Kristallnacht – source related study
Any Historian studying Kristallnacht would find sources A and B very useful as they both say who is responsible for the night. Although the person who is said to be responsible in each source is different, they both show that the Nazis were clearly against the Jews and this would give the Historian a good idea of which source is more likely to be accurate.
Source A’s provenance tells us it is a summary by Fritz Hesse who was a journalist working for Hitler, this means he would know quite a bit about him so his source is likely to have some truth in it. The source was also written in 1954 which is many years after Hitler died so he would not be bothered about writing the truth because nothing would happen. If Hitler was still alive he would have been scared to write the truth and Hitler would have probably told him what he had to write, on the other hand, it was along time ago and the details may not be fresh in his mind so there could be some inaccurate detail in it. The source tells us that Fritz Hesse (the writer of the source) was at dinner with Hitler, Goebbels and some other party leaders and overhears an officer whispering something into Goebbels ear. He then sees Goebbles mumble to Hitler about a mass attack on the Jews and synagogues that he and the SA had planned for that night.
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Hitler is very excited about this and Goebbles is pleased because he is trying to get back in with Hitler. The detail in this source which makes it seem reliable is when Hitler is very excited about hearing what Goebbels has planned against the Jews, Hesse remembers that he, ‘squealed with delight and slapped his thigh with enthusiasm,’ this makes the source seem more convincing and therefore more useful to the Historian as it is not something you normally make up. At the end of the source it says that Goebbels was clearly trying to win back Hitler’s support, this also makes it seem reliable because we know that he was out of favour with Hitler because he had an affair with a Czech actress. This source would be useful because it tells the historian that the SA and Goebbels were responsible for the attacks and that the Nazis were against the Jews a lot.
Source B is not very reliable, but it is still very useful to the Historian. It is a secret report prepared by the Nazi party supreme court after the events of Kristallnacht so it is the official Nazi line, this means the story might have been change completely to make the Nazis look good and not responsible because they knew the German people would not approve. The source says that the report is from after the attacks, but they are announced to everyone by Goebbels in the evening which does not really fit in. The source is blaming the German people for the anti-Jewish demonstrations and Goebbels told the party leaders about this at a social evening. The source also says that if people do start ‘spur of the moment’ attacks on the Jews it will not be stopped.
The source sounds more reliable when Goebbels tells the party leaders that there has been some anti-Jewish demonstrations, because this makes it seem although they did not know anything about its. The description of the things that happened on the night would have been reliable because if they were blaming other people and not themselves it would not matter to them. This source would be useful to the Historian because it says what happened on Kristallnacht and the kind of damage that was done, it also lets the historian know that the Nazis claimed not to be responsible which means that if they were they obviously did it so they would not loose support from German people.
The similarities between the two sources are that both have an evening gathering of the party leaders on the 9th of November, but source A is from before the demonstrations and source B is from after, but the attacks happened at night so this makes source B seem inaccurate. Both of the sources show that the Nazis do not like the Jews because in source A when Hitler is told about Goebbels plan he is very excited and in Source B after Goebbels denies having anything to do with the attacks he says that the Nazis would not be allowed to organise such demonstrations but they would not be stopped. These similarities would be very useful to the historian because he would have something that he knows is most likely true, like the Nazis disliking the Jews a lot which would help him decide what he thinks is more accurate.
The source that would be more reliable is source A, but source B would be more useful to the Historian because it is more detailed as it says what happened on the night which would be reliable because the Nazis were not blamed so it wouldn’t matter to them what was written because it didn’t make them look bad, it also lets the Historian know that the Jews were not liked by the Nazis because of the one line at the end of the source so the historian could judge who was to blame for himself. Source A only tells the historian who is to blame and does not really give a description of the kind of things that were done on the night.