Newly discovered photos show Nazi Kristallnacht up close
JERUSALEM (AP) — Horrific, never-before-seen images from the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom against German and Austrian Jews have appeared in a collection of photographs donated to Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial, the organization said Wednesday.
One shows a crowd of smiling, well-dressed middle-aged German men and women casually standing by as a Nazi officer smashes a shop window. In another, brown shirts carry stacks of Jewish books, presumably for burning. Another picture shows a Nazi officer spraying gasoline on the synagogue’s pews before setting it on fire.
Yad Vashem — The World Holocaust Remembrance Center has released photos from the 84th anniversary of the November massacre, also known as Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass.” Mobs of Germans and Austrians attacked, looted, and burned Jewish shops and homes, destroyed 1,400 synagogues, killed 92 Jews, and sent another 30,000 to concentration camps.
The violence is widely considered to be the starting point of the Holocaust, during which Nazi Germany killed 6 million Jews.
Jonathan Matthews, head of Yad Vashem’s photo archive, said the photos dispel the Nazi myth that the attacks were a “spontaneous outburst of violence” rather than a state-orchestrated massacre. Firefighters, special SS police and members of the public are seen in photos taking part in Kristallnacht. The photographers themselves were an integral part of the events.
Matthews said these were the first photos he was aware of that depicted action taking place inside, as “most images of Kristallnacht are exterior images.” Overall, he said, the photos “give you a much more intimate picture of what’s going on.”
The photos were taken by Nazi photographers during the pogroms in the city of Nuremberg and the nearby city of Fuerteventura. They ended up with a Jewish American serviceman who served in Germany during World War II, and it’s not clear how he never talked about them with his family.
His descendants, who declined to be named, donated the album to Yad Vashem as part of the institution’s efforts to collect Holocaust-era objects kept by survivors and their families.
Yad Vashem said the photos help show how German society was aware of what was happening and that the violence was part of a carefully coordinated massacre carried out by the Nazi authorities. They even brought in photographers to document the atrocities.
Dani Daya, president of Yad Vashem, said the photos “will serve as eternal witnesses long after the survivors are no longer here to bear witness to their own experiences.”
Despite Nazi censorship, the Associated Press was able to send pictures from Kristallnacht as it happened, which were widely used in the United States. Images included a burning synagogue, a young man preparing to clean glass from a Jewish shop that had been vandalized, and people standing by. shops outside were damaged after the attacks.
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