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November 12, 2010

Nov. 9th and Nov. 11th, important dates in history

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:54 am

Two very important dates in world history are Nov. 9th and Nov. 11th.  I let both of those dates go by without blogging about what happened on those dates.  Why?  Because I thought everyone knows by now what occurred on those dates and there was no need for me to write about it.  I was wrong!

On the night of November 9th and 10th, 1938, the windows in all of the Jewish stores in Germany and Austria were smashed and merchandise was thrown into the street. The Synagogues were set on fire. The name given by the Nazis to this destruction was Kristallnacht or Night of Broken Glass.

Today I read an article written by Steve and published in the Shrewsbury Lantern on Nov. 11, 2010.  You can read the article here.

In his article, Steve’s basic premise is that Nov. 9th, 1938, the date of Kristallnacht, is a more important date than Nov. 11, 1918, which is the date that the Armistice was signed to end World War I.

His article begins with these words:

Seventy two years ago, the world was changed forever.   Yet, as we publicly mark Veterans Day, and rightly honor those brave men and women who have served our nation in battle, many others privately mark the event that, in many ways, marked the beginning of the end, and precipitated the need for our soldiers to be called upon in the first place.

Sorry, Steve, but I don’t agree that America had a “need” to fight a war against Germany because of Kristallnacht.  In 1938, America had a population that was less than half of what it is now, and there were only around 16 million Jews in the entire world.  America could have allowed all of them to emigrate to America.  There were only 585,000 Jews in Germany in 1933, and even less in 1938, and we could certainly have taken them in, but America didn’t want the Jews.  We didn’t fight World War II to save the Jews of the world.

The synagogue in Berlin was restored after it was damaged on Kristallnacht

Kristallnacht was what was called a “pogrom” in Poland.  The first time I visited Poland, I was told by my tour guide that the word pogrom is a Polish word that means “like thunder.”  This was the name given to the actions of angry civilians when Jews would be driven out of a Polish city. This happened hundreds of times in Poland.  On Nov. 9, 1938, Kristallnacht was an attempt to drive the Jews out of all the cities and towns of Germany and Austria.

To his credit, Steve did explain the reason for the anger of the Germans on Nov. 9, 1938:

On October 18th, 1938, Hitler ordered 12,000 Polish Jews rounded up and marched to the border, where they were expelled.  Troops came in and seized all that was left behind.

On November 6th, 1938, a 17 year old radical named Herschel Grynspyn, retaliating for the expulsion of his family,  fired five shots at the German embassy in Paris, wounding the Ambassador who died three days later. Hitlers retaliation was merciless.  Over 25,000 Jews were arrested and deported to concentration camps like Dachau, where they would be systematically executed. On November 9th and 10th, over 200 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria, and Poland  were attacked, their windows smashed into bits of “broken glass,” and then the buildings burned to the ground.   The same was done to thousands of Jewish owned storefronts.

Hitler’s order on Oct. 18, 1938 requires some explanation.  Why were there Polish Jews in Germany in 1938?  It was because part of Germany had been given to the new country of Poland in the Treaty of Versailles that was signed after World War I.  Hitler’s order involved German Jews who had wound up in Poland through no fault of their own.  There were also German non-Jews who found themselves in the country of Poland after World War I.  The Poles didn’t want Germans in their new country, so they drove them out.  The non-Jewish Germans lost their homes and their land and were forced to go to what was left of Germany, as were the German Jews.

After Hitler made a new rule in 1935 that Jews could not be citizens of Germany, the Jews from Poland were stateless.  The Poles didn’t want them and neither did the Germans.  In Oct. 1938, Hitler put the Polish Jews on trains which took them toward Poland, but the Poles stopped the returning Jews at the border, where they remained for months, living in tents.  It was only later, after Kristallnacht, that over 25,000 German Jews were arrested and sent to Dachau and other camps, NOT at the time that the Polish Jews were deported, as Steve wrote.

Herschel Grynszpyn was trying to get some attention from the world, for the plight of the stateless Jews living in tents on the Polish border, when he decided to kill the German Ambassador to France.  The ambassador was not there at the time, so Herschel killed another German official at the embassy.  This finally got the attention of the world.

On Kristallnacht, there were around 30,000 Jewish MEN (no women or children) rounded up and sent to Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen, the three major concentration camps in Germany.  Most of them were released two weeks later after they promised to leave Germany within 6 months.  The problem was that no country in the world wanted them.  However, they were not executed, as Steve wrote.

After Kristallnacht, there were 10,911 Jews brought to Dachau, after they were taken into “protective custody.”  Another 20,000 Jews were sent to either Sachsenhausen or Buchenwald.

Jewish men in Baden-Baden, Germany were arrested

The photo above shows Jewish men after they were arrested following Kristallnacht. Most of the Jews arrested after Kristallnacht were released within a few weeks after they promised to make arrangements to leave Germany. Around 8,000 of the 30,000 Jews, who were taken into “protective custody,” were allowed to enter Great Britain without a visa and thousands more went to Shanghai, where no visa was required. Altogether, more than 50,000 German Jews found safety in Britain before World War II started, including 10,000 Jewish children, who were sent on Kindertransports, according to Martin Gilbert.

Here is another quote from the article in the Shrewsbury Lantern:

On the day after Kristallnacht, November 11th, Hermann Goehring publicly discussed how the ultimate success of nazi Germany depended on a “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem” beyond their own borders, and began plans for what would become a wholesale extermination of millions in camps like Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Sobibor, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka and a host of others.

Buchenwald, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen were not camps for “wholesale extermination.”  The “death camps” were Auschwitz, Majdanek, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, and Chelmno.  On the witness stand during the Nuremberg IMT, Hermann Goering testified that he wanted “the total solution,” not the final solution.  He was talking about the Jewish QUESTION, not the Jewish PROBLEM, as Steve mistakenly wrote.  The Jewish Question was whether the Jews should have their own separate state within the country of Germany, or whether they should assimilate?  This Question had been discussed for years in Germany.

There are two other important events that happened on Nov. 9th: the overthrow of the German government in 1918 and the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.

It was on November 9th that the German Kaiser was forced to abdicate in 1918 and the German government was taken over by the SPD (Social Democrats).  Friedrich Ebert, the leader of the Social Democrats, was subsequently installed as the first president of the new Republic, which became known as the Weimar Republic because a German Constitution, modeled after the American Constitution, was written by the Social Democrats in the city of Weimar.

The Social Democratic Workers Party was originally founded by Karl Liebknecht and August Bebel. During World War I, a new militant leftist group formed by Jewish leaders, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, agitated for the overthrow of the Kaiser and the end of the war.

The German war effort was hampered when 300,000 workers went on strike in January 1918. In November 1918 there was a naval mutiny and a strike of the dock workers. Finally, on November 9, 1918, Philipp Scheidemann, the leader of the Social Democrats, proclaimed the first German Republic from a window of the Reichstag building in Berlin.  This was called “a bloodless revolution.”

After World War II ended, German was divided into East and West Germany; the eastern half was Communist.  The city of Berlin, which was in Eastern Germany, was divided into zones and the Berlin wall separated the American zone and the Communist Soviet zone.  It was on Nov. 9, 1989 that the wall came down and Germany was once again united.

A section of the Berlin wall has been preserved

The Armistice which ended World War I was signed by Matthias Erzberger, a representative of the Ebert government, on November 11, 1918, an event which is now celebrated in America as Veterans Day.  This holiday was formerly called Armistice Day.

The Nazis would later call the Social Democrats “the November criminals” and characterize the signing of the Armistice as a “stab in the back” for the German people. For the next 20 years, a controversy would rage between the liberal left and the Nazis over whether or not the German army had been defeated on the battlefield, a claim which Hitler called the “Big Lie.”

Update: Nov. 13, 2010:

I neglected to mention that another important event in German history happened on November 9, 1923.  That was the date that Hitler’s attempt to overthrow the German government was stopped.

On the evening of November 8, 1923, Adolf Hitler announced the start of “the people’s revolution” in the Bürgerbräukeller, a Munich beer hall. Hitler and his supporters then marched through the streets of Munich in an attempt to seize power. This unsuccessful revolution became known as Hitler’s Beer-hall Putsch. The next day, on November 9th, Hitler and two thousand of his followers were stopped by the Munich police on Residenzstrasse in front of the Feldherrenhalle; four policemen and 16 of Hitler’s supporters were killed in the fighting. Hitler fled from the scene, but was later arrested and imprisoned at Landsberg am Lech after a trial in which he was convicted of treason.

The Bürgerbräukeller was torn down years ago, but tourists can still see where the Nazis put a plaque on the Feldherrenhalle to honor the men who were killed there by the police. During the Nazi era, Munich residents were required to do a Nazi salute as they passed the plaque, which has since been removed. Those who did not want to give a salute to the fallen heroes would use Viscardigasse, a back alley which was nicknamed “Evaders’ Alley.”

Odeon Platz in Munich where Hitler’s Putsch was stopped

(Click on photo to enlarge)