Professor discusses theories about events of Kristallnacht

By Jenna Miller, Staff Writer

Some historians believe that Adolf Hitler led an anti-Jewish pogrom in 1938 that killed 91 Jewish people, but visiting professor Alan Steinweis said this and some other theories are just myths.

In November 1938, Nazis rounded up thousands of Jews and took them to concentration camps. They also smashed windows and destroyed homes and businesses. It became known as Kristallnacht, “the night of the broken glass.” Since that time, people have developed myths about the two days that initiated the Jewish persecution.

In honor of the U Days of Remembrance Holocaust Commemoration, Steinweis, a history professor and director of the Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Vermont, addressed the public and students at the U to give a preview of his third book on the Holocaust, Kristallnacht 1938.

Steinweis said people still believe that Hitler instigated Kristallnacht, when in reality it was the Nazis’ scheming that Hitler went along with during those events.

The history professor also said people have developed euphemisms, such as the term Kristallnacht, in place of the harsh reality of what took place and the effects the pogrom had on the Jews.

“It was really interesting, you could tell he really knew his stuff,” said Brian McFarley, a junior in English.

The committee for the Days of Remembrance event chose the topic Kristallnacht in honor of the historical event’s 70th anniversary last November.

Stenweis’ address was the keynote for this week’s Holocaust Commemoration, which included a film about Sophie Scholl, a young girl who protested the Nazi Regime, and a workshop on the Holocaust by U history professor Ronald Smelser, chairman of the Holocaust Commemoration.

Smelser said he thinks of Kristallnacht as a “night of broken glass and flying feathers” because of what happened.

“I learned to add this idea of flying feathers because the Nazis that came in slit pillows apart to look for hidden items,” Smelser said. “This caused hundreds and hundreds of feathers to cover the living areas of these Jews.”

The U Days of Remembrance committee invites the students and the public to continue remembrance for the “State Observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day,” which will take place at the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday at noon.

“It is important for this event to continue because the personal memories of individuals involved are dying out,” Smelser said.

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Tyler Cobb

Visiting professor Alan Steinweis discussed myths surrounding the Kristallnacht as part of the U?s Days of Remembrance.