Muhlenberg College, founded in 1848, is a Lutheran-affiliated school in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The college boasts a long history of embracing its Jewish student population.
Responding to a pattern of increased Nazi violence against German Jews—which reached a new pitch on Kristallnacht in November 1938—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 Kristallnacht pogrom.1 Although most respondents expressed shock at 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 Nazi persecution of Jews as an attempt to distract Germans from the country's economic woes.2 A history faculty member found the Nazi persecution of Jews "inconceivable."
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.