“Crystal Night” 1938 – we do not forget!

Even if this year is not a “round” anniversary, the FIR remembers with this newsletter the anti-Semitic pogroms of November 1938 in the German Reich and Austria, which had become part of the “Greater German Reich” since March 1938.
The occasion for these outrages had been created by the German fascists themselves with the forced deportation of over 17,000 Jewish people to Poland. The assassination of the German embassy employee von Rath in Paris was only the desired pretext for a new escalation stage of anti-Semitic exclusion and disenfranchisement of Jewish people in the German Reich.
The sequence of this event, which was named “Kristallnacht” (“Crystal Night”) by Nazi-propaganda, is well known. The cruel result: 400 Jewish people were murdered or driven to their deaths during these days. Over 1,400 synagogues and other Jewish community buildings were destroyed, as well as several thousand stores, homes and Jewish cemeteries.
Already on the night of November 9/10 and in the following days, police and auxiliary police arrested 30,000 Jewish people according to predetermined lists. They were deported to the Buchenwald, Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. From Austria, 4,600 Jews were deported to CC Dachau.
A central aspect of the November pogroms was the forced “Aryanization,” the robbery of Jewish property in the interest of the fascist state. This involved cash assets, insurance policies, but also company shares and real estate. Together with a so-called “Reichsfluchtsteuer” on emigration, more than 2 billion RM fell to the German Reich during these weeks – stolen from Jewish property. “Aryanization profits” from individuals or party offices were not even included in this figure.
In the days following the November pogroms, numerous special laws were enacted with the sole aim of making it impossible for Jewish people in the German Reich to have a normal everyday life. Jewish children were excluded from attending German schools. In Berlin, a “ban on Jews” was imposed, i.e. a ban on entering theaters, cinemas, public concert and lecture halls, museums, exhibition halls on Messedamm including the exhibition grounds and the radio tower, the Deutschlandhalle and the Sportpalast, all sports fields, public and private bathing establishments and indoor swimming pools, including open-air pools, and even Wilhelmstrasse from Leipziger Strasse to Unter den Linden. Similar rules applied in many German cities.
The ban on keeping carrier pigeons seems curious. More consequential, however, were the revocation of driver’s licenses and the invalidation of motor vehicle registration papers for Jewish people.
There was no opposition to all these persecution measures and legally fixed exclusions in the public sphere. No protests were registered in Gestapo reports. The fascist propaganda was obviously already effective to the extent that more gawkers and onlookers occupied the field, less the skeptics or even Nazi opponents.
Only in the political resistance, which in these years was reduced to smaller conspiratorial groups by the massive persecution and terror apparatus of the Nazi regime, was this terror openly criticized. A well-known document of this resistance is the declaration of the domestic leadership of the KPD in November 1938, “Wider die Schmach der Judenpogrome” (“Against the Shame of the Jewish Pogroms”). Almost visionary, it stated, “The liberation of Germany from the disgrace of the Jewish pogroms will coincide with the hour of the liberation of the German people from brown tyranny.” The document was published in the “Rote Fahne”, which was distributed as an illegal pamphlet in Berlin, the Rhineland, the Ruhr, and other parts of the German Reich.

In memory of this important document and as a tribute to the attitude of the German anti-fascists, the FIR has published a reprint of the declaration on the 80th anniversary of the November pogroms in 2018. It was and is a political signal and an obligation for today, never again to allow anti-Semitism, racism and exclusion.