On the 9th of November 1938 Hitler’s willing executioners unleashed a series of brutal riots against Jewish persons. Within a few hours, hundreds were murdered, thousands of synagogues, businesses and homes were attacked, looted and many destroyed.
In the days and weeks after the 9th November, 30,000 Jewish persons were deported to concentration camps where many more were murdered. The death toll of the riots and their immediate aftermath has been estimated at between 1,300-1,500 persons. (2)
This event became known as Kristallnacht, because of the shattered store windowpanes that carpeted German streets. This is still often translated as “Night of the Broken Glass”, but the meaning of this specific German term must be translated more precisely as “Crystal Night”. Kristallnacht has therefore been widely criticised as a euphemistic term, as it suggests glittery glamour and diverts from the monstrous brutality of that night’s events. In Germany these barbaric acts are now widely known as Novemberpogrome.
Systematic discrimination and persecution of Jewish persons started long before the Novemberpogrome. There was the boycott of Jewish businesses (1933), the Nuremberg Laws (1935) and all the pieces of anti-Jewish legislation, the dispossessions, the forced emigrations and the daily abuse of and attacks on Jewish persons everywhere in the Third Reich.
The Novemberpogrome marked the change from the brutal persecution to the systematic elimination of Jewish persons in the German’s sphere of influence. By now even outside the Reich it was obvious that anti-Semitism, the pseudo-science created in the 19th and 20th century, based and fuelled by many centuries of Christian anti-Judaism had become something even more horrifying: eliminationist anti-Semitism. This was the delusional belief that the imagined “destructive Jewish influence” had to be eliminated irrevocably from German society.
Even though it was denied after the destruction of the Nazi state, eliminationist anti-Semitism was part of the worldview of nearly every German. Not only Hitler, the eight million members of the Nazi Party and the SS guards on the towers of the death camps were guilty of the Holocaust. The police who provided address lists of Jewish persons and raided their homes, the postal workers who delivered deportation notes, the railway workers who operated the deportation trains, the soldiers who fought to stop the liberating allied forces, those who stood by and watched the Novemberpogrome happen, the children that spat at their Jewish classmates – they were all guilty – as are my Grandfathers and Grandmothers.
Everyone who did not fight the Nazis made the Holocaust possible. Everyone who ever listened to a speech of Hitler, everyone who saw their neighbours being pulled out of their homes in the night, everyone who saw the deportation trains; in fact every German knew that people were murdered in concentration camps. That many may not have known the extent of the slaughter can not be an excuse. Only some Communists, Anarchists, Christians, Edelweisspiraten (children’s resistance groups) and other individuals took the logical consequence and started fighting their fellow Germans. (3)
Today, the 9th November 1938 is still remembered by Jewish communities and antifascists in Germany. Mainstream media still mentions the 9th November 1938 but their ritualised remembrance is increasingly overshadowed by the 9th November 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. Due to this coincidence the 9th November is reinterpreted as a positive day in German history. (4) Even though the end of the GDR has to be appreciated, German “reunification” reignited German nationalism – which is and has been interwoven with anti-Semitism. Neo-Nazism (re-)appeared much more strongly on the streets than it had since 1945. In 1991 hundreds of ordinary Germans once again applauded a pogrom, this time in Rostock where police stood by as firebombs were thrown against a building inhabited by Vietnamese workers and their families. In 1992 and 1993 Turkish women and children burned to death after their homes in Mölln and Solingen were torched by neo-Nazis. Even the German police – as brutal, ignorant and structurally racist as anywhere else – state that more than 140 persons were murdered by neo-Nazis since the “good” 9th November 1989.
Faced ever again with Nazism, Fascism, anti-Semitism and Nationalism, remembering the 9th November 1938 is necessary, forever and everywhere. We must remember the day when persecution became extermination. This must be everyone’s duty to the German’s six million Jewish victims. Victims like Leo Lipman who was born in Nottingham in 1856, lived in Frankfurt/Main prior to the Second World War and was murdered in 1941.
But remembering is not enough. We must all stand against all forms of Nazism, Fascism, anti-Semitism and Nationalism – everywhere and always. Therefore much work has to be done, also on these islands. So – among many other things – let us smash the BNP, bring his own “God’s” wrath on Bishop Williamson and make the English Defence League eat their own flags. (5)
FIGHT FASCISM, NAZISM, ANTI-SEMITISM AND NATIONALISM ON ALL LEVELS BY ANY MEANS PRACTICAL ANTIFASCISM IN NOTTINGHAM 5th DECEMBER 2009: DEFEAT THE EDL
(1) The imprecise term “Jewish persons” will be used in this text to enhance readability. The author is aware of the fact that this term reproduces the anti-Semitic belief that persons labeled using this category are a “race” or “nation” of their own and not citizens of the German or Austrian states who held Jewish faith or were born into families in which persons practiced this form of religious beliefs. In this text the term “Jewish persons” is synonym with all those persons which were classified as Jews in the Third Reich, whilst the term “Germans” refers to the rest of the population that had German citizenship.
(2) Different sources vary on the number of synagogues destroyed that night. The number of 267 that is often referred to has been stated on the 11th November 1938 in a letter by Reinhard Heydrich – one of the key architects of the holocaust – to Herman Göring. Research in the last decades indicates that up to 1,400 synagogues and smaller places of worship were destroyed. The number of 36 victims that has been stated in numerous publications has also been taken from Heydrich’s said letter to Göring. See: Schwarz/Lange
(3) Some of the most famous “resistance fighters” are deliberately excluded in these examples, e.g. Stauffenberg. Even though Tom Cruise looked fancy and heroic with his eye patch, Stauffenberg was a Nazi, he just did not want to lose the war. He wrote e.g. in 1939 a letter to wife in which he stated that Polish persons were “rabble”, “a lot of Jews and mixed people. People only comfortable living subdued to the baton.”
(4) The 9th November in German history that has undoubtedly positive connotations was in 1918 when, due to the revolutionary worker’s and soldier’s movement, the German Emperor lost his power. Sadly the revolution was betrayed by Social Democrats in league with monarchists, capitalists and proto-fascists.
(5) Not only because the EDL like to raise their right arms and demand “Hitler for Britain” like they did in Leeds on the 31.10.2009, but that alone would make them a legitimate target. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITDiGINtc1w&feature=sub
For more information, pictures, documents, eyewitness accounts, etc, see (e.g.):
* Aschkenaz House; http://www.ashkenazhouse.org
* Coince Encyclopedia of the Holocaust: Kristallnacht; http://www1.yadvashem.org/education/entries/english/36.asp
* Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah: Hitler’s willing Executioners – Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust; Abacus; 2008
* Schwarz, Meier/Lange, Karin: Die “Kristallnacht”-Lüge; http://zukunft-braucht-erinnerung.de/holocaust/ausschreitungen-und-judenpolitik-nach-1935/176.html; see abridged English version: Schwarz, Meier/Lange, Karin: The “Kristallnacht”-Lie; http://www.ashkenazhouse.org/ashkenazhouse_files/yedion/Kristallnachteng.htm
* Yad Vashem (Holocaust remembrance centre): It came from within... – 71 years since Kristallnacht; http://www1.yadvashem.org/exhibitions/kristallnacht/homepage.html