Did Hitler try to stop the Kristallnacht pogrom?
Holocaust Deniers Say:
When Hitler found out about the Kristallnacht pogrom he tried to stop it.
David Irving, whom the High Court in London declared to be a Holocaust denier, racist and antisemite, says that when Hitler found out about the pogrom he was "livid with rage." He summoned Josef Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, to his apartment and "made a terrible scene."1 Irving claims that Hitler sent out Julius Schaub, one of his aides, with instructions to do everything possible to stop the violence and destruction. Hitler then sent Joseph Goebbels and Rudolf Hess, his top party deputy, to the phones to try to "halt the most violent excesses."2
The facts about Hitler's role in the Kristallnacht pogrom
There is no evidence that Hitler ordered Goebbels to stop the pogrom or that Goebbels made any attempts to do so. Goebbels' diary reveals rather that he was exultant at what he saw from his car as he drove through Munich. "In Berlin, 5 then 15 synagogues burn down. Now the people's anger rages. Nothing more can be done against it for the night. And I don't want to do anything either. Should be given free rein . . . As I drive to the hotel, windows shatter. Bravo! Bravo! The synagogues burn in all big cities. German property is not endangered."3
Goebbels euphoria continued to the next day (November 10), when he met Hitler for lunch. In his diary he recorded: "Yesterday, Berlin. There, all proceeded fantastically. One fire after another. It is good that way. I prepared an order to put an end to the actions. It is now just enough . . . In the whole country the synagogues have burned down. I report to the Führer at the Osteria."4
Further, no one else attempted to stop the pogrom either. During the night, three different telexes (telegrams) were sent out by high Nazi officials. Irving mistranslates, omits, and distorts the contents of these telexes. He works hard to make it seem like the Nazi party hierarchy was desperately trying to stop the violence. However it was just the opposite.
- On November 9 at 11:55 p.m. Heinrich Müller sent a telex from Berlin to German police officials with instructions about the pogrom. Müller's telex read in part: "Actions against Jews in particular against their synagogues will very shortly take place across the whole of Germany. They are not to be interrupted." Looting was to be prevented. The arrest of 20,000 to 30,000 Jews was authorized. "Propertied Jews above all are to be chosen."5
- On November 10 at 1:20 a.m. Reinhard Heydrich transmitted orders given to him directly by Heinrich Himmler (the head of the SS and the police in Germany), who had conferred with Hitler, to the police forces and Gestapo agents under his control. This telex instructed the police not to prevent the destruction of Jewish property or get in the way of violent acts committed against German Jews. This telex said in part: ". . . demonstrations against the Jews are to be expected in the course of this night—9th to 10th November 1938—in the entire Reich . . . the demonstrations which occur are not to be hindered by the police."6 The only restrictions Himmler and Heydrich placed on the police and Gestapo is that they were not to endanger German life or property. Synagogues should only be set afire if there was no danger of the fire spreading to German-owned buildings. Shops and dwellings of Jews could be destroyed but their contents must not be looted. Non-Jewish shops should be protected. Foreign Jews could not be assaulted.
- Finally, Rudolf Hess, the head of the Nazi party and one of Hitler's inner circle, sent out a cable on November 10 at 2:56 a.m. to all the party offices throughout Germany. This circular forbade setting fire to Jewish shops: ". . . on the express command of the highest instance, fire-raising in Jewish shops or similar must in no case and under no circumstances take place."7 The order to stop the arson was probably given because a lot of Jews rented from non-Jews and burning their shops would destroy German property. The fires were also spreading to adjacent German property. Further, as was made clear after the pogrom, these last Jewish-owned businesses in Germany were to be ‘Aryanized' and their stock stolen and given to Germans. Burning the shops and their contents to the ground would be counterproductive and wasteful.8
Adolf Hitler did not try to stop the pogrom. He set it in motion and then removed himself from the eye of the storm so that the blame could ultimately not be attached to him.
The diary writings of Josef Goebbels, a member of Hitler's inner circle, show that Hitler didn't order him to stop the pogrom. The evidence shows that Goebbels was thrilled with the progress of the pogrom throughout the night. When he met with Hitler the next day for lunch it was only to conclude the details about wrapping up the pogrom.
Other Nazi officials in Hitler's inner circle and their subordinates sent out clarifying instructions throughout the night giving directions on how best to conduct the pogrom — not stop it. None of these people would have dared to start or maintain a major action against the Jews without the specific permission of Hitler.
1. David Irving, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (Focal Point, 1996): p. 277.
2. David Irving, War Path (London 1978), p 165 as cited in Richard Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial, Expert Witness Report for the 2000 libel trial, [Section (4)(4.3)(c)(ii)(E)(2-4)]. See also Irving, Goebbels, p. 277.
3. Josef Goebbels's diary entry for November 10, 1938 as cited in Richard Evans, Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial (Basic Books, 2001): p. 60.
4. Josef Goebbels's diary entry for November 10, 1938 as cited in Evans, Lying About Hitler: p. 62.
5. Evans, Lying About Hitler: pp. 55, 56.
6. Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial, [Section (4)(4.3)(c)(ii)(F)(2)].
7. Ibid., [Section (4)(4.3)(c)(ii)(G)(1)].
8. Ibid., [Section (4)(4.3)(c)(ii)(G)(1)].