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    Kristallnacht: Damages and Death

    How much violence and damage was inflicted on the German and Austrian Jewish communities in the Kristallnacht pogroms?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    During Kristallnacht, the damage to Jewish property and violence against Jews, both the number of assaults and the overall death toll, were far less than historians have suggested.

    The facts are:

    Evidence shows that the destruction and violence associated with Kristallnacht was much greater than Holocaust deniers claim. This can be demonstrated in multiple ways: the number of Jewish businesses and synagogues destroyed, the vast destruction of Jewish property in general, and the number of Jews assaulted and murdered. Holocaust deniers downplay Kristallnacht‘s impact in an attempt to minimize Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis. 

    The facts about the destruction of Jewish lives and property during Kristallnacht:  

    David Irving and Ingrid Weckert, for example, are two Holocaust deniers that minimize Kristallnacht‘s impact on German and Austrian Jewry.

    Irving claims that “. . . about 7,500 of the one hundred thousand shops had their windows smashed.”[1] Similarly, Weckert calls the reports about the extent and nature of the damages resulting from Kristallnacht “highly exaggerated.” She cites 171 synagogues destroyed, 7,500 shops and stores damaged and 3 dead.[2]

    First, in his quote above, Irving purposefully trivializes the actual damage done to the Jewish shops by inferring that only their windows were smashed. However, even the Nazis themselves noted that many Jewish shops and businesses had been totally destroyed, not lightly damaged.[3] Likewise, Irving claims that there were 100,000 Jewish shops in Germany at the time of the Kristallnacht pogrom. However, by November 1938 most Jewish businesses had been ‘Aryanized,’ that is, forcibly sold to Germans. These Jewish-owned business were forcibly sold far below their actual value. This process of legalized theft meant that only about 9,000 businesses were still in Jewish hands at the time of Kristallnacht.[4] Irving’s starting figure of 100,000 Jewish businesses would mean that 7.5 percent of Jewish businesses were damaged or destroyed. However, 7,500 destroyed businesses out of 9,000 constitutes 84 percent of Jewish businesses damaged or destroyed.

    Bundesarchiv Bild 119-2671-07, München, Kaufhaus Uhlfelder, Zerstörungen
    Damage done to a shop in Munich during Kristallnacht. Bundesarchiv, Bild 119-2671-07 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

    Irving also states that, “Thirty-six of the country’s half-million Jews had been murdered…”[5] In fact, at least 91 Jews were murdered and the final total was undeniably more since many Jews who were arrested in Kristallnacht died in detention. Other deadly effects emerged as a result of the violence. In Vienna alone, there were 680 suicides in the wake of the pogrom.[6]

    Irving also claims that “…191 of the country’s fourteen hundred synagogues had been destroyed…”[7] Contrary to his figures, the Germans themselves estimated on November 11, 1938 that at least 267 synagogues had been set ablaze or smashed during the program.[8]

    Other estimates of destroyed synagogues are even higher. It is possible that as many as 520 synagogues were completely or partially destroyed. One historian, A. Diamant, estimates that some 1,200 of approximately 1,800 synagogues and prayer halls were destroyed. Regardless of the exact number, it is clear that 191 is far too low.[9]

    Conclusion

    The evidence shows that Jews did not exaggerate the number of deaths, assaults, and property damage during Kristallnacht. Holocaust deniers’ attempts to minimize the suffering and damage are not supported by the facts. Modern research shows that 85 percent of the remaining Jewish shops and businesses were destroyed, at least 91 Jews were murdered during the violence, and many others died after being arrested, whether in detention or concentration camps. The Germans themselves noted that 267 synagogues were destroyed, though the number could be significantly higher.

    NOTES

    [1] David Irving, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (Focal Point, 1996), p. 495. This entire book can be downloaded as a PDF at http://www.fpp.co.uk/books/Goebbels/.

    [2] Ingrid Weckert, Flash Point: Kristallnacht 1938: Instigators, Victims and Beneficiaries (Institute for Historical Review, 1991), p. 107.

    [3] Richard J. Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial, Section (4)(4.3)(c)(iv)(6) at www.hdot.org.

    [4] Richard J. Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial, Section (4)(4.3)(c)(iv)(7).

    [5] David Irving, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (Focal Point, 1996), p. 495.

    [6] Richad J. Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial, Section (4)(4.3)(c)(iv)(3)

    [7] David Irving, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (Focal Point, 1996), p. 495.

    [8] Richard J. Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial, Section (4)(4.3)(c)(iv)(8).

    [9] Richard J. Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial, Section (4)(4.3)(c)(iv)(8).