The facts about Kristallnacht: Leaving our legacy in historical truth

12 Dec 2018
12 Dec 2018 Facebook Twitter Email Print

Tomas Kraus, Executive Director of The Federation of Jewish Communities in Czech Republic, shares a few notes in connection with the 80th anniversary of the so-called Kristallnacht (Night of broken glass or Reichskristallnacht, Reichspogrom, etc.) on November 9, 1938:

By presenting historical facts, the politicians, journalists and – even – the scholars should be aware of real facts and figures, though some of them may look as marginal. Not doing so may cause unpleasant surprises with political consequences.

It is a common mistake to present the “Kristallnacht” as an event which took place only in Germany and Austria. Many are forgetting that it happened also in the German-speaking border-regions of Czechoslovakia, known then as the “Sudetenland”. And what completely skips interest is the fact that the German in 1938 borders included territories which are today Polish - and the fact that the pogrom was organized there, as well.

It is important to note that the events from November 9, 1938 occurred only five weeks after the scandalous “Munich Agreement”, known as the “Appeasement”, where – on September 30 - two formal political allies of Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, and France, handed over the “Sudetenland” to Nazi Germany. It is significant that this treaty was signed by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, French PM Edouard Daladier, Italian Duce Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler, whereas any representative of Czechoslovakia to Munich was not even invited. Territorial annexation followed immediately, and the next day the Nazi legislation, including the “Nuremberg Laws”, started to be valid there. Five weeks later, all atrocities which hit the Jews in Germany and Austria were committed there also. Jewish shops were robbed and destroyed, and more than 35 synagogues in the Czechoslovak territory were burnt.

The international community proclaimed the “Munich Agreement” as nil from the very beginning, and after 1945, Czechoslovakia was renewed in pre-Munich borders. This also had legal consequences: the period between September 30, 1938 and May 5, 1945 was proclaimed as the time of non-liberty of Czechoslovakia and all legal acts from this time-period were designated non-existent, including confiscation of properties.

Therefore, to openly present the so-called Kristallnacht as an event which occurred only in Germany and Austria would mean to recognize Germany in its borders set by the “Munich Agreement,” and to recognize it as legitimate, with all aspects of legislation. And that is, in fact, a brutal violation of history and of international law.

We all know that most of those who omit these facts are doing so unconsciously. But it is the highest time to leave our legacy in historical truth. That is why we all should express ourselves correctly.

There are several examples which show a step in the right direction, e. g. the English Wikipedia which under the entry “Kristallnacht” rightfully says that: “…the rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland …“

I am convinced that Jewish institutions should be in the forefront in the quest of presenting the historical facts as they were.