Wiener Library Publishes New Translations of Early Eyewitness Testimonies
In 2013, The Wiener Library began a project to translate and publish a collection of over 350 eyewitness accounts in English for the first time. The accounts, previously published in the original German, were gathered in the weeks and months following the November Pogrom in 1938, often referred to as 'Kristallnacht' or ‘Night of Broken Glass’.The purpose of this project is to remove the language barrier and enable historians, researchers, students, teachers and other members of the public to understand and English-language about this crucial milestone on the road to the Holocaust.
Today the public will be able to benefit from this effort with the publication of Pogrom – November 1938: Testimonies from ‘Kristallnacht’, a book and companion website around this important set of testimonies and the historical events leading up to and following the November Pogrom attacks.
The November Pogrom Testimonies
Following the assassination of a junior diplomat in Paris by a young Polish Jew on 7 November 1938, the Nazi Party seized the opportunity to incite mass anti-Jewish violence. On 9 and 10 November, simultaneously in hundreds of towns across Germany and Austria, thousands of Jews were terrorised, persecuted and victimised, over 1,200 synagogues were desecrated, and thousands of Jewish businesses and homes were looted. The Nazi Party denied planning and orchestrating this wave of terror, claiming it instead as a spontaneous popular ‘retaliation’ against the ‘enemy within’. As a result approximately 90 people were killed and over 25,000 Jewish men were arrested and deported Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen, leading to the deaths of hundreds more in the camps. The November Pogrom is seen by many as marking the beginning of the Holocaust. It triggered major policy changes as the Nazi regime began to pursue more aggressive measures against the Jews, which were presented as ‘lawful’.
Alfred Wiener, founder of the Wiener Library, had already been documenting Nazi crimes for many years when news of the November Pogrom first reached him and his colleagues in Amsterdam, which had been their place of refuge from Nazi persecution since 1933. From their headquarters at the Jewish Central Information Office (JCIO), Wiener used his unrivalled network of contacts to collect over 350 eyewitness accounts describing the events of 9 and 10 November in cities, towns and villages throughout Germany and Austria. The accounts took a number of different forms, including face-to-face and telephone interviews, letters, written reports and newspaper articles. Some of the voices are raw and angry, some call for help, others are defiant; they evoke the confusion, fear and chaos of the moment - capturing an important escalation in Nazi anti-Jewish terror that would soon lead toward the Holocaust.
Publication of Testimonies - Book and Website
With the publication of Pogrom – November 1938: Testimonies from ‘Kristallnacht’, edited by Ruth Levitt and published by Souvenir Press, the public are able to read English translations of all 356 testimonies for the first time, as well as introductory essays by Ben Barkow (Wiener Library Director) and Ruth Levitt (Wiener Library Research Fellow). To aid in the understanding and searching of testimonies, the book contains a bespoke Glossary, a list of selected named individuals, and an index of people, places, and subjects, as well as previously unpublished historical images from the Wiener Library's Photo Archive and images and maps supplied by the other Holocaust centres around the world.
Today the Library also launched a companion website, developed in collaboration with Imagiz. This mobile-friendly website will give users the opportunity to read the new English translations side-by-side to downloadable PDFs of the original documents. In addition, the digital resource will allow users to conduct full-text searches and browse the testimonies using carefully selected name, place, and subject keywords, as well as links to ‘related testimonies’. The digital resource also includes features not included in the book, including contextual historical information written and provided by the Mémorial de la Shoah, a detailed Historical Timeline, and links to relevant books and web resources.
For this project the Library is benefiting from the generous engagement and support of many individuals and organisations, including the translators, staff and students at King’s College London and University College London, colleagues at Mémorial de la Shoah, and the Dulverton Trust, among others.
Get Involved and Learn More
Follow us on Twitter (@wienerlibrary) and Facebook (\wienerlibrary) using the hashtag #Pogrom1938 for updates on the project and to learn more about the individuals providing the testimonies and the important historical context surrounding these attacks. Also visit our YouTube channel to watch German and English-language readings of Testimony B. 327, created by Library volunteers, Kim Wegner and Richard Dunnett.
The Wiener Library welcomes your comments, queries and suggestions for the project. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Added: Wednesday 11th November, 2015