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Kristallnacht: Reactions to Kristallnacht

Social Democratic Party of Germany Report (December 1938):

The broad mass of people has not condoned the destruction, but we should nevertheless not overlook the fact that there are people among the working class who do not defend the Jews. There are certain recent incidents. The anger was not, therefore, as unanimous as all that. Berlin: the populations attitude was not fully unanimous. When the Jewish Synagogue was burning...a large number of women could be heard saying, That's the right way to do it—it's a pity there aren't any more Jews inside, that would be the best way to smoke out the whole lousy lot of them. No one dared to take a stand against these sentiments.... If there has been any speaking out in the Reich against the Jewish pogroms, the excesses of arson and looting, it has been in Hamburg and the neighboring Elbe District. People from Hamburg are not generally anti-Semitic, and the Jews of Hamburg have been assimilated far more than the Jews in other parts of the Reich....

Source: Saul Friedlaender Nazi Germany and the Jews, Vol. I—The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939 (New-York 1997), p. 295.

Hjalmar Schacht, Reich Economics Minister (December 1938):

Setting fire to Jewish Synagogues, the destruction and plundering of Jewish stores and businesses and the mistreatment of Jewish citizens was such a shameless and outrageous action that every decent minded German must blush in crimson shame.

Source: David Bankier, The Germans and the Final Solution—Public Opinion under Nazism, (Oxford 1992), p. 62.

From the Deutschland Berichte:

Goebbels has tried to persuade the world that the German people are fundamentally anti-Jewish in order to defend and to excuse the atrocities for which the state is responsible. Those who had an opportunity of watching the Berlin population during the days of the pogroms know that the people have nothing in common with this brown barbarism.

The protest of the Berlin people against the looting and arson, against the ill-treatment of Jewish men, women and children of all ages was clearly noticeable. You could see the contemptuous looks of the people, you could notice movements expressing indignation and you could even hear words of shame and drastic cursing. On Weinmeisterstrasse a police corporal and a Reichswehr sergeant protected two elderly Jewish women with their six or seven children against a party-mob and led them to a place of refuge.

The new measures against the Jews have met with general disapproval from the people. There are of course individuals, especially women, who express their satisfaction, but they are greatly outnumbered by the many Aryans who have voiced their unconditional disapproval of the pogroms and who have offered help to the persecuted Jews in spite of the dangers involved in such assistance. A number of Aryans have taken Jews into their homes during the critical days whereupon they were informed by their landlords that this meant a criminal offence.

The German people as a whole have not been greatly infected by the poison of anti-Semitism. If the anti-semitic propaganda had produced the desired effect, this whole action would not have been necessary. If five and a half years of constant propaganda could not make the people stay away from Jewish shops, if on the contrary the number of Aryans who deliberately went to shop with Jews was still fairly large, this is at best proof of the failure of the anti-Jewish propaganda.

Source: Sarah Gordon, Hitler, Germans and “the Jewish Question,” (Princeton, 1984), pp.176-77.

Prime Minister of Lower Frankonia Monthly Report (December 9, 1938):

...The punitive measures, particularly the imposition of a financial penalty, have been generally approved. A majority, especially among the rural population, regrets that the actions have caused valuable items to be destroyed, which, in view of our raw-material position, could more appropriately have benefited the community as a whole. A further complaint was that the action was continued even after the decree by the Reich propaganda Minister ordering its immediate cessation and, in particular, that foodstuffs were deliberately destroyed. In Oberelsbach, Bad-Neustadt and der Saale, 3 1/2 cwt. of flour were thrown on to a manure heap and a crate of eggs from storage was thrown on to the road. According to one district office report, during the subsequent food collection many national comrades declared that since so much property had been destroyed, they felt unable to contribute to the collection.

Source: Detlev Peukert, Inside Nazi Germany, (Yale University Press, 1987, p. 60.

Gendarmerie-Station Muggendorf Monthly Report (November 26, 1938):

In respect to the most recent action against the Jews, the populace has divided views. One segment of the people is of the opinion that the conscious actions and associated arrests and destruction were far too mild. The other segment of the population, by far larger, feels that all this destruction was uncalled for. In this connection, it appears worth noting that the question was repeatedly raised among the population as to whether those who took part in the action should be punished or not.

Source: Walter H. Pehle. November 1938—From Reichskristallnacht to Genocide. (New-York/ Oxfrord, 1991). pp. 39.

Regierungspraesident Swabia Monthly Report (December 12, 1938):

The Jewish murder of the German third secretary in the Paris Legation triggered angry indignation in all sections of the population. It was generally expected that the national government would take some action. For this reason, there was full appreciation of the legal measures instituted against the Jews. Yet the greater portion of the populace had far less understanding and sympathy for the manner in which the spontaneous action against the Jews was implemented. Rather, that was censured by many, including numerous party members. The demolishing of display windows, of store contents, and of furniture in homes was viewed as unnecessary destruction of valuable property which, in the final analysis, constituted a loss for the wealth of the German nation. This destruction was in flagrant contradiction to the goals of the Four Year Plan and in particular the just completed collection of used goods. The fear was also expressed that this could reawaken destructive impulses in the masses. Moreover, these events prompted an unneeded sense of sympathy for the Jews in towns and rural areas.

Source: Walter H. Pehle. November 1938—From Reichskristallnacht to Genocide. Berg, New-York/ Oxfrord, 1991. p. 41.

Report of the National Socialist Teachers Association of Upper Bavaria (December 1, 1938):

The act of the Jew-boy Gruenspan has caused intense indignation in all circles of society. However, the conduct against the Jews in Germany was not condoned by major sections of the population, especially in what regards the repercussions abroad and for the Four-Year-Plan. In many respects, the population still does not understand the Jewish problem properly, and the myth about decent Jews is still being spread. It is being said that there are Christians who are much worse than the Jews in what regards business affairs. The Jew as a race is not as yet sufficiently recognized….

Source: Yad Vashem Archive 0.51/176.

Sources: Yad Vashem