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Source Investigation: Why did Kristallnacht take place?

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Introduction

Source Investigation: Why did Kristallnacht take place? Noor Nanji South Hampstead High School Candidate No: 8216 Source Investigation: Why did Kristallnacht take place? (a) There is historical evidence to prove that Kristallnacht was a Nazi-organised event, not spontaneous rioting by ordinary Germans against the Jews, as the Nazis presented it. Thus, a historian would be more inclined towards Source A, which presents Kristallnacht as the former, rather than the latter, as represented by Source B. However, there are certain factors, indicating that perhaps Source B may be the more useful. Source A, a summary of an account written in 1954, is a secondary source, which immediately suggests its unimportance for a historian, because as it is not a direct quote from the account itself, the historian's summarisation might have somewhat distorted the truth, thus losing the source's reliability. The date of the account also causes us to doubt its significance; being written almost twenty years after Kristallnacht, Hesse's memory of the events cannot still be very clear in his mind. However, as it is written after the Nazi regime, there was no longer any need to lie for fear of angering the Nazis with the truth; consequently, the account is likely to be conveying the truth. Source B, directly quoted from a 'secret report', is a primary source, indicating its historical importance. As an internal Nazi party report, it was not for public viewing, and would hence supposedly not conceal the truth. ...read more.

Middle

Source F is clearly Anti-Nazi; similarly, the overall message of Source G is that the Nazi regime is attacking the nation; therefore, both sources convey the message that the Nazis are responsible for the ruins and desolation of Kristallnacht. However, the sources hold opposing views regarding whom is innocent in Germany. Source F is directing its commiseration towards the Jews, who are those lying dead in a heap on the floor; in contrast, Source G shows sympathy for the ordinary German citizens, who are powerless to stop the Nazis. (e) In Sources H and I, there is some analytical agreement when referring to the wasteful destruction of Kristallnacht, suggesting that Goering's account in Source H must have been truthful, for both sources to speak of it in the same way. This concurrence is found when Goering refers to how 'destroying so much Jewish property of economic value' was utterly unacceptable; this is supported by Hitler's claim that those responsible for the destruction had been 'like elephants in a china shop', giving an impression of the scale of the damage caused. Further similarities between the two sources are found when implying those responsible for causing Kristallnacht, because neither suggests that Hitler had officially organised it. However, in Source I, Hitler does not indicate who exactly was to blame, but just ambiguously says that 'the people responsible have destroyed everything', whereas in Source H, Goering is clearly placing the blame on Goebbels, and says that 'Hitler made some apologies for Goebbels', implying that Hitler, too, agreed that Goebbels was responsible for Kristallnacht. ...read more.

Conclusion

Sources A, C and E clearly contradict the above claim; they state that the Nazis were fully to blame for the events of Kristallnacht, and that 'most German people have nothing to do with these riots and burnings' (Source E). Source A endorses in this belief by noting that 'Hitler squealed with delight and slapped his thigh with enthusiasm' on hearing of the mass attack being planned against the Jews, thus demonstrating his obvious approval of the imminent events. However, one has to take into account that Source A is a secondary source, and thus the historian's summarisation might have somewhat distorted the truth. Furthermore, being written almost twenty years after Kristallnacht, Hesse's memory of the events cannot still be very clear in his mind. Source E has fewer limitations; being an anonymous note, the writer could not have been charged for expressing these opinions, and thus would not have needed to conceal the truth. Source C, too, obviously counters the above quote, by mocking the 'so-called "spontaneous" action', and insisting that the Nazis were to blame. This eyewitness, primary source is very reliable because a foreigner, who had no pressure on him from the Nazis on what he could say, would not have altered the truth. To reach a decision about whether 'Kristallnacht was a spontaneous event by the German people' or not, we must explore the reliability of each source, and the message each is attempting to convey. After closely analysing these sources, it is possible to conclude that although Sources B and D evidently support the above claim, the majority of the sources are either indecisive, or resolutely against it. ...read more.

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