4. Mop up the defenseless, which was done.

    Sooo, I can easily see the Dems trying to 1. impose really strict gun control; 2. Force any and all supporters of the previous regime into powerlessness; 3. Start arresting any who resist, shooting them if necessary, and 4. Mop up, telling those who survive to sit down, shut up, work, and pay their taxes.

  4. It is important to note Kristallnacht came from years of propaganda and ostracizing German Jews from the Volksgemeinschaft. The Aryanization process or economic preconditions that had been implemented in piecemeal between 1933-1938 helped foster “popular anger” among German citizens and societal displacement of Jews.

    The goal of Entjudung and its results on November 9th had a series of other violent preludes. There were brawls in the streets and violence against Jews before 1933. After 1933 the gloves really came off. Store owners were accosted. Small and medium size businesses were hit hardest (sound familiar?). The league of National Socialist Lawyers wanted to purge courts in order to make sure they were “free of Jews and Marxists.”

    It took only three days to organize The Boycott Day that began April 1st 1933. There was already plenty enthusiasm for it and it was easy to find SA members to stand in front of Jewish businesses to ensure no one shopped at them. On April 7th that year a new law made sure “non-Aryan” civil servants were forced to retire immediately. The Civil Service Law also forced out 350 college faculty members. That year in October, Jewish or “partly Jewish” newspaper editors were barred from working at publications.

    While some believe there was a kind of “grace period” from 1934-37, Jews continued to be systematically displaced economically and demographically. 27% of the Jewish population in Germany left, especially in rural areas. Laws were set in 1934 and 1935 that barred Jewish dentists from working and kept Jewish doctors (and those married to Jews) from access to government insurance programs. Jewish firms of all types were excluded from redeeming welfare vouchers.

    Shop windows were still defaced and broken during this period. Customers who dared to buy from Jewish owned businesses were photographed and publicly denounced. Some at the time excused this behavior as pranks. This included stickers being put on shoppers backs as they left such stores that said, “I am a traitor of the people, I just shopped at a Jewish store.”

    Displacement by administration continued in 1935. In Berlin, Jewish businesses had to sell or transfer their enterprises to Aryans. In Frankfurt, non-Jewish stores marked their shops with “German shop” signs. In smaller towns/areas like Brandenburg, East Prussia, Hannover, Pomerania, and Westfalia, signs at town entrances said, “Entry prohibited for Jews,” or “Jews enter this town at your own risk.” The level of trauma these wide reaching efforts had shouldn’t be underestimated.

    From 1935-37 the few Jewish professors still working had their pensions suddenly disappear. The German film industry was purged of Jews. 30,000-40,000 blue-collar Jewish workers were displaced by the end of 1937. Manufacturing and most areas of industry were “Aryanized.” In Essen that year, a scrap metal plant that had been awarded a contract with the navy, was accused by an inside informant of trying to transfer the company internationally so the owners could emigrate from Germany. The owners, according to practice and protocol, were arrested. The company stock went to Aryans.

    There are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of events and incidents that led up to the “night of broken glass.” It is these years before that long night and even worse days that should also be studied carefully because we are seeing some rather eerily similar ideas and calls to action from leaders in our government, media, big tech, and the so-called “Resistance.” Will we pay attention or will we keep pointing fingers at supposed supremacist boogeymen while we beat our own self-righteous chests?

    History is clear. Censorship, boycotts, “taking names,” economic sanctions, breaking windows, excusing violence and threats, and dismissing psychological warfare, leads to greater long-term consequences. Events like Kristallnacht never happen overnight or in a vacuum.

    • One part you left out is that at the time a good number, if not all, of the Germans thought what they were doing was perfectly ok. After all, they almost won WWI before Germany was stabbed in the back by the Jews and the socialists. They’d been struggling in a depression for years while the Jews kept their businesses. And after all, the Jews were different, in some ways just annoying: they looked different, they thought differently, they worshiped differently, they celebrated different holidays, in others frightening, for even if they didn’t use the blood of Christian children in their ceremonial bread (a vicious lie), they did manipulate leaders, foment labor unrest, and so on. Besides, weren’t a lot of the early Communists (i.e. Yakov Yurovsky, Feliks Dzerzhinsky, and others) Jews? Just for the record, Yurovsky was, but later converted to Lutheranism and moved away from his roots to avoid antisemitism, Dzerzhinsky was not, he was an ethnically Polish Catholic, but he spoke Yiddish, so that was enough.

      Of course, when the Americans crossed the Rhine and were liberating the various camps, suddenly all the civilians and municipal officials didn’t know any of this was going on, and if they had known they would have wanted no part of it. Mmmhmmm. They knew damn well what they were doing and now they denied it because they had been caught. I wonder one day if we’ll see some of these Antifa kooks dragged before the courts and forced to answer “Do you seriously deny that you knew what you were doing was wrong?”

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