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Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (Making History) Hardcover – 20 Mar 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; First Edition Reprinted. edition (20 Mar. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007192401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007192403
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 2.9 x 21.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 704,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description



‘Martin Gilbert is the most prodigious author of our time… He is a phenomenon who arouses envy among less productive professional historians… He has a fine eye for a telling passage and a memorable detail.’ John Ramsden, Financial Times


‘In his great work, the writing is lucid, the pace perfectly judged, the evidence vividly conjured. The horrors are heightened by a style of almost Confucian reticence, which teaches without didacticism. In Gilbert's vision of history, the vast range never blurs the human scale.’ Felipe Fernàndez-Armesto, Sunday Times

About the Author

Martin Gilbert was born in London in 1936 and educated at Highgate School and Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1962, he became research assistant to Randolph Churchill and, after Randolph’s death, succeeded him as biographer of Sir Winston Churchill. He is the author of many works of history and lives in London and Jerusalem.

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Format: Hardcover
Writing history as a snapshot of time is a risky venture. While a close examination of an event provides a sense of precision, broader implications are too often omitted. This is the case with Martin Gilbert's "Kristallnacht". It's an example of fine journalism underpinned by good research and scholarly presentation. Hardly an entertaining evening's read, this book chronicles how guided prejudice led to an orgy of violence and destruction against Germany's Jews. Stores were smashed and looted, synagogues burned and demolished, homes invaded and people terrorised during a two-day expression of hatred. The wreckage littering the streets, particularly the shop windows, gave the episode its name - and this book's title. It is a glimpse into the past we all must see and endure.

Gilbert gathered the remembrances of people or their offspring who survived the onslaught. There are letters, journals and interviews with the author, bringing a disturbing intimacy to this account. That there were survivors to make these records seems surprising after a half-century of condemnation by the victorious Powers. Yet, Kristallnacht itself wasn't an orgy of killing. Less than a hundred died of beatings or unknown causes, although there were many suicides. Jews were seized and incarcerated, even in the notorious concentration camps, but most were later released. Pre-war Germany was more interested in ridding itself of its Jews by exile and emigration was encouraged. "Time to leave" became a byword among Germany's Jews after Kristallnacht, which was part of its purpose, according to Gilbert. Emigration, however, was more than packing up and leaving. There had to be places to go, and not all nations opened their borders to Jews fleeing manifest hatred.
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Format: Paperback
In October 1938, the proliferation of Anti-Semitic policies under the Nazi regime continues unabated. Herschel Grynszpan family are amongst the 12,000 Polish born Jews living in Germany expelled by Hitler. In a fit of rage, he assassinates the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris. The subsequent events consist of a terrifying coordinated (even though it was not admitted as such) attack on the entire Jewish German population.

Gilbert describes in detail the barbarous events in Berlin, Vienna and throughout Germany. What's very clear is that the attacks were driven by a concerted plan, this was no co-incidental mob revolt. In total over 1,000 synagogues were burnt, 91 Jewish people murdered, countless others beaten up, detained and / or sent to concentration camps. In addition, thousands of Jewish shops and businesses were destroyed. Since only a detailed amount of systematic planning could be behind such carnage in such a short space of time, it really prompts the thought that a backlash for the assassination of Rath could have been a pretext rather than a trigger. Especially as the Jewish people were made to pay finacially for the attack as when the German government decided they needed to money to cleanup the carnage, they declared it was all the Jews fault ergo they should be paid for it. Difficult to find another example of such perverse reasoning.

The book is extremely well researched. Personal testimonies from the victims of the tragedy are provided from all over Germany, as are the stories of some heroes who manged to buck the wave of a very grave evil and in some cases put their own personal safety at risk for the benefit of others. Unfortunately their stories are only a minute minority in what can only be described as ubiquitous sadism.
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Format: Hardcover
Focusing mainly on the pogrom suffered by German Jews in November 1938 in retaliation for the assassination of a German diplomat by a Jew in Paris, the book is also an overview of the treatment suffered by the Jews during the whole twelve-year life of the Third Reich. During the course of 10 November, `Kristallnacht', or the night of the broken glass, more than one thousand synagogues were destroyed; tens of thousands of Jewish shops and homes were ransacked; over 30,000 Jewish men were arrested, and tortured in concentration camps over subsequent days; and ninety-one Jews were killed. Given that large quantities of petrol were conveniently to hand, and that anonymous rampaging mobs appeared on the scene with suspicious frequency, the Nazis' claim that ordinary Germans were engaging in a `spontaneous' burst of emotion by burning synagogues to the ground is highly suspect. In fact, the pogrom was highly organized. The police were ordered to suspend their interest in upholding the law and watch while Jewish shops and homes were looted, often by Hitler Youth, while the fire department was ordered to douse houses near burning synagogues lest the fires spread; the synagogues themselves should be allowed to burn. Moreover, many of the Jewish shops that were destroyed on 9 November had been marked the previous day by local Nazis.
The violence was ferocious. In Nuremberg, the British Daily Herald' reported that Nazi Brownshirts `smashed their way into Jewish houses, tore down the curtains, slashed carpets and upholstery with knives, and broke up the furniture. Terrified children were turned sobbing out of their beds, which were then smashed to pieces' (p. 33).
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