Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hitler launches Kristallnacht

The night that Hitler launched Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was on the evening of November 9th, 1938. The following morning of the tenth led to many newspaper articles about the events of the night before. Kristallnacht was a night of anti-Jewish violence in Germany, brought on with the assassination of a German diplomat, Ernst vom Rath, by a young Jewish man in France.

The news coverage of this story in the Los Angeles Times on the morning of the tenth was very similar to that of the story in the Washington Post on the same morning. Both of these papers gave the background about the killing of the diplomat, then outlined the government’s warning message to the Jews and the occurrences of the previous night - the burning of the synagogues and the destruction of Jewish businesses. The article in the Washington Post went on to describe the precautions France was taking to make sure the anti-Jewish arguments did not get out of hand. But other than this basic information, these two newspapers did not have much detailed information included in their articles. The only visible sources they had were demonstrated by quotes in which German officials sent out warnings to Jewish citizens, and at the beginning of the article, where it stated that they were coming from the United Press.

The coverage in the New York Times was a lot more detailed. The entire first page of the article went into detail on the ages, clothes and mannerisms of the young men doing most of the vandalizing in Berlin. The New York Times described the types of places that were broken into, the names of the street corners where the shops were, and the crowds in the streets that were watching all of this occur. The details they were able to list were kind of astounding to me, seeing as they had no more proof of sources than the articles in the Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times. Their source of information was the Associated Press, and their quotes were, too, from the German officials. They also included a quote from the murderer of vom Rath, Herschel Grynszpan, which was a nice touch. The only real difference I noticed regarding the sources in the New York Times was that the writer stated, “The writer observed three cases of looting...”, showing that someone had observed it first-hand.

One thing that I noticed about all three of these articles was that none of them included the use of the word ‘Kristallnacht’.

I think that the lack of information in the first two articles stems from the fact that World War II was about to explode in Europe, but the US was still so far removed from it at this point that they were not able to experience what was going on firsthand. The articles had to be written mostly from information they were told by others. Also, I believe that some of the newspapers at this time were censoring things so as not to alarm the public. Regardless, the information that the public was finding out was not necessarily the whole story, but the newspapers did not have entire control over that fact.


Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File); Nov 10, 1938; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times (1881 - 1986) pg. 1

Nazis Burn Synagogue As Rath Dies 

By the United Press. 

The Washington Post  (1877-1954); Nov 10, 1938; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Washington Post (1877 - 1992) pg. 7


Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES. 

New York Times (1857-Current file); Nov 10, 1938; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) pg. 1

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