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On the alleged spontaneity of the pogroms of 10th November 1938

The measures of 10th November and the following weeks ultimately lead back to internal Party decisions taken in September 1937. It was decided at that time to solve the Jewish question radically. Any real influence of [Hjalmar] Schacht, who had always opposed the destruction of Jewish commerce, had been eliminated in August 1937. Schacht had not been at the Reichswirtschaftsministerium since August 1937. A programmatic article in Das Schwarze Korps, which appeared around October 1937, after the 1937 Nuremberg Party Rally, laying down a systematic disadvantaging of Jews in the economy, can be viewed as evidence of the change of course in this respect. According to the article a rule had been in force until that point, at least officially, that the Arierprinzip should not be applied to the economy. There then followed official orders to cut back on business dealings with Jews and above all quota arrangements under which Jewish businesses were not to be treated in the same way as Aryan ones. This introduced the compulsory selling of Jewish businesses.

In February 1938 Hitler made a speech to old Parteigenossen in the Munich Bürgerbräukeller, which can be looked up in the Völkischer Beobachter for the end of February (around 21. 2. 1938). For no obvious reason he set out the Geiseltheorie and explained that the Jews of the world were enemies of National Socialism, that the Jews in Germany were part of World Jewry and would be dealt with accordingly. This was the first time that the Geiseltheorie was made official. In the first days of March 1938 news began to leak out that the idea of a mass arrest of Jews was being played with. [Rudolf] Hess apparently opposed this plan. At about the same time Gauleiter [Julius] Streicher gave a talk about the Jewish question to the foreign press in Berlin. He had no inhibitions about declaring that there would be no peace in the world “until the Jews are exterminated with their whole brood". (The expression is word-for-word!) The open admission regarding the elimination of women and children (a foreign journalist asked specifically whether extermination should be understood as physical extermination, which was not answered) caused astonishment at that time. The first measures pointing towards expropriation of property (Vermögensanmeldung) followed in April. They were followed in June by the frightful Verhaftungsaktion of Jews with so-called previous convictions, of whom at least 10% have died. The Jews arrested in June and other “Asoziale” had the job of expanding the camps, at Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald. In Sachsenhausen the so-called “new” camp was constructed, that is barracks were put up for several thousand people. Even at that time the rumour was going round the camp that these barracks would be filled with Jews from a forthcoming mass action. The prisoners of 10th November were invariably greeted by their comrades from June 1938 and their Aryan fellow sufferers with the words “We’ve been waiting for you since August.”

In October 1938, that is four weeks before the assassination of Legation Secretary vom Rath, Das Schwarze Korps published two leading articles which set out the prospect of a radical solution to the Jewish question in an absolutely programmatic way. In one of them there is brutally cynical discussion of how Jews who have been excluded from the economy are to be “interned”, because there must be protection against the criminality that will necessarily ensue from their financial impoverishment.

Note the attempts to attack the synagogues in Kassel which were described in a special article. In fact, all the synagogues in Germany were destroyed in the same way five days later. The two attempts at wrecking in Kassel meant the campaign was being pressed ahead with at a time when the assassination in Paris had not yet happened. As a matter of fact in the week ending 5th November numerous acts of violence against Jewish shops, offices, and so on took place in the Kassel area, and also elsewhere, without any reason, in particular in Franconia, where the population in small places like Burgsinn and elsewhere were driven out of their homes. The daily increasing press hysteria at that time was the accompanying music for an internal undertaking to engage in a radical operation that was then motivated by the death of Herr vom Rath. “This same Mortimer died most conveniently for you, my lord” [from Friedrich Schiller’s Maria Stuart].


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