Historical background

Novemberpogrom 1938

After the deportation of his parents Sendel and Rivka Grynszpan to Poland in October 1938, the seventeen-year-old Jew Herschel Grynszpan assassinated Ernst Eduard vom Rath at the German Embassy in Paris on November 7th, 1938. He shot the German diplomat three times in the abdomen and said he was acting in the name of 12.000 persecuted Jews.

Herschel Grynszpan was arrested directly after the act. In a farewell postcard to his parents from November 7th, 1938 he wrote:

“My dear parents, I could not do otherwise, may God forgive me, the heart bleeds when I hear of your tragedy and that of the 12,000 Jews. I must protest so that the whole world hears my protest, and that I will do. Forgive me. Herschel.” (1) 

Herschel Grynszpan – November 8, 1938 (a)

Arrested Herschel Grynszpan – November 7, 1938 (aa)

Ernst Eduard vom Rath (b)

Anti-Jewish speech by Joseph Goebbels in Munich after death of Ernst vom Rath

In the afternoon of November 9th, 1938 Ernst vom Rath died from the injuries. That evening Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels made an inflammatory anti-Jewish speech in Munich, where Gauleiter of Tyrol and Vorarlberg Franz Hofer was present too. “It would not be surprising”, he said, “if the German people were so outraged by the assassination of a German diplomat by a Jew that they took the law into their own hands and attacked Jewish businesses, community centres and synagogues. Such “spontaneous outbursts” should not be openly organized by the Nazi Party or the SA, but neither should they be opposed or prevented.” (2)

Order to all Gestapo offices by SS-Gruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich

Further on the following order was sent to all regional and sub-regional Gestapo offices by SS-Gruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich :

“With reference to measures against the Jews this night: Only such measures are to be taken that will not endanger German lives or property. Businesses and residences of Jews may be damaged but not looted. Particular care is to be paid in business sections and surrounding streets. Non-Jewish businesses are to be protected from damage under all circumstances. Police are to seize all archives from synagogues and offices of community organisations; this refers to material of historical significance. Archives are to be handed over to the SS. As soon as possible, officials are to arrest as many Jews – especially wealthy ones – in all districts as can be accommodated in existing cells. For the time being, only healthy male Jews of not too advanced age are to be arrested. Signed by Reinhard Heydrich, SS Gruppenfürer” (3)

A massive pogrom against Jewish people

Within hours the NSDAP and its organisations organised and executed a massive pogrom against Jewish people all over the German Reich, known to history as “Reichskristallnacht (Night of broken glass)”. Over 90 Jews were assassinated, innumerable Jews were humbled and abused, arrested and sent to concentration camps. Synagogues were smashed up or burned, cemetaries defiled, homes and stores damaged. The “radical anti-Semitic party” base was responsible for these targeted actions, but the anticipated “public anger” was only rarely aroused.

The failed plan to initiate a popular movement from the base eventually led to tightened oppression from the top.” (Historian Hans Mommsen). The anti-Jewish policy was increasingly tightened and the Jews were totally excluded from economic life. The Jewish communities had to pay a compensation of a billion Reichsmark for the occurred damage in the pogrom night. (4)

Reactions after the pogrom

After the pogrom night many states delivered protest notes. Pope Pius XI wanted to sever the diplomatic ties between the Vatican and Germany, but his state secretary Eugenio Pacelli, who had been a leading participant in the negotiations for the Vatican Concordat (Reich Concordat), advised against this. Pope Pius XI reminded everyone that there was only “one human race”  and that Christians had no right to be anti-Semitic, because spiritually they ”all were Semites”. When he died three months after the pogrom night, Pacelli was appointed as his successor, Pius XII(5) 

There are no known protest notes or comments from the local Catholic or Protestant church. (6)

According to reports in Anglo-American newspapers like The Times, News Chronicle, Manchester Guardian, Observer, Evening Standard, Daily Herald, Washington Post, Palestine Post and Dutch and Swiss newspapers Joseph Goebbels received about 150 members of the foreign press to give an opinion on the events of the past days. (7, 8)

Destiny of Herschel Grynszpan

After stays in French prisons Herschel Grynszpan was transferrred into Sachsenhausen concentration camp. A show trial planned by Goebbels never took place. According to rumours he survived but in 1960 Herschel Grynszpan was pronounced dead by the West German government. His parents survived deportation and the holocaust and escaped to the Soviet Union(9) 


Novemberpogrom 1938 in Innsbruck

Before the return of Gauleiter Franz Hofer from Munich the members of the NSDAP already gathered in SA-Standartenheim in Bürgerstrasse 10 about 1 a.m. Under the command of SS-Oberführer Johann Feil the members were divided into groups and a “register of Jews” issued by Plenipotentiary for Aryanisation, engineer Hermann Duxneuner was dispensed. The groups wore civilian clothes and were instructed to murder  Wilhelm Bauer, Richard Graubart and Richard Berger.

Apart from Vienna, where at least six people were killed, Innsbruck was one of the bloodiest and most violent scenes of the pogrom in Austria considering its size and the size of the Jewish Community. During the night of November 9th to 10th, 1938 Richard BergerWilhelm Bauer and Richard Graubart were murdered, many others were seriously injured, among them Flora Bauer and her son Stefan, Rudolf and Julie Brüll , Berta Dannhauser, Ephraim and Mindel DiamandEduard Fuchs, Alfred GraubartArthur GoldenbergJulius Meisel, Friedrich and Dora Pasch, Julius and Laura Popper, Louis RadoHelene Rosenstein and her son Fritz, Richard SchwarzWolf Meier Turteltaub et al Josef Adler died two months after the attack as a result of the injuries inflicted on him. 18 Jews were arrested, their apartments and stores destroyed, as was the interior of the Synagogue.

On November 11th, 1938 the following article appeared in the Neuesten Zeitung No. 257, 26. Jg.:

“The synagogue in Innsbruck smashed up: The cowardly bloody deed of the murder-boy Grünzspan in Paris led to riots against Hebrews in all parts of the Reich. Like in all German cities similar riots also happened in Innsbruck. The justified and understandable indignation of the deeply excited population led to excesses in our city, which caused several casualties. Among others, a crowd stormed the Jewish Synagogue in the “Straße der Sudetendeutschen” on Thursday night and vandalized the furnishings of the Jewish house. In its just rage the crowd vented their anger about the wretched bloodbath and shouted slogans against the Jews. Also the few non-aryanized shops fell victim to this indignation. Two Jewish premises were destroyed thoroughly in the early morning hours of Thursday. In order to eliminate further riots plenty of Jewish people were placed under preventive custody. The declaration of the government of the Reich to solve the urgent problem of these unwanted guests by legal measures makes future excesses redundant. The population will take disciplined note of these measures and act accordingly. Incidentally, Innsbruck and our Gau are in the happy positon to be relieved of the Jewish burden within a very short time, because of the the major progress in Aryanization.” (10)

Goebbels gave order to the public prosecutors not to investigate crimes in connection with the pogrom night so that the persons concerned could not make use of legal means. (11) 

Not until after the war were some of the perpetrators of the Novemberpogrom 1938 in Innsbruck arrested and condemned by the people´s court at the national court of Innsbruck – >>> Post-War Justice.

update 15.03.2018


Gerhard Buzas


Martin Achrainer < Das Pogrom-Denkmal > in: Gabriele Rath / Andrea Sommerauer / Martha Verdorfer (Hg.), “Bozen Innsbruck – zeitgeschichtliche stadtrundgänge”, Folio Verlag 2000, S 85 – 89

Thomas Albrich (Hg.) < Die Täter des Judenpogrom 1938 in Innsbruck > Haymon Verlag Innsbruck-Wien 2016

Thomas Albrich / Michael Guggenberger < "Nur selten steht einer dieser Novemberverbrecher vor Gericht" - Die strafrechtliche Verfolgung der Täter der so genannten "Reichskristallnacht" in Österreich > in: Thomas Albrich / Winfried R. Garscha / Martin F. Polaschek (Hrsg.), Holocaust und Kriegsverbrechen vor Gericht – Der Fall Österreich, StudienVerlag 2006, S 26-56

Christoph W. Bauer < Graubart Boulevard > Haymon Verlag Innsbruck-Wien 2008

Martin Gilbert < Kristallnacht. Prelude to Destruction > Harperperennial 2007

Josefine Justin < Die Reichskristallnacht in Innsbruck > in: Innsbrucker Stadtnachrichten, Nr. 11, 20.11.1985, S 24

Constanze Kinder < Vor aller Augen - 1938: "Reichspogromnacht" > in: Deutschland unter dem Hakenkreuz, Teil 2, 1937-1939 GEO Epoche Nr. 58/2012, S 110-128

Richard Tipp < Vom Antisemtismus zum Holocaust - Auch das Außerfern war keine "Insel der Seligen" > in: Extra Verren 2010, Jahrbuch des Museumsvereins des Bezirkes Reutte, S 173-188

Stefan Moritz < Grüß Gott und Heil Hitler - Katholische Kirche und Nationalsozialismus in Österreich > Picus Verlag Wien 2002, S 111ff

Horst Schreiber < "Der Völkermord an den Jüdinnen und Juden" > in: Nationalsozialismus und Faschismus in Tirol und Südtirol – Opfer . Täter . Gegner, Tiroler Studien zu Geschichte und Politik, Michael-Gaismair-Gesellschaft, StudienVerlag 2008, S 249-277

Lutz van Dijk < Der Attentäter - Herschel Grynszpan und die Vorgänge um die Kristallnacht > rororo rotfuchs 1988

Picture credits:

(a) Herschel Grynszpan – http://data.onb.ac.at/rec/baa356356 / (aa) http://data.onb.ac.at/rec/baa1253126 – last visit 15.03.2018

(b) Ernst Eduard vom Rath – http://data.onb.ac.at/rec/baa1244392 – last visit 15.03.2018


(1) Lutz van Dijk- Der Attentäter(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herschel_Grynszpan

(3) http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/kristallnacht.html and http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/kristallnacht/issues/kn-1-1.htm

(4) DIE ZEIT Geschichte – 1938 Abschied von der Zvilisation, Nr. 4/2008 – Hans Mommsen

(5, 7) Martin Gilbert– Kristallnacht, Prelude to Destruction

(6, 11) Wikipedia – http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichskristallnacht

(8) Das kleine Volksblatt 1938, Nr. 312, Samstag 12.11.1938 / NachRichten – Österreich in der Presse: Sammeledition vom Anschluss zur Befreiung 1938-45 – Teil 7, Plündern und Brandschatzen

(9) Wikipedia – http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herschel_Grynszpan

(10) Neueste Zeitung 1938, Nr. 257, Freitag 11.11.1938, 26. Jg. – Stadtarchiv Innsbruck

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