This weekend marks the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. For any Americans aged 30 and under reading this, I’ll wager that you were never exposed to Kristallnacht in any of your K-12 history classes.
Kristallnacht was a pogrom (a series of coordinated attacks) against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on November 9th and 10th in 1938. The event unfolded at the hands of Hitler’s “Brown Shirts” (think storm-troopers in brown shirts) along with non-Jewish civilians. The event was dubbed “Kristallnacht”, or Night of Broken Glass, because this hurricane of antisemitism resulted in the littering of the streets of the broken glass from the homes, stores, hospitals, and temples of Jewish people. In the process, 91 Jews were killed and another 30,000+ rounded up and sent off to death camps. Before anyone knew it at the time, Hitler’s solution to “The Jewish Problem” had begun with Kristallnacht.
The back-story about why The Nazi’s went on the rampage that night had to do with the murder of a German envoy in Paris named Ernst vom Rath. vom Rath was shot by a Jewish teenager named Herschel Grynszpa, two days prior, in what has been believed to be the spark which lit the fuse to the start of the violence in Germany and Austria. vom Rath eventually died of his wounds to the shoulder and stomach, and upon that announcement, the “Pogroms” went into action.
A new book is challenging the idea that vom Rath’s death was unavoidable. The Raw Story has an article about German investigative journalist Armin Fuhrer (such an unfortunate last name) and his new book titled “Herschel – The Assassination by Herschel Grynszpan on the 7th of November 1938 and the Beginning of the Holocaust.” From the article:
Fuhrer argues the envoy could have survived gunshot wounds to his shoulder and stomach if Nazi leaders had not decided to make a martyr of him. “Hitler sent his personal doctor, Karl Brandt, to Paris… so he would consciously let Ernst vom Rath die, and not give him the medical help he needed,” Fuhrer said. Fuhrer’s book reveals vom Rath had acute gastrointestinal tuberculosis at the time of his death, a detail Nazi officials didn’t make public so as not to weaken the “causal connection” between Grynszpan’s shooting and the official’s death, Fuhrer wrote.
For those of us fascinated with all things from the World War II era, I find this to be a very intriguing premise, one that definitely fits nicely with the formulations in my head about how I perceive the events of the times. And I find the argument, that the history of the vom Rath killing is based largely on Nazi accounts from the time and therefore tainted, to be very compelling and certainly worth further investigation and research.
But then again, my training in skeptical thought an analysis reminds me that this is exactly how I am supposed to feel about this kind of revelation. I can’t allow my feelings to get in the way of facts, data, logic, and evidence. It is prudent to hesitate and, first, read the book, and second, see what the opposing opinions are saying about Fuhrer’s assessments. I’ll then be in a much better position to come to a reckoning which will either enhance my preconceptions and understandings, or take into account some new evidence which could require a slight re-calibration of my internal equations.
Either way, I love reading about the latest historical controversies from the World War II era, especially in trying to keep up with the likes of the Holocaust Deniers and other revisionist historians whom have a penchant for twisting facts and evidence as a means to veil (albeit unsuccessfully) their hatred of Jewish people.