Kristallnacht-The Night of Broken Glass

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On November 9 to November 10, 1938, in an incident known as “Kristallnacht”, Nazis in Germany torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews. In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, also called the “Night of Broken Glass,” some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps.

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On the night of November 9, 1938, violence against Jews broke out across the Reich. It appeared to be unplanned, set off by Germans’ anger over the assassination of a German official in Paris at the hands of a Jewish teenager. In fact, German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other Nazis carefully organized the pogroms. In two days, over 250 synagogues were burned, over 7,000 Jewish businesses were trashed and looted, dozens of Jewish people were killed, and Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes were looted while police and fire brigades stood by. The pogroms became known as Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” for the shattered glass from the store windows that littered the streets.

The morning after the pogroms 30,000 German Jewish men were arrested for the “crime” of being Jewish and sent to concentration camps, where hundreds of them perished.

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Some Jewish women were also arrested and sent to local jails. Businesses owned by Jews were not allowed to reopen unless they were managed by non-Jews. Curfews were placed on Jews, limiting the hours of the day they could leave their homes.

The violence was instigated primarily by Nazi Party officials and members of the SA (Sturmabteilungen: literally Assault Detachments, but commonly known as Storm Troopers) and Hitler Youth.

In its aftermath, German officials announced that Kristallnacht had erupted as a spontaneous outburst of public sentiment in response to the assassination of Ernst vom Rath.

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Vom Rath was a German embassy official stationed in Paris. Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew, had shot the diplomat on November 7, 1938. A few days earlier, German authorities had expelled thousands of Jews of Polish citizenship living in Germany from the Reich; Grynszpan had received news that his parents, residents in Germany since 1911, were among them.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/11/07/herschel-grynszpan-assassination-of-ernst-vom-rath/

Vom Rath died on November 9, 1938, two days after the shooting. The day happened to coincide with the anniversary of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, an important date in the National Socialist calendar. The Nazi Party leadership, assembled in Munich for the commemoration, chose to use the occasion as a pretext to launch a night of antisemitic excesses. Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, a chief instigator of the Kristallnacht pogroms, suggested to the convened Nazi ‘Old Guard’ that ‘World Jewry’ had conspired to commit the assassination. He announced that “the Führer has decided that … demonstrations should not be prepared or organized by the Party, but insofar as they erupt spontaneously, they are not to be hampered.”

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Goebbels’ words appear to have been taken as a command for unleashing the violence. After his speech, the assembled regional Party leaders issued instructions to their local offices. Violence began to erupt in various parts of the Reich throughout the late evening and early morning hours of November 9–10. At 1:20 a.m. on November 10, Reinhard Heydrich, in his capacity as head of the Security Police (Sicherheitspolizei) sent an urgent telegram to headquarters and stations of the State Police and to SA leaders in their various districts, which contained directives regarding the riots. SA and Hitler Youth units throughout Germany and its annexed territories engaged in the destruction of Jewish-owned homes and businesses. Members of many units wore civilian clothes to support the fiction that the disturbances were expressions of ‘outraged public reaction.’

Despite the outward appearance of spontaneous violence, and the local cast which the pogrom took on in various regions throughout the Reich, the central orders Heydrich relayed gave specific instructions: the “spontaneous” rioters were to take no measures endangering non-Jewish German life or property; they were not to subject foreigners (even Jewish foreigners) to violence; and they were to remove all synagogue archives prior to vandalizing synagogues and other properties of the Jewish communities, and to transfer that archival material to the Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst, or SD). The orders also indicated that police officials should arrest as many Jews as local jails could hold, preferably young, healthy men.

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On the 12th of November 1938 The Nazi state imposes a fine of one billion Reichsmarks($400,000,000) on the Jewish community in Germany. Jews are ordered to clean up and make repairs after the pogrom. They are barred from collecting insurance for the damages. Instead, the state confiscates payments owed by insurers to Jewish property holders. In the aftermath of the pogrom, Jews are systematically excluded from all areas of public life in Germany.

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Kristallnacht changed the nature of persecution from economic, political, and social to physical with beatings, incarceration, and murder; the event is often referred to as the beginning of the Holocaust. In the words of historian Max Rein in 1988, “Kristallnacht came…and everything was changed.”

While November 1938 predated overt articulation of “the Final Solution”, it foreshadowed the genocide to come. Around the time of Kristallnacht, the SS newspaper Das Schwarze Korps called for a “destruction by swords and flames.”

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At a conference on the day after the pogrom, Hermann Göring said: “The Jewish problem will reach its solution if, in any time soon, we will be drawn into war beyond our border—then it is obvious that we will have to manage a final account with the Jews.”

 

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Herschel Grynszpan assassination of Ernst vom Rath

Today 78 years ago a 17 year old Polish-Jewish refugee.Herschel Grynszpan,assassinated a Nazi diplomat,Ernst vom Rath, in Paris. This triggered Novemberpogrome 1938 also known as Kristallnacht(the Night of broken glass).

On the morning of 7 November 1938, Polish-German Jew Herschel Grynszpan, 17, went to the German embassy in Paris and asked to speak with an embassy official. He shot the 29-year-old vom Rath five times, mortally wounding him with bullets to the spleen, stomach and pancreas.

Adolf Hitler himself sent his two best doctors, personal physician Karl Brandt and surgeon Georg Magnus, to Paris to try to save vom Rath’s life.

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Hitler promoted vom Rath, who had been a junior officer at the embassy, to the rank of Legal Consul, First Class (Gesandtschaftsrat I. Klasse) hours before vom Rath’s death on 9 November at 17:30 .Kristallnacht was launched within hours.

Why Grynszpan, who had fled from Germany to France in 1936, chose vom Rath is not known with certainty, although he was upset over news that his family was being deported from Germany back to Poland. As far as it can be established, Grynszpan and Rath did not know each other. Most accounts of the shooting state that Grynszpan did not ask for vom Rath by name but only asked to speak to a member of the diplomatic staff. The records were falsified in 1942, and the Germans spread propaganda that Grynszpan’s intention was to kill the ambassador, Count Johannes von Welczeck.

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Grynszpan, who was immediately arrested and confessed, insisted his motives were to avenge the Jewish people against the actions already taken by the Germans. He had a postcard on him written to his parents that read, “With God’s help. My dear parents, I could not do otherwise, may God forgive me, the heart bleeds when I hear of your tragedy and that of the 12,000 Jews. I must protest so that the whole world hears my protest, and that I will do. Forgive me.”

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Vom Rath was given a state funeral on 17 November in Düsseldorf, with Hitler and Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop among those in attendance.

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Germany used the incident to publicize that the Jews had “fired the first shot” in a war on Germany; in his funeral oration, Ribbentrop declared, “We understand the challenge, and we accept it.”

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American journalist Dorothy Thompson reported widely on the case, and raised funds for Grynszpan’s defence in his French trial, which never took place. Much to the fury of Grynszpan who wanted to use the defense that he killed Rath because he was a Jew, Grynszpan’s French lawyer Vincent de Moro-Giafferi wanted to use as the defense the allegation that Rath was a homosexual who had seduced Grynszpan, and that Grynszpan had killed Rath as a part of a lover’s quarrel.

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The allegations that Rath was gay started with Moro-Giafferi. Grynszpan initially escaped from prison when France fell in 1940, but he was captured by the Nazis and taken back to Germany. He was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp to face a trial there, one that Joseph Goebbels planned to turn into Nazi propaganda about an international Jewish conspiracy and to claim it as evidence that Jews had started World War II.

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However, allegations emerged that vom Rath was a homosexual, and Goebbels learned that Grynszpan was intending to use this claim in his defence at the trial by implying that vom Rath had seduced him. Grynszpan planned to claim that vom Rath was his pimp and he had been sent to be with various diplomats (although Grynszpan later stated this to be false in an encrypted letter sent from Sachsenhausen).

The homosexuality accusations threatened to humiliate the Nazis. Goebbels wrote that “Grynszpan has invented the insolent argument that he had a homosexual relationship with… vom Rath. That is, of course, a shameless lie; however it is thought out very cleverly and would, if brought out in the course of a public trial, certainly become the main argument of enemy propaganda.”

According to historian Hans-Jürgen Döscher, Germany’s foremost authority on Kristallnacht, vom Rath was homosexual and had met Grynszpan in Le Boeuf sur le Toit, a popular haunt for gay men in 1938.The French writer André Gide, himself a homosexual, testified in his personal diaries that vom Rath was well known in the Parisian homosexual community. There were rumours that occasionally he was called “Madame Ambassador” and “Notre Dame de Paris.” His brother, Gustav, was convicted of homosexual offences and there were allegations that vom Rath was treated for rectal gonorrhoea at the Berlin Institute of Radiology.

The trial was planned for 1942 but never took place, primarily because the Nazis (who also sent homosexuals to the death camps) feared it would turn into a gay scandal.

Grynszpan’s ultimate fate is unknown but he probably died in Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

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The last documentation indicating he was alive, or thought to be alive, was a Foreign Ministry memorandum on 7 December 1942. In 1960, at the request of his parents in Israel, the lower district court in Hannover officially declared Grynszpan deceased, listing his date of death as 8 May 1945.

Truus Wijsmuller Meijer: Auntie Truus-Unsung Hero.

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WWII saw so much evil but also so much bravery. People with disregard of their own lives would defy the Nazi authorities to save lives of others, often complete strangers whom they’d never met before prior to saving them. These people are not always recognized enough for what they have done.Geertruida (Truus) Wijsmuller-Meijer aka Auntie Truus(Tante Truus) was one of these people.

Geertruida (Truus) Wijsmuller-Meijer (Alkmaar, 21 April 1896 – Amsterdam, 30 August 1978) was a Dutch war hero, resistance fighter, and probably afterRaoul Wallenberg and Aristides de Sousa Mendes the greatest savior of Jews. She was recognized as Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem. In all likelihood, she, together with others involved with Kindertransport, saved more than 10,000 Jewish children

In December 1938, a 42-year-old Dutchwoman met with Nazi lieutenant Adolf Eichmann to negotiate the transport of Jewish children out of Vienna. Her name was Truus Wijsmuller Meijer, but to thousands of children she would be known as “Tante Truus” – Auntie Truus.

Truus Meijer was born into a wealthy banking family and was working in the bank when she met her husband, Joop Wijsmuller. She and Joop loved children and were saddened when they couldn’t have their own. Truus left the bank and started doing social work in Amsterdam. This brought her in touch with the Committee for Special Jewish Interests, who alerted her to the desperate situation of German and Austrian Jews.

By 1938, following the attacks of Kristallnacht in Austria and Germany, the Jewish population feared for their lives.

Many tried to get asylum abroad, but few countries were willing to take large numbers of refugees. An exception was Britain, which allowed for the temporary entry of unaccompanied children. So began a rescue effort called the Kindertransport, in which Truus was a pivotal figure.

She was a friend of resistance fighter Mies Boissevain-van Lennep, whom she knew from the Association for Women’s Interests and Equal Citizenship (VVGS).

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From the thirties onwards “Auntie Truus” (as they soon called her) arranged, with Mies Boissevain and others, children’s transports for the Committee for Special Jewish Interests. These transports saved 10,000 Jewish children from Germany and Austria, on a route via the Netherlands to the UK.

In Germany she worked with Recha Freier, the wife of a Berlin rabbi. She was not intimidated easily, made a fuss if necessary, bribed railroad men with gifts and German officers with charm. She negotiated with the man who would later organize the transports of Jews to Auschwitz and other concentration camps, Adolf Eichmann, who was working in Vienna at the time. Eichmann joked with her: no negotiation, she could take 600 Viennese Jewish children immediately

-In case you are wondering, you did read it right. She did meet Eichmann as in Adolf Eichmann , one of the most evil men of the Nazi regime.-

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He thought she would never be able to accomplish this undertaking. He didn’t know Auntie Truus! She gathered the children, organized the paperwork and the trains, and had a welcoming committee meet them with apples and chocolate when they reached the Netherlands. 500 children sailed immediately for England, with the remaining 100 leaving on later boats.

The later transports were smaller and more orderly. Truus travelled to Germany several times a week and helped to arrange 49 transports. She used charm, stubbornness, and occasional bribery to get the children through.

Transport from central Europe became more restricted with the outbreak of war in September 1939. Many Jewish children remained in the Netherlands, which was still neutral. The orphanage in Amsterdam had become a refugee camp, and Auntie Truus was a popular figure there. She and Joop visited regularly, entertained the children at home, and brought them to the zoo on Sundays.

 

In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Truus was in Paris, but she crossed troop lines to return to Amsterdam. There she collected Jewish children from the orphanage and foster homes, and arranged for coaches to get them on the last boat for England. The children hoped that Auntie Truus would come with them, but she didn’t want to leave Joop and so she waved them goodbye from the dock.

In all, 10,000 children entered Britain on the Kindertransport. Some would eventually be reunited with their parents, but sadly many were the only survivors from their families.

During the occupation of the Netherlands, Truus continued to smuggle Jewish people into Spain and Switzerland. She was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942, but released through lack of evidence. She sent thousands of food packages to Westerbork transit camp, where Jews and other prisoners were held before being sent to other concentration camps.

In 1944, she found out that a group of young children were to be sent from Westerbork to Auschwitz, where they would be killed immediately. Truus persuaded the guards that these were not Jewish children, but the Aryan offspring of German soldiers and Dutch women! The children were sent to a different camp, Theresienstadt, and almost all of them survived the war.

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As the war progressed, she devoted herself to obtaining and distributing food. She sent thousands of packages to camps like Westerbork and Theresienstadt, and delivered duck eggs to elderly houses in Amsterdam every week. During the Dutch famine of 1944 (the Hongerwinter or “Hunger winter”) she took care of malnourished children in the Randstad.(Amsterdam,Rotterdam,The Hague and Utrecht) She took many across the IJsselmeer to more rural areas like Groningen, Friesland, Overijssel and Drenthe to recuperate.

After the war, Truus Wijsmuller Meijer was recognized by Israel as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, a title given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust. Her obituary in 1978 read: “Mother of 1001 children, who made rescuing Jewish children her life’s work.” An asteroid was named “Tantetruus” (Auntie Truus) in her honour.

A sculpture of her, made by Herman Diederik Janzen , was unveiled in 1965 in Beatrixoord in Oosterpark in Amsterdam. When Beatrixoord was redeveloped “Auntie Truus” took the statue home. After her death in 1978 it was reinstated on the Bachplein in Amsterdam.

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This courageous woman embodied the best spirit of aunthood, loving and risking her life for children who were not her own. She deserves to be more widely known.