HSTS 4230: The Holocaust
September 4, 2012
Traditional views of the events of November 9th and 10th 1938, Kristallnacht, argue that it was a departure from the bureaucratic strategy to marginalize the Jewish people in Germany, and that that the perpetrators were mainly Storm troopers and German Nazi Party organizers. The traditional view also maintains that few ordinary Germans joined in and most disapproved of the actions taking place. New insights suggest that Kristallnacht was the culmination of the phobia against Jews which existed prior to November 9th and 10th in Germany. Kristallnacht was not only prosecuted by the German governmental authorities, but it was also perpetrated and supported by the ordinary German population in both large towns and small villages.
Adolf Hitler authorized the attacks of November 9th and Joseph Goebbels authorized the police not to intervene, and it was their hope that the population would take part in the attacks. Court records show that the attacks were manipulated from above, but that it was executed from below by local anti-Jewish groups. The instructions to local leaders were not clear; therefore, it was left up to the local leaders on how to carry out the attacks.
Ordinary citizens were not as passive as suggested and there are eyewitness accounts that they provided psychological support through chanting, heckling, laughter, and applause for the actions of the perpetrators of the attacks on Jewish businesses, houses of worship, and people. Many of the people that watched what was going on either joined the attackers and began to participate or began looting Jewish businesses and homes. It is said that “a frightening viciousness and glee” accompanied the beatings given to Jews. There are eyewitness accounts of Jews being dragged out of their homes, paraded in the streets in their pajamas, and synagogues being set on fire and looted. There are also...
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