Germany Special Report

[Picture]      The eliminationist program had received at once its most coherent statement and its most powerful push forward. The Nuremberg Laws promised to accomplish what had heretofore for decades been but discussed and urged on ad nauseam. With this codifying moment of the Nazi German “religion,” the regime held up the eliminationist writing on the Nazi tablets for every German to read. All were literate in its language. And many wanted the implementation of its program to be hastened, as a Gestapo report from Hildesheim covering February 1936, a few months after the laws’ promulgation, conveys: “It is said by many that the Jews in Germany are still treated much too humanely.”

     After the Nuremberg Laws, Germans’ attacks upon Jews declined and remained at a reduced level through 1937. During this period, Germans continued to assault Jews verbally and physically, and the ongoing legal, economic, social, and professional exclusion of Jews from Germany’s life proceeded, yet the sheer volume of violence diminished. The comparative quiet, however, gave way in 1938 to renewed attacks of all kinds upon Jews, with both state and Party institutions working hard to “solve” the “Jewish Problem.” To give an illustration of the intensity of antisemitic activity, during one two-week period, as part of a concerted Party campaign under the slogan “A Volk breaks its chains,” 1,350 antisemitic meetings took place in Saxony alone. An upsurge of Germans’ attacks on Jews, destruction of their property, public humiliations, and arrests followed by incarceration in concentration camps characterized this year. The hostility of ordinary Germans was so great that by this time Jewish life outside the big cities, the only places where Jews could hope for some anonymity, became untenable. According to a July 1938 Social Democratic Party summary report: “In consequence of the steady antisemitic barrage, German Jews can scarcely stay in the smaller provincial localities. More and more, localities announce themselves to be “Jew-free” (juden-rein). . . Not only did rural areas become practically empty of Jews, but as a welcome consequence of how unbearable both the regime and ordinary Germans were making the lives of Jews, Jewish emigration from Germany also increased. . . .

     However much the renewed violence of 1938 signaled to everyone that the relative peace of the previous two years had been a passing, aberrant phase, any notion of a continuing Jewish presence within Germany was shattered by the country-wide violence, unprecedented in modern German history, of Kristallnacht. In light of the widespread persecution and violence that had occurred throughout (especially rural) Germany, Kristallnacht was, in one sense, but the crowning moment in the wild domestic terror that Germans perpetrated upon Jews. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels orchestrated the assault as putative retribution for the killing of a German diplomat by a distraught Jew whose parents the Germans had deported earlier in the year to Poland along with fifteen thousand other Polish Jews. On the night of November 9-10, Germans in cities, towns, and villages across the country were awakened to the sounds of shattering glass, the light and smell of burning synagogues, and the cries of agony emitted by Jews whom their countrymen were beating to a pulp. ’The magnitude of the violence and destruction, the (by the still embryonic standards of the time) enormity of the Rubicon night, is reflected in the statistics. The perpetrators, principally SA men, killed approximately one hundred Jews and hauled off thirty thousand more to concentration camps. They burned down and demolished hundreds of synagogues, almost all of those that they and their countrymen had not destroyed earlier. They shattered the storefront glass of about 7,500 Jewish stores and businesses, hence the appellation Kristallnacht (Crystal Night). . . .


Excerpt from Hitler’s Willing Executioners
from Goldhagen continued...

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