Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction

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Overview

In the early hours of November 10, 1938, Nazi storm troopers and Hitler Youth rampaged through Jewish neighborhoods across Germany, leaving behind them a horrifying trail of terror and destruction. More than a thousand synagogues and many thousands of Jewish shops were destroyed, while thirty thousand Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Kristallnacht—the Night of Broken Glass—was a decisive stage in the systematic eradication of a people who traced their origins in Germany to Roman times and was a sinister forewarning of the Holocaust.

With rare insight and acumen, Martin Gilbert examines this night and day of terror, presenting readers with a meticulously researched, masterfully written, and eye-opening study of one of the darkest chapters in human history.

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Editorial Reviews

Elie Wiesel
“Factual, well documented and brilliant, Martin Gilbert’s book on Crystal Night is a poignant lesson.”
Booklist
“A powerful account of the helplessness of the Jews.”
Booklist
"A powerful account of the helplessness of the Jews."
Elie Wiesel
"Factual, well documented and brilliant, Martin Gilbert’s book on Crystal Night is a poignant lesson."
Michael R. Marrus
This is grimly familiar ground, but Gilbert has found some new material, consisting mostly of descriptions and recollections by people who lived through Kristallnacht. One of the world's most prolific historians -- he is the author of more than 80 works, including his most important achievement, his magisterial, multi-volume biography of Winston Churchill -- Gilbert brings to bear the historical method that has served so well in the past."
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
An acclaimed Churchill biographer and Holocaust scholar, Gilbert makes a strong case in this elegant volume that Kristallnacht was the watershed moment that laid the groundwork for the Holocaust. Known as "the Night of Broken Glass," the "coordinated, comprehensive rampage" that began on the night of November 9, 1938, saw Nazi-inspired thugs ransack synagogues and Jewish-owned property across Germany and Austria. Gilbert maintains a tight focus on the individual experiences of Jewish men, women and children during the 24-hour spree of destruction, as well as on Germans and Austrians who rioted, opposed the riot or simply looked the other way. The book begins with a harrowing account of that night's events, using accounts from news sources of the day: "`Terrified children were turned sobbing out of their beds, which were then smashed to pieces.'" Gilbert devotes a chapter each to eyewitness accounts from Berlin and Vienna, where some of the worst destruction occurred. As Felix Rinde, then an Austrian-Jewish teenager, later wrote, "Jewish life in Vienna came to a virtual end." A third chapter offers similar accounts from other cities. Gilbert's commanding account then traces the origins of Kristallnacht in the years of mounting Jewish discrimination that began when Hitler came to power in 1933, and shows how Kristallnacht pointed the way toward the events to come. 8 pages of b&w photos; maps. (June 13) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
On the night of November 9-10, 1938, the Nazis subjected the Jews in Germany to an organized wave of violence. Historian Gilbert, who has written eight other books on the Holocaust and is the official biographer of Winston Churchill, begins this installment in the "Making History" series by detailing the events of Kristallnacht ("The Night of Broken Glass"), drawing on eyewitness reports from Berlin and other parts of Germany, as well as Vienna. He then devotes a chapter to background on the treatment of the Jews in Germany once Hitler had ascended to power. The remainder of the book reviews the aftermath of Kristallnacht and includes news accounts and official responses from other countries at the time. Gilbert presents the information in an objective, newslike manner, letting the details illustrate the appalling nature of the tragedy. While Kristallnacht has been discussed in texts on pre-World War II Germany, this book is an excellent addition to Holocaust and World War II literature and is highly recommended for all libraries. (Illustrations not seen.) [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/06.]-Joel W. Tscherne, formerly with the Cleveland P.L. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Through the accounts of dozens of eyewitnesses, Gilbert tells the story of the night of November 10, 1938, when people all over Germany and Austria ransacked and burned Jewish-owned shops and synagogues. The author takes readers from the Night of Broken Glass through the degradation of the Jews, missed escapes, kindertransports, concentration camps, and, finally, to genocide. Maps and archival photos show the breadth of the destruction of lives and property. While less emotionally immediate than the many survivor autobiographies, this book documents in detail the fates of hundreds of victims, and the stories of many courageous rescuers. Kristallnacht addresses the questions: "Why didn't the Jews fight back? How did this happen?" Students of social justice, U.S. history, and world history will find this work horrifically fascinating and informative.-Ellen Bell, Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Prolific WWII historian and Churchill biographer Gilbert (Churchill and America, 2005, etc.) analyzes the first coordinated, nationwide attack on Germany's Jews. Kristallnacht, "the night of broken glass," took place on Nov. 10, 1938. Within 24 hours, thousands of Jewish homes, shops and houses of worship were ransacked and burned; a quarter of the Jewish men remaining in the Third Reich were arrested; and hundreds of Jews of all ages were beaten and killed. The campaign was largely conducted by Hitler's Storm Division, the Brownshirts, who staged attacks everywhere more than a few Jews lived, from small farms to the center of Berlin. Goebbels, Himmler, Heydrich and presumably Hitler drew great satisfaction from the spasm of violence, happily noting that even little German boys were joining in to beat and burn. Gilbert's account is rather general on where the orders from on high originated, but it is searing and specific in relating the violence as it unfolded, documenting myriad brutalities, but also the small acts of resistance mounted by ordinary Germans-from concierges to military officers-in order to protect their neighbors. He exposes a few ironies: the Gestapo's acquiescence in allowing what would become Israel's Mossad to operate in Berlin to recruit Jews to emigrate to Palestine; the utter destruction of a kosher restaurant in Vienna that had just been sold to a Nazi Party member. Where Western governments did almost nothing in response, Indian and Chinese officials offered asylum. Yet ordinary citizens around the world finally saw the Nazi regime for what it was, for no other event in the war against the Jews was so thoroughly covered by the international press as it washappening. "Kristallnacht," Gilbert concludes, "taught the Nazi administrators and planners that they must in future act with silence and secrecy, hiding what they were doing to the Jews from the eyes of world indignation."A well-written survey of a turning point in modern history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061121357
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/29/2007
  • Series: Making History Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 365,983
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Gilbert is Winston Churchill's biographer and the author of eight acclaimed books on the Holocaust. He lives in London.

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Table of Contents

Foreword : the making history series 13
1 The night of broken glass 23
2 Eye-witnesses : Berlin 42
3 Eye-witnesses : Vienna 53
4 Eye-witnesses in every corner of the Reich 70
5 Bitter prelude 119
6 Harsh aftermath 139
7 Between good and evil 164
8 Escape and rescue 184
9 Last steps to destruction 229
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2006

    Not to be enjoyed not to be ignored

    Martin Gilbert's prose is gripping. Do not start this book until you have time to complete the first one or two chapters. But, do not expect that upon completion you will have enjoyed the experience. Throughout Gilbert piles one story upon another and only at the end does the reader understand that the frustration with the book is not about whether it is good history, it is Gilbert's way to teach the reader just a tiny taste of what it had to be like as a Jew in Germany from 1938 to 1945. Nothing can prepare us for an experience where everything we have been taught growing up is simply not enough. Serving a country, doing well in school, being religious, raising a family, paying taxes -- none of it was enough to avoid the horrors of this beginning of the Holocaust. As I put the book down I realized I would never be the same but, I wondered what it must have been like for those who survived Kristallnacht to realize the world would never be the same? To realize that nothing they did, or did not do, would awaken them from a nightmare disturbed only occasionally by the sound of broken glass.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2012

    Poignant and powerfully moving

    Martin Gilbert has assembled the perfect cast for this historical drama. If history did not testify to the truth of these woeful events they would truly seem as an authors fiction. But within these pages we are taught better than to entertain such a thought. These unbelievable events truly happened and Gilbert has made that perfectly and irrefutably clear. With each and every changing story of personal suffering you are left in amazement until yet another testimony amazes you even more. If you are no true student of history in its grittiest presentation, don't read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2011

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