Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg College is a Lutheran-affiliated school in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The college has a long history of embracing its Jewish student population.
After Nazi leadership organized waves of anti-Jewish violence in early November 1938—often referred to as Kristallnacht—the college's student newspaper took an informal poll among college administrators, professors, and instructors. The Muhlenberg Weekly's poll asked, "What is your reaction to the current anti-Jewish movement in Germany?" The paper then published the collected responses on either side of the front page text as a kind of editorial commentary on the discrimination and violence faced by Jewish people in Nazi Germany.1 Although most respondents expressed shock at the anti-Jewish violence, their assessments varied according to their experiences and backgrounds. For example, an instructor in government and politics echoed the political stance of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whereas an instructor in economics regarded the Nazi regime's persecution of Jews as an attempt to distract Germans from the country's economic woes.2 A history faculty member stated that "It's really inconceivable that this can happen in the twentieth century."
Collectively, these voices from within one religious university community reveal a wide range of responses to dehumanization and violence in Nazi Germany. Some comments revealed personal biases. Others reflected a raw, emotional reaction to the cruelty of Nazi German authorities.