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09 October 2008

Germans versus Jews, 1938

"In the struggle for life and death there is no legality." - Winston Churchill

from Freispruch für Deutschland by Heinrich Härtle, 1965; translation by Hadding Scott, 2008.

Forewarnings of the Catastrophe

In the second half of the year 1938 international tensions sharpened, and the Czech mobilization evoked a danger of war which, in combination with the overt war-agitation in an influential part of the western press, also seriously burdened German-Jewish relations. When, after a series of murderous assaults against representatives of the German Reich abroad, the young Polish Jew Gruenspan murdered the embassy advisor [Ernst] vom Rath in Paris, it came on 9 November 1938 to the so-called "Kristallnacht," the first pogrom in German history in centuries.

It could be proven before the International Military Tribunal that this was not, as in earlier pogroms, especially in Slavic states, about a spontaneous outburst of popular rage, rather this operation was forced on the chain of command, without the knowledge of the party leadership and most ministers, by Goebbels and radical elements in the SA leadership, supported by the police. Demonstrably, almost all members of the Cabinet, the national leaders of the NSDAP, and Hitler himself repudiated these mad actions. After the mischief had been done, it was believed on the grounds of statecraft and political prestige that it was necessary to cover the action and to present the Jews as the scapegoat. Instead of calling to account those guilty for the damage which they had caused for Germany domestically and abroad, laws and measures were enacted which made the situation of Jewry in Germany unbearable. *

Deprivation of Rights

Nevertheless, no serious consequences were derived from this exacerbation, even abroad. This may partly be explained as follows: the anti-German propaganda had already portrayed the situation of the Jews as so bad, that these measures could no longer cause surprise. Many also compared the anti-Semitic violence with the harshness that had been applied a few years earlier against the Roehm Revolt. One compared the 35 deaths of the "Kristallnacht" with the remorselessness with which the government of that time had proceeded against Hitler's veteran and valiant fellow strugglers, especially in the SA. They had received much more brutal treatment than the "Jewish Global Enemy." The so-called "St. Bartholomew's Day massacre"** of 1934 claimed ten times as many victims from the Germans as the "Kristallnacht" of 1938 from the Jews.

No doubt, with that, the soil of legality was left behind, and measures were taken which were no longer commensurate even with the Program of the NSDAP. The deterioration of Germany's international relations to the point of a danger of war then diverted the German public from anti-Semitic excesses to its own struggle for survival.

As critically as one must judge the first Jew-hostile actions of the pre-war period, however, one will nevertheless be able to establish that originally no destruction of the Jews was planned, neither in Germany nor in Europe or indeed in the World.

In this regard the Soviet Chief Prosecutor Rudenko exaggerates to the point of absurdity, as he asserts on 8 February 1946:

"The fascist conspirators had planned the extermination of the Jews of the World to the last man, and carried out this annihilation during the whole time of their conspiracy since 1933."

That the extermination of the Jewry of the World presupposes a German world-government, no normal man will doubt. It is also because of this that it was necessary to attribute to the German People, as the most mendacious claim of war-propaganda, that they were striving for world domination. No less absurd is his assertion that the extermination of all Jews in the whole world was already being conducted from 1933 to 1939. The representative of the most anti-human system of government in modern times needed to attribute such insane brutality to the German leadership.

Nevertheless it was also not permitted to him, according to the laws of logic, to regard the members of the Reich Government as so idiotic that they promoted Jewish emigration with all available means, so as to be able at the same time to exterminate the same Jews.

One need only object to this crazed zealot that the radical anti-Semitic organ of the pre-war period, der Stuermer, had been banned for the Hitler Youth by [Baldur von] Schirach. Jewish civil servants who had to be let go after the new laws were able to draw their pensions until shortly before the outbreak of the war.

The Reichskommissar for the Netherlands, Dr. Seyss-Inquart, was able to prove to the court that Jewish civil servants who had to be let go received their pensions until March 1941.

The more events developed toward war, the more radical the anti-Semitic measures became, and approached to that state which both Churchill and Goering identified with the observation: "In the struggle of a people over life and death there is no legality."***

Above all, however, the soldiers and officers of the Wehrmacht in this period of rising bellicosity had to consider even the anti-Jewish actions in the context of war.

Speaking freely in Nuremberg, the leader of German broadcast media in the war, Ministerialdirektor Hans Fritzsche, declares under oath as a witness on the Jewish Question:

"I wished a limitation of the overwhelming influence of Jewry on German politics, economy, and culture after the First World War, a limitation that corresponded to the numerical portion of the Jews in Germany's population."

Fritzsche thereby declares what was the conviction of the overwhelming majority of the German people and its Wehrmacht.

When, in place of the immigration restrictions demanded here, the general segregation of Jews and Germans was elevated into law, emigration increased, which the Government (as far as the extreme difficulty of exchanging currency permitted****) sought to promote.

Emigration and Extermination are incompatible. The annihilation would indeed have been realizable only if the Jews had remained in the German and European sphere of control. Had a plan of annihilation actually existed at that time, force would have been used to prevent the Jews from emigrating.

* Härtle here was accepting the standard account of who was responsible for Kristallnacht. There are reasons to doubt this account, detailed in Ingrid Weckert's book Flashpoint. A brief discussion by Weckert may be read on the IHR website.

** The real St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre was a massacre of several thousand Huguenots by French Catholics that began on St. Bartholomew's Day (24 August) 1572 and lasted several months. There is really no comparison between this and the Night of the Long Knives, which lasted only a few days (30 June - 2 July 1934) and included 85 known summary executions. Härtle uses the word sogenannte (so-called) in front of "St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre" for a reason. The metaphor is an example of gross hyperbole. As is often the case with events from the Third Reich, however, speculation about additional, undocumented killings has run rampant, multiplying the documented number. The known death toll of Kristallnacht (35 dead) has also been augmented with speculation, as one might expect.

*** Churchill said, "In the struggle for life and death there is no legality." Goering's version, translated above, is, "Im Kampf eines Volkes auf Leben und Tod gibt es keine Legalität."

**** Germany had great difficulty obtaining foreign currency because of the worldwide Jewish boycott of German goods. The London Daily Express of March 24, 1933 bore this headline: "Judea Declares War on Germany - Jews of All the World Unite - Boycott of German Goods - Mass Deportations."

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