Given that today is the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, it seemed only appropriate to trawl through the 1938 Mandate Palestine press for news of developments in Nazi Germany. 1938, five years into the Third Reich, is referred to as “The Fateful Year.” This is because it was a period which saw the radicalisation of Nazi policies towards Jews. One major event reported by the Mandate Palestine press that year was the violence of Kristallnacht.
A tiny bit of background, just in case: The pretext for the anti-Jewish pogroms which took place across Germany, and in parts of Austria on “The Night of Broken Glass” was the death of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris on 9th November. Vom Rath had been shot by Herschl Grynzspan, a Jew, two days earlier. Immediately after his death, from 9th to 10th November, at least 91 Jews were murdered, over 1,000 synagogues ransacked and thousands of businesses and shops owned by Jews looted and destroyed. Jews were later forced to pay out for damage to their property, and some 30,000 were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
Here are some of the headlines from the Mandate Palestine press at the time:
The religious Zionist daily, Hatzofe, featured the headline above on its front page on Friday, 11th November, with a 10th November, Paris dateline. The headline and subheadline read as follows: “Horrific pogroms against the Jews of Germany. Jews cruelly beaten. Synagogues set on fire and destroyed. 5,000 Jews put in prison in Vienna. Goebbels ‘calms’ and promises ‘revenge laws.'”
That same day, the Arabic daily Al-Difa’ reported the events on its fifth page, with a 10th November, Berlin dateline:
This reads: “German wrath directed against the Jews after the assassination; attacks on properties of the Jews in different cities.”
On 12th November, a local Haifa evening paper HaCarmel, only in print since 2nd November, reported on its front page that “the revenge against Jews continues,” with “tens of thousands of Jews” put in prison in Vienna, “about to be sent to the concentration camp” (top right-hand side of the picture above.) It also reported that German Jews had lost an estimated ten million marks in the looting and destruction of Kristallnacht (top left-hand side).
On Sunday 13th November, this was the main headline on the front page of the Palestine Post. All the articles above have 12th November datelines. On the same page, the Jerusalem daily also reported Chaim Weizmann opening a Central Zionist meeting in London on 12th November “overcome with emotion” following the events in Germany.
One small item that caught my eye was an announcement four days after Kristallnacht on the back page of the daily Davar. On 14th November, Tel Aviv’s chief rabbinate declared a day of prayer for the Jews of Germany. In its Tel Aviv section, Davar reported that at 4 o’clock that afternoon, people would “gather in all the synagogues to read from the book of Psalms and for afternoon prayers.”
Here is an image of the announcement on page six:
As a sidenote, a German friend told me that the term Kristallnacht is considered politically incorrect in Germany today. Apparently, the word “Kristall” – glass – was seen as having overly positive connotations for such a horrific incident. The more accepted term used by Germans today, my friend told me, is “Reichspogromnacht,” which I roughly translate as “Night of the Reich pogrom.”
All newspaper images above were taken from the Historical Jewish Press Archive, apart from HaCarmel and Al-Difa’, which were both photographed by me at Tel Aviv University’s newspaper archive, and the National Library of Israel, Jerusalem.