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Hitler and the Pogrom of November 9/10, 1938

Stefan Kley

  1. Helmut Krausnick, “Judenverfolgung,” in Hans Buchheim, et al., Anatomie des SS-Staates (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994), p. 588; in English: Hans Buchheim, et al., Anatomy of the SS-State (London: Collins, 1968). 
  2. Hermann Graml, Reichskristallnacht. Antisemitismus und Judenverfolgung im Dritten Reich (Dt. Geschichte vom 19. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart) (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1988), p. 18.
  3. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985), p. 38.
  4. Dieter Obst, “Reichskristallnacht”. Ursachen und Verlauf des antisemitischen Pogroms vom November 1938 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1991), pp. 78 ff.
  5. Philippe Burrin, Hitler und die Juden. Die Entscheidung fuer den Voelkermord (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 1993), pp. 59-60; in English: Philippe Burrin, Hitler and the Jews: The Genesis of the Holocaust (London: Edward Arnold, 1994).
  6. Uwe Dietrich Adam, Judenpolitik im Dritten Reich (Duesseldorf: Droste, 1972), pp. 204 ff.; and idem, “How Spontaneous Was the Pogrom?,” in Walter H. Pehle, ed., November 1938. From 'Kristallnacht' to Genocide (New York: Berg, 1991), pp. 73-94.
  7. Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution: The Attempt to Exterminate the Jews of Europe 1939 – 1945 (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1968), pp. 12-13.
  8. These events have been described by numerous authors. Unless otherwise indicated, I follow the descriptions given by Hermann Graml, Uwe Dietrich Adam, and Dieter Obst.
  9. Statement by von Eberstein, Munich chief of police, August 6, 1946. Internationaler Militaergerichtshof. Der Prozess gegen die Hauptkriegsverbrecher (Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal: Official Text), 42 vols. (Nuremberg: International Military Tribunal, 1947-49) (hereafter: IMT), vol. XX, pp. 320 f.
  10. Report of the Supreme Party Tribunal of the NSDAP to Goering, February 13, 1939, IMT, vol. XXXII, pp. 21 f. (PS 3063). The following data is also given there.
  11. Sworn Testimony of SS-Hauptsturmführer Schallermeier, July 5, 1946, IMT, vol. XLII, pp. 510 ff.
  12. Ibid.; and telegrams from Mueller and Heydrich to Gestapo Regional and Local Offices (Stapo-Leitstellen und Stapostellen), November 9/10, 1938, IMT, vol. XXV, pp. 376 ff.
  13. Schallermeier testimony, IMT, vol. XLII, pp. 510 ff.
  14. Michael Wildt, ed., Die Judenpolitik des SD 1935-1938 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1995), p. 33 and doc. 9.
  15. Ibid., p. 41 and doc. 11.
  16. Ibid., pp. 52 f.
  17. Ibid., p. 56. The Gestapa: Geheimes Staatspolizeiamt was the National Headquarters of the Gestapo, which was absorbed into the Reichssicherheitshauptamt in September 1939 [ed.].
  18. Obst, Reichskristallnacht, pp. 69 f.
  19. Heinz Boberach, ed., Meldungen aus dem Reich 1938-1945 (Herrsching: Pawlak, 1984), p. 26. 
  20. Leni Yahil voices the same suspicion and points out that, after the Munich Agreement, Jews from Russia were placed in concentration camps and were not released until they declared their willingness to emigrate immediately. Yahil links the expansion of the Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen camps in the late summer of 1938, with possible plans of Himmler and Heydrich to apply the same procedure on a larger scale. Leni Yahil, Die Shoah. Ueberlebenskampf und Vernichtung der Europaeischen Juden (Munich: Luchterhand, 1998), pp. 166, 168; in English: Leni Yahil, The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990-1991).
  21. This is evident from a protocol of the Bavarian State Chancellery, based on a telephone message from Goebbels to Bavarian Interior Minister Wagner, November 10, 1938, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, MA 106 412. Goebbels described matters in a similar way in an excerpt from his diaries dated November 10, 1938, published in Der Spiegel (No. 29, 1992).
  22. Obst, Reichskristallnacht, p. 71.
  23. Ibid., p. 69.
  24. Guenther Plum, “Wirtschaft und Erwerbsleben,” in Wolfgang Benz, ed., Die Juden in Deutschland 1933-1945. Leben unter nationalsozialistischer Herrschaft (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1988), p. 277. Hitler's dominant role is amply reflected in the diary entries of his propaganda minister; see Elke Froehlich, ed., Die Tagebuecher von Josef Goebbels. Saemtliche Fragmente. Teil I. Aufzeichnungen 1924-1941, vol. 3 (Munich, New York, London, Paris: K.G. Sauer, 1987), pp. 298, 400 f. (March 26, 1933 and April 1, 1933).
  25. Burrin, Hitler und die Juden, p. 46.
  26. Wildt, Judenpolitik des SD, p. 57.
  27. David Bankier, “Hitler and the Policy-Making Process on the Jewish Question,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol. 3, no. 1 (1988), p. 6. Bankier likewise notes that when Hitler gave his approval for the special Jewish badge, he also ordered new precautionary measures designed to prevent any repetition of violence against Jews in the population.
  28. Eberhard Jaeckel and Axel Kuhn, eds., Hitler Saemtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905-1924 (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1980), pp. 88 f. (September 16, 1919), pp. 119 f. (April 6, 1920), p. 128 (April 27, 1920), pp. 175 f. (August 7, 1920).
  29. Stenographic copy of a discussion on the Jewish Question with Goering on November 12, 1938, IMT, vol. XXVIII, pp. 499-540, here p. 500.
  30. Avraham Barkai, “The Fateful Year 1938: The Continuation and Acceleration of Plunder,” in Pehle, ed., November 1938, pp. 95-122, quote p. 113. The following data are also from Barkai.
  31. This explanation is given in Adam, “How Spontaneous Was the Pogrom?,” p. 93.
  32. Statement by Goering, March 14, 1946, IMT, vol. IX, pp. 313 f.
  33. At a discussion in the Reich Aviation Ministry, October 14, 1938, IMT, vol. XXVII, pp. 160- 164.
  34. Ibid., n. 32.
  35. Goering's claims are convincingly refuted by Obst, Reichskristallnacht, pp. 89 ff. Obst points to the fact that, even in connection with Hitler's salutations to participants in the discussion chaired by Goering on November 12, 1938, Goering referred solely to a letter Hitler had sent and a telephone conversation he had had with him.
  36. This is evident from Hitler's itinerary for the period November 6-30, 1938, Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte, F 19/13. According to a diary entry by Goebbels, he had a conversation with Hitler in the Osteria in Munich on November 10. That meeting is confirmed by a note from the Bavarian State Chancellery dated November 10, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, MA 106 412. However, Engel's diary mentions that Goebbels was present at Hitler's lunch table in Berlin on November 10. There he supposedly presented a spirited defense of the pogrom operation, apparently without bringing up any economic arguments. See Hildegard v. Kotze, ed., Heeresadjutant bei Hitler 1938-1943. Aufzeichnungen des Major Engel (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1974), pp. 42 f. The dating in Engel's diary was added subsequently and is thus often inaccurate.
  37. Obst, Reichskristallnacht, pp. 89 ff.
  38. This was in the discussion when Goebbels obtained Hitler's approval both for the pogrom itself as well as the order to terminate the operation; protocol of the Bavarian State Chancellery, based on a telephone message from Goebbels to Bavarian Interior Minister Wagner, November 10, 1938, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, MA 106 412. Wagner's orders were probably based on instructions from Goebbels, who terms these in his diary “secret decrees.” Reproduced in Der Spiegel, no. 29 (1992), p. 128.
  39. Conversation in the Reich Aviation Ministry, October 14, 1938, IMT, vol. XXVII, p. 163.
  40. Order reproduced in Hans-Juergen Doescher, ed., “Reichskristallnacht.” Die Novemberprogromme 1938 im Spiegel ausgewaehlter Quellen. Eine Dokumentation herausgegeben von H.-J. Doescher (Niederkassel rund um den Druck, 1988), p. 135. In the discussion on November 12, Goering had made it clear that the Aryanization of all large-scale firms was his personal prerogative and that, in all other cases, government trustees would have to be involved, and any surpluses from sale should be deposited in the state treasury. IMT, vol. XXVIII, pp. 501 f.
  41. In the course of the day, Goebbels had received a phone call from Economics Minister Funk who took him severely to task; statement by Funk, May 6, 1946, IMT, vol. XIII, pp. 131 f. According to Funk, Goebbels justified himself by referring to the economics minister's lack of activity. It is possible, however, that Funk had agreed beforehand with Goering on what he would say in this statement in Nuremberg. Goering purportedly had also told Goebbels “in no uncertain terms just what he thought”; statement by Goering, March 14, 1946, IMT, vol. IX, pp. 313.
  42. During their discussion on November 12, 1938, Goering and Heydrich attempted for the first time to coordinate their different strategies.
  43. Gerhard L. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany. Starting World War II 1937- 1939 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 339, notes 93 and 94.
  44. Max Domarus, ed., Hitler. Reden und Proklamationen 1932-1945. Kommentiert von einem deutschen Zeitgenossen (Neustadt a.d. Aisdch: Schmidt, 1962), p. 971.
  45. Wilhelm Treue, “Rede Hitlers vor der deutschen Presse (10. November 1938),” Vierteljahrshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte 6 (1958), pp. 175-191.
  46. Yahil, Die Shoah, p. 171; and Sarah Gordon, Hitler, Germans and the Jewish Question (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 178.
  47. Domarus, ed., Hitler. Reden, pp. 966-69.
  48. Ibid., pp. 954 ff., 963; BA ZSg 110/10 (Slg. Traub): press directive, November 7, 1938.
  49. Ambassador Dirksen to Foreign Office, October 11 and 15, 1938; and report by press officer Hesse, October 11, 1938. Akten zur Deutschen Auswaertigen Politik (ADAP) (Baden-Baden: Imprimerie Nationale, 1951), Series D, vol. IV, nos. 250, 251, 252.
  50. Order by the Fuehrer and Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, ADAP, D, vol. IV, no. 81.
  51. The Czech government was prepared to make the following specific concessions: to take a neutral position, to lean toward Berlin in foreign policy, to renounce building new fortifications and reduce the size of the army in accordance with German wishes (amounting to virtually complete dismantling), to accommodate the Czech armaments industry to the needs of the Wehrmacht, to grant transit rights for the Wehrmacht, to improve the situation of the remaining ethnic Germans, and to adopt anti-Jewish policies. This also fulfilled the wishes put forward by Goering and the Wehrmacht Supreme Command. Writing in mid-October, Goebbels noted with satisfaction in his diary: “[Prague] will become our best vassal.” And Goering stated: “Czechs and Slovaks will become German dominions.” See Froehlich, ed., Die Tagebuecher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil I, vol. 3, p. 526 (October 18, 1938); and the discussion with Goering on October 14, 1938, IMT, vol. XXVII, p. 163.
  52. Speech by Hitler to the supreme commanders in Berchtesgaden on August 22, 1939, ADAP, D, vol. VII, no. 192. There is also a corresponding statement in Franz Halder, Kriegstagebuch. ed. Hans Adolf Jacobsen, vol. I (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1962), p. 11 (August 14, 1939).
  53. In a discussion with Brauchitsch, Supreme Commander of the Army; see David Irving, Hitlers Weg zum Krieg (Munich: Herbig, 1979), p. 303.
  54. On the consequences, see inter alia the report dated November 17, 1938, by Dirksen, the German ambassador in London. It is stated there that the British government’s desire for a resumption of talks with Berlin had been postponed for the present as a result of the pogrom. He noted that those willing to come to an understanding were now despondent, and Chamberlain's position had been damaged; ADAP, D, vol. IV, no. 269, p. 289.
  55. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Munich: Eher, 1939), p. 720; Gerhard L. Weinberg, ed., Hitlers Zweites Buch. Ein Dokument aus dem Jahr 1928 (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1961), p. 223. See also Andreas Hillgruber, “England in Hitlers aussenpolitischer Konzeption,” Historische Zeitschrift 218 (1974), pp. 65-84, quote p. 71.
  56. Memo from Vansittart, December 13, 1938, quoted in Joseph Henke, England in Hitlers politischem Kalkuel 1935-1939 (Boppard: Boldt, 1973), p. 203.
  57. Ogilvie-Forbes to British Foreign Secretary Halifax, November 10, 1938. Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939, Third Series, vol. III (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1950), no. 299, pp. 266 f. The previous day, Halifax had asked Ogilvie-Forbes to state his position on the call by Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, who had urged the British government to dispatch a representative to intercede personally with Hitler on behalf of the Jews in Germany; ibid., no. 297, p. 264.
  58. Ogilvie-Forbes to British Foreign Secretary Halifax, December 6, 1938, ibid., no. 403, p. 388.
  59. This is evidenced by his military and diplomatic preparations in the summer of 1938: together with Hungary, he wished to bring Czechoslovakia to its knees within the span of a few days and then to relocate his troops to the west. Meanwhile, by means of activity in the Alps, Italy was to delay French reaction for the decisive interval; see my description in Stefan Kley, Hitler, Ribbentrop, und die Entfesslung des Zweiten Weltkriegs (Paderborn: Schoeningh, 1996), pp. 62 f.
  60. The following individual statements are relevant: to Mussolini, September 28, 1938, ADAP, D, vol. II, no. 415; to Csaky, August 8, 1939, ibid., vol. VI, no. 784; to Ciano, August 12, 1939, see Galeazzo Ciano, Tagebuecher 1939-1943 (Bern: Scherz, 1946), pp. 122 f.; three letters to Mussolini, August 26/27, and September 3, 1939, ADAP, D, vol. VII, nos. 307, 341, 565. In the letter to Mussolini dated August 27, he let it be known that he “would deploy troops in the West ... sometime this winter, by the spring at the latest.” The “Thoughts on Discussions by the Army with Italy” (Gedanken fuer Wehrmachtsbesprechungen mit Italien, ADAP, D, vol. IV, no. 411), written in November 1938, also dealt centrally with the division of tasks among the Axis powers in the event of a large-scale war in Europe.
  61. In conclusion, the interesting circumstance worth noting is that Gerald Reitlinger suspected the connection early on. In a footnote he stated: “If the pogroms were staged in order to challenge Western opinion and to stop Hitler coming into line with the Munich spirit of appeasement, the result could not have been better”; see Reitlinger, The Final Solution, p. 14. But apparently Reitlinger immediately rejected the idea by expressing it in the unreal past subjunctive. Moreover, he did not view Hitler as a manipulator but, rather, as the victim of evil machinations, behind which he suspected Ribbentrop's hand. It is no longer possible to determine Ribbentrop's actual role. The only relevant datum is contained in a work that has to be excluded as a source due to its apologetic bias; namely, Fritz Hesse, Das Spiel um Deutschland (Munich: List, 1953); cf. Helmut Krausnick, “Legenden um Hitlers Aussenpolitik,” Vierteljahrshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte 2 (1954), pp. 217-239. Given his general position, however, as discussed above, Ribbentrop could not have had any interest in the event. It is also difficult to imagine how he might have been able to intervene in the course of events. At any rate, in July 1938, he had requested Goebbels, for reasons of foreign policy, to show moderation in dealing with the Jews of Berlin; see Froehlich, ed., Die Tagebuecher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil I, vol. 3, p. 473 (July 6, 1938).
  62. Goering indicated similar ideas in testimony given in Nuremberg; see statement by Goering, March 14, 1946, IMT, vol. IX, pp. 313 f.