Why Did Kristallnacht Take Place?

1. Both sources appear to contradict each other in terms of content. The first, and most important, question risen form these two sources are which is correct in context of who organised the riots. Source A clearly states that it was a “mass attack, which he [Goebbels] and the SA were going to launch”. However, there is a clear contravention in Source B: “The Fuhrer, at Goebbels suggestion… not to be organised by the party”. However, in looking at what had happened, it seems that Goebbels encouraged a nationwide press campaign to help “stir” trouble.

Also, at a dinner to commemorate the Munich Putsch, Goebbels called for von Rath’s death to be avenged. These pieces of evidence do point towards riots conducted by Goebbels. It may have been, as stated in source A, that Goebbels was out of favour with Hitler and that he was trying to win back support from his Fuhrer. In source A however, whether Hitler did “squeal with delight” and slap his thigh with “enthusiasm” at the thought of riots against the Jewish minority is contestable.

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This is because Hitler was surprised by the extent of the pogrom, and may have been awaiting only sporadic bursts of violence from the population and not the SA. Source A, in terms of provenance, appears not to be as accurate as it seems. This is because it is only a summary by an historian nine years after the end of the First World War, and sixteen years after the events of Kristallnacht. Thus, many incidents may have been altered slightly to suit any other evidence this historian may have. Thus, a possible reason for Hitler “squealing with delight” and slapping his thigh with “enthusiasm”.

However if nothing had been changed, then the very fact that the account was from a journalist, with insight to the “political behind the scenes” makes the source a significant one. On the other hand, Source B is by the Nazi Supreme Court. However the noteworthy element about this source is the fact that it is secret. Thus, meaning it is not intentionally prepared for use in the “political outside”. Therefore, there could be some element of truth in it, making it somewhat useful. However, there are some incorrect statements in the source.

Consequently, I have come to the conclusion that Source A is the more useful out of the two sources for anybody studying Kristallnacht. This is because the source is a more reliable source in terms of its content. 2. The clear impression conveyed to the reader of source C is that Kristallnacht was calculated, precise attack on the Jews. Also, Mr. Buffman conveys Kristallnacht as a horrific act of terror. Mr. Buffman has written this as a first hand account, thus, many parts are down to opinion: “all of the local crowds were obviously horrified by the Nazis’ acts”.

Mr. Buffman 3. All three sources convey a general meaning about the events of Kristallnacht: an event disgustingly horrific both morally and physically. Source C and E particularly support each other. Both sources mention the fact that SA/SS men in no uniform had “been provided with hammers, axes and firebombs”, destroying Jewish synagogues, homes and shops. Source C also implies a calculated, organised riot; source E also conveys this as it states that a “list of names and addresses of all Jewish shops was provided”.

Source E also backs up the statement Mr. Buffman made in Source C concerning the action taken by the German population: “Most German people have nothing to do with these riots”. Source E must be a reliable source to back up Source C as it is seemingly from a civil servant, working in a day-to-day job with political administrators. Source D also talks about the horrors leading up to Kristallnacht, although not in as much detail as in Sources C and E. The German Jew talks of “acts of terror”, the ‘decrees’ passed on to force Jews to sell their belongings and “go away”, the ‘decree’ passed on by Hitler to encourage emigration.

Thus, source D does insinuate to the calculated and efficient riots that the government did organise. All of these sources are first hand accounts of the attacks on the Jews on Kristallnacht, thus they must be at least accurate, in terms of what they have interpreted to have witnessed. In looking at the chronology of events leading up to and after Kristallnacht, it seems that the ‘decrees’ made were there to expel Jews from German society. Kristallnacht seemed to be a coincidence in between these events, with the Nazi’s taking full advantage of this.

Examples of which are 1) the Jewish minority being forced to pay compensation after the events of Kristallnacht 2) Jews forbidden to visit theatres, cinemas or concerts and 3) expulsion of all Jewish pupils from their schools. The purpose of sources C, D and E is a united one; a need to convey the horrific events, and the truth behind the smoke-screen of newspaper headlines: “a spontaneous wave of anger… cowardly Jewish murder of Von Rath in Paris”

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