Document 5 Kristallnacht in German public opinion

This survey, prepared by the Security Service of the Nazi Party (SD) under the direction of Reinhard Heydrich, was one of a series of reports on Jewish affairs written for top echelons of the Third Reich’s leadership. The stated purpose of the series was ‘to fight the enemy with passion but to be cold as ice and objective in the assessment of the situation and its presentation’.

The atonement operation against the Jews of Germany began uniformly throughout the entire territory of the Reich during the night of 9/10 November. The activists in the operation were in general the Political Directors, members of the SA, the SS, and in individual instances also members of the Hitler Youth. The civilian population participated only to a very limited extent in the operations ...

The attitude of the population to the actions, which initially was positive, changed fundamentally when the extent of material damage inflicted became generally known. It was repeatedly emphasized that action against the Jews as atonement for the murder of the legation secretary vom Rath met with approval. However, persons stressed that destruction of firms, offices, and private dwellings was incompatible with the requisite measures called for to implement the Four-Year Plan. In addition, it was noted that this all-too-blatant action against the Jews could lead to new difficulties in foreign policy. There was particular condemnation by members of the armed forces of the methods used against the Jews.

The clear rejection of the entire operation in uniformly Catholic regions proves that the internal political adversaries are exploiting this mood. Commenting that the synagogues were ‘the Lord’s houses’ - which previously were never especially seen as such by the Catholic Church - the attempt was made to upset the population, and fears were articulated that a similar fate now awaited the churches. This action by the Catholic clergy led in some instances to the population in various solely Catholic areas distancing itself from participation in the operation against the Jews, or even demonstratively expressing its sympathies for the Jews ...

The attitude abroad to the operation was uniformly negative ... The laws and ordinances from all departments issued against the Jews in Germany in the wake of the operation, as well as those still in preparation, are aimed at achieving the final exclusion of Jewry from all areas of life, with the ultimate goal of their removal from the territory of the Reich, by all means necessary, and in the shortest amount of time. In general, in no case has immigration to a country where immigration by Jews is at all possible been made any easier [by the violence].

(Kulka and Jackel, 2010: 340-342)

Document 6 Germans confront the deportation of their Jewish neighbours, 1941

This Security Service report, dated 6 December 1941, describes the ‘attitude of the population to the evacuation of the Jews’ from Minden, a town on the Weser River in north-western Germany.

The now factual evacuation of the Jews from this area is viewed by a large segment of the population as a matter of great concern. There are two aspects here of greatest importance for most people. For one, they fear that as a result of this, the many Germans in still neutral foreign countries, especially in America, could suffer anew. People point to 9 November 1938 [Kristallnacht] once again, which harmed us more everywhere abroad than it benefited us here at home.

The second point is that it is probably very questionable to ship the people specifically to the east now, during winter with all its dangers. It is quite likely that many Jews will not survive the transport. And people point out that all of the Jews evacuated now are people who have been living for ages in this region. People think that for many Jews, this decision is too harsh. Even if this opinion is not shared by a great many, it can be encountered in a large segment of the population, especially among the financially better-off circles. Here too, older persons are in the overwhelming majority.

But Volksgenossen (members of the German Volk) who are well informed about the Jewish Question are absolutely in favor and approve of this action ...

(Kulka and Jäckel, 2010: 563-564)

Document 7 The Lublin reservation

The following text is a summary of a report delivered by two Jews, Jonathan Eibeschiitz and Jacob Mandelbaum, who had been deported from the town of Bielsko-Biala in south-western Poland to the Lublin reservation, evidently in October 1939. The two escaped and made their way to Wilno, where representatives of the World Jewish Congress recorded their testimony. The document is one of the earliest examples of eyewitness testimony gathered by Jews from other Jews and one of the few extant descriptions of how the Lublin reservation programme actually operated.

When the war between Germany and Poland broke out almost the entire Jewish population of [Bielsko-Biala] ran away ... A few Jews remained there. When the Germans conquered [the town], on 3 September [1939], they arrested most of the remaining Jews and led them to the yard of the Jewish school. They tortured them there in horrible fashion. They beat them half to death, poured boiling water on them, suspended many of them by the hands, holding them in that position for more than an hour until they fainted ...

The Germans took all the property of the Jews of Bielsko-Biala for themselves. After torturing them for several weeks in the concentration camp they set up in the schoolyard, they sent all the Jews to the Russian border. The Jews were deported there together with many other Jews from Ostrava-Moravska, Kônigshütte [Chorzôw], and Katowice. The greatest number of deportees came from Katowice - about 1,000 people. All together about 2,000 Jews were expelled from all of these towns and sent to the Russian border.

The way to the Lublin region was paved with suffering and torment. [The deportees] travelled from Bielsko to Nisko in sealed boxcars. For two full days they did not eat. The Germans provided no food. The German sadists would enter the cars and ask if anyone was hungry. If someone said that he was, they would beat him half to death. After the beating they would ask the beaten person if he was satisfied, and he would be forced to respond that he was quite satisfied ...

Upon reaching Nisko all of the Jews were told to get out of the boxcar, to arrange themselves in groups of four, and to begin marching. The Germans permitted them to place their packs upon peasant wagons that had been rented for this purpose, and all of the Jews marched seven kilometres in the rain and the mud ... The people who travelled along with the persecuted Jews paid 10 zl. per wagon, but from the Jews they took 4 zl. per person. From this manoeuvre the fellow travellers filled their pockets with money ...

The head overseer from the Gestapo took the jewellery of all of the Jews along with whatever money they had left, threatening to shoot them [if they refused].

After having left the persecuted Jews devoid of any possessions, the head overseer announced that by 6 pm they must cover a distance of another 25 kilometres or they would be shot...

The poor Jews pushed and shoved one another in order to grab their packs quickly, and they began to run as fast as their strength would allow. The Gestapo men shot in the air in order to frighten them as they ran and to make them go even faster.

The persecuted Jews ran all night until they reached ... Bilgoraj. From Bilgoraj they were expelled further, all the way to ... the Russian border.

Before the expulsion from Bielsko the Germans gave the Jews to understand that they were being sent to the reservation in Lublin in order to ‘build a Jewish state’ there. But [when they arrived] it became clear that they were being driven out of the entire area of German occupation and being pushed to the Russian border.

At the Russian border the ... Germans made another search of the Jews, taking what little money a few had managed to hide in their belongings.

People who had once been well off came to the Russian border as shadows of their former selves, destitute and afflicted, beaten down by endless sorrow and horrible desperation.

(Engel, 2000: CXXXV-CXXXVII)

A Soviet official notes a

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