75 years later: How the world shrugged off Kristallnachttags: Kristallnacht
Consul-General Robert Townsend Smallbones had already seen much of the world. He had been in Angola, Norway and Croatia, and he had spent eight years in Germany with the British diplomatic corps. Despite the Nazi dictatorship, the 54-year-old held Germans in high esteem. They were "habitually kind to animals, to children, to the aged and infirm. They seemed to me to have no cruelty in their makeup," Smallbones wrote in a report to the British Foreign Office.
Given his impression of the Germans, the representative of the British Empire was all the more astonished by what he experienced in early November 1938. In Paris, Herschel Grünspan, a 17-year-old Jewish refugee from the northern German city of Hanover, had shot the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in an act of protest against Hitler's policies regarding the Jews. At first, the Nazis only hunted down Jews in the Hesse region of Germany, surrounding Frankfurt. But, after Rath's death on Nov. 9, the pogroms spread throughout the German Reich, where synagogues were burned, Jewish shop windows were smashed and thousands were taken to concentration camps and mistreated.
Smallbones reported from Frankfurt that Jews had been taken to a large building and forced to kneel and place their heads on the ground. After some of them had vomited, Smallbones writes, the "guards removed the vomit by taking the culprit by the scruff of the neck and wiping it away with his face and hair." According to Smallbones' account, after a few hours, the victims were taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where many were tortured and a few beaten to death. The prisoners were even forced to urinate into each other's mouths. This was one of the details Smallbones learned from a golfing partner, a German Jew, after the latter's release from Buchenwald....
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