It's possible to organize a 20th-century German history course around the date 9 November. In 1918, Phillipp Schedemann proclaimed the creation of a new German Republic. In 1989, 9 November saw the opening of the Berlin Wall.
In between, in 1938, Kristallnacht began on the night of 9 November. Krystallnacht, as most students of the Holocaust know, was a short, intense period of state-sponsored terror against those Germans identified as Jewish. It marked a dramatic escalation in the persecution of Jews in Germany.
We often assume we know everything there is to know about such a well-studied event. But the contributions to Steven Ross
and Wolf Gruner
's excellent new volume of essays demonstrate how wrong this assumption is. In New Perspectives on Kristallnacht: After 80 years, the Nazi Pogrom in Global Comparison
(Purdue University Press, 2019), the authors examine media coverage of Kristallnacht, offer new understandings of the scope and location of the violence, and detail the way in which Krystallnacht has been used in contemporary politics and several other subjects. The essays are uniformly insightful and interesting. As both Gruner and Ross point out in the interview, perhaps the most important result of the project is the identification of a number of new questions historians can ask about Krystallnacht and its meaning. This is perhaps the highest praise one can offer such a volume.
Kelly McFall is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Newman University. He’s the author of four modules in the Reacting to the Past series, including
The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994, published by W. W. Norton Press.