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"A Pogrom Wave in Germany"

Pogrom Wave in Germany, Naye Press, newspaper article 1938
Naye prese, Paris, November 11, 1938

The state-orchestrated, Reich-wide violence against the Jews in early November 1938, better known as Kristallnacht, shocked Jewish communities around the world. It had the most profound impact, however, on German Jews. Apart from the most immediate consequences—more than a hundred Jews murdered, thousands arrested and sent to concentration camps, synagogues and Jewish property damaged and destroyed on a large scale—the pogrom also posed larger questions about the viability of Jewish life in Nazi Germany.1 In retrospect, Kristallnacht is clearly a landmark event in the history of the Holocaust; but it appeared as a frightening and unprecedented development even to Jewish contemporaries, despite the casual anti-Jewish violence that had already been normalized in Germany since 1933.

The pogrom was thus widely reported in Jewish press around the world. Jewish newspapers of all ideological stripes dedicated much coverage to this murderous rampage with unknowable implications. The Naye prese, the newspaper featured here, was a communist Yiddish-language daily published in Paris. It had been established as a daily in 1934, and was a successor to a string of far-left Jewish weeklies and dailies that were plagued by ideological differences, censorship, and small readerships. According to Bernard Wasserstein, at the high point around the 1936 election of the leftist National Front government in France under Léon Blum, the readership of the Naye prese might have reached 8,000, but then began to decline.2 The readers of the newspaper were mostly Yiddish-speaking immigrants and political exiles from Central and Eastern Europe. The newspaper's editorial policy was coordinated with the mainstream Communist Party of France; several of the editors of the Naye prese were card-carrying members. The Naye prese's main Yiddish-language competitor was the Parizer haynt, a Zionist-leaning subsidiary of the Haynt, the famous Yiddish newspaper based in Warsaw.

Barely more than a day after the broken glass was beginning to be cleared off the streets across the cities and towns of Germany, the Naye prese informed its readership about the state pogrom. Apart from the leading article, "A Pogrom Wave in Germany," other reports on the cover page of the paper spoke of Nazi barbarity, of torched Berlin synagogues, and the khurbn3 in cities across Hitler's Germany, but also about the unease of non-Jewish Germans at the sight of destruction.

For more on Kristallnacht, see Alan Steinweis, Kristallnacht 1938 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009). For mass arrests of Jews, see Kim Wünschmann, Before Auschwitz: Jewish Prisoners in the Prewar Concentration Camps (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015), 196-210.

Bernard Wasserstein, On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012), 258-9.

Meaning "destruction" in Yiddish, khurbn also came to be the Yiddish term for the Holocaust. 

German, "Jew, die!" The verb "verrecken" is usually used for animals; a more literal translation would be "Jew, croak!"

Ernst vom Rath (1909-1938) was a German diplomat stationed in Paris who was assassinated by Herschel Grynszpan on November 7, 1938. Grynszpan was a Jewish refugee from Germany, whose parents, originally immigrants from Poland, had been expelled from the Reich in October 1938, along with other Jews of Polish citizenship.

One of Berlin's main shopping avenues, in the central commercial district. Comparable to Fifth Avenue in New York or Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles.

One of the central and more majestic avenues of Berlin, running east from the Brandenburg Gate.

Kantstrasse is a commercial and residential avenue running parallel to Kurfürstendamm. Kantstrasse was also home to Jewish institutional and organizational life in Berlin and Germany as a whole and continued to serve as such following the Nazi takeover in 1933. The irony invoked refers to the fact that the street is named after Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the most important philosopher of the German Enlightenment.

The Ford automotive offices were located at no. 56 Unter den Linden. 

The main French news agency.

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A pogrom wave in Germany

24 hours of destruction and arson

 

By the light of burning synagogues, and to shouts of "Jude verrecke!,"1 Jewish businesses are destroyed

Horrible, barbaric scenes throughout the country

Streicher creates a committee for persecution of Jews

The German population displays dissatisfaction with the acts of vandalism

 

Berlin, November 10 — The death of vom Rath2 has been exploited by the Nazi press to intensify the agitation against Jews and to call for revenge. The [writing] style has been so red-hot and wild that it had an effect upon many Nazis and the results quickly became evident.

 

A night of pogroms

Pogroms took place against Jews across the entire Reich last night. Synagogues that had not yet been demolished were burned. Jewish businesses were destroyed in the most savage of fashions.

The German press, which had not yet written about these events in the morning, came out with reports in the afternoon regarding "public outrage." Here is how the latter was depicted by a French correspondent of "Ce soir":

"Yesterday night the people of Berlin peacefully went home and went to sleep. This morning they stand in mass numbers, astounded and silent, before the synagogues that have been burned and the shop windows that have been knocked out while they were sleeping. 

"Today the columns of avengers first set out at daybreak. I walked through Kurfürstendamm,3 Unter den Linden,4 the trade districts of Westend. Everywhere the same picture: cafes, restaurants, luxury stores, grocer's shops—everything is destroyed.

"The clothing stores whose owners, I think, were American Jews, were not violated. On Kurfürstendamm, a Citroen division, whose director is German, was hacked open. All sections of the well-known 'Etom' firm were destroyed. All silk [illegible] goods disappeared.

On Kant Street (what irony!),5 the books from a Jewish antiquarian bookseller were burned on the sidewalk.

On a little side street I saw an old woman in tears before a grocery shop. She was gathering scattered milk cans from amongst the heaps of glass." 

 

The description in "Ton"

Here is how the "Ton" correspondent describes the image of "Berlin this morning":

"One gets the impression of a systematic operation that was conducted simultaneously throughout the whole city. You don't see one single Jewish business that has remained untouched anywhere you walk—even those that are several stories high. 

"The 'spectacle' extends through Leipziger Strasse; Friedrichstrasse—less so. In the direction of Alexanderplatz the ruins are even greater. Jewish landlords are more numerous here.

Smoke still rises from the roofs of the residences that were burned. Several firemen hang around on the street in no hurry."

 

The population condemns

Curious people gather everywhere. The correspondent from "Ton" relates further: "Everyone is taken aback and even embarrassed. The fact cannot be repeated enough that the majority of Berlin residents are against this specific form of politics, many often display openly that they condemn it. For the most part, they respect the merchandise that lies behind the broken windows. Yet at a large leather goods store on Unter den Linden I saw the passersby dig through the things, and everyone took something, one person took a briefcase, another a purse."

In the afternoon—more unrest

It is reported that in the afternoon, Jewish stores on Friedrichstrasse that had remained untouched were also destroyed. There are numerous Jewish stores on this street. Everything was destroyed in a barbaric fashion. The impoverished Münzstrasse is full with broken furniture, trampled wax figures, watches broken into pieces.

The Ford company6 on Unter den Linden was also hacked to pieces.

Masses of Jews were arrested. The "German News Bureau" announces that this is to "protect their safety" [...]

The Hitler Youth marches through the streets, shouting "Jude verrecke."

"Havas"7 remarks: "One has to remember that an official note recently informed the population that the initiative for an antisemitic campaign had to be left to the authorities." 

Berlin, Nov. 10 — The new measures that Goebbels announced will consist of the confiscation of all Jewish possessions that amount to over three thousand marks.

Foreign Jews will be expelled from Germany.

In Berlin a government committee will be created "in defense (!) against Jews."

Representatives of the ministries will be included in the committee. It will be led by Julius Streicher.

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Naye prese, Paris, November 11, 1938
Date Created
November 11, 1938
Page(s) 1
Publisher
Naye prese
Language(s)
Yiddish
Location
Paris, France
Reference Location
Berlin, Germany
Document Type Newspaper Article
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