Start Austria Novemberpogrom/ Media as compliant helpers of terror

Novemberpogrom/ Media as compliant helpers of terror

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80 years ago, discrimination against Jews resulted in open persecution, terror and deprivation of rights. The Nazi regime called for a manhunt in a terrorist action spilled out as „spontaneous popular anger“. The pogrom was planned by a long hand. The media were instrumental in the preparation, accompaniment and follow-up of the terror.

If anyone had doubted the violence of National Socialism, these doubts on the morning of 10 November had to be finally cleared. In the late night and early morning hours, Nazi troops throughout the „German Reich“ had set fire to synagogues and prayer houses. They demolished Jewish businesses and attacked Jews in their homes. It was the beginning of a daylong wave of violence and terror – and a sign of persecution that ended in the killing of millions.
„Reichskristallnacht“ was the popular nickname for the outbreak of violence in the November days of 1938. The sarcasm of those affected explains the term „one,“ as trivializing others criticize it. He is definitely wrong in fact. Because at the beginning of the day the terror did not end, its intensity even increased. The violence started only after the end of the night, says the Viennese historian Gerhard Botz in an interview with ORF.at. „The pogrom conditions took place during the day. That was all visible. “

Welcome occasion for planned violence

For months the Nazi regime had waited in the fall of 1938 for an opportunity for a violent crackdown on the Jews in Germany. On November 7, 17-year-old Herschel Grynszpan finally delivered the welcome event. He fired at Legation Secretary Ernst Eduard vom Rath at the German Embassy in Paris. Grynszpan wanted to protest against the violent deportation of his parents and thousands of other stateless Polish-Jewish Jews to Poland. Most of them were stranded in no man’s land between the two states.

The outbreak of violence had long been planned by the Nazi regime

The Nazi leadership used the assassin immediately for their own plans: Even at the bedside was promoted from Rath to the first-class legation council. The regime made the probationer a top diplomat. On the evening of 9 November – and exactly 15 years after the failed coup attempt of the National Socialists – he succumbed to his injuries. Only hours later came from Berlin the command to use force.
Assassination on all front pages

By this time, the medial level of excitation had already been gradually increased. The communications historian Fritz Hausjell speaks to ORF.at of a „preparation, accompaniment and follow-up of the November pogrom“ by the media.

On November 8, the news about the assassination attempt in the German embassy dominated the front pages in the „German Reich“. This also applies to the newspapers appearing in Vienna: „Feiger assassination of a Jew“ was on the first page of the „Kleine Volksblatt“. The „Kronen Zeitung“ wrote on its title page of a „assassination attempt“ of a „Polish Jew“. „Insidious Jewish assassination attempt“ headlined the Vienna edition of the „Volkischer Beobachter“.

It was not coincidence. The media were already the same throughout the Nazi empire. In daily „press conferences“ the Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda instructed a select circle. In addition, written instructions were sent to the editorial offices. Journalists, called in the „Third Reich“ writers who were considered particularly reliable, still got „confidential information“. The „had to be destroyed after use,“ says Hausjell.

Should be exceeded

Control was not just reports. Also content and line of the comments was given. Of course, no one was overstraining the over-achievement of the target. Even newspapers, „where one would not have expected it from the other style“, were „particularly aggressive“ in their comments, says Hausjell.

For example, on November 8, the Wiener Zeitung published on the front page not only the assassination of Vom Rath, but also a commentary entitled „Jewish Underworld“. „The measure is full now. And the Jews will feel it accordingly. We are convinced that in our defense against the plague of the Jewish underworld we are living up to a true cultural mission „, among other things it reads.

This corresponded exactly to the instruction that had been received in all newspaper editors on 7 November: „In one’s own comments it should be pointed out that the assassination of the Jews must have grave consequences for the Jews in Germany,“ was one of the demands enumerated therein. The use of words like „plague“ and „defensive combat“ did not dictate the order.

„Especially nasty and horrible“

Why journalists in Austria sometimes wrote „particularly nasty and horrible“, can be difficult to answer in retrospect, says Hausjell. Certainly, even before the seizure of power by the Nazis in Austria, there was a pronounced anti-Semitism. After March 1938, some „people simply gave up“. Some might also have tried to prove that they are one hundred percent convinced of the regime, the media historian suspects. In November 1938 many journalists were still checking the Reich Press Chamber for their political reliability.

In addition, the Viennese newspaper landscape had been decimated until the autumn of 1938. The subsidy ban for the press led to a clear-cutting, so Hausjell. „Then many newspapers disappear from the scene.“ This should also make room for the newly founded newspapers and those leaves, which are now completely in the possession of the NSDAP. The „Wiener Zeitung“ was once again under pressure. The Viennese branch of the „Volkischer Beobachter“ had kept an eye on the official statements of the „Wiener Zeitung“.

Criminalization as a goal

It was not until the days before the pogrom that the newspapers wrote nationwide against the Jews in Germany. Their alleged criminality was referred where possible. Every small offense that could be associated with Jewish citizens was widely broked in the media. In the last week of October, the newspapers reported across the pages of a raid on a German tour group in Antwerp. The suspected perpetrators are said to have been Jews.

On November 9, the „Wiener Zeitung“ raised a report on „extensive weapons finds by Berlin Jews“ on the title page. Directly above it was to be read in a short message of „spontaneous demonstrations of the population in Kurhessen against Jews“. According to Hausjell, the order came from Berlin to lift the message on the front page.

Silence on victims and violence

As much as the newspapers had drummed up the violence, so marginal was the coverage of the actual atrocities. Thousands of Jewish businesses were demolished and plundered in the entire „German Reich“. Jews were dragged out of their homes, humiliated and mistreated. Nearly 30,000 people were arrested by the Nazi terror apparatus, and most were deported to concentration camps. For Vienna alone, the deportation of 4,000 Jews to the Dachau concentration camp is proven. Officially, 91 people were killed – in fact, the number of murdered should be significantly higher. For Austria only, historian Botz goes from 20 to 30 murdered Jews to the revision of the Vienna death register.

There was nothing to read in the newspapers. According to Hausjell, there was absolutely nothing in the supraregional media about concrete riots. Here the regime had world politics in mind. In the regional newspapers has been a bit reported to satisfy the „need of the population,“ says Hausjell. The „Volkischer Beobachter“ has already brought some fine reports. They have to name and describe the incalculable destruction work „, notes Botz.

Propaganda against pity

The radio reportage by Eldon Wali, which was recorded on 10 November in front of the ruins of the synagogue in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt, achieved notoriety. The reporter is happy about the destruction, taunts the Jews and blames them for the violence. In his cynicism, the radio contribution may once again stand out. In his argument, he is for Hausjell but „nothing out of the ordinary“.

For one thing, the propaganda strategy was about not pitying the Jews. On the other hand, the media had said, „the Jews do not do anything, they are treated properly anyway,“ says the media historian. Quick references to incidents elsewhere in the world were also at hand. States that criticized violence in the „German Reich“ were branded hypocrites. In „summary reports“, the newspapers assembled anti-Semitic incidents from around the world by press release.

Hausjell speaks of a „post-processing phase that lasts for an astonishingly long time, lasting several weeks and blending into the further steps of systematic disenfranchisement“. Already on 11 November all newspapers had printed the edict of Joseph Goebbels. In it, the propaganda minister called for an end to the riots and announced: „The final answer to the assassination in Paris will be granted by law or regulation to Judaism.“ Three years later began the systematic mass murder of Europe’s Jews.