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(DV) Whitney: Kristallnacht -- What Happens When the Public Says Nothing?







Kristallnacht: What Happens When the Public Says Nothing?      
by Mike Whitney
August 3, 2005

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“Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) reveals one thing in stark clarity -- the lack of any sense of involvement or feeling of sympathy on the part of those who had stuck their heads in the sand before that violent night.”

-- Walter Pehle; Holocaust victim

There have been numerous comparisons drawn between the Reichstag fire and 9-11. Both served to consolidate the power of the political establishment and wipe away the opposition in a paroxysm of fear. After all, the Fatherland was being attacked and the nation was expected to fall in line behind a strong leader.

We mustn’t forget, though, that the Reichstag fire was just one of many terrorist strategies employed by Hitler to erode the rule of law and reinforce his stature as supreme leader. There was also the less renowned Kristallnacht.

“On the nights of November 9 and 10, gangs of Nazi youth roamed through Jewish neighborhoods breaking windows of Jewish businesses and homes, burning synagogues and looting. In all, 101 synagogues were destroyed and almost 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed. 26,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Jews were physically attacked and beaten and 91 died (Snyder, Louis L. Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. New York: Paragon House, 1989, p201).”

Haven’t we seen a facsimile of this following the London subway bombings when hooligans roamed through the Muslim areas of London vandalizing mosques and intimidating the local people? Certainly, the incidents of racial and sectarian violence are up considerably in England just as the suspicion of Muslims has grown exponentially throughout the West since 9-11.

Tony Blair has played a major role in feeding the current racial-religious frenzy, using the bully pulpit to rail against the “evil ideology” that (allegedly) animates international terrorism. Blair’s no fool. He knows well enough that the average man will translate his rhetoric into ethnic hatred, the likes of which has enhanced Blair’s miserable career and promoted the objectives of his constituents.

Deception and demagoguery have now become the central imperatives in the apocryphal war on terror. Blair immediately used the London bombings to push for supplementary anti-terror legislation: greater restrictions on free speech, more repressive litigation directed at minorities, more intensive security measures like the universally despised national ID card, and more Mossad-trained thugs to apprehend or shoot people on the public transit system.

At the same time the media have swung into high gear, slapping every detail of the attacks on the front page to exacerbate the public hysteria. Every day there’s a new barrage of stories about the police dragnet: bomb-making facilities, suspicious looking swarthy men from the Middle East and the ever present threat of another attack.

Fear is a blunt instrument, but the Blair administration is working it with remarkable precision. Anti-Muslim sentiment is at record highs and the “clash of civilizations” theory that underscores the global resource war is now firmly ingrained in the national consciousness.

“By 1935, the Nuremburg Laws deprived Jews of German citizenship. By 1936, Jews were prohibited from participation in parliamentary elections and signs reading "Jews Not Welcome" appeared in many German cities…. In the first half of 1938, numerous laws were passed restricting Jewish economic activity and occupational opportunities. In July, 1938, a law was passed (effective January 1, 1939) requiring all Jews to carry identification cards.”

On our present trajectory, are we really that far from similar laws directed against Muslims?

One Jewish shop owner, Zindel Grynszpan, whose property was confiscated before he was deported over the Polish border, decided to retaliate for the injustice to him and his family. In a fit of desperation, he entered the offices of the German Ambassador to France and, discovering that he wasn’t in, shot and killed an assistant, Ernst von Rath.

This was the pretext that Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Chief of Propaganda, needed to launch a pogrom against German Jews. He framed the incident as an attack by “International Jewry” against the Reich, a term that is vaguely reminiscent to Blair’s “evil ideology.”

Following the two-night rampage called “Night of the Broken Glass” (Kristallnacht), Goebbels argued that the demonstrations were spontaneous eruptions and said, “ We have decided that such demonstrations are not to be prepared or organized by the party, but so far as they originate spontaneously, they are not to be discouraged either.” (Conot, Robert E. Justice at Nuremberg. New York: Harper & Row, 1983, p165)

Weeks later, Goebbels shifted the responsibility for Kristallnacht onto the Jews and decided to penalize them with more stringent anti-Semitic laws. It wasn’t long after that the Death Camps were erected and Jews were slaughtered by the millions.

The pattern of “blaming the victim” is identical to what we see transpiring in England today, although the reaction to date has been considerably less extreme. Although 85% of the British people believe that there is a direct connection between the illegal war in Iraq and the London bombings, all of the instruments of state power and media have been mobilized to fuel public hysteria and express rage against Muslims.   

There may in fact be a real threat to Western societies from Islamic extremism; that cannot be denied, although its real origins are widely disputed. That threat, however, is minimal compared to the danger of rogue governments that are openly hostile to lives and civil liberties of their own people. Blair’s England has become the mirror image of Bush’s America, where the twin forces of fear and deceit are alternately invoked to advance the corporate agenda and steer public policy. The risk to British society could not be greater. In case we have forgotten the lessons of Kristallnacht, we should seriously consider the prospects for widespread suffering and bloodshed when the powers of the state are put into the wrong hands and the public says nothing.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at:

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