Who started the Kristallnacht pogrom?
Holocaust deniers claim:
“International Jewry” funded Herschel Grynszpan’s assassination of Ernst vom Rath. Then, they instigated the Kristallnacht pogrom in order to embarrass the German government and foster international sympathy for the Jews. Ingrid Weckert, a German Holocaust denier, claims that the Germans were the pogrom’s victims: “Ultimately it was not the Jews but the Germans who suffered most as the result of this event.”
Another Holocaust denier, David Irving, affirms Ingrid Weckert’s assertion that the assassination of vom Rath was a Jewish conspiracy. Irving suggests that there was “some frail evidence that LICA, the Paris-based International League against Anti-Semitism” had a hand in the assassination. He further explained: “It deserves comment that Grynszpan, although a destitute youth, was able to reside in a hotel in 1938 and purchase a handgun for 250 francs, and that his defense counsel Moro Giafferi was the best that the money of the International League against Anti-Semitism (‘LICA’) could buy; LICA’s Paris office was around the corner from Grynszpan’s hotel.”
The facts are:
The evidence shows that Herschel Grynszpan, distraught about the fate of his family, acted alone. The attorney who represented Grynszpan, from the International League against Anti-Semitism (LICA), was requested by his family and his fees were paid by contributions from Jews in the United States. However, there is no evidence of any association between Grynszpan and the LICA before the assassination. Similarly, there is no evidence that the pogrom was begun by “mysterious provacateurs” who were sent by “World Jewry” to stir up trouble and embarrass the Germans. The evidence shows that German Jews and Austrian Jews were the victims of Kristallnacht, not the perpetrators of the pogrom.
The facts about Herschel Grynszpan’s shooting of Ernst vom Rath:
Herschel was born in Germany, but his parents were Polish Jews. His parents had not been able to obtain German citizenship, which was a privilege based on blood, not residency or any other qualification.
In 1936, when he was 15, Herschel’s parents sent him to Paris to live with his aunt and uncle. Herschel was supposed to help his uncle in his tailoring business and go to school. His parents sent money for his care and upkeep while he lived there. However, instead of studying or working he spent most of his time hanging out with his friends and going to movies and cafés. His neglect of work and study led to quarrels with his aunt and uncle.
At the end of October 1938, Herschel learned from Yiddish newspapers that the Germans had rounded up the Polish Jews from his former hometown and dumped them into a ‘no-man’s land’ just over the Polish border. On November 3, he received a letter from his sister confirming the situation. On November 6—one day before he shot vom Rath—Herschel had a final fight with his aunt and uncle over his behavior. Herschel took about 600 francs and left their home.
That night, Herschel checked into a cheap hotel (23 francs, 50 centimes). By way of comparison, a new overcoat cost 600 francs. The next morning he bought a gun for 250 francs. Herschel then went to the German embassy with the intention of shooting the Nazi German ambassador to France. Herschel was admitted to the embassy where he shot vom Rath, who he had never seen or met before, instead of the ambassador, who was not at the embassy during that time.
Marker for Herschel and his sister, Esther, at the Holocaust Memorial in Hanover. By Axel Hindemith (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The facts about Herschel Grynszpan and the LICA:
Weckert insinuates that the International League Against Anti-Semitism (LICA), a French Jewish defense organization, funded Herschel’s assassination of vom Rath. However, both the French police and the German Gestapo found no link between Herschel and LICA. There is no evidence that Herschel even knew the LICA existed, much less was seduced to act on their behalf. The LICA did provide Herschel with a lawyer, but it was his relatives who approached the organization for help. The lawyer’s services weren’t free. Dorothy Thompson, a non-Jewish journalist in the United States, raised the money for Herschel’s defense. Weckert also questions how Herschel found the money to buy a gun without external support. But, as stated above, Herschel had about 600 francs when he left his aunt and uncle’s home and the gun only cost 250 francs.
What happened to Herschel Grynszpan after the shooting?
Weckert claims that Herschel “disappeared mysteriously from the scene.” She alleges that the very “powerful” LICA pressured the Germans into letting Herschel live “securely through the war years” after which he was given “a fresh start.” In fact, Herschel remained in a French prison until the Germans invaded and occupied France in May 1940. After the Nazi invasion, the French handed him over to the Germans. Herschel then disappeared into the Nazi prison and concentration camp system. It is possible he survived the war and chose not to resurface, but there has been no trace of him since 1942. He was officially declared dead on July 24, 1960.
The facts about whether “World Jewry” started the pogrom:
Weckert claims that, after vom Rath’s death, mysterious “provocateurs” appeared “abruptly out of nowhere” in German cities and towns. She suggests that these “provocateurs” demanded that the local police, mayors, and Nazi party officials take action against the Jews in their community. According to Weckert, when the German officials refused, these strangers “sent the first stones crashing through Jewish shop windows, into Jewish homes, and began attacking synagogues.” Thus, they prodded the unmotivated German civilians into violence, seducing them into a “hypnotic compulsion” that drove them to “work things out of their systems” and exciting them into a “primitive lust for turmoil.” Then, the mysterious “strangers” disappeared.
In reality, the “provocateurs” of Kristallnacht were Germany’s own homegrown bullies, the Stormtroopers (SA). These street thugs helped Hitler gain power by intimidating political opposition and made the streets dangerous for Jews or anyone unsupportive of Hitler. When Hitler took power, he reined in their brutal and illegal activities. The SA was thrilled that once again they were free to roam city streets looking for Jews to assault. The excitement of the SA is captured in a diary entry of Josef Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda. In the entry, Goebbels describes the excitement of Julius Schaub, an ex-Stormtrooper who had risen to become Hitler’s aide: “The Shock-troop Hitler gets going immediately to clear things out in Munich . . . A synagogue is battered into a lump . . . The shock-troop carries out frightful work . . . We go with Schaub to the Artists’ Club, to await further reports . . . Schaub is completely worked up. His old shock-troop past is waking up.”
An antisemitic poster entitled, ‘Behind the enemy powers: the Jew.’ Collection owned by United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The SA’s role in the Kristallnacht pogrom:
Holocaust deniers Irving and Weckert claim that only 3 out of 28 SA units participated in the riot; according to these same deniers, this happened only because they misunderstood their orders. In fact, all 28 units enthusiastically participated—as did the SS and the Gestapo. The orders that came from their local leaders, fresh from Goebbels’s speech, were clear: “All Jewish shops are immediately to be destroyed by SA-men in uniform . . . Jewish synagogues are to be immediately set on fire . . . The Führer wants the police not to interfere . . . All Jews are to be disarmed. In case of resistance immediately shoot them down.”
The evidence shows that Herschel Grynszpan acted alone when he shot vom Rath. There is no evidence of any association between Grynszpan and the LICA before the assassination. The LICA attorney was asked to represent him by his family and his fees were paid by contributions from American Jews (among other contributors).
There is no evidence that “mysterious provocateurs” sent by “World Jewry” stirred up trouble in order to embarrass the Nazis. The German Jews and Austrian Jews were the victims of Kristallnacht, not the perpetrators of the pogrom.
 Ingrid Weckert, “’Crystal Night’ 1938: The great Anti-German spectacle,” Journal for Historical Review, Summer, 1986, p. 15 of 17 (“Conclusion”) at www.ihr.org/jhr/v06/v06p183_Weckert.html. The name of her article on Kristallnacht is called “’Crystal Night’ 1938: The Great Anti-German Spectacle.” The emphasis is the title is mine.
 David Irving, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (Focal Point, 1996), p. 490. You can download this entire book in PDF at http://www.fpp.co.uk/books/Goebbels/.
 David Irving, Hitler’s War (Focal Point, 2001), p. 142 (see * at bottom of page). You can download this entire book in PDF at http://www.fpp.co.uk/books/Hitler/text/index.html.
 For more information about Herschel Grynszpan’s life see Gerald Schwab, The Day the Holocaust Began: The Odyssey of Herschel Grynszpan (Praeger, 1990).
  Ingrid Weckert, Flash Point: Kristallnacht 1938: Instigators, Victims and Beneficiaries (Institute for Historical Review, 1991), pp. 18, 19. Weckert’s book in German is Feuerzeichen: Die ‘Reichscristal nacht’: Anstifter und Brandstifterpfer und Nutziesser (Tubingen: 1981).
 Ingrid Weckert, Flash Point: Kristallnacht 1938: Instigators, Victims and Beneficiaries (Institute for Historical Review, 1991), p. 18.
 Ingrid Weckert, Flash Point: Kristallnacht 1938: Instigators, Victims and Beneficiaries (Institute for Historical Review, 1991), p. 132.
 Gerald Schwab, The Day the Holocaust Began: The Odyssey of Herschel Grynszpan (Praeger, 1990), pp. 197-201.
 Ingrid Weckert, Flash Point: Kristallnacht 1938: Instigators, Victims and Beneficiaries (Institute for Historical Review, 1991), pp. 40-41.
 Ingrid Weckert, Flash Point: Kristallnacht 1938: Instigators, Victims and Beneficiaries (Institute for Historical Review, 1991), pp. 41, 63.
 Richard J. Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial, Section (4)(4.3)(c)(ii)(E)(4).
David Irving, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (Focal Point, 1996), p. 495 and Ingrid Weckert, Flash Point: Kristallnacht 1938: Instigators, Victims and Beneficiaries (Institute for Historical Review, 1991), pp. 89-93.
 Richard J. Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial, Section (4)(4.3)(c)(ii)(C)(6).