am Institut für Germanistik der Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

Konrad Heiden

Konrad Heiden: Eine Nacht im November 1938 – Ein zeitgenössischer Bericht

The history of the so-called ‘Night of the broken glasses’ began in Paris, as the young Herszel Grünspan shot the fatal bullets at the Germany Embassy’s staff member Ernst vom Rath, inadvertently providing the Nazis with a welcome pretext. Only a few weeks later, the journalist and refugee Konrad Heiden, in his exile in Paris, became one of the first contemporary chroniclers of the events. Very soon the first eyewitness accounts of events everywhere in Germany, covering murder, the mass incarceration of Jewish people, the burning of synagogues, the bursting of shop windows of Jewish businesses and the organized acts of the brown mobs reached the expatriate.

Heiden discussed the rise of National Socialism in several books. He recognized the significance of the escalating violence against German Jews and documented it in his book, which was translated into English in 1939, as well as into French and Swedish.

Heiden, with occasional bits of irony, astutely describes the radical ideology of the Nazis. With the help of numerous Jewish witnesses, newspaper articles of Nazi propaganda and the free world, he depicts in detail the murderous events of that night in November 1938, as well as its past history, adopting an enthralling style of writing. Already his contemporaries considered the Reichspogromnacht as the turning point of the persecution of the Jews. Today, with hindsight, the event is recognized as a pivotal stage of radicalization ending in the systematic mass murder of the European Jews.

His report, which is now published in German for the very first time after 75 years, is one of the earliest attempts at categorizing the overall presentation of the “breach of civilization”, known as so-called Kristallnacht. The book was published in September 2013 by Wallstein Verlag.


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