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Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (Book Review) - Articles Surfing

Most of us are familiar with the bleakness and the general connotation of Kristallnacht. It takes some courage, however, to face the poignant, agonizing, and tragic personal stories of the survivors of that "night of the broken glass."

This book has put humanity's face on the history of one of the most atrocious nights of the world's recent past with the startlingly detailed accounts of those who lived it. The author, through his microscopic focusing ability, has amassed eye-witness accounts and has told the history of a horrifying night and its repercussions through the several years that followed it.

At least for me, "Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction" was very difficult to read without getting profoundly moved and deeply saddened; however, I read the book to the end without putting it down and without losing attention, because this book proved to be much more significant than any other piece of writing I had come across on the subject.

Kristallnacht occurred while people in the world watched powerlessly, although they understood what was happening. Some recorded the details; others shrugged it off; and most, even if threatened by it, froze in action. "Night of the broken glass" was mob behavior encouraged and abetted by the Third Reich.

The anti-Jew sentiment or rather the actions stemming from that sentiment had begun as early as 1933 at the onset of the Nazi Germany and grew to monstrous dimensions by November,1939. The German nation's each imperfection was blamed on its Jewish population with an attempt to swing the public opinion against the Jews. Thus, the deportation of the Jews from Germany had begun quite a few years before November 10, 1939, the date of the Kristallnacht.

The impossibility for all the Jews to leave Germany had many reasons. Some thought the homeland they fought for in World War .I. would never betray them. Others could not find passage to other countries. Most countries had immigration quotas and they allowed only so many people. The Jews, therefore, found themselves locked in a threatening situation and in a dangerous place they had come to love and respect as their homeland.

During these forced deportations of the Semites, Herschel Grynszpan, a seventeen year-old Jewish boy--after getting word of his family's plight--shot and mortally wounded the Third Secretary to the German Ambassador in Paris. This became the spark to inflame the hatred of the German masses against the Jews.

On the "night of the broken glass," almost every synagogue was burned; Jewish cemeteries were desecrated; private homes and stores belonging to Jews were broken into and every single item demolished or confiscated; and men and women--rich or poor, young or old, healthy or infirm--were beaten, killed, or terrorized. Vienna, known as the "Jewish City," was mostly burned, and in other cities, all Jewish neighborhoods were wrecked.

In one of the personal stories, then-six-year old Lea Weems remembers, after the Nazis came in and broke everything her family owned, "they pushed my father and grandfather down the stairs. I was screaming and pulling on my father's sleeve trying to keep him from leaving."

The book is made up of similar hair-raising remembrances of the survivors of Kristallnacht through their escape or destiny. The writer has also noted the generous and kind actions of the few Germans who were human enough to see the wrong in their fellow citizens, for some of them helped the Jews as much as they could.

The writer, Sir Martin Gilbert, is a British historian with more than seventy volumes and Kristallnacht is his seventy-seventh book. He is well known as Churchill's historian. Among his other works are: The Churchill Biography, Jerusalem, Holocaust, British History, European History, Atlases, World History, Jewish History and several 'Books on Tape' like Aushwitz. the Allies, In Search of Churchill, Israel and Zionism.

The book, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction, is 314 pages, in hardcover and with ISBN:0060570830.

The lessons to be learned from Kristallnacht is best said in Sir Martin Gilbert's words as: "It taught those who were the source of prejudice that a whole people can be demonized; that a whole nation can be turned totally and obscenely against a decent, hard-working, creative, loyal and integral part of its own society. This point was made on 19 August 2005 when Pope Benedict XVI, on his first visit to his native Germany after becoming Pope, went to the Roonstrasse synagogue in Cologne'"

Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction is an irreplaceable book and it deserves a good deal of attention from history buffs and all readers alike.

Submitted by:

Joy Cagil

Joy Cagil is an author on http://www.Writing.Com. Her education is in foreign languages, linguistics, psychology, and humanities.



Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).


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