The American Kristallnacht

 Republished with permission of the author

Mr. Richard D. Fitzgerald, OP, St. Louis Bertrand Fraternity #301, North Syracuse, N.Y.

After obtaining political power, Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime established a totalitarian police state. A significant characteristic of its oppressive ideology was anti-Semitism. German Jew-hatred rested upon racial theories that gained prominence in the late nineteenth century’s historical and philosophical writing (Kagan, 1050).

In 1933, the Nazi Party banned all members of the Jewish faith from holding positions in the German civil service. The government also attempted to establish a boycott of all Jewish businesses, but they could not persuade the German people at that time to participate in the economic sanctions (Kagan, 1050).

In 1935, the German government passed the Nuremberg Laws, which politically marginalized the Jewish people by depriving them of their citizenship. To operationalize this political attack, the Nazis had to define which members of the German population could be considered Jewish. The regime’s racial theory determined that every German who had at least three Jewish grandparents was to be classified as a member of the Jewish faith and, thus, an enemy of the state. Jewish attorneys, professors, physicians, and teachers also lost professional licenses. Moreover, intermarriage between Jews and Aryans was forbidden (Kagan, 1050–1051).

On November 9, 1938, hundreds of Jewish businesses and synagogues throughout Germany were severely damaged during the rioting known as the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht). The Nazi government declared that the Jews had brought the attack upon themselves because their very presence in the German community was a threat to the Aryan nation. Additionally, the Nazi educational system reinforced the supposed threat that the Jewish people posed to the German nation. Social science research shows that the German school system accomplished the most successful indoctrination of antiSemitism into the German culture (Voigtlander and Voth). It was far more critical than any media, including radio, newspapers, or movies. The regime also canceled the property insurance of Jewish businesses and directed the Jewish community members to pay for the damages. Jews could now be a target because of their religion and ethnicity. Through the use of lawfare, political violence, and education, the Nazi regime, by the end of 1938, had successfully racialized the German culture and prepared it for the Holocaust (Kagan, 1051).

Terrorism in Living and Dying Color

On the morning of October 7, 2023, media outlets across the United States broadcast the news that the Middle Eastern terrorist organization Hamas had launched a brutal attack from the Gaza Strip against the State of Israel. The invasion consisted of a combined arms assault of paragliders, motorcycles, cars, and trucks to penetrate the Israeli defenses. In the initial wave, one thousand four hundred citizens of Israel were slaughtered and mutilated, including infants, children, their parents, and Holocaust survivors as well. In an interview after his second trip to Israel, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described the following barbaric act recorded on a security camera: a terrorist entered an Israeli home and murdered a father in front of his two young sons. He then casually opened the refrigerator and had something to eat.

In the past, perpetrators of crimes against humanity, such as Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler, attempted to cover up their atrocities. We have all heard the term Holocaust denier (Kagan, 1050– 1061). However, what occurred on October 7 is unprecedented in modern history. The terrorists wore body cameras for the sole purpose of recording their crimes against humanity. Once again, media outlets broadcast descriptions of these nightmarish acts to United States citizens.

The Media Documents Kristallnacht 2.0

The United States condemned the terrorist attack and gave its unqualified support to the State of Israel. Unfortunately, anti-Israeli demonstrations then erupted on college campuses across the nation. The American people once again witnessed virulent antiSemitism as university faculty members raged against the State of Israel. It became apparent that many college and university students have been indoctrinated in twenty-first-century anti-Semitism by professors at such prestigious institutions as Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, among others of a similar caliber. The entire nation viewed the picture of a student at Cornell who called for the murder of Jewish students on his campus. Similar to the Nazi regime’s propaganda, these antiSemitic groups state that Jews have brought these attacks upon themselves because the State of Israel is a threat to the Palestinian people.

The same social scientists who had studied the impact of Nazi education on the growth of anti-Semitism in 1930s and 1940s Germany also studied the same students as they progressed through their adult years. Their research documented that these individuals maintained the highest level of anti-Semitism among the German population well into old age (Voigtlander and Voth). These findings are a clarion call to all United States citizens who have grave concerns about the impact of American education on the values of our nation’s children.

A Dominican Response

In the early 1930s, Mrs. Sigrid Undset, OP, fearing the collapse of Christian Western Civilization, wrote the political/social essay “Reply to a Parish Priest.” In it, she states, “We have no right to assume that any part of European tradition, cultural values, moral ideas, emotional wealth, which has its origin in the dogmatically defined Christianity of the Catholic Church, will continue to live a ‘natural’ life if the people of Europe reject Christianity and refuse to accept God’s supernatural grace” (Nichols, 108). Today, in the United States, a nation beset by decadence, racial hatred, and political violence, these words are as significant as they were to the citizens of Europe in the decade of the original Kristallnacht.


Kagan, Donald. The Western Heritage. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1995.

Nichols, Aidan. Sigrid Undset: Reader of Hearts. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2022.

Voigtländer, Noco, and Hans-Joachim Voth. “Nazi Indoctrination and Anti-Semitic Beliefs in Germany.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 (2015): 7931–36.

The author is a retired professor of History, past president of the St. Louis Bertrand Fraternity of the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic (LFSD), and current President of Region 3 of the LFSD, St. Joseph Province.