Did Hitler authorize the Kristallnacht pogrom?
Holocaust Deniers Say:
Adolf Hitler didn't know about and didn't authorize the Kristallnacht pogrom.
What was Kristallnacht?
Kristallnacht ('Night of Broken Glass') was a violent state-sponsored pogrom that broke out throughout Germany and Austria on November 9 and 10, 1938. The Germans claimed that the pogrom was a spontaneous public uprising. The violence and destruction was supposedly in response to the shooting of a German diplomat named Ernst vom Rath in Paris by a Polish Jew named Herschel Grynszpan, who was angered about the deportation of his family from Germany to Poland. Hundreds of synagogues were burned, thousands of Jewish businesses and homes were destroyed, at least 91 Jews were murdered and many others were assaulted and seriously injured. Over 20,000 male Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps where they were maltreated and terrorized.1
An American diplomat summarized the pogrom in a report: "Jewish buildings were smashed and contents demolished or looted . . . Jewish shop windows were systematically and wantonly smashed . . . the debacle was executed by SS men and Stormtroopers not in uniform, each group having been provided with hammers, axes, crowbars and incendiary bombs. . . . No attempts were made whatsoever to quench the fires . . . There is much evidence of physical violence, including several deaths."2
The German press presented all this as "a vivid demonstration of the degree to which the anger of the German people has reached, without Jews suffering any physical harm as a result."3
What the deniers say about Kristallnacht
David Irving, whom the High Court in London declared to be a Holocaust denier, racist and antisemite, argues that Hitler did not approve of the pogrom and did not know about it until it was well under way.4 Irving asserts that the pogrom was initiated by Josef Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, without Hitler's permission.
The facts prove that Hitler not only knew about the pogrom, he authorized it
Ernst vom Rath died at 5:30 p.m. on November 9, 1938.
Early in the evening, Goebbels was told that some disturbances had already broken out in two places in Germany. Hitler and Goebbels discussed these incidents before going to a dinner together at the Old Town Hall in Munich.
Several eyewitnesses reported that Goebbels and Hitler had an intense discussion together at dinner that night. Goebbels's diary entry for that day said: "I go to the Party reception in the Old Town Hall. Colossal activity. I brief the Führer about the matter. He orders: let the demonstrations go on. Withdraw the police. The Jews must for once feel the people's fury. That is right."5 Hitler left the dinner about 9:00 p.m. leaving Goebbels to give the speech that Hitler had given for the last five years.
The report of the Supreme Nazi Party Court held after the pogrom noted that Goebbels gave a rousing speech in which he told the party district leaders (Gauleiters) about the disorders that had already broken out in parts of Germany. Attendees at the meeting recalled the Goebbels had said that "on his briefing, the Führer has decided" that future demonstrations should not be stopped.6 Those who heard Goebbels's speech understood their orders to mean that "the Party should not appear to the outside world as the originator of the demonstrations, but should in reality organize them and carry them out."7 After Goebbels's speech the Gauleiters rushed to the telephones and issued orders to their subordinates across Germany to carry out the pogrom.
Hitler was fully informed about the earlier disturbances and he authorized a larger pogrom which was to be organized and encouraged by the SA. Hitler ordered the police and the fireman to protect only German property and lives. Hitler left the dinner so that he would not be held directly responsible by the international community for the destruction to come. Goebbels gave Hitler's keynote speech for him, rousing the Gauleiters into action, which they put into effect promptly after his speech.
1. For three excellent accounts about the Kristallnacht pogrom see Rita Thalmann and Emmanuel Feinermann, Crystal Night (Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 1974), Anthony Read and David Fisher, Kristallnacht: The Unleashing of the Holocaust (Peter Bedrick Books, 1989), and Martin Gilbert, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (HarperCollins, 2006).
2. Richard Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial, Expert Witness Report for the 2000 libel trial at http://hdot.org/en/trial/defense/evans/430ci/ [Section (4)(4.3)(c)(i)(8)]. For a shorter account of Kristallnacht and Irving's version of it see also Richard Evans, Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial (Basic Books, 2001): pp. 52-65.
3. Evans, David Irving,Hitler and Holocaust Denial at http://www.hdot.org/en/trial/defense/evans/430ciiA/ [Section (4)(4.3)(c)(i)(10)].
4. Evans, Lying About Hitler: p. 53.
5. Diary entry of Josef Goebbels, November 9, 1938 as cited in Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial at http://www.hdot.org/en/trial/defense/evans/430ciiA/ [Section (4)(4.3)(c)(ii)(A)(4,5)].
6. Ibid at http://www.hdot.org/en/trial/defense/evans/430ciiB/ [Section (4)(4.3)(c)(ii)(B)(5)].
7. Ibid at http://www.hdot.org/en/trial/defense/evans/430ciiC/ [Section (4)(4.3)(c)(ii)(C)(3)].