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FDR Statement On Kristallnacht

(November 15, 1938)

On the night of November 9-10, 1938, the Nazi Party escalated its organized persecution of German and Austrian  Jews  in  what  has  become  known  as  Kristallnacht,  or  the  Night  of  the  Broken  Glass.  In  the  course of just a few hours, 815 shops, 171 homes, and 76 synagogues were destroyed; an additional 191 synagogues  were  set  on  fire;  36  Jews  were  murdered,  another  36  seriously  injured,  and  some  20,000  were arrested and sent to concentration camps

When the reports of the Nazi violence were confirmed, the President drafted this statement expressing his outrage at Kristallnacht and recalling the American ambassador to Germany.  The changes and additions are in the President’s own hand, and the final message was approved by Secretary of State Cordell Hull who placed his initials in the lower right hand corner. The President read the statement below the draft at his press conference held on November 15, 1938.

Note the statement does not say anything specifically about the violence against the Jews.

Click to enlarge

The news of the past few days from Germany has deeply shocked public opinion in the United States. Such news from any part of the world would inevitably produce a similar profound reaction among American people in every part of the Nation.

I myself could scarcely believe that such things could occur in a twentieth-century civilization.

With a view to gaining a first-hand picture of the situation in Germany I asked the Secretary of State to order our Ambassador in Berlin to return at once for report and consultation.

Sources: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library;
Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941, U.S. Department of State, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1943, p. 439.