Reichskristallnacht: A Response to Ingrid Weckert

Andrew E. Mathis1

A standard argument by Holocaust deniers is that, while they do not believe that there was an organized plot by Nazi Germany to exterminate the Jews of Europe, that gas chambers were used to this end (among other methods), or that the number of fatalities was nearly six million (and perhaps more), they "[do] not deny the tragedy that the Jews suffered in World War II" (Kulaszka). However, as time has gone on, this gambit has been dropped, so much so that there are self-styled "revisionists" unwilling to admit that any innocent Jew died at the hands of the Nazis. Falling into this camp of Holocaust deniers are such apologists as Friedrich Paul Berg, Carlos Whitlock Porter, and the godfather of American Holocaust denial, Willis Carto.

This sort of denial had always been embraced by the most extreme elements within the Holocaust-denial movement. However, "mainstream" deniers are engendering it more and more. One such Holocaust denier is Jonnie A. Hargis. Posting on March 5, 2007, to the Web-based discussion forum of the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH) as "Hannover,"2 Hargis cut and pasted a twenty-year-old essay by Ingrid Weckert on Kristallnacht and commented that this was "a more accurate account of Kritallnacht [sic]."

It is no surprise that Hargis is wrong; Weckert's account of what happened on the night of November 9 and 10, 1938, is riddled with inaccuracies and disinformation. Consulting reputable sources, we can show where the flaws lie in Weckert's essay. For ease of rebuttal, Weckert's essay is listed among the Works Cited; I shall respond to her using her own subtitles. Her introduction offers no vital information and will not be addressed here.

Weckert's thesis can be boiled down, essentially, to three key points:

The Story We Are Given

In this section, specifically in the paragraph regarding the events of October 28, 1938, Weckert conflates deportation processes from 1938 and, e.g., 1942, when she writes about the deportation of Polish Jews from the Reich "in regular passenger trains with more than adequate space," saying, "Contrary to some claims, they were not crammed into cattle cars. The deportees were well provided with food and medical care. Red Cross personnel and medical doctors accompanied them on the trains [note 2]." The inference she would like us to draw is that, because this deportation did not take place in a crowded cattle car, then no deportations at any time between 1938 and 1945 did. This is patently false.

At the end of this section, Weckert writes that Kristallnacht "did not affect most of the synagogues in the Reich." However, as with most of what she writes here, she does not cite any source. The entire essay contains a grand total of twelve in-text references, many of which, as we shall see, are inaccurate. There is no list of works cited. She relies almost entirely on her own book on Kristallnacht, entitled Feuerzeichen (Flash Point), thus engaging in a long exercise in begging the question.

British historian Richard Evans writes in his most recent book on the Third Reich, The Third Reich in Power, "Social Democratic agents later estimated that 500 synagogues were destroyed in this orgy of violence, but their information is likely to have been incomplete, and the true figure well over a thousand" (584). Notably, Evans, unlike Weckert, cites sources for this information, whereas Weckert makes her assertion that most synagogues were undamaged without any evidence at all. Specifically, Evans cites an article by Saskia Lorenz, "Die Zerstörung der Synagogen unter dem Nationalsozialismus" ("The Destruction of the Synagogues Under National Socialism"). Lorenz is a contemporary academic historian. By contrast, Weckert is a Nazi apologist with a long history of associations with the far right in Germany. Agreeing with Evans is John V.H. Dippel, who also cites the figure of 500 synagogues burned (244).

In a very recent study of Kristallnacht, Martin Gilbert relied largely on Adolf Diamant's 1978 study Zerstörte Synagogue vom November 1938: Ein Bestandaufnahme (Destroyed Synagogues of November 1938: An Appraisal).3 The figure cited by Diamant is 1,200 synagogues destroyed or burned out of 1,802 that he surveys in his book (xiv). The point of contention that Weckert may be seizing on is that Diamant counts not only synagogues, but Betstuben, i.e., "prayer rooms." However, because Diamant catalogues 1,802 synagogues and prayer rooms in his book, categorizing them either as one or the other, it becomes quite clear to the reader that the number of synagogues destroyed (minus prayer rooms) still constituted a very large number (Diamant passim).

Weckert herself concedes that there were "approximately 1,400 synagogues in Germany, of which only about 180 were destroyed or damaged." Not surprisingly, Weckert's figure is just 11 synagogues shy of the 191 claimed by the Nazi government a massive underestimation (Diamant xiv-xv). Why she is 400 synagogues short of Diamant's number is unclear, although perhaps she is not counting synagogues in Austria and the formerly German parts of the Czech Republic, Poland, and the Soviet Union (Kaliningrad oblast). Diamant, in pursuit of thoroughness, does include these figures.

German-Jewish Relations Prior to the Crystal Night

Weckert writes in this section that she "must first give some background information about the peaceful years in Germany after Hitler came to power in 1933." Most of what she says about the German people in the first paragraph is true, but she ends the paragraph thus: "In fact, Jews who had to leave other European countries preferred Germany as a place to live and work."

Even the most cynical Holocaust deniers would have to disagree with Weckert on this point, for the mere fact that it is indisputable that the Nazis sought as of their taking power in January 1933 to expel all Jews from the German sphere of influence. This process was slow but steady, with the 1935 Nuremberg Laws stripping Jews of citizenship and subsequent laws either forcing or "strongly encouraging" Jews to emigrate. This being the case, it defies credulity that the Nazi government would have allowed more Jews to come into Germany. In fact, in her paragraph beginning "On 28 October...," she concedes that foreign-born Jews were being deported from Germany before Kristallnacht. Whether she is aware of it or not, she is undercutting her own argument.

Weckert goes on to reproduce an old, old argument, i.e., that the actions the German government took against Jews particularly the first, a one-day boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933 were a direct result of the "international Jewish 'Declaration of War,'" which amounted to a boycott of German-made goods. Much of Weckert's argument rests on the idea that this boycott was causing great economic trouble for Germany. But, in fact, it was not. There are two points to consider here: First, given that Jews numbered worldwide, to be generous, 15 million in 1938, while the world population was no more than two billion, Jews made up about 0.75 percent of the world's population. Second, and more importantly, one very significant Jewish population did not adhere to this boycott (nor did many Jews in many other areas of the world), i.e., the yishuv (pre-state Jewish settlement) in Palestine. Again, it is Weckert herself who disproves her own theories when she discusses the Haavara (Transfer Agreement) between the Zionists in Palestine and Nazi Germany.

Furthermore, there is other evidence to suggest that the boycott had little effect on the German economy under the Nazis. One example is the extension of the boycott upon the arrival in Detroit of Jewish refugees from Germany:

More vocal than the [Detroit Jewish Welfare] Federation, the Jewish Labor Committee since its founding in 1934 had supported the boycott of German goods sold in Detroit. Its position gained strength in 1936 with the founding of the League for the Defense of Human Rights. The League led the boycott after the Federation approved the funds needed for it to join the Emergency Conference of Jewish Organizations to Protest the Hitler Menace. [11] The boycott received little national support, however, and ended within months as Jewish organizations undertook more direct methods to assist German Jewish refugees. (Bolkowsky)

Sidney M. Bolkowsky, the author of this article, cites here (note 11 in previous paragraph) the minutes of the December 4, 1935, meeting of the Detroit Jewish Welfare Federation. In other words, as is so often not the case with Weckert, Bolkowsky cites a source.

Weckert goes on to suggest that anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany began only after the Jewish "declaration of war" through a boycott. She cites the April 7, 1933, law but she does not say what the law established. In fact, what this law did was "reform" the civil service in Germany, removing many Jews from many government jobs.

Ironically, despite having just cited the April 7, 1933, law, Weckert recounts that "the public health officer for children in the district of Berlin where my family lived was a Jew who kept this job throughout the war." This is, to be frank, nearly impossible. Not only is it impossible because of the law passed on April 7, 1933, which Weckert has just cited, but it is also impossible because of: (1) The law of May 17, 1934, that denied health insurance to Jews; (2) The law of November 14, 1934, that banned Jews from any civil service whatsoever; and (3) The law of July 28, 1938, that forbade Jewish physicians from treating anyone but other Jews. In addition, six days after the Race Laws were passed in 1935, all Jewish doctors were forced to resign from private hospitals (public hospitals would already have gotten rid of Jewish employees under the law of April 7, 1933). These four laws do not even include the far harsher treatment that Jews in Germany received after Kristallnacht, up to and including deportation and arrest.

Weckert goes on to claim to have found in Tel-Aviv in 1973 two physicians who were deported by the Nazis. Notably, she does not give the names of these two physicians, as she also conveniently omits the name of the Jewish "public health officer" who allegedly served in Berlin through the entire war. These are notable lapses, as the supplying of names would allow her reader to check her claims.

Also in this paragraph, Weckert offers this observation: "In fact, most German Jews survived the anti-Semitic measures quite well." On its face, this is true: Most German Jews survived Nazi-instigated anti-Semitic measures (though "quite well" may be putting too fine a point on it). However, this is because the vast majority of German Jews had already emigrated from Europe by the time the war began. Thus the worst treatment of Jews was reserved largely for Jews from Poland, the Soviet Union, Hungary, and elsewhere. Again, this is Weckert's "clever" way of conflating different Nazi policies and practices from different stages of the regime.

The Haavara Agreement

Weckert now begins her discussion of the Transfer Agreement concluded by the Nazis and the yishuv in Palestine. First, on a minor note with regard to this section, Israeli historian Tom Segev writes that the agreement was made in August 1933 (Segev 19), and not May, as Weckert claims. Weckert speaks frequently of the "Jewish community" in this paragraph and the benefit it received from the Transfer Agreement. She makes only one brief mention of the fact that it was really only the Jewish community in Palestine that benefited. She also claims that when she published her book on Kristallnacht, "some readers considered it [the Transfer Agreement] outrageous." She notes that Edwin Black had already published his book on the subject (though she neglects to mention that the Transfer Agreement is also mentioned in Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem [1963] and other works that are considerably older).

It is the end of the first paragraph of this section that truly begins the demonstration of Weckert's dishonesty, ineptitude, or both. She writes, "The final paragraph of [Black's] book concludes with the statement that the continuing economic relationship between the Jewish community of Palestine and National Socialist Germany was 'an indispendable factor in the creation of the State of Israel.'"

Unfortunately for Weckert, if one looks at Black's book, it is quickly discovered that what she presents as a direct quote is nothing of the sort. Here is the passage from Black's book, correctly cited and in context:

Zionists negotiating the Transfer Agreement did not anticipate the concentration camps and gas chambers. No civilized person could. But those in Zionist leadership did understand one precept: it can always get worse. They understood that even their darkest nightmares could somehow become blacker in ways they could not predict and indeed no one since has ever been able to explain. For this reason, statebuilding was the Zionist priority. Transfer was their mechanism. German goods was the hateful modality. As a result, lives were saved, property transferred, and an indispensable column of the human, economic, and physical infrastructure of the future State of Israel was erected. (382)

Notably, this quote is from the Afterword of The Transfer Agreement, which is not by Black but is by Abraham H Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith. Weckert has not only misrepresented the quotation she presents as verbatim, but she does not mention (or does not know) who actually wrote it. It makes one doubt that she ever read the book at all.

Still on the topic of the Transfer Agreement, Weckert writes, "The Haavara agreement made it possible for any Jew to emigrate from Germany with practically all of his possessions and personal fortune." The word "practically" is the key word here. The actual wording of the agreement makes clear that Jews could take upon emigration "in no case more than RM 50,000 per person (including sums allocated in foreign currency)" ("Regulations"). At the pre-war exchange rate, this came to around $20,000. In 1933 purchasing power, particularly during the Great Depression, this was quite a bit of money, but it also meant that German Jews who were very wealthy were likely forfeiting the majority of their wealth. There were additional losses to middle-class Jews.

Weckert goes on to claim that poorer Jews not able to afford the fee of 1,000 pounds Sterling to enter Palestine were aided via the Transfer Agreement. This last paragraph is rife with inaccuracies, and again one must wonder whether Weckert read Black's book. Among the places where the two works disagree (Black 125-26): (1) Jews were not exempt from the Reich Flight Tax and, in fact, had to surrender 25 percent of their assets; and (2) The emigrant did not normally get all of his/her money. Black states that the amount given was typically the equivalent of less than $200. The remainder was left behind in Germany as Sperrmärker (frozen Marks). To ransom the Sperrmärker, it was necessary to sell them for foreign currency at lower than the exchange value (before the war, about 2.5 Reichsmarks to the U.S. dollar). According to Black's calculations, a Jew leaving with RM 100,000 in assets could expect to lose 40,000 in "emigration costs." Plus, he indicates, fees and having to sell Reichsmarks at a lower exchange rate would typically cost another RM 12,000, leaving the emigrant with RM 48,000 -- less than half of what s/he had before leaving. Notably, unlike Weckert, Black cites several sources here (Schleunes, 1970; Feilchenfeld et al., 1972; and an interview with Dolf Michaelis, a co-author of Feilchenfeld's, conducted by Black in person). Furthermore, the 1,000 British pounds required to emigrate was not for a "worker's certificate," but rather so that the emigrant could enter Palestine as a capitalist (Segev 20). Jews emigrating as farmers were not required to pay anything.

What Really Happened During the Crystal Night

Weckert's very next section is actually entitled "National Socialist Ethical Standards," but as such standards did not exist, there really is nothing in this section to address. Moving to the next section, we find more false claims by Weckert, For instance, we are told that World Jewish Congress leader Nahum Goldmann had the "chutzpah" to demand $500 million from German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. In fact, Goldmann did not say the alleged quote to Konrad Adenauer; he said it, albeit within a particular context, to Walter Hallstein, who, in 1952, was West Germany's Foreign Minister (Goldmann, Jewish 133; Goldmann, Paradoxe 69). Here is the quote from the original French edition: "'Trouvez une base juridique ou ne la trouvez pas, répondis-je ; ce que je veux, c'est la somme, pas la base.'" And here is the English version: "'Find it or not,' I told him, 'what I want is the money, not the basis.'" Weckert indicates in her notes that she is using a German translation of the book. Perhaps her citation is accurate, but it leaves out entirely the context of the discussion. Should one actually read the chapter, one would find that the nature of the negotiations was quite different.

First and foremost, nowhere in this chapter or indeed the entire book is Kristallnacht mentioned. Goldmann had left Germany before November 1938, and nowhere in his negotiations with the German government over reparations did he mention the events of November 9 and 10, 1938. The notion that reparations were based largely on damages from Kristallnacht is a gross misrepresentation of what Goldmann actually wrote.

It may be useful here to outline Goldmann's account of the negotiations. He gives a chronological account, so to keep his order, we will follow a numbered account:

  1. Goldmann was the president of the World Jewish Congress and, as such, was negotiating not just reparations to be paid to the State of Israel directly, but also reparations to Diaspora Jews who had lost property during the war.
  2. Konrad Adenauer had initially wanted to deal with Israel and the Diaspora separately. Eventually he agreed to deal solely with Goldmann as negotiator, although much of the work on negotiations was carried out by cabinet members of Adenauer's government.
  3. Israel had initially asked, through the four victors of World War II, for $1.5 billion, two-thirds to be paid by West Germany and the other third by East Germany.
  4. Because Menachem Begin and his Herut party (the opposition in the Knesset) were already demonstrating violently against the idea of receiving reparations, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Finance Minister Levi Eshkol warned Goldmann to "tread lightly" with regard to the demands.
  5. Goldmann's first meeting with Adenauer was held in secret in London. Before the meeting, Adenauer suggested that Goldmann arrange a meeting through Herbert Blankenhorn of the German Finance Ministry. When Goldmann told Blankenhorn that the starting point for negotiations would be $1 billion, Blankenhorn strongly objected. Here Goldmann notes that Germany's economy was not healthy at the time.
  6. Nevertheless, Goldmann met with Adenauer a meeting that Goldmann characterizes as "one of the most impressive conversations in my whole political life" (126). Despite Blankenhorn's objection, Adenauer agreed to $1 billion as the basis for negotiations, though he changed Goldmann's word (Basis) to his own (Grundlage) (127).
  7. The Knesset designated two delegations for negotiations, one for Israel and one for the World Jewish Congress's Claims Conference, the latter of which would negotiate for Diaspora Jewry. Goldmann writes, "The negotiations took place near the Hague, and I never attended them in person" (128, emphasis mine).
  8. Goldmann met during this period with the German Finance Minister, Fritz Schaeffer, whom he describes as a "right-wing Catholic and life-long anti-Nazi" and "a man of total integrity" (128-29). Goldmann stated that an Israeli expert had calculated reparations of six billion marks. Schaeffer responded that his own men had calculated eight billion marks, which, he said, "is far too much" (129).
  9. Goldmann met next with Hermann Abs, head of Deutsche Bank, who pleaded that it would be impossible to give reparations to Israel at the same time that the Allies were pressing Germany for reparations. He asked Goldmann to wait six months. Goldmann said his demands could not wait. Goldmann notes that he heard later that Abs "was very annoyed by my answer, but some years afterwards he came round to believing that I was absolutely right" (130).
  10. Upon arriving back in Israel, Ben-Gurion and Goldmann disagreed about taking the German offer (at that point) of $300 million. Goldmann told Ben-Gurion that he could not accept that money on behalf of Diaspora Jewry, but Ben-Gurion could, if he liked, accept it on behalf of Israel, considering the poor shape of Israel's economy in 1952.
  11. Ben-Gurion asked Goldmann what his minimum was, and Goldmann said he would accept nothing less than $500 million (note that this is one-third of what Weckert says Goldmann "demanded" of Adenauer). Goldmann notes that the amount eventually agreed upon was three billion marks, or roughly $823 million.
  12. The next time Adenauer and Goldmann negotiated, they agreed that, given the poor economic statuses of both countries, reparations would be made in goods, not cash.
  13. At this point, Goldmann secured three billion marks for Israel and turned to asking for $500 million for the Claims Conference (for Diaspora Jewry). Hallstein, Goldmann reports, was furious, as he did not realize that there were negotiations being made for two entities: Israel and the Claims Conference.
  14. Here, Goldmann writes:

    Hallstein was a very good man, and a great jurist, but a bit of a bureaucrat too. He asked me for two days to check his figures and find a legal basis.
    'Find it or not,' I told him, 'what I want is the money, not the basis.' We stopped there, and two days later Hallstein produced his figure: 'I have made an estimate. Synagogues, schools, etc., can be valued at three hundred and fifty million dollars.'
    'My minimum is five hundred million.' (133-34, emphasis mine)

Clearly Goldmann was a tough negotiator, but it is just as clear that Weckert has totally mischaracterized Goldmann's words. Following his meeting with Hallstein, Goldmann notes that he then spoke with Adenauer, who agreed to the $500 million. Goldmann finishes the chapter by discussing how much the Germans were willing to do (e.g., providing advances on reparations) to make good on their promises, and then he briefly recounts negotiating reparations with the Austrians. To recap: No mention of Kristallnacht is made in the chapter, and Goldmann made the above demand to Hallstein, not to Adenauer.

As noted above, without citing any source, Weckert writes there were approximately 1,400 synagogues in Germany in 1938, and that only "180 were destroyed or damaged." We have already seen evidence from Evans, Dipple, and Diamant that this figure is at least too small by almost a full order of magnitude. Weckert goes on to tell us that "most Jews were not directly affected by [the] events [of Kristallnacht]," and she cites the case of Heinemann Stern, the principal of a Jewish school in Berlin, as an example in this case, breaking form and giving a rare citation.

Before checking Stern's book, we should note that it is certainly possible that he traveled to his school that day without having known something had happened the previous night. In Gilbert's book on Kristallnacht, he recounts the story of Helga Leib, a Jewish girl from Berlin who, on the morning of November 10, 1938, left for school at 7:40 a.m. Leib recounts: "It was a cool, dull morning and the windows of the tram were misted over so I could not look out. On my five minutes' walk I also did not see anything unusual. Arriving in my class I found everyone subdued but could not find out why. When our teacher came in he explained the situation and told us that we all had to go back home again" (qtd. in Gilbert 47-48).

However, once Stern's book is consulted, we can see that Weckert has unscrupulously misrepresented what Stern actually wrote. Weckert claims:

In Berlin, for example, all of the teachers and pupils of the city's largest Jewish school, which served the entire Berlin area, appeared in their classes the next morning without having noticed anything unusual during the previous night. Heinemann Stern, the Jewish principal of that school, wrote in his postwar memoirs that he noticed a burning synagogue on his way to the school on the morning after the Crystal Night, but he thought it was just an accidental fire. It was only after he arrived at the school that he received a telephone call informing him of the destruction of the previous night. He then went on with his classes of the day and only during the first recess did he take the trouble to inform the entire student body about what had happened.

Listing the things that Weckert has misrepresented is informative in determining her agenda. First, there is nothing in what Stern writes to indicate that the children who came to school on November 10, 1938, had not "noticed anything unusual during the previous night." That is an inference made by Weckert based on Stern's account that, until he received the phone call mentioned above, he was unaware of the events of the previous evening (Stern 298). Regarding this phone call, Stern is very clear that he received this phone call before he left his house that morning and not after he got to the school. On the way, he saw the Fasasenstrasse Synagogue burning, but he did not think "it was just an accidental fire," particularly after having been informed by his colleague, Dr. R., that the synagogue was burning. (Indeed the title of the chapter is "Die Synagogue brennt!" ["The synagogue is burning!"] a direct quote from Dr. R. [his full name is not given by Stern] when he arrives at Stern's house before Stern leaves for the school [Stern 298]).

Omitted by Weckert is Stern's recollection that, as the synagogue burned, fire brigades stood there and did nothing (298). Most glaring, however, is Weckert's placing of the telephone call after Stern arrives at the school rather than before, as Stern is quite clear in stating in the very first paragraph of the final chapter of his book:

The morning of November 10, 1938, [159] began cloudy like each November day in northern Germany. While I was still dressing, the telephone rang. My colleague, R., who lived in the neighboring Hildegardstrasse, informed me: "Doctor, I wanted to tell you that I cannot come to school today." "Are you sick?" "No! I was already on the road. I saw something . . . I cannot come." "Strange. You saw something and are not able to come to school . . ." "How long will you be at home?" "At least another hour." "Then I'm coming immediately. I'll be there in ten or fifteen minutes." Strange story. Soon Dr. R. was there, white in the face like a corpse. "The synagogue is burning!" ??? "The synagogue is burning! I was on my way to the station. As I came to the Kaiserallee, I saw fire light over Prinzregentstrasse. I thought with fear, 'That must be the synagogue,' and kept running a few steps. Indeed, flames licked at the dome. Two cyclists went past, and one said, 'That one is still burning.' That is certainly the Fasasenstrasse." "I will finish and drive directly to the school." "Now, since I've overcome my fear, I'll drive also." (Stern 298, translation mine)4

Notably, as well, is that Stern's recollection of Kristallnacht covers several days following November 10, but Weckert leads her reader to believe that the entirety of the events of the two pages she cites cover a single morning of a single day.

"How," Weckert asks her readers, "can such evidence be reconciled with the claim by Hermann Graml, a prominent German historian and associate of the Munich Institute of Contemporary History, who wrote: 'Every single Jew was beaten, chased, robbed, insulted and humiliated.'" Graml's work was first published in 1953, and this may have been the prevailing point of view at the time. More likely, however, is what is revealed by looking at the dozens of eyewitness testimonies given in Gilbert's book. Kristallnacht and all its anti-Jewish excesses did not stop when the sun came up on November 10, 1938. Rather, anti-Jewish violence and destruction continued for several days. Gilbert, for one, notes, "Most visible in Berlin on November 10 were the burning synagogues. At least thirty had been set on fire by eight in the morning" (50, emphasis mine). Gilbert indicates in the emphasized text, as does Heinemann Stern, that the burning of synagogues continued throughout the day. Gilbert further reports on this throughout his sixth chapter on anti-Jewish violence and vandalism in the days and weeks following November 10, 1938.

Turning to Graml's book, however, we can see that Weckert has quite clearly manipulated the source. While her translation into English is accurate, she has omitted sizable portions of the text that would put the "quotes" she has mined into the proper context. For one thing, the events being described by Graml are not those of November 9 and 10, 1938, but rather the days following Kristallnacht. This is made clear at the beginning of Graml's chapter "Schuld ohne Sühne," which begins on p. 46 of his text. He begins the chapter by quoting a report from the Völkischer Beobachter of November 10, 1938, on the events of the previous evening, including a statement that the government was now asking actions against Jews to stop and that the issue of what had occurred in Paris would be dealt with through additional anti-Jewish legislation (qtd. in Graml 46).

Graml next cites the Völkischer Beobachter of two days later, featuring a statement by Goebbels that the law-abiding German people had stopped their anti-Jewish actions and demonstrations within an hour of the order to stop being given (qtd. in Graml 46). As we will see below, these reports from the official Nazi organ would seem to reflect Weckert's versions of events.

However, in the very next paragraph, Graml notes that some party and SA groups had not had the opportunity to participate in the pogrom, and thus, anti-Jewish violence and vandalism continued through November 13 (Graml 46). He goes on to describe the systematic destruction and violence of the days following Kristallnacht. It is from this paragraph that Weckert cherry-picks the lines with which she begins her quote (which, again, is accurately translated in English): "Every single Jew was beaten, chased, robbed, insulted and humiliated." So here is another instance of dishonesty: Weckert implies in her article that "[e]very single Jew" was treated in this manner during the night of November 9 and 10, 1938, alone, but in fact, Graml is writing that this treatment took place over a period of up to four days (Graml 46-47).

Then, without even providing ellipses to indicate that she has deleted Graml's text, Weckert jumps nearly twenty lines down the page to pick up her "quote." The intervening lines detail the arrests and deportations to concentration camps of Jews and the continuing destruction of synagogues. They also tell the reader that where the Nazi party itself directed the ongoing pogrom, there tended to be more orderly destruction and physical violence was not directed against individual Jewish persons, whereas when the SA was directing the violence and destruction, there was a greater tendency toward lawlessness and "unrestrained brutality" (Graml 47, my translation).

Thus the distinction that Graml is making between party-led actions and SA-led actions is erased from Weckert's account when, finally, the quote picks up thus: "The SA tore the Jews from their beds, mercilessly beat them in their apartments and then . . . chased them almost to death . . . Blood flowed everywhere." Here, at least, we are afforded the courtesy of ellipses to indicate (some of) the deletions from the original Graml text. Here is the restored text, with the restored words italicized:

The SA tore the Jews from their beds, mercilessly beat them in their apartments with likely learned skill and then chased them down the streets of the cities almost to death, got them from hiding places and asylum that had been granted them by neighbors and friends. A relentless hunt for all Jews continued down the streets, everywhere were beatings, [b]lood flowed everywhere. (Graml 47, translation in italics mine, otherwise translated by Weckert).

Clearly the brutality of Graml's narrative was a bit much for Weckert to explain away.5

There is a key issue that arises here with regard to how Weckert has quoted Stern, Goldmann, and Graml out of context or incorrectly. In regular academic circles, if a tenured professor of history were found to have so grossly misrepresented another scholar's work in a published article particularly an article that had contributed to that professor being tenured in the first place that professor would actually stand to lose his/her tenure. Other than moral turpitude (sex with students) and gross dereliction of duty (e.g., not showing up for class), deliberate academic dishonesty is the only way a tenured professor may lose his/her tenure. That Holocaust deniers so regularly engage in such activities speaks volumes about both their honesty and their historiographic methodology.6

The Grynszpan Story

Here Weckert contends that Herschel Grynszpan did not shoot Ernst vom Rath because of his anger of his parents' fate, stating, "The fact, however, is that Grynszpan had not shown any previous interest in his family's fate. He had wanted to be free of them and had gone to Paris to live on his own." The records in Germany, however, contradict this point of view.

Gerald Schwab, in his study of the Grynszpan case, gives several examples of Grynszpan's concern for his parents: (1) Grynszpan had considered joining the French Foreign Legion but had decided against it out of concern for his parents, who had already lost children (Schwab 56). On this point, Schwab cites one of Friedrich Grimm's two books on the Grynszpan case. Grimm was sent by the Nazi ministries of Propaganda and Foreign Affairs on November 15, 1938, to France to follow the Grynszpan prosecution. Grimm's book cited here was published in 1942, while the Third Reich was still in power. (2) Schwab indicates that Grynszpan corresponded with his parents in Poland while in French custody (Schwab 56). (3) Grynszpan's parents were sending money to him while he was in Paris (Schwab 71-72), and Grynszpan asked his uncle, Abraham, to return this money to help them during their hardship (Schwab 115-16). (4) Grynszpan requested via his lawyer that his parents come to Paris (Schwab 88-89). On this point, Schwab cites Grimm's other book on the case, this one a collection of documents seized by the Nazis on conquering Paris in 1940. The evidence would seem to indicate that Grynszpan was not estranged from his family.

Weckert goes on to besmirch Grynszpan's reputation by implying he was a poor student who was lazy, that he left Hanover because of problems with his family, and that he took advantage of well-to-do uncles. Schwab makes clear that Grynszpan left school in 1935 (not 1936, as claimed by Weckert) and that the reason for Grynszpan leaving Hanover was not because of family problems, but rather because he had been accepted to a yeshiva in Frankfurt-am-Main (Schwab 44-46). Grynszpan left the yeshiva before graduating because of a desire to emigrate to Palestine (Schwab 46). And, in fact, Grynszpan's primary reason for leaving Germany for good was the rising anti-Semitism under the Third Reich (Schwab 46-47; here Schwab is actually citing Nazi Ministry of Propaganda files).

Schwab also covers in great detail the particulars of how Grynszpan went from Hanover to Paris via Belgium and the immigration issues involved. The reader is referred to Schwab's book, particularly pp. 49-57.

Weckert also raises questions about how Grynszpan could have procured the gun he used to shoot vom Rath, given his poverty and lack of papers. (This is the beginning of Weckert laying her conspiracy theory see below.) Schwab clarifies this as well. First, it is necessary to understand that 210 francs (which is what Grynszpan paid and not 250 francs, as Weckert claims) was worth less than $6.00 in 1938. More importantly, Schwab cites French firearms law in 1938: "The sale and purchase of firearms was legal in France, provided the purchaser was of sound mind. The only requirements were for the merchant to keep a record of the sale and the buyer to register the purchase with the police" (Schwab 75). As for where Grynszpan got the money (Weckert claims he had been on his own since February), Schwab cites Grimm once again to the extent that Grynszpan's uncle Abraham had given him 200 francs the day before the shooting.

Weckert tells us that Grynszpan spent the night before the shooting at the Hotel de Suez, which he did, but she adds that this hotel was "just around the corner from the offices of an important and influential Jewish organization, the International League Against Anti-Semitism, or LICA." Weckert does not entertain the possibility that this was coincidence, nor does she include the information that the Hotel de Suez was only a bit over a mile and a half from the German embassy perhaps a half-hour walk at a brisk pace. Schwab does inform us that Grynszpan bought the gun with which he shot vom Rath on the morning of November 7, and the store was at 61 rue du Faubourg St. Martin, across the Seine close to the north side of Paris rather far from the embassy and thus requiring Grynszpan to cross town before getting to his final destination. However, the gun shop was close to Grynszpan's home at 8 rue Martel, so this likely dictated his choice of vendor. All this is a bit beside the point, however, as Schwab notes that Grynszpan took the Metro from the gun shop to the embassy (Schwab 1). Presumably he took it elsewhere before getting to the embassy.

Weckert's need to establish a link, however tenuous, between Grynszpan and LICA becomes immediately apparent when she tells us that Vincent de Moro-Giafferi (notably Weckert gets the name wrong so much for "revisionist" exactitude), the attorney for LICA, "appeared at the police station a few hours after the shooting and told the police that he was Grynszpan's attorney."

Not surprisingly, this account differs with that of Schwab. According to Schwab's chronology, the attorney first sought out by the Grynszpan family was named Frankel. Unable to find Frankel, they hired instead an attorney named Szwarc, as well as another named Vésinne-Larue (Schwab 87). However, realizing these two men were not up to the task of defending Grynszpan, his family visited him the day vom Rath died (two days after the shooting) and asked him to take on Moro-Giafferi, who did in fact have a very prominent reputation (Schwab 88). Most of Weckert's questions about Moro-Giafferi raised in this section are answered by a cursory look at the attorney's record: He was a devoted anti-fascist and leftist, and he hated the Nazis. Very much like William Kunstler a generation later, Moro-Giafferi took the case because he believed in what Grynszpan had done and he wanted the publicity that went along with being the attorney for the defendant.

On November 10, three days after the shooting, Grynszpan's uncle wrote to Moro-Giafferi and asked him to take the case (Schwab 88-89). Moro-Giafferi was agreeable to taking the case, but as of November 12, Szwarc and Vésinne-Larue had not relinquished the case (Schwab 90). The issue was apparently resolved by November 19, when Der Angriff, the Berlin-based newspaper, reported that Moro-Giafferi was the attorney for the defendant (Schwab 89). What is abundantly clear is that Moro-Giafferi did not show up at the police station just a few hours later. Even if Weckert's version were true, her rhetorical question ("How then could Moro Giafferi [sic] have possibly known about the shooting [without a newspaper report]?") can be easily answered: The attorney could have heard about the shooting on the radio. Both France and Germany had introduced the radio into their societies in the 1920s, and most certainly they were ubiquitous by 1938.

From this point, Weckert goes from the speculative to the ridiculous. "Although the National Socialist regime supposed committed the greatest imaginable crimes against the Jews," Weckert writes, "the murderer Grynszpan survived the war and returned to Paris." The idea that Grynszpan survived the war is not Weckert's creation; there have been others to make such claims, not the least of whom has been Gerald Reitlinger, author of one of the earliest English-language studies of the Holocaust, The Final Solution.

As noted by Weckert herself, Grynszpan's father testified against Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961. At that trial, when asked if he had heard from his son after the war was over, Grynszpan's father responded that he had not. Eichmann himself stated on the stand that it was extremely unlikely that Grynszpan had remained in prison and was probably sent to a camp. (Grynszpan had been officially pronounced dead by the German courts on July 24 of the previous year [Schwab 201]). While it is also true that Grynszpan's body has never been found, it is telling that Weckert chooses to omit the controversy over whether Grynszpan was alive after the war and takes the side with the weaker evidence because it exculpates the Nazis for Grynszpan's death.7

Incidentally, Weckert's claim of the Grynszpan family being spirited into Palestine during the war ("Who organized their move?" she asks suspiciously before launching her conspiracy theory), this is directly contradicted by the Grynszpan family themselves, who lived in the eastern part of Poland occupied by the Soviet Union when the war began in 1939. They traveled east into the Soviet Union before the Nazi invasion two years later, and they did not emigrate to Palestine until after the war (Schwab 200). Even if their story is not reliable on its face, there is no reason why, like many other Jews, they could not have smuggled themselves illegally into Palestine during the war. They certainly would have had no reason to deny it in 1961, when Grynszpan's father testified to these events. Israel would not have revoked his citizenship because of illegally fleeing to Palestine twenty years earlier.

But to return to the question of who arranged the imaginary flight of the Grynszpan's into Palestine in 1939, the answer Weckert gives is Moro-Giafferi. She notes that he was a legal counsel to LICA (and he was), but the rest of this last paragraph of this section is loaded with inaccuracies. She claims LICA was founded in 1933; it was, in fact, founded in 1927. She claims LICA's office in Paris is still where it was in 1938; if this is true, then she is contradicting an earlier statement of her own. She has claimed that Grynszpan spent the night before the assassination at the Hotel de Suez, "just around the corner" from LICA. In fact, LICA (now known as LICRA) is located in Montmartre, on the very north side of Paris across the Seine and quite far from the Hotel, which is on the Left Bank, in the fifth arrondissement of Paris. Weckert notes that Moro-Giafferi, in February 1936, "hurried to Davos, Switzerland, where the Jew David Frankfurter had shot and killed Wilhelm Gustloff, the head of the Swiss branch of the [NSDAP]." She claims Moro-Giafferi was retained as Frankfurter's attorney, but he was not. Swiss law forbade the hiring of a non-Swiss lawyer, although it is true that LICA offered Moro-Giafferi's services to Frankfurter (Young-Bruehl 144). Finally, Weckert strongly indicates that LICA hired Frankfurter to kill Gustloff, but she offers no evidence to establish this, claiming it was "clearly established" that he was in the employ of someone, but citing no court transcripts or testimony.

The Fine Imposed on the Jews

The four sections of Weckert's essay that follow her section on Moro-Giafferi and LICA as conspirators are covered expertly by Richard Evans in his book Lying About Hitler, particularly Chapter Two, and very particularly pp. 52-61. The reader is referred there for a detailed account on Weckert's (and later David Irving's) falsification of the historical record.

The subsequent section, on the one billion Reichsmark fine imposed on the German Jews after Kristallnacht, is marked by Weckert's attempts to justify this fine. Typically this justification falls flat.

Weckert writes:

It was certainly unjust to force Jews to pay for damage which they had not caused. Göring understood this. However, in private he justified the fine by citing the fact that the 1933 Jewish declaration of war against Germany was proclaimed in the name of the millions of Jews throughout the world. Therefore they could now help their co-religionists in Germany bear the consequences of the boycott. It should also be pointed out that only German Jews with assets of more than 5,000 Reichsmarks in cash had to contribute to the fine. In 1938, when prices were very low, 5,000 Reichsmarks was a small fortune. Anyone with that much money in cash would certainly have had far more wealth in other assets and could therefore well afford to pay their assessed portion of the fine without being reduced to poverty, despite what history writers have maintained.

In addition, she indicates in the previous paragraph that "[b]ecause of the Jewish boycott against German goods, the Reich was short of foreign exchange currency."

The issue of the efficacy of the boycott has already been addressed above. However, the matter of the lack of reserves of foreign currencies in Germany in 1938 requires explaining. Gerald Feldman, an economic historian of the Third Reich and professor at the University of California at Berkeley, explains the lack of foreign currencies thus:

First, Germany was lacking in sufficient foreign exchange since the beginning of the Weimar Republic, but the shortage became especially severe in connection with the banking crisis of 1931. Under the Nazis, the shortage was perpetual, above all because so much was deflected into the public sector for rearmament purposes which, as Adam Tooze has shown in his recent book, began right away. Germans fretted about the Jewish boycott, but there is no evidence that it was a significant factor in the foreign exchange problem. The Pogrom was conducted with scarcely any economic considerations in mind at all.8

While it is true that Göring was the nominal head of the economy in Germany from 1936 forward, the actual ministers of finance, Hjalmar Schacht and Walther Funk, were in greater day-to-day control. Furthermore, Göring likely lacked the expertise to analyze a complex monetary crisis, given his post-secondary education taking place exclusively in military academies, whereas Schacht had a doctorate in economics and Funk had studied economics at the universities of Berlin and Leipzig. In short, Göring's reasoning for the billion-mark fine (if he indeed did offer such a reason) was based on faulty analysis, and Weckert's parroting of Göring's line is simple apologetics.

Conclusion

Rather than going on to refute Weckert's section on "The Consequences of the Crystal Night" (which, she claims, were almost entirely directed at the German people and were uniformly negative, despite the acquisition through theft of millions of dollars of Jewish property and businesses) and her conclusion, we can rest assured the point has been made. Not only has Ingrid Weckert, presumably hoping her reader will not check her sources, grossly misrepresented what these people have actually written, but she has given a false impression of the actual events of November 1938, and she has relied on propagandists and Nazi apologists for her "explanation" of why Kristallnacht happened and, of course, the identity of the conspirators who organized the whole thing. It is clear that she sees a Jewish conspiracy in action one directed toward spurring Jewish emigration into Palestine by hastening the emigration program directed at Germany's Jews that was already under way.

Ingrid Weckert's work is simply another example of pseudo-historiography practiced by amateurs with the deliberate intent to mislead the reader. Given Weckert's aforementioned political associations, not to mention those of the editor of the journal where this article appeared9, this should not be surprising. What ought to surprise us, rather, is that the minimization by Holocaust deniers of Nazi crimes against the Jewish people has extended beyond the non-existence of gas chambers and death tolls in the tens of thousands to questioning what used to be the historical record even for these self-styled revisionists. The end goal is clearly to justify all actions taken by the Nazis against Jews, no matter how unfair, egregious, or violent. In other words, Weckert's philosophy can be stated thus: The Holocaust didn't happen, but the Jews deserved it.


Notes

  1. The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of his colleagues at the Holocaust History Project and the Holocaust Controversies blog, especially Roberto Muehlenkamp, who helped to translate some of the German-language materials presented here.
  2. There is ample evidence that "Hannover" is, in fact, Jonnie A. Hargis. This information is available upon request.
  3. Personal correspondence with the author, March 15, 2007.
  4. The original of these pages are available upon request.
  5. The cited pages from Graml are available from the author upon request.
  6. On a minor point, Weckert claims that Graml was the only West German historian to write about Kristallnacht before her paper was published in the summer of 1986. This is demonstrably false. A WorldCat search uncovered nine books on the subject of Kristallnacht published in West Germany (or what became West Germany) between 1938 and 1985: Two in Frankfurt-am-Main, and one each in Marburg, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Hanover, Krefeld, Altenkirchen, and Villingen-Schwenningen. In fact, there were no East German publications on the topic, and the only other German-language publication was published in Vienna. Finally, in the very pages from Heinemann Stern's book that Weckert sites is an endnote that points to yet another book, this one published in Bonn in 1959. This list of publications is available upon request from the author.
  7. For an excellent survey of accounts of Grynszpan's fate during/after the war, see: Roizen, Ron. "Herschel Grynszpan: the Fate of A Forgotten Assassin." Holocaust and Genocide Studies 1.2 (1986): 217-28.
  8. Personal correspondence with the author, March 16, 2007.
  9. The editor of the Journal of Historical Review is Mark Weber, an alumnus of the NSDAP/AO and the National Alliance, two neo-Nazi groups.


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