Kristallnacht Paper

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Sam Pashko
History of the Holocaust
Dr. Delaney

In the introduction to Alan E. Steinweis’ book Kristallnacht 1938, he argues that the German citizens attacking Jewish synagogues, businesses, homes, properties and the Jewish people themselves on November 9th, 1938 is important to understand the perspective of German Society and it’s role in the prosecution of Jews perpetrated by the Nazis. It further suggests that the involvement of Germans in the attacks was far more wide spread than just a small group of Nazi and Nazi sympathizers. It included not just German military officers and personnel, but also workers, teenagers and even children. Kristallnacht 1938 is different than other books and publications on the subject of the events that occurred in Germany in November 1938. Its primary focus is more on the individuals committing the attacks rather than the Jewish victims. It also argues against some of the prevailing theories noted in other works about the Kristallnacht. The Kristallnacht is important to understand because it is a major point in the Nazi polices against Jews, which would ultimately lead to the “Final Solution,” which was the elimination of Jews in Europe. It encompassed large organized violence against Jews in Germany throughout the entire country including large cities such as Munich and Berlin as well as small rural communities as well. It also marked the beginning of a policy known as “Aryanization.” This refers to the stealing of confiscation of property and money owned by Jews and redistributing it to non Jewish Germans. This book challenges several ideas that have previously espoused on The Kristallnacht. In other publications about this time period, it has been suggested in that Kristallnacht issued a change of dealing with Jews in Germany. Prior to this event, the strategy of the German Government was a systematic persecution of Jews through laws of discrimination and hardship as opposed to outright violence against Jews.1 Steinweis argues that violence toward Jews in Germany did not start with Kristallnacht in November of 1938, but in fact were fairly common as far back as January of 1933.2 Other historians have written that Kristallnacht was organized by the Nazi Party and officials of the German Government and that the individuals who carried out the acts of burning synagogues, and destroying businesses and homes owned by Jews were almost entirely made up of members of the Sturmabteilung Storm Troopers better known as the SA and other members of the Nazi party as opposed to the average German citizen. In this book Streinweiss, makes the case that while the exact events of November 9th and 10th were in fact planned by the Nazis and the German Government, riots against Jews began before then in response to the shooting of the German diplomat, Ernst von Rath, in Paris by a Jewish teenager named Herschel Grynszpan on November 7th, 1938. Steinweis believes that there is a direct link between the riots against the Jews that started on November 7, 1938 and Kristallnacht on November 9th, 1938. Contrary to others he sees the violence against Jews between November 7th-10th 1938 as individualized local actions as opposed to be being organized nationally by member of the Nazi party and German Government. He also believes that common non-military German citizens took a far greater role in the violence against Jews during this time period than was previously thought.3 He states, “When Looking at the entire period from November 7 to November 10 rather than only at November 9 and 10 as has usually been done, the pogrom appears less like an atrocity that was initiated at, and orchestrated from the top, and more like the nationalization of a series of localized anti-Jewish actions”.4 Steinweis also points out that workers, businessmen and youth actively participated in destroying synagogues and homes of Jews. Even young children were urged by their teachers to engage in acts against Jews.5 This book is...
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