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How the American press covered Kristallnacht and the rise of the Third Reich

A man looks at the damage to a Jewish shop in Berlin on Nov. 10, 1938, in the aftermath of Kristallnacht.
Associated Press
A man looks at the damage to a Jewish shop in Berlin on Nov. 10, 1938, in the aftermath of Kristallnacht.

Nov. 9 marks 84 years since Kristallnacht, the infamous wave of antisemitic pogroms organized by the Nazi regime that served as a prelude to the Holocaust. At the time, it was among the biggest news stories in the American media.

Kristallnacht dominated headlines in the United States in November of 1938.

Rebecca Erbelding, PhD, is a historian with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum who focuses on the U.S. response to Kristallnacht. She says Kristallnacht was the main story in American newspapers for about three weeks — even bigger than that month's midterm elections.

"There are a lot of newspapers that have, you know, the main headline is Kristallnacht, and then a smaller headline would be something like, 'GOP up 85 in Congress,'" she said. "The big story was these riots in Germany that Americans just simply didn't know how to understand."

Erbelding speaks at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park for the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education's annual Kristallnacht Commemoration on Nov. 9. She joined KCUR's Up To Date to discuss American coverage of Kristallnacht, the response of the U.S. government and how our country could have done more.

Kristallnacht in the America Press: What We Knew and What We Though Possible, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9 at the Jewish Community Center's MAC Room, 5801 W 115th St, Overland Park, Kansas, 66211. No registration required.

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