SA man in a desecrated Munich synagogue

UCSB Hist 33d, L8:
November 9-10, 1938

lecture on Oct. 20, 2005

by Professor Harold Marcuse (homepage)
uploaded Oct. 24, 2005, updated 2/6/08

1. Background: 1938 Events
2. October-November events
3. November 10 and after
4. A personal story
(my great-grandfather)

Introduction (back to top)

Kristallnacht, the "night of broken glass" (November 9-10, 1938), is often considered a starting or turning point in the development of the German plan to murder the Jews of Germany and Europe. personal belongings being thrown out of window in KasselIn this lecture I look at what role it played and argue that it was an opportunistic use of an assassination attempt to achieve the aim of hastening Jewish emigration from Germany when diplomatic efforts were not making progress.

  • Origin and meaning of the name:
    • Reichs     -     kristall      -  nacht    =
      "national - [broken] glass - night"
    • during 1988 commemorations in Germany, was considered a eupemism, so new term:
      Reichs - pogrom - nacht
    • But was it really a euphemism?
      The addition of "Reich" made clear that it was a nationally organized pogrom, also poked fun at inflationary use of "Reich-" in titles, as in HEINrich Himmler being called the "Reichsheini."
      See also the discussion on the Wikipedia Kristallnacht page under "terminology."
    • In any case, the name is euphemistic because it does not indicate that there was a huge human cost, but only signifies the material destruction

1. Background: 1938 events (back to top)

  • Significance of that particular night?
    • Nov. 9, 1918: republic proclaimed in Berlin
    • Nov. 9, 1923: Nazi putsch attempt in Munich
    • Nov. 9, 1933: 10th anniversary commemoration
    • Nov. 9, 1938: 15th anniversary commemoration in Munich
      • gathering in city hall with Hitler and Goebbels and Gauleiters (district governers)
      • recruits sworn in at the Königsplatz at midnight
    • First desecration actually started after midnight, thus on the morning of Nov. 10, 1938
    • But many developments from earlier in the year
  • Events in 1938
    • March: Polish ruling--no re-immigration after 10/31
    • "Anschluss" referendum in Austria
    • Apr. 26: Jews must register all assets over RM5000
    • June 22: Synagogue in Munich destroyed; August 10: Synagogue in Nuremberg destroyed
    • July 6: Jews barred from business, medicine
    • July 6-15: Evian conference in France: 32 countries: no increase in immigration quotas.
      Australian delegate: they don't have a Jewish problem, and the don't want to get one.
      (LA-MOT Evian page; 4 chapter on-line Evian dissertation by Annette Shaw, 2001)
    • August 17: all Jews must adopt names "Israel" and "Sarah"
    • Sept. 27: Jews barred from practicing law
    • Sept. 20-29: British Prime Minister Chamberlain makes three trips to Germany
      • Munich conference reaches agreement: known as appeasement (Wiki app. article)
      • Germany gets Sudetenland: "last" territorial concession (rest of Czechosl. in Mar. 39)
      • Hitler had been able to obtain a series of important concessions already, because the allied powers wanted to avoid war at almost any cost. This referendum poster from March 1938, when Austrians voted to join Hitler's Germany, lists the concessions:

Step by Step
     Adolf Hitler ripped up
          the dictated Treaty of Versailles!

  • 1933 Germany leaves the League of Nations created by Versailles
  • 1934 Reconstruction of the Wehrmacht, the navy and the Luftwaffe begun!
  • 1935 Saarland brought back home!
    Armed power of the Reich regained!
  • 1936 Rheinland completely liberated!
  • 1937 The myth of war guilt ceremoniously extinguished!
  • 1938 Germany and Austria united in the Reich!
    Greater Germany achieved!

    Therefore the whole of Germany will acknowledge its liberator on 10 April.
    Adolf Hitler All say: YES!

This is what the concessions looked like on a map:
Map of Germany's territorial gains, 1935-39

2. October-November 1938 Events (back to top)

  • Oct. 5, 1938: new law--recall all Jewish passports for "J" stamp
  • Oct. 7-16, 21, 25: "Aktionen" in Vienna
  • Oct. 26-31pre-Kristallnacht deportation of Polish Jews in Germany: 17,000 Poles living in Germany are rounded up and put on trains to the border; Poland does not allow them in.
    • two refugee camps are created, in Zbaszyn and Konitz
    • for a firsthand account, see Bonnie Harris, "From Zbaszyn to Manila" (UCSB graduate student paper)
  • Oct. 31: Polish deadline for return of citizens
  • Nov. 7: 9:30am: Grynszpan shoots diplomat in Paris
    evening: violence in Kassel and Hannover
  • Nov. 8: sporadic violence in Germany
  • Nov. 9
    • 7pm: commemorative dinner in Munich city hall 9pm: news of diplomat's death to Hitler
    • 10pm: Hitler leaves, Goebbels speaks
    • 11pm-midnight: SA leaders make phone calls
    • midnight: Himmler swears in SS recruits

3. November 10, 1938 and after (back to top)citizens in Berlin walk by smashed Jewish shop

  • Nov 10, 1938:
    • 12:30am: Graz (Austria) synagogue blown up
    • 1:20am:Heydrich (SS): protect neighboring property
    • 2-4am: first synagogue fires in Germany proper
    • 9:15am-1:30pm: destruction of synagogue in Vienna
    • 7pm-10pm: first 3 major synagogue fires in Hamburg
      Most destruction happened on this day
  • Nov. 11: second wave of destruction; arrests
    • within a few days: 30,000 men and boys arrested
    • by and large, the German populace remained passive, watching, but not intervening
    • see map, below, as well as personal story of the professor's great-grandfather, also below
    • most released within 3 months, to emigrate
  • Nov. 12: spectators watch arrested Jews marching by in BadenGoering presides over cabinet meeting; 4 goals:
    1. Complete process of "Aryanization"
    2. Accelerate emigration
    3. Complete isolation of Jews from populace
    4. Abolish Jewish self-organization
  • Dec. 6: Goering's address to Gauleiters
  • Dec. 28: New rules announced by Goering
    • on all of these see reader 4: Saul Friedländer's essay
The map below shows the routes of the 30,000 arrested men into 3 concentration camps.
Map of main concentration camps and branch camps, 1939-1945

4. A personal story (back to top)

My great-grandfather, Carl Marcuse (1864-1950), lived in Berlin in 1938. In 2003 an aunt gave me these copies of his passport. I don't know whether he was arrested after Kristallnacht, but he did get out of Germany fast.

C.Marcuse passport 1
Carl Marcuse's passport was issued on Feb. 25, 1939. As per the law passed on Oct. 5, 1938, it was stamped with a red "J."
C.Marcuse passport 2
As per a law passed Aug. 17, 1938, all Jewish men had to have "Israel" in their name, effective Jan. 1, 1939. Carl included it in his passport signature.
C.Marcuse passport 3
Carl's passport expired on 25 Feb. 1940. It was renewed by the Swiss legation in London until 25. Aug. 1940 and 25. Feb. 1941, then again until 25 Aug. 1941.

C.Marcuse passport 4
Carl was granted a visa to the UK on Feb. 27, 1939. On Mar. 14 he left from Berlin Tegel airport, arriving the same day at Croydon. On March 22 he registered at the Bow St. police station in London.

C.Marcuse passport 5
On Sept. 5, 1940 he received British quota number 6074. On Sept. 28 he received an exit permit for one journey to the U.S. before Dec. 28, 1940.
C.Marcuse passport 6
On March 13, 1939, 12 days after his 75th birthday, two weeks after he received his passport and UK visa, and the day before he left for London, Carl was allowed to convert only 10 Reichsmarks to British currency for the trip. (detail below)
Carl Marcuse obtained his driver's license (at right) on 4 November 1927 at age 63. Beginning Dec. 3, 1938 Jews' drivers's licenses became invalid and were confiscated. Carl must have been able to smuggle his to London.
Carl Marcuse: driver's license
Bank stamp in passport, changed 10RM
detail showing the receipt for the conversion of RM 10 to pounds

Causes of Kristallnacht (back to top)

  • Economic: Göring’s hideously brilliant turnaround—the Jews have to pay
  • International: foreign governments would not increase quotas (Evian conference)
  • Elites: Goebbels vs. Göring vs. Himmler with competing interests and goals
  • Ideology/Information: antisemitism and manipulation of media
  • Opposition (human agency): populace remained largely passive (no public resistance)
    • Local SA took initiative: Directives "holding back" looting by local SA groups

New York Times front page, Nov. 11, 1938
New York Times, Nov. 11, 1938 headline
Note how the headline makes it sound like the German government (Goebbels) stopped the riot,
when it actually started it.

Kristallnacht Links (back to top) [added 2/6/08]

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse, Oct. 24, 2005, updated: see header
back to top, Hist 33d homepage