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The Pretext of Kristallnacht

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 8 months ago

My family living in Germany was well aware of the increased amount of anti-Semitism against Jews before Kristallnacht, but they figured like most families that it would pass like all pogroms did. At the time of Kristallnacht it was not a surprise that Germans continued to act against Jews, but the surprise was the extent of their actions. What the Jews at that moment did not realize was that there was a specific event that triggered the Germans to act harshly against the Jews.


Herschel Grynszpan, a young Polish Jew, received a letter from his sister Berta informing him that his family had been deported from their home in Hanover, Germany to Zbonszyn, Poland. Herschel Grynszpan, who had been living with his uncle in Paris, received this letter on November 3, 1938. Being distressed and angry about the persecution suffered by his family and other Jews, Herschel Grynszpan decided to take revenge on Germans. On November 7th he purchased a pistol and proceeded to the German embassy. When he arrived at the embassy he claimed he had an important document that he needed to give to the secretary of the German embassy. After entering the office of Ernst vom Rath, Herschel Grynszpan pulled out his gun and said "You are a filthy boche and here, in the name of twelve thousand persecuted Jews, is your document" (Thalman, 42). Five shots were fired by Herschel Grynszpan, but Ernst vom Rath although critically injured was able to call for help. Herschel Grynszpan was arrested and pleaded guilty to the murder, vom Rath died in the hospital (Thalman).


So was Herschel Grynszpan really responsible for causing Kristallnacht, or was he being used as a pretext? It seems that there was an instantaneous outbreak of persecutions that appeared to have been part of a bigger plan. Hitler and his party were planning to terrorize the Jews, since the beginning of Hitler rising to power. On the evening of November 9, 1938 all members of Hitler’s party were gathered for the fifteenth anniversary celebrating the events of November 9, 1923 in Munich. It was at this event that Hitler received a telegram informing him that Ernst vom Rath had died. After discussing this news with Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, Hitler leaves and Goebbels addresses the party. In his speech, Goebbels invites the members of the party to act out against the Jews, but tells them to make the attacks look spontaneous in order that the party would not officially participate. Since the situation of Herschel Grynszpan killing a German official happened at this time, he was used as the pretext for Kristallnacht. Although Kristallnacht would have taken place regardless of Herschel Grynszpan actions, because if not for Herschel Grynszpan the Nazis would have either found a different pretext or would have persecuted the Jews without a reason (Pehle).


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