Kristallnacht 1938

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Overview

On November 7, 1938, a Jewish teenager, Herschel Grynszpan, fatally shot a German diplomat in Paris. Within three days anti-Jewish violence erupted throughout Germany, initially incited by local Nazi officials, and ultimately sanctioned by the decisions of Hitler and Goebbels at the pinnacle of the Third Reich. As synagogues burned and Jews were beaten in the streets, police stood aside. Men, women, and children—many neighbors of the victims—participated enthusiastically in acts of violence, rituals of humiliation, and looting. By the night of November 10, a nationwide antisemitic pogrom had inflicted massive destruction on synagogues, Jewish schools, and Jewish-owned businesses. During and after this spasm of violence and plunder, 30,000 Jewish men were rounded up and sent to concentration camps, where hundreds would perish in the following months.

Kristallnacht revealed to the world the intent and extent of Nazi Judeophobia. However, it was seen essentially as the work of the Nazi leadership. Now, Alan Steinweis counters that view in his vision of Kristallnacht as a veritable pogrom—a popular cathartic convulsion of antisemitic violence that was manipulated from above but executed from below by large numbers of ordinary Germans rioting in the streets, heckling and taunting Jews, cheering Stormtroopers' hostility, and looting Jewish property on a massive scale.

Based on original research in the trials of the pogrom's perpetrators and the testimonies of its Jewish survivors, Steinweis brings to light the evidence of mob action by all sectors of the civilian population. Kristallnacht 1938 reveals the true depth and nature of popular antisemitism in Nazi Germany on the eve of the Holocaust.

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Editorial Reviews

The Tablet

Illuminating...To capture the full significance of Kristallnacht, it is necessary to see the pogrom not in hindsight, but through contemporary eyes—and that is the achievement of Steinweis's short but revelatory book. Knowing what came after, we tend to see the pogrom of November 1938 as a prelude to genocide; but to those who lived through it, it was precisely the unprecedented quality of Kristallnacht that made it so momentous.
— Adam Kirsch

Washington Times

In this brief but searing book, Steinweis provides a vivid retelling, buttressed by numerous accounts of individual incidents and also provides a new slant on what actually happened in those terrible days.
— Martin Rubin

Booklist

Utilizing primary sources, including the voices of both victims and victimizers, he illustrates that "ordinary" Germans gleefully took part in what amounted to a pogrom against their fellow citizens. This is an outstanding re-examination of a seminal event along the road leading to mass murder.
— Jay Freeman

Times Higher Education

A great deal has been written about these appalling events, but Alan Steinweis makes excellent use of a hitherto untapped source, namely the documentary record of more than 1,000 separate trials, involving some 7,000 perpetrators, conducted in Germany and Austria in the years following the end of the war, to tell the story again. His account adds fresh and often illuminating depth and detail to the familiar picture, and for anyone looking for a readable and accurate portrayal of the pogrom, its origins and its aftermath, this book is now the best place to go... Deliver[s] a powerful, nuanced and detailed account that should be required reading for everyone concerned with the history of Nazism and indeed more generally with the place of racial hatred in the modern world.
— Richard J. Evans

Jewish Book World
Steinweis analyzes newly released internal memos and court documents from the trials of the pogrom's perpetrators, enabling us to better understand the day that set the stage for the murder of the Jews of Europe.
The Tablet - Adam Kirsch
Illuminating...To capture the full significance of Kristallnacht, it is necessary to see the pogrom not in hindsight, but through contemporary eyes—and that is the achievement of Steinweis's short but revelatory book. Knowing what came after, we tend to see the pogrom of November 1938 as a prelude to genocide; but to those who lived through it, it was precisely the unprecedented quality of Kristallnacht that made it so momentous.
Times Higher Education - Richard J. Evans
A great deal has been written about these appalling events, but Alan Steinweis makes excellent use of a hitherto untapped source, namely the documentary record of more than 1,000 separate trials, involving some 7,000 perpetrators, conducted in Germany and Austria in the years following the end of the war, to tell the story again. His account adds fresh and often illuminating depth and detail to the familiar picture, and for anyone looking for a readable and accurate portrayal of the pogrom, its origins and its aftermath, this book is now the best place to go... Deliver[s] a powerful, nuanced and detailed account that should be required reading for everyone concerned with the history of Nazism and indeed more generally with the place of racial hatred in the modern world.
Washington Times - Martin Rubin
In this brief but searing book, Steinweis provides a vivid retelling, buttressed by numerous accounts of individual incidents and also provides a new slant on what actually happened in those terrible days.
Booklist - Jay Freeman
Utilizing primary sources, including the voices of both victims and victimizers, he illustrates that "ordinary" Germans gleefully took part in what amounted to a pogrom against their fellow citizens. This is an outstanding re-examination of a seminal event along the road leading to mass murder.
Doris L. Bergen
Masterful, wise, and utterly convincing. This judicious and moving book depicts a conflagration that both continued the assault on Jews in Germany since 1933 and turned sharply toward unprecedented destruction.
Peter Hayes
Steinweis has radically changed our perspective on Kristallnacht, contributing new insights to the ongoing discussion of the extent and limits of popular anti-Semitism in Germany.
Jeffrey Herf
A powerful, clearly written and convincing account of the range of human motivations that led a hate-filled minority to violently attack their neighbors and fellow citizens. Kristallnacht 1938 is an important advance in our understanding of the relationship between the Nazi regime and the German public in the years preceding World War II and the Holocaust.
Gordon J. Horwitz
Kristallnacht 1938 offers chilling insight into just how far, on the eve of the Shoah, members of the German public supported and encouraged radical policies designed to eliminate Jews from German society forever...It yields unexpected insights into the nature of a regime and society whose actions continue to unsettle the conscience of humankind.
Richard S. Levy
A subtle yet powerful account of the "Night of Broken Glass," perhaps the first national pogrom in history. Steinweis' probing yields a far more damning picture of complicity on the part of ordinary people than we are accustomed to. An important contribution, a much-needed corrective, and a disturbing book.
Gerhard L. Weinberg
A remarkable new look at the German pogrom of November 1938 that includes both clear local detail on the massive participation of Germans in assaults on their neighbors and also a balanced and thoughtful analysis of the whole event, its development, and its repercussions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674036239
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2009
  • Pages: 214
  • Sales rank: 982,556
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan E. Steinweis is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Vermont.
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Table of Contents

  • Contents
  • Note on Names
  • Introduction: A German Pogrom

  1. “Our Path Is the Right One”
  2. “This Bloody Jewish Deed”
  3. “And Now the People Shall Act”
  4. “The Time for Revenge Has Now Arrived”
  5. “Things that Must be Implemented by Means of Violence”
  6. “Synagogues Ignited Themselves”
  7. “Defendants and Witnesses Openly Hold Back with the Truth”

  • Note on Sources
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

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